Money in the Bank Preview and Predictions, 2011

Money in the Bank July 17, 2011, Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL

For the past 3-4 weeks, Money in the Bank has become the most highly anticipated PPV in recent memory. At it’s inception, I was skeptical about the idea of a MITB PPV, simply because I thought the MITB match was great as a unique attraction for WrestleMania, or would serve better in a similar role at Summerslam. After last year’s event though, and a new-found belief that the concept will never get boring and will always create great intrigue, I have been brought round to the concept. Indeed, even before the #SummerofPunk  even began, I was starting to consider Money in the Bank as on par with the so called ‘Big 4’. Indeed, I think it wont be long before we start speaking of the ‘Big 5’, and it’s great to see that at least one of the new concept PPVs has worked. CM Punk and his current shoot-style ‘storyline’ has and will dominate the build up of the PPV though, as well as almost completely overshadowed the ladder matches, which just speaks to the firestorm it has created! As for the matches, six seems quite few, and I wouldn’t rule out one being added on the night, although the world title matches and the MITB matches should take up a lot of time. If a match is added, I would imagine it would be a tag title match with the Nexus defending against the Usos, which I think would be great!

Match 1) RAW MITB Ladder Match: Rey Mysterio vs Alberto Del Rio vs Kofi Kingston vs Alex Riley vs R-Truth vs The Miz vs Evan Bourne vs Jack Swagger
If I were choosing the match order, I would put the RAW ladder match out first because obviously the fans will always wonder how it could possibly affect the CM Punk angle, and so having a winner in place will give fans the licence for their imaginations to run wild for the rest of the show. That in mind, I guess my prediction is based on what I think could happen on Sunday, mixed with a large degree of booking the story myself! First, let’s rule people out; firstly, Alex Riley. I know Riley may well be the next big new face, but him having a shot at the WWE title at this time is patently ridiculous, but at the same  time, he can’t cash in and lose because if he is intended as a future champion, thatc could be quite a stigma to someone with a so far incidental career.The only other person i’m going to rule out is The Miz. That may sound surprising, but I think his last title reign cemented him as a top talent, and to have to regain the title with the MITB briefcase would actually damage his profile. I think all four of the others are possibilities, but my favourite is Rey Mysterio. Rey has been mysteriously absent as of late, and would be a surprising winner for that reason as he hasn’t made any ‘statements’ on TV. Now the reason I haven’t picked hotly tipped favourite Alberto Del Rio might become clear after my preview of the main event, but it’s basically because I believe there’s a chance the RAW winner could cash in and lose, and that certainly wont happen to Del Rio; whereas it could happen to Rey, who seems to be going nowhere, and could do with stimulus of any kind. He fits the role I believe he could take the best out of the other competitors, and so, I’ve picked Rey.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Match 2) The Big Show vs Mark Henry
I think this match, which has been built very nicely, would usually be higher up the card, but on a card with world title matches and MITB matches, it slips down. This is one i’m more sure about the outcome of. Though Big Show has been impressive, it’s clear that the fire is really behind Henry right now, and a loss would completely kill it. I think this will be a brutal match, which hopefully isn’t too turgid. From their previous outings, i’m confident it wont be. Henry will win after some sort of insane feat of strength, possibly involving breaking the ring in some way.

Winner: Mark Henry

Match 3) Smackdown MITB Ladder Match: Kane vs Sin Cara vs Daniel Bryan vs Cody Rhodes vs Wade Barrett vs Sheamus vs Heath Slater vs Justin Gabriel
Obviously I have a storyline in mind with this prediction, but seen as my preview of the RAW match was all about what could happen storyline-wise, i’ll talk a bit more about the in-ring side of things. What is exciting about this is that it features  six people who have never taken part in this match, and five guys who really could, and really need to shine in this environment if they want to progress with the company. I expect some of the most innovative stuff to come from Daniel Bryan, because i’m sure he can come up with some genius spots, but it will be Sin Cara with all the pressure on him to impress, and I expect him to pull out some sweet spots. Him not being able to speak really holds him back from being a world champion in the immediate future though I wouldn’t completely rule him out. The only ones I would rule out are Slater and Gabriel, who really aren’t even in consideration for this level yet you have to think. Wade Barrett and Sheamus are probably the favourites amongst most people, but i’m going for Cody Rhodes, simply because he doesn’t have to cash it in that soon, and so can grow as a character with the briefcase and Ted DiBiase at his side. Regardless of what happens Sunday, i’m sure Randy Orton will be champion again on Smackdown within the next year, and given his history with Rhodes, it could make for a great storyline based on where the characters are years after Legacy. So while i’d love to see Bryan get a shock win, i’m picking Rhodes, which would be awesome anyway.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 4) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Christian
These two have had some excellent matches together, though I think they had better matches when they were face vs face. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for this one, which will be part of arguably the feud of the year to date. It is clear though that this either this feud ends here, or there is a title change; there is no way Christian could lose and justify another shot (literally, given the stip about a DQ or a bad refereeing call meaning Christian wins the title). With that caveat in mind, I think given the huge public support for Christian, and his performance as a heel, means that the plan has always been for Christian to win the title back and set up an Orton face-chase for a while. I think to make it extra heat-drawing, he’ll win it on the technicality regarding a DQ. This could either come from Christian organising someone coming to the ring and hitting him, causing the DQ intentionally. More likely, a disgruntled Sheamus (if he doesn’t win the MITB match) comes down to the ring. He has been in confrontations with both guys, so him attacking Christian for having a title shot makes sense and would draw huge heat because Orton would have nothing to do with the decision (the angle that Orton might get angry and DQ himself being a red herring).

Winner: Christian

Match 5) Divas Championship Match: Kelly Kelly (c) vs Brie Bella
This match will basic be a break between the two world title matches. Hopefully they’ll get more than a few minutes, but i’m not sure how well Kelly can perform. Brie Bella I trust to put on a good match, but Kelly i’m not so sure about. Nonetheless, Kelly is the postergirl currently, and seen as she only just won the title, there is no way she’s dropping it in the rematch.

