Randy Orton Defeated 40 Others to Win the Biggest Battle Royal in WWE History and Earn a Championship Opportunity of His Choice
Regular readers will know that I rarely have much to say about Battle Royals, those matches never offering too much in technicality or storytelling other than chaos. This was quite a good one though as it was very visually stimulating; indeed the ring wasn’t cleared of many competitors within a couple of minutes (as is customary and I expected it would be again). I also liked that the succession of eliminations didn’t seem to be based on backstage favour. Indeed, possibly Smackdown’s goldenest boy, Cody Rhodes, hit the deck first, and while John Morrison was out before half way, he wasn’t booked embarrassingly. Again, Drew McIntyre was allowed to look stronger than his recent history has allowed, taking it to some top stars during the match, lasting a long time, and most hopefully, being mentioned by the announcers in a complimentary light before being eliminated in the second half of the match. The big difficulty when booking this would be the question of how to get the top stars (especially folk like Sheamus and CM Punk( eliminated without making them look bad, and happily, this too was achieved, with Punk falling victim to a quick draw elimination after he himself had eliminated R-Truth, and in the case of Sheamus, being eliminated by an already-eliminated Christian after some Kane-esque dominance. The weakest part of the match came at the finish though. The final two were Miz and Orton, and on the apron, Orton hit an awkward RKO which saw him land on the apron and Miz on the floor. Maybe it was just a good spot, awkwardly realised, but seriously, does Orton have to end every match, even battle royals, with RKOs these days? This being ‘the biggest battle royal in WWE history’, I would have liked to have seen it be hyped more. In fact, I think it could have served as a PPV I think. The fact that it was to commemorate Smackdown becoming the second-longest running weekly episodic TV show in history provides an occasion more than worthy enough, but I wish it would have been promoted more as a big deal maybe as this week’s main event going in to the ‘go-home’ show.
Beth Phoenix def. Kelly Kelly to Retain the Divas Championship
I wasn’t even aware that this was a title rematch. Another case of poor promotion? The main headline from this match was that Beth beat Kelly clean, which is something Pheonix has needed to do for the good of her credibility for a while now. If anything though, it makes me more surprised that it was a title match. This being the statutory rematch, surely now Kelly has to get to the back of the line? That maybe a good thing, though I think more can be squeezed out of her feud with the ‘Divas of Doom’ (‘Sisters of Salvation’) now that her character is starting to grow and gain more nuance. Perhaps the fact that Kelly lost and Eve has been by her side the whole time can provide currency for this: after all, Eve has shared in a lot of Kelly’s success but has had none of the opportunities Kelly has. Perhaps if Kelly isn’t out of the title picture, it could be enough for Eve to snap herself and turn to the spiky side.
Sin Cara (Negro) def. Justin Gabriel
I’m not really talking about this match because of the result, though I will say I have no problem with Justin Gabriel effectively jobbing. He was at his best as a heel in Nexus I think, eventhough he appears to be most naturally a babyface. His clinical deployment of the 450 splash was always naturally sinister. As a babyface though, even down to his music, they’ve gone too far down the bubblegum route with him, and he’s just a smiling, boring babyface, and unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have the charisma to progress his character. So for now, I don’t have a problem with him jobbing. What I was interested in was the Sin Cara backstage assault and the mask switch. I liked the idea behind this. It has been made clear that Sin Cara (Azul) has the successful, populist (and popular) career, and that this identity was one that was ‘taken’ and used by Azul from Negro. This is a nice parallel to the (supposedly) true story about the use of the ‘Mistico’ identity in Mexico; I just wish WWE would have acknowledged this on TV (they did on wwe.com, so I don’t think there’s a legal issue). Anyway, I liked the metaphorical appropriation of identity through the stealing of the mask; it is an interesting and natural progression for the storyline. It will be interesting to see in Negro keeps the Azul mask going forward; I would like that sort of blatant hoarding of something so precious to Azul. My one criticism is that we saw the switch, which I think it made the removal of the mask seem less shocking and impactful. I would have preferred seeing Negro remove Azul’s mask before cutting to the stage and seeing Negro come out with Azul’s mask on, which also would have made the switch seem more jarring. Perhaps i’m nitpicking though – I liked what I saw!
