Extreme Rules, 2011: Preview and Predictions

Extreme Rules: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL, 01/05/2011

Unfortunately, I have to open this with a criticism. This has to have been the worst built WWE PPV in years. Fair enough the draft caused a huge distraction, but its all just been a bit limp. WrestleMania hangover maybe? There have been some well built matches. This week’s go-home Smackdown brought Christian to the fore where he has needed to be. The LayCool match builds itself and has all their history behind it. So much attention has been paid to Cole/Swagger/King/JR that it has probably taken from the build of other matches. This is not to say, however, that it will be a bad PPV. In fact, in many ways, the card is stacked (ignoring the commentators whipping each other) and the ‘extreme’ nature of the night adds an extra dimension to the whole night, especially as WWE emerges from it’s ultra-sanitary era and pushes the envelope a little more. So, without further ado!

Match 1) Christian vs Alberto Del Rio – Ladder Match for the Vacant World Heavyweight Championship
This is a difficult match to predict. The heart says Christian, the head (smark) says Del Rio. Del Rio definitely has the higher profile and is on an absolutely meteoric rise, underpinned by his draft to RAW while Vince is said to not be high on Christian as a main-eventer. Usually, Del Rio would go over without any doubt, but that would be to overlook the reason why Christian is even in this match in the first place, and that is his emotional attachment to the recently retired future Hall of Famer Edge. The people want to see Christian win the title, and that’s a big factor. Del Rio going to RAW is also a factor. Smackdown has been something of a whipping boy in the past, but they wont leave it without a top title, which is what would happen if Del Rio won. Now, they could always find a way to get the title on Orton, but that seems complicated, and what would Orton have done on Smackdown to earn a shot at their title? If Del Rio stayed on Smackdown, I would have backed him and the face-chase, but seen as he isn’t, for those reasons, i’m picking Captain Charisma to finally get his hands on the belt on Sunday, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. As for the match itself, i’m expecting big things. Christian is an innovator of the ladder match, and will know how important a huge performance from him is if he wants to remain in the main event. As for Del Rio, he is just great, and at TLC last year had an honourable showing.

Winner: Christian

Match 2) Sheamus (c) vs Kofi Kingston in an Extreme Rules Match for the United States Championship (?)
Ok, so this is a complete guess as it hasn’t been booked yet, but there are two reasons I think this will happen. After the draft, both the US and IC titles are on Smackdown, which obviously wont do. I was expecting one to change hands to an outgoing superstar on Smackdown, but since that didn’t happen, it’ll have to happen at Extreme Rules. What did happen was Sheamus brutalising Kofi Kingston on Smackdown before what was meant to be a title match. He’ll get it on Sunday, and he’ll take the title back to RAW. Why Kofi is getting it is beyond me. He’s been boring the life out of me for a while now. Kofi was really the only viable outgoing superstar so maybe having someone come from RAW to reclaim their title, someone fresh like Evan Bourne, would have been good. They’ll have a decent enough but short match. Sheamus drops the title so he can feud with Christian over the title. How’s that for a bold prediction! Oh God, that means more Orton vs Sheamus down the line!

Winner: Kofi Kingston

Match 3) Cody Rhodes vs Rey Mysterio in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
Tough to call. Rhodes has absolutely shone in this feud, and his promos including paper bags have been star-making. Had he not won at WrestleMania, and if it wasn’t to be Rey Mysterio’s last Smackdown match, I would have no hesitation in giving it to Rhodes, but losing twice in a row to Rhodes at PPV and heading to RAW doesn’t seem a great way forward for Mysterio. On the other hand again though, Rhodes still needs this victory far more than Mysterio. I have a feeling Cody will be moving on to Randy Orton after Sunday, and it’ll be very hard to seem credible against WWE’s #2 guy coming off a big loss. These guys have had so much history that a straight-up brawl will seem believable and so a Falls Count Anywhere could work. I always want Falls Count Anywhere matches to finish outside of the ring myself, and you’ve got to think it will as that is the whole basis of the stipulation. With solely that in mind, i’m backing Cody Rhodes. Non of Rey Mysterio’s major offense is possible without the ring being used. In the crowd or by the stage, he wont be able to 619 anyone. I see this one increasing in intensity before Rhodes eventually does something shocking like pushes some equipment on to Mysterio, earning the victory. Mysterio can afford it.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 4) Layla vs Michelle McCool, No Disqualifications, No Count-Outs – Loser Leaves WWE
This is less of a ‘prediction’ as it is being said with near certainty online that Michelle McCool is legitimately leaving WWE after this match, and not just for a break. While I can’t imagine McCool never coming back, and certainly hope it’s not the case, it seems like a possibility, and makes this match an almost definite win for Layla (barring swerves and the like). Its a shame, because I always hoped for a great feud between these two after their long association. With that in mind,  have high hopes for this match. I think it will get decent time and i’m sure if it is they’ll be able to put on a really good show and do the divas proud! As for Layla, I would have pegged her as a babyface, but without Michelle, on Smackdown, she may have to stay heel after this match.

Winner: Layla

Match 5) Randy Orton vs CM Punk in a Last Man Standing Match
God this match has ‘awesome’ written all over it, even without Miz! The main speculation surrounding this match (especially given the lack of build since ‘Mania) is about the rumours of CM Punk wanting to leave WWE for a while, at least. People seem to assume that Punk will not get anything significant for that reason, but really, it could work both ways. WWE, trying to get Punk to sign a contract extension, could give him good results like this to sweeten the deal. All I know is that these two are two of the most sinister characters in recent wrestling history, and a match like this is made for them in both the brutality, and the sinister psychology of trying to be the ‘last man standing’. I hope it lives up to that expectation and sure it will, though it’s difficult to imagine the booking of the match. I dunno … Orton won at WrestleMania, so …

Winner: CM Punk

Match 6) Michael Cole & Jack Swagger vs Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler in a Country Whipping Match
Right, i’m sure they’ll explain the stipulation before the match starts … The match at WrestleMania was rightly panned as the lowlight of the show. It wont be booked like a wrestling match again, that much is clear from the stipulation. Swagger vs King to start. King gets the best of Swagger. Cole berates Swagger. Swagger leaves Cole. King beats on Cole. J.R. beats on Cole. One of them pins Cole. The crowd goes wild. The angle is over. And thank God, as much as Cole is a fantastic heel, it should have finished at WrestleMania and it has started to consistently take precious TV time away from wrestlers, and that is unacceptable.

