The show opened with Randy Orton in a position which could be described as a stock heel position – sat down in the middle of the ring, refusing to leave until he was acknowledged by Christian. Of course, when Orton does it, considering the way he lost the World Title, it is more understandable, but it’s still not very heroic. Christian was great, with classic heel hypocrisy, criticising Orton for whining. It was announced that, as is statutory, Orton will get his rematch, at Summerslam. It is fitting that this, until now the best feud of the year’ will end at Summerslam and I think we can expect a great match to round it off. Implicit in that last statement is basically an early prediction regarding the result).
Christian followed up with a match against behemoth Ezekiel Jackson which was better than you might expect from a Jackson match. Jackson showed a bit more vulnerability (as you would hope when he is taking on the World Champion) while still looking strong. The central story was simple but successful – Cristian not being able to negotioate the massive arms of Jackson to lock in the Killswitch. Eventually, however, Christian managed to throw Jackson in to the ringpost, which was enough to debilitate the IC champ enough to get him in to a Killswitch for the win. Usually, I might complain about the IC champ going down, but there’s nothing shamesul in going down to the World Champion, and I like that Christian was helped to look strong by going over clean. This was the last we saw of Christian though, something i’ll discuss when I discuss the close of the show.
I really liked Daniel Bryan getting an in-ring interview following his Money in the Bank win. Everything D. Bryan said was on point, and I think it’s clear that when he says he wants to live out his dream of wrestling the main event of WrestleMania, he means that with more vigour than most. I think it fits Bryan’s face persona very well to ‘set a date’ for his cashing in. If it’s straight-up, then we have the prospect of seeing Bryan grow in to a main-event character, which will surely include of necessity some great stories and matches. But there are other possibilities; that he loses the briefcase to someone (which I don’t like) or he cashes in early, taking advantage of a downed opponent to break his word and turn heel, which could be more interesting.
Heath Slater was brought out to face Bryan, and actually put on a nice match with AmDrag, with some nice progressions. If anything, Slater looked a bit too strong (the idea being to make Bryan look), but Bryan looked good too, and finished the match with a great application of a dragon sleeper which started looking like a tornado DDT, only for Bryan to swing and bring Slater to the middle of the ring for the submission. Unique and ingenious.
Sheamus vs Wade Barrett was a weird bit of booking. They’re both big guys but nimble and in possession of nice technical abilities. They worked together well, but this was really more of an angle – the violent double count-out surely just the beginning of a feud – a weird feud given that both are heels. Perhaps they’ll eventually start working together or perhaps one will turn heel, though I don’t yet know which one – there are up-sides to both.
Kane insisting that he wants to rediscover the demon within doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but i’m hoping for a big payoff, possibly with a return of the mask? In the main event the ‘Big Red Machine’ took on Randy Orton in a street fight. This was a pretty run-of-the-mill match in the first half, but it really picked up in the second half, with the use of chairs and stairs and the like, including Orton accidentally falling through the announce table in quite a scary moment. Kane seemed to grow in power, even – almost unbelievably – kicking out of an RKO (the one moment when he seemed at all monstrous) and then as he got more command and Chokeslammed Orton, I actually thought he might gain a win. About to Tombstone Orton on a chair, Orton escaped and hit an RKO for the win. Kane looked good here, but certainly not close to monstrous, while it makes sense that Orton, still in the title picture, remained strong-seeming. What I didn’t like was the two shaking hands at the end; Kane is trying to be a monster and Orton, who crushed Kane’s ankle with the steel stairs, is notorious for his ‘anger issues’ – it just doesn’t make sense that the red mist would clear after the match and they’d have gained that respect for each other.
With Orton gone and Kane struggling to stay up, Mark Henry just appeared. Kane, who seemed to relish the prospect of the violence (and pain?) smiled and squared up to Henry, but after what Orton had done to him, he stood no chance and eventually was on the wrong end of a World’s Strongest Slam, some splashes, and the same sickening ankle-breaking spot to Kane that he hit on Big Show. He followed it up with one of his brutally evil lines he’s so good at: “Why don’t you try and walk on it?” Though it was shocking, other than Kane and Big Show being tag partners, I don’t really see why Kane was attacked too, so hopefully we’ll get more explanation going forward. Mark Henry attacking someone else isn’t a cliff-hanger as there’s nothing really to follow up on.
Meanwhile, though Christian opened the show and looked good doing so, it’s weird that we didn’t see him for the rest of the show. He’s the champion, yet we still see Orton as one of the closing guys and seeming more important. It’s much maligned how Eddie Guerrero won the title and wasn’t at the forefront of the show, and this is what happened this week. It was also a shame that Cody Rhodes, one of the hottest rising stars on the show, couldn’t get booked. A decent show, but with some questionable booking, and one that built very little in terms of stories or for Summerslam.