Extreme Rules, 2011: Christian Reaches the Summit

Christian wins his first ever World Title, following on from his best friend Edge

Ok, i’ll be up-front about this; this write-up isn’t going to be the most detailed of write-ups, just because I don’t have the time to put that much detail in. It’s a shame too because I really enjoyed last night’s PPV. Every match (the Cole match aside, which ‘was what it was’) really delivered in my eyes, even if some of the results in themselves weren’t to my liking.

Match 1) Randy Orton def. CM Punk in a Last Man Standing Match
It didn’t seem to me that the crowd wasn’t that in to this match, which is a shame because this match was predictably really good. One of the most frequent criticisms of Extreme Rules is that it isn’t that ‘extreme’. Well I don’t think that could be said about this match at least. There were a lot of enthralling hard-to-watch spots in this match, from an RKO on the announce table, the onslaught of kendo shots to Punk while he was in the corner, and the sickening shot to the ring-post to Randy Orton with his head in a chair, amongst much more. This was a well thought out brawl, and despite losing, CM Punk didn’t look weak, often out-wrestling Orton and kicking out of some of his strongest moves. The finish was pretty good though not that original with a super RKO to Punk ending it. I understand why Punk lost: Orton is now top dog on Smackdown and has to carry that, while Punk’s future at the company seems uncertain. Nonetheless, I would have liked to see Punk go over as he deserves one big win in this feud.

Match 2) Kofi Kingston def. Sheamus in a Tables Match to Win the United States Championship
This was an impromptu match, and so, the competitors may be forgiven for putting on a so-so match, and indeed, it seemed like that might be the case initially. The match started off slowly, but really built around Kofi surviving against the seemingly unstoppable Celtic Warrior, jumping over the table following a brogue kick for instance. Eventually, Kofi managed to turn the tide, showing a resilience and a fighting spirit he may not have been able to show at times in the past. The spot which finished the match was spectacular. Initially, though Sheamus was stood next to the table, he didn’t seem vulnerable to going through the table. But then, Kofi leaped from the turnbuckle, landing on Sheamus and dropping him through the table with a devastating boom-drop. A nice match, especially given that the match didn’t receive much build and wasn’t even listed.

Match 3) Michael Cole & Jack Swagger def. Jerry “The King” Lawler & J.R. in a Country Whipping Match
The low point, the black hole if you will, of the night. This was better then their attempt at an actual wrestling match at WrestleMania, but it was still far from a good match, though obviously, that wasn’t the intention. The problem was that this wasn’t the blow-off. I know Cole is getting the most heat right now, and that the people are loving seeing J.R., but this really needed to be the blowoff. And what better match to do that in than a whipping match! I know the angle is popular, but the matches are not. There is nothing long with people wanting more if that is required.

Match 4) Rey Mysterio def. Cody Rhodes in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
This was another very good match that will probably be the blowoff of this excellent feud between Mysterio and Rhodes. This one went the right way as it left the ring pretty quickly, and was appropriately brutal given the hard feelings that have grown between the two characters. They made their way up the ramp first, and Mysterio reversed Rhodes and threw him in to the tron in an echo of Rhodes’ original beat-down of Mysterio. Then, they moved in to the crowd, and we saw a really cool spot with Rhodes putting Mysterio in a Boston Crab while he was wrapped in a hand-rail. In a different part of the arena, there was another nice storyline idea as Mysterio forced Rhodes to look at himself in the mirror, before Rhodes reacted by hitting a Beautiful Disaster from the wall. The only problem was that the finish had to finish in the ring because of Mysterio’s move-set (well, not necessarily, but more easily) which was part of my reasoning for predicting Rhodes to win. The finish was nice despite that, with Mysterio hitting Rhodes with some mist (Great Muta/Tajiri style) before hitting a 619 for the win. The match was nice, but I do always think that falls count anywhere matches that the matches should finish outside the ring, and the fact that it didn’t hurt the match. Other than that, another very well thought out match.

Match 5) Layla def. Michelle McCool in a No DQ, No Count-Out, Loser Leaves WWE Match
Very nice divas match here. As i’ve said before, the story here wrote itself, though the aspect WWE added (that Layla could hardly bare to fight Michelle) was a nice aspect as it showed how close the two were while adding an extra psychological dimension to every move she executed. Before the match, Layla apologised to all the divas for all the things she’d done as a member of LayCool in a segment which she did a good job of making it seem sincere, so it seems here babyface turn is confirmed. The match itself was really brutal, and just goes to show that at least some of the divas can really bring it physically. This started when McCool big-booted Layla right off the top rope during her entrance pose to kick things off (LITERALLY!) Lots of brawling ringside with the barricades and announce table before they made their way back to the ring. Layla hit her floatover stunner from the turnbuckle for a nice near-fall, and, speaking of psychology, when Michelle kicked out, Layla really seemed devastated as she would have to continue punishing someone she is so emotionally connected to. After some more nice progressions, McCool hit a Faithbreaker, but as she pinned Layla, Lay reversed in to a crucifix pin for the victory. A nice reversal, but maybe a slightly lacklustre finish? I think that’s a bit harsh, but I might have appreciated a bit more of a punchy end. Both girls in tears at this point and it was certainly very emotional. Great of McCool to do her duty and put Layla over, and while i’ve heard the dreaded word ‘retirement’, I really hope to see her again.

Then we heard Kharma’s music! The build for her character has been fantastic, and this was such an exciting moment. Her music and her demeanor was very affecting, especially since they gave her the ‘Andre’ shot from the ground, making her seem even bigger. She was absolutely terrifying, and for Michelle’s part, she played it fantastically,frozen to the spot like in a horror film. She then took a huge Implant Buster from Kharma who reverted to periodic, spasmodic laughter (which must be very difficult to do). Huge impact, and thanks to Michelle. Firstly for putting over 2 divas in one night, but more importantly, if she is retiring, for everything she’s done for the fans. Great worker, and one of the stand-out divas of recent years.

Match 6) Christian def. Alberto Del Rio in a Ladder Match to Become the BRAND NEW World Heavyweight Champion
At the start of this post, I said that I wouldn’t be able to go in to too much detail, and that is still the case i’m afraid. I feel bad, because this deserves all the attention it gets, but unfortunately, I really need to finish this sucker! Every second of this match delivered, so I wont even go in to too many specific spots. I will, however, mention what looked like it was meant to be a snap-ladder spot. With Christian draped across a ladder wedged between the ring apron and the announce table, Del Rio went for an elbow-drop from the turnbuckle, only for Christian to move and Del Rio to crash, sickeningly in to the ladder, which did NOT snap. If anything, I think that made it more visually affecting that the clean ladder-snap. It looked so brutal. Del Rio regained the upper hand though, and looked ‘destined’ to collect the World Title when Edge came in in a jeep for enough of a distraction (though not enough of one to reasonably claim that Del Rio was ‘screwed’) to allow Christian to push Del Rio out of the ring on to Ricardo Rodriguez and a disgustingly busted open Brodus Clay (seriously, there was a PUDDLE of blood (not to be confused with a Puddle of Mudd)) and claim the title as his friend Edge watched on approvingly. It was exactly what the WWE Universe wanted to see, and personally, for me, it was so touching, having had some of my formative wrestling viewing experiences watching Edge & Christian. Christian was incredibly moved by this, and as a fan, this is what you want to see. Someone who cares about achieving these goals and realises how blessed they are. Beautiful.

Match 7) Kane & The Big Show def. Wade Barrett & Ezekiel Jackson (Corre) in a Tag Team Lumberjack Match to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
I literally almost forgot that this match even happened. Its not that this was bad, but it simply served these guys by progressing the Corre fragmenting story. That is a job for TV. It didn’t last that long, but it would be time better allotted to another match (Layla/McCool?).

