RAW Recall (29/11/2010): All Hail Sheamus … and Michael Cole?

Miz, after defending his WWE Championship, just barely and with the help of Michael Cole, against Jerry Lawler

This was, in many ways, a bizarre episode of RAW. It was certainly unpredictable, but i’m not sure how much of it was unpredictable in a good way.

The show started with Alex Riley preparing us for the appearance of brand new WWE Champion, The Miz. I liked this aspect for the show. For the first hour, his arrival was made to appear important and groundbreaking, which in many ways it is. A brand new WWE Champion always brings with it a ring of change, and that was very much the atmosphere last night.

Our first match was also our first King of the Ring match, and it was the mouthwatering coupling of Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio. The match, on the whole, didn’t disappoint. The two are incredibly competent in chain wrestling and, if you will, in-ring choreography. Now in any tournament like this, the matches will be shorter and more disposable, and rightly so, than the final. For that reason there is little more to say about this match, and there will be less to say about the other KotR matches. I must say though, I was slightly disappointed and surprised by the ending of this match. As CM Punk pointed out on commentary after Bryan hurt his shoulder following a Suicide Dive, he ‘does this every week.’ That’s not strictly true, but it is the same thing that he did last week. I wasn’t too impressed with that. I was also surprised by his clean submission. Considering that Del Rio would not progress further after winning this match, it didn’t seem that important. I would have liked to have seen him cheat his way to victory and leave Bryan looking almost unstoppable. While i’m at it, a rare criticism of WWE production. Del Rio’s pyro didn’t go off for this match, which made me think, given that there is a pattern for only using pyro for a superstar’s final appearance on any show, that he would progress. It was practically a spoiler, as was his use of pyro for his second match which suggested he wasn’t to progress any further. Just use it for every match in this situation to avoid this situation!

The Bellas continued to court Bryan after this match. I like this tangent, it adds to Bryan’s character and points out his subtle charm. At the same time I think it will be part of an angle seeing the split of the Bella twins, especially after Nikki seems to be getting more antagonistic as of late.

John Morrison was next, taking on Cody Rhodes. This was a relatively short match, but one that was a lot better played out that the first match. The brevity of the match helped the victorious Morrison looked strong, while the way Rhodes looked as if he could have done the same as Morrison but came up short, stopped him from looking weak. The ending progression was good when Morrison saw that Rhodes was attempting his Beautiful Disaster, and seeing that he had the same move, used it against Rhodes in a way that was almost beautiful itself for the victory.

The third match perhaps provided the most shocking result. It was Ezekiel Jackson against Drew McIntyre and ended in a double count-out. Now the only reason I can think of for doing this is that they wanted neither man to look weak, but these were two men with a lot to gain from this competition, and it seemed like a waste to me. It would have been better to have paired them off against other people, for instance. The match itself wasn’t bad. It was refreshing to see someone assault ‘Big Zeke’ while it also helped McIntyre look strong. I suppose neither man lost anything from the encounter, but they achieved little more from it.

It was at this point that we were treated with the long-awaited arrival of the Miz. His promo was excellent, and his mention of JBL, HHH and John Cena (the last one probably being kayfabe) as guys who wanted to hold him back added some personal antagonism as well as gloating to the promo. He goes on to talk about all of those Hall of Famers that never won the WWE Championship, e.g. Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect that he’s bested. At this point, another man on that list, Jerry Lawler stands up, and challenges Miz on his attitude and says he should give someone fresh a title shot. Cole interrupts him and says if he wants to prove something, he should take on The Miz tonight for the WWE Championship himself, and in the strangest booking there has been in years, the anonymous GM made it official, and made it a TLC match! In the words of Jerry Lawler, WHAT!?

Our final Quarter final saw Kofi Kingston take on Sheamus. This was another decent but unspectacular match (again, it is important that that is the case. The final needed to be the best match!) in which Kofi looked good and like he could have challenged Sheamus further. Meanwhile Sheamus continued to mature in mat terms, using submissions competantly again. Eventually though, Sheamus took the match with a cool Brogue Kick to Kofi as he leapt from the turnbuckle.

