No Way Out Review, 2012: Big Johnny Hot-Shotted To the Unemployment Line

Mr. McMahon said those two famous words to John Laurinaitis, but was it all too soon?

Mr. McMahon said those two famous words to John Laurinaitis, but was it all too soon?

This PPV felt a lot like Over the Limit; a versy strong PPV right up until the end, where the ‘bombshell’ wasn’t all that exciting. Usually, I would blame the Big Show, but he’s doing the best job the Big Show can. The problem is the storyline – it is more Cena being vulnerable; something less interesting when he overcomes the apparent threat at the first attempt. But more on that later …

Match 1) Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler to Retain the WWE Championship
The first match of the night is meant to get the crowd pumping, and often that means a Dolph Ziggler match. This match certainly achieved that as the styles of these two gelled perfectly, with Ziggler selling the smashmouth nature of Sheamus’s offense with typical fervour while Sheamus allowed himself to be outwrestled by Ziggler, allowing the resurgent challenger to look like a legitimate challenger at that level. There was, indeed, a lot of equal back and forth as both men played to their strengths and the match built. The match progressed even more nicely when Ziggler seemed to tweek his knee. At that point Ziggler was forced to show more resiliancy than his usual in-ring flair, and it made his continued defiance against Sheamus all the more impressive, and so when he hit the Fame Asser on Sheamus and fist pumped the air mightily, the desperation of  the act completely sold me on the near fall. It’s things like that that make for great drama. Both men where really impressing with expanding movesets, most notably Ziggler with his giant DDT and Sheamus with his swinging neckbreaker. Nothing mindblowing, but still a progression. As expected, Sheamus took the win eventually, but with a good finish to a match which made Ziggler look great even in loss. I’m flogging a dead horse here, but surely Ziggler will only get more and more spotlight now he’s proved – again – that he deserves it.

Match 2) Santino Marella def. Ricardo Rodriguez in a Tuxedo Match
I had high hopes for this meatch. Hopes that only got higher whan Santino came out in his ‘best’ all powder blue tux, but something was missing. Apart from a few funny quips, it was just going through the motions, not helped by the crowd shitting all over it. That’ll kill any match … Its fine that Santino won, but especially with no title seemingly on the line, it would’ve been cool to give Rodriguez a win. Saying all that, the foot Cobra nearly redeemed the whole thing.

Match 3) Christian def. Cody Rhodes to Retain the Intercontinental Championship
Christian and Cody Rhodes should have been one of the best matches of the night, and unsurprisingly, it was. These two had a very even back and forth match that started off very smooth and technical. I really enjoyed Rhodes attacking of Christian’s arm, incorporating the stomping on the bent-back wrist and then something i’ve never seen – a key lock using his legs. It makes him look brilliant and inventive and dangerous while Christian continued his trend of an ever-expanding moveset by incorporating a hurricarana. The match then stepped up in terns of drama with near falls becoming more frequent, including another great one where Rhodes managed to kick out of a Killswitch. I was totally sold on that because babyface finisher should usually equal win over heel, at least in a mid-card match, so when it didn’t put Rhodes away I was shoot shocked and very impressed with Rhodes. This I think was the entire purpose of it. Rhodes was going to lose to move on from the feud, but he needed to show his steele and quality, so that he could go away leaving a strong impression for his surely bigger and better challenges. The finish came after a really cool, smooth back-and-forth sequence too, ending in the Spear, which made the whole thing seem almost down to luck as one would inevitably falter. It was Rhodes, and Christian won to retain the title. WITH MOre defences like that, the title can only be in good hands. As fr Rhodes, surely he’s on his way to bigger title opportunities.