Winners: Jerry “The King” Lawler & Jim Ross

Match 7) The Miz (c) vs John Cena vs John Morrison – Cage Match for the WWE Championship
In many ways, this match has had the most anonymous build. Has Morrison even been in the ring with either Miz or Cena? I can’t imagine how this match will be booked inside the cage, though i’m sure Morrison, who needs to shine more than anyone else there, will pull out some cool parkour-inspired move with the cage. The Miz will retain this and extend what has happily become a lengthy Championship reign. I’ve heard some say they’ll have Cena go over so Del Rio can feud with him over the title, but what about Miz? Cena and Del Rio don’t need the title to feud. Their profiles are enough to make people watch whatever the circumstance. That is, however, why Del Rio could be involved. Bitter about not gaining the World Title, he comes after the biggest dog on RAW, and prevents Cena from escaping. It is obvious, though no less the right booking, that R-Truth will do the same to Morrison to continue their feud. In fact, if both he and Del Rio were out at the same time during a race to escape the cage, allowing Miz to escape unopposed, that would be awesome. If this is how it goes, I would personally see the World Title match open the show. I picked this because its the RAW main event for the WWE title and involves both Cena and Miz, but the emotion of Christian win the title would be a better closing shot, so don’t be surprised if these matches are switched on the card. Saying that, if it is booked as i’ve suggested, we would close with three heels backing up the ramp, triumphant with the faces, dejected and/or angry, still inside the cage, which in itself is pretty cool.

Winner: The Miz

Lots of cool matches there, extreme rules and a guaranteed BRAND NEW World Champion. Sounds good to me.

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Some Quick Notes on Superstars and Smackdown (19/04/2011)

I’m about to do my Extreme Rules predictions, so I don’t have time to talk too much about Smackdown. There were a few things I wanted to mention quickly though.

Firstly, this should come as no shock, but the wrestling this week on Superstars was top notch. It’s very much the runt of WWE programming, but the wrestling on it is usually great and features future/young stars. The main event saw Natalya and Gail Kim against Melina and Alicia Fox, and it just went to show that if you give (the right) divas decent time, they can put on good matches. With Natalya showing her technical precision and Gail flying around the ring, the faces especially shone. Zack Ryder (who inexplicably – the the wake of Z Long Island True Story – seems to be working heel) put on a very good match against DH Smith (who approached the ring in a cowboy hat …). Really solid stuff from Ryder against the technical powerhouse Smith. There was a nice finish as Ryder, trying to escape Smith’s clutches, held on to the ring-skirt, clutching it as he was dragged in to the ring. This impeded Smith enough to give Ryder and opening conducive to the Rough-Ryder and the victory. Ryder has gotten himself over with a lot of the audience, and deserves TV time. Smith, who is probably the better wrestler, is not over, and will struggle to make it unfortunately.

The first match, though, was even better. Trent Baretta took on Tyson Kidd in a high-flying technical battle. The two simply had excellent chemistry. Their move-sets blended fantastically, and the back and forth whipped the crowd in to a reverie (yes, on Superstars!) Every time I see Baretta in the ring i’m impressed by his sheer effort. This was personified this week in his performing a plancha to the outside on to Kidd. Putting your body on the line to that degree on Superstars has to show WWE that they have a keeper. I hope they see that too. His potential can also be seen in the support the crowd had for him. They were legitimately marking out for him towards the end. Kidd, who was just as excellent, managed to gain the win however in the end with a Sharpshooter. Indeed, the only downside to the match was the lack of hesitation in Baretta tapping. It was almost instantaneous, and didn’t make him look particularly strong. Nonetheless, excellent stuff! I really need to watch Superstars more often!

I’ll go in to less detail about Smackdown. The main thing I want to discuss was McIntyre’s opening interaction with Randy Orton. Drew has a great presence, but even I, a big fan, think his mic skills could do with some work, or at least I did! He approached the ring with Orton in it, and the first line he said was one of the best heel lines i’ve ever heard in response to boos: “Oh i’m sorry, did I pay money to come and see all of YOU?” It plays with so many conventions of being a heel, and eventhough it wasn’t the a hugely important line in the grand scheme, I was hugely impressed by the sentiment and the delivery. He went of to berate Orton more, retaining excellent delivery and persona, and for the first time, he came across as a main eventer on the mic as well as in the ring. Hopefully he’ll get more chances to speak now on RAW … He then went on to attack Orton, and nearly got the best of him, only to get RKOd. This would usually not be great for him, but in comparison to what hapenned to Alex Riley (RKOd before opening his mouth), it made him look good.

The only other real thing I felt I needed to talk about was the Sin Cara-Jack Swagger match (other stuff will be included in my Extreme Rules match …) The match itself was very good, and indeed, having Cara on the pre-taped Smackdown was probably a good move as it showed the best of him in his high-flying and literally unpredictable (unlike contemporary Mysterio) offense while masking the worst (like his apparent shakiness of late). What I really wanted to talk about was the lighting! Yes, the lighting. Basically, they kept the earthy tones of the lighting of his entrance that descend so suddenly, and kept them there during the whole match. Such a simple idea, but one that added a lot of atmosphere to the match and made Cara seem like a huge deal, his presence being even more visually unique than it already is, and more interesting, giving him a mystique, as if his presence alters the entire atmosphere of the setting. I loved it.