Earlier in the night John Cena jumped Michael McGillicutty backstage, and he showed up again in the next match which was the frankly ridiculous pairing of Yoshi Tatsu and Mark Henry against Slater and Gabriel of the Nexus. Don’t get me wrong, i’m keen to see Tatsu on TV, but not this way … Cena caused a huge furor entering the arena with his ticket, so much so that Henry was able to hit a World’s Strongest Slam on Slater for the victory before Cena jumped over the barricade taking and taking Slater out with an AA through the announce table.

The first KotR semi-final was next, pitting John Morrison against Alberto Del Rio. This match was a decent match where Del Rio would continue to work on Morrison’s arm and look a probable winner until Rey Mysterio showed up to in Del Rio’s car, distracting him enough to help Morrison win.

At this point, Wade Barrett decides to try and put a stop to Cena’s hunt of Nexus by calling him out. Cena appears on the tron and says that he may be fired (if so, how is he getting on the tron!) but he wont stop his original mission of taking out the Nexus one by one. Barrett calls for security but Cena explains that they wont be moving too quickly to help Nexus after they beat them up on that night of their first appearance, which I suppose makes sense. The remaining three members of Nexus surround him, and Cena feigns fear before pointing out that the RAW roster aren’t the biggest Nexus fans either before they turn around to face a number of RAW superstars and Cena goes after Gabriel brutally throwing him in to some equipment before a really rough AA on a car. He says this will continue next week and so on until he has taken out the Nexus. First things first, i’m not too happy that Cena is on RAW. I understand that it makes sense that no one from RAW would challenge him, but it really renders the recent powerful stroyline meaningless. It could have been worse, they could have tried out that Juan Cena idea, but still I think everything would have been more engaging if he had to take time off or move to Smackdown. Saying that, the execution is better than I would have expected if i’d have heard he was to appear back on RAW, and this could lead to an interesting storyline where Cena has to act with the great mental aptitude of a guerrilla. If he appears in the ring, with his music and everything, it’ll be a real shame; if not, it could have legs. As for Nexus, i’m starting to struggle to see how they’ll survive all of this. Will Barrett be given a deserved title shot at TLC? If not, how will they stay relevant? It may be that they wont be able to for long …

The next match was a 6-diva match. There is little to say about it. It was a comic relief match as Santino successfully wooed Tamina with his guitar. Gail Kim was barely in the match, again, and Natalya looked a strong champion, winning the match with a Sharpshooter.

The KotR final was the first really good match of the night. That’s not too damning a criticism, as I say, your main events should stand out. The predominat story centred around how Morrison had a bad arm from his first two matches whereas Sheamus was relatively fresh after securing a bye. Morrison battled hard and really took it to Sheamus. Morrison is a decent high-flyer, but if he wants to be more credible as a top guy, he’s got to learn how to brawl, and that’s what he did here. Meanwhile, Sheamus was showing good in-ring savvy, locking in an excruciating looking Fujiwara armbar on Morrison, further damaging Morrison. Despite all this, Morrison looked like he could beat Sheamus, and for that reason alone, he came out of it well. A nice ending saw Sheamus target a counter of Starship Pain at Morrison’s injured arm and hit an Irish Cross for the win. Now, Sheamus was my least favourite to win (shows how much I know!) and while I think it was a bit of a waste of the honour, there is no doubt that Sheamus hasn’t fallen anywhere. This king-based imagery is likely to draw HHH back to RAW very soon.

