As those of you whoread my preview for Capitol Punshment will know, I was not that excited, relatively speaking, for this PPV. This was something I perceived in the live audience too, who at points, didn’t embellish with enthusiasm lots of actually very good matches. This proves my point about needing to build interest in PPVs so there’s an emotional investment too. The main events, which were built well, got decent reactions from the crowd, especially the main event, but the rest suffered from the near silence at times from the uncooperative DC crowd. I’ve seen a lot of negativity about this PPV, and it seems to me, unjust; for one thing the amazing tron that was constructed for the event as well as the accompanying establishing points about the event being held in DC actually made me invest more in the concept. This could, I imagine, appear to be shoved down our throats though as, again, the actual storylines couldn’t match up to the gimmick, and seemed to be overshadowed.
Match 1) Dolph Ziggler def. Kofi Kingston to Win the WWE United States Championship
This was another clinic from these two in natural chain wrestling. Though Kofi was probably on top for the most part in the first half of the bout, it was often going back and forth, though to Kofi for longer periods. This got over a slightly more clinical ring psychology from Kingston. However, Kingston, ultimately, couldn’t put Ziggler away, hitting him with everything but the Trouble in Paradise and still only getting 2’s. Ziggler’s resiliance made him seem strong, and as the bout continued, he started to get in more offense, with lots of nice, innovative progressions between the two increasingly surrounding their finishing spots. At the second attempt, Ziggler managed to lock in his Sleeper Hold on Kofi, and in a clever way to finish the match, used his foot to bounce away from the bottom rope and stop Kofi from earning the break and knock him out for the victory. With the top of the RAW pile now pretty crowded, I think the best thing to do with Ziggler (undoubtedly a future top champion) is let him keep the US title for a very long time (6-12 months) and build a rep as a legit top guy before moving him on successfully. As for Kingston, he could move on to be a higher face than he currently is, but I still don’t see him in the main event for the time being.
Match 2) Alex Riley def. The Miz
I for one was surprised when I saw Miz placed only second on the card (arguably the worst part of the card), thinking instead he’d be taking up more of a main event type role along with the growing star, Alex Riley. Before hand, Miz cut a nice promo using the steel briefcase as a metaphor for the difference between his career and Riley’s, in a way that made me think one of them (probably Riley) could be a nice shout for the RAW MITB title next month. When Riley came out, he received another big pop, and even more when he was announced as being from DC (which I didn’t even know – that’s set up for a pop!) The match these two had was a brawl, and rightly so. Unfortunately, this meant very few spots or moves stood out. As I say, this makes fair sense, when you hate each other as much as Riley and Miz are supposed to, you wouldn’t perform many stylized maneuvers. The tension of the match grew nicely as it approached its conclusion though, partly due to the role of Cole. After performing an awesome kick to Miz on the outside, using the ropes for leverage, Riley then turned his attentions to Cole, who was berating him as a traitor, and picked up even more pops from the crowd by assaulting Cole. When both competitors were back in the ring, Miz attempted to use the briefcase (a metaphor for the respective status of the two) against Riley, but was stopped by the ref, allowing Riley to use an Impaler DDT (a nod to Edge?) and pick up the win, to the delight of the home-town crowd. Riley winning could make this a quick blow-off, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t continue this at least to MITB, unless they want Riley in the actual MITB match.
