Smack of the Week (28/05/2011): Sheamus Takes Christian’s Spot

Sheamus points to the champion he is to challenge next week on Smackdown

This week’s Smackdown started out in the same way as the show after Christian’s title win, with the same cast, each of whom claiming a rightful shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, but this time, with Randy Orton being the victim of the attention of the Smackdown lockerroom. Teddy Long came out and said it was only fair that Orton be under the same championship pressure as Christian was when he became champion. This was some nice metaphorical echoing from Christian’s first night as champion, even if Orton still gets a week to prepare for his match that Christian didn’t. The audience picked Christian as you would expect, but the point that he lost at Over the Limit meant that he would have to re-earn his spot in a #1 contenders match with Sheamus and Mark Henry.

Our first match was a rematch from Over the Limit between Sin Cara and Chavo Guerrero. The two had another very nice match, with Chavo scouting some of Cara’s signature moves, like his handspring upside-down kick, and so looking even better against him. Cara nonetheless managed to get in lots of innovative offense, and interspersed it with more strong-style work using some pretty ‘educated feet’. This was mixed with Chavo going for lots of distinctively Mexican offense: Gory special’s latino uppercuts etc, which in itself was great because especially when it is considered with Cara’s lucha style, it fulfilled the story of the feud being around the ideas of a Mexican wrestling heritage. Cara evantually managed to win, either audibling his La Mistica in to a form of DDT, or simply having adopted that as a finisher in itself. Another good outing, the only problem being that now that Chavo has lost again, it’ll be hard to justify a further match. Perhaps that means that the angle has a new twist to come, which would be great. Maybe it will surround the extra characterisation of Cara that came this week, with him being described as growing up in a notorious Mexico City slum and wanting to represent the people, which is why he is called Sin Cara, or faceless/no face. This is obviously great for his folk hero story with Chavo, but it would be a great character for him to become anyway I think. Hopefully it will be played on more going forward.

Next up, Cody Rhodes made his way to the ring cutiing another great promo, screaming at the audience to shut up and cover their faces. I was interested but disappointed that Ted DiBiase didn’t accompany Rhodes. I hope they haven’t dropped the angle of DiBiase’s association with Rhodes because I thought that was becoming fascinating, but nonetheless, Rhodes alone is arguably the star of the whole company right now. Daniel Bryan swept in genuinely like a hero. The ensuing match was excellent. Bryan’s fantastic technical skills gelled well with Rhodes’ aggressive technical style, and their two move-sets seemed to gel very nicely. One specific example was a nice progression when Bryan was whipped in to the corner, only for him to avoid it with his back-flip reversal, only to walk in to a perfectly timed Beautiful Disaster after Rhodes had followed his tracks. There was some excellent, natural back-and-forth, and some really well-sold near-falls. The end came after another great progression where Rhodes set up for Cross-Rhodes, only to be reversed excellently in to the LaBelle Lock, to which Rhodes tapped even before it was fully locked in. This was a great and interesting finish, as the announcers sold it as Rhodes wanting to avoid any pain to his body. This was an interesting addition to Rhodes’ enigmatic relationship with his body and image. After the shock win for Bryan, a furious and embarrassed Rhodes attacked Bryan from behind and finally hit his Cross-Rhodes, before dragging him to the ropes, propping him up, and placing a paper bag over his head – another victim. This seems to me like the beginning of what could be one of the most enjoyable feuds of the year. Bryan was another victim, but he was more than that; he beat Rhodes, which will have to drive him crazy – plus, Bryan’s previous lack of a feud and his relatively high position in the companies suggests he will be more than just another victim.

Ezekiel Jackson had a match with Heath Slater. This was just another Corre-Jackson combination with the booking, and we didn’t learn anything new from this.

Next up was the ‘Monster’s Brawl’ match between Kane and The Great Khali – which didn’t mean anything. It would be good to come up with a new idea for an extreme type match and make it for a PPV. This match was obviously not good, but at least Kane can move well, and won with his flying clothesline. At this point, Jinder Mahal made another appearance, chastising Khali for his loss, and also blaming Ranjun Singh for Khali’s failures. Initially when Mahal put his hands on Singh, Khali protected his ‘brother’, but once he was behind him, he locked him in his Vice Grip, gaining Mahal’s respect again, and again leaving the ring with his mysterious associate. Khali may be arguably the worst wrestler ever, but I have to say, this story is one that i’m really enjoying, the wrestling aside.

Following this came a diva tag match between Alicia Fox & Tamina and Kaitlyn & my favourite diva from NXT season 3 (and possibly WWE as a whole), AJ. The match itself wasn’t great, but I liked the idea of Natalya taking Kaitlyn and AJ under her wing. Together, they make up a nice face contingent on Smackdown. Meanwhile, its nice to see Tamina get some ring time while Alicia Fox seems to be on the end of a push on the heel side after she picked up a victory against Kaitlyn which the announcers seemed to laud as a message to the lockerroom. I don’t know where this new Nattie-Kaitlyn-AJ angle will go, but i’m just glad AJ has made it to the main roster. I’m sure she’ll have no problem getting over, and will do great things.

The main event was the #1 contender’s match, and it was pretty nice example of a triple threat match. Each guy looked good, and at different times looked like they could win. The real pivotal aspect of the match, however, was the involvement of Randy Orton. He decided to appear half way through the match which brought it to a brief standstill. He was also involved in the finish of the match, reacting to a shove from Mark Henry by RKOing him. Unfortunately for Christian, this came while he was about to pin Sheamus. Unfortunately for Christian, Orton distracted the referee while attacking Henry so that he couldn’t count the pin. Confused, Christian confronted the referee, but forgot about Sheamus, and he turned around in to a Brogue Kick and a Sheamus victory. Sheamus’s title shot comes next week on Smackdown, so I have a feeling that Orton will nonetheless defend his title at Capitol Punishment against Christian. Because Smackdown is so heel-heavy, I don’t think Christian will turn heel – though there would be justification for that. I do think the finish of the match will be used in some way to justify another shot at the title for Christian at Capitol Punishment. Whatever happens, this was a nice way to continue the Christian-Orton-world title story, so kudos again to all involved.

