The RAW View (27/02/2012): Punk & Jericho, Cena & Rock Talk Us In to WrestleMania 28

Chris Jericho and CM Punk Confronted Each Other
Despite the fact that these two are my personal favourite wrestlers, my anticipation of this show was dominated by Rock-Cena because that’s what you get when Rocky hardly ever shows up. So I was pleasantly surprised when a Champion vs Champion rematch showed up on a graphic at the start of the show; but I was even more excited when Jericho’s music hit instead of Daniel Bryan’s. Looking back, I think this was crafted perfectly, on the seat of two veteran’s pants, build both guys, but especially Punk, build for their epic clash at WrestleMania, and build for WrestleMania itself. Jericho came out, and the fact that he wasn’t Bryan was surprisingly powerful. He then launched in to a typical Jericho tyrade, one that didn’t say anything we didn’t know about his character, but that had a real purpose to it. He went as far as to show respect for Punk before trying to set himself apart by describing himself as part of a dying breed of journeymen veterans and a most powerfully, a man who never called himself the best in the world, and who never needed a T Shirt to say it, but a man who was simply recognised by fans and his peers as the best. Even better, the more Jericho talked, the more he could have been describing Punk himself – a feeling that helped characterise their clash at WrestleMania even more as as a pure battle between the two best, most respected wrestlers in the business. Punk’s response was just as great. Again, he showed respect for Jericho is and represents but took exception to the idea that he was ripping anybody else, using Bret Hart as a close-to-home example of how Jericho’s wannabe claims are unfounded and ridiculous, pointing out that, obviously, Jericho wasn’t the first to call himself of the best, unless he’s claiming Bret ripped that off from him. It was funny and telling. At this point though, Jericho started to solely help Punk by stepping back from charismatic dialogue and becoming an irritating heel, trolling us like he previously did, but by finding more and more ways to repeat ‘I am the best and you are a wannabe’. Meanwhile, Punk only grew, adding another interesting thread to the story; that Jericho isn’t constantly saying he’s the best because he thinks it’s the best, he’s repeating it because he’s trying to convince himself of the fact. Punk astutely noted that although Jericho was the first undisputed WWE Champion, that was ten years ago, and he was never “the man” like Punk is “the man” (or at least one of them!), and that Jericho is jealous of what Punk has achieved of late at the top of the business. Even more, Punk argued that “when” he wins at WrestleMania, “it won’t be the end of the world, it’ll be the end of your [Jericho’s] world,” the implication being that for all his bravado, Jericho needs to beat Punk to be content. It’s an interesting addiction, and one I like. This all helped an already mouth-watering match become an even more mouth-watering feud; a clash not only to see who is the best pure wrestler in the world, but to see if Jericho, in his advancing years, can still have a career that he values at the top of the business.

CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan Ended in a No Contest
Apart from the fact that the action was, again, great, I don’t have too much to say about the match here because of the booking. A ‘No Contest’ was probably the right booking, simply because a clean result to Punk-Bryan probably shouldn’t be given away on free TV. I also like how John Laurinaitis and Teddy Long have been interacting of late, and I like the sheer symmetry between the two parties, right down to their assistants, standing either side of the announce table. In my head, I want to see a 10-man match between Team Laurinaitis and Team Long, but in my heart, i’d love to see Teddy and Santino against ‘Big Johnny’ and David Otunga in a consciously nonsensical match. Of course, Teddy would have to book the tag team match, playa, and then Ace would hit an Ace Crusher on Santino while landing on the Cobra, before Long rolls up Otunga and uses his former-referee prowess to count three. That probably wont happen. The biggest talking point from this match was, again, in regards to Punk and Jericho. With Punk having given up on the nonsense in the ring, he started some ‘Best in the World’ gesticulating on the stage, only for Jericho to attack him from behind, slam him on the steel and trap him in his exponentially better older version of the Walls of Jericho/Liontamer, and holding the title aloft. This was not only more powerful aesthetics between them, but a way to turn the screws of tension between them. It was the last we’d see of the two that night, but they left quite the impression – staying memorable despite Cena and Rock being given better billing.

John Cena def. The Miz
This was no great match, but it did exactly the job that was needed. Miz, who up until a couple of weeks ago, had been incredibly stale, has really picked up as of late, and tonight, that trend continued. He didn’t say anything new or particularly profound, just stating again that he had been helping to carry the company and that it was a ‘crime’ that he isn’t booked for WrestleMania, but he said it with more purpose than he has been over the last few months. This continued in to the match, as he got in some decent offense against Cena, despite the fact that the majority went to Cena in a 4/5 minute match before Cena eventually SuperCena’s Miz with an AA and an STF for the win. Months ago, that sort of booking would have made me furious, but last night, it was proper. The reason is that, with Rock in the building, and Cena being the one having to gain credibility against The Rock, it was especially important that he look strong and set the tone for their later confrontation.

Primo & Epico def. Kofi Kingston & R-Truth, and Dolph Zigger & Jack Swagger in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
I really enjoyed this match – it was a fresh premise in which more than two teams were involved but didn’t have to tag each other in. The action was quick and exciting between these (mostly) young upstarts, and for Ziggler specifically, he looked like a big fish in a smaller pond. That aside, everyone involved looked great, and most importantly, so did the tag champions, who won in a fashion which is becoming characteristic for them; simply overcoming the other teams through chemistry and opportunism, taking advantage of the match’s breakdown to get the win. Great for Primo and Epico, and great for the tag team division generally. Their celebrations were short-lived though, as to everyone’s surprise I think, Kane’s music hit and he cleared house on all involved. I guess WWE hadn’t banked on what to do with Kane once he’d given up trying to force-feed hate to Cena, and they must have just figured he should clear some house. I wonder whether, going forward, Kane will continue to target these guys, or whether he’ll just hate on everyone on the roster. It’s hard to imagine what they’ll do with him in the immediate future and for WrestleMania.

