Money in the Bank Review, 2012: Cena Muscles Through Again

Cena after winning a Money in the Bank briefcase at the first attempt

Cena after winning a Money in the Bank briefcase at the first attempt

Money in the Bank was put on the map after 2011’s seminal effort in which CM Punk became a proverbial GUY after mesmerising Chicago and the so-called WWE Universe. Without such a hook this year, it would be hard to live up to that effort. While it may not have achieved that, it was entertaining and fun in the right places. Though card placement, it seems, was the most controversial aspect of the show.

Match 1) Dolph Ziggler def. Christian, Damien Sandow, Tyson Kidd, Santino Marella, Tensai, Cody Rhodes, and Sin Cara to become Mr. Money in the Bank for the World Heavyweight Championship
This, I believe, was the most packed, if not the most stacked, Money in the Bank lineup to date. I think, realistically, that I shouldn’t call spots in this match (or in fact most of the matches because, realistically, time isn’t on my side just now), but what I can say is that two days removed from the event, I don’t remember there being quite the frequency of spots in this match. The two moments that really stand out are (unfortunately) the Sin Cara/Dolph Ziggler botch which could have broken Ziggler’s neck, and (fortunately), Tyson Kidd’s sunset flip powerbomb. That, and Ziggler’s bump over the announce table was spectacular. It is only fitting then, that most if not all of the most memorable moments featured the eventual winner of the match. Make Ziggler central to the match and then have him win. This is how you make a guy. Everyone played their part here, and fitted different roles. Sandow showed some good aggression on a big stage, which is a slow but steady step in the right direction, though perhaps it would have been more adventurous to have given him some more offense against the others and a bit more of his character, but nonetheless, he seemed to fit in to the field. Tensai provided a wrecking ball for the smaller talents (see again: throwing Ziggler over the announce table). Christian was a great workhorse, as was Cody Rhodes. I love Santino, and Santino did his job as a comic wrestler, though I thought the fear of heights counteracted by the cobra was a little bit too comic in tone when compared to the seriousness and brutality of the rest of the match, so while I enjoyed it in a vacuum, that is the only real genuine criticism I would have. Meanwhile, I was heartened by Ziggler’s post-win interaction with Chris Jericho on ‘RAW 999’. While I think they could have gone along with the later cash-in that night, and it could have worked, it is probably sensible to let Ziggler grow with the briefcase, and who better to do that with than Chris Jericho. The matches will be fantastic, as will the interactions; and it’s fresh! That is most important, and it’s going to make Ziggler a top guy.

Match 2) Sheamus def. Alberto Del Rio to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
I was looking forward to this match, and for the most part, it delivered. In keeping with Del Rio’s new aggressive attitude, this was a brawl, though with Alberto mixing it with technical prowess to beat down Sheamus’s arm in preparation for the cross arm-breaker. It was great to see this, and Sheamus sold it as something that might actually make him tap. Like often with Sheamus, he is a powerhouse with a smaller guy hitting and running against him, and against someone like ADR, with his talent, this is certainly entertaining. As it sounds though, this provided exactly what we would expect. The problem with that was that the Brogue Kick for the win was, for me, the wrong result. The fans love Sheamus, but as champion, he has become a little staid. He has beaten a lot of people and in non-too-dramatic fashion, to the point where it has become formulaic. That is why I was calling for Sheamus to drop the belt to Del Rio. I thought Sheamus chasing Del Rio would be a lot more intriguing than the current situation. On the plus side, I hope that the thinning field of contenders means there will be some fresh upstarts. I’m thinking specifically of Cody Rhodes, who could easily legitimately learn a title shot, a returning Wade Barrett if he’s ready or maybe even The Miz.

Match 3) Primo & Epico w/ Rosa Mendes def. The Prime Time Players (Titus O’Neill & Darren Young) w/ AW
One of the positioning worries from Money in the Bank was that the tag team champions, Kofi Kingston & R-Truth wrestled Hunico & Camacho on the preshow, while the #1 contenders wrestled the former champions live on PPV. This seemed like a RAW match building to a title match between the champs and the Prime Time Players, a match we eventually got the next night on RAW. The tag team championships, I think most people agree, should have been defended on PPV to make them seem more important.  Nonetheless, I think this match was enjoyable. I’m outspoken as a big Primo fan, and Primo really stood out here again, with loads of high-flying, springboard combinations. Epico is in that league too, and together, they are a great team. The Prime Time Players are more jockish powerhouses and so compliment them well. One big talking point recently has been AW and his headset. Of course I find it irritating, and a lot of smart fans have been critical of it for that reason. It is important to remember though that this is his job. Just like Vickie Guererro’s screeching ‘Excuse Me!’s, he does it get heat for his team, and it works. The only problem is when it distracts from the match, but overall, I think it’s different and working. This compliments their characters well, and along with their attention-grabbing characters make them seem like a fresh force, but since becoming #1 contenders, they have only lost that momentum. The result of this match might be seen to add to that, but I don’t actually think it did. Primo & Epico have become faces by merit of AW’s betrayal, and so their ongoing feud with the Prime Time Players gives depth to the division without necessitating the tag team championships themselves (something that was holding the division back). Yes, the matches should have swapped places, but it was a fun, entertaining match with storyline significance, so there’s only so far I can criticise it, especially seen as it gets Primo on PPV!

