OK, so Punk wasn’t a part of the closing images of the show, but i’ve decided to lead with him, because we saw him back to his best, and back in the WWE Championship picture.
Kevin Nash Attacked Triple H With a Sledgehammer, Twice
To start the show, out came HHH, bewildered and angry about Kevin Nash’s attack the previous night at Vengeance. Trips’s story was quite well told, even seemingly loosing his smile when Nash attacked him. His mention of the kliq, Shawn Michaels, and Sean Waltman (who still gets X Pac heat, apparently) was a nice slice of reality. It did seem a little repetitive though, when compared to their previous run-ins. Luckily, the story became really attention grabbing after HHH had done telling Johnny Ace to sign Nash for a match and was walking away to find Nash himself, only for ‘Big Daddy Cool’ to smash Trips in te back with a sledgehammer; a nice touch given that it’s Hunter’s trademark weapon. This wasn’t the end of it though. In another nice touch, the segment bled across the commercial break and in to the next segment – a rare ocurrence which gave a sense of endless, furious abuse, as well as a bit of reality and surprise. The second attack was, if anything, worse than the former. With HHH out, and tied to a spinal board, Nash stood him up, Hannibal Lector style, and clocked him in the head with it, knocking him down to the floor, defenseless. This was all very engaging, but, not helped by there being at least two commercial breaks in between all the action, the Nash-HHH action lasted what seemed an incredibly long time for what it was, and was over-replayed. Happily, it seems Nash has moved on to HHH instead of CM Punk, which makes for better storylines while saving Punk from a feud he certainly doesn’t need.
Randy Orton & Sheamus def. Cody Rhodes & Christian
Following victories for both faces the night before at Vengeance, I hoped for and kinda expected some booking receipts for the heels on RAW. We were threated to another fine match between these four, with Orton having ‘beef’ with both of the heels, which meant there was always storyline interest with what was happening in the ring. Sheamus continues to develop as a competitor, turning the bluntest of moves, his springboard shoulder-block, in to something cool and unique. Firstly, he hit his shoulder block to Christian, on the floor, from the apron, and then he did it as part of a double team with Orton Irish Whipping his opponent towards the ropes and in to the shoulder block. Orton and Sheamus were rightly booked strong, but Rhodes and Christian showed some great, heelish tag team skills, distracting, interfering, and frustrating the faces in order to get the upper hand. Orton and Rhodes have some of the best timing in the business, and this was certainly shown in this match; firstly when Orton reversed Christian’s double axe handle with a perfect dropkick, and while Rhodes has an equally lovely dropkick, I was particularly taken with his Beautiful Disaster to Sheamus, which he started at the other side of the ring, but hit perfectly by the time Sheamus reached him. His second attempt at this though, would cost him after Sheamus, who had apparently learned his lesson, and hit the Brogue Kick, which seemed to hit him on the … knee? Maybe it was because Rhodes couldn’t go down to that, but Sheamus picked him up and hit the Celtic Cross, which was very reminiscent this time of the Razor’s Edge – perhaps a not to Scott Hall after his heartwrenching appearance on E:60? Anyway, a good opener for us, but I was disappointed that Rhodes and Christian weren’t afforded a victory here after losing at Vengeance. At least they looked good against the top faces.