Match 8) John Cena def. The Miz and John Morrison to Win the WWE Championship
One of my few criticisms of this PPV is that the main event should have been the previous match. I understand that this match was about the ‘A’ brand, and the WWE’s top stars and the top title changing hands, but the truly iconic moment came just before this. It is a shame that Christian’s moment had to compete with Cena’s. Having said that, this main event was great in itself, and, probably helped by the intervening tag match, didn’t suffer from following Christain’s win. This was very well booked specifically as a triple threat cage match, with jeopardy at every turn from the third wheel having chances to escape while the other competitors don’t even notice. There were some great dramatic moments from that conceit alone. Other than that, just lots of nice spots and very good drama. Miz took a couple of horrible bumps, especially that double superplex from the ropes from which he landed on his neck! They also used the cage door very well at times. There was one point when Cena and Morrison were fighting atop the cage. Miz, trying to escape from the door, was stopped by Morrison who used his leg to slam the door in his face. I know this doesn’t sound particularly great, but considering he was focused on Cena, and the nonchalance with which he did it made it seem unique and cool. This was followed by another really arresting image of Morrison being dragged back in to the cage, from the the top, through the door, by Miz before Cena hit him with a Monkey Flip (more additions to Cena’s move-set, but will no doubt people will still call him out for using ‘5 moves’). Later on, Morrison looked destined to escape the cage, when R-Truth appeared to stop him. I really liked how this was booked. Truth absolutely decimated Morrison. I loved him being in the cage, and I loved even more how he beat down Cena and climbed out to prove a point. Excellent stuff and a definite impact from Truth. JoMo was out of the match from this point, leaving just Miz and Cena. Atop the turnbuckle, Miz teased a super-Skull-Crushing Finalé, but what we got was a super-Attitude Adjustment and a three-count for Cena. It was a very good match, and Miz had had a 159 day reign (pretty long by any marker), so it’s hard to legitimately complain, but I really don’t think Cena should have won. It seems now that Cena is going to hold that title until WrestleMania (following his confrontation with Rock on the following night’s RAW). Not only is a year-long Cena champ what few want to see (though it will add nice prestige to the title I must admit, and make his eventual losing of it seem huge), I would have rather had that effect on Miz’s reign. He’s a top guy now for sure anyway, but imagine if he’d have had the title until, say, Summerslam? Not only that, but it deprives WWE and its Universe of a good face-chase story, with Cena being denied the title by various different means, again, making his eventual capturing of it seem like a dramatic peak. All this said, it’s not the worst decision ever. It does make sense. I just would have rather Miz continue his reign.

Overall, probably the best non-major PPV in a long time. The two tag matches were not very satisfying, but those aside, consistently high quality matches, and mixed in with Michelle’s emotional exit, Kharma’s impactful debut, and Christian’s title win, this PPV was a very good one. Even a rare iconic non-major PPV. Maybe. Time will tell.

One more thing! For those of you that read and enjoy, please try and show that somehow (comments, likes etc), and if you want further thoughts from me, and comments on the biz, follow me on twitter @RTVWOW Here’s a link too: http://twitter.com/#!/RTVWOW I just tweeted, for instance, on TNA’s name change. Go see what I said!


Extreme Rules, 2011: Preview and Predictions

Extreme Rules: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL, 01/05/2011

Unfortunately, I have to open this with a criticism. This has to have been the worst built WWE PPV in years. Fair enough the draft caused a huge distraction, but its all just been a bit limp. WrestleMania hangover maybe? There have been some well built matches. This week’s go-home Smackdown brought Christian to the fore where he has needed to be. The LayCool match builds itself and has all their history behind it. So much attention has been paid to Cole/Swagger/King/JR that it has probably taken from the build of other matches. This is not to say, however, that it will be a bad PPV. In fact, in many ways, the card is stacked (ignoring the commentators whipping each other) and the ‘extreme’ nature of the night adds an extra dimension to the whole night, especially as WWE emerges from it’s ultra-sanitary era and pushes the envelope a little more. So, without further ado!

Match 1) Christian vs Alberto Del Rio – Ladder Match for the Vacant World Heavyweight Championship
This is a difficult match to predict. The heart says Christian, the head (smark) says Del Rio. Del Rio definitely has the higher profile and is on an absolutely meteoric rise, underpinned by his draft to RAW while Vince is said to not be high on Christian as a main-eventer. Usually, Del Rio would go over without any doubt, but that would be to overlook the reason why Christian is even in this match in the first place, and that is his emotional attachment to the recently retired future Hall of Famer Edge. The people want to see Christian win the title, and that’s a big factor. Del Rio going to RAW is also a factor. Smackdown has been something of a whipping boy in the past, but they wont leave it without a top title, which is what would happen if Del Rio won. Now, they could always find a way to get the title on Orton, but that seems complicated, and what would Orton have done on Smackdown to earn a shot at their title? If Del Rio stayed on Smackdown, I would have backed him and the face-chase, but seen as he isn’t, for those reasons, i’m picking Captain Charisma to finally get his hands on the belt on Sunday, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. As for the match itself, i’m expecting big things. Christian is an innovator of the ladder match, and will know how important a huge performance from him is if he wants to remain in the main event. As for Del Rio, he is just great, and at TLC last year had an honourable showing.

Winner: Christian

Match 2) Sheamus (c) vs Kofi Kingston in an Extreme Rules Match for the United States Championship (?)
Ok, so this is a complete guess as it hasn’t been booked yet, but there are two reasons I think this will happen. After the draft, both the US and IC titles are on Smackdown, which obviously wont do. I was expecting one to change hands to an outgoing superstar on Smackdown, but since that didn’t happen, it’ll have to happen at Extreme Rules. What did happen was Sheamus brutalising Kofi Kingston on Smackdown before what was meant to be a title match. He’ll get it on Sunday, and he’ll take the title back to RAW. Why Kofi is getting it is beyond me. He’s been boring the life out of me for a while now. Kofi was really the only viable outgoing superstar so maybe having someone come from RAW to reclaim their title, someone fresh like Evan Bourne, would have been good. They’ll have a decent enough but short match. Sheamus drops the title so he can feud with Christian over the title. How’s that for a bold prediction! Oh God, that means more Orton vs Sheamus down the line!

Winner: Kofi Kingston

Match 3) Cody Rhodes vs Rey Mysterio in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
Tough to call. Rhodes has absolutely shone in this feud, and his promos including paper bags have been star-making. Had he not won at WrestleMania, and if it wasn’t to be Rey Mysterio’s last Smackdown match, I would have no hesitation in giving it to Rhodes, but losing twice in a row to Rhodes at PPV and heading to RAW doesn’t seem a great way forward for Mysterio. On the other hand again though, Rhodes still needs this victory far more than Mysterio. I have a feeling Cody will be moving on to Randy Orton after Sunday, and it’ll be very hard to seem credible against WWE’s #2 guy coming off a big loss. These guys have had so much history that a straight-up brawl will seem believable and so a Falls Count Anywhere could work. I always want Falls Count Anywhere matches to finish outside of the ring myself, and you’ve got to think it will as that is the whole basis of the stipulation. With solely that in mind, i’m backing Cody Rhodes. Non of Rey Mysterio’s major offense is possible without the ring being used. In the crowd or by the stage, he wont be able to 619 anyone. I see this one increasing in intensity before Rhodes eventually does something shocking like pushes some equipment on to Mysterio, earning the victory. Mysterio can afford it.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 4) Layla vs Michelle McCool, No Disqualifications, No Count-Outs – Loser Leaves WWE
This is less of a ‘prediction’ as it is being said with near certainty online that Michelle McCool is legitimately leaving WWE after this match, and not just for a break. While I can’t imagine McCool never coming back, and certainly hope it’s not the case, it seems like a possibility, and makes this match an almost definite win for Layla (barring swerves and the like). Its a shame, because I always hoped for a great feud between these two after their long association. With that in mind,  have high hopes for this match. I think it will get decent time and i’m sure if it is they’ll be able to put on a really good show and do the divas proud! As for Layla, I would have pegged her as a babyface, but without Michelle, on Smackdown, she may have to stay heel after this match.

Winner: Layla

Match 5) Randy Orton vs CM Punk in a Last Man Standing Match
God this match has ‘awesome’ written all over it, even without Miz! The main speculation surrounding this match (especially given the lack of build since ‘Mania) is about the rumours of CM Punk wanting to leave WWE for a while, at least. People seem to assume that Punk will not get anything significant for that reason, but really, it could work both ways. WWE, trying to get Punk to sign a contract extension, could give him good results like this to sweeten the deal. All I know is that these two are two of the most sinister characters in recent wrestling history, and a match like this is made for them in both the brutality, and the sinister psychology of trying to be the ‘last man standing’. I hope it lives up to that expectation and sure it will, though it’s difficult to imagine the booking of the match. I dunno … Orton won at WrestleMania, so …

Winner: CM Punk

Match 6) Michael Cole & Jack Swagger vs Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler in a Country Whipping Match
Right, i’m sure they’ll explain the stipulation before the match starts … The match at WrestleMania was rightly panned as the lowlight of the show. It wont be booked like a wrestling match again, that much is clear from the stipulation. Swagger vs King to start. King gets the best of Swagger. Cole berates Swagger. Swagger leaves Cole. King beats on Cole. J.R. beats on Cole. One of them pins Cole. The crowd goes wild. The angle is over. And thank God, as much as Cole is a fantastic heel, it should have finished at WrestleMania and it has started to consistently take precious TV time away from wrestlers, and that is unacceptable.