Match 4) CM Punk def. Daniel Bryan (w/ Special Guest Referee AJ) to Retain the WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan and CM Punk have had a lot of matches now, and every one has had a slightly different flavour. When it was announced that this would be a no DQ match, I had visions of WrestleMania X7, but what it really meant was that Punk and Bryan could use weapons this time – that was the twist. That element made the match more of a brawl than the techical clinics that had occurred before, but that didn’t make it any less impressive or innovative. Before the weaponry could come out though, Punk and Bryan brawled around the ring, and in the process of coming back in, AJ was knocked from the apron and taken to the back. A lot of people had a problem with her leaving the match for a while, but I didn’t as it was a sensical dramatic move to make; the only problem was that AJ is a wrestler and shouldn’t be taken out by being knocked off the apron once. It was soon that the weapons became involved. An interesting thing happened early on, the crowd wanted tables, and I guess as ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’, Punk obliged by getting one out. Given the finish of the match, it’d interesting to know whether the finish was an audible based on that moment, or whether the chant was just a convenience that allowed Punk to get a pop with him knowing the finish. The table wouldn’t be involved yet though, as Bryan grasped the kendo stick and set about Punk brutally, relentlessly in to double figures, which was enough for a near-fall.  Later, after fighting out of a Mexican Surfboard, Punk was able to reach for the kendo stick and turn the tables. The real joy of the story of this match came when AJ returned with both men downed. When she pulled out the steel chair and placed it between the two downed men for her enjoyment, it hit the apex of what the AJ story was at its best – not just a ‘crazy chic’, but someone essentially playing with two of the top wrestlers in the company and the world for her own amusement; having them in the palm of her hand. Bryan won the race to the chair, and gave Punk a good working over with it, but it was Punk who really used it well. In a move I haven’t seen before, Punk cradled on Bryan’s back and slammed him. Around this time, still desperate for attention, AJ went about inserting herself in to the match, blocking Punk from whipping Bryan in to the chair, and standing on the kendo stick when Bryan reached for it. She was showing no favouritism, not competing for their affections, and was instead trolling them for her own entertainment, which is the best this angle could be for her and me as a progressive. Then came the breathless closing stages, starting with a Yes Lock from Bryan, using the kendo stick for more leverage. This looked brutal, and with AJ calling the shots, I believed Punk might submit, or be said to have submitted. He didn’t though, and slingshotted Bryan in to a GTS for a big near fall after an exhausted Punk was slow to make the cover. This was finally where the table came in to play as Punk and Bryan again played with the format by having Punk place Bryan on the table looking for a Macho Man elbow, only to have Bryan disrupt him, looking for the reversal through the waiting table. Eventually, Punk re-wrestled the advantage away from Bryan and hitting a back suplex through the table which was enough for a three count. Nice finish as something outside of finishers makes it more surprising, dramatic, and unpredictable. Another really great match between these two to end their epic feud, well booked with AJ being involved, but not too much. Punk continues as champion, and is looking great. Moving on to John Cena at RAW 1000, he puts it on the line again. I’m confident he’ll keep it too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Punk made even more of a MAN and continue his run up to the full year. Just a shame they had to mess around with the title after last year’s Money in the Bank, otherwise he’d have had the title for a year already!

Match 5) Ryback def. Tyler Reks & Curt Hawkins
There isn’t much to say about Ryback’s matches. They’re repetative but entertaining, and short. Recently, he has stopped jobbing out jobbers and moved on to main roster talent. It is hard to make the switch from jobbing spectacles that gain simple noteriety to dramatic matches where the talent is challenged, and we have to invest in him, but WWE are doing a good job with Ryback. Like his later match with Jack Swagger on RAW, Ryback took some offense, and even looked vulnerable at points. That in itself is interesting when its never been seen before, but when he pulled himself together to get back in to his usual routine and beat two quality (in relative terms) talents, it added a new layer of resilience to his character. The way I always judge talent is whether or not you can see them having a dramatic match in a WrestleMania main event; downed, and battling with the fans on the edge of their seat. Right now, the answer is still a clear ‘No’ for Ryback as he is still being pushed as almost unbeatable, but this subtle change in booking has brought him a tad closer to that WrestleMania image.

