Smack of the Week (30/09/2011): Henry Makes for Apex Prey

The show started in unorthodox fashion as Booker T regaled us with his presence in order that he could be the next to try to interview Mark Henry, and after all, Book is much more suited to the World’s Strongest Man, being one of the only three African-American men to become World Champion after a career of hard work. Even Booker  held no interest for Henry though, who refused any offer of praise or camaraderie, preferring instead to talk more about his ‘Hall of Pain’ and the atrocities he has committed.  Henry truly is the best monster heel of recent memory, because he’s genuinely terrifying even to watch, and this was was the case, for me, when Henry was describing having the heads of Kane, Big Show and Lawler mounted, and how he wanted to add to his bloody collection.

I was surprised to see Khali be so competitive against Henry, and though he is a former World Champion, Khali doesn’t really have the credibility WWE was affording  him; and so, it made Henry look weaker than the booking intended. At least he was allowed to win and re-perform his impressive World’s Strongest Slam spot on Khali. That didn’t satisfy me though, as it was a repeat from RAW, so I was glad when Henry took his attack one step further, officially inducting Khali in to the Hall of Pain with that sickening Vader-bomb spot of his. This reasserted his dominance again, and papered over the shortcomings of the bookings, making him again seem unstoppable.

Jack Swagger against Evan Bourne was a really nice match, and it isn’t surprising given their respective pedigrees. These two (and Ziggler and Kingston, who were supporting their respective partners) really do personify a big chunk of the future. The match was technically great, but also well booked to tell the story of Guerrero’s stable, with Ziggler replicating the help Swagger gave him on Monday before Vickie got more involved than she usually does by pushing Bourne off the turnbuckle before he could hit Airbourne, leaving him susceptible to Swagger’s ankle-lock for the submission. Nice match, and it’ll hopefully lead to a tag title match for Vickie’s team, possibly at Hell in a Cell.

Sin Cara squashed Heath ‘The Southern Brawler’ Slater, as indeed he should. Afterwards, a Sin Cara appeared on the tron, and peeled back the familiar blue and gold mask to reveal a new black mask (and his identity as the ‘bad’ Cara). This is the simplest of characterization, but perfect for their characters which are so strongly portrayed by their masks. More pragmatically, it’ll be very helpful for the upcoming PPV match between the two.

Backstage we saw another legal consult by David Otunga. This was specifically interesting because John Laurinaitis was involved in the discussion. This is seemingly formulating the conspiracy theorists side which will soon, inevitably, blow-up, and it seems it will happen soon. In fact, the group’s agreement to do something on Monday seems very foreboding, not only for Hell in the Cell, but for Survivor Series too.

With Beth going over on RAW, it makes sense that Kelly got a win going in to the PPV, but Nattie wasn’t done down. Her and Beth’s post-match beat down, and how it was done, was fantastic. Nattie’s PinUpStrong submission is fantastic, and Beth’s berating of her was fantastic, holding the mic to Kelly’s mouth, hushing the audience as Kelly screamed and even cried. Very powerful, and a nice way to provide a memorable moment for the build for the PPV.

Cody Rhodes fought Sheamus after another good promo. His match with Sheamus was very good, and he did well in matching Sheamus in terms of sheer brawling, which made him look great. In this, Rhodes continued to look equal to main-event calibre, really taking Sheamus to his limit. Sheamus finally got the upper hand and looked about to hit the Celtic Cross, only to be scuppered by Christian, who managed to hit a Killswitch on Sheamus to gain the upper hand going in to the PPV after The Great White Brogue Kicked Rhodes.

Zack Ryder had a nice match with JTG, who I was pleased to see on TV again. Ryder was again very charismatic, playing the gimmick to its hilt, and much to the delight of the crowd and myself. JTG though was trying equally as hard, and was really performing well, with the usual inventive moves and style he uses. Obviously Ryder had to go over, and he did with a nicely modified version of the Rough Ryfer, but I would like to think JTG will have gotten a bit of a rub from this (imagine, saying that about Ryder!) which could lead to more opportunities.

The main event was another Orton-Christian encounter, and it was worthy of their series. Starting out it was a little more lacklustre than we’re used to. Lots of back and forth, great chemistry, great booking based on their previous matches again with Christian dummying a sunset flip like he has before because of how he lost their first match, and some perfectly executed near-falls, like the one following Christian’s Spear. Orton got the upper hand following a hangman DDT, and before he could strike with a final RKO, Christian fled the ring. This led to a double count out, and what was seemingly going to be another ‘unstable’ beat-down. At this point, Cody Rhodes appeared to halt this attack, which made a lot of sense given the events of last week. This drew Sheamus out, who chased Christian off, but this only left the stage clear for the predatory World’s Strongest Champion to appear with violence on his mind. At this point, I wanted one of these two things to happen: Orton to hit an RKO, or Henry to do the chair spot on Orton. As it turned out, the former was the case, and it just goes to show how well this feud has been booked that Orton (who dishes out RKOs liberally) RKOing Henry was genuinely surprising. Some really good face-chase booking here, showing that maybe Orton has a chance against the seemingly unbeatable Henry, especially when Orton re-took symbolic possession of the ring.


The RAW View (26/09/11): Del Rio Thrives in Hell

A furious, envigorated, Alberto Del Rio stands over his two competitors inside the cell they will return to on Sunday

One of the most pervasive themes in WWE of late has been chaos, and the chaos surrounding COO Triple H specifically, and this was certainly the mood on RAW last night. It started, as if often has recently, with Trips himself coming out to address the Universe. He was out to explain why he fired Miz and Truth last week. Last week, I speculated that, because of his apparent change of mind, any bombshell to be revealed would be about why his mind changed so abruptly. That, for the moment, seems like it isn’t the case as Trips brushed it off by saying that he only stalled the firings to keep them main event players around for another main event. I don’t think this was a sign of nonsense though. I think it was a move to show HHH’s reckless and even hypocritical management style. Here are some tweets from The Miz himself that are not only based on truth, but follow this vein of storytelling:
“Triple H fires us for “savagely attacking a WWE official” I wonder if Triple H ever put his hands on a WWE Official. Let’s see../Triple H vs Stone Cold No Mercy 1999 Triple H pushes ref. #hypocrite Triple H vs Y2J April 2000 Triple H beats up n pedigrees ref #hypocrite/And my favorite Triple H vs Kevin Nash Judgement Day 2003 Triple H “Savagely” hits ref with a SLEDGEHAMMER. Just to name a few.#hypocrite.”
This shows a sort of storytelling that engages more with the Reality Era; the ‘reality’ here being a cogent memory of storyline history, but presented as more true than historical storylines usually are. It shows the characteristic malleability of the burgeoning Reality Era, which spans from the storyline reality of Miz to the shoot reality of CM Punk. Meanwhile, the chaos continued as superstars were not afraid to confront HHH and air their grievances, which is an interesting, and makes complete sense in the crazy world of WWE. Not only that, but rising talents like Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes interacting with HHH and to a lesser extent, Christian, can only be good for him. It’s not something that can or should be done every week, but it fit the atmosphere of last night perfectly. HHH’s reaction to this was brilliant too, making seemingly arbitrary, rushed decisions, which not only fed in to the idea of him being a bad leader, but led to some great and unusual booking, foremost of which was the match following immediately after, the 10-man battle royal for the Intercontinental Championship.