Winner: Kelly Kelly

Match 6) WWE Championship Match: John Cena (c) vs CM Punk
Jeez, where do you start with this … There is so much potential, and the best bit is, no one has any informed clue as to what Punk’s status is, and therefore what will happen. What I would suggest is that WWE and Vince wouldn’t let Punk say all the things he have is he is leaving, which leads me to think he will probably be staying. I also think that, after all this build, if Cena just wins clean, ther’ll be a backlash. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another ‘If Cena wins, we riot’ type sign. So I think either of these results have to happen: Punk wins, or Cena wins dirty and turns heel. Anything else, unless completely out of left field, will be a disappointment. There are countless dream scenarios possible here, and i’m sure you all have your own, so I wont reel them off; what I will do is describe one storyline I would like to see. CM Punk goes over, preferably clean and starts to leave the up the ramp with the title. Cut to backstage where Mysterio is there with the briefcase. Vince or Steph or HHH or any combination of them burst in to his lockerroom, begging him to cash in for the good of the WWE. Mysterio does this, but either because of help from Nexus or because of Mysterio’s injuries from the ladder match, he loses to Punk. On RAW, Vince holds a ‘crisis meeting’ in the ring, he calls out Cena and, as he warned, fires him, with the condition that he can only come back with the WWE Championship. The next RAWs over the next few weeks show guerrilla-style footage of Punk, flanked by Colt Cabana and Luke Gallows, defending a new WWE Championship belt in places like ROH, New Japan etc with Cena showing up trying to get the belt. Maybe even have the RAW main events be footage of Punk’s matches in the indys (that might be a bit too much of a dream), though it might lose some of the live edge from them being on RAW. Eventually, with Cena being unable to capture the belt back, Vince organises a four-person tournament for a new WWE Championship featuring Miz, Del Rio, Kofi Kingston and possibly a returning HHH, but just as a new winner is crowned at Summerslam, Punk returns as a face, saying that Vince has been begging him for weeks to return, and now that someone’s going to dump on the title by being awarded a new one, he’s returned to wrestle as the true champion. Cena also returns, doing Vince’s bidding trying to cost Punk the title, and from there, the story continues. It doesn’t sound that great now i’ve just written it, but something along those lines. As for the match itself, Cena is capable of putting on good matches, especially when he wont be doing his whole SuperCena routine, while Punk is what he calls himself, arguably the best professional wrestler in the world. I will have, like I did when Cena was feuding with Wade Barrett, my heart in my mouth the whole time, and that, mixed with everything else, could make this a blowaway match of the year. Lets hope the winds of change genuinely blow this time, and the Summer of Punk begins!

Winner: CM Punk

 

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WWE ‘Black Friday’ – Six Releases … So Far

Shad was arguably the most high-profile of those released

Earlier this evening I posted on Shad Gaspard’s release from WWE, which surprised me a great deal. As I said in that post, I beliveved Shad was being repackaged for a push. Evidently, it hasn’t worked out. Subsequently, there have been five further releases: Luke Gallows, Vance Archer, Caylen Croft, Tiffany and Jillian Hall.

Shad, given a bit more in-ring training and a new persona, could have had success in WWE. Cryme Tyme had definitely run it’s course, and the gimmick on Shad doesn’t suit him as an individual, like it does JTG. For instance, I saw a potential pairing with Ezekiel Jackson; though it would have meant another tag team, they could have been dominant and really gotten over (probably as heels). Saying this, and hopefully with due respect, I doubt Shad is such a great loss to the WWE or the fans. He was just always lacking something.

Luke Gallows’ release was the next to be announced. The release of Gallows, again, will barely register, and I don’t think he’d have been able to get over like Shad potentially could have. Saying that, for a man of that size, he was remarkably versatile. No other than CM Punk (the man picked by this website as wrestler of the year) voiced his remorse at Gallows’ release: “Days like today bum me out. Gallows, many times was given chicken shit and turned it gold. He has heart, hustles, and loves wrestling.” I think, to a large extent, that is true. Gallows did a good job as part of the S.E.S., which is remarkable given the sharp transition that provided from ‘Festus’. For Luke though, it was coming. I glimpsed him backstage at this week’s Smackdown taping, and I realised how long ago it was that i’d seen him. His fate was sealed as soon as the S.E.S. split. There was nothing for him.

Vance Archer is also gone. Coming from TNA, there was some buzz behind this guy, but ‘The Gatecrashers’ were one of the most boring tag teams ever in my opinion. Billed as edgy and threatening, all they did was jump some people in the ring a few times and win some unremarkable tag matches. They split not too long ago, and for Archer, I assume the writing was on the wall. Hawkins is more established in WWE, and has had modest success, which is probably why he remains.

Caylen Croft was fired also. This one was weird to me. I thought he and Baretta had some mileage as a tag team. Initially they were a little goofy, but I think they grew in to a good tweener team and somewhat comparable to Edge & Christian. I think they should have stuck around in the tag division at least for a while. I saw that Baretta had a match on Superstars as a singles competitor. I do think Baretta is the better wrestler, but he could do with a tag team vehicle.

Tiffany was finally released. It makes you wonder why they waited until now, really. That’s meant respectfully – many people were speculating that she would be fired after that domestic disturbance with husband Drew McIntyre, but I figured that, since they hadn’t by now, perhaps she would be on probation for a while before returning. Before it all happened, WWE seemed pretty hot on her. Again though, she was no great wrestler, and will be no great loss, unless McIntyre chooses to follow her (which I doubt he will).

Finally, Jillian Hall. I respect her as a character, but I hated the character. She was recently removed from TV, and I thought she was going to be utilized more like an agent and diva-trainer. Perhaps this is just a change of contract. I’m sure all will be revealed.

There are rumours that there will soon be further releases. We’ll have to wait and see about that.