John Laurinaits, David Otunga, John Cena Backstage Pretape
I tend to ignore most pretapes in these posts because they are rarely worthy of note in terms of storyline on their own. There were some interesting things here though. First off, and primarily, the fact that Johnny Ace was on the phone to Stephanie McMahon, who was seemingly blaming Ace for her husband’s attack, but who also seemed like she and him may be in regular contact regarding the programme. Steph wont be mentioned lightly, and hopefully, we’ll see her back on TV soon. I’d also like to point out how much I marked out for Cena here (yeah …). Whatever you think of Cena, he really can be funny, and he was here, calling Otunga Carlton Banks and telling him to find out how Uncle Phil and the rest of the Bel Air folk are doing. Ace informed Cena that he would be taking on Miz and Truth in a tag match tonight, tagging with a partner of his choosing, to which Cena responded, as long as his partner wasn’t carrying a skateboard. I literally lolled for that. Google ‘The Dynamic Dudes’ is you’re unfamiliar …
Dolph Ziggler def. Santino Marella
A word first on star-making choreography. When Dolph Ziggler made his entrance to the ring, the guy exuded money. He came out, with Vickie and Swagger either side of him and behind, and in formation, they stood tall on the stage until the breakdown of his song, where Ziggler exclaimed, marking himself as dominant, where they all started walking to the ring at the same time, still in formation, with Ziggler the centre of attention. Again, the little things being done right are what make stars in wrestling. Now I like Santino, he’s great, but I don’t like how he was used here. If wanted, Santino could be a serious wrestler, but for now, he’s doing great as a comedy wrestler, and here, the intensity of Ziggler kinda clashed with the comic spots of Santino. There was a bit on nonsense centred around The Cobra, which Dolph managed to avoid before taking complete control. This was only with the help and distraction of Swagger though, which allowed Ziggler to hit the Zig Zag for a quick win. I don’t have a problem with Santino getting some offense in on Ziggler, but the idea that Ziggler could only get over with Swagger’s help doesn’t put him in too shining a light. Great heat for Team Vickie pounding on Santino after the match in a move which stunk of bitter heel embarrassment, as befitted the situation. But then, to make the save, we had Mason “Triceptacular” Ryan come out to break up the attack and put the boot, literally, to Swagger. It seems Ryan is being parked in the US title picture, and i’m not a fan. He’s getting ok reactions just now, but that’s because Team Vickie are such great heels. Put him against weaker heels and you lose a lot of interest. The guy fundamentally isn’t ready, either in the ring or out, and certainly can’t live up to Ryder in terms of drawing power and interest.
CM Punk Interrupts Alberto Del Rio’s Celebration and Demands a WWE Championship Match
Really enjoyed Alberto Del Rio’s promo when celebrating his title retention from Vengeance, and I especially liked Del Rio saying he’s done with John Cena, confirming that the Cena status-quo will be away from the title picture for the forseeable future. I also liked his boasts that there is no-one better than him, and that the WWE Universe would have to get used to him as champion for a very long time. Of course this drew out ‘The Best in the World’, CM Punk. Re-watching it, I notice Punk confidently twirling the mic in his hands as he approached the ring, and in retrospect, it was a sign of good things. After all, Punk had been largely off the mic for a couple of weeks, but last night, not only was he back on the mic, but he was back on top pipebombing form. Punk made the legitimate claim that not only did he ever receive his one-on-one title rematch after Del Rio cashed in on him, but also that he beat the champion on RAW recently. Unsurprisingly, Del Rio wasn’t amenable to this, perhaps showing that he FEARS Punk. Punk continued spouting when out came the Funk Man, Johnny Ace to, surprisingly, award Punk his title match. Punk, however, was right to be suspicious of Ace, who wanted Punk to say he respected him before he would give him the match. This was when the real pipebombing Punk returned. Not only could he not stoop to that level of brown-nosery, but he couldn’t help himself from mocking Johny Ace, chastising him for his lack of skills and soulless corporate sucking up, before telling him, categorically, that ‘never has some one with so little, made it so far in this business.’ Again, unsurprisingly, Ace wasn’t too amenable to giving Punk his title opportunity in the wake of this, and indeed, King even suggested that Punk’s pipebomb might just have cost him an opportunity. But this is part of why Punk is so popular; he is completely honest, and always does what he thinks is best for the business, because that’s what the business needs, and the fans know it. The Dynamic Dude said he would hold off a decision on the WWE Championship match until next week, but until then, Punk gave him something to ‘think about’ by beating Del Rio down before the champion escaped, leaving Ricardo Rodriguez to be sacrificed to a GTS. I’ll talk more about the title picture in the final section of the write-up, but there were some more interesting staging points i’d like to mention, but they are in better context when considering a ‘wwe.com exclusive’ I just saw. It was Punker talking about Johnny Ace and whether he’ll get his championship shot. My favourite thing about the central storylines of late as been the simple idea that there is someone/some people who want Del Rio as champion, and don’t want Punk as champion, and this was something Punk explicitly said in this backstage interview. That role makes Punk subversive, as he should be, and makes for a much simpler, entertaining ‘conspiracy’ storyline. Maybe this is what is forming before us, and it could traverse a number of storylines across WWE. Another thing Punk said was that he was suspicious of ‘suits’, and that made me think of the staging of this promo segment. Del Rio and Laurinaitis, both in suits, were stood almost together, both trying to frustrate and humiliate Punk while also trying to rob him of his credentials as the ‘voice of the voiceless’ by getting him to suck up. It was a nice aesthtic representation of what Punk is up again, and ass-kissing boys club. I trust, however, he will overcome, and be very entertaining doing so.
