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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