Smack of the Week (24/09/2010): Undertaker ‘Bearing’ Gifts

Paul Bearer, a terrifying sight in his own right and one of the greatest managers the industry has ever seen

Smackdown kicked off this week with perhaps some surprising booking, with World Heavyweight Champion, Kane taking on one-time main event contender but rarely seen, Chris Masters. For what was a match to essentially put over the strength of Kane, I think Masters got a pretty good showing here. There was a time when I had no time for Masters, but I have come to respect him more recently. His main problem, I think, is that ‘the Masterpiece’ doesn’t correlate well with a babyface – though it doesn’t seem to be bringing him any heat to be fair. In this match, Masters got in a lot of offense against a guy who has been seemingly unbeatable of late, and while I never thought that Masters would win, some small bits of doubt crept in when he locked Kane in his Masterlock (a move i’ve always though terrible as a submission, being as it is, just a Full Nelson grip). Masters of course didn’t go over, but he helped tell the in-ring story of being worn down by Kane at the knee well and looked game. I’d like to see more of him in a serious role and give him another chance.

After another great promo from Kane (where he scared a kid in the audience), we had the re-match for the WWE Tag Team Championships. This match was, as you would expect, solid and good (the Harts are great in the ring, but still lack that important charisma). Again, Kidd was the one that looked really good, with his own version of ‘skinning the cat’ and other highly innovative moves. Eventually though, McIntyre and Rhodes retained when McIntyre exposed the steel turnbuckle, launched Kidd in to it and hit a slightly awkward Future Shock DDT for the 1-2-3. I don’t know what will become of the Harts now. Maybe they’ll be put in a programme with an up-and-coming tag team. The only other teams on RAW are Santino and Kozlov, which would be a waste, and the Usos, which they’ve already done, unsuccessfully. Maybe the Dudebusters (who i’ll talk more about momentarily) could get drafter to RAW to take them on?

Speaking of the Dudebusters (a team I have previously criticised as a poor replacement for Edge & Christian), they appear to have turned face as they had a few comic backstage segments with Hornswoggle, eventually ‘packing up’ Vickie Guerrero for Smackdown’s move to SyFy. I have to say, I liked them in the babyface role. They played the pranksters pretty well and didn’t keep harping on about modern teenage sensations like Playstation etc. For that reason alone, I think they deserve another run at the tag titles.

Just before that we saw Christian selling an attack backstage by Alberto Del Rio. As you may know already, this is a legit injury. Christian has torn his pectoral muscle and is expected to be out for some months. This is a terrible shame for Captain Charisma as – as i’ve said in the past – I thought his feud with the rising Del Rio could have rubbed him up to the main event with him. Hopefully that potential is still there, and depending on when Christian returns, he could have a pretty hot feud with Del Rio, who by that time, may already be at the main event. Lord only knows how he performed that later tussle with Del Rio with his injury, selling that Del Rio had, like with Rey Mysterio, broken his arm. Hats off to him! I also liked how Ricardo Rodriguez, Del Rio’s personal ring announcer got involved, holding Christian’s leg so he could be attacked. I thought that added a more valet/manager quality to that character. I wonder who’s next for Del Rio. Probably another upper-middle card babyface. Kofi Kingston would be a good shout, just having come out of his feud with Dolph Ziggler. Anyway, get well soon Christian!

Kaval then had his second match on Smackdown against Chavo Guerrero, who himself has had something of a re-birth in WWE as of late. After losing last week, I was keen to see Kaval go over, though as the commentators continued to talk about Kaval being new to Smackdown and lacking in WWE experience, it became clear that Chavo was winning this one. Both these guys are fantastc wrestlers, and they put on one of the better matches of the night. Chavo really has more to offer than at his current position, as he managed to stay with the quick and agile Kaval, and even match him in high-flying, ring-savvy assaults. Eventually, the wiley veteran managed to go over Kaval with a fantastic Frog Splash. Again, Kaval was not by any means squashed, but i’m not sure where WWE are going with this potential losing streak story. No doubt it will be some sort of hard-work story in which he struggles initially, but fights his was up through the competitors and gains the respect he deserves on Smackdown. That’s absolutely fine with me, as long as he continues to look dogged and relatively strong in his struggles.

Big Show had a pointless handicap match against the Gatecrashers in which he dominated. Lord only knows where he’s going next! As for the Gatecrashers, it was good to see another tag team on TV, but a shame they’re obviously still not deemed worthy of being in the title picture.

The Straight-Edge Society appears to definitely be finished as CM Punk was accosted in his locker room by former S.E.S. disciple, Luke Gallows, who violently informed him that they would be having a match. They had a pretty good match, but that was mainly due to the storyline. Gallows dominated the match, but the ‘cunning’ Punk managed to get the massive Gallows on his shoulders for the Go to Sleep and the victory. Despite the remarkable athleticism of Gallows, he’s never going to contribute to a fantastic match. I think there needs to be a feud here, almost just for posterity. It’ll be good for Gallows, who will get a rub from it, but if i’m honest, I can’t see him lasting long as a singles competitor. To be fair to him though, kudos for managing to break almost seamlessly from Festus in to a serious character. This feud (if it goes ahead) is no good for Punk, especially after that disappointing feud with Big Show, and should be higher up the card and putting on great matches. If he wants to stay heel, I suggest a programme with Kaval. That could be awesome!

Competing with Kaval and Chavo for match of the night was MVP against Intercontinental Champion, Dolph Ziggler. This would have been a great match had it not been for the Vickie-Kaitlyn story at ringside. Not that that made it in any way bad, in fact these two managed to maintain a very high standard and give us a very good match, but the angle distracted from the match somewhat, cutting in to it once or twice. The crowd were really behind MVP and he delivered as the babyface, really taking it to Ziggler with his unique kind of athleticism. Ziggler, to his credit also, played the heel brilliantly, physically decimating MVP whenever in control. Ringside, the story was again of jealousy from Vickie towards her NXT rookie, Kaitlyn. After a particularly brutal ‘drive by’ kick from MVP which sent Ziggler to the outside, Vickie admonished Kaitlyn for trying to help him up, to which Kaitlyn snapped (this presumably being tha back-breaking straw for her) and pushed Vickie over before heading backstage. A humiliated Vickie then followed stoically. This sufficiently distracted Dolph to force him to take his title and go look for his valets backstage, earning a count-out loss in doing so. I don’t know whether this will be sold as a way to have MVP face Ziggler for the championship at Hell in a Cell or later on, but I that title would be a good move for MVP, though it is a little early for Ziggler to drop it.