That is all. Check back soon for MY EXTREME RULES PREDICTIONS. In the mean time, follow me on twitter for MORE COVERAGE AND OPINIONS AND STUFF! @RTVWOW

WWE Draft 2011: Reflections On the Annual Shake-Up

Right, i’m going to try to, for the most part, rush through this due to everything I do being a rush at the moment. I’ll basically go through the draft picks as they happened and give my thoughts if I have any. One general point i’d make is that 30 drafts seems too many. There’s a fine line between ‘shaking things up’ and simply switching almost an entire roster to a different show. Less is more guys! I hope and am pretty confident this draft has just about managed to succeed in not crossing that line. To me, the two big drafts were Randy Orton to Smackdown and Alberto Del Rio to RAW, but only one of those is a good idea …

1) John Cena to Smackdown. We all know how this eventually ended, so I wont talk too much about it. Reports are that WWE were going to genuinely draft him, rightly thinking that RAW could be carried by Orton (who gets universal admiration in a way Cena doesn’t), but ultimately nixed that idea. Pretty shocking TV though; cheap shock, but shocking nonetheless.

2) Rey Mysterio to RAW. When this happened in 2008, for whatever it didn’t work. This pick is intrinsically linked with Sin Cara’s move to Smackdown, and keeping them on separate brands makes a lot of sense. Anyway, there’s no reason why Rey fundamentally can’t get over on RAW surely!

3) Randy Orton to Smackdown. The blue brand will undoubtedly be Orton’s show from now on, and as a replacement for Edge, you couldn’t ask for much better. Considering Orton hasn’t appeared regularly on Smackdown for roughly five years, this is a very fresh change of scenery for both brands, and highly welcome. His prestige and experience will make for some great feuds/matches with the younger Smackdown up-and-comers (i’m thinking especially of former Legacy ‘bretheren’ Cody Rhodes.

4) Mark Henry to Smackdown. Initially, this seemed like a bit of a throwaway, but given his dominating heel turn in the RAW main event, it seems that Henry might get a push as a monster heel, again. The repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing though; like a lot of big guys, he just works better as a heel.

5) Sin Cara to Smackdown. Rey’s draft was necessitated by this move, and this was done because Cara was seemingly a little shaky in his opening matches on RAW, and so would be a safer prospect on the taped and edited Smackdown. While I totally understand that, it does seem a bit of an instant lack of faith in Sin Cara. Nonetheless, i’m sure he’ll be able to dazzle just as much on Smackdown!

6) Big Show to RAW.

7) Alberto Del Rio to RAW. Now, I understand that a draft to RAW, especially when you’re a top up and comer like ADR is, is a huge sign of faith, and that’s great, but this just smacks of the pilfering of Smackdown talent yet again. ADR was made on Smackdown without even winning the world title. There was just so much more for him to do on the blue brand and they would rightly have reaped the rewards. RAW is also now very heel-heavy with ADR, Miz, Punk, and up-and-comers Swagger and McIntyre, while Smackdown is struggling for a real top heel (Sheamus probably fitting that bill). I was salivating at the idea of an Orton-Del Rio feud on Smackdown, but alas, it wont happen. He deserves to be on RAW, no doubt, and i’m sure he will do great, but it is to the detriment of Smackdown and probably one or two of those guys that I mentioned who will have to fight for decent spots. I would have saved him for now.

8) John Cena to RAW. Definitely a unique move in the draft (or should I say double-move), but instead of involving Cena, why not publicise two other draft picks (e.g. McIntyre, Swagger, Bryan)

9) Daniel Bryan to Smackdown. Great move for Bryan and a no-brainer in many ways. He was between feuds on RAW, and is more suited to the blue brand and will get more opportunity to put on great matches. I’m desperate to see him feud with Wade Barrett for the IC title, and storyline-wise at least, it makes a lot of sense.

10) Jack Swagger to RAW. I dislike this move. With ADR gone to RAW, there is an opening for Smackdown’s top heel position. Had he stayed on Smackdown, Swagger would have been a strong contender for that spot. I’m sure he’ll do fine on RAW, but he will be behind at least two other heels (ADR and Miz, and three depending on Punk’s status) consistently. He’s definitely improved, and is improving, but I think staying in Smackdown would made for easier success for the All American American.

11) Great Khali to Smackdown. I’d prefer this to be meaningless than him being pushed as a monster heel. I’m confident of the former.

12) Jimmy Uso to Smackdown. Lord knows why they moved the Usos and Tamina separately, but they did. Its a good job they did too, because a change of scenery is exactly what they need. Hopefully they’ll get a good run on Smackdown as one of the few classical tag teams.

13) Kelly Kelly to RAW. She’s very popular, and very marketable, so this makes a lot of sense. I’m very interested in what part she’ll play in Kharma’s debut. The former Awesome Kong has been starring in vignettes in which she tears up dolls. While this could have ramifications for all of the more modelesque divas, it could be a bad sign for Kelly in particular, who’s real name is Barbie (Yeah …). Expect a tonne of heat when Kharma decimates Kelly.

14) JTG to RAW. I don’t see much coming from this. To be honest, I wasn’t actually sure he was on Smackdown to start with … I like JTG. He’s very likeable and has a nice, unique, ring-style. I don’t think it’ll be good enough though.

15) Alicia Fox to Smackdown

16) William Regal to Smackdown. I really don’t get this one. Regal, for all his skills, is practically semi-retired now and commentates (very well) on NXT more than he wrestles (at least on TV). With that in mind, it seems like a watering-down of the draft. Could this maybe be a sign of a feud with mentee Daniel Bryan? He would also make an awesome heel manager for someone. He could even make commentary I suppose.

