Match 1) AirBoom def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
These four have faced off so many times recently, you might expect people to get bored of it; but that couldn’t be further from the truth! These guys really light up the ring every time they get the chance! I recently ‘anointed’ Dolph Ziggler, and part of the reason was his great, Michaels-esque, bumping and selling, and Ziggler showed this early on as Kingston Monkey-flipped him from the turnbuckle, which sent Ziggler in to a massive double flip across the ring. Ziggler, who was explosive all night, wasn’t the only star though, AirBoom showed again how great a tag team they are becoming with more new double teams, including a double dropkick to the corner, and a footstomp to their opponent who is perched on the top rope. All the while, Ziggler and Swagger kept kicking out, and Vickie did a great job of amping up the crowd even more by laughing at the crowd for biting on near-falls. After a failed Shooting Star Press though, where Swagger got his knees up for a pretty sick spot, Team Vickie were back in charge, and they themselves were showing great tag team instincts b isolating Evan Bourne by powerful attacks and frequent tags. Bourne however returned the knees to Swagger when he was attempting a Vader-bomb in a nice piece of circularity which led to the match breaking down. After a trademark GIANT cross-body, Kingston went about trying to hit Trouble in Paradise. The heels were elusive at first, but after some nice tag team chaos, Kingston managed to connect to Ziggler before tagging Bourne in for AirBourne and the win. Excellently paced match which had the fans making a lot of noise by the end. These guys really get it done every time. This was definitely the right booking, as AirBoom need to keep the titles for quite some time for the good of the division. The only problem is who will challenge them next? Surely not Swagger and Ziggler again?
Dolph Ziggler def. Zack Ryder to Retain the United States Championship
It really was a great idea to have Ziggler’s two matches one after the other, which, in itself made for a great atmosphere for the start of the PPV. Because it was Ziggler that took both the Trouble in Paradise and Airbourne, he was understandably in quite a vulnerable state, so when Zack Ryder’s music hit, the situation was very reminiscent of a money in the bank situation. With that in mind, and given the build to the match, it might have been considered a ‘gimme’ for the Woo Woo Woo Kid. He certainly took the offensive initiative with lots of powerful moves in quick succession. In danger, Ziggler tried to flee with his title, crawling up the ramp; but luckily for the Internet Champ, the tag champions had stayed for the show, to even out the numbers against Swagger and Vickie, and they were kind enough to deliver Ziggler back to the ring. For this they were, rightly – by the rules – ejected from ringside. If they hadn’t been there to start with it wouldn’t be so pronounced, but because the numbers were even, and then suddenly not, a sense of foreboding came over the match for Ziggler. Ziggler managed to get back in to the contest, but not with the help of his associates, it was through sheer guile. Ryder, attempting a splash-type move to Ziggler against the middle of the ropes, missed as Ryder dove out of the way, leading to a slightly awkward bump against the ropes for Ryder. This, mixed with the rest of Team Vickie taking advantage of their numbers by distracting the ref, meant that Ryder faced an uphill struggle. Despite this, after a great progression in which Ryder was trying to fend off Swagger, whilst keeping Ziggler down, it seemed like the Rough Ryder and the win was inevitable. Unfortunately though, the numbers were too much and Ryder couldn’t quite fully rid himself of Swagger, and after one too many distractions, he turned around in to a huge superkick (in Shawn Michaels’s own San Antonio no less, surely a show of respect) and got the 3-count. I know a lot of people will be upset with this result, but I think, ultimately, it was the right thing. The only downside for Ryder is that, perhaps he should have been able to finish Ziggler off considering he had just taken two finishers, but at the same time, his loss was definitely an unfair one given the interference of Swagger. I think this should be sold as part of Ryder gaining experience going up the ladder, while building support for his cause. As for Ziggler, I one day see the WWE Championship around his waist, but because we’re approaching WrestleMania season, I don’t see it happening for around six months at least. For that reason, he will benefit from keeping the title around his waist for a while longer, which will benefit everyone. Because of the way he lost, I expect Ryder to keep up the face chase as part of one of the more memorable feuds of the year.