Finally, I would like to say that Smackdown definitely has the edge on WWE TV currently. Nearly everything happening there seems fresh and interesting. That’s not saying RAW is bad, but Smackdown definitely has the edge.


RAW Recall (23/05/2011): RAW is Hart

Bret Hart having just officiated the main event of RAW

The previous night at Over the Limit, CM Punk and Mason Ryan failed in their attempts to take the tag titles from Kane and the Big Show, so when Mike McGillicutty and David Otunga got their shot on RAW, it would be interesting to see how they fared. On the one hand, they shouldn’t be able to succeed where their ‘betters’ failed, but on the other hand, they are much more fitting tag champions than their main-eventer brethren. While this was going on, Punk returned to the announce booth, where he was obviously brilliant. The match itself was fine, but it wasn’t really about the story of the match, but rather the result itself. After some brief back and forth, the giants were taking control; that is when the numbers game of the Nexus changed the game. With the referee distracted, Punk got the chance to hit Show in the back of the head with a stiff roundhouse, which was followed by a double DDT for the pinfall. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem that this will cause heat between the group. Instead, it just seems to be a sign that Nexus are back on the rise, which can only be a good thing. Following the match, there was an interview with the furious ex-champions which ended with Show storming off and (I presume because it would be a hard shot to shoot with Show), after some shaky footage, we saw Show under Alberto Del Rio’s car, having been apparently knocked over. It seems that Show will be away from the ring for some time, so it also seems that Del Rio, though he acted upset/surprised about the accident, will be feuding with Kane. I’m not sure, however, how much I want to see that. On the plus side though, at least it would be a feud that would be given a lot of consideration (it being Del Rio) and that would consist of two great talkers. As for the tag champs, it is interesting that Nexus members can now appear on Smackdown. It could add fuel to their inter-twining stories with Corre and perhaps facilitate a union/agreement between the two.

I was pleased to see Evan Bourne get a call up to take on Jack Swagger. It was a pretty convincing win for Swagger who basically squashed Bourne with his Gutwrench Powerbomb, which I don’t recall seeing for a while. That in itself is a shame for Bourne, but the afters made it more interesting with Bourne attacking the proud Swagger for his OTT celebrations. Hopefully this will lead to a fresh feud between the two (hopefully) up and comers, and Swagger’s new-found pull can give a rub to the desperately under-utilised Bourne.

Was good to see Cole come out and simply apologise to King and try to get on with it. It may be a bit unbelieveable that the hatchet will be buried this quickly (not that they are portraying that anyway, with Cole still making the odd comment siding with the heels), but just letting  him get back to announcing is great for the show as there doesn’t have to be a lengthy come-down from the story to legitimise them working together that would take up still more time that others deserve.

The next segment was weird. Miz came out to cut a promo legitimising his loss at Over the Limit. The jist of it was blaming his co-attacker, Alex Riley for the loss before publicly firing him. This triggered something in Riley, who cheap-shotted Miz and beat him down mercilessly, apparently turning face in the process. This surprised me because after quitting to Cena the previous night, getting beat down by Riley came across as quite embarrassing. However, as long as Riley stays on Smackdown, the action could be a good launch-pad for his career on Smackdown. It’ll be interesting to see where Miz goes from here. RAW is so heel heavy that it’s hard to see where his next feud is coming from. If he’s up to it, i’d love to see HHH return to feud with Miz. It would be a great feud and would further consolidate Miz’s position at the top.

Next up was an eight-diva tag team match (basically, to get the whole diva lockerroom in the ring) which almost instantly was interrupted by Kharma. What came next was very odd and has been very poorly received. Basically, Kharma collapsed to her knees and started crying. The fans started chanting ‘bullshit’, apparently, but I want to see where it is going to go. I think the problem was that not enough was revealed to make it interesting – it just seemed that this monster wasn’t ‘all that’. Hopefully there will be a sensical explanation for this that will have what I imagine was the intended effect of adding interesting complexity to the character, instead of undermining the presence she has gained since her debut.

Next up we saw some spectacular pyro which ran across the stage, followed by Drew McIntyre’s music. This led me and many to conclude that (thank GOD!) Drew’s push was back – something he really has earned. His opponent was to be US Champion Kofi Kingston. The two had a nice match together, if too quick. Drew worked on Kofi’s knee the whole time with innovative brutality, so much so that Kofi couldn’t deliver Trouble in Paradise. However, trying to floor Kingston finally, he was hit with the SOS for a surprise pin. My initial thought at the beginning was that Drew would win to set up a US title match, but that obviously wasn’t the case. Many people seem to have taken this loss as a signal that a push for Drew is just as distant as ever (people really are starting to get behind him), but I take the view that it’s too early to tell. Maybe a frustrated McIntyre will target Kingston, or maybe it was just something for him to do between a proper feud. Maybe McIntyre could turn face to ease the drought on RAW. More will hopefully be revealed next week. Another variable was the vision of Dolph Ziggler (with thankfully renewed blonde hair) watching the match along with Vickie Guerrero, seeming suggestion his own interest in the US title. You never know, there might be a three man feud over the title – something very exciting as I’m really high on both Ziggler and McIntyre.