Throughout the night we had seen clips of a despondent Undertaker backstage, but the final one saw a door open, and a stunned Undertaker stand-up and go in to his trance-like state (y’know, eyes rolled in to the back of his head). Meanwhile, Kane was out cutting another promo, challenging his brother to a Hell in a Cell match. This must be dream booking for WWE; not only is ‘Taker heavily associated with this match anyway, but it is also where Kane debuted, attacking none other than … The Undertaker! All I can say is it’s a shame this (probably) wont be the rubber match as I can’t see how they could stop probably the biggest feud in WWE right now in nine days time. Personally, I would like to see, if not a HIAC match, a buried alive match (if they still feel they can have those under PG) or an inferno match to end this feud. Anyway, Kane had said that he had taken the last of ‘Taker’s ‘Dark Powers’, but this didn’t seem true when the coffin appeared on stage and was taken to ringside, independently of Kane. Kane seemingly expected the Deadman inside, but instead there was PAUL BEARER. I’ve come to love this feud, but if anything could be added to it to take it up another match, it was ‘the Father of Destruction’ himself, especially seen as this will almost certainly be the last time these two will have a storyline together. This was a real throwback to the dark storylines that made Kane but especially the Undertaker so legendary, with Bearer clutching the mysterious, powerful urn. Apparently siding with Undertaker, he and the urn renewed – at least to a degree – the Deadman’s powers as he beat on his little brother, forcing him to flee the ring before assuming his familiar pose of respect as Bearer held the urn aloft. A very powerful and (strangely, perhaps) heart-warming sight to close the last Smackdown on MyNetworkTV.

Night of Champions Preview and Predictions, 2010

Night of Champions 2010, Chicago, Illinois, Sunday September 19

I think this PPV, more than a lot of others, will have a lot of closure and new openings, so to speak, but I will talk more about this when discussing the individual matches. Personally, I am looking forward to this PPV very much, and I expect at least five of the (at least) seven matches to be entertaining and interesting.

1) The Big Show vs CM Punk
That statement, does not, however, apply to the first match I believe will take place on the night: CM Punk vs The Big Show. Regular readers will know i’ve been very down on this feud, not because of the competitors necessarily, but because of the lack of chemistry they have. I’ve also not been a fan of them wrestling, in a non-title match at Night of Champions. As for the match, with a veteran like Show in there, and a master like Punk, it wont be bad, but their lack of chemistry means that it wont be good either. The break up of the S.E.S. was hinted at on Smackdown, so I think this will be the main story of the night. Punk will tell Gallows and Mercury to stay backstage, but at some point, they’ll come out to help their leader and somehow cost him the match, leading to the beginning of the end for the S.E.S. If that happens, it could save some interest in this match, as it would have genuinely interesting implications. As I said, I can see a lot of feuds ending on Sunday, and this is one of them. I really can’t see how they could stretch it out any longer.

Winner: The Big Show

2) Intercontinental Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Kofi Kingston
This should be a pretty good match as these two have shown flashes of chemistry as they have fought recently. Usually, the sort of stipulation that Dolph has against him (i.e. if he is disqualified of counted-out, he loses the title) would point to a loss for him, but on this occasion, I don’t think so. This is another feud I see coming to an end, as it has been going on and losing steam for some time now. A clean Ziggler win would make him look very credible as a champion while ending any claim from Kingston to the title. Indeed, there would be little point, it seems to me, in putting the title back on Kofi. I also think Ziggler may not even allow Vickie Guerrero to be at ringside and may send her back or leave her behind from he start.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

3) WWE Tag Team Championships Match: The Hart Dynasty (c) vs Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes (?)
We do know that, of course, the WWE Tag Team Championships will be defended on Sunday, but we’re yet to know officially who against. The best bets are obviously Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes, who gained a pinfall victory against the Harts in an excellent match on Smackdown. Despite the soaring status of McIntyre and Rhodes, I think this will go to the Harts – partly because they only just got the new belts, and partly because I can’t see WWE wanting to put Rhodes and McIntyre in a long-term tag team. That would seem like a backwards step for them. I think this is just a way for Rhodes and McIntyre (both major stars but between feuds) to make the PPV.

Winners: The Hart Dynasty

4) United States Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs Daniel Bryan
This is many ways one of the most intriguing match of the night. This feud has been brewing, really, since the start of the NXT concept seven months ago. Intriguing also because of Miz’s position in the company. Everything tells us that Bryan (a potential future main-eventer in his own right) should go over in this match: the length and heat of the feud culminating in Bryan finally succeeding, it could seriously hurt Bryan not to win, and the fact that with Miz as the current MITB holder, the US title has been reduced to mere arm-candy. However, a Miz loss doesn’t correlate with the next brand new WWE Champion, it stems his rise. There are two options then: Miz wins by some exraordinary act of cheating – or an act of a bitter Nexus – to add further fuel to the rivalry (and probably leading to a No-DQ match at HITC); or, Bryan does go over. I’m plumping right now for a Bryan victory. It just seems right. I’ll add extra credibility to this later on in the post. Nonetheless, this one could steal the show. I have no doubt it will be one of the longest matches of the night as WWE will want to show off both guys as having huge big-stage potential.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

5) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Kane (c) vs The Undertaker
In many ways this could, and probably should be Sunday’s main event, but for reasons i’ll explain later, I think the WWE Championship match will be the main event; and I think the two world title matches will be split up. This will be the first major test of ‘Taker’s ability to still ‘go’ in the ring, which is probably why it’s a No Holds Barred match (to keep away from the technicality a bit more). All I can say is i’m sure this will be an absolute war. I can see a lot of action involving the lights and a fight over their brotherly ‘dark powers’. Personally, i’d love to see Paul Bearer make a return, though i’m not sure that would be deemed credible for this feud. The past has almost always seen ‘Taker return from an injury or angle and, within weeks, be back at the top of the mountain. This feud, however, does seem legitimately different, and I don’t think it will be that easy for ‘Taker. In fact, what I want to see is Kane retaining the title – and I think there’s a decent chance of it happening. This is made problematic by the fact that Kane has consistently dominated his brother since he made his return, and wrestle-logic  would usually point, then, to an Undertaker win. I think the iconoclasm of this feud wins over though, and Kane will win, but with ‘Taker coming back for another shot in what would be a mouth-watering HIAC main event.