Sheamus & Big Show def. Mark Henry & Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes got some nice heat from his berating of Big Show and his embarrassing WrestleMania record. Apart from that, I want to talk about this for the wrong reasons, as this was the only part of the show that I actively dislkied. I like Sheamus, and realise how he has to be positioned, but the ease with which he beat Mark Henry was perverse. Remember when you couldn’t even really hurt Mark Henry? Everyone preferred that. I realise Henry is hurt, and that it was probably wise to have him drop the title, but if he’s going to wrestle, at least let him squash rather than be squashed, and if he has to be on the losing side, at least let him not be the one on the losing side! That is all.

The Rock and John Cena Confronted Each Other
And now for the most anticipated part of the evening, and deservedly so. After the previous week’s stinging promo from Cena, and given that we’re now, irrevocably, on the Road to WrestleMania, these two were finally set for a no-holds-barred collision; and that’s what we got, at least when Rock and Cena were face-to-face. Before that, Rock talked for about 20 minutes, essentially about twitter and genitals, saying really quite empty things about Cena and himself, including, most tellingly, “trust me, we’re gonna get to some chants.” That kinda sums up what Rocky is at the moment, a nostalgia act, going through the Attitude Era motions, admittedly with some new catchphrases and a tinge of twitter. What really got me is Rock’s claims that by getting things to trend on twitter and getting people to chant stuff; it’s just as ridiclous as some of Jericho’s earlier claims. It wasn’t all bad from Rock. His tone was that of a People’s Champ, and he did make one or two good points amongst the nonsense; about how Cena said he was fighting for ‘the boys’ and not the fans, before proclaiming that he was fighting for the people. He also made the age-old point about SuperCena being shoved down the fans throats – I suppose sealing him in the position of fighting for the people. After leading more chanting, Cena had heard enough, and came out to confront Rocky. Rock took 20 minutes to say what he could in a couple, but Cena was efficient. He stood right up to The Rock, mocked his talk of genitals, and in so doing, made Rock look like the childish one. He also said he was see-through, egotistical, and wouldn’t care if WWE closed down. The real knock-out blow though, came when Cena said he didn’t need prompts on his wrist like Rock noticeably had for his promo. He followed this up by saying he knows The Rock, and he knows Dwayne Johnson, that he doesn’t like Dwayne Johnson, and that he’s going to beat the hell out of him at WrestleMania. His final blow was another too close-to-home comment, walking away saying “continue trending”. This was so much better than the normal stare-down ending as it left Rock left alone in the ring, looking kinda stupid. He didn’t look shell-shocked, but he certainly looked moved by the verbal blows from Cena, flubbing lines and trying to ignore it. The segment achieved what it was supposed to – it made Cena look on Rock’s level in every way. I recently posted this article about how Rock may have been made to look bad to help Cena look good: https://rtvwrestling.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/picking-wrestlemania-sides-what-does-it-mean-to-follow-team-bring-it-or-the-cenation/, and this week’s RAW made me think even more that this may be the case. I mean, has Rock used prompts before? Was it a plant? Whatever happened, it went further to leveling the playing field between the two in terms of respect and acclaim, and that makes it the best promo segment between the two to date.

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Picking WrestleMania Sides: What Does It Mean To Follow Team Bring It or the Cenation?

The poster for the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII featuring the two forces

Whether they support the change or not, every fan of the WWE, and of wrestling even, is fascinated by the prospect of John Cena turning heel. Around a year ago, Cena was arguably at the height of his powers; though he had been away from the WWE Championship scene, he had been otherwise engaged defeating the most powerful and attention-grabbing factions of recent times – Wade Barrett’s ‘Nexus’. The angle teased us with ‘the winds of change’, but in retrospect, the storyline – which included the farcical ‘firing’ of John Cena during which he missed absolutely no TV time – was never going to offer anything more than empty (though fascinating) speculation.  CM Punk took Cena to task regarding his status quo and his over-the-top violent self-righteousness, but this was before he had coined the wrestling ‘pipebomb’ and, apart from some interesting back-and-forth, it came to nought. There was seemingly only one man who could challenge his cultural dominance, the man who had been quietlt feuding with him off air for years, the People’s Champion, The Rock.

At this point, for a large portion of the audience, the roles were set: Cena, the complacent PG face of the company, challenged seriously for the first time by the returning, edgier, People’s Champion, The Rock – and these roles were made concrete when, a year in advance, the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII, in The Rock’s home town of Miami, was set; the battle of generations and of attitudes to end them all: Rock vs Cena. Like at Money in the Bank, Cena will enter the ring to boos, despite being – officially – the babyface face of the company.

Maybe it was the WWE that was complacent, expecting that Cena’s fan-base would support him at least equally to The Rock, but instead, the formerly split and probably mostly pro-Cena crowds flipped to being split at best, and more often than not, anti-Cena. In the first half of the wrestling year from WrestleMania 27 to WrestleMania 28, Rock appeared more on WWETV, be it in person or ‘via Satellite’, and The Rock’s more regular (if not consistent) appearances guaranteed Cena couldn’t rise above the boos. Cena’s role as fading, out-dated hero reached a high watermark when CM Punk shot on him and the WWE in the run up to Money in the Bank, and positioned himself as fresh hero, a ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ who could challenge the stale status-quo of Cena weekly. Cena didn’t change the way he acted, but again, he was on the brink of heeldom, despite being booked as a powerful face.