I was so pleased to see Drew McIntyre in the match (apparently with a Rangers crest emblazoned on his trunks), because he deserves it. Seriously, every time I see him, i’m more and more impressed. I think not only that he can get over, but that he, in a way, already is over. After all, how many superstars would trend so high and so long after being eliminated first for a battle royal? Hopefully what i’m about to point out suggests that WWE recognise this (though it may just be wishful thinking). Around a year ago, McIntyre was Tag Champion with Cody Rhodes, and on RAW, the two were seemingly conspiring before the match started. At the very least this is good continuity, but perhaps it suggests a way back to the limelight for McIntyre. Indeed, as the match started, it seemed that the two had agreed on Cody rolling out of the ring, and, perhaps as a reaction, the other eight guys all piled on McIntyre and dumped him out. At the time I was disappointed (and I still am), but it again suggests a link as the other competitors were booked to see McIntyre as some sort of confidant to Rhodes and so threat to them. Anyway, enough hopeful speculation! The match itself was really fun and really well-booked, with interesting match-ups and cool eliminations. Sin Cara being scuppered by his imposter, Big Zeke backdropping Bryan and Morrison over the ropes and to either side of the ringsteps. The end of the match saw Rhodes (who had been wily in vacating the ring early on) retain his title against the huge star of Sheamus, though with the help of The Great White’s new nemesis, and with the tool of his mask. Despite this, Rhodes again looked fantastic, not only because he beat Sheamus, but because he defied the ‘punishment’ of HHH.

After a lot of frustration, Beth Phoenix finally got a win over Divas Champ Kelly Kelly. Hopefully this is the sign of a landmark part of this storyline. Not only that, but Natalya INVENTED a new submission move, and it was awesome; some sort of modified surfboard which she’s calling the Pin Up Strong. That just goes to show how great she is. That is all.

That opening shot with Mark Henry’s back enveloping the camera shot, with Cole verbalising our awe, was amazing and just the perfect way to shoot Henry as this monster heel. I was so pleased he just beat up Khali (with another amazing show of strength in World’s Strongest Slamming Khali) instead of having an awkward match with the Punjabi Pensioner. He is doing the best work of his life now, and is always ‘must-see’, not that you can help it!

John Cena continues to be something of a interest void to me. He came out to promo under the Cell, which is a good idea in itself, but Cena didn’t sell much to me. I liked him referring to the controversy surrounding the title, but the rest, I wasn’t too keen on. For one thing, while he was trying to ‘sell the hell’, he was smiling a lot, which to me is completely the wrong demenour to have underneath that structure. His match with Christian was pretty good, as it allowed him to get more ring time with a top top talent and position himself around that stature. What was really good about this match though, was CM Punk on commentary. Again, he was just brilliant on the mic – and so much easier to listen to than Cena – talking up the match while being hugely entertaining, be it just be wearing his sports coat, by calling Del Rio out on commentating while ‘half naked’, or by renewing his ‘you spilled my diet soda’ line. Excellent. After Cena did this by throwing Del Rio in to the announce booth, Del Rio blind-sided Punk before attacking Cena to get a small but definite upper-hand feel. This would only be built on later.

Next up was Zack Ryder’s United States Championship Match against Dolph Ziggler w/ Vickie Guerrero … and Jack Swagger! Yes indeed, it seems Vickie’s management stable may have taken a step towards fruition, and I couldn’t be happier. Guerrero brings a shine to whoever she’s associated with; she’s already been a great help to Ziggler, who, to me, is ready for the main event, and will hopefully  do the same for Swagger. As for the match, Ryder took this opportunity by the scruff of the neck and had a good match with Ziggler, taking him right to the limit with his bravado-laced signatures. So much so that it took help from new apparent partner, Jack Swagger, who hot-shotted Ryder, allowing Ziggler to hit the Zig Zag for the retention. This wasn’t all though as Vickie’s men set upon Ryder. Fortunately the heroic AirBoom were around to literally boom out to Ryder’s aid. This led to some apparent kharma booking (from Teddy Long, again, instead of the RAW GM or HHH) pitting Ryder and AirBoom against Ziggler and Swagger. This is the second time Ziggler and Swagger have been given double-duty, and I don’t quite understand why they are booked in this way; maybe it’s to lend them a unique sense of spontaneity? Nonetheless, I didn’t think the second match was necessary. It seems it’s goal was to reintroduce Mason Ryan to TV, as he came out seemingly to join Team Guerrero, only to turn on the heels.  A lot of people were critical of this as it seemed like they were providing minimal build for a cheap pop for a face-turn, but the way I saw it was that Ryan came out with the intention all along of helping the faces. Anyway, this allowed Ryder to pick up another non-title win against Ziggler and put him in line for another US Title shot. Hopefully it will lead instead to a #1 contender’s match instead, but whatever happens, I think Ryder is almost anointed as the next US Champion (which he could rebrand as the Internet Champion). As for Ziggler, he could make a great tag team with Swagger going forward before the final push to the main event. Finally, I don’t know how well Ryan will get over as a face. I don’t know if he has the natural charisma to do so, but that’s not to bury him; turning him face right now makes sense as he couldn’t possibly match up to Mark Henry as a monster heel right now.