Match 6) Layla, Kaitlyn, & Tamina Snuka def. Beth Phoenix, Natalya, & Eve Torres
Initial thoughts regarding this match were that it was a shame we weren’t getting a Divas Championship match, but then I realised it was another bit of necessary filler between the Punk-Bryan match and the main event as it was a hard act to follow. Its a shame that talents like Layla, Beth, Nattie are involved in such a meaningless match, but on the plus side, it was entertaining, so its hard to be really upset about it.

Match 7) John Cena def. The Big Show, Chris Jericho, The Miz, and Kane to Become Mr. Money in the Bank for the WWE Championship
On its own, this match was better than I ever expected. I thought this would be a disappointingly bland edition of Money in the Bank, but I think it rivaled the earlier effort in terms of entertainment – helped of course by the fact that it was the main event (but more on that later). I had predicted that both The Miz and Rey Mysterio could/would return for this match to add some shock value and also some talents more suited to the match, and i’m pleased to say I was half-right. The Miz’s promo halfway through the PPV was exciting for a lot of reasons. During his own MITB/WWE Championship run, he earned a lot of good will from the audience that has stuck despite  his more recent slide on the card, and so when his music hit after a c. two-month absence, the reaction was encouraging, and made him seem important. His new look essentially makes him look more mature, and a more composed competitor, which is also good news, even if it does just result from a new haircut. Finally, his actual promo was well executed – he spoke like he believed what he was saying, which is crucial to promo success, and had something interesting to say about reclaiming his spot and no longer being overlooked. Also, he added another smaller body to the match to bump around for the bigger guys and make a more entertaining match. Before Miz’s return, all we had for that role was ladder match master, Chris Jericho, who was also the man that would steal the show for this match. There weren’t too many memorable spots, though Cena’s AA to Big Show through the Spanish announce table was fantastic and spectacular, but when there were, Jericho, characterised accurately as a wily veteran, was always above it and able to capitalise. For example, Big Show being buried under ladders was a fun but cartoonish spot to get Show out of the match/give him a rest, but once everyone had contributed to the pile and were pleased at their handywork, in came Jericho with a ladder of his own to knock down Miz and Kane. At times he seemed in absolute control of the match, and perfectly at ease with the stipulation, as soon after Miz tried to prevent him from reaching the case with a threatened Electric Chair Drop, only for Jericho to counter in to a Lion Tamer Walls of Jericho that he knew he didn’t have to break for the ropes, before stopping an advancing Kane with a dropkick to the ladder. Again, after some suitably cartoonish spots from Cena, including a double five-knuckle shuffle to Miz and Jericho on the ladder, and an AA to Kane on Miz on the ladder, Jericho again took control by hitting Cena square with a ladder and climbing a ladder – only for a returning Big Show to stir and stop Jericho. At this point, we saw the worst of the Big Show. While his giant(‘s) ladder is impressive, it just goes to highlight the awkwardness of his frame which WWE should be trying to hide in a monster heel, and reminds us of his time as more comical babyface. Atop the ladder, Show was fighting off allcomers, including Kane and Cena, but again, it was Jericho with the wherewithal to  save the match, learning from their mistakes trying to fistfight a man with a KO Punch and instead using a chair to neutralise him. At this point, we saw Jericho giving his everything to win this match, battling John Cena with a sleeper for literally minutes before sending him to the mat, battling Miz atop the ladder, literally clinging on to the case for dear life in one of the matches best spots where Miz headbutted him and sent Jericho swinging perilously but refusing to let go of the case and finally getting the best of The Miz. Seeing this determination was infectious. I’m a huge Jericho fan, but I could sense the whole crowd supporting him, seeing just how hard he was fighting. It seemed at this point that he had the will of the whole crowd, and was going to keep fighting until he won. Unfortunately, this distracted Jericho enough that a recovered Big Show managed to surprise him at the top of the ladder. Knowing his fate, Jericho took the KO punch, and sold the drop amazingly, putting him out of contention. Finally we were left with just Cena and Show atop the ladder, fulfilling a story that wasn’t sold well enough during the build – that Cena was there, in part at least, to stop Show from winning, and that he did by bashing the case against the giant’s head. The finish with the broken handle was a minor botch, leaving the case in Cena’s hands, but I actually think it was in some ways fortutous, representing exactly how Cena is successful, with brute force. So not the ladder match that the first one was, but arguably as entertaining. The only shame was the positioning. It seems that this match went on last because it was felt the end was more memorable than a championship retention with no cash-in. I disagree still though, because what does that say about championship matches generally? In a PPV with no big marquee matches, give the man who should be regarded as the crown jewel of the company (your WWE Champion), who will also be in the best match on the card, top billing. To not do so shows an over-reliance on Cena when it is clear that Punk can draw. It isn’t good for the title, and it isn’t good for Punk. Hopefully, however, it will give “The Voice of the Voiceless” some good ammunition for hos future match with Cena. We already know Cena’s plans for his MITB case; he’s cashing it in honourably, which is the only way he ever could, against CM Punk at RAW 1000. My personal feeling is he will fail, but it will be interesting to see, and I expect a RAW classic in the tone of Cena vs Shawn Michaels from 2007 to help MAKE CM Punk more than he already is.

