The RAW View (28/11/2011): Pipe-r Bombs as Punker Wins

Punk celebrates after beating Del Rio with some Guerrero-esque techniques

Note from ‘that boy right there’ RTV: This morning, I had to get up at 8.30 am to go to work, and so didn’t watch RAW live, and so only got to watch it this evening and so am only able to write The RAW View now. Mixed in to the fold is the fact that Smackdown goes LIVE tonight (in about 2 hours actually) and I have to get up even earlier tomorrow at 7.30 am, and so can’t watch wrestling AGAIN. I’m not happy about this obviously, and i’ll only get to watch it tomorrow night. If I don’t write the RAW View now, it’ll never get written, so it has to be quick.. That in mind there wont be any of the detailed, eloquent, ‘broadcast journalism’ you’ve come to expect from this site. It’ll be more a simple ‘I like this/I don’t like this and why’. So without further ado, ‘HE GO’N DO IT!’

John Cena Appeared On Piper’s Pit
At first when Roddy Piper started talking about ‘energy’ and the ‘WWE Universe’, I worried about this edition of Piper’s Pit being a bit tame, but boy did Piper deliver. Always believe in Piper. He introduced John Cena, almost accusing him of not caring about the fans’ reaction to him. Piper then tried, with admittedly limited success, to show how the WWE fans respond to him with a mix of reactions that is mostly negative, and suggested that Cena was looking so bad against The Rock because he was concerning himself too much with these people and should cut loose, respond to his haters and concentrate on The Rock, literally inviting him to turn heel. But can Cena turn heel now? Is he already heel? It’s harder to answer than you might think. It seems more and more that Cena is simply ‘something else’ – at times it’s infuriating, but when put in interesting positions (Nexus, Summer of Punk, Rock feud), he becomes fascinating. At the moment, Cena seems like a man of stifling honour under pressure from all directions, and clinging on to his polished persona at any cost. Instead of responding to the challenges of The Rock, he shrugged and complimented the Great One, when Piper attempted tough love, Cena shook his hand and didn’t rise to the violence-baiting. All he wants to do is RISE ABOVE THE HATE folks, what’s so bad about that!? I still expect him to snap and AA the Rock, like, ten times, but when he does so, will that be a heel turn, or will people, including The Rock, respect him more? If/when he can no longer rise above the hate, what will that mean for his character? It’s all fascinating, and it was all shown on Piper’s Pit.

The Miz def. John Morrison in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
I enjoyed the comic nature of Awesome Truth, but Miz especially did suffer from it. Remember the build-up to WrestleMania 27, when Miz was beating up John Cena every week and looking amazing? Well that obviously paid off more that it seemed as Miz is right back on the wagon with no transition from his rehearsed raps with a comically arachnophobic partner. The match started out explosively with the really quite shocking repeated-pipe-to-the-ankle attack from Miz to Morrison, and went on to tell a much more interesting story than people expected from Morrison’s last match with WWE (for now at least). As Miz practically ignored what he had done to Morrison, JoMo insisted on fighting, and actually had Miz on the back foot at one point. The story of this match was almost identical to Miz’s Championship-winning MITB cash-in (right down to the injured leg of the opponent), and like in that match, the sustained injury proved too much to overcome against a fresh Miz. Morrison went out explosively, being thrown in to the WWE sign on the stage befor taking a Skull-Crushing Finalé on the ramp, causing such injury to Morrison that the referee would rather stop the match then allow Miz to cover him – anice touch to get over the brutality of the finish. Miz standing over Morrison, and Johnny Ace coming out to visibly barely acknowledge him may have seemed like a burial, and perhaps it was (that’s just what happens when you leave a promotion), but nowhere near as bad as the reports that he was to job to Brodus Clay. I was never a big fan of Morrison (as regular readers will know), but I genuinely wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. As for Miz, he certainly seemed more dominant and intimidating, but I do worry that he’ll go down the psychopathic heel route that he can do well, but that many heels cand and do do well. His more pop-culture vulture, reality star gimmick is one that is rarer, and harder to do, so I hope that side of him doesn’t get lost as it did this week, even if I did really enjoy his work this week.

Kelly Kelly & Alicia Fox def. The Bella Twins
It’s pretty refreshing to see a match that doesn’t involve the Divas of Doom – not because I dislike them, but because they have been in pretty much every divas match on TV for months. They were involved, however, doing a literal, blasé run-in around the ring in full work-out gear before running back up the ramp and leaving. No one seems to understand why this happened. This isn’t necessarily a problem though, as long as it’s explained and perhaps points to a new character trait of the Divas of Doom. I also liked how the Bellas took exception to Kelly Kelly wanting to jiggler butt like the kinda gal that gets a kick out of being oggled on Maxim, and interrupted that little spot. Despite this, the faces went over in an otherwise uninspiringly short match consisting of uninspiring action, intended, i’m sure, just to get A. Fox continuing to look strong to justify a brief #1 contendership for her.

Dolph Ziggler def. Randy Orton
Before this dream match could take place, we were asked to ‘please acknowledge the presence of Wade Barrett’ – a simple line that only extends the renewed grandeur of the ‘Barrett Barrage’ and seemed to please everyone because it’s awesome. This stayed with Barrett when he was on commentary, getting the match and the feuds over better than either Cole or King. The match itself was really good, as you would expect from two of the best workers in existence (but perhaps not as good as previous encounters). Though it was fairly inevitable, the finish with Wade Barrett distracting Orton and allowing Ziggler to take advantage with a Zig Zag (man) for the win was simple and believable, doing something good for all involved. Ziggler gets to beat a future hall of famer/top guy and look great doing it, especially with the the celebratory headstand which is becoming a trademark of the ‘Show Off’. As for Barrett, he gets further in to Orton’s head, and closer to his level. Meanwhile, Orton doesn’t look any worse, and is really helping get younger stars over to have great matches with.

Daniel Bryan Answered the Criticisms of Michael Cole
Not actually too much to say about this. I was glad to see Bryan repeat his pretty valid reason for cashing in on Henry (that it was revenge for Henry’s attempts to injure him, and that he realised that the MITB contract is an opportunity more than a guarantee, and he saw an opportunity), but I was even more glad to see Bryan simply get some time on the stick. Ok, he’s not The Rock in terms of electrifying intensity, but neither should he be. Bryan has a confident, quiet, erudite charisma which I think comes over very well, and though its a slow-burner, I think if given the sustained time on the mic that seems to be coming to him now. When confronted by Henry and his awesome, threatening tone, Bryan made even better by confronting him; boldly just getting out of the ring and walking up to the World’s Strongest Champion. Taking exception to Henry’s claim that Bryan could never beat him, Bryan made a bold but simple statement by kicking Henry in his already injured leg to exemplify just how he could beat him. In many ways, that was more powerful than a normal beat-down or his false cash-in from last week.

Zack Ryder def. Jack Swagger
Not a bad match here, but also a bit of a waste as it should have been more explicitly linked to Ryder’s potential #1 Contendership to the US Championship (as it was in the deleted backstage pre-tape). It’s a shame that Swagger was the vehicle for such an empty bit of build though. Hopefully his fortunes will change going forward, while Ryder’s pursuit of a US Championship match gets hotter and more intense.

Mick Foley Hyped This Week’s LIVE Smackdown in Seasonal Fashion
Only the Micker could get away with this and it still be entertaining. His rhyme was certainly fun, as was his costume, and very Foley-esque; I do worry, however, that it is a sign that WWE aren’t quite sure yet what to do with Mick. Hell, i’m not sure what I want to see him do, though I do know that I want to see him – perhaps explaining this kind of appearance. I just wish he could get some kind of steady position – I certainly would have no problem with Commissioner Foley usurping Johnny Ace on RAW, perhaps in a match? Why not!? All that aside, the tightness of his rhymes really did effectively build hype for Super-Smackdown, the cage match, and no Cole!

CM Punk def. Alberto Del Rio to Retain the WWE Championship
Very much like the Ziggler-Orton match, this match featured two of the best workers today, and though it didn’t nearly live up to their Survivor Series match (come on guys, it had, like, half the time!), it was certainly enjoyable and technically impressive. It wasn’t however, as prestigious an event as the announcers suggested, though I do love how Punk treats the title, kissing it before handing it to referees before matches. That in itself is a good step towards making the championship more prestigious and interesting. The story of the match was similar to Survivor Series too, with Punk taking just about the majority of the violence, almost exclusively to his left arm, while showing great resilience in staying in the match and fighting back. There was also the stipulation that if Punk got intentionally DQ’d, he would lose the WWE Championship; and with some skullduggery, Alberto (and Ricardo Rodriguez) would try to trick Punk in to getting DQ’d, first of all tempting him with an exposed turnbuckle, and then attempting the Eddie Guerrero staged chairshot spot. Punk, a vocal fan of Guerrero, reversed this though, throwing the chair back to Del Rio and taking a bump (turnabout is fair play for a face!). Charles Robinson was about to DQ Del Rio, but Punk wanted a fairer victory and so rolled up Del Rio for a near fall. The Mexican heels tried again to take advantage of the referee and the stipulation though, and this time, Punk was merciless, getting himup in the GTS position, and dropping him, using the exposed turnbuckle instead of his knee to pick up the win. A nice win for Punk, though I am starting to worry his booking is going to close to the SuperCena ilk: getting beat up for most of match before a flurry. I like how Punk is being an infinitely more believable competitor than Cena, showing an impressive grittiness which makes him a much more interesting champion, but I think perhaps he went too far in that direction this week and perhaps looked a little weak, especially after winning with an (albeit kharmic) turnbuckle shot. As for Del Rio, the nature of his loss, and the nature of his relationship with Johnny Ace, means that a rematch at TLC is most likely, probably with the Miz to follow after he’s smashed a few more people’s heads in to the ramp.