The David Otunga pre-tape has gone down very well with the fans it seems to me. As for me, I was a little knocked for six by it. For ages, Otunga has been a stalwart of the tag team division and of Michael McGilicutty. But this week he abruptly shed that character for a much more reality-based character – namely a knowledgeable lawyer come wrestler. Indeed, it is this nod to reality which I think is behind the success of this small tid-bit. He was holding court with the other conspiracy theorists of Christian, Cody Rhodes, and Dolph Ziggler (though i’m sure Miz and Truth will align with them whenever they return too), and apparently conspiring to bring down HHH through technical legal means. This being the case, what can we expect going forward? A factional fight for the company? Maybe, but it would either necessitate some awkward bedfellows (Punk, Cena, HHH (though the tension inherent there can be good for engaging drama)), or a third faction, setting the sides as the Conspirators vs the Management vs the Truth-Tellers (engaging with stark reality). This could, of course, be a huge over-reaction to what was a short backstage seg, but it was definitely an intriguing piece of intrigue to witness. Incidentally, if Otunga is to receive a push of sorts, and it means he is to be separated from McGillicutty, could the latter start making himself known by his real, prestigious name, Joe Hennig?

Finally, we hand CM Punk take on Alberto Del Rio in the main event of the evening, with the Hell in a Cell eerily hanging above the ring; and like his competitors did earlier, John Cena attended the match at ringside. Del Rio and Punk are two of the best workers in the world today, and so obviously this match was wonderful to watch. To carry on the echoes of Cena’s earlier match, Punk tossed Del Rio over the announce table and in to Cena before wryly mocking Cena’s salute to The Champ. This match had a wonderful, technical flow to it, flavoured with some stiff, strong style wrestling. This was no accident. Although both guys (Punk especially) already work quite a lot in the strong style, it was even more highlighted here, and it was to underline the sheer toughness and resilience of the two going in to the match which requires more toughness and resiliency than any other. As the match ‘rolled on’, there were some great, believeable near-falls for either man, without either hitting their finishing move. Usually, the finish would come when one man managed to hit his finisher, but these two aren’t ‘usual’ and after all these near-falls, Punk hit his roundhouse kick which he’s recently been using as one of his signature moves, and out of the blue, won the pinfall. Immediately following this, Ricardo Rodriguez attacked Punk, but to no avail as he was dispatched by a GTS followed by an AA, but as this was hapenning, the Hell in a Cell began to lower around everyone. As Punk and Cena tried to get metaphorical victories over each other by hitting their respective finishers, but to no avail. All the while, Del Rio had recovered and had picked up a chair before preceding to beat the hell out of either man with multiple chair shots! It was at this point where Del Rio looked as he does in the header picture to this post; full of furious intensity in a way that his usual demenour has not allowed (him being a more sly, self-confident aristocrat). It was great to see this side of him, and it completely overshadowed the unfortunate fact that he lost the match, and garnered attention for the Hell in a Cell min event. Meanwhile, the other guys weren’t made to look weak – this was the reasoning for having Punk win the match, and it must also be remembered that Del Rio’s attack was a blindside and so something the faces could never defend against. So going in to Hell in a Cell we have the WWE Champion, a man who just won another RAW main event in CM Punk, and Del Rio who had just absolutely destroyed the other two surrounded by the Hell in a Cell. This PPV’s only had two weeks of build, but this RAW did a good job of making up some for that.

Smack of the Week (23/09/11): All-Comers Take On Henry

This week’s Smackdown started, surprisingly, with Johnny Ace in the ring surrounded by most of the Smackdown roster and, in essence, holding court. I thought this would play in to the setting-up of Laurinaitis as the red-herring figure as conspirator, but instead, it seemed to pull back from that a little, with Mr. Future Endeavors seemed to reassert an allegiance with HHH as COO. Perhaps then, his actions are not a red herring and WWE simply thought his role in the ‘conspiracy’ was too obvious. He welcomed Mark Henry to the ring, and in a rather impactful moment, the roster seperated to allow the new World Heavyweight Champion to enter the ring. I loved this because i’ve always been a big fan of the ring and the canvas being treated as sacred ground, and it really seemed so when the champion was ceremonially allowed to enter. This happened again when a deity (HHH) joined him. But before they could discuss whatever they wanted to discuss, Christian deliberately ruined this ceremony by entering the ring uninvited to ask for ‘one more match’. With Orton as Champion, that was a big and dangerous challenge in itself, but given that the unstoppable Mark Henry is now champion, Trips seemed only too happy to give Christian his match this week.

Good to see Wade Barrett defeat Justin Gabriel. Gabriel (the man with the worst theme music in WWE), has been getting a bit of a push as of late, While Barrett hasn’t been really living up to his once show-stealing billing. I don’t think that this victory will do much for Barrett’s career, but at least it helps build his credibility some.

The Divas of Doom getting another victory under their belt is a good thing, with Beth pinning AJ ‘with the greatest of ease.’ Bbut with all respect to AJ (who I love) and Kaitlyn, victories over them don’t make up for their recent losses to Kelly Kelly and Eve. I’m hoping that down the line, these bigger victories will come.

The first main event of the night saw Randy Orton take on Cody Rhodes. This match wasn’t as captivating as their other affairs, but to be fair, it wasn’t intended as such. Orton had to come out all guns blazing after losing his title, and he did. The good news for Rhodes though was that, for the most part, he remained toe-to-toe with the Viper, even if it meant again using his protective mask to do so. Unfortunately for Rhodes, this only infuriated Orton, who used the mask vigorously and without mercy against Rhodes. The amount of time the mask has spent off his face makes me believe, incidentally, that it will be coming off pretty soon, perhaps even in a Luchas de Apuestas type-match. Anyway, on TV, this culminated with a hangman DDT to Rhodes, but live, the assault continued on Rhodes, with the Intercontinental Champion suffering a huge gash from a ring bell shot, causing puddles of blood to be spilt. It’s a shame we couldn’t see this assault as losing some of it surely detracted somewhat from the intended effect of it, but nonetheless, I think these two have a wonderful chemistry together because of their extensive history. The same is true of Ted DiBiase who, regrettably, didn’t appear this week. Hopefully this doesn’t signal the end of his feud with Rhodes.

Sin Cara’s series with Daniel Bryan continued with a short but decently enjoyable match. The story was really all about the Cara vs Cara feud, which was continued when the original Cara was setting up for some sort of diving move from the turnbuckle when the new ‘bad’ Cara ran in, pushed the original down in a rough spot to replace him and hit a senton bomb to Bryan to hand him another loss. This was good and well booked, and furthers their feud well. But while i’m sure Bryan’s losing streak is leading to some sort of angle, it just seems like he’s being lost in the shuffle a little, to the point where a heel turn may even be desirable, despite the likeability of Bryan as a face. Either that, or hurry up and pull the trigger on his angle, because he’s going to have to get super over soon if he wants to headline WrestleMania.