Winners: Jerry “The King” Lawler & Jim Ross

Match 7) The Miz (c) vs John Cena vs John Morrison – Cage Match for the WWE Championship
In many ways, this match has had the most anonymous build. Has Morrison even been in the ring with either Miz or Cena? I can’t imagine how this match will be booked inside the cage, though i’m sure Morrison, who needs to shine more than anyone else there, will pull out some cool parkour-inspired move with the cage. The Miz will retain this and extend what has happily become a lengthy Championship reign. I’ve heard some say they’ll have Cena go over so Del Rio can feud with him over the title, but what about Miz? Cena and Del Rio don’t need the title to feud. Their profiles are enough to make people watch whatever the circumstance. That is, however, why Del Rio could be involved. Bitter about not gaining the World Title, he comes after the biggest dog on RAW, and prevents Cena from escaping. It is obvious, though no less the right booking, that R-Truth will do the same to Morrison to continue their feud. In fact, if both he and Del Rio were out at the same time during a race to escape the cage, allowing Miz to escape unopposed, that would be awesome. If this is how it goes, I would personally see the World Title match open the show. I picked this because its the RAW main event for the WWE title and involves both Cena and Miz, but the emotion of Christian win the title would be a better closing shot, so don’t be surprised if these matches are switched on the card. Saying that, if it is booked as i’ve suggested, we would close with three heels backing up the ramp, triumphant with the faces, dejected and/or angry, still inside the cage, which in itself is pretty cool.

Winner: The Miz

Lots of cool matches there, extreme rules and a guaranteed BRAND NEW World Champion. Sounds good to me.

Smack of the Week (22/04/2011): Reaching for the Brass Ring

Throughout this week’s episode of Smackdown, the World Heavyweight Championship was symbolically hanging above the ring, which was a nice touch as it made the title seem really special and prestigious. The night was dubbed a ‘night of champions’, which is ridiculous seen as they have a PPV on that concept. Nonetheless, it brings a certain prestige to the episode.

Rhodes provided the first promo of the night, and in many ways, this was my favourite part of the show. At first I thought he was churning out an identikit heel promo on Mysterio and hiding behind a mask (which we’ve heard at least once), but when he started handed out the paper bags with different expressions on them was brilliant, and a lot of people at ring-side (at least for a time, some longer than others) kept them on, making for a very striking image. It was incredibly sinister to see so many people potentially showing solidarity with this violently deranged character. He’s really started to carry this well in his movement and in the sound of his voice, as well as in his match. For a guy who I suppose is best described as a technical wrestler, he has taken on more elements of a brawler. He was, at times, beating Mysterio down and it was difficult to watch in the exact way it was supposed to be. He and Mysterio went back and forth, though usually with Rhodes on top, using the light-weight Mysterio in innovative ways (his torture-rack style back-breaker being really cool, for instance). The end came when Mysterio reversed a powerbomb attempt in to a sit down pin for the win. Rhodes, who had been on top, felt aggrieved at not being vindicated in victory, attacked Mysterio post-match, and a drawn-out brawl ensued. This was good, and kept up the level of intensity between them, with the moral stances of either man turning to shades of grey as both men were aggressors in this post-match brawl. They could have used the environment better, but it was all a set-up for booking a falls-count-anywhere match between the two, so maybe some action was being saved for next week and the PPV.

Great to see Barreta on TV, but equally good to see Swagger looking strong. Fans of Barreta may not like it, but at this point, just being on TV is good for him. He could be a big deal in the future, but for now, it’s important for Swagger to look strong, and he did.

Kane and Big Show had a nice match with Gabriel and Slater of Corre, going over and winning the Tag Titles. There’s not much to say about this really, other than the fact that it seems to be part of big changes, and possibly the end of the Corre. For the record, I will again state that Corre, before WrestleMania, were looking strong and that they should be allowed to continue for longer than it seems they are going to. After the match, Slater and Gabriel criticised Jackson for not being effective at ringside before Slater pushed Gabriel over. A lot still up in the air, and it could be good, but they would do well to keep Corre together.

There was another LayCool ‘couples therapy’ segment. This was cool enough, and they went a ways to really set up the face/heel demarcations, with Layla being emotionally hurt by a cold Michelle McCool to the point where she actually cried (very hard for me to watch!) before McCool attacked Layla from behind after initially apologising. Though the attack wasn’t that brutal or lengthy, it surely has to mark the end of the very successful LayCool partnership. Layla has come such a long way in the past 1/2 years, and I think she’ll get over as a face very easily, and surely feuding with McCool, this will be one of the best addressed and closely thought out diva storylines in a long time. That, in itself, makes it very important, and I hope it’s, indeed, given good thought and time, and hopefully lasts for a good few months.

It would have been easy for Barrett to drop the Intercontinental Championship after his Corre brethren dropped the tag titles, but thankfully he didn’t. Nice stuff from both guys here, but again the story was surrounded by Corre. Ringside, Ezekiel Jackson was attempting to help Barrett, but instead ended up clotheslining Barrett brutally (though that spot wasn’t that well realised as Jackson only ever looked like hitting Barrett). It was interesting that Barrett sent Jackson to the back and went on to pin Kingston relatively clean and without any help. Could this hint at a Barrett face-turn? I’m not sure whether that’s a good idea, but again, it could be realised well.

The final segment was very nice. It was Alberto Del Rio’s ‘Retirement Party’ for Edge, which is obviously an easy heat-drawer. But this was funny as well as brutal in it’s awkward honesty about Edge’s situation. He revealed several ‘presents’ for Edge, including a grandfather clock, ‘to watch the time go by’, adult diapers to compensate for the consequences of the damage to his body, a stroller, and an electric mobility scooter, driven by Ricardo Rodriguez, who still used Edge’s pyro, which was hilariously brilliant. Then out came Edge to challenge Del Rio, who set Brodus Clay after the now vulnerable Rated R Superstar, which turned out to be a trap when Christian blindsided Clay with a ladder and turned to fend off Del Rio, again using the weapon he is so associated with and symbolic of his main event at Extreme Rules. This gave him the time to set the ladder up, and again, symbolically take the World Title down from the noose to send a message of intent to Del Rio while sharing a look of approval from Edge. This was good build for the Extreme Rules match, but part of me thinks that Edge needs to stop being involved in this angle. Had Christian be the one for his music to hit and confront the heels, maybe he would have been able to steal more of the limelight for himself and make more impact than perhaps he did. Nonetheless, pretty good stuff.

Smack of the Week (15/04/2011): Edge’s Final Bow and Christian’s First?

Following the shock announcement from Edge on RAW that he was being forced to retire due to injury, it was clear that this episode of Smackdown was going to be an emotional one, and indeed, one dominated by the emotion of the situation. The opening of the show was covered by a blanket of fragile atmosphere, which made the hitting of Alberto Del Rio’s music all the more charged. I was wondering whether they would use Edge’s retirement to draw heat, and I thought they should either do it and really go for it, or not go for it at all, and what we got was quite a conservative attempt at heat-drawing. I liked how he claimed to have been responsible for Edge’s retirement, and wanted Edge to come and surrender the title, but Del Rio seemed to be holding back a little out of deference in terms of tone. If he would have been absolutely vile about it, and held a celebration and all that sort of thing, it would have been awesome.

The fall of Corre seems to be continuing, much to my disappointment. Big Zeke’s match with Kingston was ok, but the manner of his win was a big step towards a split of some sort. On the way to beating Kingston, Jackson threw him in to the other three members of the Corre in quite a nice spot and a message to the other members. The way I see it going down at the minute is Zeke turning face against Corre and Corre adding another heel member in replacement. I think Zeke being the only one without a title will alienate him from the rest of the group, and the conflict will bring the three title-holders together.

Great to see Drew McIntyre have another match against a top star in Rey Mysterio. Mysterio is great, due to his size and weight, for giving his opponents more scope to do something innovative with, and for making his opponents look great, and vice-versa. That was the case with really great guys like Chris Jericho and CM Punk, and I think McIntyre embraced this opportunity equally. He was coming up with some cool reversals for Mysterio’s offense and just really clicking with him. McIntyre was very impressive in his aggressiveness and really carried himself well throughout the match. After lots of back-and-forth, Mysterio finally got the upper-hand and went over, but this wasn’t a burial by any stretch. In fact, the announcers made a point of putting McIntyre over as an improving talent. In fact, even in defeat, McIntyre seemed to be getting a little push, perhaps as a result of Edge’s retirement. At the minute, he’s between feuds, and will need something – maybe joining Corre?