While this was happening, WWE reportedly planned to build for the WrestleMania 28 main event by splitting the fanbase in a way that aped the marketing for the Twilight franchise: The Cenation vs Team Bring It instead of ‘Team Edward’ and ‘Team Jacob’. The problem was though that that kind of rivalry requires parity of force (which they arguably have) and near-parity of popularity (which they obviously didn’t have). At this point, ‘Team Bring It’ was characterised by a louder, classic wrestling audience of males over the age of 18, while the ‘Cenation’ were characterised stereotypically by screechier (and less informed) women and children. Wrestling has a regrettable legacy of paying lip-service to women and children whilst simultaneously burying them and their opinions on TV, and this was played up to by The Rock with the admittedly funny bullet-points of Frooty Pebbles and ‘Cena’s Lady Parts’ being central to his position. This seemed to be corroborated, again, in the early part of the year when Cena was at his corporate  SuperCena optimum.

If WWE wanted WrestleMania to be a real match of forces, something had to be done to raise Cena’s credibility in the eyes of all the fans, including those from The Rock’s demographic. They were helped, whether it was planned or not, by Rocky simply not being there. Even before Rock returned, Cena’s gripe was what it remains: that The Rock left the business and the WWE for Hollywood, and in so doing, didn’t demonstrate the proper respect and recognition for what wrestling did for him – especially when Rocky started distancing himself from the business. Then he came back, said he’d never leave, and then left. It was in highlighting this more forcefully, whilst starting to show genuine passion in edgier promos against The Rock, that Cena started to turn the tide a little in terms of respect and passion from the fans.

This was helped by a recent series of vignettes intended to hype up WrestleMania – a series of vignettes which were the ultimate catalysts for this article; in one, John Cena is shown as a man with a remarkable, powerful, and emotional connection with the fans, and above all, a man of unending sincerity, and that despite this, he struggles to maintain that reciprocated love from an audience who take him for granted. His booking aside, all that is indeed true, and was a powerful reality check for all of us watching, including me.

Compare this to Rock’s promo, and he appears to be exactly what Cena says he is. It’s hardly even about wrestling or WrestleMania; it’s about his Hollywood career and ‘pec pops’ as silly as Frooty Pebbles.

The Rock is so eminently dis-likable in comparison to Cena in these pair of promos that I started to believe that his promo was designed to not be as emotional or impressive as Cena’s, and help even more Cena get on Rock’s level in terms of fan appreciation. While The Rock is schmoozing with movie stars, John Cena is connecting with fans doing the job he loves, the job that matters to us.

This is just part of a dedicated effort to make Cena an equal Sports Entertainment Superpower to The Rock. Rocky mentioned his lurid shirts that were part of his kiddy-pandering stereotype, and so Cena’s new shirt is black. He seemed a tired status quo against CM Punk, so he was paired against a character essentially a decade old in masked Kane; an old-fashioned heel, not ‘cool’ in any way, and someone whose vile acts would only make Cena look exciting and respectable in comparison. Finally, Rock has put WWE on the back-burner, apart from helping to ‘electrify’ Survivor Series, for one night only, while Cena has continued doing what he does best, busting his ass nightly. Even better, Rocky, with his new social media obsession will occasionally tweet something about how Cena is like a girl, which makes him look childish, out-dated, and almost pathetic, while Cena comes out and is increasingly passionate and charismatic in his questioning of Rock’s sincerity towards the fans.

With these changes in motion, Cena succeeded in gaining some sense of parity with The Rock going in to WrestleMania. Not only that, but while Rock’s Team Bring It has stayed the same in character, something about the Cenation has shifted. The Cenation is not just about squeaky clean family entertainment; it is about passion for wrestling, it is about sincerity, and it about always being there for the fans. Cena is now in control of his characterisation, not The Rock, and suddenly, Cena is starting to seem like the fiery, relevant,  likeable one out of the two. I, for one, am backing Cena and his nation going in to WrestleMania, at least in his current guise.

Even better, now that The Rock is returning to RAW, and will be there more often in the weeks running up to WrestleMania, there verbal interactions promise to be only more iconic and memorable. Finally, with Rocky fully invested in the match, this battle of icons can live up to its Main Event billing.

Elimination Chamber Review, 2012: Cena Rises Above the Chamber

Time to review one of the stranger PPV’s i’ve seen in a while! I should note, for all you/us nerds that I actually beat my own prediction success record by getting all five correct (I called the Swagger match as soon as it was advertised), so I guess my opinion should be valued, right? Unfortunately, i’ll have to keep this more short and sweet (whenever I say this I go longer than ever!) because I’ve been busy and tired, and still have to tweet about RAW and live-tweet tonight’s LIVESUPERSMACKDOWN … So let’s get into it!