Smack of the Week (25/11/2011): American Dragon Riled Up

Daniel Bryan Tried to Cash in His Money in the Bank Briefcase On Mark Henry
To start the show, Mark Henry came out with his Championship title and a crutch. I really liked how Henry sold this, showing that it hurt, but showing real heart at the same time by just struggling his way to the ring and promising to defend his title despite his injury, though he did mention he wasn’t cleared fight (an important point). This made him seem really brave and formidably strong, something Big Show seemed the opposite of when he came to meet Henry. He brought up the way Henry retained his title and insinuated (correctly) that Henry knew that his title was in jeopardy. A defensive World’s Strongest Champion started calling Big Show a two-time loser, to which Show responded with a cheap WMD, knocking the injured, unexpectant champion out. This seemed to be the end of a pretty textbook segment (Henry’s testicular fortitude aside), but then, D. Bryan’s music hit, and this time, there was no doubt that he was compus mentus when he cashed in this time. His main task was to get the behemoth over on his back, and it certainly took him some time, but he managed it and got the 3 count to become champion! He celebrated like he really had won the championship, and looked very emotional while the celebration went on for a long time, taunting Cole and the fans lapping it up. This emotion was quite a feat as it was soon to turn out that his championship win wouldn’t stand because Henry was not cleared to compete. This was obviously quite a striking moment, and the honourable Bryan eventually handed the Championship back. HOWEVER, if he wasn’t to win the championship, why did he try the cash-in (especially given the later results)? It seems to me that the only reason for it is to hint at a less honourable Bryan who might cash in before WrestleMania. I just hope the story stays as many imagine it – him cashing in on Henry at WrestleMania.

Hunico def. Justin Gabriel
Man, Justin Gabriel sucks right now. He cooms out all excited to his teen-bob music, and he comes across as completely lame and unintimidating. He’s just not working, and that might explain this result. This wasn’t a bad match between the two high flyers, and I think it’s great how Hunico has altered his style since failing at being Sin Cara in to a less pretty style that can still be explosive. I think, surprisingly given his genesis after the failed imposter (seriously, those guys rarely go anywhere), that he has a real future, and so it was right that he beat Gabriel. I don’t know if much will come of this, but a nice enough match anyway.

Natalya & Beth Phoenix def. AJ & Kaitlyn
Squash matches are rarely pleasing, but given how low the ‘Divas of Doom’ got a few weeks ago, i’ve enjoyed their recent resurgence. AJ is a great bumper for the DoD’s too, and again, she made Nattie look great by tapping out to the Sharpshooter. Again, Kaitlyn seemed unimpressed with AJ’s performance, not trying to break up the submission, berating her after the match, and not helping her after the match when it was ‘Cry Time’. Alicia Fox, who had been characteristically unconvincing on commentary, had to eventually save AJ, but it seems they’re going ahead with this break-up of the Chickbusters. This is bitter-sweet. On the one hand, it means an actual story for these two to get involved in – on the other hand, I don’t think the they’ve been established enough to make the break-up truly pleasing. We can but wait and see. Could Kaitlyn join the heels? It’s not out of the question given her size. More importantly, could AJ get a Divas Title shot? I’d love to see that.

Zack Ryder & Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
Seems like Dolph has a slightly new nuance to his character as the tron had ‘SHOW OFF’ emblazoned on it, and then the commentators insisting on associating the term ‘show off’ with Ziggler. I like this because it plays in to one of Ziggler’s best characteristics: how he knows how good he is, and likes to taunt the audience with it to make them hate them, because he wants them to hate him. These guys all had a pretty good top hour main event, and one in which Ryder showed me a bit more than usual. Indeed, although I already know he’s good in the ring, it was nice to see him pull off a new move in the Ryder Revolution plancha (I don’t know if that’s what it’s called, but Matthews said it as he did it, and it fits well!) which he landed beautifully in to the ‘Woo Woo Woo’ fist-pumps. Ziggler for his part, was really amping up the ‘show off’ side of his persona. He was still doing awesome wrassling including his amazing selling of Sheamus’s reversal of the Zig Zag, but his taunts were getting even more and more (brilliantly) ridiculous taunts, like his feigning of amateur wrestling moves after taking Sheamus down. Talking Sheamus, he provided some nice smashmouth moments, especially with his equal in stature, Jack Swagger. Again, Swagger managed to have some strong offense against The Great White, which made him look really good, and when he and Sheamus traded their varying shoulder tackles, it looked like a real battle of forces. The real story of the match though, was Zack Ryder’s continuing odyssey to a United States Championship match, and his claim got even stronger with a victory over Ziggler. It looks good for Ryder but doesn’t affect Ziggler too badly coming off some great in-ring work of late and a big title retention at Survivor Series and it came in a tag team match anyway. A nice, simple bit of progression. What i’d like to have seen though is, seen as Johnny Ace wont give Ryder a title match, and seen as he’s broski’s with Teddy Long, Teddy Long should have given him the title match for the live Smackdown next week – draw some ratings. What an idea! Someone gimme a job!

Ted DiBiase def. Heath Slater
Especially given that Slater had just returned from a wellness policy violation, and because DiBiase’s posse has gotten him a push of late, I expected a simple squash. Instead, we saw a Jinder Mahal on the tron criticising Ted for fraternizing with commoners. I quite like this because though I don’t have much time for Mahal, I think he deserves a second chance with the ball, and I like the idea of one being more philanthropic, and the other being more elitist. As for the match, it was another decent match. Slater had some good offense and him and Ted went back and forth quite a bit, but there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome as DiBiase hit Dream Street for the win. Slater is like Gabriel – he was at his height with Barrett and his groups, but now his lack of development is showing, and for now at least, he is only really good as a jobber.

Daniel Bryan def. Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and Randy Orton to Earn a World Heavyweight Championship Shot On Next Week’s LIVE Smackdown
Fatal four-ways are always hard to review because of the ensuing chaos, and the success of the match lives or dies on the inventiveness of the interactions between the competitors. Luckily, this match had no problem with that, including as it did, arguably Smackdown’s four finest workers. What was a little strange about this match was that it was more like a tornado tag match as, for the most part, Rhodes and Barrett co-operated with each other while Bryan and Orton largely stayed out of each other’s way – the exception being a rope-assisted DDT to Bryan. There was lots of great, quick action between these guys, though admittedly not that many memorable moments. One high point was an explosive, out-of-nowhere suicide dive: Barrett completed a normal irish whip to AmDrag, but Bryan ducked the ensuing attempted clothesline, but instead of rebounding off the ropes, he just continued and leaped through the ropes at the unsuspecting Cody Rhodes. The finish was pretty cool. Orton looked to be in control after the rope-assisted DDT to Bryan while setting up Rhodes for the RKO, but at this point, Barrett pulled Orton from the ring and hit a DDT, which also took him out for a while. This left Rhodes in the ring with Bryan, and he trued to roll-up Bryan, but Bryan reversed in to the LaBelle Lock for a quick submission. A big big win for Bryan – maybe even career defining – not only because he beat three of the WWE’s top stars (earning a nod from, but because he gets his first one-on-one match for the World Title and is about to break through to the top tier of stars. As for Rhodes, I was surprised he tapped quite so quickly, but then again, he has done it before, so perhaps his desire to protect his face and body from pain is just continuing. These four are great future superstars (Orton aside as he’s established), and when Sheamus and Mark Henry are considered too, it is clear just how healthy the Smackdown roster is now.

The RAW View (21/11/2011): Punk Holds Court, Awesome Truth Break Courtship

CM Punk holds court as he begins his second WWE Championship reign

Now that’s a clever title. This week’s RAW had a lot to live up to coming off a memorable Survivor Series PPV, and especially given that the RAW’s after great big events are often Deer-in-the-headlights affairs. Luckily, this RAW wasn’t like that, and gave us a lot to be happy about, even if it went out on an odd note.

I should also note that you wont find any mention of the pair of very interesting vignettes that played on the show because I wrote a whole other post (and poll) regarding them. Go here to find it:

CM Punk Gave a State of the WWE Championship Promo
Punk promised us a lot going in to Survivor Series about making the WWE Championship interesting again, and, thankfully, this wasn’t just electioneering. This promo was all about how and why Punk wanted to be an ‘Agent of Change’, and while it wasn’t quite as bold and electrifying as ‘the shoot heard around the world’ (partly because the Hershey crowd kinda sucked), but there was some very reassuring marks hit by The Voice of the Voiceless. He announced himself as a new face for the company, and one that will change priorities for the better. This traversed the line between reality and kayfabe while clearly being Punk’s actual voice – which is Punk at his best. He explained his desire for ‘pro-wrestling’ because pro-wrestling has an emotional connection that ‘sports-entertainment’ perhaps lacks. Now i’ve always said that the term ‘sports entertainment’ is actually a great label for pro-wrestling, but in this case, with the childhood story, it made metaphorical sense in regards to the approach to wrestling. He then went on to promise stability in this new era by also addressing a very real concern in recent wrestling and promising to end the times of playing ‘hot potato’ with the championship because he’s the Best in the World and will keep it for a very long time himself, which is exactly what should happen. Even when Johnny Ace came out to belittle Punk’s attempts at reclaiming his Cult of Personality, he kept up his ‘Agent of Change’/’Voice of the Voiceless’ persona, interrupting a bugbear of my own from Ace, telling him that the people he claims to represent as GM aren’t a Universe, but fans, and that ‘WWE Universe’ is just a corporate buzzword – clearly not a line fed to him, before the best bit of the whole thing probably – Punk literally being the voice of the voiceless! Responding to being booked against Ziggler, Punk lifted up the mic to the chants of ‘We Want Ryder!’ and suggested Funkhauser ‘do something creative’ and give Ryder his deserved title shot against Ziggler. Yes, it was a manipulation of the crowd, but it was based on their sincere wishes, and came across so naturally as Punk being what he is – in tune with the audience – that it didn’t seem at all manipulative. The segment ended with a bit of a flat return to straight-up wrestling storylines when he threatened that, sooner or later, someone would get to Johnny Ace. This set him up as a fighter of the bland, middle-management status-quo, but not in a particularly striking way. Still, did the job. One extra note – CM Punk is amazing on the mic. Saying this is not an edgy piece of comment, but I say it as part of a crap anecdote: I was so compelled by Punk in this segment that I completely forgot to tweet during the segment. This is only slightly important context for the next part …

Alberto Del Rio def. Zack Ryder
I preface all this with the I couldn’t tweet anecdote. Because of that, my duty as a live-tweeter meant I had to catch up, and consequently, I missed a lot of this opening match. This was also because it was quite a short match, but, despite what a lot of people say, I don’t think this was a burial. For one thing, I saw ZACK RYDER get some of his signature offense and nearly his finisher on ALBERTO DEL RIO, but more importantly, him just being in the ring with the Mexican Aristocrat shows how far he’s come. I mean seriously, he shouldn’t be beating Del Rio, at least not yet! Coming off his loss at Survivor Series, he needed a bit of instant statement, and this was it with a dominant win over Ryder, showing off the pain inflicted by his Cross-armbreaker. Indeed, the angry Del Rio is perhaps a little more compelling than the smug champion, just because it gives him more opportunities to utilise his epic facial expressions.