17) Yoshi Tatsu to Smackdown. I think RAW was just as good for him as Smackdown. Maybe he’ll get some TV time to try to get over on Smackdown, which would be good. I think what he really needs, however, is a gimmick tweak, rather than a draft.

18) Drew McIntyre to RAW. I’m excited about this draft. As a fellow Scotsman and otherwise legitimate admirer of McIntyre, I hope and think he will eventually be a regular main eventer. On RAW, I think he could flourish, depending on who he feuds with. Give him Cena, why not? The only problem is again that ADR and Swagger have been drafted along with him, and he’s jostling with Miz, ADR, Punk, Ziggler, Swagger and Truth for a decent heel spot. Like Swagger, I think he could really have made top Smackdown heel quick. Nevertheless, I think they have faith in him however, and hope he fulfills it.

19) Natalya to Smackdown.  I’m a big fan of Nattie, but I can’t, just now, imagine what she’ll be doing on Smackdown. I’m sure we can anticipate some nice one on one matches with Michelle McCool. Otherwise, i’m sure she’ll feature prominently.

20) Curt Hawkins to RAW. I like Curt Hawkins, and I like his look. Unfortunately, the only way he could get over on RAW is if he completely changes it by reuniting with the buzz-covered Long Island Iced Z, Zack Ryder.

21) Chris Masters to RAW.

22) Jey Uso to Smackdown. Same as with Jimmy …

23) Kofi Kingston to RAW. At first I was skeptical, but on reflection, I think this is, marginally, a positive move. He’s stalled of late on Smackdown, and on the face side, there aren’t many more people above him on the face side there as there are on Smackdown. If he gets a good feud, he could start to climb the ladder again.

24) Ted DiBiase to Smackdown. This was one I was desperate to see (my twitter followers (@RTVWOW) will have witnessed this as I live tweeted the draft!) DiBiase needed to go to Smackdown. Over there he could completely re-boot his career, which was supposed to be advancing as Rhodes’ is now, but never really did. He could either stay as he is or show up as a reinvented face. Either will work, and it is very interesting that he is on the same brand as both of his former Legacy ‘brethren’. Lots of storyline potential there itself.

25) Tyson Kidd to Smackdown. I’d still really like to see Kidd feud with Bryan, and this is still on the cards obviously. Kidd is hugely talented, and seems to have more faith behind him than DH Smith did/does, so hopefully he can make something of himself on the blue brand, where, luckily for him, charisma isn’t quite the pre-requisite as it is on RAW.

26) Tamina to Smackdown. Now she’s been separated from Santino, she can reunite with The Usos and hopefully be a part of their renewal as well as hopefully getting more action as a diva on the more scarcely populated Smackdown diva lockerroom.

27) Tyler Reks to RAW. Reks bores the hell out of me. Generic Generic Generic. The only way he can be used well is as a new member of the Nexus.

28) Alex Riley to Smackdown. This one is fascinating, even if it doesn’t make the most sense (wasn’t Riley fired and only able to show because Miz hired him under some obscure job title). Firstly I think it’s great for Miz. Riley often provided a way for him to win, but Miz doesn’t need that any more. One or two defences without Riley will make Miz look even more credible than he already does. As for Riley, the Smackdown world could be his oyster. He’ll need to work hard at escaping his past with the Miz though, because otherwise, his character is just that Varsity Villain gimmick from NXT, and that needs to be worked on.

29) Beth Phoenix to RAW. Beth deserves all the attention she can get, and I hope she gets it on RAW (having lacked it on Smackdown of late). I have dreams of her working with Kharma, either against her, or maybe in some sort of anti-Barbie team. Each could be great!

30) Sheamus to Smackdown.This was a bit of a shock for many reasons. Sheamus is probably favourite to fill that top heel void, and certainly has the pedigree. The complication, or opportunity, is that Sheamus joins Smackdown, which already hosts Barrett’s Intercontinental Championship, as United States Champion. This could mean one of many things. Either they could be uniting the US and IC titles, or we could be about to see either Sheamus or Barrett drop their belt. I’d say they’re about neck and neck in terms of heel-positioning, and that a top heel should really be above the admittedly prestigious upper-midcard belts. So what I think will happen will be that one of them drops their championship to someone from RAW (someone who has just left Smackdown on their last show? McIntyre? Swagger?) only to go on to become the top heel on the blue brand eventually. Lots of questions here, and excitingly, they should/could well be answered on this week’s Smackdown!

Smack of the Week (22/04/2011): Reaching for the Brass Ring

Throughout this week’s episode of Smackdown, the World Heavyweight Championship was symbolically hanging above the ring, which was a nice touch as it made the title seem really special and prestigious. The night was dubbed a ‘night of champions’, which is ridiculous seen as they have a PPV on that concept. Nonetheless, it brings a certain prestige to the episode.

Rhodes provided the first promo of the night, and in many ways, this was my favourite part of the show. At first I thought he was churning out an identikit heel promo on Mysterio and hiding behind a mask (which we’ve heard at least once), but when he started handed out the paper bags with different expressions on them was brilliant, and a lot of people at ring-side (at least for a time, some longer than others) kept them on, making for a very striking image. It was incredibly sinister to see so many people potentially showing solidarity with this violently deranged character. He’s really started to carry this well in his movement and in the sound of his voice, as well as in his match. For a guy who I suppose is best described as a technical wrestler, he has taken on more elements of a brawler. He was, at times, beating Mysterio down and it was difficult to watch in the exact way it was supposed to be. He and Mysterio went back and forth, though usually with Rhodes on top, using the light-weight Mysterio in innovative ways (his torture-rack style back-breaker being really cool, for instance). The end came when Mysterio reversed a powerbomb attempt in to a sit down pin for the win. Rhodes, who had been on top, felt aggrieved at not being vindicated in victory, attacked Mysterio post-match, and a drawn-out brawl ensued. This was good, and kept up the level of intensity between them, with the moral stances of either man turning to shades of grey as both men were aggressors in this post-match brawl. They could have used the environment better, but it was all a set-up for booking a falls-count-anywhere match between the two, so maybe some action was being saved for next week and the PPV.