Alicia Fox def. Natalya
Yesterday, I asked who will be stepping up for a Divas Championship shot next after Eve fell to Beth Phoenix. It seems that answer, surprisingly, is Alicia Fox (not least because I thought she’s a heel!). The match wasn’t much. Fox is ok, but this match was a little awkward (possibly because these two simply haven’t been working together for a while and Nattie is presumably very much used to Kelly or Eve). I’m not a big fan of Alicia going over either. Of course Nattie was dominant, and Fox’s win was rather fluky, but it’s not great for Nattie’s apparent strength. I understand she needs to make a splash to be at all credible against Beth, but the Divas of Doom seem to be having to work too hard to get victories, especially Natalya, and they seem to fall to losses too often – again, especially Natalya. I’d have preferred Fox to have a #1 Contender’s match with someone like a Bella twin (who have more credibility anyway) and win. This draws Beth and Nattie to the ring to intimidate with the threat of tears before Alicia completely blindsides them with a protective cheap-shot to one of them before departing the ring. This sets up some tension while getting Fox over as a tough challenge, without damaging either Sister of Salvation.
Wade Barrett def. John Morrison
Barrett-Morrison was a pretty enjoyable affair, but I think the outcome could have been guessed by most before the start of the match. Again, however, this was no simple burial. Morrison got his shots in and looked credible – the real burial is that his moves just don’t do the job anymore. His Shining Wizard-esque finisher used to get 3 counts every time, but, for the first time in this match, I saw someone kick out of it. It was an enjoyable, brutally ‘physical’ (like any match isn’t, but you know what I mean …) affair, but ultimately, it was for the benefit of Barrett. I suppose that does make JoMo a jobber … I don’t particularly like the guy, and I don’t think he’s main event calibre, but he has something to offer for sure. As for Barrett, this was another step in his ‘second coming’ as he’s now terming it (Jericho wont be happy! (kayfabe)). Barrett is indeed going through a deserved renaissance in fortunes. This hasn’t translated that much to his in-ring work though. I notice he’s using a new signature – that big boot when the opponent is in the ropes which sends them impressively to the floor, but aside from that, nothing much. He needs to change things up a little more I think. As I say, this was a good match, sullied a little, unfortunately by the botched Wasteland at the end, which was meant to follow from Barrett catching Morrison as he was attempting his Chuck Kick and would have made for a nice finish. I wonder if Morrison will get blamed? A final thought on this: I would have liked to see Daniel Bryan involved in this is in some way, maybe have him save Morrison from a post-match beat down or something. Without him, he is getting a bit lost, and needs the attention as much as Barrett in their feud.
Michael Cole Called Out J.R.