Match 4) The Prime Time Players def. Primo & Epico, Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd, and The Usos to Become #1 Contenders for the WWE Tag Team Championships
Refreshing it was to see a major tag team match on a PPV that didn’t even need the (limited) draw of the titles. It also meant we got to see eight talented mid-card guys who barely get TV time in that spotlight. They certainly made the most of their time, including that awesome spot where Tyson Kidd Hurricarana’d Primo in to the other six wrestlers outside the ring! I’ve never seen that, and it really showed off the division’s potential, as well as Kidd’s alone. The main talking point – if that was the main visual memory – was AW’s turning on Primo & Epico. Earlier, during the preshow, we got the curious news that AW had let the former Tag Champs rematch clauses lapse, but that he had got them in to the match. Odd, but ok: a way to shoehorn the booking of this match I thought, but no, it was much better than that! It was all a ploy by AW to get his real team in to ‘prime time’ position. He had decided to side with O’Neill and Young because, as is self-evident, they are the hottest team in town right now. So after removing the current #1 Contenders, he helped them to win by feeding Primo to Young and stopping Epico from intervening. It was brilliant, basic storytelling, that made me care about what would happen in the future. Its a fundamental that’s been missing from the tag team division, and i’m glad its back. Now Primo & Epico are instafaces, and that’s fine because seriously, they’re great and will be easy to get behind – and the champions haven’t had to be involved! It’s all good here.

Match 5) Layla def. Beth Phoenix to Retain the Divas Championship
This was another very strong outing from these two ruined only by the attitude of the crowd, who absolutely made no sound. I don’t blame them after WWE themselves have spent years systematically telling us they aren’t important with 2 minute matches and lack of storyline. Nonetheless, I felt the crowd detracted from a strong divas match. Yes Kharma’s return will be great, but it isn’t the be all and end all of female wrestling. Layla is as good as the best of the lockeroom, and that is quite impressive. She put on a great match with Beth and showed some genuine character other than ‘bitch’ or ‘smile’ with that flapper taunt to get the upper hand over Beth. And I like that after a grueling match, they weren’t afraid to put Layla over strong again. That makes for at least 3 divas we thing are legitimately powerful instead of 2 (Kharma, Beth), and that is a good thing. More of this please.

Match 6) Sin Cara def Hunico w/Camacho
It feels like i’ve written those words a million times, and that’s a problem. I like Sin Cara, I really like Hunico, but their time is up! They’ve fought so much on Smackdown that this just felt like Smackdown, and that’s bad for a PPV you’re asking people to pay a lot of money for. Saying that, I enjoyed the match. I enjoyed Hunico giving Cara a really good run for his money in the match, arguably dominating and being the most impressive of the two. Decent match as you would expect, but nothing special, and certainly nothing PPV quality.

Match 7) CM Punk def. Kane and Daniel Bryan to Retain the WWE Championship
The onus on the match, in a way, was on Kane. After a series of great matches between Bryan and Punk have renewed their great chemistry, and to some, Kane was seen as a bothersome obstacle to greatness. Kane, however, performed as he does at his best, knowing his role and dominating. The clash of styles between him and the others is notable, but that become a laudable aspect of the match and part of its narrative instead of a flaw. The match started out with a bit of an indiriffic spot where Punk and Bryan traded kicks on the Big Red Machine in a test of (kicking) strength – a bit of passive aggression that told a good story about the nature of Bryan and Punk’s rivalry. Triple threats are hard to get right in terms of pacing as there are constant interchanges between three guys, but again, this worked here – partly because Kane is such a behemoth. There was a lot of good back and forth between them all, fighting between each other with great fluidity. This led to a nice triple threat spot where Bryan was left sat on the turnbuckle while Kane and Punk brawled ostensibly for the right to superplex Bryan. With there being no outcome, Bryan was able to recover, and hit a double missile dropkick to the both of them. Another nice triple threat moment came when Punk shouldered Bryan only to walk in to a big boot for a near fall. They were finding the best ways their movesets fit together to create progressions between the three of them that made sense and flowed well. With that in mind, this was followed by an attempted elbow drop, only for Kane to move, and for Bryan to follow up with a flying headbutt. As the match continued, Kane and Punk were left in the ring. After failing to shoulder Kane for the GTS, Kane got the upper hand. It was at this point that the pivotal actor in this story arrived: AJ played a thankfully small role in the action of the match, being knocked off the apron after Punk unknowingly pushed Kane in her direction. This was enough to distract Kane, and he walked in to a GTS with Punk now able to do it and pick up the win. After the match, a concerned and more human every day Kane carried her to the back, revealing a wry smile back at the celebrating Punk. I’ve actually pictured that sort of scenario, and I think AJ played it well. This went against what most people suggested would happen – thinking that AJ would help Bryan. Does this mean that she’s on Punk side? Possibly, but ultimately, I think he’ll reject that sort of help as a good, fighting champion. Nonetheless, I think either Bryan, Kane, or both of them will use it as currency for a future title match. A very entertaining match then that the fans were really in to, booked well and utilising AJ without ruining the match. Very well done all round.