AirBoom had a very intriguing match with The Usos, pitting face team against face team. The Usos gave a great account of themselves in this match with some good tag team spots, but AirBoom eventually overcame the challenge of the men descended from Samoa. AirBoom again looking strong as champions, which is right. It is a shame though that the Usos were brought in, seemingly just to be sweeped aside. That, however, is preferable to them turning heel because they are so naturally likeable. That was a problem here; as competition to the face champions, though they didn’t act as heels, they seemed like them. Nonetheless, I was glad to see them back in the picture.

Finally, we had Christian’s latest World Title shot against Mark Henry. This was a pretty good match, with Christian being booked as at least some challenge to the World’s Strongest Man. Often when taking on monster heels, simply getting them off their feet is seen as a huge achievement, and after an onslaught of attacks, Christian achieved this with a missile dropkick. This, however, posed the opposite problem to the previous match, as a heel vs heel match, one heel had to, almost inevitably, get over with the audience as their favourite, and it was Christian who took this place. That isn’t to say the fans supported him, but they did prefer him, and he did gain some cheers even when he knocked Henry down. Following this though, the sheer power of the new World Champion became too much for Christian, who succumbed, like so many others recently, to a World’s Strongest Slam after his new antagonist, Sheamus, acted as personal lumberjack to Christian, throwing him in to the waiting arms of Henry. In contrast to the earlier dynamic, Henry was drawn as the heroic relief to Christian’s heelish whining, extinguishing him for  the win and his first title defense. Troublesome booking of heel vs heel there, but perhaps the fact that they swapped their roles somewhat during the match saved it from being critical to the heel characteristics of either man. In the aftermath of victory, down came Randy Orton to confront his Hell in a Cell opponent, managine, with some effort, to get Henry out of the ring with a dropkick. Of course this made Orton seem instantly the most credible of a bunch of not credible challengers to Henry’s dominance. Nothing ground-breaking, but decent build. Here begins the face-chase.

The RAW (Short) View (19/09/11): Miz and Truth Fired Under a Shadow of Conspiracy

In this hilarious, Velasquez-esque picture, Miz and Truth are forcefully removed from the arena

This weeks show opened, happily, with CM Punk being typically forthright about his shame at being – seemingly – mistaken about HHH being in on a fix against him. He then told HHH (when Hunter arrived) that the fact that they didn’t like each other was being used against them by an interested ‘higher-up’. Though the only person (at least in character terms) above HHH is Vince McMahon, Punk, interrupted by Executive Vice-President of Talent Relations, John Laurinaitis, was not able to make any specific accusation. Mr. Future Endeavors, acting more and more like a conspirator, then tried to fire Punk, but this was quickly blocked by HHH, who said he’d be conducting an investigation, and he would be firing someone by the end of the night. It’s interesting how the relationship between HHH and Punk has evolved. They still don’t like each other, but they do respect each other, and now Punk seems interested in a conspiracy in the WWE. As long as he remains the Voice of the Voiceless agitator all the while, then that’s fine, because as long as that continues, this new central story may be a more easy-to-follow and focused, and therefore more successful. As for Johnny Ace, he is behaving in such a way as to almost declare he is a conspirator. Maybe he is, but it seems too obvious as of this writing, in an era where red herrings are becoming more prominent. The question then becomes, who is behind this conspiracy for status quo, and who is the main beneficiary? As long as it sticks to that, with Punk the central and most outspoken victim, speaking out against the system that is being blindly enforced, all will be good.

A lot of eyes rolled when Alberto Del Rio squashed John Morrison. I understand why that is, but this was one of my favourite parts of the show. Maybe it’s because i’ve never really liked JoMo, but I have no problem seeing him buried, especially when it allowed Del Rio to show such sheer rabid aggression. Del Rio is one of the best actors on the roster, at least in terms of facial expressions, and the way he applied that arm-breaker was full of furious aggression. This was especially important as it gave the recently dethroned WWE Champion some credibility as a top talent, and a top wrestler.

I was excited to see Sin Cara vs Cody Rhodes, but that didn’t happen. Fortunately, it was replaced with an interesting confrontation between the two Sin Caras, and indeed, it was pretty incredible to see these two identically clad luchas battle off in their high-flying, spectacular way, and it was certainly great to see. With one of them not speaking English though, and being restricted to pointing all over the place, it may be difficult to tell this story satisfactorily. Hopefully not.

Mark Henry simply ruled again in his interview segment with JR. His furious demenour is genuinely terrifying, and the way he was directing it at the audience was so intense and unique it was actually chilling, but that was nothing. compared to what was to follow. Henry forged ahead with some great Reality Era material about how the fans had never supported or believed in him, and about how JR himself, when he was head of talent relations, held him back too, and indeed, JR was to act as the martyr for all those that detracted from him, and what we saw then was shocking, and nothing but awesome. Ross’s voice quivering in apology, Henry’s scary, brutalist way of talking ‘This is the part where you beg for your life,’ Ross squealing that he was going to pass out, Lawler accepting that he’d have to take Ross’s place, and the World’s Strongest Slams to Lawler, including Heney’s trademark slam through the table. Henry said he would be an unstoppable champion, taking on all-comers, and as far as ‘statements to the locker-room’ go, it was one of the best i’ve ever seen.

In some ways I wasn’t surprised to see Nattie pinned by Eve Torres. I think the storyline is calling for these two to be frustrated by the model divas, despite them being stronger, and possibly leading to the old double-turn between the two factions. The problem is, I think by this point, that theme has been driven home, and these losses are starting to make the monicker of the ‘Divas of Doom’ seem less and less credible. Presumably we’ll be seeing another title match for Beth or possibly Nattie, but as of now, it seems difficult to justify it.