Winner: Kane

6) Women’s/Divas Championship Unification Match: Melina (Divas Champion) vs Michelle McCool (Co-Women’s Champion)
I want to say, before anything else, that the winner of this match had better keep the Women’s Championship as opposed to the Divas Championship. It would simply be ridiculous and disrespectful to keep the Divas Championship over the Women’s. Now, there are two very clear but distinct possible ending for this match, and both end with the split of LayCool. The one i’m falling on the side of is this: Michelle McCool, without the help of Layla, will lose the title(s) to Melina, meaning that Layla, who originally won the belt, will have lost it, without getting pinned, because of Michelle McCool’s greed and selfishness – leading to the end of LayCool, a Layla face-turn, a red-hot feud between Layla and Michelle (considering their history) and a Layla-Kaval relationship. The main reason I find this most likely is because Melina wont be losing a title so soon after winning it. The other option is for Michelle to win and keep the title for herself, and i’m sure you can work it out from there. I suppose, conceivably, Michelle could win and let Layla share, but that would seem like a bit of a back-track from Smackdown; or it could be a LayCool rouse, and Layla will help Michelle in the match. As I say though, the best option (in my opinion) and the one that would create the best drame would be the first one.

Winner: Melina

7) WWE Championship 6-Pack Challenge: Sheamus (c) vs John Cena vs Randy Orton vs Chris Jericho vs Edge vs Wade Barrett
There’s no denying the star-power in this match, and if everyone delivers, it could be one for the ages. As for who will win, I think this match, with it’s five-fold jeopardy, allows the biggest chance of a title change – though that’s not to say it will change hands. I feel I can go ahead and rule out Edge and John Cena. Other than some sort of swerve, either of thos men winning doesn’t make too much sense to me. I also feel I can rule out, though less surely, Randy Orton. I have no doubt that Orton will be champions sometime soon, but this match provides the sort of environment where even the most dominant can be quelled. I actually think, funnily enough because of his dominance, he will be the first to be eliminated, and it will be done with everyone hitting their finisher on him, lets say a Codebreaker into a Brogue Kick, into a Spear, into an Attitude Adjustment into a Wasteland. That way he can go down without looking weak. So now we’re down to three: Sheamus, Wade Barrett and Chris Jericho. I think Sheamus will be in the final show-down, so who would meet him? This depends on whether they sell or drop the Chris Jericho quitting WWE if he doesn’t win angle (in fact, an awful lot depends on that), but I can see it being Jericho against Sheamus in a mini Title vs Career match. For Sheamus to win, either Jericho is taking a break from WWE, or they will gloss over the angle, otherwise, Jericho will win. But there is yet another x-factor (so to speak) here. Earlier, I siad I believed Miz will lose his US Championship match on Sunday. So how does he keep his credibility? By cashing in his MITB briefcase of course! After a gruelling match like this, it would be the perfect time! This is important because it means Chris could win the title ‘for a cup of coffee’ (aka ‘a very short time’ to those that don’t recognise that terminology), stay in the WWE, but not necessarily have to be champion. Sheamus, however, would be the most note-worthy person for Miz to cash in on. Remember when he first won the briefcase and became Sheamus’s ‘celebrity stalker’? It has since been quietly forgotten about, but now could be the time for Miz to remember. This is very difficult to call, but I do believe Jericho will be taking some time off (and wouldn’t appreciate a cup of coffee reign to keep him in the company), so I think Sheamus will win the match clean and be presented as a strong champion, only for his stalking nemesis to take advantage after a bitter Jericho, having to quit, attacks Sheamus after the match with a Codebreaker and maybe a chair. And it is that sort of finish which earns this match the main event status.

Winner: Sheamus, but New WWE Champion: The Miz

This is shaping up to be a very good PPV, as long as the most important matches – the World Title matches, the US title match and the Divas Unification match – delivers and we have a good and shocking end.

Smack of the Week (27/08/2010): Paradise Lost

This week's Smackdown had the dark cloud of the quarrelling Brothers of Destruction hanging over it

I’m going to be honest and say from the start that I didn’t like the booking of this week’s show, almost without exception. That’s not to say that this episode was particularly poor, I just don’t think much was achieved.

The first match had Rey Mysterio take on Kane in a Summerslam rematch. Personally, I think i’ve seen enough of Kane against Rey over the past few weeks, and seen as they’ll be going their seperate ways now, this seemed a bit needless without offering anything new. I’d have rather have seen Rey take on Drew McIntyre or Cody Rhodes. They’re too good to not be on the TV, and would have embelished their growing dominant reputation by going over Rey like Kane did. There’s no reason why Alberto Del Rio couldn’t come out and attack Rey after a match with one of them. They did have a good match though, and it being no disqualification meant that there were some nice hardcore elements to it. Rey is definately one of the better sellers in the business.

Next up we had what must have been about the 4th Intercontinental Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston, this time with the stipulation that if Ziggler got disqualified, he would lose the IC title. Initially, I was upbeat that this would mean Ziggler going over clean and the end of the series of title matches. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as Ziggler won by count-out, surely setting up a future match with no disqualifications and no count-outs. I understand what management are going for with this series – in which Ziggler will be forced to ‘earn’ his belt. For me, it’s dragged on too far. Instead, you could book him against Christian, even as similar competition to Kofi as a build-up to a Kofi-Ziggler rematch at Night of Champions. Nevertheless, they did have a pretty good match together. They do have good chemistry, which is why I was initially high on the coupling, but the overbooking of the storyline has slightly spoiled it for me. At least now I can’t see how they could extend this any further than a final match now – a match which should be very good.