I don’t want to dwell on this too much; I, like most fans, are sick and tired of Cole’s antics with J.R. and WWE’s constant attempts to ridicule the greatest announcer in the history of the business and consummate company man and professional. You think they’d be more respectful given reports that ratings actually dropped when he was ‘fired’ a couple of weeks back, and a big section of the WWE Universe gave some very negative feedback to the move. It was also reported that management wanted J.R. back in the wake of this news, which makes Cole’s challenge very interesting. He claimed that if he loses, he will quit WWE and J.R. can have his chair at the booth back. Now i’m certainly worried WWE will just screw J.R. over again, but that information gives me hope that J.R. could return. I don’t know about Cole though – he will be on programming, and it would take some creative booking to keep him in the wake of his own stipulation if he were to lose. Cole can be a great announcer, and is the only play by play guy anywhere near J.R. these days at WWE, with the ability to make situations come alive and memorable, so I wouldn’t want to lose him – i’d just want to change him. Send him to Smackdown exclusively and end the nonsense.
John Cena def. The Miz and R-Truth via DQ
Before the match, Zack Ryder was cutting a promo as he was supposed to tag with Cena. I was excited about this prospect, especially seen as he may have lost his US title shot to Mason “Gloryhole” Ryan, and needed, and deserved, the exposure. His promo possibly exposed a weakness in Ryder though. It was a near-directionless list of his popular catchphrases. Perhaps this is because he just had to get over his sheer excitement at the situation while essentially filling time until The Awesome Truth assaulted him, but it did raise a question mark about how deep Ryder’s character can go. Indeed, Truth and Miz took Ryder out, and ‘by order of’ Johnny Ace, Cena was compelled to face the heels alone. This was quite a nicely booked version of Cena holding off the two heels, but nothing much of note other than Cena’s literal struggle. Unable to control Cena, Truth fethed his surely entirely symbolic bottle of water and smacked Cena with it, earning a DQ. The Awesome Truth then beat on him some more, hitting their respective finishers before going to get chairs. Surprisingly, because he had left Cena in that predicament, Johnny Ace then came out to stop Miz and Truth’s vociferous attack, saying that their actions were disrespecting him, and asked them to leave. But then, halfway up the ramp, he called them back and booked them in a match with Cena at Survivor Series against a partner of his choosing. Funkhauser seemingly turned on a sixpence again, not only bringing Miz and Truth back, but booking them in a big match at a major PPV. The squirmy malleability of Ace’s loyalties certainly are a good and intriguing thing, but this all seemed to blow up on the heels as after some consideration, (and some slabbering), Cena picked THE ROCK! (Except this wasn’t that much of a surprise given that WWE had announced they would be tagging together several weeks ago … a bit of continuity silliness there!). This is great and all. Rocky returning to the ring is certainly a HUGE draw, and tagging with Cena will also do wonders for the tension between the two. It’s a shame the way Cena framed all this though, as if The Rock was the only one who could help him defeat two guys he was already dong ok against on his own. He said that his partner ‘is going to have to be someone who’s gunna bring it.’ Now obviously this was hinting at The Rock, but it also suggested that none of the other regular babyfaces (Orton, Sheamus, etc) couldn’t bring it enough for the challenge. This is almost certainly nit-picky, and it was unintentional, but to some, this will have buried some of WWE’s regular talent. I would rather he had framed it mischievously, as if he wanted to test The Rock. Despite this misgiving, it’s all certainly very exciting, and will make for some great, complicated tension between the two in the coming weeks. Until now, we had been told they would tag together in a traditional Survivor Series match, but this seems to be a straight 2-on-2 tag match, which is in some ways a disappointment; after all, after everything Punk’s said about “D-wayne”, I wanna see them share a stage. It could still happen however! Remember Johnny Ace saying he’d ‘think’ about the status of the WWE Championship match? Maybe after Punk’s pipebombs, he’ll be less inclined to give him the opportunity and instead, place him in a Survivor Series match. We can only wait and see. Luckily, I think either option would be amenable to me!