Sheamus def. Jack Swagger
This was the first in quite a long line of very high quality matches on the show. It was a pretty simple story for the most part, with Sheamus’s deliberate but explosive brawler style against the more scientific approach of Swagger, but what made this match really work was the fact that, despite the fact that Sheamus was obviously going to win, it seemed like Swagger might actually have a chance – a sentiment which only makes sense in retrospect, I know. The end of the match quickened in pace. Sheamus going up for his top rope shoulder block, was avoided by Swagger, but instead of crashing and burning, Sheamus displayed grace beyond his size by rolling through and attempting a Brogue Kick without missing a beat. The sequence wasn’t eneded there as Swagger ducked this and locked in an Ankle Lock that Sheamus sold quite well too. After some struggling, he managed to kick Swagger away before hitting a Brogue Kick, finally, for the win. One small but obvious criticism is that a Brogue Kick would be harder with a freshly Ankle-locked ankle, but i’ll give him the adrenaline benefit-of-the-doubt. Otherwise, a nice match, which made both guys look good. The match was a response to Sheamus assaulting Swagger the night before, and I must say this didn’t do too much to build on that tension, but it was a good match to start them off with. I’d like next to see Swagger give Sheamus a good old-fashioned retaliatory beat down to progress things.

Kevin Nash Cuts That Promo He Does About HHH Every Week
This week, Nash remembered the curtain call, and how he and HHH weren’t friends like they were then now. And then made some very vague threats. Seriously, this achieved nothing! End this now. Get HHH back to beat him in a street fight and end it.

Cody Rhodes def. Santino Marella; Cody Rhodes Threw Water On Booker T
Rhodes was awesome with the mask, and now he’s awesome without it. He cut a great promo before the match, still incorporating aspects of his grotesque, twitching, masked character, but not being overwhelmed by it, about how the mask had made him ashamed and how that made him vulnerable, but now, without it, he’s unbeatable. It’s a simple but logical (at least in the framing of the narrative) and made Rhodes seem like a star, and genuinely unbeatable. He then looked even more unbeatable after pretty much squashing Santino. Santino, going for his Cobra, was caught ‘with the greatest of ease’ by Rhodes and sent for a CrossRhodes. After winning, Rhodes just shrugged it off, like beating Santino was no big deal, which, lets face it, it isn’t. Nonetheless, the squash backed up the promo perfectly. The build of this star is becoming meteoric. This will only be helped, you would hope, by his interactions with Booker T. Rhodes, who told Booker he watches the show (something more wrestlers should do!) told Booker he has heard what he’s said about him. Booker, selling Rhodes as a threat, seemed unwilling to get physically involved with the Intercontinental Champion, and so Rhodes embarrassed him by throwing water over Booker before strutting off. It’s kind of pathetic, but that’s better than a physical altercation – like Rhodes can’t deign to strike Booker, and would rather just humiliate him, because he knows he wont fight back. This makes Rhodes look great, and hopefully so will the match(es) that take place between the two going forward. I actually am looking forward to it/them as Booker (as we saw at the Royal Rumble) has ‘still go it’ and in my mind will gel really well with Rhodes.

CM Punk def. Dolph Ziggler
For the second night in a row, CM Punk was part of a bonafide Match of the Year candidate. Pretty impressive! Before the match, Ziggler got to cut a nice promo about being the real future of the company as he did what neither Cena or Rock, or even Punk could do – win two matches (technically). Saying this stuff with so much confidence, as Ziggler does, makes us believe in what he is saying, and makes him come across as a star. The match itself started off slowly, with some slower, chain wrestling. But these two are both more creative than that. In the middle of one of their sequences, there was a face-off where each tried to gain the advantage, before Ziggler blinked and went for a take-down, only for Punk to leap-frog it, which caused an embarrassed Ziggler to bail the ring for a cocky timeout. For the rest of the first half of the match, Ziggler was in control, some cool Punk flurries aside, often putting down any revolts of offense with Punk with some trademark explosive offense, such as the clothesline he used. Once Punk did get control back, with an explosive clotheline of his own, Vickie Guerrero, who had been covering her ears to all the ‘CM Punk’ and ‘Best in the World’ chants, came to try and distract Punk as a femme fetale. This, obviously, didn’t work and Punk went back on the offense. However, in a sick bump, after whipping Ziggler to the corner, he went for his running knee and missed, spilling awkwardly to the floor. This was met with, of all things, a HEADSTAND from Ziggler, showing off his arrogance, and his love of heat that is central to his actual character. At this point we hit commercial, and after that, the match’s pace really picked up and the match went from being good to spectacular. Out of headlocks from Ziggler, Punk retaliates with a leg lariat, a lariat, and sweet spinning neckbreaker in quick succession for a nice near-fall. After this, Punk went for the GTS for the first (of many) times in the match, only for Ziggler to shift his weight for an awesome reversal in to a Sleeper. After this, Ziggler went for the rope-assisted pin, and because he did, it made for a convincing, dramatic near-fall, and was met by a similar pin attempt from Punk (following the turnabout being fair play rule). There soon after followed a fantastic, fantastic sequence as Ziggler ducked Punk’s roundhouse, before going for the Zig Zag, which Punk avoided by holding the ropes (and made to look even better by Ziggler selling the hell out of the backward momentum of the move by flying to the corner, before Punk finally hit his running knee followed by the running bulldog for a good near-fall. Trying to capitalise, Punk looked to go for the Randy Savage elbow,but instead of Ziggler playing possum, he did something much better; he rolled away, killing Punk’s momentum and drawing him in to a vicious and beautiful dropkick for another great near-fall. The crowd in Hershey, as I say, kinda sucked on Monday, but they were alive now for this match! After hitting the Randy Savage elbow eventually, Punk signaled again for the GTS, but again Ziggler countered, this time in to a sweet reverse T-Bone suplex for another nice near-fall. A frustrated Ziggler looked for the Fame-Asser, but this is where the champ finally managed to nail Ziggler, reversing it in to a slightly awkward powerbomb before getting him straight in to GTS position. I loved this because Punk had been having trouble hitting that move all match, and so instead of going for the pin off the powerbomb, saw his chance to finally hit his finisher, which shows a lot of respect to Ziggler. Punk indeed managed to hit the GTS for the win in a great match, with a nice ending. Punk’s matches aren’t always flawless, but that is often his strength. Of course, most of what he does is pitch-perfect, but if something is a little awkward, it makes it seem a lot more realistic than some of the more soul-crushing, shiny Cena victories. In a match like this, both men look great. Punk doesn’t look weak for having taken a lot of offense because it shows how resilient he is and shows he can wrestle his way out of any predicament, while Ziggler got to take it to the WWE Champion. After the match, Booker T said this could be a main event in any city, and I have to agree. Ziggler has it all, and we know that Punk is the ‘Best in the World’ – these two are part of the future of the company.

Big Show Cut a Promo On Mark Henry
My reaction when I saw Big Show hit the stage with a mic in his hand was, frankly, a disappointed sigh. Show just can’t cut it anymore – a promo that is. To be fair, this one wasn’t that bad. He had provocative source material to work with given the way he didn’t win the title the night before. The good bit was when he reiterated that Henry hadn’t walked out of Survivor Series, as per his promise. Other than that though, it was another flat performance from Show, and the real purpose of it seemed to be to pull back from having Mark Henry with a broken leg, as Show said Henry ‘may’ have a broken leg. At least it reminded us of the two big guys when they couldn’t really appear on the show.