The main event was made earlier in the night when Truth interrupted Bret Hart explaining why he helped Jerry Lawler at Over the Limit. Truth had come out and cut a nice promo, acting like a babyfaceHart, being nice to a ‘little Jimmy’ in the crowd, giving him his sunglasses and saying “I’m a good R-Truth now”, before turning on Hart and saying acting that way got him nowhere and that now after beating down John Morrison and Rey Mysterio, he would beat down a Hall of Famer. This drew Cena to the ring, and the match was set for Cena & Mysterio vs Punk & Truth, with Bret as special guest referee. Punk was awesome in this main event in so many ways. For one thing, he wore almost luminous yellow and pink gear like Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV where he won his first WWF Championship. Aside from that, he was consciously mimicking the style of Bret, and really interacting with him. Hiding behind him etc, as well as attempting a sharpshooter to Cena. Punk produced some really great stuff, but other than that, the action was fun and dramatic, but was unspectacular. It ended as Punk put his hands on Bret one too many times and was assaulted by Bret and put in the Sharpshooter, which Rey compounded by dropping the dime on him for the pinfall. Before the match, there was speculation that Punk was next up to challenge Cena for the title (which I would love to see), and this speculation was quickly quieted by this result, but it still seems up in the air to me. The way I see it, Punk could still be the next challenger. I have a feeling that Bret’s return will last for a while longer, and given his history with the Nexus, and the fact that he cost Punk the match on RAW, I can see some animosity between them which will bring him to blows with Hart’s new friend, John Cena.

Over The Limit, 2011: Miz Reaches His Limit

Cena makes Miz submit at the top of the Over the Limit ramp

After watching Over the Limit last night, I started to believe the 2011/12 PPV year from WWE had the potential to be a classic. For two ‘smaller’ PPVs, Extreme Rules and Over the Limit offered some great action and storylines. On reflection, I think the end was a little underwhelming, but the PPV was still of a consistently high quality.

Match 1) R-Truth def. Rey Mysterio
This match was surreal – a quality that Truth has been using to create for himself an enigmatic heel character. I thought it was slightly strange when he was talking about hospital food a couple of weeks ago, but this week his ‘parking lot’ analogy took more of the biscuit. In the mouth of another character, thid promo would die, but there’s something abut Truth’s petty, sinister character which draws a lot of heat. This match was unspectacular, but for their first match (I think), they worked well together. There was some nice back and forth and here, and some pretty brutal moments, especially given that both of these guys are basically finesse guys. Mysterio’s bulldog to Truth from the top rope was indeed a ridiculously huge bulldog, and more brutal than any other i’ve seen in a while. Rey’s momentum grew and he eventually got Truth into 619 position. At this point, Truth slipped out of the ring to avoid the 619, sweeping Rey’s legs from beneath him so he got caught on the ring apron before Truth clotheslined him awkwardly to the floor before being dragged back in to the ring to receive Truth’s finisher and get pinned clean. This was a shock for me as I didn’t expect him to go over quite so easily, but it certainly provided Truth with quite the rub, making him look impressive against a top guy. Nice enough match though i’m not sure it was impressive enough a whole match for him to really make an impact as a top calibre guy just yet.

Match 2) Ezekiel Jackson def. Wade Barrett by DQ (Barrett retains the Intercontinental Championship)
This match was ok. Ezekiel Jackson is not really going to be able to put on a great match with anybody, but he did a good enough job of putting on an acceptable match, led mostly by Barrett. A good sign for them is that, at the start of the match,the crowd wasn’t really popping for either man, but towards the end, after Zeke’s multiple slams (hardly the three amigos or repeated German suplexes!), the crowd started to get interested and making some noise. Shortly after this, Zeke got Barrett up for his impressive torture rack (his only really impressive move), which triggered the rest of Corre coming to the ring to stor Barrett from tapping and saving his title. Perhaps a finish not fit for PPV, but a workable way to keep the feud going. They’ll need a new angle, however. to keep it interesting.

Match 3) Sin Cara def. Chavo Guerrero
This was one of the matches I was anticipating most on the PPV, patly because the angle is interesting, and partly because I’ve thought Chavo could do great things in a properly developed angle for a while now. Their match was as good as you would expect. The idea was surely to give Cara someone to work with who understood his style perfectly and show him off. Chavo looked great against Sin Cara too; really competative and wonderfully underhand. Between that, Cara was finding yet new ways to fly around. He really does seem to have countless ways to fly. One thing he did that I hadn’t seen before was a handspring to the ropes where he kicked Chavo to the head from upside-down. There was lots of great guys, and back and forth until the end. Unfortunately, the end was spoiled a little  by a botched hurricanrana which gave Cara the victory. It was a shame not just because of the botch, but because it isn’t one of Cara’s signature moves. That makes me think an audible was called for whatever reason – hopefully not an injury because I want the feud to continue, but it seemed a little underwhelming a finish for an otherwise quality match.

Match 4) Big Show & Kane def. CM Punk & Mason Ryan (Nexus) to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
This match was ok. Punk is obviously the talisman in a match like this with three big guys who aren’t really technical masters. They did a good enough job though, making an entertaining tag match from it. Great to see Punk pay tribute to Macho Man a few times over the night, culminating in his ultimately fruitless elbow drop. This was the beginning of the end for the Nexus duo, who couldn’t stop the immovable objects, who sent Punk to the outside and Ryan to hell with a double chokeslam for the win. Decent match for what it was.

Match 5) Brie Bella def. Kelly Kelly to Retain the Divas Championship
This was a nice match between these two. There was some nice, natural  back-and-forth between the two with Brie getting the early advantage with the help of her sister, beating down on Kelly and trapping her in a very painful looking armbar for quite some time. Kelly managed to fight out of this, and we saw some nice brawling to the outside, including a great dropkick to Kelly from Brie on the outside. Back in the ring, kelly regained the advantage, with a Lou Thesz Press followed by slamming Brie’s head in to the canvas. At this point, with the referee distracted, The Bellas pulled off twin magic (something I love about them – it’s a unique ability they have and are right to utilise it) and a fresh Nikki Bella hit an X Factor on Kelly to pick up the victory. Relatively short, but a nice match. I was surprised that Kharma didn’t make an appearance though. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