Great to see Barreta on TV, but equally good to see Swagger looking strong. Fans of Barreta may not like it, but at this point, just being on TV is good for him. He could be a big deal in the future, but for now, it’s important for Swagger to look strong, and he did.

Kane and Big Show had a nice match with Gabriel and Slater of Corre, going over and winning the Tag Titles. There’s not much to say about this really, other than the fact that it seems to be part of big changes, and possibly the end of the Corre. For the record, I will again state that Corre, before WrestleMania, were looking strong and that they should be allowed to continue for longer than it seems they are going to. After the match, Slater and Gabriel criticised Jackson for not being effective at ringside before Slater pushed Gabriel over. A lot still up in the air, and it could be good, but they would do well to keep Corre together.

There was another LayCool ‘couples therapy’ segment. This was cool enough, and they went a ways to really set up the face/heel demarcations, with Layla being emotionally hurt by a cold Michelle McCool to the point where she actually cried (very hard for me to watch!) before McCool attacked Layla from behind after initially apologising. Though the attack wasn’t that brutal or lengthy, it surely has to mark the end of the very successful LayCool partnership. Layla has come such a long way in the past 1/2 years, and I think she’ll get over as a face very easily, and surely feuding with McCool, this will be one of the best addressed and closely thought out diva storylines in a long time. That, in itself, makes it very important, and I hope it’s, indeed, given good thought and time, and hopefully lasts for a good few months.

It would have been easy for Barrett to drop the Intercontinental Championship after his Corre brethren dropped the tag titles, but thankfully he didn’t. Nice stuff from both guys here, but again the story was surrounded by Corre. Ringside, Ezekiel Jackson was attempting to help Barrett, but instead ended up clotheslining Barrett brutally (though that spot wasn’t that well realised as Jackson only ever looked like hitting Barrett). It was interesting that Barrett sent Jackson to the back and went on to pin Kingston relatively clean and without any help. Could this hint at a Barrett face-turn? I’m not sure whether that’s a good idea, but again, it could be realised well.

The final segment was very nice. It was Alberto Del Rio’s ‘Retirement Party’ for Edge, which is obviously an easy heat-drawer. But this was funny as well as brutal in it’s awkward honesty about Edge’s situation. He revealed several ‘presents’ for Edge, including a grandfather clock, ‘to watch the time go by’, adult diapers to compensate for the consequences of the damage to his body, a stroller, and an electric mobility scooter, driven by Ricardo Rodriguez, who still used Edge’s pyro, which was hilariously brilliant. Then out came Edge to challenge Del Rio, who set Brodus Clay after the now vulnerable Rated R Superstar, which turned out to be a trap when Christian blindsided Clay with a ladder and turned to fend off Del Rio, again using the weapon he is so associated with and symbolic of his main event at Extreme Rules. This gave him the time to set the ladder up, and again, symbolically take the World Title down from the noose to send a message of intent to Del Rio while sharing a look of approval from Edge. This was good build for the Extreme Rules match, but part of me thinks that Edge needs to stop being involved in this angle. Had Christian be the one for his music to hit and confront the heels, maybe he would have been able to steal more of the limelight for himself and make more impact than perhaps he did. Nonetheless, pretty good stuff.

WWE Draft, 2011: How RTV Would Book It …


I announced my first 9 picks (the one’s that would air on TV), real-time style, on twitter last night (http://twitter.com/#!/RTVWOW). Now i’m going to go through them in more detail here anyway, as well as the supplemental draft, but that should let you know the benefits of following @RTVWOW on twitter! Dave Lagana (@Lagana), a former member of the WWE creative team has been blogging on his IWantWrestling blog about former drafts with a very interesting perspective. Like he has argued, I think the brands need to return to a bit more of a tribal relationship with much less cross-over. Hopefully, that will be the way it goes. So without further ado …

1) Big Show –> RAW
My first draft move would be Big Show to RAW. The reason behind this is that most people will be expecting Smackdown to go over in a big way in this draft, so making the first draft a big name draft to RAW will have great shock value. Also, eventhough tag teams can appear on either show anyway, drama can be built up around whether Kane will join him on RAW with the tag titles. Even without that, the Big Show being drafted to RAW, to appear exclusively when he drops the title, is a big deal.

2) Kelly Kelly –> RAW
Kelly Kelly has become a very popular diva as a babyface, and without getting crude, she is very ‘marketable’. All this adds up to Kelly being drafted to RAW, and she is now, rightly or wrongly, quite a big name. If Awesome Kong is to debut on RAW with some sort of ‘anti-Barbie’ gimmick, Kelly would also serve as a perfect foil for that.

3) Drew McIntyre –> RAW
Drew McIntyre has been on the bubble for a while, and a move to RAW could be enough to break him through to the main event, especially if he gets to work more with Mr. McMahon, who appears a lot more often on RAW. Not only that, but Sheamus is on RAW (and I don’t see him moving), and those two working together (be it together or apart), would be absolute money. Obviously, after the 3rd RAW draft in a row, there would be lots of dismay on the Smackdown side, but fear not, it’s all part of the story …

4) John Morrison –> Smackdown
The whole point of this draft is clearly to provide fresh main-event players on Smackdown, and that is where JoMo will come in. He is too lacking on the mic at this point to really make it big on RAW, but on Smackdown, I see him being an upper-mid carder again at the start, but being more regularly in high-profile matches, and breaking in to the main event eventually within a year, and maybe sooner rather than later.