Beth Phoenix def. Eve Torres to Retain the Divas Championship
An interesting start to the match as it was announced that both Kelly Kelly and Natalya would be banned from ringside, meaning, therefore, that the winner would need to earn their victory. Phoenix was using her new, even more rough-house style against Eve, bossing her around the ring, but Eve managed to match Beth rather well. Indeed, i’ve thought Eve was improving for quite some time, but for the first time, she looked really dangerous and technically skilful in the ring. Her move-set as a whole grew more sophisticated – some strong-style kicks, enziguiris, and a new submission that looked like a version of a triangle choke mixed with an arm-bar. Despite all this, Phoenix remained hugely impressive, sweeping Eve’s legs away on the apron and pressing her on to the barricade. Dumping her back in the ring, Beth seemed to want to finish Eve off, but she was taking Torres too lightly while asking her to cry – an aspect of the Divas of Doom that I really like. Eve, spurred on by this disrespect, fought back, and got a great near-fall when reversing an attempt at a Glam Slam. Trying to capitalise, Eve looked for her moonsault, but Beth had scouted it, and now she was an easy target for a Glam Slam which saw Beth retain her title. The weird, short-lived, handcuffing Beth to the ropes spot aside, this was one of the better divas matches of the year, which I hope is a good sign for the division, and both wrestlers looked very good. To use a cliche, Eve had nothing to be ashamed of, and is certainly for real. As for Beth, while she wasn’t spectacular, she was noticeably skillful in the ring, and winning without the help of Nattie can only be good for her credibility. Walking away, she boasted that she would never lose her title, and indeed, the next big question is who will be next to face her?
Match 4) Sheamus def. Christian
This year, you can count on Christian to deliver a top quality match, and Sheamus has been performing well too. The two of them had a decent match for the first half, with Christian using defense as the greatest offense, consistently frustrating Sheamus’s furious momentum, while sticking and moving. There was some nice back-and-forth between the two, but the match only got really good in the second half. The match became another great when Sheamus attempted a Brogue Kick, only to be met by a big Spear for a good, convincing near-fall. At this point, the atmosphere of the match became that one of being on a knife-edge. The end of the match came with a nice piece of circularity; Christian, attempting his finisher was met with a Brogue Kick (the opposite of the earlier spot), but this time, it was enough for a 3 count. Another good match. If it would have had another few minutes, it would have been even better. Sheamus, given his meteoric growth of late, couldn’t lose. I’m just pleased that Christian came out looking strong, and on a contemporary level to that of Sheamus. It seems that all of these big matches simply must lead to Sheamus becoming the next #1 contender.
Match 5) The Miz & R-Truth def. CM Punk & Triple H
Man was I wrong about this being the main event! Before the match, we had a really good VT which kept Punk at the centre of the chaos, making clear that Punk was the agitator who started it, and how he has, arguably, lost control of the chaos. It also pointed out the involvement of Kevin Nash in the whole conspiracy angle – an inclusion which, in retrospect, was a big hint. This was another good match, and actually a rather old-skool tag match with the way they worked together and isolated their opponent. Though there was a hot tag or two, it was much more cerebral, slow process. It certainly contrasted with The Awesome Truth’s utterly modern (and acceptable) approach. It was certainly interesting to see Trips and Punk breaking the rules with the use of leverage – justified with the fact that Miz and Truth were hardly the most honest of competitors. There was a lot of good back and forth here, and importantly, both Miz and Truth get some good ring time with, but as the match broke down, it finally seemed that Punk was about to put the match away with a GTS to Miz. However, with HHH holding off Truth at the outside, he was suddenly attacked, again, by Kevin Nash. With Nash attacking Hunter, and the referee distracted, Truth was able to break up the GTS attempt, and Miz and Truth together to hit the awesome double-team combination of both of their finishers called ‘Little Jimmy’s Finalé’. The ref paying attention again, he counted to three for a win for The Awesome Truth. Nash continued to beat down Trips, sending him in to the ring-steps before hitting his Jacknife Powerbomb on him, providing him with a very uncomfortable-seeming bump which may have legitimately hurt Hunter. It’ll be interesting to see whether he’s carrying any injuries tonight. A good match, but perhaps not quite up to the quality of Punk’s recent outings. Nash’s involvement didn’t, in itself, particularly interest me as his appearances seem routine now. However, his appearance did add another question and another aspect to the whole conspiracy/higher power angle, which I am interested in provided the payoff is good. It seems to me that, instead of facing Punk, Nash is now focusing solely on HHH, and I prefer it that way. I have no interest in seeing Punk get bogged-down in Nash, and he certainly doesn’t need the rub. It wasn’t much of a striking stoyline progression though, explaining why this match, rightly, wasn’t the main event.