Alberto Del Rio def. Sheamus
I enjoyed this match for what it was – two big stars basically being put together. I wouldn’t say they enjoyed much chemistry, but they’re both so good in their respective styles that it was made to work. The match wasn’t that long though, and while Del Rio had started his default line of working the arms, and Sheamus was trying to fight him off with brute strength, Christian was shortly on the scene to interrupt Sheamus’s advances and cost him the match by tripping him on the turnbuckle, which allowed Del Rio to hit his fantastic step-up-the-ropes enziguiri before hitting another stiff kick for the win, all while Christian was smartly hiding in the blind-spot behind the apron. This shows up the one weakness in the Del Rio package. His only finisher is a submission move. I love submission wrestling, but whenhe faces up to a babyface who can’t afford to tap (like Sheamus) he has to resort to a much weaker-seeming secondary signature. It was the same when he cashed in on Punk, and it makes the whole pinfall seem a little underwhelming. The only thing Del Rio needs to become a true total package is a strong impact finisher – for the hell of it, i’d suggest a specialist suplex with a bridge, like a Northern Lights Suplex for example. Following the match, Christian suckered Sheamus even more with a Spear, but as he was walking away, grinning, Sheamus showed incredible ‘heart’ and will by getting back to his feet. This was a very powerful image, and a nice accent to leave the Sheamus-Christian feud going until next week. Unfortunately, they kept the angle going, and a frustrated Christian went back and delivered another Spear. Now I liked this in theory, but the problem was the Sheamus got up again ‘with the greatest of ease’ this time, and by now, Christian and his Spear just looked weak. It was just a bit of over-egging the pudding in my opinion.
Zack Ryder & Kofi Kingston def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
Having destroyed Evan Bourne with a powerbomb on RAW, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler were booked to take on Kofi (the ‘boom’ in AirBoom) and Zack Ryder. Zack Ryder is no Evan Bourne, and that is no criticism of his talent, but he simply can’t offer the same high-flying abilities as Bourne. However, he and Kofi are a good fit nonetheless and Ryder can certainly keep up with the quick pace these four have been achieving of late. I’ve enjoyed that Ryder and Ziggler’s feud has been playing out on Z: True Long Island Story (if dominating it a little too much), and it seems to me only a matter of time until Ryder takes the championship from Ziggler, allowing Ziggler to move up the ranks. This week, after another good match including these guys, Ryder managed to get yet another pin over the US Champion, following a rather cheap and technically illegal Trouble in Paradise to Ziggler from Kofi, who then draped Ryder over the champ, allowing for the victory. Usually, I wouldn’t be in favour of a babyface challenger going over a heel champion like this, but in this feud, I approve. For one thing, Ryder has gained one or two totally legit pinfalls over Ziggler in recent weeks, and secondly, Ryder pinning a champion fits his ‘up-and-coming’ status very well. On RAW, i’d like to see Ryder given his title match for Vengeance before having him lose to Swagger in a singles match with the unlawful help of Ziggler.
Randy Orton def. Mark Henry via DQ
Given that Henry had rightly declared that he was ‘done’ with Randy Orton, and Orton had concurred, i’m glad this booking had the legitimacy of Orton earning the match by winning the battle royal. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have been too happy with the repeat booking. These two have worked very well together (Orton works well with others, despite what his character says!) and he really, completely, put Henry over. This continued in this match, having Henry in categorical control at some points, with Orton doing his best stick and move, looking great himself. Cody Rhodes, however, had been conspicuous by his absence so far (such is the rise of his star currently), and finally made his appearance during this match as Orton was arguably starting to get the match going his way. He attacked Orton for a straight DQ, costing him the championship opportunity. After a beat-down, Rhodes looked to re-bag Orton. But then came … The Bore Show (Big Show, to be fair to the man) to interrupt the beat-down and turn the tide for the faces. Obliterating Henry again, he and Orton got the upper hand. Show shoved Rhodes in to a vengeful RKO before Orton did the same for Show, throwing him Henry for a huge Chokeslam. To be fair, Big Show wasn’t as disappointingly boring as last week, simply because he didn’t get to talk (and constantly repeat the phrase ‘physically and emotionally hurt’ like a robot who had been watching too many soap operas), but I really don’t like how he’s being booked with Henry. Not only does he act as a black hole to all of Henry’s raw charisma and intrigue, but he goes quite some way to undoing the work that’s been done on making him seem like a genuine monster. At his peak against Orton, I was actually frightened of Henry, but now, not so much. Of course someone would have to stop Henry eventually, but it’s all too soon. I don’t think, at the moment, that Show will take Henry’s championship, but he’s damaged the dominance of his reign prematurely in my view. Hopefully, Henry will be allowed to regain some of his aura going into Vengeance, and keep his title for as long he deserves and as long as his character merits, i.e. a long time yet.