Next up, JTG basically jobbed to CM Punk. It being a job, there’s not much analysis to go into the match. The main point was to continue the story of Punk as the disciplined leader of the Straight-Edge Society, which was successful after he made JTG tap to the Anaconda Vice (a move it was nice to see return).

What I think came next was ‘The Jack Swagger Sr Invitational’ segment. I like the idea of an MVP-Swagger feud, but this seemed a bit far removed from a hot feud, and now that Swagger won the competition, I don’t know how much it can hot up with Swagger hosting the VIP lounge, but we’ll wait and see. Nonetheless, I can still see it being helpful to both guys.

After this, Luke Gallows tried to live up to CM Punk’s high expectations of him in a match with the Big Show. This was ok, but not much better than that. I would have liked to have seen Gallows go over with the help of Mercury and Serena (for whom this was the last appearance). That could have set up a match for Joey Mercury next week where the onus was on him intensely, which if he lost, could lead him to being ostracised from the group. That would have added a bit more interest to this storyline, especially seen as Serena’s departure will probably catalyse the end of the group.

The final match of the night saw Alberto Del Rio take on a local competitor. This is the only match with which I didn’t really have a problem with the booking. If they’re setting up a feud with Mysterio, it doesn’t make much sense to book him against another big star. This keeps him looking strong without disturbing a burgeoning big feud with Rey Mysterio. This is the right way to use ‘local competitors’ and squash matches. A highlight of this match was Del Rio staring at his opponent with a condescending grin before pulling off his trademark wink and pusing him off the ropes, almost like a sociopath.

The main event segment didn’t progress much either, but was still fantastic. It was one of the best promo exchanges i’ve ever seen in fact. It was between Kane and the Undertaker, and told their story of brothers battling for dominance of the dark side, and for the favour of Satan, perfectly (hense the slightly awkward Paradise Lost reference). Undertaker came out, and brought with him the aura he demands. Indeed, eventhough he was selling being weak, he came across as on his way back to the top. Then, as in a tug of war, Kane came out and started to outshine his brother – looking hugely powerful in comparison to his passive brother. This went back and forth from Undertaker and finally back to Kane again. Like last week, he got the better of his brother. Again, it was good to see Undertaker not automatically getting the upper hand.  Not much came from the segment, but it was nonetheless very compelling!

RAW Recall (23/08/2010): Star-Studded Six

The wolves will be at Sheamus's door at Night of Champions

Our show started out with an indignant Sheamus hitting the ring to cut a promo on his recent treatment by latest challenger to his WWE Championship, Randy Orton. Sheamus again showed that he has really matured in to one of the most adept promo-cutters in the business as he talked about Randy Orton being a spoiled child (even lambasting some of the kids at ringside by way of comparison). The anonymous GM seemed to approve of what Sheamus had to say, rewarding his latest defence with a throne and the opportunity to pick his next championship opponent. Like a king, Sheamus would sit on his throne and watch over the night’s matches, selecting from the competitors a new #1 contender. 
The first men to compete for his attention would be Edge and R-Truth. I say this, but it was clear that in each match, the focus was only on one of the competitors. Edge and R-Truth had a good match together, with Edge helping Truth look strong and somewhere in his league (if not quite in it). Edge has been doing a good job of this helping up-and-comers, as he did with Heath Slater last week. Eventhough the result wasn’t in any doubt, Truth got in a lot of offense and showed his particular kind of charisma throughout the match, with the effective story of Truth flamboyance (or maybe I should say inexperience) costing him dearly in a match with Edge taking advantage of the opportunity for a rest. The match ended with Truth attempting his scissors kick, which Edge avoided before hitting the spear. Edge then cut a very good promo to Sheamus, making his case for meeting him at N.O.C., saying that, until he’s beaten the 9-time champion and Rated R Superstar, he hasn’t beaten anybody.

 Next up was Chris Jericho, who was given the tough task of putting on a watchable match with the Great Khali. He achieved this by telling a strong story of constantly working on Khali’s knee injury. Khali did his part well, following Jericho around the ring and consistently overpowering with sheer size and strength. Eventually, Jericho pulled off the respectable feat of turning Khali on his stomach for the Walls of Jericho and the win. Jericho, like Edge, then made his case to Sheamus with the strong argument that he, as the first ever Undisputed Champion and ‘best in the world at what he does,’ deserves a title shot most of all. This was followed by an angered Khali knocking Jericho from the ring (an action I saw no point in!). Personally, I would love to see a Sheamus-Jericho title match. That has quality written all over it. Not only that, but it would finally be a RAW main event without Cena, Orton or HHH. We would have to wait for the announcement of the N.O.C. main event though. Incidentally, Cole reused what he has apparently turned in to his new heel catchphrase: ‘and I quote.’ I like it – it really hammers home his almost bureaucratic quality as a petty heel.

In some surprising booking, there followed a Divas Championship match between Melina and Jillian after the intense build-up of … one week. This seemed destined to be a N.O.C. match, but apparantly not. I wonder whether management quickly changed their mind on Jillian? As for the match, it was pretty good. For two wrestlers without much chemistry, they were clearly trying to put on a good match. In the end, Melina retained, making her look a strong champion. Afterwards, co-Women’s champions, LayCool appeared on the tron, hyping their appearance mext week on RAW with something to do with Melina. Given the shock release of Serena (which had been decided by monday), I can only think that this and Jillian’s premature championship match has something to do with this. Now Serena’s gone, WWE will surely have no choice but to bolster the divas on Smackdown. Perhaps Melina will be switching shows with Layla? It wouldn’t bolster in terms of numbers, but it would add a new talented female wrestler to the roster. (That is meant as no disrespect to Layla, but as a member of a team, her loss doesn’t hurt as much). Anyway, all will be revealed next week! Lucky they have that 900th show coming up to justify the booking of Smackdown talent on RAW!