5) Daniel Bryan –> Smackdown
Though the balance may have tipped a little recently, the blue brand is still more receptive to pure wrestling than the flagship show. Bryan is earning his popularity with every great match he puts on, but since dropping the U.S. title a few weeks ago, he has become lost in the shuffle on RAW. I see him moving to Smackdown to challenge Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship. They have great history together, being two of the standouts of the original NXT and with Bryan quitting Nexus for ‘ethical’ reasons. THey could have a great programme, and going up against Corre could really get Bryan over. Depending on how popular he is on the heels of this, he too could get the main event push he deserves.

6) Melina –> Smackdown
To level out the draft, I think Melina going to Smackdown would be wise. She’s not been doing much on RAW, and is a big name move to add extra shock and prestige to this draft. (Also, if dirtsheets are to be believed, she wont stand for being on a different brand to boyfriend, JoMo).

7) R-Truth –> Smackdown
For very similar reasons to JoMo. If Truth is getting a push, as it shockingly appears, he too will struggle to make a big impact on RAW with his lack of mic skills. He is, however, a very interesting physical actor, which might play better on Smackdown. All that aside, the blue brand will be struggling for top heels, so there is a spot for someone to fill, and he will need to stay on Smackdown anyway for the inevitable feud with Morrison. For both of them, that needs to be top notch.

8) Kane –> RAW
To even things out on TV going in to the final draft pick, RAW will get it’s fourth pick and stem the Smackdown counter-attack. Like Big Show, Kane is a solid babyface who could be booked great to get someone like McIntyre over, and this would alleviate the tension of the tag champs maybe being split. Could I suggest Sheamus & McIntyre (The Celtic Connection) feuding with Kane & Big Show for the tag titles?

9) Randy Orton –> Smackdown
This is obviously the shocking, top name switch of the draft. Orton is arguably the most popular superstar on the roster and is more than adequate as a replacement for Edge as Smackdown’s top babyface. The only problem with this switch is that, while Cena is obviously still the top face of the whole company for now, he doesn’t get the universal pops that Orton does. This is part of the reason I drafted Kane and Big Show to RAW to add more babyface popularity to the brand, but I think for this to work, RAW really needs Triple H to be a regular feature on RAW to provide those universally big pops. We’ll see about that, but this is the most widely slated draft, and if it happens, I will look forward to the matches between the Viper and Alberto Del Rio.

SUPPLEMENTARY DRAFT
That’s all i’d show on TV, but there are usually several further drafts announced later on WWE.com, and these can often end up being just as impactful as those shown on TV. I wont go into them too much, however, unless there is something interesting to be said about the decision. Most are to balance out numbers or to provide a fresh start for a superstar.

Evan Bourne –> Smackdown
Ted DiBiase –> Smackdown
(He really needs to work with former Legacy ‘brethren’, Cody Rhodes, in some way)
Beth Phoenix –> RAW (This is ostensibly to meet Natalya, but if the Awesome Kong ‘anti-Barbie’ idea goes down, Phoenix, Natalya, and Kong together could be a ‘anti-Barbie’ faction, either heel or face.)
Yoshi Tatsu –> Smackdown
Chavo Guerrero –> RAW (I think Chavo needs to wrestle more on TV, and being on a brand with Vickie Guerrero will facilitate that. With that in mind, he could be a great help at getting Dolph Ziggler over even more)
Gail Kim –> Smackdown
(It might seem Melina is the replacement for Kelly Kelly on Smackdown, but Gail is the real replacement as she is a babyface)
Michael Tarver –> Smackdown (I’m a big fan of Tarver, and when he was appearing on his own just looming backstage, I was hopeful that he might get a good story. That didn’t work out, however, so seen as it looks like someone might be leaving Corre, Tarver could be a good replacement potentially)
Tyler Reks –> RAW
(I’m not a fan of Reks, but similarly to Tarver, he could go the other way to bolster the New Nexus is Mason Ryan leaves)
DH Smith –> Smackdown
Alicia Fox –> Smackdown

With all this in mind, and to round this all off, here’s a break-down of the post-RTVdraft rosters, in their orders of importance (not my opinion, but realistically):

RAW
John Cena
The Miz
CM Punk
Triple H
Sheamus
Big Show
Kane
Dolph Ziggler
Drew McIntyre
Sin Cara
Mason Ryan
Skip Sheffield
Alex Riley
Santino Marella
David Otunga
Mark Henry
The Great Khali
Michael McGillicutty
Zack Ryder
Tyson Kidd
Vladimir Kozlov
Primo
Chavo Guerrero
Husky Harris
The Usos
Tyler Reks
Goldust
William Regal
Kelly Kelly
Eve Torres
Maryse
Natalya
The Bellas
Beth Phoenix
Tamina

Smackdown
Randy Orton
Alberto Del Rio
The Undertaker
Rey Mysterio
Christian
Jack Swagger
John Morrison
Cody Rhodes
R-Truth
Wade Barrett
Daniel Bryan
Ezekiel Jackson
Evan Bourne
Kofi Kingston
Justin Gabriel
Brodus Clay
Ted DiBiase
Heath Slater
Yoshi Tatsu
Trent Barreta
Chris Masters
Curt Hawkins
Michael Tarver
JTG
DH Smith

Michelle McCool
Melina
Layla
Gail Kim
Alicia Fox
Rosa Mendes
Kaitlyn


RAW Recall (18/04/2011): Truth & Consequences

Morrison bests R-Truth to gain his #1 Contendership

Before I start, for those of you not in the know, you can follow me on twitter at @RTVWOW where you will get opinions and interaction about what is going on in wrestling as it happens along with my insight during RAW and PPV’s which I live-tweet most weeks (or months in the case of PPV’s). http://twitter.com/#!/RTVWOW