The break-up of LayCool kept accelerating this week, perhaps to complete breaking point. Right from the start, McCool seemed distant, not participating in their ‘couples therapy’ or their choreographed entrance. Layla’s match with Kelly Kelly was ok, but it was all about LayCool, with McCool, ostensibly helping Layla back in to the ring, but doing so very aggressively, so much so that Layla lost nonetheless. I understand them wanting to make sure the very ‘marketable’ Kelly on TV, but her going over Layla made Layla seem very weak. Following that was the understandable post-match argument about the lack of success which culminated in McCool pushing Layla over before exiting the ring. Layla is way more popular, so making her babyface, which it seems they are doing, is the right choice, and i’m very happy about that, because I think she can rise to being one of the very top divas. On the way to the back, McCool said ‘lets see how you do without me’. I don’t know whether we were meant to hear that, but if we were, it’s quite exciting stuff. I’ve been looking forward to this split, though I think Extreme Rules is a bit of a small stage for this story, which involves the most exposed and carefully created divas in the company.

The main-event was the Battle Royale for, I suppose, the #2 contendership to the World Heavyweight Championship. There’s never much to say about a battle royale, but what I will say is that it did a good job of making me doubt my strong instinct that Christian would win. When it got down to the final four or so, and Swagger was still there after Cole had promised to redeem himself with Swagger, I started to think that Swagger could progress, and this is even given that Swagger was already booked in a match for Extreme Rules, and is a heel. I really liked the spot where Cole came out and shielded Swagger from a 619 to save him in the match and help him make it to the final 2. Eventually, Christian did manage to get the win and the right result, but in a match which is simply an exciting, chaotic way to highlight one guy, they did a good job of inserting some nice spots into there and making it less formulaic.

This is great for Christian. He at least deserves a World Championship match in his career, if not a reign. If it was me, eventhough it’s obvious, I would like to see him be the one to take Edge’s place, though even if he doesn’t at Extreme Rules, I think he will continue to feud over the title with Del Rio, getting his deserved main event status. Earlier in the night, Edge had shown incredible dignity when relinquishing the World Title, making it seem more prestigious, and following this, down came Edge again to congratulate his long time friend, along with Big Show, Rey and Chavo, all of whom are great friends, along with the rest of the lockerroom showing Edge huge respect by standing on the stage and applauding. There was even the very special moment of one last ‘5 second pose’ from E&C which was very touching apart from being just awesome. Even HHH came down, perhaps to show some official respect from WWE to the Rated R Superstar – though i’m sure it was genuine emotion for sure. There was another incredibly touching speech from Edge, which is better seen than described. The chants of ‘Hall of Fame’ from the crowd moved everybody and Edge especially, and I think he will definitely make it, and is certainly deserving, probably the next time WrestleMania is in Toronto.

Edge’s final farewell in two parts:

WrestleMania XXVII Review: Atlanta Gets Rocked

The images we've all been waiting for, the Rock Bottom to Cena

It is difficult to sum up a WrestleMania. Each individual fan goes in with a specific vision of what they want to see and what they expect to see, and if they are not realised, it can be a dampener on the whole show. It wont please everyone, especially in the fickle internet wrestling ‘community’, but the show put out last night was, for the most part, excellent, and certainly ‘Mania worthy.

One disappointment, though, was the nixing of the US title match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan – a match many wanted to see given the high quality of Bryan’s matches and the fact it would be his first WrestleMania. Given the relative brevity of some of the matches, the reasoning that time constraints were such that one match had to be cut makes sense, and I would rather this than Bryan and Sheamus being forced to go out with only five minutes. It’s unfortunate, but for the greater good.

Match 1: Edge w/ Christian def. Alberto Del Rio w/ Brodus Clay & Ricardo Rodriguez to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
For many it was a surprise that the first match out was the World Heavyweight Championship match. This wasn’t the insult that it perhaps used to be. In fact, its a compliment to them, showing that they have the star quality enough to garner immediate interest in the show. This match was very well paced. There was a big match feel with the timidness of the start which built and built as Del Rio worked on Edge’s injured shoulder against the ring-steps. When Del Rio worked his way in to his arm-breaker, the match started to take off. After escaping that, Edge retaliated with a somersault to Del Rio on the outside, the sort of move that he’d only save for WrestleMania at his age. The back and forth continued, with Del Rio hitting an arm-drag and an enziguiri from the top rope, and Edge hitting his signatures, The Edge-o-matic and the Edgecution for near falls. Towards the end of the match, the outside participants started getting involved. One excellent spot was when Edge tried to stop a pin by putting his foot on the rope, only for Ricardo Rodriguez to take it off and force Edge to kick out properly. As everyone outside the ring took each other out, Edge and Del Rio fought to finish the other. Edge, having escaped an arm-breaker attempt, managed to hit a Spear for the win. This was a little abrupt, and I think the match could have lasted a little longer, but especially in retrospect, this was still a good match. Many will be disappointed about the lack of a Christian heel-turn, but at the very least, it can be called a swerve that made the result more unpredictable. Also, just because Christian didn’t turn heel last night, it doesn’t mean there are no plans for that in the future. A more legitimate gripe might be at Del Rio not fulfilling his ‘destiny’ and going over when it seemed to be so clearly the next stage in his development. I don’t think this is the end of his push though. Like with Christian’s heel turn, I think its just been differed for the time being as WWE seem to feel there’s more to come from this feud.

Match 2: Cody Rhodes def. Rey Mysterio
Cody Rhodes came out next to a bit of a comparatively tepid reaction, but I liked his entrance with the freakshow news clippings. Mysterio, for his part, came out in customary pomp as Captain America. I would have liked to have seen Rhodes wrestle in his hoodie thing as it would have shown even more how he wanted his face covered. In many ways, central to this match was the synthetic extra-bodily appendages each man has been using in this feud. Early on, Rhodes was using his mask with diving headbutts before trying to rip Rey Mysterio’s knee-brace off, something he later managed. Rhodes’ dominance continued, leading to some awesome spots including a Beautiful Disaster to Mysterio as he was tangled in the ropes, and another where Rhodes went for a superplex on Mysterio, but made it a delayed superplex, holding Mysterio upright for quite some time before dropping him to the canvas. Following this, Mysterio gained the upper hand with quite a lot of offense back on Rhodes, including a great moonsault on to the standing Rhodes for a near-fall. It was around here that both the knee-brace and Rhodes mask were ripped off, in an interesting exchange of bodily enhancements, before Mysterio put Rhodes mask over his own. Forcing Rhodes to the outside, the referee was suitably distracted so that Rhodes could hit him with his own knee brace and follow up with a Cross-Rhodes for the pinfall. A very good match in storyline terms, playing off the various enhancements/weapons that have been so key to the story. It was also great to see Rhodes go over on the big stage, with more matches seemingly in the pipeline.

I quite liked the little talent segment. I though William Regal did a good job of rapping in-character while Zack Ryder got a huge pop simply for singing ‘Friday’ on screen – Vince must surely have heard that! It’s time for Zack to make TV.

Match 3: Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella & Kofi Kingston def. The Corre
This was by far the worst match on the card. It was a five minute match which seemed almost completely pointless. It broke down very quickly in to a finish-fest which saw the faces go over, and seemingly without any good reason, while the growing Corre was stopped in their tracks. Even if Vlad was injured, I don’t see why he couldn’t have worked this match. Kofi Kingston being subbed in for Kozlov seemed completely needless. I would rather the extra five minutes or so be added on to the main event than watch this waste of time.

Match 4: Randy Orton def. CM Punk
For me, this was one of the most highly anticipated matches on  the card, and could certainly main-event any WrestleMania in itself. As you would expect from two essentially evil characters, the in-ring psychology in this match was perfectly pitched and very intense. Punk started off with the obvious step of targeting Orton’s injured knee right from the get-go. Orton, however, managed to avoid these early attacks well, absolutely pounding on Punk including some signature European Uppercuts while it was all Punk could do to get away. Outside the ring, Punk avoided being Irish whipped in to the steps and managed to kick them instead in to an oncoming Orton. This slowed down The Viper for obvious reasons, and so began the cat-and-mouse psychology which Punk is the perfect person to play. After working on the knee for some time and in various ways, Punk tied Orton up in the tree of woe, standing on Orton’s knee and looking exceedingly pleased with the pain he was inflicting. Even further, he managed to get the ring post figure-four leg lock on Orton in a way which seemed absolutely excruciating. At this point, Orton seemed almost defenseless against the maniacal Punk, being as he was barely able to stand, but he manged to muster some adrenaline-fueled offense with some clotheslines, his Angle slam and his scoop slam. Punk, however, maneged to recover, and again get the better of Orton with some strong style kicks. As the match started to reach its climax, Orton again got an adrenaline rush and managed to hit his Hangman DDT on Punk, seemingly setting up for the next in the series of Nexus punts. However, like on RAW the past week, Orton’s knee buckled under him, and he collapsed to the canvas. At this point, the complacent Punk returned, seemingly knowing that he was surely to go on and win. Orton truly seemed like a wounded animal, swiping defensively at Punk, attempting an RKO which Punk simply swept aside. However, this complacence, or this ‘faith’ was, as Orton promised, Punk’s downfall, and attempting a springboard-clothesline, Orton managed to muster the energy for a super RKO and the victory.  A great match between these two, deserving of more of a programme, though I’m not quite sure how that could be justified storyline-wise.