Up next, the main event, the TLC Match for the WWE title between The Miz and Jerry Lawler. Now, despite the – some would say – ridiculousness of the booking, the atmosphere among the crowd was great for this match, and the match was actually excellent in many ways. I’m too young to have seen Lawler in his prime, but this is the best i’ve ever seen ‘The King’ and he didn’t hamper the match at all. Miz, of course, entered the favourite and in the start, beat on Lawler, but Jerry, proving that the people Miz had disrespected earlier had something to teach him. The match also, perhaps surprisingly, lived up to a degree to the brutality of a TLC match as Jerry slingshot a ladder in to Miz’s face and knocked Alex Riley Through a table, not to mention trading lots of chair shots. Miz acts cockily, like he is better than Lawler, something Punk on commentary warns him against and something that costs Miz as after an attempt for a superplex, Lawler chops him off the turnbuckle and through another table. Now, no one would ever have picked Jerry Lawler to win this match, but with Miz knocked out outside the ring, and the King climbing the ladder, I didn’t see how anything else could happen. That in itself was a special moment that Jerry deserved, Cue Cole! After trying to revive Miz, he entered the ring and grabbed Jerry’s leg, stopping him from claiming the title. Jerry acted brilliantly at this, looking genuinely shocked and betrayed, before following a blubbering Cole around the ring and beating on him. This allowed Miz to get up the ladder and grab the title, and though Lawler made it back up the ladder, it wasn’t enough to stop Miz from retaining. Miz did not look strong from this match. I don’t know whether that was intention. Perhaps he will be booked as a competitor of championship material, but not as gifted as people like Cena and Orton, but nonetheless a man that will use anything at his disposal to win. If that is the case (as I hope it is as it otherwise just makes the champion look weak) then this is quite an interesting direction with a lot of potentially innovative angles in the future. I was unhappy when the match was booked, but despite the strangeness of seeing Jerry Lawler wrestle, at this point, for the WWE title, it was a very good match, and one which made a good point about the arrogance of Miz’s character

 

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King of the Ring Preview and Prediction

The line up for this Monday's King of the Ring

The line up for this years King of the Ring is very agreeable. Sheamus in a sense provides credibility (as a former WWE Champion) while the rest are all promising up-and-comers and potentially future world champions. I’ll keep this brief, i’ll go through each participant and state their chances of winning, before saying who I think should win.

Sheamus: Sheamus is definitely fearsome, but he wont be winning King of the Ring. In fact, he is least favourite because of his sudden and maintained rise to the top. Basically, giving Sheamus the KotR crown is a waste of the title and tool for talent progression. He might even make it as far as the final, but only to make whoever beats him seem all the stronger.

Daniel Bryan: If he wasn’t having such an impressive run as United States Champion, Bryan would be one of the favourites. But making Bryan King of the Ring while he’s got the US title seems, again, like a waste of the honour. Bryan is incredibly over and has lots of potential future programmes. Quite simply, he doesn’t need it.

John Morrison: From this point it gets harder to predict. The six remaining men could all very easily win. It seems to me like John Morrison’s star is on the (admittedly modestly paced) rise given his current feud with Sheamus. Being King of the Ring would definitely put him very close to being a credible main eventer. Saying that, his feud with Sheamus is in it’s relative infancy, and doesn’t requite this tangent for it to progress. I imagine this will be a tool to progress it (e.g. each man costing the other their KotR opportunity).

Kofi Kingston: Kofi seems to have less momentum behind him and is perhaps getting a little stale. Of course, this might be reason to bestow on him the KotR crown, but I think they will hesitate as his current character would need some sort of tweak if he was going to hold the crown in any sort of interesting way.

Cody Rhodes: Cody could do a lot as KotR. It would obviously well suit his arrogant persona, and out of everybody, he would potentially sport the gimmick in the best way (his rival for that being Alberto Del Rio). Saying this, his gimmick seems to still be hot, and for reasons i’ll go on to explain, the others are simply a little more probable as winners.

Alberto Del Rio: Alberto’s gimmick, as aristocracy descended from a royal bloodline obviously fits this competition well, and he would sport the gimmick very well. My only hesitation in making Del Rio the winner is that he’s arguably already very close to main event level; after all, on his debut, he took on Rey Mysterio and has since taken on (and beaten) other main eventers. Like some of the others, though he would suit it, he probably doesn’t need it.

Drew McIntyre: Drew will, at some point, be a world champion. Of this I have no doubt, but he seems to have stalled lately in that position just beneath the main event, and hasn’t been able to progress. His gimmick, or rather simply his nationality, makes him a fitting choice to become ‘royalty.’ Indeed, Striker talked about him being the latest in a long line of Scottish kings. There is doubt for me that this honour would make him a credible main eventer right away, and would allow him to legitimately demand a title shot for instance. For these reasons, he is my second favourite, behind only …

Ezekiel Jackson: It’s clear that Big Zeke is being tested as a ‘next big thing.’ But until now he has been simply squashing opponents. This makes sense for a time, but eventually you need to move on, and this might be his way of progressing. It would basically give him something interesting to do and make any push he receives much more credible. He does need, more so than any other participant, something like this to move to the next level, and this is why I think he will win.