So overall, a good but ultimately unspectacular PPV. Not many surprises, but predictability can be a good thing when the moment is a good one. It was only let down by the positioning of the champions. I feel that is the WWE Championship, and WWE Championship MITB matches were swapped, this PPV would be significantly more satisfying. In order to grow more sustainably, WWE need to know that while Cena will always be centre-stage, the men they pick as WWE Champion – especially when they’re as over as CM Punk – have to be considered on that level too.

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RAW Precall (26/03/2012): Booking the Go Home Episode for WrestleMania 28

So, the weeks leading up to WrestleMania are always the most exciting in a wrestling fans calendar – even for those, dare I say it, that usually carry an ideological distaste for the WWE. This post is simply a manifestation of my own excitement leading in to WrestleMania XXVIII. Now, ‘go home’ shows can be hit and miss, and there is a reason for this; at this point your building to very specific matches, and it doesn’t make sense to venture outside of the established feuds, so they are often limited in booking terms. Not only that, but in order to sell PPV’s, you want to build expectation, rather than give the action away on free TV, so the people feuding can only go so far as relates to physical violence. This, of course, doesn’t mean ‘go home’ shows are necessarily tame, in fact, often the best ones are the exact opposite, it’s just a case of finding a balance between building tension and giving content away, while hopefully doing it in an interesting, entertaining way.

This is what i’m going to attempt to do. I’ll also leave some notes for the ‘go home’ Smackdown – though it should be remembered that go home Smackdowns are often very limited in content due to the tradition (one I like) of featuring a lot of content from WrestleMania Axxess to really give that feel of WrestleMania almost being here.

Here are the matches which need to be built:
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres
Randy Orton vs Kane
Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs Big Show
Team Teddy (Santino, Kofi, Truth, ?, ?, ?) vs Team Johnny (Otunga, Mark Henry, Christian, Ziggler, Swagger, ?)
World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus
The Undertaker vs HHH (Hell in a Cell, Special Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels)
WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho
The Rock vs John Cena

RAW

At the start of the show, the announcers run through some of the advertised matches: HHH vs The Miz (w/ Special Referee, Shawn Michaels), Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus in a ‘WrestleMania Preview’ match, CM Punk & Big Show vs Chris Jericho & Cody Rhodes, plus, both John Cena and The Rock ‘in action’.

Cut to arena and Jericho’s music hits. He comes to the ring and cuts a promo about being the best in the world and how he doesn’t want or deserve to be in the ring with CM Punk, a man so delusional due to drink that he thinks he’s the Best in the World, more than he needs to be. He’ll wrestle him at WrestleMania, and that’s all. At that point, Bryan’s music hits and he comes down with AJ. He says he can relate to Jericho’s problem as he has been put in a match with a drunk too, a brute from Ireland, Sheamus, and he doesn’t feel he should have to wrestle him at any other time apart from WrestleMania either. He doesn’t care who Sheamus wrestles, he can wrestle AJ if he wants, just not me. He goes to leave but then Sheamus charges the ring and beating on Bryan and Jericho too. At this point, HHH comes out and explains that with the GM’s fighting, and superstars from both shows in the ring, he’ll sort out the issue. He says Sheamus will have a match later, and so to will Bryan and Jericho. He agrees that they shouldn’t face their WrestleMania opponents, and that he’s got something else in line for them. Jericho will go one on one with John Cena. Bryan looks smug, until Trips announces he’ll go one on one with The Rock in tonight’s main event.

Beth Phoenix and Eve to the ring. They brag about not needing TV stars to help boost their profile and call out their WrestleMania opponents. Kelly Kelly comes out alone, and Eve asks where her partner is before answering that ‘oh yeah, she’s not here. Still wanna face us?’ Resolute, Kelly makes her way to the ring to face them in a handicap match. A few minutes of the heels dominating. Beth goes for a pin but holds Kelly up for more punishment. Natalya comes out to aid Kelly and she and Beth end up brawling to the back (which can also set up a post-Mania feud for them). In the distraction, Kelly hits a K2 to Eve for the win.