Match 6) Randy Orton def. Cody Rhodes
The San Antonio crowd seemed pretty up for the PPV most of the night, and you would expect that Randy Orton, an unpenetrable fan favourite, would bring a lot of noise and atmosphere, but alas, for some reason, the crowd really weren’t that in to this, and it certainly hurt the match a little. It’s a shame, too, because I was really looking forward to the match, and it was really rather good. These two work well together, even if they haven’t quite got the chemistry yet to create anything too special. One of the things that excites me about this feud is their attention to their shared history. This was displayed nicely with Rhodes mimicking Orton’s trademark methodical stomping (though as a face, he tends not to use it as much). Rhodes really enjoyed a lot of the ascension for a while, hitting an Alabama Slam for a good 2 before attempting a moonsault. Now this was, legitimately the highest moonsault I’ve ever seen, and it was so perfect! Absolutely beautiful, even if Orton moved out of the way, and I hope he continues to use it. At this point, the match was getting really good, and Rhodes and Orton were trading blows and reversals all the time, leading the match towards its crescendo. They reached the point where signature moves became the currency – Orton with his special backbreaker, Rhodes with his moonsault press for another good near-fall. The real breakdown came when Orton was in control, and Cody’s baggers came to the fore. The distraction allowed Cody to hit CrossRhodes, and I totally bit on the near fall. Orton kicking out isn’t great fro Rhodes, but, then again, Rhodes has beaten Orton in the past, so it can’t be that bad for him. The baggers eventually became Rhodes’s Achilles heel as Orton pushed Rhodes in to one, allowing him to hit an RKO on Rhodes for the win. A really good match by the end, hampered by the dulled crowd. I just hope this isn’t the end for the Orton-Rhodes feud.
Match 7) Mark Henry Retained His World Heavyweight Championship Against The Big Show in a No Contest
There’s not too much to say about this match. I don’t mean that to seem flippant though, they had a good match. It lived up to their monster vs monster outing at Money in the Bank which deftly avoided being a turgid affair. There was some really nice moments though, and some nice tension too. The central story was Henry’s working on Show’s leg, given that he’s just gotten back from an injury to his leg, afforded by Mark Henry himself. Now, in the run up to this match, i’ve been disappointed by Big Show bossing Henry, but though he got in a lot of offense, Henry again proved unstoppable, kicking out of not only a Chokeslam, but a Super-Chokeslam too! I was so convinced Henry was going down to the Super-Chokeslam that I disappointedly had my head in my hands. Amazingly, Henry kicked out, to again show how unstopabble he is. I was worried for a minute they were going to derail him! One moment, however, will rightly rise to the top of everyone’s memory, and which may well help make the PPV as a whole memorable too. Big Show, running out of ideas, started to climb the turnbuckle, and from there, we all knew it wasn’t going to end well! When Henry got a front facelock on Show, I thought to myself that the ring had better collapse if it did when Lesnar superplexed Show, and duly, it did, in spectacular fashion. Initially, this struck me as rather unimaginative. I mean, it is just a repeated spot. I would have liked Henry to manage to rollover and cover Show, but instead, both were ruled incapable to continue. I liked that because it got over the power of the move, but I fear that the No Contest ending leaves Big Show open for another title shot down the line. At least Henry was able to walk out under his own power in a way Show wasn’t. I can just hope its part of the rumoured scramble match at Survivor Series. Despite my dislike of Big Show lately, this was the best match they could have had, with a beautiful ending.