We then learned that Nexus had their ban on competing for championships lifted. This was news to me as I thought (as you will have seen in previous posts) that Wade Barrett still had a title shot up his sleeve. I thought they lifted that ban ages ago … but that’s wrestle-logic for you, and a fine use of it too! (The reason why this is so timely will be revealed later). Barrett promptly informed Sheamus that their long-running truce is now over – turning a smug-looking champion in to a suddenly nervous target.

In the first main event of the night, we had the best match of the night, pitting John Cena against The Miz. The Miz has now taken on top stars Randy Orton and John Cena in quick succession, and looked strong against both. To my mind, this was his best match to date, justifying future PPV main events. It started off normally enough, with Cena and Miz having a lot of back and forth. Initially, you’d think there was no way Miz could go over, but as the match progressed, the prospect became all the more cerdible, with Miz gaining the upper hand in offense and having believable near falls against Cena and avoiding his best attacks. Before this could conclude, down came Daniel Bryan to retaliate against Miz for last week’s attack. Cena courteously left Miz to Bryan, who locked him in a crossface for so long that a team of officials had to pull him off of Miz. Not much camera-time for Bryan, but a good attack nonetheless. Hopefully he’ll get some strong booking leading up to a US title match with Miz. It seems innevitable, but not in a bad way. As for the match, I have no problems with it being a DQ. It was the best way of keeping both looking strong (not that Cena particularly needs that, but what the hell …), and making Miz look perhaps even unlucky not to get the win.

After this, we had a tag match which ostensibly had WWE Tag Team Championship ramifications in which the Uso’s took on Santino and Vladimir Kozlov. This was a surprisingly good match in which Santino and Kozlov managed to leave their comedy at the curtain and have a good match. They were likeable, but serious – more akin to, let’s say, Edge and Christian (in approach, not size!) than to all-out goofs. After a decent match, they went over against the Uso’s, though nothing more was said about the tag titles. Post-match, Tamina stopped an attack on Santino, continuing their growing ‘romance.’ She even blew an affectionate kiss to Santino, though like a poison dart. It was all a bit weird, but i’m willing to let that go as some comic relief, especially seen as the match was good. As for the tag titles, I would actually like to see a team from Smackdown take on the Harts, maybe Luke Gallows and Joey Mercury?

Our main Main Event saw Randy Orton in a triple threat match against John Morrison and Ted DiBiase. It was nice to see Ted and John in such a high-profile match. It’s a good way for them to gain experience and credibility as main-eventers, which they surely will be in the future. This match wasn’t quite as good as Miz-Cena, but they worked well with the chemistry of a triple threat match. Morrison and DiBiase managed a lot of offense against the almost unstoppable Viper, and gave a very good account of themselves. I would, however, would have liked to have seen a Legacy stand-off between Orton and DiBiase, but I suppose that was besides the point of the match. In a nice-triple-threat spot, Orton was about to hit his spiked DDT on DiBiase before Morrison went for his chuck kick, which Orton ducked while retaining DiBiase in his clutches and hitting the DDT. The end of the match saw another cool RKO spot in which Morrison tried to hit a springboard attack on Orton, which Orton caught for the super-RKO and the win.

Sheamus saw none of this, however, as he disregarded this match, not even considering Orton as a contender to his championship. Instead, he came out and said he wanted to offer an opportunity to someone who had never had a title shot before, and he was going to have it right then and there! I had visions of Hornswoggle or a diva or something, which would have been terrible in this context, but instead, he called out Zack Ryder! I quite like Ryder, and was interested to see what kind of rub he’d get from being in a WWE Championship match. Even now, i’m not sure how his participation affected him … He did indeed get his first ever WWE Championship match, but it lasted approximately six seconds, with Sheamus hitting a Brogue Kick straight away for the pin. I’d like to see Ryder get a deserved rub for this, but then again, it’s hard to look at his challenge as anything much more than a joke.

It was good that the show didn’t end there, because it would have made the past few minutes meaningless. Instead, Sheamus invoked the WWE rules which state that a champion only has to defend every 30 days (in another nice piece of wrestle-logic, ignoring the jurisdiction of the GM etc) and so he was going to ‘take Night of Champions off.’ This fitted in nicely with the paranoid Sheamus that had come around due to the restrictions on Nexus being lifted, and indeed, Nexus leader, Wade Barrett was the first to challenge Sheamus’s decision. He quite rightly said that as NXT season 1 winner, he had the right to challenge Sheamus to a WWE Championship match at whatever PPV he wants, and he was challenging Sheamus at N.O.C. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I was glad that we would be having a main event without Cena, Orton and HHH (with respect to them), but I was unsure how ‘big’ a match the two could put on together at this stage of their careers. At this point, the GM agreed to Barrett’s challenge, but said that he was adding another FOUR challengers to the match: Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Edge and John Cena. In a minute or so, this main event became surely the most star-studded main event in years! It struck me then how clever this booking was. N.O.C., obviously, only catering for championship matches, would leave most of those involved in the Nexus storyline (i.e. some of WWE’s biggest stars) off the PPV. This was a way of including them in what has the potential to be a huge match. In a nice bit of vengence towards Barrett, the five WWE superstars surrounded the Nexus leader and attacked him, before turning on each other, hitting their various finishers on each other, leaving only Orton still standing. I look forward to seeing the booking leading up to this match. One obvious match would be the five WWE guys trying to keep on the same page against the five man Nexus (now that Sheffield is injured) at the ‘go home’ show. The jeopardy that Sheamus is under was well highlighted here, and it’s an occasion where a Championship Scramble might be a nice fit. Saying that, that could take away from the idea of a clear-cut victor from six top superstars.

Smack of the Week (20/08/2010): Old Dogs, New Dog

The story of the two bothers dates back thirteen years now

In the first Smackdown since Summerslam, the show opened with Rey Mysterio talking about his World Heavyweight Championship match last Sunday. It was a nice promo, with Mysterio thanking the fans for keeping faith in him while he was being accused of attacking Undertaker. It was, however, more of a vehicle to intoduce the hotly anticipated new superstar, Alberto Del Rio. As a character, I think he has a lot of potential, but i’m still unsure as to how well Alberto Rodriguez (his real name) can pull the character off. It is early days for him to be fair, and he does come across as brilliantly and uniquely smug. I still didn’t really enjoy hearing him speak, though whether that’s because he’s a good heel or a flawed wrestler, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll speak more about him when discussing this week’s main event in which he took on Rey Mysterio.