Kane promo from inside his red-lit boiler room. He says his powers have Orton on the back foot and lacking confidence like never before. He promises that what he does to Orton at WrestleMania will be BURNED on to his retina just like that moment he was humbled and humanised with a hand shake is to him. Kane is about to continue, but Orton appears behind him in the boiler room and quips ‘You’ll burn in hell’ or some such before attacking him and getting the best of it.

HHH’s match with Miz. Miz out first, and he asks why he should wrestle someone like HHH when he’s not even getting a WrestleMania match. He’s no tune up, he’s a main eventer! HHH comes out and promises him a match of some kind at WrestleMania if he can win. Miz agrees. Decently long match here so Miz doesn’t look too bad, but Trips in control eventually. At this point, the lights go out and the bells of Undertaker toll. Taker on the tron who simply says in six days, you will meet your end (or some Taker-y stuff like that) and when the lights come back, Miz ambushes a distracted HHH with a Skull Crushing Finalé and goes for the pin. Only, Shawn doesn’t count the pin, at least not straight away, and HHH kicks out before getting the upper hand and winning with Pedigree and Taker-taunt pin before he and Shawn do the ‘Suck It’ taunt to Miz and the announcers speculate about whether HBK is on Trple H’s side at WrestleMania, and the Streak being in dire jeopardy.

Sheamus beats Jinder Mahal after a bit of offense from Mahal so it’s not a squash, but shows Sheamus’s strength against a decent opponent. At that point, Sheamus gets a mic very quickly, says Daniel Bryan does a lot of talking, while he lets his actions show that he’s a champion.

Next up is CM Punk & Big Show vs Cody Rhodes & ? Jericho comes on the tron and gloats about not having to compete before introducing his replacement, former tag team champion with Rhodes, Drew McIntyre. Give Punk a lot of time with both heels in the ring respectively while having Rhodes avoid Show throughout the match in a cowardly kind of way. Punk and McIntyre in the ring. McIntyre goes for his Future Shock DDT, but he’s wrestled on to Punk’s shoulders, but just before he delivers, Jericho interrupts on the tron, saying ‘Hey Punk. what are you doing fighting my replacement when i’m right back here?’ Furious, Punk puts McIntyre down and goes after Jericho. Big Show is distracted by this and calls after Punk, but with his back turned, he’s rolled up by McIntyre who grabs the tights, and for extra leverage, Rhodes pushes on Show’s back out of the referee’s line of sight, and Rhodes and McIntyre win it. All this happens before Punk has left the stage, and incensed, he storms back to the ring while Jericho says ‘You’ll have to do better than that on Sunday, Punk’. He walks around the ring and grabs a mic, and enters the ring as the heels are still celebrating. He goes to talk, but instead drops the mic and GTS’s both of them. He then picks up the mic again. Now it’s kinda cynical to say ‘Punk shoots’, because that can’t just be a fall-back, but in this scenario, to build for the match, it’s a good call. Let him go off on Jericho for whatever he wants before having him say. I am the Best in the World, but this is about more than that now. You’ve insulted me, my family, and gotten under my skin, but that’s the worst mistake you’ll ever make. At WrestleMania, you wont be able to troll, and you certainly wont be able to hide from the ass-kicking you’re in line for. CULT OF PERSONALITY.

A bit of relief from that in the form of Team Long vs Team Johnny. First off, Long’s music hits, and out he comes with Santino, Kofi, and Truth. He has two more members to add to his WrestleMania team tonight. First off, out comes Brodus Clay! I don’t know if this is the best way to use the FUNKASAURUS, but he needs some sort of catalyst to progress, and his entrance would be great at WrestleMania. Secondly, he says he has heard the fans at arenas and through twitter, and the fifth member of Team Long is Zack Ryder! Ryder comes out and thanks Teddy very strenuously. At this point, out come John Laurinaitis with the rest of his team so far ‘ Otunga, Mark Henry, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, and Jack Swagger. Big Johnny congratulates Teddy on convincing five people to fight for him, but, as usual, he has out done him. ALBERTO DEL RIO’s music hits! I think it’s important he’s given a big entrance like this. With everyone still on the stage, Del Rio makes his full entrance, with pyro and stands with them all on the stage. He shakes hands with Johnny and Johnny holds up one of Del Rio’s shirts. Del Rio cuts a promo about how Teddy hampered him on Smackdown, and how his destiny on RAW took him to the WWE Championship. For that, he is forever loyal to Big Johnny and more motivated than ever to fight if it means ridding the WWE of Long.