When Hugh Jackman first appeared on camera, I was fed up pretty soon (see my first tweets about him). However, as it turned out, he was used in the best way for a celebrity guest star; he put over a wrestling story and not himself. Jackman tasked himself with getting the biggest underdog on the roster to beat the US Champion Dolph Ziggler. The good thing about this was that it made Ziggler, and beating Ziggler, seem like a big deal; the problem, however, was that the obvious choice for his opponent, Zack Ryder, and he hardly seems like that big an underdog to Ziggler. Nonetheless, come the match, Jackman was very honourable in putting Ryder over so extensively, and partly with his help, Ziggler beat the US Champion. To me, it seems Ryder will be the next challenger for the title, and given his momentum, and Ziggler’s current story with Jack Swagger, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryder is in line to be the next US Champ. Jackman’s involvement was just a good and unique way to set all this up.

I wont talk too much about the main event match. It was a good but ultimately identikit tag team main event brightened by Punk’s involvement especially as he gained an impressive pinfall to keep some momentum as a top guy. The real story came once the match was over though as HHH announced that, despite earlier reassuring Miz and Truth that they would not be fired, Miz and Truth were indeed fired, thus implicating them in the current ‘conspiracy’ theory, so it seems something must have happened between his initial reassurance of the two. Backstage, the style of shooting became much more realistic and, if you will, ‘edgy’ as Triple H was walking, furious, only for The Awesome Truth to jump him from behind before the whole roster, seemingly supportive of Trips across borders of face and heel, helped him and violently threw the duo out. This in itself was excellent as it seemed to genuinely show a sense of paranoid chaos backstage, again pointing to the growth of the burgeoning Reality Era. The problem is that, obviously, Miz and Truth aren’t fired, and they are top talents that you can’t imagine being off TV for long, Cena-style. Nonetheless, this focused the whole conspiracy storyline in a way that was a little more satisfying than at Night of Champions because it actually provided a discernible cliff-hanger with interesting questions (other than ‘what just happened?’) Why were they the two that were fired and not Laurinaitis? Who is behind Miz and Truth acting in this way? What do/did they hope to achieve?

Whatever happens, if it links to Cena’s title win, has Punk central as the Voice of the Voiceless, and makes sense, it will continue to be fascinating. A very good RAW which was a good start to building for Hell in a Cell and for pulling storylines together.

A Quick Look at Night of Champions, 2011

The break-down of the main event of Night of Champions

Ok, so I was in no position to write a Night of Champions review yesterday, and since then, we’ve had another RAW, which has cast a different shadow on everything, so i’ll take less time here to write a more snappy post about the PPV, and the main points of interest which came from it. For more, go and check out my tweets from Sunday night (@RTVWOW) and follow me otherwise for LIVE reaction to the world of wrestling as it rolls on.

A quick note on the Intercontinental Championship match. A perfectly respectable match here to start what will probably, and rightfully, continue for some time. These two obviously have good chemistry together and the story of the match was neat and simple. Ted was equal to Cody but got too impassioned with his quest for revenge and removed Cody’s mask. While holding it triumphantly aloft, Cody took advantage to pin Ted with a roll-up. Nothing truly memorable, but enjoyable.

Really enjoyed the US title match too. It was as expected; fast-paced and spectacular at times, we saw some of the most exciting up-and-coming superstars WWE has to offer. Before Sunday, I was a little tired of the Dolph/Swagger before this Sunday, but this match really invigorated their feud a lot, and it was all because of the booking. Swagger, impressive, was a dominant force in the match, and after hitting a Gutwrench Powerbomb to Morrison, he looked destined to be the next US Champ. Before he could even cover Morrison, Ziggler moved in, Jericho-style, and pushed Swagger out of the picture and stole the victory from the All American American. A great way to show the competitive nature between the two and it is something that will lead, I think, to a face-turn for Swagger. As for Morrison, who was pinned and had a hard time on RAW, his future doesn’t seem too rosy.

Mark Henry was straight-up awesome. I was expecting him to lose but be impressive, but he was impressive instead in victory. It was blissfully simply booked to retain Henry’s enduring power. The in-ring story was fantastic with Orton being beat down and having his leg damaged by Henry, so much so that he couldn’t hit him with the RKO, and after Henry swatted the Viper away, Orton walked straight in to a World’s Strongest Slam for the win and the important distinction of becoming only the third ever black World Champion. His brilliance didn’t stop there though. His post-match promo was the best I have ever heard, full of passionate and righteous anger. He was shoving his win in everyone’s face, but not in a cocky way, but simply full of sheer, furious force. It needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

A lot of upset among fans that Beth Phoenix adhered to the home-town rule of often not winning. At the time, I felt the same, and to an extent I still do. After Natalya lost to Eve on RAW, it seems that the ‘Divas of Doom’s’ losing streak may be leading somewhere in itself. Perhaps they will hit such a low that they snap even more and go forward destroying the barbie-doll divas. Kelly Kelly has been escaping and surviving so far, and so perhaps when either Nattie or Beth finally win the title, it will be refreshing. In fact, perhaps Kelly could eventually become a heel persona, damaging the title by avoiding the genuine challenges (the problem with that being that Kelly would be a horrible heel). Another route would be for more divas to joining the ‘Divas of Doom’ (I had this idea after seeing a article imagining that scenario). Either way, i’m sure the story isn’t over.

Cena won. It is ridiculous that he won. I almost can’t bear to discuss it more. One thing I will say is that I think it was so representative of (to use Punker’s phrase) ‘the soul-crushing status-quo’ that, for those who felt the show was bad, it was this matches fault, because those who have, like me, ‘CenaNuff’, the bad feeling from this match probably bled over in to the main event. Cena doesn’t need this title, and Del Rio certainly didn’t need a short joke of a reign, and though I think he’ll regain it soon (which is right), it just makes the championship seem less and less prestigious.