Wade Barrett def. Kofi Kingston
Before the match, Barrett cut a nice, but not mind-blowing promo about the momentum behind the Barrett Barrage and how he wanted the World Heavyweight Championship next. It is right that he says that, even if logistics mean he may not be able to hold that title for some time. It just makes a point that this ‘barrage’ actually has a point to it. This was another really good match, but it had a little bit of strange booking that I wasn’t sure about. In the early going, Barrett seemed to have everything in hand. Despite having to fend off a nice reversal of a side slam in to a roll-up, he regained control and looked to be about to send Kofi to WasteLand. At that moment though, Randy Orton’s music hit and created a distraction. This is what I didn’t quite understand. Barrett hasn’t really done anything to him. WrestleLogic would say this is acceptable behaviour for a heel or a babyface who had been the victim of the same move (Golden Rule people!). However, this move wasn’t in tune with an otherwise timid Orton, which ultimately did a great job of showing that Barrett had gotten to The Viper, and by extension, that he was on the same level as Orton. After this, Kofi seemed a lot more like a legitimate threat, troubling Barrett in a more back-and-forth affair, even if Barrett was still, for the most part in control, and directing all his moves, at Orton (funnily enough, something a babyface will often do to a crestfallen heel). Perhaps the story was that this effort distracted Barrett, who fell victim to a Suicide Dive from Kofi, followed by a frog splash back in the ring. Barrett avoided the Boom Drop though, and after a series of move and counter move, got Kofi on his shoulders. Before he hit Wasteland though, he turned to Orton, again staring at him before hitting the Wasteland for the win. What was great about this was not only did Barrett ooze confidence, but Orton seemed genuinely quite stirred for a while, standing up and leaving, before Orton would announce ‘In case you missed that; the winner of this match, Wade Barrett’. Orton didn’t seem to have any response to this, until he gestured to attack Barrett before smirking at the Englishman as he braced himself. At the very least, Orton seemed to have a wry respect for Barrett, and perhaps suggested a fear for his abilities which is rare in him. A great way to get Barrett over, even if it broke the match up strangely. Good showing too for Kofi, but of course, he was the side-show.

Cena Cut a Promo About The Rock and Survivor Series, Before Sowing the Seeds for the Breakup of The Awesome Truth
Cena’s in a very unfamiliar place now. He’s always a humble guy (often intentionally too humble to garner a reaction), but in the ring, and when it comes to physicality, he’s not that humble. He  just beats everyone, for the most part. But at Survivor Series, Cena was humbled by The Rock, and that has changed something about Cena. His current persona is fascinating: he’s being intentionally showy in his humility to make it seem like he doesn’t care that The Rock is knocking him out of the parkl, like he simply isn’t trying or something – apart from it’s so transparent that he’s shaken he could be wearing a bright yellow T-Shirt saying ‘I’VE GIVEN UP’ on it. At Survivor Series, he almost played along to Rock’s bullying, and on RAW, he decided to say how good The Rock is and how well they worked together etc. It’s like he’s saying, hey, whatever happens at WrestleMania, it’s because the Rock’s so awesome and I can’t help that.’ But, of course, this air of no confidence is intentional, and its a nuance to Cena’s character which has made him eminently more watchable. At this point, Miz and R-Truth came down to berate Cena by reiterating how Cena was humiliated by Rock the night before. But, as in nature where the trodden upon dog picks on the cat, who picks on the mouse, Cena didn’t offer a defense, he just mocked Miz and Truth, as if to reinstate himself as important. The good thing about this is that it’s building to something. This obviously isn’t about taking stick from Cena, it’s about the storyline, and where it’s headed seems to be Cena snapping and beating down The Rock at some point to prove how much of his equal he is (and all that), possibly accompanied by a heel turn – they may have to, Cena will get booed out of Miami anyway, but as a face, he can’t really lose. When this twist happens though, it’s sure to be memorable, especially given how strong Rock has been booked thus far. Then something strange and unexpected. Out of nowhere, Cena produced the completely unsubstantiated claims that Miz and Truth didn’t respect each other, that Truth thought Miz was pompous etc and Miz thought Truth was riding his coat-tails etc. And then, Truth instantly believed it (well, I guess he is kinda crazy) Miz, in fact, told Truth that he was crazy and stupid for believeing Cena, who was just trying to split them, but these accusations made Truth feel Cena’s claims were substantiated, and this led to a brawl before Miz begged Truth to understand Cena had set them up and to go after Cena. This, Truth seemed to take in, but walking ahead of Miz up the ramp, he was left susceptible to the Skull Crushing Finalé to complete the split. The next day it was revealed that Truth has been suspended for a Wellness violation – explaining his being written off TV, and so, despite the fact that it necessitated some shady reasoning with Cena just piping up that the two didn’t really like each other, it made sense and rid us of a good pairing that unfortunately had no kick to it any more. Miz will go on to the title picture, but what of Truth – will he turn face now? If he does, he can’t be ‘Wassup’ R-Truth, that’s for sure. I’m not sure of the logistics of it, but I think Truth should stay heel in some tweak of the entertaining character he’s developed.

The ending, perhaps because of it’s sudden-ness and the fact that The Awesome Truth’s credibility has suffered of late, seemed a little flat as something hapenning to them doesn’t seem as important as something happening to Cena or Punk, for example. It also seemed kinda flat because of Cena’s (more necessary) being so no-angry and non-violent. After all, the closing segment was billed as ‘CENA RESPONDS TO THE ROCK BOTTOM HE GOT’ and ultimately, it wasn’t really about him. I think Punk’s win should have closed the show. It wouldn’t have been as significant storyline-wise, but it was a stonger ‘moment’ arguably than what we got, especially with him as champion.

Who Will Return to RAW On January 2nd, 2012?

A screenshot from the enigmatic vignette

Before I write my RAW View, I thought i’d try YET ANOTHER first for RTV-WOW. Three very interesting things happened last night on RAW, all ostensibly pertaining to a return/returns of major superstars to RAW. First of all, we saw this, which is clearly to do with Kane – but which Kane? It seems to tease what would be a hugely popular return of the masked Kane, but he also seems to burn his trademark old mask.

Also, in what first appeared to be a visual botch, the now familiar ‘Trending Now’ graphic, which obviously attracts visual attention, seemed to be interrupted by a surreptitious message, and indeed, it was, as this helpful post makes clear:

The message directed viewers to this video, which, in elevated, ecclesiastical language, seems to promise a return on ‘the second day of 2012’ – which just so happens to fall on a Monday …

Like the infamous ‘2 21 11’ vignettes last year which signalled the return of The Undertaker, these enigmatic and well made vignettes have cause a swell of debate and wonder amongst wrestling fans wondering who they pertain to. So, why not do a first ever poll for RTV-WOW for a bit of fun? It seems to me the front-runners for the 2 01 12 return are The Undertaker, Kane, The Brothers of Destruction together, and Chris Jericho. I will vote on this, but I wont reveal my pick. I’ll simply explain the theories behind each candidate, and the potential problems with these theories:

The Undertaker: Taker is a ghostly phenom who only ever appears around WrestleMania these days, and with the new year the start of WrestleMania season, he’s always going to be in consideration. The biblical tone of the vignette also seems to relate to the ‘dark side’ of Undertaker. It fits perfectly. However, one problem with this is that the words in the vignette claim that the returning person will return to claim what is ‘rightfully’ theirs. Does that mean the WWE Championship? I can’t imagine what else it could be (though of course it could be a storyline in itself). Now, i’m pretty certain that on the 2nd January, CM Punk will still be WWE Champion, and perhaps the babyface Undertaker wont come back to confront babyface CM Punk. Also, one person who I can’t see holding that title again is Undertaker, simply because I can’t see him being able to defend it regularly enough.

Kane: Kane obviously shares a lot of the semantics of his ‘brother’, so for a lot of the same reasons as him, he is in the picture to return on January 2nd. What makes him really viable though is the earlier vignette that aired. We know Kane is returning, after all. Could the two vignette’s be a two-pronged device to hype the return of a newly-monstrous Kane? Indeed, the fact that this is seperate to the original Kane vignette is also a weakness in the theory – if they’ve already given away that Kane is returning with a compelling vignette, would they really flog the dead horse?

The Brothers of Destruction: What if the videos are related, perhaps they could be separate teasers for the same return – perhaps both Masked Kane and The Undertaker are returning as the Brothers of Destruction. This could actually be compelling way beyond the immediate nostalgic  pop of seeing them come out together. Undertaker is an old, fragile Phenom, and perhaps he would struggle to carry another WrestleMania classic alone. Imagine then, that for the first time, The Streak could be on the line in a tag team match, which brings with it the whole new aspect of The Streak’s integrity being on Kane’s shoulders too. Who else could share the burden but Undertaker’s brother? Perhaps though, people would be unsure about a Streak match which wasn’t a one-on-one match.

Chris Jericho: Chris Jericho loves a vignette. When he debuted in the WWF in 1999, it was the culmination of a long ‘Countdown to the Millenium’ series of vignettes, and when he returned in 2007, it was at the end of a series of ‘Second Coming’ vignettes. His third return will quite possibly have accompanying vignettes, and he has been rumoured to return soon. What is more, he and Punk have had a lot of back-and-forth on twitter because Jericho is said to want a match with Punk at WrestleMania. Jericho, a heel, would be a much more fitting candidate to confront Punk with the vitriolic language we have seen in the vignette. The only problem, however, is that talks between Jericho and WWE reportedly hit problems recently.

Survivor Series Review, 2011: Punk Deified, MSG Electrified, Cena Humiliated

The Rock Rock Bottoms Cena to Close the Show and Make a Point

An opening gambit to this review will be a bit of a spoiler for the rest: this PPV was fantastic. Considering this PPV nearly died, it certainly underwent a rebirth last night! The similarity of feel to this year’s classic Money in the Bank PPV is quite remarkable, in match quality and crowd participation, and certainly makes it an instant classic – thanks, in part, to The Rock, but not exclusively by any stretch of the imagination.