Match 5: Michael Cole w/ Jack Swagger def. Jerry “The King” Lawler via DQ
This match was never going to pretty, and indeed, it wasn’t, but it was more entertaining that the simple brutal justice of Hart-McMahon from last year. As I expected, Cole came out in an amateur-inspired Vickie Guerrero-esque comedy outfit. Another cool and funny angle came when Swagger was doing his trademark push-ups on the ramp when Stone Cold’s music hit, leading to the camera panning in on Swagger’s shocked face before Austin charged Swagger on his 4×4, forcing him to dive from the ramp. There was something about that, in it’s craziness, that was quintessentially WrestleMania. I was glad that they reverted to King’s old music, and he came out in a rather spectacular outfit which was more than fitting for Lawler’s big moment under the lights of WrestleMania. This was indeed a comedy match-up at the start, especially when King was banging Cole’s head against the Colemine. As the match went on, King obviously had the early advantage, pounding cathartically on Cole. There had to be a means of prolonging this match, however, and Jack Swagger provided them, attacking King from behind as he was escorting Cole to the ring, before synching in the ankle lock. Cole’s working on the leg was, let’s face it, pretty pitiful, and it did ruin any perception that Cole might be able to conceivably work over Lawler, even with the help of Swagger. Most notably, when working on Lawler’s ankle in the ropes, he was noticeably holding himself off Lawler’s ankle with the ropes. Later, Cole would go for Swagger’s version of the Vader Bomb, purposefully making it look like a struggle for him to do so, and eventually only doing it from the bottom rope. After performing the ultimate insult to King by pulling down one strap, Cole went for the Ankle lock himself, but was not able, obviously, to make Lawler quit. Recovering, Lawler trapped Cole, beating him and stomping a mudhole. At this point, Swagger threw in the towel, but Austin would not allow that. Confronting him, all Swagger got was a Stunner to a huge pop. Nice rub for Swagger in all this. Cole starts to plead with Austin like the slimy heel he is, before turning angry at Austin for not showing any sympathy. Austin pushes Cole in to some huge right hands from Lawler and in to a huge dropkick before going for the pin, only to drag Cole’s carcass up, wanting to apply even more punishment in the form of the Ankle Lock. Although Cole was tapping like a girl, Austin pretended not to see, only acknowledging it when Cole said that he quit. This would seem all well and good, and there was the usual beer-bath in the ring, even involving Booker T, who quickly received a stunner for his trouble; but then the anonymous GM chimed in, saying that Austin’s involvement in the match earned King a DQ and Cole the victory. This was met with great indignation from everyone in attendance (i’m not sure whether you could call it ‘heat’), and pure fury from King, who decided to shoot the messenger, Josh Matthews, who was thrown in to the ring for another stunner. This seemed totally unfair, but there was at least one reason for it. Mainly, it meant that J.R., who joined the announce team along with Booker, could call the rest of the PPV with his old partner, King, alone, but secondly, it could be material for the continuation of this feud, which now seems inevitable. I find it difficult to believe that Cole going over Lawler will be the end of the feud, and indeed, Matthews showed a degree of sympathy for Cole during the match. Perhaps this unjust attack, as well as Matthew’s wrestling training could lead to a Lawler & Austin vs Cole & Matthews match down the line?

Match 6: The Undertaker def. Triple H to Extend The Streak to 19-0
What an announce team in place for this match. What an excellent job J.R. did on commentary along with his old partner, Jerry Lawler. The two competitors gave us a great match, but those two, and J.R. especially, made it even better. I’m almost worried about trying to review this match. I think, like all of the greatest matches, it was a spectacle, and so needs to be witnessed. What I will do then, is go over the major talking points, and then post a video of the match in the MOTY section, so you can see for yourself. Right from the get go, this was an aggressive match, involving two veterans leaving it all in (and out) of the ring to chase their respective interlinked goals. Within minutes, Triple H had been thrown over the top rope, and the two men had gone careening through the Cole Mine, leaving it jagged, poised, and an almost living example of the carnage of the match. Later, Triple H teased a pedigree through the announce table, only for a back body drop reversal right to the floor with a sickening thud. Seeing the downed HHH, Taker then climbed back in to the ring, and hit his no hands plancha spot which he saves for WrestleMania on The Game, who only just catches him sufficiently to save the Deadman from landing directly on his neck. Trying to capitalise on this, Taker looked to hit a Tombstone on HHH on the ring steps. After Hunter escaped that, Taker charged him, only to be met with a spinebuster right through the Spanish announce table. This was all within the space of the first half of the match, and already, the two were tearing their bodies apart. Lots of back and forth after this with Chokeslams, spinebusters, and more near-falls. There was also what has become the familiar exchange of usually match-winning finishers for near-falls which not only create great drama, but amp up the pressure each time one is hit, making every pin attempt more credible as a match winner, as a streak ender, only to be continually reprieved briefly from our anguish. This is never more so than in a streak match where now 19 years of history rides on every count on the mat. There was one point where Undertaker kicked out of three almost consecutive Pedigrees, obviously with less vigour and more shock each time. It is at this point that the end seems imminent for either competitor, and it is also at this point where the history of similar matches from the past started to manifest. HHH was in the definite ascendancy at this point, and started shouting to Taker to ‘stay down’ very much like Taker did to Shawn Michaels last year, while Taker struggled to keep his hands up like Ric Flair did when HBK retired him. All of these visual cues pointed to it being The Undertaker’s ‘time’, which was no doubt a big part in my belief that The Streak was indeed about to end. Frustrated after Taker’s refusal to die, HHH took to a steel chair,hitting him eight times with it like he was flogging a dead horse, before going on to hit him with a rare and sickening unprotected head shot with the chair. At this point, the Undertaker’s power certainly wasn’t bodily – it was all spiritual, psychological, the aspects of his character which gives him a constant edge, and then came the most heart-wrenching near fall. Again, struggling to stand, Undertaker received his own tombstone, and at that point, I was convinced The Streak was dead, but no, not yet – Taker again, somehow, kicked out. At this point, HHH looked actually scared, backing off from the body of Taker. After regaining himself, he went to get his iconic sledgehammer, but even given that short time to recover, Undertaker managed to clutch HHH in the Hell’s Gate, and The Game had nowhere to go. No one has survived that move for more than a few seconds before, but HHH seemed to survive for several minutes before, with nowhere to go and his hammer out of reach, finally, reluctantly, powerlessly, being forced to give up. In many ways it was the perfect end. Two huge iconic powers colliding, and after almost canceling each other out, one slowly expiring out of necessity. It was Undertaker who looked to have the worst of it though, and indeed, his body did go through some horrible punishment. Now i’m sure, with some assistance, Taker may hve been able to walk out, but his lifeless body seemed to have more truth to it than some would think possible. He truly gave us everything he had. This led to one final moment which I found really touching. After the match, HHH wasn’t bitter in any way, but resigned. Being helped from the ring, Undertaker collapsed to the ground, and HHH reacted with an instinctive, concerned motion towards him, eventhough 1o minutes earlier, he was delivering a flurry of chair shots to the man. That shows more respect that even a handshake or anything like that could. Taker eventually left on a gurney, without even his trademark raised fist. More than anything, this leads me to believe that his twentieth WrestleMania match will be his last. The image of the lifeless Deadman shows that between the bells at the big event, he is the best there is (at least in kayfabe terms), but after all these years his body is relenting. All this, to me, points to WrestleMania XXVIII being a release of some sort for The Undertaker. As ever though, we’ll have to wait and see. Some seem disappointed that Shawn Michaels didn’t cost HHH the match, but I think that would have sullied what we saw. For one thing, HHH tapping out in the context of that match is nothing to be ashamed of, while HBK costing The Game his chance of breaking The Streak would run the risk of being treated as a heel turn, surely something undesirable just after The Showstopper had entered the Hall of Fame.