Now to the joint main events. First up, John Cena vs Chris Jericho. Cena out second, but before the match starts, Rocky’s music hits and he comes down to commentate. Both of these matches need and deserve decent time, mainly because neither man can look weak. After a while Jericho gains control and slams Cena in to the announce table, but he and Rock have history too, and Jericho talks trash to Rocky, saying stuff like ‘what are you doing here, i’m the best in the world’, etc and shoves Rock. This is too much for Rock, who punches Jericho. The referee sees though, and this costs Cena the match, who looks angry and then gives a wry smile to Rocky. Jericho celebrates on the turnbuckle meanwhile, and Punk dives out from the crowd to attack him, and beats on him until Jericho escapes and backs off up the ramp. Punk stares a hole through him before chasing after him to the back. After this, Cena gestures to the ring for Rock to enter for his match, while Cena goes to joing commentary.

Out comes Daniel Bryan. This was one of my first ideas when booking the show. Not only could Bryan vs Rock be amazing and fresh, but most importantly, it gives a helluva rub to Bryan, which only helps legitimise Rocky’s involvement in WWE. The match has to be similar to the first in that both men need to look good, which against Rocky, will make Bryan look awesome! The match, like the first, ends up out of the ring. Now because Rocky’s more douchey, he would throw Bryan over the table and in to Cena. Cena and Rock shout at each other with the referee trying to seperate them. Meanwhile, Bryan grabs the ring bell from where he landed, and with the referee distracted, nails Rock with it and crawls in to the ring to gain a count out victory. YES! YES! YES! celebrations. Rock, who has recovered, then goes to attack Bryan, but Bryan escapes and runs to the back while celebrating. Meanwhile, Cena stands right behind Rock, and once Bryan’s escaped, Rock turns round right in to Cena. Staredown. Fade to black.

Smackdown

Some less detailed Smackdown thoughts now. Now, people like The Rock, John Cena, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and probably Triple H, aint gonna be appearing on Smackdown, so this opens the floor for everyone else even more. So, in rough chronological order, but not necessarily:

Eve vs Natalya, for costing her the match. Kelly in Nattie’s corner, Beth in Eve’s. Beth interferes with Nattie throughout the match until Kelly confronts her. This time, Eve takes advantage of the distraction and rolls Nattie up for the win.

Tune up matches for both Kane and Orton. Kane beats Khali pretty quickly while Orton later beats Hunico (I really like Hunico, so I don’t like jobbing him out, but he deserves an appearance) in similar fashion. Only, Orton gets interviewed after the match, and is attacked and glovehanded by Kane.

Cody Rhodes is at Axxess and shows us ‘Big Show’s Hall of Blame’ showing pictures of Big Show embarrassed at WrestleMania in picture frames with a photoshopped picture of Rhodes with his foot on Show’s chest in the final frame.

Team Teddy are out to announce their final member … Evan Bourne! Now, I’m not in favour necessarily of Bourne appearing at Mania as he shouldn’t be rewarded like that right now, but he is popular and would get a pop. This is with the caveat that Rey Mysterio isn’t fit to wrestle. If he is, replace Bourne with Rey. Team Johnny appear on the stage, and he motions for them to rush the ring. A brawl between all 12 men in the ring that can’t be stopped as they go to commercial!

As for the two heavyweight title matches, Punk and Bryan have wrestled a lot, so it’s not that original, but having them face-off in the main event is better than a tag match. So inter-twine the matches and have Jericho vs Sheamus first. Bryan distracts and costs Sheamus the match to Jericho but again, in a match that makes everyone look good. Main event, Punk vs Bryan. Eventually, turnabout is fair play as Sheamus comes out and costs Bryan the match. Show ends by highlighting Punk at the end of the show as he celebrates. Everyone looks good, but no one better than their opponents (both Punk and Jericho won, and both Bryan and Sheamus lost, though still looking strong).

PLEA

So I hope you enjoyed this bit of fantasy booking. I think it’s pretty strong, but i’d love some feedback, so don’t hesitate to comment, suggest booking of your own, and follow me @RTVWOW for more opinions, info, and live-tweeting, including coverage of WrestleMania’s past which i’m doing in the run up to this year’s extravaganza!