Match 1) Dolph Ziggler def. John Morrison to Retain the WWE United States Championship
It can’t be avoided that Ziggler wasn’t really at the centre of attention by the end of the night, so hot were some of the performances, but when looked at as a whole, Ziggler really did as expected and shone last night. One of the memorable things about this match was the crowd’s burying of Morrison because he was there instead of Internet Champ Zack Ryder, and their consequent support for Ziggler. Vickie’s valet-ship was excellent here, covering her ears to the ‘We Want Ryder’ chants. It is clear though that WWE cultivated these chants; they’re building (or perhaps just capitalizing on) a ground-swell of support for Ryder which will surely end with Ryder taking the US title and Ziggler moving on up to the main event fringe. As for the match, it was really good, with Ziggler doing his best methodical, showy, performance. Spectacularly besting JoMo before soaking up the crowd’s reaction. Tailored to that, Ziggler was probably in control for most of the match, but there was some really good back and forth too, and in fact, Morrison looked close to winning after a big tornado DDT, only for Vickie to get Ziggler’s foot on the bottom rope. With this happening, it was clear Morrison wasn’t simply being buried here, and he was – to be fair to him – a important part of the match’s success for once. As the match continued to a finish, the two traded some cool, quick progressions that really got the crowd going and forget about Ryder briefly. Morrison looked to have the best of it following a big knee as he went for Starship Pain, but Ziggler got his knees up to Morrison’s back to sell Morrison’s neck in a nice bit of storytelling. Ziggler followed up with a Zig Zag, and after that, the retention was just a formality. The crowd were happy about, eventhough Morrison provided a good performance, because they didn’t want Morrison, they want Ryder. Ziggler’s ‘follow that!’ post-match promo was pretty sweet, but, in a way, in all its simplicity, Ryder’s inclusion was wonderful. Whether it was planned, or whether it was a responsive audible, Ryder’s post-match run-in really made the crowd happy and justified Ryder’s continuing push. Surely he will receive a title shot on the back of that reaction, if he wasn’t due one already, and that just goes to show the magic of sincere support for a guy who loves the business and wants to make a success of himself.

Match 2) Beth Phoenix def. Eve Torres in a Lumberjill Match to Retain the Divas Championship
This was a decent match, but let’s face it, it is only really memorable because of the amazing Super Glam Slam that ended it. Still, as (relatively) short as it was, the two gave us a respectable outing. The lumberjill stip didn’t have too much of a bearing on the match apart from the important storytelling moment of Beth bailing the ring at the sight of Eve booty-popping, only to be sent back in without much incident. After some nice work, Eve teased a moonsault, only for Beth to stop playing possum and attack, which led to the awesome finishing move and the retention. In the preview, I was unable to even consider that the outcome could be pleasing, but they really succeeded. It seemed like a rebirth for the ‘Divas of Doom’ as Beth looked dominant, won with a super-powerful finisher, and looked unbeatable. Not only that, but the announcers framed her as such. They have quite a mire to get out from, but last night went some way to success.

The Rock Cut a Promo and Did His Whole Act in Three Minutes
Rocky is an unbelievable talker. He is electrifying. That really is the best word to describe him, he gets you interested; he gets you excited.The problem is, the excitement is often (though not always) empty as a lot of the excitement is about how great The Rock is being, and not how we’re excited to take on, say, The Awesome Truth later. I understood the significance of his promo, especially at the start when he explained the meaning of MSG to him because his father and grandfather had both wrestled here, but then it turned in to some sort of self-tribute act where he simply went through all his cathphrases. Electrifying, but not interesting. I actually tweeted that Rock is arguably the best talker ever, but that Punk is the best promo today. Compare Rock’s RockyMania tour promo to this 15 second promo from Punk which built for the match and got him over in a fraction of the time Rocky took.

Team Barrett def. Team Orton With Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes as Sole-Survivors
To labour a point I always make, matches with so many people in it are hard to review. In these matches, keeping score is more important than the wrestling for the most part, though that is not to say that there can’t be lots of sweet moments. This was the only traditional Survivor Series match on the card, but perhaps because of that, this match stood out and was carefully booked. Ziggler was, again, a star just coming to the ring, shouting, in response to his earlier question about who could follow him with ‘oh, I’m gonna follow me!’ – what a great line! When I saw him enter the ring to face Orton, I was hoping for some wonderful wrestling from two of the best alive, so I was a little upset it was cut short with a quick RKO. This isn’t too big of a problem though, because Ziggler simply doing double-duty was what was impressive last night. Less impressive was Sin Cara’s exit, though it’s not fair to be too hard on him because his injury is more sad than anything; after a lacklustre start to his WWE career, this set-back is going to cost him months and potentially kill any momentum he has. His one hope now is that he can rely on a well-timed ‘return pop’ to get him back in the favour of the fans. Mason “Tastes Like Chicken” Ryan’s exit was at the hands of a lovely sequence from Cody Rhodes, who used his tag team prowess to get a perfectly timed blind tag to Hunico to allow him to hit a Beatuful Disaster followed by CrossRhodes for the pin-fall and a big pop from the MSG crowd who were high on Rhodes and good wrestlers and unsupportive of Mason “Income Tax” Ryan. The way Rhodes went to smugly celebrate with his team just goes to show the little things he does which makes him a future superstar. Kingston did ok in the match. He had some nice spots, as you would expect, including a nice sequence where he hit his pendulum kick to one of the heels on the apron, which put him in the perfect position for Barrett’s new Big Boot signature (apparently now called the ‘Barrett Barrage’). As is right and usual since Bourne’s suspension, however, Kingston is on the back-burner, so he wasn’t a highlight player in the match, and was eliminated by a Wasteland by Barrett. Rhodes and Orton had some more great work together before the most baffling bit of booking of the whole night. For some reason, Sheamus started his heel knees to Swagger, ignoring the ref’s count and getting DQ’d, and then after being DQ’d, he was so angry at Swagger for receiving his knees that he felt he deserved a Brogue Kick. Swagger’s no nice guy, but what did he do to deserve that? I understand it was probably a way to get Swagger eliminated (he was pinned after the Brogue Kick), but more importantly, to get Sheamus eliminated in a way that doesn’t require him being beated because that doesn’t happen to Great Whites. Hunico, who had a pretty nice outing last night, not looking out of touch with the bigger stars in the match, was eliminated with the crowd-pleasing though perhaps a little waring springboard in to Super RKO spot. This left us with just Orton, Barrett and Rhodes. Given that Orton had gone from four against 1 to two against one relatively quickly, I think most people expected a couple of RKOs, a babyface win, and drinks backstage for Orton, but happily, this formulaic booking was interrupted as the more realistic numbers game came in to play. Orton went down fighting, as a face of his stature should, but after fighting off Rhodes with an RKO, he ran in to Barrett to be barraged with a Wasteland, allowing Barrett and his team to pick up the unlikely win. Before the match, Cole had made a great call about Orton’s unprecedented success at Survivor Series (indeed, this will be the only mention of the commentary here because it was actually pretty good), and especially with this fresh in our minds, the victory made Barrett and Rhodes look and appear to be really strong. Now Barrett and Rhodes have legitimate bragging rights over Orton and Orton arguably has something to prove, while not at all looking bad as he went down to numbers.

Match 4) Mark Henry Retained the World Heavyweight Championship as The Big Show def. Mark Henry via DQ
The MSG crowd last night really helped make the PPV special with their sincere, creative chants and their sheer enthusiasm for most things on the show. I have talked innumerable times about how good, hot crowds can make good shows great, but I have also explained that bad crowds can make decent shows bad, and unfortunately, the MSG crowd fell in to this category for this match. This was a good match made ok, if you follow. There’s no getting around the fact that the opening half of the match was pretty dry, but that does not excuse the fans chanting ‘BORING’. As is often the case, Brandon Stroud put it better than I can be bothered to try and best: “There is never, ever a legitimate reason to chant “boring” at two wrestlers wrestling … “Boring” is disrespectful, and makes you look like an asshole. Bottom line. “Boring” is the reason why wrestling became so ADD in the late 90s … 24/7 hardcore titles were born, people started turning on each other every week, and even the Gods of Puroresu gave up complex storytelling for head-drops. “Boring” is a statement on you, not what you’re watching.” Back to me, and one of my favourite things about wrestling is the sheer respect between everyone involved. OK, the ‘boring’ and ‘you f**ked up’ are parts of a 90’s desire to be more involved with the kayfabe world, but when it comes down to it, these guys are putting their lives on the line, and if you don’t like it, do something else for a while or make no noise or whatever, but don’t shout ‘boring’. Not everything everyone does is going to be great and it really makes it difficult to rise above the stigma of the chant. This match succeeded in doing this anyway, which is a real testament to Show and Henry! As the match progressed past the slowly-developing holds, they moved on to more shocking spots which drew upon their big spots together. They teased a superplex, crashed through the barricade to chants of ‘Holy S**t!’, and finally hit an improbable elbow drop from The Big Show which again threatened the ring, led to a beautiful Randy Savage chant, and allowed Henry to look amazing by kicking out. The crowd were won over, and had started to help rather than hinder the match, but at this point came the somewhat disappointing finish to the match. Despite kicking out of the Showstopping Elbow Drop, Henry was on the ropes, and after avoiding a WMD, he apparently decided to cut his losses and get himself disqualified. This made sense I suppose, to keep the title on Henry and continue the feud, but first of all, at PPV, DQ finishes are never pleasing, but more importantly to me, the finish showed Henry as something other than amazingly unstoppable, again. A decent enough match which was certainly memorable though, thanks to all the big-weight-break spots. Big Show KO-ing Henry makes sense as Henry’s cheated him out of his match and potentially a championship, though the leg drop to Henry’s chair-wrapped ankle perhaps seemed a little far; it was, however, an apt form of revenge, and these two should definitely be given a chairs match at TLC. Of course, thoughout this, the crowd were begging for Daniel Bryan to cash in his MITB briefcase. Indeed, I think, like with the collapsed ring at Vengeance, WWE are actively staging these perfect opportunities for AmDrag to cash in, in order to highlight the sheer honour in his character which wont allow him to win a championship that way. No doubt, Bryan will only be tempted more going towards WrestleMania, which will be very intriguing, however he reacts to it.