Match 6) Randy Orton def. Christian to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Up until now, as you may be able to tell, there was some nice stuff, but nothing spectacular. Then came this match, which everyone has said is a MOTY candidate. This was not because of the spots, but because of the remarkable emotion surrounding the match, and Christian’s journey. It was just a match filled with fantastic storytelling. The two seemed equally matched throughout, and every near fall was believeable and dramatic. Christian, a 17 year veteran continues to add to his repetoire with his moves, incorporating a spinebuster, a reverse DDT, and a diving headbutt (surprisingly, Benoit style) in to his move set against Orton. This just shows the effort Christian is putting in now that he’s tasted the main event. He is evolving all the time and making a real effort to surprise the fans. For Orton’s part, he was working as fluidly as usual, and hit a gigantic superplex on Christian. As the match started to reach a crescendo, the fans were really in to it and were making an obviously deafening noise. The guys were trading attempts at their finishers with some nice wrestling progressions, but none were yet successful. Orton then managed to get Christian in a reverse Boston Crab, a move popularised by Colt Cobana who calls it the Billy Goat’s Curse and Christian came close to tapping but eventually escaped. The crowd were going crazy at this point, chanting primarily for Christian, who then played a great bit of storytelling, building off the finish of the match where he lost his title, kicking Orton in the gut and pretending to go for his sprnigboard sunset flip, which drew Orton to prematurely go for an RKO, and allowed Christian to roll up Orton for a great near fall. Orton then managed to block Chritian’s pendulum kick and hit his hangman’s DDT for a close near fall, showing Captain Charisma’s resiliency. After some more progressions, Christian saw the space conducive to the Spear, and again calling on the spirit of his friend Edge, started preparing to deliver it, though Orton countered in to a scoop powerslam for another near-fall. Here, Orton sets up for his punt, and as he is running up, he stops short, whether showing mercy or something else. Revoking the mercy, he re-sets for the punt, but this time runs in to a Spear. What followed was the near-fall that everyone bit on – so symbolically brilliant a finish it would have been. But Orton is just as resilient as Christian, and managed to kick out. The finish came when both men were wrestling more nice progressions around their finishers, and finally, after going for a Killswitch, Orton went for a backdrop, but Christian landed on his feet, only to eat a huge RKO with beautiful fluidity, and the pinfall to end a spectacular match. This really was a match of equals and to continue the respectful rivalry story, Orton went to shake Christian’s hand. At first, Captain Charisma was unwilling, having come so close, but eventually, he returned to the ring to shake Orton’s hand. Though it’s hard to justify another title shot for Christian, I think the fans would have absolutely no problem seeing a third outing between these two. Both are at the top of their game right now, and surely Christian has done enough, both in performances and fan reaction to justify his position in the Smackdown main event permanently.

Match 7) Jerry “The King” Lawler def. Michael Cole in a ‘Kiss My Foot’ Match
This was the match these two needed to have at WrestleMania really. A perfect blood-letting blowoff. The match itself wasn’t too long, and though Cole got some obviously flukey offense in, it wasn’t enough to stop Jerry beating him down and getting the pin from a flying fist. The best bit came in the aftermath, as all of Cole’s ‘crimes’ came back to haunt him. Eve Torres, his maion target of ire towards the divas came out and berated Cole before hitting a nice moonsault. Then out came good ol’ J.R., who bathed Cole in his BBQ sauce – as Cole had earlier done to him – humiliating him, and finally, out came Bret Hart! He, who has himself beaten King in a kiss my foot match, came out to assist King in doing the same to Cole – the reasoning being that at least he respects Lawler as a competitor. He put Cole in a Sharpshooter as Cole ‘kissed’, or sucked on Lawler’s foot in a scene which was nauseating, but in the correct way.

Match 8) John Cena def. The Miz in an ‘I Quit’ Match to Retain the WWE Championship
There is an instant problem with booking Cena in an I Quit match, and its that John Cena simply doesn’t quit, at least as the face he is now. This means that unless there is to be as a massive swerve, the match is incredibly predictable. This match basically took the same story as Orton’s I Quit match with Cena from a couple of years back (I think it was Breaking Point) where Orton basically tortured Cena mercilessly throughout the match, but Cena simply refused to quit until he eventually got the upper hand and made Orton quit. This was very similar, though Miz was a little different to that Orton: more emotionlessly rational than psychopathically dark. He was telling Cena exactly what he was about to before he did it, appealing to Cena’s rationality, and asking him to quit. He didn’t account, however, for the code Cena lives by (namely, to ‘never give up’), which kept Cena going despite the ridiculously brutal beating he took from the Miz, who was helped all the way by Alex Riley (Miz taking advantage of the no DQ nature of the match), caning him mercilessly with the kendo stick, and hitting him repeatedly with a leather belt, as well as a particularly sickening spot with an open chair wedged in to the ropes in to which he hit a Skull Crushing Finalé.They then wedged Cena in the barricade and hit him with a brutal chairshot to the head (though cushioned quite a lot by the barricade itself. Frustrated, Miz then instructed Riley to pull the spot from the infamous 1999 ‘I Quit’ match between The Rock and Mankind where he played a recording of Cena saying “I Quit” in to the mic. For a while, the ref bought it, and for the second time in 2 PPVs, Miz was awarded the WWE Championship. However, finding Riley’s phone, he realised (somehow) what had happened and re-started the match. A characteristic of Cena’s matches recently, is that he’s been ending them incredibly quickly, and this was the same this past Sunday. Riley goes to hit Cena with the title but Cena ducks and Riley hits Miz and is quickly hit with an AA through the announce table. Cena then turns his belt back on Miz and whips him all the way up the ramp, where he gets him in the STF and makes Miz quit. I really dislike it when I Quit matches finish with a conventional submission – it ignores the far more interesting ways they can be won. Nonetheless, it was a good match, and very brutal (Joey Styles even gave it an ECW nod of approval), and ad it been someone else than Cena in the match, it would have been even better. Cena just shouldn’t be booked in this type of match as it is too formulaic a story when he’s involved. That made the ending of the PPV a little underwhelming, but it was the right result, and well played out.