I think ‘Big Zeke’ will win, but I would prefer that he didn’t. As I argued, Ezekiel needs something like this because he hasn’t made enough of an impression yet, but, to me, that’s a reason to withhold the honour for now. He hasn’t impressed in the ring particularly, and is barely over as a face. He needs to prove himself as a credible top guy before he’s pushed, and to give him this prestigious title with the possibility that he fails it is potentially short-sighted while diminishing the reputation of King of the Ring. Let him have a feud or two, and if you want to push him, do so another way, or wait until next year. Instead, I would like my second-favourite, Drew McIntyre to win. Firstly, because as a Scotsman, i’m proud to see him doing so well, but more so because he’s proved himself as capable of being a top guy, and he could do a lot with the honour. For the record, if it can’t be McIntyre, i’d like to see Rhodes take it.

UPDATE:

The brackets have been announced, and they’re very interesting!

Match 1: John Morrison vs Cody Rhodes
Match 2: Daniel Bryan vs Alberto Del Rio
Match 3: Ezekiel Jackson vs Drew McIntyre
Match 4: Sheamus vs Kofi Kingston

Semi-final 1: Winners of matches 1 and 2
Semi-final 2: Winners of matches 3 and 4

The first thing that I noticed was that my two top picks take on each other in the third quarter-final – so my first update is that I predict the winner of Match 3 will go on to win King of the Ring!

The second thing I noticed is the immediate possibility of a McIntyre-Sheamus match that would be mouth-watering for various reasons, though probably unlikely as it would necessitate an early bath for ‘Big Zeke’

The third thing I noticed was that WWE (in full cross-promotion mode) have booked every match as Smackdown vs RAW, so there’s a chance that will continue throughout the competition, making for an even more unique main event.

I also noted the possibility of a reprise of the Sheamus-Daniel Bryan conflict in the final, though it’s highly unlikely to happen seen as they were my two bottom favourites. Anyway, WHY NOT, i’ll go and predict the entire progression of the tournament! More likely is the reigniting of the Sheamus-Morrison feud.

Match 1: Very difficult to pick. Because I think they’ll continue to go with Smackdown vs RAW matches, and Del Rio will probably progress, I expect to see JOHN MORRISON win. Cody could also do with it though.

Match 2: ALBERTO DEL RIO will progress. It should be one hell of a match, but expect to see some cheating at the end. Bryan aint goin’ down clean.

Match 3: Whoever wins this will/should win KotR. I picked EZEKIEL JACKSON as my favourite though, so there he is. It seems more likely especially now. He wont be going down in the first round, that would be crushing to his push.

Match 4: Simply based on my Smackdown vs RAW theory, and though I would otherwise pick Sheamus here, i’m picking Kofi to upset Sheamus. Good for Kofi too.

Semi-final 1: John Morrison vs Alberto Del Rio. This one is almost solely based on my Smackdown vs RAW theory, but anyway, Morrison will be game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see ALBERTO DEL RIO cheat again for the win. Maybe an angry Sheamus will cost Morrison the match, re-igniting their feud that way.

Semi-final 2: Ezekiel Jackson vs Kofi Kingston. This will be an interesting match of speed vs power that seems appealing to me. But EZEKIEL JACKSON’S my pick, so that’s who i’m backing.

Final: Alberto Del Rio vs Ezekiel Jackson: The booking would be very tidy: Smackdown vs RAW, Face vs Heel. The announcers would bill it as Del Rio being the favourite, but after all that predicted cheating, Ricardo Rodriguez will be banned from ringside, and Del Rio will be left to fend for himself. Though I don’t necessarily like it, the winner would probably be EZEKIEL JACKSON.