Match 8) Ryback def. Two Jobbers
Not much to say here. Like the Sin Cara match, this was just filler that could just as easily be seen on Smackdown as live on a paid-for PPV. I understand the reason for it; its a palette freshener for the main event. Ryback’s matches are still entertaining, but they are meaningless at this level as their purpose are just as easily served on TV.

Match 9) John Cena def. The Big Show in a Steel Cage Match; John Laurinaitis Was Fired
I was tired during this match I have to say, but this match was very unremarkable to me. I honestly can’t remember a spot from it, and that’s not a good thing. Stripped down, this was just John Cena vs the Big Show, and that’s not going to be that entertaining. The match only became memorable when the people Big Show has vanquished returned to cost him the match. I liked how different people had varied success; Ryder was knocked out by a WMD through the steel cage, while Kofi Kingston, who seems to be getting pushed subtly, managed to fight his way against Big Show, and actually downing the Giant, sending him back in to the cage, and Brodus Clay managing to deter Show from climbing the cage. All this helped to stop Show from winning. This, I suppose, will be sold as Big Show’s chickens coming home to roost, and that makes sense in a way because it helps protect his reputation, but I think vanquishing him on PPV so soon seems like a bit of a waste given his build and booking as a legitimate giant. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s booked from here on out. There is scope to keep him as a monster, but I don’t know if its preferable. What was definitely hot-shotted was the firing of John Laurinaitis. Since gaining power, he has been building more and more heat, and has been a unique and entertaining figure on WWE. While McMahon shouting the infamous ‘You’re Fired! in his face before being AA’d through the Spanish Announce Table was entertaining, and a sure-fire memorable moment for the year. Cena looking like a suckup by doing it aside, given the success of the John Laurinaitis character, means that firing him is far too soon. He’s been in the post for less than a year, is getting more heat, and is seemingly – after watching RAW – being shelved as a character already before given the chance to develop to his summit of success before then being fired in a moment that would be memorable in history, and not just for this year.

A strong PPV during most of the scheduled matches with the World Title matches again standing out as well as the Intercontinental Championship match and the tag team #1 contendership, but there was a lot of filler in between which is already forgettable. Once again, too, the main event featuring Big Show and John Cena fell flat, the finish aside. Its a feud that doesn’t work, and until its shelved, PPV’s will continue to finish in an underwhelming way.

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No Way Out Preview & Predictions, 2012

No Way Out, 17/06/12, from the IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ

No Way Out, 17/06/12, from the IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ

Above is the best PPV poster ever!

Anyway, it’s time for No Way Out (tomorrow)! The main matches have had adequate build, but it seems like No Way Out as an event hasn’t been built that much. It feels like it’s just creeping up on us a little and like it’s just another show. That shouldn’t be a good thing, but in the past it has meant good shows have occurred when least expected and surprised us – it wont translate to a special buyrate though.

Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Sheamus (c) vs Dolph Ziggler
Despite the fact that this match was seemingly booked on the fly when Alberto Del Rio became concussed, but, if anything, this match is more interesting and anticipated than the original. With the stiffer style Sheamus has been adopting of late, I hope it mixes well with Ziggler’s awesome selling and both men’s ability to put on a good, dramatic match. Everyone expects a good match, and everyone expects a Sheamus win. However, a part of me wouldn’t be surprised to see the change of plans lead to a complete twist and a shocking but also therefore memorable victory for Ziggler. There are still more competitors waiting for Sheamus though, and his reign hasn’t been long enough for someone I think WWE are trying to make in to a blockbuster star. So while i’d like to see the Ziggler moment, I think this match will help build him up to that level without giving him the gold.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

Match 2) United States Championship Match?: Santino Marella (c) vs Ricardo Rodriguez in a Tuxedo Match
Santino and Ricardo are gold-dust together and are providing some of the best comic wrestling i’ve seen in a long time. Genuinely fresh and genuinely entertaining, and with it being something so ridiculous as a tuxedo match, I expect great things. With Del Rio out of the picture, he’s losing some of the heat from the classic heel, and despite being a heel to Santino’s face, is becoming more and more popular. Bear in mind as well then that the prospect of Rodriguez losing isn’t going to ‘put any asses om seats’, and I start to wonder whether this match being booked on PPV might be because Ricardo will pull of the upset win, be it for the United States Championship or not. I can actually see him and Santino bonding over this and maybe even Ricardo Rodriguez turning face, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves shall we? Simply because there was no demand I can see for Santino to beat Ricardo, i’m backing the ring announcer, though obviously by complete accident!

Winner: Ricardo Rodriguez

Match 3) Intercontinental Championship Match: Christian (c) vs Cody Rhodes
Christian and Rhodes are two very good workers who are fighting over a sometimes very prestigious championship. That in itself is a good sell for this match. Their build has been solid if a bit mailed in with the best narrative being about who is better for the prestige of the title. Rhodes has said that Christian undid all his good work when he beat him for the championship at Over the Limit and that now he’s back to restore honour. Quite unique, certainly, but the stops have hardly been pulled out. Lets hope the match speaks for itself. I can’t see Christian dropping the title back to Rhodes after Rhodes only had it for a month, so I see a retention here, and perhaps – hopefully – a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship for Cody Rhodes in his future.

Winner: Christian

Match 4) WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs Daniel Bryan vs Kane
This is one of the two matches to get most of the attention for tonight’s show, and rightly so, but the attention has been some of the strangest I can remember, featuring as the protagonist WWE Diva AJ Lee. For the most part i’ve enjoyed AJ’s role in that she’s taken Punk and Kane out of their comfort zones and really upset the apple cart as classic PPV build goes. Whatever you think about the portrayal of AJ, which is at times a little troubling, it has made this match feel different, and that’s a good thing. Now the question seems to be, how will AJ pull the strings of this match and who will she help to win or retain the title? The prevailing thinking seems to be for Bryan, and I tend to agree. Punk has had a very long and strongly booked reign, beating the likes of pretty much everybody. He’s running out of challengers and maybe needs the change of pace that chasing the title allows. Not only that, but without the title, he may be able to act as a more edgy, pipebombing character – having the top title around your waist kinda undermines that. Step in Daniel Bryan. He’s been the hottest star of the past few months and could be a great WWE Champion; even better – his matches with Punk have been great, and his win would mean a continuation of that. If it does go this way, it will mean AJ helping Bryan and them becoming the power couple I always wanted them to be; either that, or it will a continuation of the original relationship between Bryan and AJ – of unconditional love and manipulation that I found so interesting originally. Of course, all this means that a spanner will be thrown in the works and Kane might win, but we’ll just have to wait and see about that! Speaking of Kane, he will disturn be natural technical flow of Bryan-Punk, but I don’t doubt that the experienced veteran will help to embelish the match somehow and make it a unique match in their feud.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