Match 1) CM Punk def. The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, and Chris Jericho in the Elimination Chamber to Retain the WWE Championship
A quick note: I know starting a show is now seen as more of a boon than an insult these days, but this match going on first was ridiculous to me. Cena-Rock will be dominating the WrestleMania card, so it seems only right and fair that they give the WWE Championship (aka, most important thing in wrestling) the prestige of going on last this time to make up for it. This is all the more righteous given the fact that the RAW Chamber was the best match of the night (and certainly better than the Ambulance match). To the match itself! To me, this was all about the important quest of continuing to make Punk look like an amazing champion, and so having him start out the match, and last the whole 30+ minutes, IN THIS DEMONIC STRUCTURE. I enjoyed Punk code-of-honoring Kofi by having him in the initial one-on-one contest which involved some nice progressions and some pretty sweet moments, including Kofi avoiding Punk’s attacks by leaping over the top rope. Kofi is showing himself as a guy who can really make an impact on the show by creating memorable ‘moments’ and is starting to back it up in the rest of his ring work and mic skills. Ziggler was instantly great when he came in third, using a fireman’s carry in the only context where it actually looks damaging, in the Elimination Chamber before doing pull ups on the chamber chains and using the resultant momentum to hit a leg drop on Punk. That is the epitome of showing off and using it in a wrestling context. It’s unique, and the best kind of ‘showing off’. Ziggler’s intervention in the match made some cool work some great work. There were so many great moments in a short period of time that it was almost hard to keep up with, including an awesome spot where both simultaneously Punk and Kingston attempted a springboard attack on Ziggler, only for Ziggler to dive out of the way so Kingston and Punk would clash mid-air in a fantastic, unique spot. Truth wasn’t in for that long, but also put his body on the line to make this match great, including his hip toss to Ziggler to the Chamber floor before diving over the top rope to dive on the Show Off. Bumping wise, unsurprisingly, Ziggler was the stand out, taking a lot of tough spills in the chamber, and really, again, showing why he is a huge future star, in terms of work-rate and sacrifice. Ziggler at least got to return the favour once though, as after a characteristicly acrobatic ‘Spiderman’ leap from Kingston to the chained walls of the Chamber, he was slammed to the floor in a very painful looking spot. What’s more, when Miz got in the match, he took another hard bump when Miz simply showed him from the turnbuckle to the Chamber floor. I noticed here that Miz was wrestling with a lot more aggressiveness and purpose than i’ve seen from him in a long while, and his work with Punk was pretty good in this period. Then, finally, Jericho was released. Cue Punk dropping Miz and a staredown with Jericho that was a nice little moment to show the tension between these two. They had a few moves thrown that were a pretty cool taster for their future battles, before Ziggler tried to intervene and ate a Codebreaker and pinfall for his troubles. Back to Punk and Jericho and they had a cool brawl which led inside Jericho’s Chamber where Punk caught him, only to take a seriously tough beating at the hands of Jericho and the Chamber door; ramming his shoulder in to the door repeatedly, and slamming the door shut on his head in a move which looked sickening. I liked how Booker T kept criticising the more showy aspects of his move-set because they had no reverence in THIS HELLACIOUS STRUCTURE because it really sold THIS DEMONIC STRUCTURE for what it was, and soon after, Kofi succumbed to the Walls of Jericho/Liontamer, and by this time, Jericho was looking dominant. His arrogance would be his failing grace though as he wouldn’t break the hold on Kingston, and insisted on throwing him out of the Chamber personally. A cool-looking spot, but one that Punk punished with a roundhouse to Jericho’s head, sending him out after Kingston with a nasty looking spill with hopefully kayfabe!) knocked Jericho out (it looked real to me, dammit!). Jericho was deemed unfit to continue and so was eliminated from the contest – the only booking that made sense given that he had to legitimise a title shot at Punk for WrestleMania, though if Jericho was originally slated to win the Royal Rumble but plans were changed, it wouldn’t have been necessary. They were certainly booked in to a corner. Finally, we were left with Punk and Miz, and there wasn’t really much doubt about who would win that. Apart from, that is, Miz’s awesome reversal of a springboard clothesline from Punk into a Skull-Crushing Finalé for a near fall a lot of people (and me, to a certain extent, bit on). Finally, Miz fell to a GTS to give Punk an impressive defence in the Chamber, in what I believe will be my first 2012 Match of the Year candidate.

Match 2) Beth Phoenix def. Tamina Snuka to Retain the Divas Championship
Most of the time when divas have matches at PPV, they come close to fulfilling their potential, and this was one of those situations. As I said in the preview for this event, Tamina is no doubt a stop-gap for Beth, but she was certainly built well in this match. Tamina is certainly a match in the power game, sometimes getting the best of Beth, but never being able to to the point where it really looked like she could win. That is, apart from when she finally got to hit the Superfly Splash (Beth had been constantly  interrupting her attempts throughout the match) and it did cross my mind that perhaps WWE were going to swerve us, but instead, Beth managed to show her strength yet more by kicking out of a move no-one’s kicked out of in some time. There were other moments of impressive power: tough bumps, strong style, and a superplex to name a few, but eventually Beth managed the Glam Slam for the win. For the time given it was a good match, but the end was a little sudden. Perhaps unintentionally though, that had the air of Beth simply being sick of messing around and wanting the win. While she was celebrating, I expected to hear Kharma’s music, but alas it wasn’t forthcoming … yet.