Smack of the Week (26/11/2010): Kings in Waiting

The competitors in this week's King of the Ring qualifiers

 

This week’s show opened basically where it lest off last week, with Edge toying with both Kane and Paul Bearer. This of course went on through the night, but i’m starting to dislike the angle, so i’ll talk about it all in a oner. The main problem with the angle is that it is starting to get goofy. Surely there are only so many threats and traps Edge can set for Kane to get him upset/angry, and if if this is what the TLC build-up is going to be, we have three weeks of it left. Surely they can’t continue with the idea past next week though! It’s a shame too because the idea of Paul Bearer’s kidnapping affecting Kane is interesting, and a lot of the set-pieces have been disturbing (in a good way). It’s just starting to wear a little thin, and I think we are cracking Kane’s monstrous veneer a little too much considering the dominance he has had of late.

The first King of the Ring qualifier of the night saw Kofi Kingston take on Jack Swagger. There was instant interest in this match as either man could feasibly progress (and become king), so it was genuinely unpredictable. It was a very long match, and not always thrilling as a prominent story was of the calculating Swagger grounding the chaotic style of Kofi Kingston. Swagger looked very strong, at one point apparently having dominated Kofi so much, Kingston was almost out on his feet, at one point, almost collapsing out of the ring. Towards the end of the contest, it became more equal, with both men trading momentum. Swagger tried to end it with his Vader Bomb, only to be countered by Kofi in to Trouble in Paradise for the victory. A good match, but I would have preferred Swagger to have progressed. I will talk about King of the Ring, however, seperately in another post.

In a match of main event booking, the next qualifier saw Alberto Del Rio take on the Big Show. This was an enjoyable match, as Del Rio put on a show of trying to wrestle down the bigger man. He looked very impressive sticking-and-running against the Giant, consistently managing to drive him to his knees or to the canvas completely. An especially well thought out moment came when Del Rio attempted his cross-armbreaker on an already downed Big Show, only for it to be reversed in to a back drop. Thankfully, Del Rio managed to find a way to beat Show, after his personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez managed to distract Show enough to cause a count out. I say ‘thankfully,’ not because I dislike the Big Show, but because I feel his character has gotten stale ever since he became a ‘comedian’ and he certainly had no need to be in the running for King of the Ring.

The third qualifier saw Drew McIntyre take on MVP. Personally, I think both guys should have been in different matches and allowed to progress, but it’s clear there simply wasn’t enough room. This was an excellent match and probably the best match of the night as both men played their respective roles in the match superbly, based, as it was, around a determined MVP with a severely injured arm and a sadistic McIntyre using it to his advantage. It all started with a trademark use of the steel stairs from McIntyre as he stamped on MVP’s arm resting on it. From this point on, he would battle valiantly against McIntyre and give him a very good match before finally being snuffed out by the ‘Sinister Scotsman.’ MVP sold his injury very well (apart from the final conceit of it giving out and causing him to hit his head on the turnbuckle in to a waiting Future Shock DDT) throughout the match, showing the practical ways that sort of injury might affect a wrestler (rather than just wincing everytime it got specifically hit). McIntyre, who played the almost psychopathic aggressor, deserves to be in the competition, I just hope MVP, who has been on something  of a push lately, has something else to move in to and grow.

It looks as though LayCool aren’t necessarily getting a Divas title rematch after this week saw them continue their feud with the returning Beth Phoenix, who appeared again after a shock Kelly Kelly victory over Michelle McCool in an ok match. I can see another handicap match in the offing perhaps …

The main event saw Rey Mysterio take on Cody Rhodes for the final spot in next week’s King of the Ring. These two worked very well together I thought, with Rey’s quickness and Cody’s technical and malleable style gelling well. Rhodes was all over Mysterio at the start, hitting him early with a Beautiful Disaster and an Alabama Slam for a believable near fall (especially notable given how early it was in the match). Just in terms of establishment, Rey had to be considered the favourite, so Cody sharing a main event with him was a good rub, and Cody looked very competent against Mysterio, managing to keep a lid on him without dominating him. All the while Alberto Del Rio was at ringside, playing an excellent heel. His comments to the other commentators were nothing special, but just the way he stood in front of the booth with the headphones on made him come across as brilliantly arrogant. It was he that swung the balance in favour of Rhodes, thrusting Mysterio in to a ringpost after Mysterio accidentally hit him with his West Coast Pop. Rhodes took advantage, hitting the Cross-Rhodes and thankfully (for the exact same reasons as concerned Big Show) getting the victory.