Match 7: Snooki, Trish Stratus & John Morrison def. Michelle McCool, Layla & Dolph Ziggler
There was an awful lot of indignation when people saw that ‘Snookimania’ would be higher up the card than Taker-HHH, and I understand that, but it must be remembered that, as I said earlier, the card structure isn’t as simple as the higher the match, the more imortant it is. This was a good decision because it broke from the trauma of the previous match, gave the main event something much easier to follow, and gave future stars John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler, high spots on the card. This was a short match, and certainly nothing ‘special’, but it was fun, and provided us with the most interesting match-up between the teams, Trish vs Michelle (very much the Rock-Cena of the divas division). Those two were great for the short time they had together, culminating in that brave spot from the turnbuckle to the floor. Its a shame Morrison and Dolph couldn’t have any one-on-one time in the ring, but there was at least a cool spot where Morrison hit Starship Pain from the turnbuckle to Ziggler on the floor. Snooki, of course, went on to get the pin. From here, I don’t see much of a feud continuing. Maybe Morrison and Ziggler will continue for a while. As for LayCool, the hiatus of their split seemed to have ended even before the match started, with Michelle shoving Layla aside so she could face Stratus, and later, accidentally booting Layla in the head. I look forward to that.

MAIN EVENT: The Miz def. John Cena to Retain the WWE Championship
This one kicked off with WWE flexing their production muscles with an awesome video recounting the rise of The Miz, all while the Miz of today watches on as if he never doubted it would happen. Excellent stuff to build for this match. I also liked the inflatable ‘Awesome!’ which he burst through on his way out and the pyro he received. As for Cena, he got a similar video, but one that just made me feel how well trodden his story now is, and stale in comparison to someone like the Miz. His entrance was roundly booed as he was introduced by a full choir and red while and blue titantron, along with new red merch. This is usually a bad sign for those wanting a heel turn, but I got the feeling that more was going on here. WWE were almost knowingly trying too hard to ‘shove him down our throats’ here, and the fans reacted with a chorus of boos. It is worth noting here from the outset that this match was solid, but not 5 star. The two guys were very aggressive at times, but there were no big spots or anything like that. It is also worth noting that the crowd was more than fairly pro-Miz. I’m going to talk about the possibility of a Cena heel-turn later, but it should be said now that if he is not turning heel, the WWE seriously need to listen to their Universe and make plans to turn him pronto. At WrestleMania, it rarely only takes one finisher to put down an opponent, and this was no different. After some palaver, Alex Riley managed to strike Cena’s head into the exposed turnbuckle which was followed by a Skull-Crushing Finalé. Now it will surprise no one that Cena kicked out of Miz’s finisher, but what will surprise many was Miz’s kicking out of the biggest Attitude Adjustment i’ve ever seen! Right then and there, if he hadn’t already arrived, The Miz arrived. Following this, the two men brawl in to the crowd, with Cena crashing Miz over a couple of barricades while the referee counted eventually to 10 and labelled it a draw. The crowd hated it, and there was no way that was going to be the finish. Cue The Rock. Restarting the match, Rocky made it no-DQ, and as the match spilled back in to the ring, Cena turned around and ate a Rock Bottom, the image the world has been dying to see, and which allowed The Miz to pick up the win and retain his title. There’s a lot to be said about this, but it should be said first that it was crucial that Rock also attack Miz, which is exactly what he did, performing the People’s Elbow on him one last time. This was crucial because it shows that the Rock is essentially a benevolent figure. Cena wasn’t attacked by a heel, be was attacked by a face, which makes all the difference, and everyone cheered as it happened. After that, The Rock soaked in the crowd’s approval as the show faded to black. This was a decent match as I said, but I think it was more angle-driven than anything else. It had it’s drama of course, and if given extra time before the re-start, and one or two one-off WrestleMania moves, it would have made it excellent. It leaves questions and plants seeds. Could Cena turn heel? The stars have seemed alligned in the past and it hasn’t happened. This time, however, I think it really could happen. For the sake of argument, here’s how: On RAW, Cena comes out to call out The Rock and goes over what happened at Wrestlemania. He would say something like “I bust my ass 7 days a week, and then this movie star comes in having been away for 7 years and thinks he can cost me the title? And what is more, you, the WWE Universe, cheered. The fans, who have always had my back, turned on me. If that shows me one thing, it shows me that I don’t need the fans …” Instant heel turn. Lets hope so, eh?

It is important, however, not to pin our enjoyment of something like whether John Cena turned heel or not. We have to concentrate on what we saw and how it made us feel. For me, the Corre match and the Snooki match aside, all the others were of at least good quality, and in the case of Punk-Orton and Taker-HHH, they were five star. A little too much brevity in some of the matches, but nothing predictable. The spectacle was exhinited, stars were made, and this was a WrestleMania fit for consideration among some of the best.

WRESTLEMANIA XXVII: Preview & Predictions

WrestleMania XXVII: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia, 03/04/2011

It was roughly this time last year when I started this blog, so moved I was by the event, and especially the performances of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. This year I am here to cover the Grandaddy of them all, the annual blood-letting of wrestling, the most important day of the sports-entertainment year; WELCOME TO WRESTLEMANIA! (well, my preview of it …)

I’ve heard a lot about this WrestleMania having a disappointing build-up, but I really don’t understand that. It seems to me more like the bitter IWC shitting on whatever is offered to them. How people can’t get excited about The Rock and John Cena facing off, Alberto Del Rio and Christian (an IWC darling) making the main event, a Streak match against a credible opponent in future Hall of Famer, HHH involving the spectre of head of this year’s HoF class, Shawn Michaels.

The only fair criticism in my eyes is the loss of the Money in the Bank match. Until this year’s MITB PPV, this match was quintessential WrestleMania, and I don’t see why it couldn’t be involved this year round. Saying this, there is plenty of scope on a 9 match card to add to it, and I think some early electricity could be generated by our host, The Rock, by coming out, cutting a promo, and then announcing a MITB match. Wishful thinking perhaps, but if you can’t wish at WrestleMania, where can you!?

Dark Match) WrestleMania Battle Royal:
Being a dark match, this might not seem like a big deal, but it most certainly is. It is the route to WrestleMania for those not booked for the taped extravaganza, gives them a taste and a drive to progress, as well as earning them a PPV bonus. Especially with the probability of there being no MITB match this year, there is definitely licence to make a bigger deal out of the result of this match, maybe giving the winner some sort of accolade allowing them some TV time and a push, like the former benefits of the King of the Ring. As for who will win, there seems to be little reason to it as Yoshi Tatsu won it last year, but if more was to be made of it, I would suggest Sin Cara. He is to make his television debut on the RAW following WrestleMania in the aftermath of his very successful series of hype vignettes. A victory at WrestleMania would add even more momentum to his debut.

Winner: Sin Cara

Match 1) Corre (Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater & Ezekiel Jackson) vs Kane, The Big Show, Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
This was the final match (as far as we know) added to the card, and so, you have to imagine, the one with the least creative depth to it. That, mixed with the big star attractions involved (Barrett, Kane, Big Show), make it the perfect match to open the show with. The combination of the faces seems a little thrown together, despite the fact that its made up of two genuine teams. Contrast them with Corre, who now hold three belts and a tonne of momentum, and it’s difficult to see why the faces would ever win this match. If anything, I think it’s more likely that someone from the faces could turn heel and possibly join the Corre, adding to their momentum and making them even more intimidating. Kane? They do have history with him? Big Show? He could do with a new direction. Kozlov? No longer a tag champ. Speaking of Kozlov, following a match at Axxess, he was attacked by Corre, who severely injured his shoulder. I don’t know whether this will affect the booking, but it will surely add a new story to the match itself. This is a great way for Axxess to be utilised. Not only does it give those in attendance more ‘axxess’, but it adds even more mystique to the whole build for WrestleMania, showing that it is more than a one-night thing where anything can happen at any time; it is a city-wide, week-long spectacle. This can only help Corre, taking some blame away from the faces when they lose. Though there is possibly a chance that the disadvantage factor could swing momentum towards the faces, whatever happens, Corre are going over.

Winners: Corre

Update!: Following the incident at Axxess, Kofi Kingston has apparently replaced Kozlov in the match. I can only think Kozlov is legitimately injured, which is a real shame if it is the case. I can’t see, on the other hand, WWE taking a Mania spot away from someone just to get Kingston involved live. Its difficult to tell how this could affect the match. The fresh element of Kingston helps the faces chances, but it is also offset by the consequent removal of the adversity factor of taking on a larger team. That being the case, i’m sticking with my original prediction.