Royal Rumble Review 2012: Sheamus Wins to Preserve the World as We Know It

Sheamus celebrates his Royal Rumble victory next to the iconic WrestleMania XXVIII sign

I don’t think many people expected to see that sight at the end of last night. Indeed, if you were to look at my previews, you’ll see he was barely on my radar, though I know he was mentioned by a minority as an outsider. But more on that at the end of the review …

Match 1) Daniel Bryan def. The Big Show and Mark Henry in a Steel Cage Match to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
I liked the set-up to this match, with Bryan being trapped in a cage with two monsters, and Bryan certainly played up to this, first of all trying to escape instantly from from the cage before being dragged back in for punishment. Indeed, Bryan was the star of the show, bumping in an overblown way and really selling the punishment he was party to. Bryan was the star of the show again, but Henry and Show had moments of their own, such as Show repeatedly splashing Henry against the wall. Bryan had a period of legitimate dominance when he had both Henry and Show down, and was going back and forth between them, but most of the match was him trying to slip out of the cage with minimal effort, and after Show had delivered a WMD to Henry, Bryan saw an opportunity, and climbed the cage to the brink of escape. He and Show fought on top as Bryan slinked ever closer to victory. We were left with the remarkable sight of nothing but air seperating Bryan from the floor with Show holding him only by his wrists. At this point, I expected the brilliant sight of Show pulling and placing Bryan back in to the cage, but instead, Bryan just kinda freed himself and fell to the floor for the retention. This was strange as it was a victory that was more well earned than I would have expected; I was expecting something like  him climbing over Show while he was fighting with Henry, or perhaps that he would loosen the attachments between the cage panels to escape in a way that would again show him as a cowardly champion hanging on by the skin of his teeth. Instead, he kinda earned it, and because we weren’t expecting it, and it wasn’t quite as innovative as all that, it was a bit anticlimactic – to the point where I wonder whether it could have been a botch. That doesn’t mean it was a bad match, it was just a bit of a disappointing finish. This wouldn’t be the first time that previous fantasy booking would render a match finish a little disappointing initially.

Match 2) Beth Phoenix, Natalya & The Bella Twins def. Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Tamina & Alicia Fox
I was pleased to see the divas get some PPV time, but was kinda disappointed that it featured the Divas Champion, but was a tag match instead of a Divas Championship match. The match was pretty good when compared to the usual quality of divas matches; kinda formulaic, but certainly watchable. It improved from there towards the end, when Kelly dove from the turnbuckle to all the divas congregated on the floor. It’s not that impressive in itself, but it certainly shows the commitment Kelly evidently has to improving her craft. Then, with the match having broken down, Beth – who has been dominant with every appearance for some time – almost got frustrated with the traction of the match, took charge by fiercely tagging herself in from one of the Bellas, grabbed Kelly and Glam Slammed her for the win. I liked this because it was an uncomplicated story of Beth forcibly rising above the rest of the divas with sheer dominance. Hopefully, this trend will continue and again help recharge the divas division. Otherwise, with the re-emergence of Kharma, maybe this was a deliberate positioning of Phoenix as her natural opponent.

Match 3) John Cena vs Kane Ended in a Double-Countout
I feel like i’ll be under-selling this match because it was quite a long match, and certainly a pretty good match. The problem is I can’t really remember that much about the match, simply because it consisted mainly of brawling, for obvious reasons. Apart from the five-knuckle shuffle from the top rope, the match itself was brutal, but ultimately, kinda bland. It was only when the two got counted out that any vaguely memorable stuff happened. After the two were counted out, the brutality began as Cena hit Kane with some sort of industrial box. Kane and Cena brawled backstage until Kane got the upper hand with one of those chair shots which look like a sick shot the head (without having to do it). With Cena out, Kane came across Zack Ryder’s personal dressing room, which he busted in to to find Ryder (who could move an awful lot for a man with a broken back!) but still couldn’t put up much of a fight. After being stopped, Ryder was driven to the ring in his wheelchair where he was dumped in to the ring, and with Eve Torres looking on, was Tombstoned on his already injured neck and left prone on the mat. Cena soon recovered and made his way out, but only received a Chokeslam from Kane, leaving us with the powerful image of Cena left strewn on the mat next to Ryder. It was certainly a shocking sequence, and was very good for Kane who is one of the few to simply beat up Cena clean. Though I understand why neither Kane or Cena lost, hoping that neither would look weak in loss, it did give us another match with an anticlimactic feel; and though the afters were pretty cool, it could easily be mistaken for one of their recent RAW climaxes. Certainly not much more was achieved.

Match 4) “The Funkasaurus” Brodus Clay def. Drew McIntyre
Not too much to say about this match, other than it was another fantastical outing for Clay, this time in green (FOR $$$) against Drew McIntyre. I’m a huge fan of McIntyre, and with him out first, fighting for a Rumble spot, I expected him to snap his streak and start his renewed push in the Rumble match, then I heard the funk and knew it was all over. Seriously though, at least it was Funkasaurus – perhaps the only one i’d accept beating McIntyre. McIntyre got in a lot more offense than anyone to take on Clay yet, and his psychology was great too, shouting how Funkasaurus was an embarrassment to his livelihood. Ultimately of course, it still ended up funky for him as he got beaten with ease. This was good, but it was another match that could have happened on RAW as, well, it has been happening every week on RAW. The other downside was that this apparently robbed the Rumble match itself of Brodus Clay, and his entrance, which would have been a great Rumble moment.