Finally, the main event, which, as I say, was tarnished by the mess of the Cena-Del Rio outcome. The match itself, at least when it was just Punk and HHH together was fantastic; in fact, I would go so far as to say it was among the best ever no-DQ matches i’ve ever seen. Brutal, but with an excellent flow, it was a joy to watch as these two huge (but very different) stars went to war. The match started quickly, with Punk knocking Trips off the apron during his entrance, and never looked back. HHH’s merciless attack on Punk’s knees were truly brilliant, be it slamming them patella-first in to the ring posts, or sandwiching them between the post and a chair-shot. Punk was HHH’s equal though, culminating in his Macho Man elbow drop through the announce table. It was at that point that things got complicated. Out came Miz and Truth who started beating down on both competitors, seemingly trying to get Punk to cover HHH and have Trips removed from his job as COO. At this point, I liked how they beat-up and dragged Punk on to HHH because it presumed that Punk wouldn’t accept their help and so they would make him accept their help. What didn’t make sense was when Punk covered HHH after a GTS, and in the confusion, Truth pulled Punk off HHH (this was so nonsensical, in fact, that I can only assume it was a mistake on Truth’s part). We then saw John Laurinaitis summon Kevin Nash back to the ring with a text message (the strong suggestion therefore being that it was he that did the same at Summerslam). He too beat up on both guys, and it got to the point where the heels were conspirators seemingly without a cause. Together though, Punk and HHH managed to fight the heels off and Punk succumbed to a Pedigree to lose the match. Now a lot of people called this a burial, but that is not the case. It took a jack-knife powerbomb, a huge beat-down from Miz and Truth, and three Pedigrees (not to mention the brutality of the match) to keep Punk down. No match with this level of interference can be ‘clean’. The problem with this was that it all seemed so unfocused at the time. In retrospect, I suppose the ‘big story’ was that Miz, Truth, and probably Nash and Laurinaitis were trying to cost HHH his position as COO, but when mixed in with such indiscriminate violence, that aspect only became clear the next night on RAW. So it was a very good main event in some ways, but needed a more clear point of storyline progression, or a twist of sorts to really make it feel like a satisfying ‘event’.

Overall then, a pretty good show tarnished by the very worst of SuperCena but memorable for the crowning of Mark Henry and the first major match between Punk and HHH being a memorable and brutal war.

Night of Champions Preview and Predictions, 2011

Night of Champions, September 18, 2011 from the First Niagra Center, Buffalo, NY

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Night of Champions emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. At that event, home-town boy CM Punk (you may have heard of him) was beaten by The Big Show in around 5 minutes in one of the clearest ‘status quo’ moments of Punk’s career to date and a piece of booking which is widely renowned as a bit spit in the face of Punk. This year, the Allstate Arena hosted Punk’s greatest triumph and what was the closest thing i’ve seen to date to a perfect PPV, Money in the Bank. Since then, and before, Punk has been the hottest thing in wrestling, and this Sunday may well be the most crucial night of the current storyline, as some fans have become frustrated with the direction of the angle. But more on that later. A lot of fresh PPV faces this month at a time where championships generally have been growing in importance and prestige. If this trend continues, Night of Champions could be a great night and another part of what is becoming a vintage year of PPVs. With that in mind, a lot of my picks are based on the prestige of the championship on the line.

Match 1) United States Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Jack Swagger vs Alex Riley vs John Morrison
The situation surrounding this match is rather complicated. The real ‘feud’ here is between Ziggler and Swagger and it is based on jealousy and testosterone-fueled competition surrounding Vickie Guerrero’s professional affections. These two bucks have been at it for weeks now, and really, Morrison and Riley were just wedged in here to give us a bit of variety of stipulations for the night. It seems to me that the favourite for this match with the other critics is Jack Swagger, and that is certainly possible; in fact, this is probably the hardest match to call on the card. Ziggler and Swagger are great wrestlers, and Morrison is very athletic and unique. It is just Riley that lets the side down in the ring as he is greener than his faux-Irish entrance movie that plays him to the ring. Him aside, this has the potential to be a fast-paced spectacular with some coll, unique spots. As for the winner though, I don’t think, like other people, that Morrison and Riley are there just as furniture, I think one of them will win the title, and leave Swagger and the newly title-less Ziggler to either feud without distraction, or joining Vickie’s stable in harmony, and possibly as a tag team. So that whittles it down to Morrison and Riley. A month or two ago, I would have picked Riley, but it seems to me that WWE are, rightly, losing a bit of faith in Riley. Morrison is in hot water too post Melina’s firing, but I think they still, ultimately, view him as a future star and a US title reign would be a good way to stabilise his career without giving him too much. If they’re going to feud, either Ziggler or Swagger will cost the other match, if they are to team, it’ll probably be more clean.

Winner: John Morrison

Match 2) Intercontinental Championship Match: Cody Rhodes (c) vs Ted DiBiase
This match has the potential to be absolutely great, given all of the deep history between these two. My frustration here is that these two were split up too soon and so the pay off wont be quite as satisfying. Nonetheless, these two have very similar styles, and that could make for a great match, and hopefully, a good performance for DiBiase in one of the biggest matches of his career. Though they’ve split too early, I think the amount of history between the two means that this wont be a blow-off match. Usually that would mean DiBiase could go over, but given that Rhodes only recently won the Intercontinental Championship, and has been highlighting it’s prestige, it staying with him for some time makes sense. If it were me, I would have Rhodes defend, with the use of his mask and/or paper bag distraction, and then at Survivor Series have Team Rhodes vs Team DiBiase, with DiBiase over to earn another title shot, with DiBiase winning at the next PPV.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 3) Tag Team Championship Match: AirBoom (Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne) vs The Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth)
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the renewal of the tag team division in WWE, and rightfully so; within a month it has gone from stagnation to freshness. The new champions, AirBoom have a terrible name and are only growing (though quickly) in chemistry. Despite this, a lot of people seem to think, perhaps wisely, that the sheer profile of R-Truth and especially The Miz, make them favourites here, but I would argue that Miz is probably a little above the tag titles and that winning them would undermine drastically The Awesome Truth’s claims of conspiracy. Given that the tag division is currently being strengthened, it makes sense to create some strong champions, and so I see the champions retaining. Trouble in Paradise followed by AirBourne to Truth. Hopefully the signing of Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro) and, probably, Chris Hero, will provide the first real challengers to AirBoom, and the eventual ones to take their titles and give real credibility to the division.

Winners: AirBoom

Match 4) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Mark Henry
Mark Henry has been on fire, has been hugely impressive, and has been having the most successful and entertaining time of his career. In the wake of this devestation, he has been anointed by everyone on TV at least, and many fans, as the next World Heavyweight Champion, but when? If Henry were to win, the World title will have changed hands on every PPV for three PPVs running. For that reason, I would have liked to have seen Henry continue to feud with Sheamus for a while (they were great together) and have Orton give some shots to some other heels that could benefit (Wade Barrett being a prime candidate) in the mean time. Nonetheless, here we are, and I think for the good of the title, Orton has to retain, for now at least, with Henry getting another shot, and possibly winning, down the line. Imagine him vs Daniel Bryan for the World Title at WrestleMania! So, how can Henry lose without losing credibility? Well many people foresee Kane and/or Big Show returning to scupper Mark Henry, and that seems credible enough to me. Either that, or a bit more unexpected, Henry gets too violent and gets DQ’d.