Match 2) United States Championship Match: Sheamus (c) vs Daniel Bryan
Last year, Sheamus took on HHH at WrestleMania whereas Bryan was still on NXT (I think), so both have had quite opposite fortunes over the last two years. Bryan had a very impressive US title run while Sheamus dropped from the WWE Championship to the US Championship. However, since picking up the US title, Sheamus seems to be on something of a climb-back to the top, while Bryan hasn’t had many opportunities on TV, having to contend with people like The Rock and Stone Cold for minutes. Nonetheless, Bryan has been involved in some of the best matches in WWE this year, and I fully expect him to make the most of his WrestleMania debut in a match with Sheamus who certainly has potential to put on a good match, especially with Bryan. Given time, which it should be, this could contribute to a consistently very high quality of wrestling on the show. The winner is seemingly quite predictable, however. Having just won the title a few weeks ago, I don’t see Sheamus losing his title.

Winner: Sheamus

Match 3) Rey Mysterio vs Cody Rhodes
This is among the most intense feuds on this year’s card; remarkable, seing as how it all started with an accidental injury in a TV match. This has been one of the most visually stimulating feuds for a long time, based as it is on Rhodes’s formerly ‘dashing’ looks turning beastly and requiring a mask of his own which is seemingly contrary to the meaning of Mysterio’s mask, which he then made a prize of. Since then, Rhodes has started to seem part-machine, part beast, making a point of using enhancements to his body, and using them as visual cues to their feud. Last year, Rhodes went down, along with Ted DiBiase, to Randy Orton to secure Orton’s face-turn. The idea of his affiliation with Orton was to propel him upwards. For DiBiase, it hasn’t yet worked, but Rhodes took on his ‘Dashing’ gimmick, and seems ready for his first iconic match on his way to the top. His natural talent, along with Mysterio’s wily high-flying experience, should make for another good match. I understand Mysterio asked for Rhodes personally, so that, along with the rise of Rhodes, makes me think Mysterio is going to put Rhodes over and help launch his career.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 4) John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki vs Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool & Layla
One of the most controversial inclusions in this year’s WrestleMania is Jersey Shore airhead, ‘Snooki’. I understand the skepticism, but I have no problem with her involvement. Like it or not, Jersey Shore is one of the biggest phenomenons in contemporary pop culture, and WrestleMania, like WWE in general is intentionally a pop culture juggernaut, as well as sports entertainment monolith, and from the original WrestleMania, the pop culture icons of the day have been a part of the event. She will hopefully bring eyes to the product and not actually wrestle enough to botch up the whole match. Meanwhile, Trish returning to the ring is always a pleasure, and especially when against the current heads of the divas division, LayCool. That is genuinely of interest. Also, there is the continuation of the burgeoning feud between John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler (a possible future main event in itself). Add all this together, and you have a nice mixture of pop culture and sports entertainment, as well as a match which promises to be fun. Perhaps to add some extra attraction to this match, it would be worth having a mixture of lumberjacks and lumberjills by the ring consisting of those not otherwise booked for the televised event. All this aside, it is absolutely clear that the faces will go over. Future Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus and celebrity guest Snooki wont be showing up to WrestleMania to lose. Snooki will get the pin over Layla, as I don’t see Michelle going through that indignity.

Winners: John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki

Match 5) Randy Orton vs CM Punk
In complete contrast to the match before it, which is in many ways a relief match, this feud is as dark and intense as you would expect from CM Punk and Randy Orton. This feud goes back to Unforgiven 2008 where Orton as a heel cost Punk as a face his World Championship. When this was renewed, the feud had no pretense of good vs evil. Indeed, Orton seemed to know that Punk had a point. In fact, this seems more of a competition over who can be the most despicable. Orton certainly achieved that by punting the whole of the New Nexus in the head, but those four or so weeks of build were a repetitive waste. It was only when Punk was left alone that the match started to build well. Two weeks ago, Punk pounced on Orton’s understandable complacency by threatening The Viper’s family as a trap to lure out Orton and attack him with a wrench to the knee, saying ‘now ‘aint that a kick in the head’. He followed up on this the next week with another attack on a seriously injured Orton, showing the shift in momentum that has seemingly taken place. The textbook would suggest that Orton will come back and defeat Punk, but I have a feeling that there’s more to this feud, and that its continuation will be best helped by a Punk victory. Not only that, but Punk, despite being a definite top talent, would benefit more from the victory and be hurt more by the loss. Saying that, this is the first really difficult match to predict, especially seen as a Punk prediction will really tip the balance towards the heels. Nonetheless, i’m sticking to my (unsure) instincts.

Winner: CM Punk

Match 6) Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole w/ Jack Swagger, with Special Guest Referee, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Like the Bret Hart-Vince McMahon match of last year’s WrestleMania, this match is not going to be pretty – this year’s blood-letting. The inclusion of Stone Cold and Swagger will just be to prolong the spectacle. Of course, if it was a one-on-one match, it would be over in seconds. I don’t expect it to be that long a match, but it will last out for some time. I imagine Swagger will get involved, gaining Cole the upper-hand for a while before Austin chases Swagger off, allowing Lawler to recover and beat Cole. After celebrating with a cold one, Cole will get up, only to be stunned back down. It wont be the best match, but seeing Lawler at WrestleMania will be special enough, and the sheer release of seeing Lawler finally dish out some justice to WWEs most obnoxious employee.

Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 7) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge w/ Christian vs Alberto Del Rio w/ Brodus Clay
Ever since debuting in WWE, Alberto Del Rio has been on an express route to the top, and since winning the Royal Rumble, his path seems all the quicker. It seems clear that he can only prevail at WrestleMania, earning his breakthrough moment and continuing his meteoric rise. For Edge to beat him now would undermine this. His feud with Edge has been intense, but it was only when Christian became intrinsically involved that it really took off. The long history between him and Edge not only makes his involvement more anticipated, but more engaging. People seem to be sure that Christian will turn on Edge at this event, partly for storyline purposes, and partly to legitimise Edge’s loss. I too believe this is a strong possibility, and believe it is so obviously a possibility that WWE could add an extra element to this angle. It seems quite an oversight not to have Drew McIntyre on the card, and given that he has been feuding with Edge recently, this could be his opportunity to get on the show. Depending on how big of a rub management want to give the Sinister Scotsman, they could have him actually cost Edge the match as his retaliation for coming between him and Kelly Kelly. If not, Christian could cost Edge the title after McIntyre’s already interfered, making it seem like it takes even more to defeat Edge. Either way, Christian could continue to beat down on Edge after the match, saying he’s waited all these years to humiliate Edge on the grandest state of them all. The only problem with such a promo is that it would take some spotlight from Del Rio. Either that, or the swerve could be that Del Rio wins clean and Christian stays alligned with Edge. Either way, i’m sure Del Rio will be leaving WrestleMania as the World Heavyweight Champion.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

Match 8) The Undertaker vs Triple H
It will be a brave call if this match is not the main event after the effect the streak match not being the main event had on WrestleMania XXV. Nonetheless, for reasons which will become clear, I think the WWE Championship match will be the main event. As for this match, it obviously has the potential to steal the show, being as it is between two of the most decorated veterans in recent history. Despite his weaker body these days, we can always count on ‘Taker to deliver at WrestleMania, and as for HHH, he has his own history of great matches. The build to this match has been truly memorable. There has been no physicality whatsoever, as if these two ‘outlaws’ have no need to make any points through violence any more. This is purely a match based on respect, and no doubt that will show during the match. There will be lots of drama and near-falls, and with an 18-year streak on the line, the tension will be unbearable whenever there is a pincover, and that is surely the makings of another great streak match. I also believe the spectre of Shawn Michaels will be present in this match, especially after that mesmerising promo this week on RAW. There has been a lot of speculation that HBK may actually cost HHH the streak, angry that he feels he can do what Shawn couldn’t. That would surprise me though. For one thing, physical interference would affect the purity of the match and it would surely be something of unwarranted heel-turn for a guy who is actually retired and a new entry in to the Hall of Fame. What I can see is Undertaker using HBK’s music or something to get inside The Game’s head as part of his legendary mind-games. Despite how much jeopardy the streak seems to be in, I can’t see it being broken this year, if ever. If it ever is to be broken, which I don’t think it should be, it will be in Undertaker’s final match, and I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