Match 5) CM Punk def. Alberto Del Rio to Win the WWE Championship
In the preview to this PPV, I explained how the build to this match didn’t enthrall me, but at least when it really mattered, these two did enthrall me with a match I certainly consider to be a Match of the Year candidate! The North-East MSG crowd were behind Punk from the start, and after Del Rio came out with his usual pomp and circumstance, including personal ring announcer, Punk did a great job of countering that self-satisfied ceremony by having undeniably awesome best ring announcer ever Howard Finkel announce him to the ring. Even I was chanting Howard Finkel at home when he approached and the emotion on The Fink’s face shows exactly why he’s so respected. And boy, when Punk approached the ring, I actually think the noise rivalled, and maybe even bested the noise in Chicago. It was electrifying in its own right, and like that night in Chicago, Punk worked the crowd to perfection, to a frenzy. With them in tow, and two great wrestlers facing each other, the stage was set for a fantastic championship match. Instantly more important than it appeared in the build to the PPV. After a deliberate start to the match, which saw the two feeling each other out as technical wrestlers should, the story moved to being around submissions, and Del Rio especially working Punk’s arm, but Punk working on Del Rio’s arm himself. Rodriguez was always going to be a factor too, and in order to win, Punk would need to dispatch him, as was seen when Punk chased Rodriguez round the ring, only to run in to a beautiful, perfectly timed dropkick through the ropes from Del Rio, which he capitalised on by smashing Punker’s hand on the steel ring steps. Indeed, most of the first portion of the match was Del Rio dishing out the punishment, with him regaining the advantage pretty quickly after attempted comebacks from Punk. This was especially great when Punk went for his ‘patented’ knee, only for Del Rio to avoid it and hit a low version of his enziguiri to Punk hanging from the turnbuckle. As the match progressed though, the gritty Second City Saint fought his way back increasingly in to the ascension. Punk fought off Del Rio’s attacks to the arm on the turnbuckle before the Savage elbow and more sweet Savage chants. Punk had spent a lot of time trying to hit the GTS, but after this, after another attempt, Del Rio reversed in to the Cross Arm-Breaker, and because it was in the centre of the ring, and because of Punk being a face not afraid to sell pain. He didn’t, however tap, and managed to make it to the ropes. Just the fact that a top face looked like he might tap is great for everyone, and great for the WWE Championship as a whole – it’ll mean defenses mean more. After another GTS attempt, the Rodriguez factor was concluded as the ring announcer hit the apron for the distraction, but in a nice bit of splicing, as Del Rio pushed Punk away, Punk carried the momentum and hit a big boot to Rodriguez. Del Rio goes for the Cross-Armbreaker, but this time, Punk is able to jockey in to the Anaconda Vice, and though Del Rio was clawing at Punk’s face in a pretty gritty, cool way, he eventually succumbed and tapped. Wonderful, wonderful match here; certainly a rival to Punk-Cena from MITB, especially with the perfectly clean finish in mind. The scratching and clawing was awesome in itself, the sweet progression between submissions aside as they gave a real sense of realism that is lacking from submission ‘struggles’ like John Cena’s shiny lying on someone’s back and hugging them routine. It was great to hear The Fink announce Punk as ‘the winner of the match, and Neeeeeeew WWE Champion’ and it must have been special for Punker too. Following the match, we saw the familiar celebrating with fans routine, but this time it seemed, again, more genuine, just because it’s Punk. Instead of just standing by them, he added his own touch by diving in to a delighted crowd and really being among the people, again, like the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ should!

Match 6) The Rock & John Cena def. The Miz & R-Truth
Of course, The Rock came out last out of the four, and just before he did, I realised how special the moment would be, and it didn’t disappoint. I expected Rock to look slightly ridiculous, his massive body squeezed in to trunks, but no, he looked like normal Rock pretty much, other than his Goldberg head and vaguely tribal tattoo, but upgraded to a kind of superbeing … out of a movie. And to my surprise, his performance was equally surprisingly pleasing. I was pleasantly surprised also that Rock started the match out. I kinda expected the hot tag to get him in the match, but instead, refreshingly, Rock wanted to start the match out , and prove that ‘he still got it’. To my mind, he certainly hasn’t ‘lost’ anything. Rock clearly wanted to make a statement – a wrestling statement, and he did that with his opening salvo of sweet, deep arm-drags, and a La Magistral pin. It’s not a surprise that he can do it, but it was great to see him do it so effortlessly and crisply, and the consequent ‘Wel-come back’ and ‘you still got it’ chants were deserved. I don’t want to go over the top, because Rock wasn’t in the ring for that long, but during my preview, I worried about Rock not being as explosively brilliant as his 2001 self, but if anything, again, he was at least as good  as that, and, if anything, better than that – the super-Rock I mentioned earlier. One word sums up his early performance, and it isn’t surprising: ‘electrifying’. I was pleased to see Miz and Truth each wanting a shot at The Rock, because it showed a bit of bravery against The Great One, which obviously shows them in a good light. Unfortunately for them, Rocky pretty much bested them again, before it was decided they wanted Cena. Here came the almost obligatory awkward tag between the two as Rock dismissively slapped Cena’s hand as if to say ‘follow that’. Of course, Cena had a tough act to follow, and of course, that was the whole point of the story of the match. Cena then deployed all of his ‘technical’ wrestling – snap mares, a monkey flip, a dropkick, though somehow, when Cena did it, it seemed more cynical. Possibly importantly, Cena wasn’t as dominant as Rock was and instead went in to usual SuperCena booking of getting beat up for ages, but never, ever, giving up. This was good as it gave Miz and Truth a bit of the spotlight, and not just against Cena,because at times when it ‘broke down’, Rock was vulnerable to attack, and indeed, the only time he looked at all vulnerable was when Miz and Truth cheap-shotted him at ringside. This was especially true when Truth clotheslined Rock at ringside, which was the only time I remember him being knocked down in the match, before being dropped on the barricade and selling it like a champ. For a while, Cena continued to struggle against Awesome Truth, having to fight off the effective team with a partner disinterested in his safety, but eventually after making Truth miss with a fancy leg drop, he got the hot tag to Rocky, who exploded out of the corner to dominate the heels with more trademark moves like his boot and DDT combo to Miz, the Rock Bottom to Truth, the Sharpshooter to Miz – which was broken up by Truth, who was subsequently speared out of the ring by Cena in the first bit of really effective teaming from the faces. Meanwhile, Miz tried to beat on the Rock, but ended up with the huge trademark spinebuster, followed directly by the pulling off of the elbow pad and the People’s Elbow for the win. One criticism is that the end of the match was a little formulaic. Maybe the break down of the match didn’t work quite enough, but though the People’s Elbow is a cool and natural way to end , it seemed a little sudden. While I expected Miz and Truth to win, and while that loss hurt them even more than they have been hurt as of late, perhaps today’s announcement of a wellness policy suspension for Ron Killings explains it. On reflection, I certainly don’t mind Rock getting the pin. It was a natural, feel-good finish to the match, and the crowd ate it up. After the match, Cena was meekly allowing Rock to ‘have his moment’, but this is where Cena was publicly humiliated. Rock called him back in the ring, ostensibly to allow him his moment, but then it became clear that Rock wanted to show Cena, passive-aggressively, that he is the man. After getting his pops on the turnbuckle, he invited Cena to get what he ‘deserves’: boos ringing out. Right here, Cena really looked pathetic, and it must have been intentional, but though he had words with The Rock, the fact the he got Rock-Bottomed himself seconds later undermined any manliness in Cena while Rock continued to pose and take all the adulation. This sounds like criticism, but it isn’t. It’s fresh and interesting to see Cena be humbled in this way. It doesn’t mean that Cena wont snap down the line – indeed, one day, he will snap, and the more tension we build between them until then, the better. An understated but impactful finish there, and while people may have wanted a big brawl, it is too soon for that. This was the right level I think, and it capped off a wonderful, memorable PPV.

Indeed, it was wrestling near-perfection. The weakest match on the card, Henry-Big Show wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, while the rest of the matches were good, and at best, we had some moments that will go down in history surrounding The Rock, and a MOTY candidate from Punk and Del Rio. This will be another PPV I buy the DVD of.

Survivor Series Preview and Predictions, 2011

Survivor Series, November 20, 2011, from Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

This PPV sold potentially record buys as soon as The Rock was booked to wrestle again for the first time in years, and so the worked build aside, this PPV is one of the most anticipated in recent memory. The ‘Never Before, Never Again’ tagline is also exciting, and one that, for once, we know will probably ring true. It’s a pretty strong card for the show too, and eventhough there’s shamefully only one traditional Survivor Series match on the card, it’s a strong traditional Survivor Series match, so no real complaints can be had. If there is to be another match on the card, it will be another traditional Survivor Series  match, and I would like to see Team Bryan (Bryan, DiBiase, Ezekiel Jackson and the Usos) against Team Otunga (Otunga, McIntyre, Primo & Epico, and mystery opponent, Brodus Clay). Clay and Jackson should probably feud, even if it would be probably horrible.

Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Mark Henry (c) vs The Big Show
There has undeniably been very effective build for this match of late. I couldn’t post on Smackdown this week, but I was impressed at the intensity between Henry and Big Show that was created by a more raw approach to production (the cold open etc), despite the fact that they didn’t actually confront each other. As with love, in sports entertainment, absence makes the heart (or the build) grow fonder. After Ringageddon II (when they broke a ring), they can only push the shock and brutality bar higher, so given thet their monster vs monster matches have been of a high quality anyway, I think we can expect an explosive opener from these two. As for the outcome, while it isn’t inconceivable that Show could win, I can’t see it happening. Henry is so over as champion that it would be strange to take it away from him, and meanwhile, he and Daniel Bryan seem to be preparing for a WrestleMania match or at least a Money in the Bank angle, which of course requires Henry to be champion. I certainly don’t want Show to win anyway as he’s about 10% as interesting the World’s Strongest Man.