Match 5) Divas Championship Match: Layla (c) vs Beth Phoenix
Despite the fact the build this has received is the less significant part of a comedy match and some very brief promos, I am looking forward to this match. At Over the Limit they did a great job, and I expect they will do again. As for the result, that still seemingly pivots on when Kharma returns, which was the same as at Over the Limit. With that in mind, I will literally copy and paste it here, and probably will every PPV until Kharma returns!: The returning Layla has some momentum and fan support behind her, while being a very underrated wrestler. Her smaller size against the also interesting story of Phoenix returning angry from losing her championship could be make for a interestingly and impressively booked match. If given time, this could be an unexpected hit for the PPV. There is a problem though. With Kharma surely to return imminently to feud with Beth, WWE seem to have booked themselves in to a corner. Before Layla returned, most expected Kharma to be first back, take the Divas championship, and call out Beth. Layla as champion obviously throws a spanner in here. If Beth beats her, she loses a lot of credibility, and could fall out of the spotlight which is a shame for a very popular and talented wrestler who has a lot of good will on her side after an injury return. On the other hand, Beth certainly can’t lose to Layla if she’s to be a credible challenge to legitimate monster, Kharma. So neither can win without causing significant damage to the other. The only option, as I see it, is to give them decent time for both to shine, but eventually have Beth seem dominant, and in an aesthetically dominant position (press slam position or similar), about to win the match, when Kharma’s music hits, she comes to the ring and attacks Beth. Beth wins by DQ and Layla keeps her title. The Beth-Kharma feud is exciting enough to not need the title, so it would protect Layla and add more depth to the division with her in championship feuds and Beth-Kharma happening separately.

Winner: Beth Phoenix

Match 6) Steel Cage Match: John Cena w/ Mr. McMahon vs The Big Show w/ John Laurinaitis
After Over The Limit, the Era of Big Show was a prospect that worried me, but, to his credit, Show has settled in to a strong narrative as the put upon freak show finally rebelling and taking charge. This would be full on antihero babyface had it not been for his abandoning of the WWE Universe along the way because they endorsed his treatment. He has a point – which is best for most heels. Saying that, Show as he is now vs John Cena just can’t interest me much. He’s the right opponent in the sense that he’s the company man, but perhaps that’s also the problem. Without fail, that has been the reasoning behind every single one of Cena’s foes for around 2 years now. Perhaps in Big Show they’ve finally found someone who just isn’t fresh or interesting in that role … That’s not to do down the job he’s been doing – as I say he’s been impressing me – its just its not quite clicked with me. The match itself will live or die on the booking. If they just have a Show-Cena match in a cage it’ll be fine, but not extraordinary. A classic match, and moment, will depend, I think on well thought-out, surprising outside interference from someone that would cause a good cliffhanger. I don’t want it jinx it, but I would suggest Mr. McMahon turn and betray Cena. Yes, it would mean wheeling out McMahon again, which isn’t very progressive, but when mixed with Johnny’s heat, could get a real buzz going. The result doesn’t seem much in doubt; once again, the stipulation has made it obvious because it’s so similar to Over the Limit’s stipulation. If Laurinaitis/Laurinaitis’s Proxy loses, Laurinaitis is fired, Laurinaitis aint getting fired, so Laurinaitis/Laurinaitis’s Proxy will win. The fact that the result is so predictable wont help the enjoyability of the match. It seemed to be suggested on Smackdown after Cena punched Laurinaitis that is Laurinaitis remained GM, then Cena’s job would be in danger. This is an admirable attempt to make the stipulation less revealing, but it isn’t enough i’m afraid because – again without jinxing it hopefully – Cena taking time off is getting more and more realistic. His involvement has become too formulaic: an new and powerful threat appears and beats him and makes him seem more vulnerable. But after Punk, Rock, Brock, and Show, who else could do this? Maybe he would enter in to further matches with Big Show after Show beats him surely with some outside help, but I don’t know how much life there is in that unless Cena has to go up against the potential heel faction of McMahon, Laurinaitis, and Big Show et al. That is all pie in the sky though. There is potential for it to be good, but on the basis of how this story is going since Over the Limit, i’d be pleasantly surprised.