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