Winner: Mark Henry

Match 2) United States Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs John Morrison
In contrast to the last match’s build, the build to this match has been strange and almost non-existent. It seemed destined that Zack Ryder would get the title shot after the repeated victories over Ziggler and the most successful twitter petition in history, or perhaps that Mason ‘Wednesday Night Football’ Ryan would get a shot on the back of his successes over Ziggler and his big big muscles. Instead, Morrison, who has beaten Ziggler once, but less prominently than the others is the one to get the shot. The fact that he’s apparently so much less deserving than Ryder makes for interesting and unpredictable booking. I wouldn’t be surprised, for instance, to see Ryder added in to the match somehow and win the whole thing. If not though, and it stays the same, it’s interesting to see these reports of Morrison leaving WWE in a matter of weeks. Usually that would make his loss a lock, but then why elevate him from a losing streak at this point? Could his being pulled from WWE events all be a work? That seems a little unbelievable to me, though it would be some pretty sweet manipulation. Perhaps Morrison will be out there to be humiliated, on the other hand; it really is quite an enigmatic match to preview. Whatever happens, Ziggler has been gold in everything he’s done – part of the reason I see him keeping the title – and is one of the few people so good at selling that Morrison actually looks dangerous against him. That, mixed with the enigmatic nature of the booking, makes for a memorable match. For now, Ryder almost seems like a successor to the US title, and until he challenges for it, Ziggler will keep enriching the title.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

Match 3) Divas Championship Match: Beth Phoenix (c) vs Eve Torres
The build for this match has been baffling, and as a result, I am kinda baffled as to how to predict this match. On Smackdown, Natalya was dominant against AJ, and that helped remove us from an almost surreal state of flux between the divas currently and returned us to the simpler, more profound battle between dominant, self-righteous divas, and fun-loving, modelesque divas. Maybe the storyline needs a bit of a reboot – such as the one afforded by a title change. Nonetheless, it kinda seems like WWE are treading water with this at the moment, and with Alicia Fox apparently waiting in the wings for a shot, I’ve decided to plump for another defense from Phoenix. My apathy, however, doesn’t mean this will necessarily be a bad match; obviously Beth can bring it in the ring and Eve has often worked as a good foil with Beth in the ring.

Winner: Beth Phoenix

Match 4) WWE Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs CM Punk
I really enjoyed how CM Punk got this match, manipulating Johnny Ace’s ruling that Del Rio himself had to agree to a match if one was to take place. After Del Rio had earlier intentionally cost Punk a #1 Contendership, it was only fair that Punk return the favour, and so instead of getting Del Rio to agree to a title match, he got him to submit to one using the Anaconda Vice. Since then, the physical tension between the two has grown well with backstage attacks and timely meetings in the ring, but verbally, it may have fallen a little. Del Rio is very disagreeable for sure, but he can also be rather one-dimensional at times; and though Punk has forwarded some nice reality-based material with Del Rio (about his promo skills), he’s often not been able to engage with Del Rio on his own witty, eloquent level because Del Rio’s grasp of the language is still imperfect (a good point well made by friend and wannabe nWo member, Jacob Kerray) and he can’t engage Punk on that level. The problem isn’t that bad for Del Rio. As I say, he is endlessly disagreeable, and mixed with his subtle facial reactions and ticks, he is one of the best antagonists for babyfaces there are, but once he comes up against Punk, his not quite fluency is a little damaging. As for the match, on paper at least, it would possibly be the most mouth-watering wrestling prospect on any wrestling card, and it certainly is on this card. Given the time, this could be spectacular. I am pretty sure, however, that we will see a Del Rio retention, though certainly not a squeaky clean one. The reason is this, RAW comes back to Chicago after the TLC PPV for the first time since that hot summer night where wrestling near-perfection was witnessed, and I imagine a Punk homecoming as champion being all the more impactful if its the night after the victory. The problem with that is how to get Punk another shot at TLC, but this is wrestling, where logic and narrative are blissfully malleable, so it’s not that big of a problem. I guess it would make sense for Kevin Nash to cost Punk the championship, but that might cause some eye-rolling too is not done in any interesting way – from me as much as anyone else. It’ll be good for the WWE Championship that Del Rio’s reign last a little longer and make it a decent one (us of course conveniently forgetting Cena’s joke of a reign half way through). Yes, Del Rio’s not been perfect, but he has been good, and he deserves the ball for a while longer anyway.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

Match 5) Team Orton (Randy Orton, Sheamus, Mason “5 Items or Fewer” Ryan, Sin Cara & Kofi Kingston vs Team Barrett (Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger & Hunico)
There’s not much to say about the action of this match. It’ll certainly be exciting, and has some awesome wrestlers involved (Speaking of which, how impressive is it that Ziggler is doing double duty for the second straight PPV! Has anyone ever done double-double-duty before?). I expect this to be a highlight, even if it’s difficult to say exactly how because of the chaotic nature of the match. My prediction is equally uninspired. I’m going for the babyfaces for the simple reason that pretty much all of my other predictions are for the heels, and this will provide a bit of balance to that, especially given that it’s one of the main events of the night.

Winners: Team Orton

Match 6) The Rock & John Cena vs The Miz & R-Truth
I know I haven’t been unilaterally positive about The Rock since he ‘returned’, but there is absolutely no denying that “The People’s Champ” returning to the ring alongside “The Champ” John Cena is absolutely must-see (indeed, i’m skeptical about anyone who says otherwise)! I have absolutely no idea how this match is going to go. The Rock c. 2011 is a very different beast to The Rock c.2001, with ‘beast’ being the operative word, while Miz and Truth are yet to have really memorable PPV main events. The one thing we can expect for the match is a lot of time, and a lot of thought. WWE is often criticised for flying by the seat of its pants booking-wise, but you have to think that, with a WrestleMania match in mind, and the time of Rock in hand, they will be a bit more careful about booking for a meaningful feud to the big event in Miami. So I expect a good, memorable match here, and I hope for a memorable win for The Awesome Truth. That’s right, i’m backing the largely ignored heels for this match! That doesn’t mean they’re centre-stage though. Think about it – Rock and Cena tagging together is a vehicle to build to their Mania match, and the best way to wrench the tension is to have them cost each other the match. Seriously, if Rock and Cena win, what will we go away with – the feeling that Rock and Cena don’t really hate each other that much? That’s the opposite of what’s needed. The benefit is that Miz and Truth get massive feathers in their hats. I expect the faces to be booked very strong, but for the heels to take advantage of their differences, just as Miz did at WrestleMania 27. Perhaps Rock has Truth in a Sharpshooter, but Cena pulls him off and goes for an STF. They trade finishers and feud over the cover until Truth recovers and he and Miz hit a Little Jimmy’s Finale for the shock win.

Winners: The Miz & R-Truth

The RAW View (14/11/2011): The Rock Rocks RAW Gets Rocked

The ‘Michael Cole Challenge’; CM Punk Explains the Michael Cole Challenge
I don’t have too much to say about the Michael Cole Challenge. It took up too much time, but also could have been worse. Jim Ross seemed to enjoy that dancing alright, and it was pretty awesome to see. Weighing him in public seemed like a backstage rib to a bonafide legend too far though, and after what seemed at least fifteen minutes, CM Punk came out to end it. The outcome of the challenge was seemingly that Cole ensured he couldn’t lose, and Punk took exception to this, and in full ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ mode, began explaining why the past 15 minutes of TV were essentially pointless, why JR is a better announcer, and why the audience tune out because of Michael Cole. Boy was he right, and boy was he righteous when he stuck the Anaconda Vice on Cole. The only shame is that it was Cole Punk got to do it to at this point.

Cody Rhodes & Hunico def. Kofi Kingston & Sin Cara
Pretty nice match here, especially from the lucha guys. Cara and Hunico put together some really nice spots in the match, while, if anything, Rhodes and Kingston showed up as a bit ropey. Nice finish to the match with a natural tag team match breakdown as Sin Cara and Hunico wrestled each other to the outside while, at the same, busy time, Kingston missed his Trouble in Paradise and ended up with a Cross Rhodes which was either sweet or botched (or actually both) as he seemed to corkscrew in to the mat rather than being flipped in to it. Again it was right that Kingston took the pinfall with him being in the abandoned ‘one half of the WWE tag team champions’ situation. He is certainly suffering from Evan Bourne’s suspension, and will only become relevant again when Bourne returns. Luckily, that should be soon, and when he comes back, it can be mixed with success and billed as Kingston ‘getting his mojo back’ to strengthen them even more as a tag team. Finally, a word on the Cody Rhodes tweak. I like his new approach to the dashing/grotesque gimmick. I’m not sure about the music yet, but i’m glad they took the natural opportunity to remove his mask. The mask was cool, but it had a shelf-life it was approaching. The good news is that he’s kept some of the ticks he picked up as the grotesque Rhodes, which only makes sense – it’s not like he could just become dashing again. He’s kept the maniac in him, and the bad jokes, but has rediscovered some of the smug cockiness. Always evolving, which is good for him.

Mason “Caught On CCTV” Ryan def. Dolph Ziggler via DQ
The introductions to the matches were the best bit about this match. Ziggler came out to talk about his Welsh muscle of an opponent, and once again, knocked it out of the park, so to speak. It’s worth paraphrasing the real internet champ: ‘tonight, i’m taking on something that is more cyborg than man. A superstar with two first names and no clue, Mason Ryan … and by the way, how damn good at this am I!?’ And yes, he is damn good at this. He’s also damn good at making the man-breast Mason Ryan look good in the ring. This didn’t last long, as Vickie Guerrero slapped Ryan to a DQ. Afterwards, despite not doing anything wrong himself, GI JoMo (jeans, no shirt) came down and wouldn’t allow Ziggler to leave, throwing him to the Welsh Dragon for a further beating. So what does this mean for the US title picture? The obvious #1 contender is Zack Ryder, who has beaten Ziggler numerous times and has the most successful social media petition of all time on his side. A distant #2 is Mason Ryan, who’s beaten Ziggler once or twice. A miles away #3 is John Morrison, who has vaguely been around Ziggler recently. Yet, it’s JoMo who is reportedly getting the shot at Survivor Series? The only way this makes sense to me is if Morrison’s about to turn heel. The pressure has been on Johnny Ace to give Ryder his deserved title shot, yet the man who likes to pick his contenders based on corporate preference has hand-picked, seemingly, John Morrison for the shot. If Morrison doesn’t become an ass-kisser heel, then i’m not pleased that JoMo is getting his shot out of no-where (probably because he’s dumped Melina).