With neither Mysterio or Big Show making the King of the Ring cut, there is, rightly,  a collection of great young talent in the brackets for the competition. But i’ll discuss this more in my upcoming King of the Ring post.

RAW Recall (22/11/2010): Welcome to Mizville!

Miz after capturing his first WWE Championship

 

How quickly the focus of the WWE Universe changes. This time yesterday, the fallout of Survivor Series and Cena’s firing was all most people were talking about. Leave it the the Miz to get people talking …

Yesterday, I was wondering how Nexus were going to stay relevant as a force in the WWE. Well, the first segment answered that question, for this Monday night, at least. Barrett came out and employed some classic wrestle-logic by suggesting that referees have never before laid their hands on a competitor like Cena did on Sunday, and for that reason, he should get a re-match. Of course, any one who remembers Earl Hebner’s WWE tenure will remember that this is hardly true even at a cursory glance. It was wrestle-logic well employed though, because the GM granted a rematch, meaning Nexus remained central to proceedings for the night, and seemed like legitimate threats to the WWE title, and therefore, the WWE.

As CM Punk came out to rehab at the announce booth, a lot of the night’s attention then shifted to the return of the King of the Ring concept which will take place next week on RAW. The first qualifier saw Sheamus take on R-Truth; two people who would fit in the tournament, making this match more unpredictable than most ‘qualifier’ type matches are. R-Truth had a decent showing, but the match was all about showing a ‘house of fire’ opened up in Sheamus after losing to John Morrison at Survivor Series. Indeed, the spirited Truth eventually seemed to just be being dragged along the ring, and Sheamus used all of his power moves (including the rarely executed Irish Cross) to go over Truth, despite the fact he could have pinned him before that. Bad for Truth (though that doesn’t really bother me), but good for Sheamus, who needs wins elsewhere if he’s going to put Morrison over. I wont speculate on who will/should win KOTR until all eight participants are announced on Friday.

The next qualifying match was slated to be Ezekiel Jackson against the Miz. When I saw the graphic, I thought “what’s the point of Miz being in KOTR, he doesn’t need to be.” Thankfully, therefore, Alex Riley took his place in the match (cue a joke from Punk regarding Riley’s recent DUI). I haven’t been sure up until now, but it seems they’re selling ‘Big Zeke’ as a babyface, which is fine by me as he seems surprisingly over. I think we need to see him do a little more in the ring though (his match against Riley was little more than another squash victory) and have him in some really good matches, all of which can be obtained by placing him in a good feud; for the sake of argument, let me suggest his ex-associate, William Regal. Like Goldust, Regal doesn’t seem to have too much long left in the ring, and, like Goldust, WWE may provide him with one last TV rivalry. A lot of this one would write itself.

Half-way through the show we saw Cena give his ‘farewell address.’ Some people dislike Cena (myself not included, though I thought his character was stale before this whole Nexus thing), but the one thing no one can take away is his knowledge and his passion for the business. Everything he said in that ring, I believe, was straight from the heart. He was sad but upbeat, he knew he’d stayed true to the business, to the community, and was proud and thankful of it. Cena also showed he is more tuned in with the fans than his detractors suggest, pulling out a cheeky curse-word (has Mae Young single-handedly ended the PG era!) and asking the WWE Universe to use their most sincere chant: “Lets’s go Cena/Cena sucks!” He has managed to refine his character of late. He is more than just a face, and that says a lot about his talent. On his way out, the locker-room, and long-time rival, Randy Orton, all paid respect. The last one to see him out, Wade Barrett, however, wished him good riddance with a mocking ‘you can’t see me’ gesture. It is emblematic of the new stars being made, many of which Cena has helped along.