Winner: Randy Orton

Match 5) Divas Championship Match: Kelly Kelly (c) vs Beth Phoenix
A lot of people were surprised and upset when ‘Diva of Doom’ Beth Phoenix didn’t win the Divas title at Summerslam, and I understand why because the very idea of the ‘Divas of Doom’ caught the righteous interest of many fans who agreed with what Beth and Natalya had to say about the Divas division. I think the reason for that was Kelly being positioned as a top babyface diva by giving her reign more legitimacy, but it seems to me that there would be no point in booking Beth in a rematch only to lose again. I don’t think it will be a squash because of the damage that would do to Kelly, and not only that, a decently timed divas match will itself go some way to helping the division. The home-town girl will win the title and, perhaps, become a Diva of Salvation.

Winner: Beth Phoenix

Match 6) WWE Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs John Cena
I’ve been very critical of the build for this match; how it has been boring, and how it has taken interest away from the real main story: CM Punk and HHH. This is also the easiest match to predict. Del Rio won the title at Summerslam, and is the next guy being pushed right to the top; put simply, there is no chance he is losing this match. For those reasons, to me, this is the least interesting match on the card. Del Rio over, but how? Because Cena wont be losing clean (or at least not spotlessly clean). How Cena loses will determine how entertaining this match is. It may well be simple interference from Ricardo Rodriguez, or some independent piece of villainy (holding the tights etc), which would be acceptable, but not all that interesting. If it were up to me, I would have have the outcome of this match somehow relate to the outcome of the main event. I wont go in to fantasy booking too much, but I will say I would like to see WWE ‘higher-ups’ protect Del Rio; I think he would fit very well as someone WWE would want as their champion, and would want to protect as their champion, an idea which would also fit in to how he won the title at Summerslam.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

Match 7) CM Punk vs Triple H
This is a crucial match, for the wrestlers, for the PPV, and for the company. Punk has been excellent for months, and HHH has, for the most part, been nearly up to his level too. A lot of people, however, feel a lot of fire has been lost from the Punk story and that is why this match is so important; it needs some answers and twists instead of more layers of admittedly interesting confusion. I have every faith that Punk will be determined to do something satisyfing though, because that is quite simply the person he is. Storyline expectations add anticipation to this match, but even more, the first ever match up of Punk and the legendary HHH, who hasn’t wrestled since WrestleMania, is something I am really looking forward to. Something about Punk’s technical, strong style against HHH’s sophisticated powerhouse style against each other seems very attractive to me, and given the sheer skill and experience of these two, I am expecting something special. It seemed to me at the time that when the stip of HHH having to resign if he loses almost sealed the fate of Punk here because, unless there is a big swerve coming, I would be surprised if Trips were relieved of his duty as COO so early. So the question then becomes, if HHH is to win, how will he win, because he surely wont be beating ‘the Voice of the Voiceless’ clean. I’m again not going to produce some fantasy booking, but as long as it’s something that progresses the story in an interesting and engaging way, in the vein of Punk looking like the powerful agitator against the ‘status quo’, it’ll be great. Again, if it links to the means of Del Rio keeping the WWE Championship, it will be even better!

Winner: Triple H

Smack of the Week (18/09/11): Cutting-Edge Chaos

Two sheer forces, Mark Henry and Randy Orton fight to get to each other before Night of Champions

I very much enjoyed the opening segment of this week’s Smackdown. Edge was fine, and him appearing in his home town is a nice bonus. There wasn’t much to him promo though, until Cody Rhodes came out for a rub that is. Eventhough Edge called Rhodes boring, Rhodes being able to interact with a man quickly becoming a legend of revisionism (and rightly so). Rhodes seems to be thriving more and more with each appearance, and the way he is constantly putting over the Intercontinental Championship makes him (and it, by association) make look great. His talk was all about Ted DiBiase and himself (presumably why Edge lost interest and left) before he went about passionately insulting and bagging the audience at ringside, until, that is, one of the bagged men attacked Rhodes. That man was Ted DiBiase, last seen with a bag over his head, with a bag over his head, but this time defiantly taking it off and completing a nice bit of circularity. He then preceded to beat on Rhodes and hit a Dream Street for good measure – a move I can’t remember seeing in a very long time, which is a good sign for Ted. The only problem was that this was followed by DiBiase’s horrible heel-a-riffic music. It actually jarred with DiBiase as a babyface, and it needs to change by Sunday when he will take on Rhodes for the Intercontinental Championship.

Bryan vs ‘Sin Cara’ was a refreshingly aggressive and nicely played-out affair. Bryan came out fighting, brutalising Cara for some time in the early going, not allowing Cara any offense and dominating. It was good to see this as Bryan has been a step behind Cara recently with the bad guy Cara consistently getting cheap shots in on AmDrag. Luckily for Bryan, being a babyface doesn’t necessitate being invincible, as long as you can wrestle well and generally win when it’s a fair fight, it’s fine; in fact, i’d describe that as a general characteristic if a babyface. When Cara did eventually get some offense in, he wouldn’t relent on the defenseless Bryan, getting himself DQ’d in the process. These actions are the actions, on the other hand, of a heel, and this might be what the original Sin Cara had a problem with. WWE are going ahead with the potentially very interesting Cara vs Cara feud as we saw the surreal sight of the two almost identical grapplers facing-off in the ring. I would love this to turn in to something with the original ‘good’ Sin Cara fighting not just for his reputation, but for his reputation as a faceless representative of the people, and it leading eventually to Hunico being repackaged as himself.

I’m a big fan of AJ, and she looked good for a jobber, though obviously being pretty quickly dispatched by Diva of Doom, Beth Phoenix. Simple and classic build for a strong heel going in to a championship challenge. Also nice to see her getting some (admittedly brief) mic time too.

Sheamus/Gabriel vs Barrett/Christian was fine, if a bit formulaic. Good for Gabriel (who by the way, has the worst music in the WWE today) getting to team with a former WWE Champion and one of the fastest rising babyfaces in the company, but his match consisted of being beaten up for 5-10 minutes, getting the hot tag to Sheamus, and earning the win with a 450 Splash. Didn’t seem to hurt the heels too much either. I like how Christian is getting the ‘better’, in a way, of Sheamus by consistently escaping his attacks, and I think they are still leading up to a feud between the two, which, given their respective heat at the moment, could be a show-stealer.