Overall, not quite as good as Extreme Rules, but not far behind. Solid throughout with the highlights being the Cole-Lawler blowoff and the incredible Orton-Christian match, while the main event did it’s job playing to the unique conventions of an I Quit match.

Over the Limit Preview and Predictions, 2011

Over the Limit, 2011, The Key Arena, Seattle, WA

I think for many people, Over the Limit is probably the least anticipated PPV of the year – it certainly is for me. Nonetheless, any given PPV is an exciting event as you know, as a viewer, that some of the biggest angles and the best matches will take place at PPV. This PPV is no different, and the card is actually pretty stacked with almost every match offering something whether it be mouth-watering match-ups or the promise of some interesting storyline progressions. Again, like Extreme Rules, the build has only really been pursued belatedly, but Extreme Rules nonetheless turned out to be a good PPV, so that isn’t necessarily a death sentence.

Match 1) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Big Show & Kane (c) vs CM Punk & Mason Ryan (Nexus)
For the last few weeks, Big Show and Kane have been essentially handy props for the storylines surrounding both the Corre and Nexus, and indeed, the two storylines have paralleled each other quite closely. It does seem after last week’s RAW that Punk and Nexus are getting something of a renewed push, but while Punk and Ryan would make nice tag champs, I think Punk may be re-emerging in the main event picture sooner rather than later. If the Corre and Nexus storylines are to continue to parallel, Mason Ryan could be about to split from Nexus after a difficult relationship with the group. For this reason, and because I can see Kane and Big Show being built as strong champions, I see the awkward Nexus partnership stalling. There may of course be some Nexus-Corre cooperation that could affect this, but the interference of someone like Ezekiel Jackson could counterbalance that anyway.

Winners: Big Show & Kane

Match 2) Rey Mysterio vs R-Truth
This is quite a difficult match to predict. For different reasons, I can see Truth going over, and I can see Mysterio going over. The first thought that comes to mind is that Truth is going through something of a pet project push, and so him losing in his first subsequent PPV match seems unlikely. On the other hand, however, Truth’s new heel persona has been largely based on his frustration at being robbed of opportunities and victories, and so perhaps that will be the case again. Whatever happens, this is a big match for Truth – perhaps the most important of his career. If he puts on a good match, he could be elevated up to main event status; if not, he could fall back down the card. These two are both quick, if getting on in years, and I think their similar work-rate could make for nice chemistry in this match. My prediction on this, as I say, is almost a coil flip, but I think the more surprising or intriguing result would be for Mysterio to win, either clean to frustrate Truth even more, or by DQ, following a savage attack from Truth who gets frustrated after Mysterio kicks out of his Cool Shot.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Match 3) Intercontinental Championship Match: Wade Barrett (c) vs Ezekiel Jackson
The obvious instinct going in to this match is that Big Zeke is going in to this match with huge momentum after leaving the Corre, cutting a strong face promo and beating his former team-mates on Smackdown. Giving Zeke the title at this point, unless there is some sort of wildcard element to the booking, seems like a bad decision to me. Barrett hasn’t been champion for that long, and hasn’t had many defences. I think what would be better would be to amp up the face chase, and have Barrett go over with help from the Corre (therefore legitimising a further future title shot for Zeke).

Winner: Wade Barrett

Match 4) Sin Cara vs Chavo Guerrero
The idea behind this programme is one that i’ve liked, with Chavo claiming ownership of Mexican heritage wrestling and also for Cara’s success. I’m so pleased Chavo’s gotten himself on a PPV because he’s been underutilised for such a long time. Apparently the house show matches between these two have been awesome, and I would expect nothing less tonight. As the story goes, there is a shared heritage between the two, so their styles fuse nicely. As for the result, I think if Cara was to vanquish Chavo now, Chavo would have no recourse to continue the programme, and so I think, eventhough it will mean handing Sin Cara his first loss, Chavo will go over here, though by unscrupulous tactics.

Winner: Chavo Guerrero

Match 5) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Christian
This is arguably the most emotionally engaging match of the night. The way Christian dropped the title three weeks ago, after only holding it for 5 days, and his legitimate and kayfabe back-story has meant that the fans are behind his cause more than ever. Meanwhile, Orton himself is a highly honourable babyface who commands a lot of respect. Indeed, this feud has become one around mutual-respect and the battle to rove you are the better man.Its been a while since WWE have tried one of these storylines and the cast is picked perfectly. On top of that, both guys are highly experienced and talented, and have already had a superb world title match. This will be given some good time, and could be a classic. I notice that Cody Rhodes isn’t on the card, and given his meteoric profile, I would be surprised not to see him at all. Now this could come with a short paper bag promo, or it could come here. Given that Legacy brethren Rhodes and DiBiase have been reunited, they might have some business to take care of with Orton. I believe that Christian wont win back the title just yet though. I think he’s to be tested emotionally and physically still more as a top talent before he regains his title. Three title changes in a month would be a little OTT, even if it would be understandable, and so I think Orton will retain on this occasion, even if he has to fend off his former mentees.

Winner: Randy Orton

Match 6) Divas Championship Match: Brie Bella (c) vs Kelly Kelly
This match is the hardest to predict because doing so means predicting the effect Kharma will have on the match. Obviously Kharma is enjoying toying with Kelly, but could part of that involve destroying anyone taking on Kelly so she can have her toy to herself? Unlike the last match, this wont be a classic by any stretch, but the Bellas are underrated as wrestlers, so there might be some nice spots in the match. I also think it’ll be given more time than usual divas matches – an effect Kharma already seems to have had on the division. This could go either way, but I think i’m going to plump for Kharma helping Kelly to lose – not necessarily by attacking her, but by scaring/distracting her enough to cost her the match before ‘playing’ with her more psychologically. This may also lead to more of a ‘feud’ as Kelly will have a legitimate gripe at being cost the Divas title.