The opening to this RAW was actually very surreal. Whenever WWE tapes in Britain, there is a different atmosphere anyway, but having mid-carders open the show only added to the strangeness. It was R-Truth, and the pre-match segment was awful. Truth is very personable, but he is not charismatic. At this point, he was pinnacle of the ‘face chase’: he was a mid-carder who had made it to a main event spot, but while he was struggling to get out a promo, the crowd were booing him out of the building. Luckily, it was tonight that Truth would be abandoning his face persona. Morrison, tho only guy in WWE worse on the mic, came out and shamed Truth in to a rematch for the #1 contenders shot having shown him to be struggling to keep up with the pace of the main event, taking water before Cena hit the ring (something people have been suggesting could have been a legitimate reason for his losing the spot). Morrison beat him in a decent match and celebrated like he’d done nothing to Truth. In reaction to this, the genuinely hard-done-by Truth turned on his former friend in a brutal and emotionally fascinating beat-down which was hugely better than the opening segment. Truth looked more aggressive than usual, but was really shocked and torn by what his former friend had done to him, going between cradling Morrison, and sorrowfully explaining why he was doing what he was doing before continuing to beat him down. It looks like Truth is in receipt in a push, then, and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes him. I’m still not convinced that he deserves a main event spot, but I am convinced that he will work better as a heel. I remember on Smackdown vs RAW, Truth depicted a heel character alligned with Mike Knox which was called ‘Truth and Consequences’, and which actually worked really well. He and Morrison will no doubt enter a feud, with him possibly costing Morrison the match at Extreme Rules. If there’s a good storyline, it could make him a star.

Next up was Dolph Ziggler vs Evan Bourne. Decent match, but what I really want to talk about, perhaps surprisingly, is Ziggler’s new haircut. Basically, it was a terrible idea! His hair really spoke to his character and made him unique looking. His new hair is tidy and all, but it makes him so less distinctive that it makes the whole show he puts on less interesting. Horrible decision.

Miz and Riley came out at the top of the hour with the somewhat legitimate gripe that the opening segment threw Miz’s planning for his Extreme Rules title defense and basically stole a Jericho promo, protesting against the ‘conspiracy’ he was a victim of. This was all fine, if a little long-winded, when Sin Cara came out, tweaking his trampoline entrance a little to make it less open to botching. This eventually turned in to a tag match between Cara/Cena and Miz/Riley which was pretty cool. Cara was all over the ring, and didn’t seem that inhibited in his move-set, pulling all sorts of lucha-style moves. This was broken up with some appropriate dominance from the WWE Champion and his associate. Another decent enough match, and a better showcase of Cara’s skills. The only problem was the finish. Cara went for a springboard moonsault, and his athleticism and agility was impressive, but he almost completely missed the moonsault (what I like to call a ‘Morrison connection’). That undermined all of what he was doing to a degree, though not enough to hurt him too badly you would hope. I suppose the storyline progression, if you can call it that, was that Miz, seeing that a loss was on the cards, abandoned Riley to let Cena get the win. This was good in a way because it showed an arrogance in Miz which was perfect for his character: the message he was sending that, as WWE Champion, he doesn’t need to be involved in matches like this, and whether he wins or loses, he’s still at the pinnacle of the company. There’s a part warranted/part unwarranted confidence there which is great on Miz. Saying that, it didn’t do much to build actual heat between Cena and Miz for Extreme Rules, which is a bad thing.

I thought Cole getting ‘knighted’ was a great idea. And though it probably could have been done in half the time, I liked it. What a way to draw heat in Britain. Not that everyone (or even most people) like the Royals, but the idea of having a ‘yank’ make a mockery of the institution is something that would draw heat from many nonetheless. Having J.R. kiss Cole’s disgusting foot was a nice spot, especially given Lawler has always embraced that sort of thing as part of his ‘King’ gimmick (most obviously in his ‘kiss my foot’ match with Bret Hart. Fun as well as heat drawing, but still way too long. I really hope the blow-off comes at Extreme Rules because, as good a heel as Cole is, he’s taking too much time from the talented, young guys on the roster.

The main event was a great match between Randy Orton and CM Punk. It being a ‘WrestleMania rematch’ I thought this might be a blow-off, but as you will see, that wasn’t the case. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a five star classic, but it was very good. These two obviously provide great psychology, and this was again on show this week. There was some gradual, believable back and forth, and there was quite a long period when Punk was in-charge. This was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the high point of the match psychologically. He was enjoying himself while inflicting punishment, but not in a cookie-cutter psychopath fashion, his enjoyment was almost child-like. Following a flying clothesline from the apron to the floor, for instance, he grinned and jokingly asked the referee if he could get a pin out there. Fighting back, the fight got more intense as Orton actually bit Punk’s finger trying to escape a triangle choke. This led to a period of Orton resurgence leading ultimately to his hangman DDT attempt. With the match quickening in pace, however, Punk tried a nice counter of this in to a GTS. This however, was countered into a roll-up, and, surprisingly, a roll-up from Orton for the win. A surprising finish, but a welcome change from the RKO out of nowhere model, and one that made clear that the feud wasn’t over, given the lack of a completely dominant victory from the face. As Orton celebrated and Punk whined, the Nexus music hit and we were treated to the familiar Nexus beat-down. I noticed throughout how Mason Ryan was taking a leading roll in all this, and when Orton ended up in perfect punt position, he set up to Punt the Viper. This, Punk interrupted, saying it was a good idea, but he wanted to do it, something Ryan for a long time actually argued about before eventually submitting. All this distraction, however, allowed Orton to recover, and when Punk went for the punt, Orton recovered and hit an RKO before retreating to safety, leaving Punk and Nexus distraught in the ring. It seems, then, that there are cracks in Nexus. I really hope they haven’t just brought them back to split them up. I was of the opinion that if they were to come back, it would have to be as shocking as their greatest shocking moments rather than just more of the same. Unfortunately, more of the same is what we got. I want new members and some sick angles, not a weak shell of the formerly must-see faction. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Now that Orton and Punk have had two great matches (especially their one at WrestleMania), I am looking forward to their last man standing match at Extreme Rules. Big promise.