Winner: The Undertaker

Match 9) WWE Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs John Cena
No one knows yet exactly what role The Rock will play at WrestleMania. I have a feeling he’ll be there almost throughout, appearing with as many superstars as possible to give them a rub, but one match where he will clearly play an important role will be this match. Before I get to that though, it’s important not to overshadow the Miz and this match in itself. This is actually quite the established rivalry. Years ago, when Miz was still a mid-carder, he started his rise to the top with his anti-Cena phase which saw him lose, but in some high-profile matches with the face of the WWE. From there he continued to periodically bash Cena before beginning this main event feud with The Champ. To me, The Miz has more than proved his main event status in his beat-downs and verbal assaults on Cena, and main-eventing WrestleMania will not only be the zenith of his rise, but also of his feud with Cena. Neither Miz or Cena are the greatest wrestlers in the world, but they are also both very underrated, and can and have put on excellent matches. They both have a real knack for drama in matches, even if its not based in technical wrestling. Regarding The Rock, most people are scared that this will all end in Rock deciding to back Cena, beating down Miz, and raising Cena’s hand at the end of the night. However, far too much seems to have passed between the two for such a clean, polished finish. There will be phsyicality between Rocky and both Miz and Cena. I don’t think Rock will cost Cena the match, but I do think Cena will take a Rock Bottom, and I do think Miz will retain. Miz has also been on a huge rise (like Del Rio), and for Cena to win at WrestleMania again would stall all that surely, denying Miz his WrestleMania moment. After a lot of confusion, and maybe interference from Alex Riley, Miz will come through and retain his title. I think this will close the show, not only because Rocky’s involvement is part of the marquee, and because Miz’s win will be shocking in many ways, but because I also see Cena turning heel. After losing the match, a furious Cena would attack Rock from behind and would later blame his loss on relying on his useless fans while Miz went all out to win the match using underhanded tactics. If that’s not shocking enough to cause a heel-turn, then maybe Cena will need to win the title in an underhanded, heelish way, while also attacking the Rock from behind after the match. Whatever happens, I think what happens at WrestleMania will only continue the feud between these three. Indeed, The Rock is said to be very open to wrestling again, and that could lead to him sticking around until Summerslam, or even WrestleMania XXVIII in his hometown of Miami. With all these variables, nothing is predictable with this match, but i’m going to stick with The Miz for this match, simply for the reason that it seems important to his rise to being undisputed top heel.

Winner: The Miz

Again, the idea that Cena will turn heel is perhaps wishful thinking, but this is one of the most timely opportunities for it to happen since Cena was forced in to the Nexus. Though that is desirable, even without it, this promises to be an excellent WrestleMania. Even the relief match should be good, while every other match has interesting or compelling reasons to watch them. The final two matches hold the most interest for me, but every match here could be satisfying and fantastic.

RAW Recall (28/03/2011): Final Stop!

Rocky's first in-ring encounter with Cena didn't end well for him

Surprisingly, the opening shot of the night was CM Punk sitting cross-legged in the ring in spotlight. It amazed me how Punk managed to make a warm, home-town crowd, turn on him almost instantaneously. Punk could have been describing the early build for his match with Randy Orton when he called Orton complacent after punting the New Nexus in the head. Indeed, it seemed that way last week when Punk managed to trap Orton, and again this week, Punk’s comments drew an injured Viper to the ring to face his antagonist. Orton got the upper hand initially, but when attempting  to repeat another punt on Punk, his knee gave way (sold very well) and saved Punk. Looking back at the ring, the conniving Punk realised that Orton was vulnerable and re-entered the ring, attacking the bullseye on his knee and hitting a GTS to him before leaving the ring with a new confidence and a definite swing in momentum.

I have been saying it was a mistake to not make the most of the Edge and Christian reunion since it began at Elimination Chamber, so I was pleased to see them tag again on RAW. I would have thought it obvious, however, to have them enter the ring to their old music, so I was a little disappointed. Now my stream cut out lots during this match, so I can’t really say that much about it, but it seemed suitably lively to build well for Edge-Del Rio at WrestleMania. At first I was annoyed that the Canadian duo prospered 3 times in a row over Del Rio, but given that it was Clay, and not him, that got pinned, it didn’t seem so bad. Not only that, but Del Rio got the final word, locking in his brutal arm-breaker to the recovering Christian before laying out the World champion next to him. This has been one of those tit-for-tat rivalries, and will make for a good atmosphere in Atlanta.

There isn’t much to say about the Gabriel-Santino match. Wrestling, rightly, takes something of a back-seat to heat creating angles in the weeks before WrestleMania, and this match was simply an angle to set up a four on four match at WrestleMania between Corre and Santino, Kozlov, Kane and Big Show, which will add some much needed diversity to a WM card consisting mostly of one-on-one encounters. Well, you couldn’t have a ‘Mania without Kane, Big Show and Wade Barrett!

The next segment was fantastic. I expected the face-off between Undertaker and HHH to be compelling, and i’m sure it would have been anyway, but when Shawn Michaels involved himself, it became absolute gold. After some classic supernatural flexing from ‘Taker when he interrupted The Game’s entrance with a gong, I was wondering what could possibly happen between these two; they couldn’t fight, and it seemed like they might simply stare at each other in a flacid refrain to the chilling 2 21 11 promo. Then, Shawn Michaels hit. The Showstopper is obviously one in a million, and he injected yet another emotional context in to this rivalry. Before, it was hard to see HBK as impartial, but he seemed to challenge HHH at every turn, asking what makes him think he can do what he couldn’t against The Deadman. HHH responded by repeating one of the major stories of this feud, that he is calculated and remorseless where Shawn got ‘soft’. Undertaker said Trips’s confidence would be his downfall, and Michaels seemed to agree after Taker blocked an attempted Sweet Chin Music after things started to get heated. Obviously seeing this as telling, Shawn literally, ran away from HHH’s request to tell everyone why he would win, mouthing ‘You can’t win’ back to his friend. Fantastic promo, and fantastic build. My only problem with it is that I would have liked it to have been swapped with an earlier promo. Deep down, we all are sure Taker will win, so the most pro-HHH promo the better, and one where Trips seems vulnerable in the go home show was perhaps not best advised. Nonetheless, spectacular stuff, and proof of the power and talent of all involved!

I would have liked to have seen a longer Swagger-Lawler match, as it could actually be excellent, but time constraints were obviously a problem on Monday. It was all pretty standard build, but the bit I really liked was at the very end when Cole provoked Lawler, ran to his ‘Cole Mine’ leading to Lawler clawing at Cole while being held back by security and allowing Cole to throw his drink in The King’s face, further establishing his pettiness. This was a great way to make the moment when Lawler finally does get his hands on Cole even more satisfying.

Bryan and Morrison vs Sheamus and Ziggler was in theory a great way to build both of the matches those guys are involved in, and I suppose it was somewhat successful in that, but it was too short to build anything impressive. It makes me wonder whether the final RAWs before Mania should be 3 hour affairs … There might be a post in that. Elsewhere, we had a field segment between LayCool and Trish & Snooki which was obviously cut short, causing it to lose some of it’s impact. Nonetheless, I like angles away from the arena. It adds to the ‘big deal feel’ of WrestleMania for me.

The final seg was the long-awaited, much-anticipated, showdown between The Rock and Cena (and Miz, of course). Great choice by WWE to tape in Chicago as they go nuts for The Rock, and shouting loud that they are part of ‘the millions’. Rock cuts a classic ‘Rock’ promo, expertly mocking Cena (who looks like a homeless power ranger) while making himself seem like an irresistible force. Then we hear Cena’s music and it’s on! The two exist together in the ring in a vision that is amongst the most eagerly desired in wrestling history. The Rock paces the ring like he used to, showing just how much he wants to get at Cena. Cena’s rebuttal was strong and suitable not in the form of rap; he asked Rock what exactly his problem is with Cena, and build’s it to the highly intense question: Who the hell are you? Who is the Rock to question Cena’s lifestyle and character? This is crucial. After all of the jokes, Cena did what Rock asked, and addressed him and his issues man-to-man, and just as Cena’s invitation to a fight was about to taken up by Rocky, who said that even the good lord can’t save him from having his ass whipped all over Chicago, out came Miz (with Alex Riley) for their rub off the two. Miz largely holds his own with Rock and Cena, calling them the two O’s: Overhyped and Overrated. Crucially again, Miz says that at least Cena will ‘go down swinging’ whereas Rocky will not risk his post-wrestling acting career by actually acting physically. Then, after Cena has left the ring and Rock tells Miz that it doesn’t matter what he thinks, Riley cheap-shots Rock and a beat-down begins while Cena stands outside, unlike a hero, not intervening. Rock recovers and lays the smackdown on Riley over the top rope in classic fashion before a characteristic DDT and finally a People’s Elbow to Miz. Then, from behind, Cena picks up Rock and hits an Attitude Adjustment to the Great One. This was again crucial. After explaining how he was facing Rock face-to-face, an attack from behind is hardly an act of a hero, and was met with a huge chorus of boos as Cena gave a self-congratulatory ‘You Can’t See Me’ taunt to the fallen People’s Champ. What am I saying? That this wasn’t far from a heel-turn in itself. It’s difficult to see how we can have what would be many people’s nightmare scenario of Rock and Cena palling up at Mania. It was more physicality than I expected, but it certainly left a lot of huge questions for Sunday.