The first match of the week saw Kofi Kingston get a rematch of his rematch for the Intercontinental Championship. In the past few weeks i’ve been complimentary of the matches and feud between Kofi and Dolph, so I didn’t really have a problem with the repetition, seen as the match at Summerslam was a no-contest. The match was ok, but as I remember, it was quite short, with Vickie again costing Kofi the opportunity at the championship, pushing him from the top rope and ending the match with a disqualification. It’s clear now that Kofi will take Dolph on at Night of Champions, and probably in a no-disqualification match, and possibly with Vickie banned from ringside. I do question whether that could be just be done with a promo segment. I like the IC title being defended regularly, in a sense at least, but there’s only so many rematches you can have. Nonetheless the match i’ve predicted to be booked will surely be a very good one if it goes ahead.

Next up, we had the continuing turmoil in the Straigh-Edge Society. Backstage, Luke Gallows and Joey Mercury were openly critical of CM Punk’s ‘tough love’ approach. The premise of the following match, which saw Luke Gallows and the (in-ring) debuting Serena take on the ‘odd couple’ of Big Show and Kelly Kelly. As I understand it it, Serena is meant to be halfway decent in the ring, but to be honest, that didn’t really show through here. Mix that in with the slightly higgledy-piggledy booking of Show and Kelly together, and it doesn’t really make for a great match. It was more about getting over this new chapter of the S.E.S., and indeed, an approving Punk showed up on on the ramp, with the S.E.S. more dpendednt than ever. A couple of other notes: the commentators insisted (seemingly purposefully) on referring to Show as ‘The Giant,’ his name in WCW. Now they could have just been hammering home his stature and a nickname, but it could also be that a name change is in the air. I highly doubt it, and I hope there isn’t, but it’s a possibility. Also, I liked how Serena’s finisher, a gutbuster, mirrored in many ways, the hold of Punk’s finisher. That’s nice storytelling.

It was at this point that Kane came out to explain why he attacked his brother. Eventhough I didn’t much appreciate the strategic ecchoes on the mic, this was probably the best promo of the whole storyline. Kane came across as a very fluent, but terrifying monster in a way that brought back the flavour of the dark side that is one of my favourite things about the characters. When I heard Kane was the attacker, and not Mysterio, I was initially disappointed, and I was worried that this latest Kane-Undertaker feud would be another wheeling out of basically the same storyline. Luckily, this seems different, at least in the sense that there is a genuine sense of finality to it. Kane’s promo was about their thirteen year old television relationship, and how, even when they were allies, Kane was just thinking about how he could surpass the brother who had always – with great pride – taken prominance over him. Despite the magnitude of this assertion, it came across as genuinely believeable, and for that, Kane deserves great kudos. This will be the end of their story, and that makes me think it will offer something special and gratifying – quite possibly a retirement.

In a rematch of a couple of weeks ago, Christian took on Drew McIntyre. This time, however, ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes came out to do commentary and support ‘The Sinister Scotsman.’ As I said last week, I don’t see why either man needs to be in a tag team, and would rather they pursued single paths. Perhaps as an informal alliance, however, there is potential. This match was another good one between those two which have had good chemistry in the past. Cody spoke – in a very smooth lothario-like voice – of him and Drew being emblematic of an up-and-coming generation that were pushing people like Christian aside, people that are slightly past their prime. I felt this was a bit unfair on Christian (though not on Matt Hardy, who interrupted the match, not selling his injured ankle which quite annoyed me), who could still have a main-event feud in my view. Nonetheless, those two are good stepping stones for Cody and Drew to reach the top. It was good to see them not get taken out by the interrupting Hardy, with the two young guns laying the veterans out. It made them look even more strong. This has high potential as a feud.

Before the main event, we saw Jack Swagger backstage, complaining about his loss of prominance as of late, before MVP interrupted him, calling him out on his whinging. This was a very good segment for the two, hyping up a match between them and giving them a prominant segment backstage. MVP especially came over well as a comic face. I’m not too bothered about the stipulation of the match (if Swagger wins, he hosts MVP’s VIP Lounge; if MVP wins, he hosts a block party at Swagger’s expense), but i’m very happy to see these two in a potential feud that would be great for both of them.

Our main event saw Rey Mysterio take on Alberto Del Rio. What really struck me about Alberto Del Rio when he was making his entrance were the similarities between him and recently retired JBL (i.e. a millionaire who approaches the ring in a luxury car with something around his neck). I especially liked him having his own ring announcer. That was a nice touch. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but over the next few things, Del Rio will have to prove himself as genuinely unique in order to really impress me. I said before that the IC title match didn’t need to take place, and if it hadn’t, I would have liked the extra time to go into this match, not because it was bad, but because I would have liked to have seen more of Del Rio in his debut match. The very first move of the match was a good sign, a brutal side kick of sorts. At one point, Del Rio tried to hit a diving senton from the top rope. I wasn’t that impressed with that as a finisher, so I was pleased to see what must be his real finisher: a swinging leg lariat in to an arm-bar. It was smooth, unique and brilliant! I suppose his prominant debut is fitting for a man who’s arrival has been so highly anticipated, and booking him in a main event with Mysterio is certainly a big show of confidence for him, not to mention making him – a top superhero babyface – tap cleanly. It’ll be interesting to see whether this leads to a feud with Mysterio. It would be a good move, as usually, Mysterio is no master on the mic, but his commentary with fellow Spanish-speaker, Del Rio adds a good dynamic to their segments. A mostly very successful debut from Del Rio, where he certainly made an impact as probably the most prominant man on the show. There are a few issues to address for him, but definately a ‘watch this space’ kinda guy.