Back to KOTR qualifying, and Daniel Bryan took on new rival Ted DiBiase. To me, it seemed like a no-brainer to have DiBiase go over. Daniel Bryan, as US champ and shooting star, doesn’t need the KOTR, and a loss after a successful title defence wouldn’t hurt him too much, especially if DiBiase gained it unfairly. The other ‘strory’ from this match was the strange accompaniment of Bryan to the ring of Brie Bella. Not that I particularly disliked it, but I thought the comical ‘ladies man’ idea was over before it begun. Apparently not, and Brie seemed quite taken with the American Dragon. Unfortunately for Bryan, this distracted him for the opening part of the match, and DiBiase didn’t let up for some time. However, Bryan got back in to it and managed to beat DiBiase, again, with the LaBelle Lock. Post match, as Brie was attending to Bryan, Nikki Bella  came out to contest for him. Bryan seemed stunned by it, and respectfully removed himself from the situation. At this, Cole called him a nerd, and for once, I have to agree! Another loss for DiBiase doesn’t seem great for his progression, but in a little preview to my KOTR post, I doubt Bryan will be winning, so expect DiBiase to cost Bryan his KOTR match and set up a US Championship rematch at TLC.

LayCool showed up at the arena only to be turned away. Of course Natalya has to now show up on Smackdown, but it may be a sign that there will be no LayCool rematch. Natalya had a classic sort of post-title victory match against Alicia Fox in which she dispatched her with ease to appear a dominant and deserved champion. All will be more clear for her after Smackdown.

The final KOTR qualification from RAW was determined between John Morrison and Tyson Kidd. Now, it’s good for Kidd that he got TV time, but he came out to generic music and lost, which may be a bad sign. The guy needs a good feud with DH Smith pronto, unless he wants to become a Superstars regular. The match was ok, but given the mutual high-flying skills of both, you might have expected more. I suppose the problem for Kidd is that his sort of almost lucha style isn’t that consistent with being a heel, so he might feel he needs to slow down and be more methodical, or risk not getting over. Neither is desirable. Before the match, Melina gave Morrison a flirtation slap on the ass, so to speak, and it seems rumours that MNM were getting back together may have some founding. As for the match, it was ok. None of the qualifiers were spectacular, as you might expect, but none of them were boring or bad, so there’s not much more to say. Morrison looked strong, which was just as important to him as it was to Sheamus.

Our main event saw Wade Barrett getting his championship rematch against Randy Orton. From this point, we had a rollercoaster of emotions and chaos. Initially, I couldn’t see Barrett winning. What would be the point of that after losing the night before? But then Nexus came out and Orton made a point of seeming debilitated for the title match, so at this point, a title change seems more possible. This match in itself was very good. Barrett played the calculating predator brilliantly while Orton sold his injury well while staying mobile, actually resembling a wounded animal (or viper). His eventual success, with the help of the vengeful Cena, was genuinely inspiring and uplifting. It was at this point that I realised there were seven minutes left in the broadcast. THERE ARE SEVEN MINUTES LEFT! … “AWESOME! … I CAME TO PLAY! …” No matter how many times it is done, a cashing in of MITB will always get everyone sat or stood up, as Punk mentioned the crowd in the arena were. An important aspect of the ensuing title match was that it wasn’t simply a Skull-Crushing Finalé and a three-count. Orton was stood up, and Miz had to actually work (though a lot less so than he usually would have) to overcome the Viper. He spent a fair amount of time working over a game Orton. Indeed, it seemed that the speculation (and hopes) of much of the IWC that Miz would be the first to fail to successfully cash in his MITB contract, may have been realised as Orton set-up for the RKO. However, Miz legitimately out-wrestled Orton with a great reversal in to the Skull-Crushing Finalé for the win. It wasn’t a clean victory, but it was one which suggested, as was essential, that Miz belongs on that stage. I have said recently that I thought Miz needed to wait to cash in, but this was very well executed, and made Miz look more like a credible champion. All of that, along with the almost child-like excitement of MITB made for a brilliant RAW! I imagine Orton will receive a rematch, and a simple one-on-one match would surely end in an Orton victory, so I imagine the cheated Barrett may also lay claim to a spot at TLC. Expect a triple-threat.