Winner: Brie Bella

Match 7) ‘Kiss My Foot’ Match: Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole
I think, despite Cole entertaining run as a heel, most people feel this feud should have ended at WrestleMania, and certainly at Extreme Rules, but it is clear that it will definately end tonight. The stipulation is that if Cole wins, he goes in to the Hall of Fame, and there is no way WWE will mess with that institution. Added to that, Jack Swagger has now abandoned Cole’s cause. Now there is no way that any sort of wrestling match will take place – they learned their lesson at WrestleMania. Cole might get some flukey early shots in, but this will be a quick blood-letting as Cole is fed to the hall of famer and forced to kiss The King’s foot.

Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 8) WWE Championship ‘I Quit’ Match: John Cena (c) vs The Miz
I love an I Quit match. Not only can they get absolutely brutal, but they can be some of the most innovative matches going. As Miz said on RAW, there are a million ways to win, and the best victories come when it isn’t physicality that makes someone quit, but emotional or psychological coercion. Miz is one of the most wily, uncaring characters in the WWE, and I expect some ingenuity from him. The question is, how could he ever get John Cena to quit? My initial reaction to this booking was that it was perhaps a little misguided because it is too predictable given how Cena famously never quits. It does make me think that everything is so much in Miz’s favour that there could be a swerve victory for The Miz, making Cena quit and regaining the title so quickly and so making him seem like even bigger a deal. I do feel, however, that Miz is already at that level and doesn’t need that rub, even of it would be great for him. Cena will keep his title and his dream WrestleMania main event alive for now, and Miz will move on to something else going forward, hopefully giving a run to an up-and-comer himself, Evan Bourne perhaps, or a face-turned Drew McIntyre.

Winner: John Cena

This, I suppose like any other PPV, has the potential to be fantastic. If the right matches are given good time and there are some shocking or meaningful angles, the matches and storylines. The success of the PPV depends on Truth being successul on this stage, Sin Cara making an impact, the Kharma story being progressed in a fresh way that will help the divas division, and if the I Quit match delivers a match with good storytelling. If it does, as I say, it could be fantastic.

Smack of the Week (20/05/2011): 99-100%

Christian and Randy Orton face off before their match at Over the Limit

This show was bookended by Randy Orton and Christian showcasing their honour and their relationship of respect. First off, Christian took on Sheamus in a physical bout which saw Christian often in flight mode, but taking the role of classic resilient face character against the sheer brute power of the Celtic Warrior. That is not to say Sheamus is free of flair, and ha and Christian had some very nice technical back and forth before Captain Charisma finally managed to roll up his adversary for the three count (in a way which made him seem very game and spared Sheamus the ignominy of being dominated). Following the match, Mark Henry came out to attack Christian, and he and Sheamus did indeed start to savagely beat down the former world champion. In previous weeks, Orton has been very quick to come to Christian’s aid, but this time, he made a point of showing a delay in aiding his comrade/adversary. Finally, however, he did come to Christian’s aid and both managed to fend of the heels to keep alive a tenuous and temporary alliance.

Next up was Divas Champion Brie Bella against Natalya. I often say that the Bellas are underrated, and this may be an example of it. Brie and Nattie had a nice match which was given a nice amount of time (which in itself just goes to show the positive impact Kharma has already had on the divas division). Nattie was obviously the one leading predominantly, but there were some very nice sequences, like Nattie’s sitout takedown in to pinning combination. It seems that this was about boosting Brie’s momentum going in to Over the Limit where she will defend her title against Kelly Kelly. To this end, Brie was booked to be able to hang with Natalya, and eventually beat her clean with a powerful combination ending with her version of the X Factor and the pinfall. This was obviously good for Brie, but I think it was almost a step too far in terms of believability. This would work well as a further step of booking someone strongly. Nonetheless, it was a good match, and as I say, a good sign for the division. Kharma was a notable absence, but I think that was to create a sense that she may not have an impact at OTL, eventhough she obviously will.

Then, out came Ezekiel Jackson, to cut a babyface promo in the wake of his split from Corre. It was better than I expected from Big Zeke, as he came across as confident and determined, and didn’t seem like a big dope. This eventually led to Zeke teaming with Kane and Big Show, ostensibly because they were impressed by him showing the individualism and honour to finally turn on the bad guys. I don’t have heart enough to really discuss this match – not because it was bad, but because these six have been wrestling each other in some form for weeks, eventhough this was admittedly a new combination. Though there was a point to it in terms of creating a building and building intensity, Zeke’s sequence of multiple slams just went to show his lack of actual wrestling ability. Though he’s improving, he is still far too limited for any sort of major place in my mind. Anyway, the big faces got the win eventually to help build momentum for Zeke’s face chase of Wade Barrett’s Intercontinental Championship at OTL.

Following this, Chavo Guerrero got to cut his first promo in years as far as I can remember, and it was a nice one, claiming that he could beat Daniel Bryan quicker than Sin Cara did. At this point, I worried that Bryan was being buried – used as a toy for a feud. However, this was no burial, and Bryan again managed to have a great match with Chavo, as you would fully expect. They had instant chemistry, and eventhough it was only 5 minutes, it was a great 5 minutes. I would have liked to have seen a longer time-limit perhaps, but that would have detracted from the arrogance of the challenge. Although Chavo came very close, Bryan was booked as a resilient athlete and managed to kick out of Chavo’s most powerful moves. Following this, Chavo started to frustratedly beat down AmDrag, only to be interrupted by Sin Cara, setting the stage for their match at OTL.

Last week, Cody Rhodes defeated Ted DiBiase after DiBiase rejected Rhodes’s paper bag. This week their interaction was incredibly enigmatic. DiBiase came out with Rhodes and his bag-wielding employees in tow. DiBiase cut a promo personifying the town where Smackdown was being taped, Corpus Christi as a pathetic, ugly, ashamed juvenile. Rhodes then said he was helping the wilted flower of DiBiase’s career to flourish, something which I think may actually be close to the truth, before DiBiase called out his opponent, Trent Barreta. Though Barreta did okay in this match, it wasn’t that much more than a job for the furtherment of DiBiase’s career, which was completed with Dream Street followed by putting a bag over Barreta’s head. Really great stuff here. Going forward, i’d like to see Barreta being the face taking on these heels and give him the rub he needs to progress up the ladder.