R-Truth and The Miz were something of a surprising inclusion on the Blue Brand this week, and their performance, which they treated as pre-meditated and rehearsed, was incredibly entertaining and dare I say, electrifying! Their self-consciousness of presentation makes them seem unique, and indeed, ‘must see’. Their appearances seem like an event in themselves, almost separate to the wrestling, and that is a very unique and desirable characteristic (just as CM Punk!) It puts me in mind of something Brandon Stroud wrote on his blog, which I will now shamelessly quote:
“The Miz seems less like a wrestler and more like a guy pretending to be a wrestler (an observation that got me quoted by’s The Masked Man in a Fair to Flair podcast), and the Miz/Truth partnership takes that one step further — Miz has roped Truth into his “must see” segments, and now we get situations where they come to the ring doing Vaudeville wordplay or a backstage segment where they take the microphone away from Josh and walk to the ring, communicating and passing off the microphone without even having to look at each other. Truth wears a big jacket (for some reason, which is hilarious to me) and tries to work in a new catchphrase, “ninja please!”, complete with Miz doing a Blazing Saddles-quality “WHAT did you just say?” like any of us though he said nigga. They go to the ring and do each others’ catchphrases, and there’s just something wonderful about two guys who can’t find someone to listen finding best friends. Miz and Morrison never had that. Watch any old episode of the Dirt Sheet, Miz does his thing, Morrison say something weird about the Palace of Wisdom and Miz just rolls his eyes like Morrison is an idiot (he is) and moves on. Miz couldn’t break up with Morrison fast enough, he got crammed together with Daniel Bryan and Alex Riley, two guys he eventually drove away with hateful demands, but he seems comfortable with Truth, and the demands all seem like a group effort, and Truth could really be his Cowboy Bob Orton. Just a guy with a similar outlook on life who hangs out with him, and even when they screw up they never really come to blows, because who else are they gonna hang out with?” A very good explanation and one I can’t top.

And while i’m mentioning him, he made this hilarious observation about Alex Riley:
“The Miz seems less like a wrestler and more like a guy pretending to be a wrestler (an observation that got me quoted by’s The Masked Man in a Fair to Flair podcast), and the Miz/Truth partnership takes that one step further — Miz has roped Truth into his “must see” segments, and now we get situations where they come to the ring doing Vaudeville wordplay or a backstage segment where they take the microphone away from Josh and walk to the ring, communicating and passing off the microphone without even having to look at each other. Truth wears a big jacket (for some reason, which is hilarious to me) and tries to work in a new catchphrase, “ninja please!”, complete with Miz doing a Blazing Saddles-quality “WHAT did you just say?” like any of us though he said nigga. They go to the ring and do each others’ catchphrases, and there’s just something wonderful about two guys who can’t find someone to listen finding best friends. Miz and Morrison never had that. Watch any old episode of the Dirt Sheet, Miz does his thing, Morrison say something weird about the Palace of Wisdom and Miz just rolls his eyes like Morrison is an idiot (he is) and moves on. Miz couldn’t break up with Morrison fast enough, he got crammed together with Daniel Bryan and Alex Riley, two guys he eventually drove away with hateful demands, but he seems comfortable with Truth, and the demands all seem like a group effort, and Truth could really be his Cowboy Bob Orton. Just a guy with a similar outlook on life who hangs out with him, and even when they screw up they never really come to blows, because who else are they gonna hang out with? … Riley comes into the ring and does or tries to do the following moves:
1. A running attack you can’t block
2. Spinebuster
3. STO
4. Implant DDT
5. TKO And when he’s not doing moves, he’s effortlessly stopping double-team attacks and reversing everybody’s finisher. Not a headlock or an International in the bunch. All he needed to do was a goddamn Fisherman Buster and he’d be the first draft of every e-fed character I’ve ever seen. And the TKO? Seriously? “I want to do a move that’s just like the Stunner or the RKO, except I have to struggle and hold the guy up on my shoulders and spin in place first. Also, the only person who has ever been cheered for doing this ever is Sable, and that was just the once.”” You can follow Brandon @MrBrandonStroud. Anyway, to get on with my assessment! Bourne looked good in this match, including a sort of head-smashing hurricanrana (that is, if it was intended (even if it wasn’t, it’s a great move and he should use it!)), but the build required Truth to go over to complete the 2-0 over AirBoom. The champions in jeopardy, the challengers looking strong – it’s classic though unadventurous booking, but that’s what is needed to bring a sick tag division back to health.

Usually, talk show segments are nowhere near as ‘cutting’ or ‘controversial’ as the hype suggests, but this was actually an exception. When Edge said he was going to ‘ask the tough questions’, he wasn’t lying, telling Randy Orton, to his face, that he wasn’t sure he would be able to beat Mark Henry. That was such a great moment which seemed to sincerely challenge Orton. By this point, it would usually have broken down already, but here, the words continued for now at least. Orton responded with a powerful response about how Henry has always gotten to him when he’s down. Edge then turned to Henry in similarly direct fashion telling him about his wasted years in the business and got a similarly direct answer. I loved the calm response given that the only reason he didn’t attack Edge was because he was right, and that he was told to go out there and ‘smile and show his personality’. This was getting close to Punk-style Reality Era content, and I liked his sincerity a lot, especially because he wasn’t drawn as a simple psychopath, which is always less interesting artistically and in terms character. As tensions were at fever pitch, Edge seemed to take delight in goading them on before leaving them to the ring themselves. Unsurprisingly, this was followed by a physical skirmish between the two, and Teddy Long, wanting to protect his main-event, got the whole Smackdown roster out to try and seperate them – something they had only moderate success in doing, with either man breaking free to get in pot-shots at the other, including Orton spectacularly leaping over a group of guys to get to Henry. Finally, after Orton got free, he ran straight in to a World’s Strongest Slam, followed by another, and a few splashes, and a sight which has become familiar; Henry standing over Orton with the championship belt in hand. This is the view we were given going in to Night of Champions, and it is one which obviously shows Henry as the dominant favourite. At least this time, Orton was given the chance to – audibly and physically – not back down from Henry, suggesting that he might be one of few people that could give him a challenge. Nonetheless, Henry is being built as almost unstoppable and, even if he doesn’t win on Sunday, he may well be on the route to the title.