Match 3) Daniel Bryan def. Santino Marella, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, The Big Show, and the Great Khali in the Elimination Chamber to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This was a strange match in many ways. For the first, quite large, portion, I wasn’t particularly enjoying it. The action was pretty slow, given that the starting participants were the slower, bigger talents. It improved a little as Cody Rhodes and Santino entered respectively, but the match only really took off when Khali entered the match … and left the match. Another flash-point came shortly after when Big Show broke in to the cell of Daniel Bryan after AmDrag taunted him. This was a really effective spot as Show broke in the top rather than through the glass and so had the chance to absolutely decimate Bryan in the pod. However, I must say I don’t think Big Show made the best of the opportunity physically or aesthetically. It was cool that Bryan’s pod opened when Show was inside, allowing Bryan and Show to spill out. After brutally smashing Bryan back through his pod. Unfortunately for Show, he then left Bryan, and was taken on by the increasingly familiar partnership of Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes. Barrett chopped Show to his knees and to his back, this was followed by a Rhodes’ Disaster Kick off the ropes, and then another off the Chamber walls, and then a DDT. Barrett followed up with a diving elbow before Rhodes pinned Show for the rub. This made the two heels look great, but it was then followed by the eliminations of both Rhodes and Barrett, in relatively quick succession, by Santino Marella. A great result for Santino, if not so great for the higher profile heels. They really needed that Big Show elimination! At the time, I was furious because I thought Santino had no place eliminating guys like Rhodes and Barrett. I still do, really, but i’ll say this, it helped make this match very good. The crowd, which had been hot all night, were really behind Santino, cheering his name like he was John Cena or CM Punk, and it was down to just Santino and Daniel Bryan. Bryan had a complacent smile on his face, and with the heat from the crowd, I did start to worry that something silly could happen. My fears grew yet more when Santino hit the dreaded Cobra on Bryan, but like Beth against Tamina, this was the point where Bryan had enough. He recovered and managed finally to get the LaBelle Lock on Santino. While Santino struggled valiantly, he couldn’t escape the hold and had to tap. The crowd was red hot here, and the ultimate achievement was to bag even more heat for Bryan who got to look good retaining his belt, even if it was in a kinda simple way (he only eliminated Santino). Given the response of the fans, there is no way this match can be criticised, even if Santino’s contribution was a bit of a joke. Santino is great, and is really running with the ball he’s been given. In his current guise, he can never be World Champion, but i’m now of the opinion he can return to the secondary belt scene, and that means a possible match with Cody Rhodes. I really think Santino’s OTT comic style could gel really memorably with Rhodes’ theatrical heelishness. A great match, and basically, helped a lot of people and didn’t really hurt anyone. Then of course, Sheamus appeared as Bryan participated in his usual OTT celebrations and attacked him to seemingly chose him as his WrestleMania opponent. How novel. Thank God they didn’t decide to swerve that one.

Match 4) Jack Swagger def. Justin Gabriel to Retain the United States Championship
My initial reaction to this was that Jack Swagger against Justin Gabriel had to be the worst impromptu match booked of all time. Part of the problem with it was that Jack Swagger barely appears on TV, so why throw him in to a PPV, against someone he’s had no interaction with like Justin Gabriel. Luckily, the saving grace of this was that his opponent was Justin Gabriel – in that Gabriel was about the right guy to provide him with a decent opponent to essentially squash. Gabriel gave Swagger a bit of competition, but really, Swagger controlled the match, and finished it well after catching a Gabriel kick, throwing it in to the ring post, and following up with an Ankle Lock for the impressive win. This is the sort of match that makes Swagger and the US Championship look good; it’s just a shame that it happened once in a blue moon.

Match 5) John Cena def. Kane in an Ambulance Match
I disliked that this match was the main event, for reasons i’ve already explained when talking about the RAW Chamber match. It was of course late, but it wasn’t long before I was getting drowsy. Of course Cena and Kane are good at brawling in an entertaining way, but at the same time, there’s only so entertaining that can be when a whole match centres around it. It was decent, but not up to the standards of the other Chamber matches at least. Brawling was interspersed with the occasional attempt at an comically over-the-top SuperCena spot, like when he attempted to lift Kane, on his shoulders, up the ring steps with the intention of AAing him through the announce table. Making their way to the ambulance following a glove-handing from Kane, the match continued, and it was here I realised I don’t really like ambulance matches as the near-falls look kinda ridiculous, with people kicking their way out of ambulance as Cena did. This continued for a while before Cena recovered and mounted the ambulance. Chased by Kane, who attempted to Chokeslam him off the ambulance, was reversed by Cena in to an AA off the ambulance, which incapacitated Kane enough to shove him in an ambulance. This was the kind of ridiculous Cena stunt, similar to when he AA’d Batista off a car, is what that makes him tiresome at his worst. It was at least a way for him to get a clean break and move on to Kane.

That should have been all it was though. The match was average, and ultimately shouldn’t have been the main event as the consequences weren’t all that important. Positioning is crucial to a good show, and this positioning really gave the show a bitter taste. To my mind, the card was upside down. Make the Cena match a heart-warming opener, and have it all build to the RAW Chamber match and the Punk celebration. I think that would have made it all a bit less strange and improved it an awful lot. The matches were mostly good to very good, but positioning made a crucial PPV only really ok.

Elimination Chamber Preview & Predictions, 2012

Elimination Chamber, 19/02/2012, from the Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

Apologies for the lack of activity on here of late. Even if I’d have wanted to write about RAW, I wouldn’t have had time. On the plus side, for both me and you guys, I have been working on a wrestling-related project in Glasgow, and you will all see the footage soon. Promises. As usual, for updates make sure to subscribe to this blog, and follow me for extras, info, and live-tweeting on twitter @RTVWOW.

Now, as for this event, it’s kinda creeped up on me … I’ve been watching RAW and Smackdown as usual but because i’ve been so busy with lots of big projects, the excitement about it all has crept up on me too. This is where everything comes clear, where the card for WrestleMania is crystalised; and not only that, but it all happens in (arguably) the most brutal match WWE has to offer. It is six men offering up their body for a shot at the Main Event at WrestleMania. It’s rather beautiful when you think about it … Only four matches on the card though. I imagine the two World title matches and Cena vs Kane in their race to hospital will go quite long (I certainly hope so in the case of the chamber matches), but it doesn’t rule out extra, unannounced matches. Most likely would be an impromptu tag title match, though after beating the Usos on Smackdown, I don’t know who could challenge Primo & Epico. A US Title match is possible, getting Swagger on TV for the first time since winning the belt, throwing him against Alex Riley or someone … ok, let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Hunico-DiBiase is also on the cards potentially, but the build has been so lazy and ineffective, it would be meaningless filler. Finally, its kind of a surprise that Royal Rumble winner Shaemus doesn’t have a place on the card. It’d be good to see him come out and squash someone (around Jinder Mahal calibre) before cutting a promo about how he has a close eye on the Chamber matches because his eventual WrestleMania opponent will come out from them, and they’d best be up for a fight, fella.

… PREDICTION TIME!

Match 1) Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Wade Barrett vs Cody Rhodes vs The Big Show vs The Great Khali vs Santino Marella
Before this week, a lot of people were predicting (or worrying, depending on who you are) that Orton would just take the World title from Bryan because Orton = WrestleMania more than Bryan = WrestleMania. I was in the worried camp. I wasn’t initially happy when Bryan turned heel, thinking that he needed to be given a chance as plucky face champion. However, as a heel, Bryan has become one of the top stars in the company, a man who is taking the ball and making gold with a genuinely intriguing character. A Vegan champion who enjoys nature walks and being a role model is infinitely better than most things in life. The point of all this? I think Daniel Bryan wont get screwed out of his WrestleMania match. Yes, I think when he became champion, WWE foresaw a coffee-cup reign, but he’s working so well, and is being given more limelight from management. They have nothing to lose from Bryan in a title match; WrestleMania sold itself a year ago – let us see Bryan-Sheamus. After the way Bryan coerced Sheamus into DQing himself on Smackdown, there is definitely some beef there too – I think they were laying groundwork. As for the match itself, Khali needs to not be in there very long. Just him moving can spoil this match as far as i’m concerned. Big Show will be a monster and eliminate someone early, but will do something heelish and get eliminated. Its a shame Rhodes and Barrett have been kinda afterthoughts in all this, because they are two of the best. I expect them not to deliver some great moments, and perhaps survive to the end, but there’s no danger of either winning I think. A lot of people seem to be favouring Barrett, I guess because he vs Sheamus could be a great story for lots of different reasons but I just don’t see it – for one thing, Bryan is an awkward element here because surely he’d cash in his rematch at WrestleMania, which would shift all the stories between them anyway. Finally, I want to mention Santino. No, it’s not an outrage he’s in the match – because he’s going to only be a prop. There are two ways he could be used: 1) Fodder for Daniel Bryan to make him look good. Santino and Bryan in early, and Bryan makes him tap in two seconds for sweet heat after spoiling one of the most popular stars’ dreams with ease and celebrating in typical fashion. The second option is that Santino doesn’t even make it to the Chamber. Someone – Drew McIntyre, who is just waiting to take off again – assaults him on the way to the chamber, gets the heat, forces his way in to Santino’s pod, and then does well in the match. A lot of ‘x-factors’ then, as WWE will insist in calling them, in this match then, and eventhough the line-up is somewhat weaker than RAW’s offering, Bryan, Barrett and Rhodes, in an Elimination Chamber spells potential greatness.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

Match 2) Divas Championship Match: Beth Phoenix (c) vs Tamina Snuka
Still not sure if I approve of how WWE are ram-rodding the fact that Tamina is Jimmy Snuka’s daughter. Its not the reference that bothers me, its just the extent to which they’re hammering us in the head with it. Pretty sure they dedicated about 30 minutes from Smackdown to show images of her imitating her dad, morphing in to her dad. Saying all that, she’s been built well as a powerful, viable threat to Beth, for now at least. It seems pretty clear, however, that Beth will have a dream match with Kharma at WrestleMania, and this is another step in the already successful process of making Phoenix look unbeatable going in to that. I don’t think it’ll be quite ‘Ding. GlamSlam. Ding’, but I think she’ll go over pretty easily.

Winner: Beth Phoenix

Match 3) Ambulance Match: John Cena vs Kane
Cene-Kane has been one of the weirdest feuds I can remember. I love Kane, theoretically. His glove-handling, fire-throwing monstrousness is always shocking and always has the potential for some pretty awesome spots, but in matches, especially with Cena, have been incredibly forgettable brawls, usually punctuated with throwing Zack Ryder off something.  With this the last stop before WrestleMania though, and Cena having to turn his attentions to The Rock, this will have to be the blow-off match, and so I expect something a little more memorable from the pair. An AA off the top of the ambulance? Something ridiculous but kinda cool like that i’m sure. If the match centres around the ambulance and not the ring, it could be really good; if its just another brawl, then perhaps not. There is no doubt that Cena goes over here – he’s going to have to look as strong as possible going in to his match with The Rock.

Winner: John Cena

Match 4) Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz vs R-Truth vs Kofi Kingston
This match is the one i’m most looking forward to – I mean, it has my two favourite wrestlers in it, and they’re the two only real prospects to win the match! Indeed, with the WrestleMania 28 main title match being all but announced as Punk vs Jericho, only one of those two can win. But hey, lets talk about the contributions from the other participants. The Miz has been miz-firing (clever) of late, and while Truth is hilarious on the mic, in the ring, he is a step below the rest. Kingston seems to me to be on the receiving end of a modest push, and there is no doubt why he’s there: to do some sweet flips inside the chamber and get pinned. That may seem derogatory, but he was in the Rumble to do a spot, and it made him ten times more popular than before the match, and helped make the match great! Ziggler too is fantastic (it feels kinda pithy to feel I have to repeat that every time I write about him). I expect he’ll be in the final three with Punk and Jericho (unless they do a major swerve and have one of those two out in minutes) as he’s clearly on his way to the top. What more to say than he’s being given a new platform here, and will surely shine. Then down to Punk and Jericho. In some ways i’d be surprised to see it come down to these two. After all, it might affect the mystique of the WrestleMania match. Perhaps i’m being short-sighted and not seeing the potential for an amazing mini-match in the Cell … we’ll see. Logic seems to point to a Jericho win because if he doesn’t win here, how does he earn himself a title shot at WrestleMania after losing? It makes sense, but at the same time, it’s true of everyone else in the chamber, and when those five are taken out of the picture, who could challenge Punk? Del Rio again? Kane? No, for a good Mania match, it basically has to be Jericho whatever happens. With the main event already decided, I would like to see Punk go over, and I think it makes more sense; it gives Punk a longer reign and a strong defence to help build his strength as a star and as a champion with a longer reign. I also believe Punk has to go over at WrestleMania, for his Mania Crowning moment ala Cena, Batista, Rey Myseterio, and a Jericho win would hand him a cup of coffee reign. What about Jericho then? I think Kingston eliminates him for the rub, after Jericho’s taken multiple finishers. This allows Jericho to leave the chamber with the possibility that he could still beat Punk one-on-one, and still allows him to somehow earn his match with Punk somehow going forward. Its a bit messy, but they’ve booked themselves in to a bit of a corner. That awkwardness aside, the talent in that chamber is pretty formidable, and it’ll be interesting how the Punk-Jericho story continues. I just hope it is the main event, and not Cena-Kane!

Winner: CM Punk

RTV Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame, Class of 2012 – Entrant #3: Mick Foley

Mick Foley is one of the people i’m a bit guilty I didn’t put in to the ‘Core 50’ of the Hall of Fame. Ordinarily, he would one of the first people I would think about as a Hall-of-Famer. The difference was that in TNA, he was still wrestling, and it’s only now he’s returned to WWE that it seems legitimate to refer to him as pretty much retired. He did, of course, enter the Royal Rumble, and has been involved in some physicality, but that is the want of retired legends from time to time. I’m also feel kinda guilty that he’s not a #1 entrant, again because of his profile and legacy is so great that he has earned such a spot; but in a year when Edge retired, he is the most emotional and topical retiree. A final note: I chose a picture of his Cactus Jack persona, not because that’s necessarily his greatest one, but because it’s one that transcends the WWE.

To my mind, there is no more dedicated, unique, and beloved figure in the history of wrestling. Foley has found and filled a lot of niches in the world of wrestling. After wrestling for a while under a more basic character in promotions like World Class Championship Wrestling and other smaller territories. It was only in Tri-State Wrestling, a fore-runner of ECW in terms of it’s high impact, high violent style, that he found the style that would define at least part of his career, including wrestling a Falls Count Anywhere match, a Stretcher match, and a Steel Cage match in the same night; a performance which gained the attention of WCW and kick-started his successful and legendary career. Though WCW, for the most part, allowed Foley to wrestle this hardcore style, including his infamous match in Munich with Vader in which he lost half of his ear, he is one of the best examples of the inate problems with WCW in that they refused to sell his brutalist angles as serious, opting either to ignore it, or to treat it comically. This pushed Foley away from WCW forever, but in to the arms of ECW, where Cactus Jack became the “Hardcore Legend”, a monicker that still applies to this day, putting his body on the line on a nightly basis, sacrificing himself to kendo sticks as well as wrestling great matches, between wrestling even more brutal matches in Japan including nail-boards, barbed wire, and even C4. Foley offered so much more than just that sacrifice though, and in a feud with Tommy Dreamer, Foley cut some of the greatest promos of all time, begging Dreamer not to sacrifice his body to the rabid ECW fans, and becoming seriously, and even frighteningly hated. When he left ECW, however, he regained his spot as Hardcore Legend, with the passionate fans chanting “Please don’t go!” He was going to the WWF. Repackaged as Mankind, Foley immediately entered in to a high profile feud with the Undertaker, including the eponymous Boiler Room Brawl. His style was tweaked from Hardcore to brutal brawling, but this didn’t make him any less of a sacrificial figure, most notably in arguably the most infamous match of all time: Hell in a Cell – “Good God almighty, they killed him … as God is my witness he is broken in half!” Having gotten up from that planned insane bump, Foley took another, unplanned one which saw him crash through the cell to the floor. Even then he continued the match, and even then he completed a later run in. Add this to the memory of matches like his ‘I Quit’ match with The Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble, or his Street Fight with HHH at the 2000 event, and there is a legacy of great, emotional matches, which is part of the reason for the emotional connection he now has with the fans. Slowing down, he remained a colourful and at times comic figure in the business, making warmer memories for the fans, especially with The Rock as part of the Rock n’ Sock Connection, and as Commisioner Foley. Later in his career he had memorable hardcore-style matches with the likes of Edge and Randy Orton, helping to build the next generation. Now back in the WWE, he is cemented as a legend and continues to warm the hearts of wrestling fans while being one of it’s best ambassadors, be it with his New York Times Best Selling books, and his appeal to mainstream media, including his involvement in Jon Stewart’s ‘March for Sanity’ as well as his work for the anti-sexual abuse charity, RAINN. Foley truly is God, at least to us.

The RAW View (30/01/2012): Triple H Changes His Tune On ‘The Streak’

Triple H and Undertaker staring down, but unlike last year, Taker is the instigator

FUNKASAURUS WHAT THE FUNKED tyler reks TO FUNKIN HELL
My subtitles are supposed to be official-sounding representations of the segments I am reviewing, but seriously, it’s the Funkasaurus, and no matter what, I’ll always love what he does. Ok, so he’s done basically the same schtik every week, twice a week, for four weeks or so now, but it’s fun! I still almost cackle with excitement. And he keeps on adding funk elements in nonchalantly; this week, using his raptor claws as a mid-match taunt, and of course, the actual disco ball! The problem is, I figured the jobbing jobbers out would only be an introduction leading up to a big Royal Rumble performance. But he wasn’t in the Rumble, and now that it’s behind us, nothing’s changed; and while I love Funkasaurus, it’s getting to be a problem, and it has to change. I wont post this every week, but as soon as possible, he needs a storyline. Simple as that.

World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan def. WWE Champion CM Punk in a Champion vs Champion Match
Well, it’s safe to say that most people watching loved the idea of this match happening, and that most people thought this match was excellent. Building up to this match, Punk and Bryan had traded passive-aggressive jibes about their respective alternative lifestyles (21st Century trash-talkin’, yo) in a slightly weird but entertaining back and forth; though it would possibly have been better if Punk would’ve said ‘Hey Daniel, why have you become a douche since the last time you were here? You’re a joke to that championship etc’. Starting with the Code of Honor, the match started slow in the way that the best wrestlers are confident enough to do while attempting to complete a great match. I’m hesitant to list this match play by play because quality matches like this deserve to be seen in more than words. With that in mind:

I will mention a couple of things though: Bryan playing off Ziggler’s working of Punk’s arm with a horrible-looking move as he bent back the fingers of Punk’s right hand, pushed his hand flat on the mat, then stomped on the back of Punk’s elbow. There were numerous great progressions regarding slow-developing submissions, and importantly, ones that the fans liked, showing that this stuff have a place in ‘Sports Entertainment’. The final thing i’ll mention that I liked during the match was the other constant thread through it, with each man (who has at one time or another been called the ‘Best in the World’ by peers/themselves) entering into a game of oneupsmanship in the match; something which reached it’s height when Punk shouted Best in the World in Bryan’s face before hitting a Frankensteiner. Though Punk marginally had the upper hand, this match was very good for Bryan as it gave him stronger booking than he has understandably been allowed against giants like The Big Show and Mark Henry. Basically, Bryan has never looked stronger, and this was the time and marquee to achieve that most effectively for his career. Or was it? After all, it did come at the top of the hour. Its a high-profile slot, but not the main event. I understand the argument that HHH/Taker should have gone out last, but I don’t agree; I don’t see why doing it at the top of hour one would be so bad. If anything, it would have highlighted Triple H’s nausea at the prospect of Taker is Johnny Ace would have hung around and managed RAW despite nearly getting fired. Also, I don’t think it showed disrespect in any way to those involved, but it did waste them. My problem isn’t that it was given away for free because, after all, it didn’t have a clean finish, my problem is that a champion vs champion match was treated as a less important afterthought. I would have rather Laurinaitis announce the Champion vs Champion match as the MAIN EVENT of next week’s RAW (so he can keep up the conceit of being an exciting GM before his appraisal) and make a big deal out of it … because it’s a big deal. It seems like a minor point, but Idon’t think it is – it’s important to position your champions as important. The other problem was that the Jericho interruption seemed like a bit of an afterthought; whereas if it was last, Jericho’s action would necessarily have more gravitas.

Speaking of Jericho, part of the nous behind having Punk and Bryan spend their night argue over who the best in the world is, is that when Jericho makes his appearance to attack Punk, it is instantly clear what he’s doing and why. A bonus which came from the run-in was that, because Bryan was in Jericho’s way to get to Punk, he was shoved out of the way, causing him to win by DQ; and watching Bryan’s face change to a smile when he realised was fantastic. There is something so perfect about Bryan’s characterisation here that after a fantastic wrestling match, he will be happy to celebrate the cheapest of victories like that. Excellent all round.

Triple H Tried to Fire John Laurinaitis, Was Interrupted By the Undertaker Challenging Him for WrestleMania
I don’t have much to say about HHH and Johnny Ace because it’s not really the important part of the segment. HHH was at his best here, funny and effortless rather than tiresome. Just as he was about to deliver the infamous words , the iconic toll of the bell sounded. Ace slipped away in to the ether as Taker made his way to the ring to his old pre-WrestleMania XXVII gothic theme. In the ring, it was consciously like deja vu from this time last year when HHH interrupted Undertaker’s big return. This time of course, it was Undertaker doing the chasing, and this seems to me like the main talking point here. After all, why is Undertaker interested in facing HHH? Maybe he’s realised that HHH is the best prospect after all, like an ex-partner coming crawling back. It depends on how it’s sold: if it’s sold like Undertaker has unfinished business with Triple H, it’ll be bad – after all, he did win, and that was the second time he beat him at WrestleMania; but if it’s sold like the Hunter (literally, ha) becoming the hunted, and Taker hand-picking his opponents, it’ll be better and add even more to The Phenom’s presence. Still, i’m simply not interested in seeing Taker-HHH again. I want a new, fresh challenge for Taker, especially given the natural suspicions that his 20th WrestleMania appearance will be his last; either HHH goes down to The Streak again or HHH is the one to break The Streak, which would be totally unacceptable. The next interesting difference was HHH apparently turning Taker down. The talking point isn’t whether or not Triple H will be his opponent as he surely will be with these seeds sown, but I suppose his reaction to the challenge is of interest for the same reason that Undertaker doing the challenging is interesting. If this wants to interest me, the answer to these questions will have to be intriguing. Saying all that, I said the same stuff when it transpired that Shawn Michaels would challenge Taker for a second year running, and that match at WrestleMania XXVI turned out to be my favourite of the two between them.