This job was followed by another job – this time for Great Khali – noticeably sans Ranjin Singh – against the unfortunate Jey Uso. The story here was very nice as Uso started off well against Khali, until Jinder Mahal appeared, his mere presence enough to inspire Khali to turn up the brutality, manhandling Jey and chokeslamming him for a victory, and then assaulting his brother Jimmy, finally earning Mahal’s approval. Very nice stuff, and as i’ve herad that plans are for the two to form a tag team, it would be nice to see them work with the Usos to not only get them some deserved exposure, but help build a tag team division again.

The main event was the other side of the Christian-Orton booking: Randy Orton against Mark Henry. This was actually surprisingly ok given Henry’s inclusion, with Henry getting a bit of a rub from Orton, and Henry playing the monster heel well, even if it was Orton playing a big part in making him seem good. This match was almost an exact mirror image of the first match though, with Sheamus (less explicably) coming out to assault Orton. Duly, Christian came out and stood at the top of the ramp for some time while Orton got beat down before coming to his aid. In response to this, Orton seemed pretty peeved, shoving Christian a little before the heels regrouped, only to be put down again by the faces, after which the sense of mutual respect between the two seemed to return as the show closed with a stare-off. Nice build, especially with the delayed help to each other, if a little unexciting …

I was going to write my predictions tonight, but I felt I had to write a post about Randy Savage, and that took up time, so I’ll do that tomorrow. In the mean time, i’m gonna put my predictions (literally who I think will win without any commentary) on twitter immediately following this. Its this sort of insight that you get from following me on twitter, so do that! @RTVWOW

RIP Randy Savage

Savage with his 'unique' look.

I came home from a party last night to hear the tragic news that “Macho Man” Randy Savage had died following a heart attack at the wheel of his car, resulting in a crash. I have no problem admitting that it hit me hard and left me crying.

Obviously its natural given the nature of the business to ask if his heart attack was wrestling-related, but there’s no way of knowing for now. For Randy, I suppose it doesn’t matter either way, but another death linked to wrestling would obviously be yet another warning sign for the business.

But getting to the better side of Savage’s life and of the business too, Savage can be claimed, without much controversy, as one of the men that laid the foundation for the explosion of wrestling at the end of the 20th century. He and Hulk Hogan tore up wrestling in both the Rock and Wrestling era and the Monday Night Wars with the nWo. Despite the ridiculousness of his character, he managed to stay relevant between these two radically different eras. He was, and will always be, one of the biggest and most popular wrestling stars ever, and for that, he deserves recognition.

I don’t want to write much more because the tremendous out-pouring for the Macho Man and his family has been so touching and so eloquent, and were made by people who knew him and the business much better than me. Instead, i’m just going to post some of the comments that touched me, personally, the most:

Jeff Jarrett: “I met him when I was 11yrs old. He would always teach, correct, encourage, and compliment as my… Career progressed. I have NEVER forgotten the intricacies and attention to detail he taught me over the years. Randy always had a method to His madness. Randy is gone, but will never be forgotten.”

The Rock: “RIP Randy “Macho Man” Savage – you were one of my childhood inspirations and heros.”

Kevin Nash: “I lost a close friend today. If anybody in heaven is wondering who the cat in the ugly cowboy hat is it’s Randy. Love you Bro. Never another.”

Hulk Hogan: “I’m completely devastated, after over 10 years of not talking with Randy, we’ve finally started to talk and communicate. He had so much life in his eyes & in his spirit, I just pray that he’s happy and in a better place and we miss him … This was a tough one.”

Christopher Daniels: “RIP Randy Savage, an inspiration who set the standard! As a fan, watching Randy in Wrestlemania 3,4 and 5 was incredible! True Story: at Turning Point 2004 (AMW-XXX cage match), I asked Randy’s permission to drop the elbow of the top of the cage! Randy’s reply? “God bless you, brother, I don’t even do the elbow anymore.” And, he gave me a thumbs up after the match as well!”

Claudio Castignoli: “When I was 12 I turned my jacket into a Macho Man Jacket, adding tassels on the sleeves and ran through my house yelling “oh yeah” The tower of power, too sweet to be sour, funky like a monkey uuuuh yeah! RIP.”

Bill DeMott: “When I got my start in WCW it was Randy that gave me the rub.”

Steve Corino: “Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at WM3 is still 1 of my favorite matches ever. I was 14 & though I “hated” Savage, I never booed him again.”

Jim Ross: (Part of a great blog on Savage’s career ) “Randy Savage is arguably one of the top 2-3 wrestlers that helped establish the WWE as the dominate promotion of its kind in the world. Savage deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Andre, Hulk, Piper, etc.

When I arrived in WWE in 1993, Savage was, unknown to me, on his way out. Randy, Bobby Heenan and I broadcast WM9 from ringside at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on my first live, TV assignment for WWE. Broadcasting with ‘Macho Man’ was never easy but it was also never dull. He was as unpredictable wearing headsets as he was in his wrestling tights.”

Chris Jericho: “Randy Savage was a true influence and inspiration to me and taught me some very important lessons,in and out of the ring. Rest in peace Mach … I think Warrior at WM7 is the best example of how incredible Randy was. Best Warrior match ever.”

Jay Lethal: (Who had for a time a specific Macho Man gimmick) “You inspired me more than this world will ever know. Enjoy.