Mick Foley’s John Cena – This Is Your Life
This was a pretty cool reliving of the highest rated segment in WWE history. Foley is the only man alive who could come out refusing to take a side between Rock and Cena, and get cheered to hell. This is because Mick Foley is possibly the nicest man ever. I wont go in to too much detail about it because it was such a long segment. However, there is an important bit of analysis: when Rocky did it, the selling point of the segment was Rocky being kinda a prick to all these people from the past because they had either underestimated or were trying to hang on to his coat-tails; and so he put them down in brilliant fashion. This week, it was all about Cena being mortified about these situations, and this robbed some of the guests from being entertaining. Bull Buchanan was a nice surprise, and he was entertaining as ‘damaged goods’, but the star was John Cena Sr! I didn’t know he used to be a manager, but it makes sense now! It was so funny watching him lamely supporting his son against the ‘haterz’ he has to rise above. I genuinely think Cena Sr would be brilliantly utilised as a manager for a young heel against Cena; someone like Swagger using him to take down his son. Just when Foley teased bringing out the legendary Yurple, The Rock’s music hit, and I popped huge! I also loved the spot where Foley went for the hug, and Rock just Rock Bottomed him and left. It made him seem really cool and intense, while having him end a segment I suspect was supposed to be ‘so bad it’s good’ in comic fashion was also pretty great. Was it anywhere near as good as The Rock’s This is Your Life? Of course not, but it was good and memorable.

Sheamus def. Jack Swagger
This here was probably the best match of the night. Sheamus is on a big unstoppable Irish push, fella, and I kinda thought he’d beat Swagger, who’s getting slowly re-pushed with relative ease. But instead, we were given a pretty even match, with lots of strong, equal offense. Swagger repeating his Vader Bombs to the back of the Great White before locking in an Ankle Lock made him look really good. Turning it around, however, Sheamus managed to end the match with an Irish Curse backbreaker followed by a Brogue Kick. Not a particularly imaginative finish, but nice stuff nonetheless, and another bit of build for the Survivor Series match.

Kelly Kelly def. Natalya
Wut? I’m not going to say too much about this because I don’t have the energy. I love the idea of the Divas of Doom, but it is getting straight-up botched (and you know how rarely I would say something so concretely negative). Just have the DoD’s, for lack of a better phrase, fuck some shit up, dammit! This is in a quagmire at the minute, and it needs a way out – having them fuck some shit up and DOMINATE .

Mark Henry & Alberto Del Rio def. CM Punk & The Big Show
To start this match, moments after Del Rio had hinted that Punk might not make it to Survivor Series, as Punk was doing a normal storywalk to the ring, he was attacked from behind by Del Rio to injure his arm going in to the match. There was some nice psychology in the match, especially from ADR, who was manipulating even his partner to face Punk because he didn’t want to. This fitted Del Rio, but didn’t fit Henry, who again, showed too much fear (i.e. any) of Big Show, tagging out very briskly when confronted with Show. That aside, there was some nice action here, with Del Rio continuing to work on Punk’s arm (all the better for submitting you with), while Punk and Show stayed strong and fought off the heels for the most part (including the awesome roundhouse from Punk to Henry which knocked him down. The finish of the match was also very good, with Punk attempting a springboard elbow against Del Rio, which does make sense because it could work, before Henry pushing Del Rio out of the way to catch him, which makes sense too as the cross-body wouldn’t work against Henry because of his size. This transitioned in to a World’s Strongest Slam, destroying Punk. I have no problem with him going down to the WSS and Henry, especially given the power behind the spot. My only problem was that it took quite a while for Punk to actually get covered and pinned, and perhaps that made him seem a little weak, but perhaps not. I certainly don’t think Punk looked bad, while Henry was allowed to look great against a top top guy. Following the match, Del Rio continued the aggression to Punk’s arm with a sustained cross arm-breaker, really working his arm going in to their Survivor Series match. With this and the Anaconda Vice being highlighted, it seems their match will be heavily submission based, or perhaps even that they could have a future submission match. What I liked seeing was Punk not tapping to the arm-breaker though, which should have left any doubts from him loosing at the door.

Kevin Nash Beat Up On Santino Marella
Santino very much had the Sword of Damocles over him when he came out to talk about how he was going to make him self a champion again. When Kevin Nash came out, I expected him to simply brush Santino aside to talk about how HHH didn’t invite him to his birthday on facebook or something similar. Instead, he swerved, pretending to like Santino and even referencing his trombone celebration before Big Booting him away. It was just a nicer, less predictable, way to get Nash on TV, while showing Nash off as a bully who’ll beat up anyone weaker in his way – something that actually makes him more interesting. Ok, so he basically repeated his spiel about his friend betraying him by not embracing his return. While Nash developed, his relationship with HHH didn’t. A bit of treading water, but maybe necessary treading of water.

Randy Orton and Wade Barrett Wrestled to a No Contest
This was the final bit of traditional Survivor Series build on RAW, and as soon as all ten guys had made it to the ring, it was clear we would have the usual break down involving everyone, which is absolutely fine. As I always say, sometimes, predictable is good, as long as what is predicted is well anticipated, and this is certainly the case. I would have rather seen them have to be broken up by referees or maybe the lockerroom instead of the babyfaces clearing the ring, but in the grand scheme of things, that is a minor point. A quick not on the entrances. When the heels came out, it was fine, they all made their way to the ring in an orderly fashion, backing their leader, but there was something hilarious about the way Team Orton did it, perhaps because of his methodical music not fitting with the raw or flamboyant energy of the usual entrances of the other stars. To see Sheamus, Kingston, and especially Sin Cara walk slowly behind Orton, in formation, like they have voices in their head or something, was just a little comically jarring. It also made Orton look like he’d reformed the Nu Legacy and turned heel.

The Rock Rocks RAW, The ‘Awesome Truth’ Confronted The Rock, and John Cena Confronted Everybody
The Rock came out to present himself to the crowd, not via satellite. His promo was really good, and as many people have already said, when the Rock is on RAW, he overshadows most of the roster on the mic quite significantly. There’s an old saying in comedy about people being funny enough to read the phone book and be funny. In wrestling, there are certain similar people, people like The Rock or CM Punk, who can talk about anything and have the crowd hanging on their words. This doesn’t mean that they should talk about anything. Indeed, Rocky took to talking us through his day, which apparently starts at 3.15 am (whatever Dwayne) where he immediately starts lifting weights and kicking people’s bottoms. There was a point to this promo though; it was detailing Rock’s journey back to RAW and back to Survivor Series. The problem was that the Rock was seemingly obsessed with twitter, so much so that it was like he had some sort of comedy split personality that would insist on starting it’s sentences with the ‘hashtag’, and end them with ‘trending worldwide.‘ And what’s even more shocking is that, apparently, this was all the Rock and not some kind of Vince McMahon dogma. Ultimately, this wasn’t such a big deal, but it was noticeable. His determination to start kicking booty – the booty’s of Miz and R-Truth to be precise. Just them being on Rock’s radar, and him being angry at them is enough to undo a lot of the burial they’ve suffered recently, and this was made even better when they came out immediately to meet the Brahma Bull. Miz and Truth didn’t have too much alone time with Rocky, but they did a good job of not looking like comparative schmucks on the mic, and even intimidating Rocky (even though he didn’t do much more than look ‘ready’). They made the quite valid point that they wanted to make history at Survivor Series and so weren’t interested  in ruining it on Monday, but as they went to leave, Cena’s music hit because he had two cents to throw in. Instead of really addressing The Awesome Truth though, he addressed, pretty much exclusively, The Rock. I did really like the aesthetic of Rock and Cena taking their nominal roles of ‘partners’ by standing together, facing the heels, but actually taking verbal shots at each other without looking at each other. This was a really good way to get the tension between the two established going in to Sunday, even if most of the insults weren’t that cutting. It was right, however, that there wasn’t any physicality between the two. To start that now would almost certainly leave the prospect of their fighting a little flat by WrestleMania – that stuff, apart from the odd Rock Bottom or AA – should be left until post-Elimination Chamber. The only shame was that Miz and Truth kinda became spare parts at this point while the faces told each other why their insults or attacks on each other would trend worldwide. This was combatted a little by Miz’s timely interjection that he was sick of their really quite childish back and forth, and then made the … awesome point that the last time this happened, he took advantage and won the main event of WrestleMania – therefore spelling out exactly the threat posed by the predatory Miz and R-Truth. Unfortunately, as soon as this face-off got physical, they were again dominated, with R-Truth quickly dispatched with a Rock Bottom before Cena tried to match him with an AA, but only for Rock to steal Miz from Cena’s shoulders for a second Rock Bottom. Again, Miz and Truth became puppets, but I did like the admittedly rather subtle dig of Rock stealing Cena’s spotlight by stealing his AA before hitting a Rock Bottom, walking up the stage and informing Cena that it is Cena who can’t see him. A warning shot, if you will, to Cena, and a hint to the audience that come Survivor Series, Rock and Cena aren’t gonna be on the same page! – a call that would be great if JR were there (but as Cole will say it, it’ll probably turn in to some argument with King about what a page is that will last longer than the match …). Nothing spectauclar here, but good action here to build tension and set the stories for the match at for Survivor Series (remember, it’s not like they need much – the friggin’ ROCK is gonna WRESTLE again).