Match 8) Alberto Del Rio def. John Cena in a Last Man Standing Match to Retain the WWE Championship
I once heard a wonderful quote about the city of Baltimore, that it ‘falls down beautifully’. I’ve always thought that wrestling is, in part, the art of falling down beautifully, and WWE always does a great job of showing this, as well as showing scenes of destruction. Remember back to the original Nexus invasion. Well, like that, the now empty collapsed ring was a vision of something sacred that had fallen down beautifully, and I loved the idea of a match taking place in that environment. I loved how Del Rio came out and was disgusted by the busted ring, while Cena was confronted by it interrupting his usual entrance. All the while, Cena was wearing his new merch – traditionally a sign that he is to remain face for a while. I thought that for a while, but then I realised it might not be quite so obvious; after all, it’s black like a heels and instead of saying ‘Never Give Up’, it says ‘Rise Above Hate’ (maybe Cena will start giving up now) – in itself a positive message, but then again, heels don’t like haters, right? Maybe i’m clutching at straws. Anyway, once the match actually started, it was a genuinely unique affair, almost catch-as-catch-can. It was interesting that they started in the ring – it seemed like they were just going with their collective natural instincts, which was an interesting atmosphere; considering they are adversaries, their mutual agreement that they should start traditionally, in the ring. They incorporated the collapsed ring really well, like when Del Rio placed Cena under one of the collapsed ringposts before standing on it. Even better though was when Cena threw Del Rio, as if in to the ropes, but without the ropes there, Del Rio went flying straight in to the outside barricade spectacularly. Del Rio was great in this environment. For the most part, wrestlers in last man standing matches try to achieve the count-out with blunt violvence, Del Rio however, came close to the the ten count with a Sleeper Hold to Cena. Leaving the ring, the two went backstage for some more, unique, offense. After Cena essentially tried to kill Del Rio by dropping a huge stack of storage units on Del Rio, but in a nice bit of camerawork, it was revealed that Del Rio had avoided the stack, and attacked Cena from behind. He took the advantage of this by throwing a stack of well placed metal screens on Cena, one after the other in a semi-circle for another near fall (?). Back outside, Cene was thrown through the giant ‘V’ on the stage. I would describe this as a classic ‘Cena spot’, for a last man standing match at least. He loves incorporating the stage, think back to when he AA’d Batista through the stage, or dumped all the chairs from the stage on top of Wade Barrett. Big, and a spot that’s been available in plain sight throughout the night. Finally, making it back to the ring, Cena seemed finally in control, setting up the ring steps next to the poor, unfortunate Spanish announce table, and AAing Del Rio through it. It seemed inevitable that Cena would win, and I had my head in my hands again, but again, we were saved from frustrating pro-face booking as Miz and R-Truth reappeared to make the save, distracting the ref from his 10 count for Del Rio, and beating Cena down mercilessly and hitting each of their finishers. Still, this only kept Cena down for 9. Unluckily for him, Del Rio was recovered, and had his championship belt, which he used to powerfully hit Cena with it to keep him down for 10. This was a good finish, not because it saved Cena from looking weak, but because it gave Del Rio the telling blow and allowed him some credibility in victory. The question now is, why did The Awesome Truth attack Cena, especially after promising John Laurinaitis they wouldn’t interfere? Well, i’ve always noted how Del Rio seems to be being protected by this conspiracy. If it does turn out that this is central to the conspiracy then i’ll be very pleased because it plays in to the Reality Era ideas of ideal champions. My only worry is that Cena might be made central to it, and not Punk. We can only wait and see about that. Benefit of the doubt time. It was definitely a very enjoyable main event whetever happens afterwards.
This was a very good PPV for the most part, and definitely adds to the idea that 2011-12 is going to be a vintage year for PPVs. A little less over-conceited than the poorer efforts this year, if not quite as impactful, it really had a unique feel to it, helped by Ziggler’s double duty, the collapsing ring spot, and the fact that the main event took place around the broken ring. Aesthetically beautiful, and memorably enjoyable.
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