You were a tower of power that was too sweet to be sour,
You were funky like a monkey every minute of every hour.
For you, space was the place and time distortion had to be,
And your fans here on earth wanted the madness for eternity.
You met every challenge with fists clinched and face to face,
You even fought and defeats dragons and snakes.
Flying off the ropes with an elbow drop,
There was no way you could ever be stopped.
Identifiable by your voice alone,
Even being Dubbed the macho king while you sat on your throne.
We hung on your words with interviews memorable and classic,
And we knew it was serious when you took off your glasses.
I promise not to lose you in the sands of time,
For you will always be that all time hero of mine.”

Also, both Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins posted two incredibly touching photographs showing the impact Savage had on their careers and their lives. Ryder’s one was of him as a kid with Savage, clearly having a joyous, formative experience. As for Hawkins, he posted a picture of him with his “first tag team partner”, and inflatable Randy Savage.

What all this shows is the iconic status Savage earned and his influence and helpfulness with the future stars of the business. In so many ways he helped make it what it is today, and for that, respect and thankfulness should be shown.

Finally, I will show the excellent tribute video made by the WWE for Savage. It was good of them to do that, and hopefully it will air at Over the Limit or on RAW.

But other than that, I want to post his two greatest matches:

Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III

Randy Savage vs The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII

RIP Macho Man, and thank you.

RAW Recall (16/05/2011): Neither Cena or Miz Quit Before Over the Limit

Miz attacks Cena with a pipe before Cena turned the tables

The first match on this weeks RAW was CM Punk against Kofi Kingston, and while it was a nice match, it wasn’t long enough to really stretch each other in the ring. It may have been weird that the US Champion went down, but it was to CM Punk, and him having a high profile, it was acceptable, especially seen as Punk has needed this win for a while. What is even better,is that Punk seemed to lay the foundation for a progression with Nexus’s storyline. Punk said afterwards that he had led by example, and so would Nexus. Hopefully that is true and we’ll see some shocking actions from Nexus in the coming weeks.

It was important that Kharma started to develop this week, and this indeed happened in the aftermath of Kelly Kelly’s victory over Divas Champion Brie Bella. Why little was made of that I don’t know. Why give Brie the title only to ignore it? Hopefully this will be righted with a Divas title match on RAW next week (I couldn’t bare to see Kelly vs Brie on PPV (eventhough the Bellas are underrated)). Following that, Kharma again advanced on the ring, and initially, I expected another takedown of a Bella, we did get that, but this time Kharma advanced on Kelly for the first time, flicking her in the head like she did on her vignettes. At this point, she is literally playing with Kelly, and this could make for a very psychologically engaging story. Indeed, I would like to see Kharma stalking Kelly before finally either destroying her or maybe one of Kelly’s enemies, before taking the divas title and making the division relevant again.

Next up, Rey Mysterio hit the ring to call out R-Truth for his attack last week. Truth didn’t come, but old-time enemy Alberto Del Rio did. These two then had a match, and while their chemistry is great, I think it was still too soon from their previous match to seem particularly fresh. The main story here was about R-Truth, who made his presence known as the match was going on, suggesting that he doesn’t have to answer to Rey when beckoned, while distracting Rey by asking the audience to ‘stop that thief’ (of Truth’s title shot). Rey wasn’t affected by this however, and managed to maneuver Del Rio in to 619 position before Ricardo Rodriguez put his body in the way for the DQ. Only after this did Truth appear, again assaulting Rey Mysterio before telling Mysterio that at Over the Limit, he is ‘gonna get got’ – a great line from Truth, who can be genuinely scary in his new persona.

I don’t want to give much time to Cole-Lawler, as entertaining as it can be. It is worth noting though that Over the Limit was basically confirmed as the blowoff for this feud as Cole drove Swagger away from his corner by belittling his title reign. Telling King “he’s all yours”, Swagger left, and an almost blubbering Cole started begging for forgiveness. There is no was Cole will be booked to go over King clean.

Next up was more Nexus build as Otunga and McGillicutty went over Kane and the Big Show with the help of sly interference from Punk. Great for McGillicutty to be able to pin Kane, while the turn in Nexus’s fortunes therefore turned even more severely. It was then revealed that Punk and Ryan will compete for the tag titles at Over the Limit. Whether this is good for Nexus or not remains to be seen, but it does seem that their fortunes are turning rapidly again. Signs perhaps that Punk has re-signed?

Some people have been very critical of how Jack Swagger has been booked with Cole and Lawler, but it cannot be denied that it has garnered him a profile that he had lost before his involvement. Apparently coming out of that angle, Swagger was catapulted, in a pleasantly shocking way when he was introduced as Miz’s chosen opponent for John Cena, in a No Holds Barred match. Now, this match did have some okay ‘no holds barred’ spots: ring posts, steel chairs, computer-shots from Swagger to Cena, making him seem dominant against the top guy, and therefore potentially on par again. A lot of that, though, came during the commercial break, which made what we didn’t see on replay seem quite tame for what is meant to be a brutal match. Swagger was really made to look a threat to Cena though, locking him in the ankle lock several times and dominating him at others – exactly what Swagger needed to return to being a top player. Eventually, Cena fought through the ankle locks, specifically showing his ‘will not quit’ attitude and managed to pick up the win and send a message to Miz. This obviously irked Miz, who proceeded to warn Cena about the innumerable number of ways one can make another quit (a characteristic which makes it one of my favourite kinds of matches) and threatening that at Over the Limit, he will use a method Cena has never seen before – a statement which visibly worried Cena. He then says that, while sheer violence might not be the answer on Sunday, he’s happy to use it tonight, and with the help of Alex Riley’s distraction, he attacks Cena with a metal pipe. Cena eventually manages to turn this round, however, and Cena, furious, warns that on Sunday, he will be the Miz, and he will say I Quit. Great build for the OTL main event. It’s just a shame it took until the last seg of the ‘go home’ show to bring it. Any PPV needs adequate build, but especially one with such a psychologically engrossing match as an I Quit match. If Miz and Cena had built around that for 3-4 weeks, we could have a real mouth-watering prospect on our hands. As it stands, we may still do, but it will be no thanks to the limited build.