Match 3) Alberto Del Rio def. The Big Show
This match was almost exactly as I expected from the point where Show didn’t wait for Del Rio to reach the ring before attacking him from behind and basically beating him up; that is, until Mark Henry made an appearance, and it was one of the most impressive appearances he’s ever made, with a World’s Strongest Slam through the Spanish announce table and then driving his LEFT leg into the remains of the table (though as Maffew of Botchamania rightly pointed out, Rodriguez actually ran over his right leg). Continuity aside, this was a nice and sensible way to create an surprising match that made sense, as well as making Henry seem in the least bit scary again. The rest of the match was based totally on Show selling his injury but refusing to give up, despite being unable to. Del Rio did a great job of acting scared about the potential of Show while showing the sinister chickenshit ingenuity that has made him what he is in the WWE, kicking at Show’s knees to debilitate him, culminating too in an innovative use of cross-leg-breaker. This was the final nail in Big Show’s coffin as he tried and failed several times to get up, and was eventually deemed unfit to continue. This may seem a little underwhelming, but the pity and emotion of these hard-to-watch scenes made for a good story and also made Show a purely sympathetic character for the first time since his return from the accident. It also kept Big Show seeming like an unbeatable figure (at lest in the conventional sense) while making Del Rio seem wily and dangerous again. I think these two will go one more time in a gimmick match before Del Rio gets his shot at Cena at Summerslam.
Match 4) Ezekiel Jackson def. Wade Barrett to Win the WWE Intercontinental Champion
This match started out with a great promo from Wade Barrett that also made up the best build for this match to date, and unfortunately, it came minutes before the match, when it was arguably too late to draw interest in the match. His promo was basically about the Washington setting, and drawing heat based on how the outdated British structure was better than the admittedly imperfect American system. This he did confidently and smoothly, and managed to draw heat from this difficult crowd. The match was better than I expected, and I think Zeke may have incorporated one or two more moves to his set. Barrett was also able made to look stronger than he has been of late, being able to dominate (pardon the pun) Zeke for quite some time before the power of Jackson managed to overpower Barrett with his slams and the torture rack. Nothing too inspiring, but acceptable. I hope now Barrett can move on to the main event (i’d suggest he’d be a great challenger to Orton at Summerslam), so i’d like to see him get his rematch on Smackdown and fail. As for Zeke, like Ziggler (though he has a lot more to prove than Ziggler), i’d like to see Jackson hold the title for a long time and establish himself as a serious guy, whilst adding to the prestige (if Zeke is capable of that) of the Intercontinental Championship.
Match 5) CM Punk def. Rey Mysterio
This match was arguably the show-stealer, and in some ways it’s not surprising; for one thing, Punk and Rey always have great matches, but also because WWE seem to be doing whatever they can to keep him on board, and so are happy to give him a bigger spot and more time in his matches. It’s not like they did anything that new, but they did the best of what they do do in this match and put together a well thought out match with some great chemistry. There was a noticeable change in Punk though, constantly seeming to be in control even when Rey had some offense. Towards the end of the match we saw some innovative ways to set up finishers. Firstly, Punk tried to utilise his roundhouse that he’s been using as a finisher recently, and in doing so, Rey ducked the first one, but Punk span all the way around, kept his balance, and hit the roundhouse for a nice near-fall. As for Rey, he hit his 619 to Punk while Punk was on the apron, thus knocking him out of the ring. It was a further 619 attempt that brought about the finish as Punk ducked and gathered Rey on his shoulders before hitting a huge GTS for the clean victory! This may not have done much for Mysterio’s current reputation, but it sure made Punk loo good, especially for a heel. I have no idea what’s next for Mysterio – I see him as probably entering a feud with an upper-midcard guy; maybe Ryder? As for Punk, I only see him going up the card, and am especially excited about his ‘special announcement’ tonight on RAW (we all remember what faction debuted at last year’s Viewers Choice!) as well as his claim that this summer will be ‘the summer of Punk’. I see a title shot in his near future, especially if he is enticed in to signing a new contract.