A decent but unspectacular show. The Truth angle was fresh and interesting, most of the matches were at least decent and the main event was very good, but nothing special happened and there was certainly not enough attention paid to building for Extreme Rules. They will have to try to address that amongst the chaos of next week’s draft. One of my favourite nights of the year! I might even try to post about it in the coming week.

Smack of the Week (15/04/2011): Edge’s Final Bow and Christian’s First?


Following the shock announcement from Edge on RAW that he was being forced to retire due to injury, it was clear that this episode of Smackdown was going to be an emotional one, and indeed, one dominated by the emotion of the situation. The opening of the show was covered by a blanket of fragile atmosphere, which made the hitting of Alberto Del Rio’s music all the more charged. I was wondering whether they would use Edge’s retirement to draw heat, and I thought they should either do it and really go for it, or not go for it at all, and what we got was quite a conservative attempt at heat-drawing. I liked how he claimed to have been responsible for Edge’s retirement, and wanted Edge to come and surrender the title, but Del Rio seemed to be holding back a little out of deference in terms of tone. If he would have been absolutely vile about it, and held a celebration and all that sort of thing, it would have been awesome.

The fall of Corre seems to be continuing, much to my disappointment. Big Zeke’s match with Kingston was ok, but the manner of his win was a big step towards a split of some sort. On the way to beating Kingston, Jackson threw him in to the other three members of the Corre in quite a nice spot and a message to the other members. The way I see it going down at the minute is Zeke turning face against Corre and Corre adding another heel member in replacement. I think Zeke being the only one without a title will alienate him from the rest of the group, and the conflict will bring the three title-holders together.

Great to see Drew McIntyre have another match against a top star in Rey Mysterio. Mysterio is great, due to his size and weight, for giving his opponents more scope to do something innovative with, and for making his opponents look great, and vice-versa. That was the case with really great guys like Chris Jericho and CM Punk, and I think McIntyre embraced this opportunity equally. He was coming up with some cool reversals for Mysterio’s offense and just really clicking with him. McIntyre was very impressive in his aggressiveness and really carried himself well throughout the match. After lots of back-and-forth, Mysterio finally got the upper-hand and went over, but this wasn’t a burial by any stretch. In fact, the announcers made a point of putting McIntyre over as an improving talent. In fact, even in defeat, McIntyre seemed to be getting a little push, perhaps as a result of Edge’s retirement. At the minute, he’s between feuds, and will need something – maybe joining Corre?

The break-up of LayCool kept accelerating this week, perhaps to complete breaking point. Right from the start, McCool seemed distant, not participating in their ‘couples therapy’ or their choreographed entrance. Layla’s match with Kelly Kelly was ok, but it was all about LayCool, with McCool, ostensibly helping Layla back in to the ring, but doing so very aggressively, so much so that Layla lost nonetheless. I understand them wanting to make sure the very ‘marketable’ Kelly on TV, but her going over Layla made Layla seem very weak. Following that was the understandable post-match argument about the lack of success which culminated in McCool pushing Layla over before exiting the ring. Layla is way more popular, so making her babyface, which it seems they are doing, is the right choice, and i’m very happy about that, because I think she can rise to being one of the very top divas. On the way to the back, McCool said ‘lets see how you do without me’. I don’t know whether we were meant to hear that, but if we were, it’s quite exciting stuff. I’ve been looking forward to this split, though I think Extreme Rules is a bit of a small stage for this story, which involves the most exposed and carefully created divas in the company.

The main-event was the Battle Royale for, I suppose, the #2 contendership to the World Heavyweight Championship. There’s never much to say about a battle royale, but what I will say is that it did a good job of making me doubt my strong instinct that Christian would win. When it got down to the final four or so, and Swagger was still there after Cole had promised to redeem himself with Swagger, I started to think that Swagger could progress, and this is even given that Swagger was already booked in a match for Extreme Rules, and is a heel. I really liked the spot where Cole came out and shielded Swagger from a 619 to save him in the match and help him make it to the final 2. Eventually, Christian did manage to get the win and the right result, but in a match which is simply an exciting, chaotic way to highlight one guy, they did a good job of inserting some nice spots into there and making it less formulaic.

This is great for Christian. He at least deserves a World Championship match in his career, if not a reign. If it was me, eventhough it’s obvious, I would like to see him be the one to take Edge’s place, though even if he doesn’t at Extreme Rules, I think he will continue to feud over the title with Del Rio, getting his deserved main event status. Earlier in the night, Edge had shown incredible dignity when relinquishing the World Title, making it seem more prestigious, and following this, down came Edge again to congratulate his long time friend, along with Big Show, Rey and Chavo, all of whom are great friends, along with the rest of the lockerroom showing Edge huge respect by standing on the stage and applauding. There was even the very special moment of one last ‘5 second pose’ from E&C which was very touching apart from being just awesome. Even HHH came down, perhaps to show some official respect from WWE to the Rated R Superstar – though i’m sure it was genuine emotion for sure. There was another incredibly touching speech from Edge, which is better seen than described. The chants of ‘Hall of Fame’ from the crowd moved everybody and Edge especially, and I think he will definitely make it, and is certainly deserving, probably the next time WrestleMania is in Toronto.

Edge’s final farewell in two parts: