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.