Match 6) Randy Orton def. Christian to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Our first main event was Orton vs Christian, and as I thought, this changed the dynamic of their matches with Christian working as a heel though Christian didn’t necessarily commit many heelish acts. I don’t think, however, that this particularly helped the match. That’s not to say I didn’t like that match, it was still very good, but I think it was a rung below their previous encounter (though comparing it to that MOTY candidate match is a little unfair). This was another match between two guys with excellent chemistry who gave us a lot of nice progressions and believable near falls. The story of this match, specifically, though was surrounding Orton’s concussion, and indeed, as the match went on, Orton started to seem more groggy, and especially after Christian hit one of his new big moves, the spinebuster and followed up with some hard shots. At that point, he genuinely looked out of it, and Orton sold so well that I actually worried if he’d re-inflamed his genuine concussion. As the match continued, Orton managed to get a foothold in the match again and the two started to dance around their respective finishers. Christian managed to hit his signatures including the Spear, which too came about after a nice progression of them trying to hit their finishers. Orton kicked out of the Spear in what was a great and convincing near-fall. This made Christian distraught, something Orton’s cool head may have taken advantage of; jumping over Orton from the top rope, Christian turned around straight in to an RKO for the victory. Interestingly, when he was being pinned, Christian’s foot was clearly under the bottom rope, and while complaining to the referee, Randy Orton got his revenge for Christian’s cheap belt shot by doing the same to Christian. In fact, I have a feeling this will justify another title match in some way for Christian, before Captain Charisma makes way for a new challenger for Summerslam, but we’ll have to wait until Smackdown to be sure.
Match 7) Evan Bourne def. Jack Swagger
Another example of lack of build hurting a match, and this one struggled particularly hard seen as it was announced minutes before it began, even if WWE did make clear that it was a ‘bonus’ match. The crowd, on the wane towards the end of the show weren’t going to react to these two who were wrestling apropos of almost nothing. I actually really liked the match too, which makes the lack of build even more of a shame because it could have really got both guys over. Nonetheless, I thought Evan looked great here, and had the time to show off the best of what he can do, and he flourished. Swagger looked good and strong too, but he was more solid when compared to Bourne’s extravagance . Towards the end, Swagger started to look insurmountable, but Bourne stayed in it, sticking and moving with his high-flying arsenal, and at the finish, there was some really nice chain wrestling that ended in a roll up for what was arguably a shock victory for Bourne.
Now throughout the night, the Obama impersonator was actually a pleasant surprise, and I think it was because he actually does that professionally. When I first saw him, I was worried that we’d have a replay of some of the shitty matches between famous impersonators (Trump-O’Donnell springs to mind!) but luckily the Obama impersonator didn’t get in the ring, and his segs were short and pretty funny, getting his secret service guys to remove Vickie Guerrero from his presence, his satire-come-WWE themed speech at the end, and most funnily, when Santino offered to show Obama his Cobra before getting tackled by the secret service guys. I thought it was really funny, didn’t step on the toes of the action, and fitted the theme of the show.
Match 8) John Cena def. R-Truth to Retain the WWE Championship
Regarding this match, the show opened with the best promo i’ve ever seen about the cult of John Cena; the fans in an indistinct sea of red, following him, imitating him, supporting his success at the expense of others. Great build for the match, the PPV and Truth himself. I would say, however, that the match didn’t quite live up to the billing, though it was a good match. There wasn’t much great action during this match, but it was solid and very natural seeming. One aspect I liked was when Truth started to dance like he did when he was face, but taking on a sinister atmosphere, as if he was doing it knowing how that sort of stuff used to hold him back. It was a nice bit of storytelling. The last section of the match was good, with Truth hitting his finishers and really making me believe that he could win. Cena kicked out, but Truth stayed on him. The actual finish, however, was more divisive I imagine. I like the idea of a ‘Little Jimmy’ getting his revenge by throwing a drink in Truth’s face. I didn’t like how that was part of the finish though. It seemed a little bit of a cheap victory for Cena and marred the victory somewhat and made it seem less decisive – something that would usually lead to a further match but apparently isn’t seen as CM Punk is the new #1 contender. Decent match, but certainly not the best of the night.
Overall, a good PPV. Not really a bad match on the card, even if things like Zeke-Barrett wasn’t particularly spectacular. A bit of a clinical, cookie cutter finish for Cena, and if people were slightly disappointed with the final shots of the show, I wouldn’t blame them, but those few minutes shouldn’t mar the entire rest of the PPV.