Match 5) CM Punk def. Dolph Ziggler to Retain the WWE Championship w/ John Laurinaitis as Special Guest Enforcer
This was a very good match, but it has to be said that the actual story of Punk vs Ziggler was secondary to Punk vs Laurinaitis and Laurinaitis trying to keep his job while screwing Punk, and while that was eminently watchable, it did hurt the wrestling match some. The two have very good chemistry, and this match was their best outing to date, starting out slower and more methodical, trading blows and some chains, and looking pretty much evenly-matched. Each man, arrogant in different ways went out of their way show their dominance, be it Ziggler with his regular spots of stopping an Irish whip to strutt, or Punk’s slightly more original spoof of Ziggler by scraping his hair back and flicking the grease at Ziggler while he was in an abdominal stretch. Meanwhile, Ziggler was doing a great job of working Punk’s arm, including a brutal move where he bent Punk’s hand back on the mat, with his elbow facing up, before stamping on the elbow to hyper-extend it more and sharply. As with most of the best matches, it burned slow but steady, and all this built to the point where Ziggler went for the Fameasser only to be reversed, cleanly, in to a spinning powerbomb by Punk (I assume, to correct their slightly awkward one in their first meeting). Up to this point, the match was very even, and after a lot of near falls for Punk, the champion (I think, deliberately) looked surprised/impressed with Ziggler’s resiliency – a rub he would need to make up for the credibility lost in the latter section of the match. Indeed, soon after we had the ref bump which was almost inevitable as soon as Johnny Ace provided a referee to oversee the match in the ring. From this point on is where the story becomes less about Ziggler and more about Big Johnny. With the ref down, Punk ended a slick progression with the Anaconda Vice, which saw Ziggler tap out. Unfortunately for the champ, Ace was clearly diverting his attention from the decision by busying himself with the referee. Punk then reverses Ziggler for another pin attempt that would otherwise have been successful had Laurinaitis not been still distracted. Again, Ziggler goes for Punk, but is reversed, and Punk swings Ziggler round to knock Ace off the apron (but not incapacitate him) before delivering the GTS, and again Ace isn’t there to make the count. Distracted, and with the King calling out Laurinaitis for not getting a new ref, Ziggler reversed another GTS attempt brilliantly in to a Fameasser in mid-air for a very close near fall. It seemed at this point that Ace would cost Punk the title through sheer (deliberate) ineptness when Punk had the match won on three separate occasions. Finally, Punk hit a second GTS to Ziggler coming off a reversed dropkick in to a slingshot, and with the ref compus mentus again, Ace realised there was no way he could cost Punk the title in a way that wasn’t explicit, so decided instead decided to brown-nose a little and over-do his ‘fairness’ by sliding in the ring, and counting along with the referee to hand Punk the match. While I like the subtlety of this story as perfect for Laurinaitis, I think the degree of his involvement distracted from Ziggler’s challenge, which was growing until the ref bump. The fact that Punk beat Ziggler so clearly in the end initially upset me a little as I thought it made Ziggler seem weak, but re-thinking it, he did get some good offense and near-falls on Punk, as well as several pins over him in the build up; and meanwhile, it just makes out champion look great. However, given that the PPV was 10 minutes short, I’d have liked to see them both go at it for ten or so minutes more before the ref bump and maybe cut down the dusty near-falls just a little, and we would have seen a truly great match, where Dolph was equally a star, and Punk was even more impressive in his defence. As we had it, it was the second Punk-Ziggler match in which what was becoming a great match was stunted by timing and/or booking.

Match 6) Sheamus Won The Royal Rumble
Ok, so this match is too big, and too much happens in it to call it play by play in chronological order, but I can certainly talk about the memorable moments: the good and the ugly. The good news is that this was a really fun, memorable Rumble, and so there weren’t many ugly moments at all. In fact, it’s difficult to think of one horrible bit of the Rumble match. One criticism is that the roster was lacking in star power, which I understand, but my only problems were the Kane broke his 13 match entering streak, Brodus Clay didn’t appear, and Big Show was our #30. Apart from that, the comparitive lack of star power is no problem for me; if younger talent can’t get a shot at the Rumble, then who can!? Of course, the come back is that all three of the announcers (including Cole) got a shot and took up three precious spots, but even that played out in a really fun, comical way, with none of them seemingly knowing they were in the match, or noticing they were in their gear. The timing was great, and I think it added to the fun of the match.

This year’s workhorses were The Miz and Cody Rhodes, and I think they did a good job and shone quite well. The Miz was out number one, and was to face Alex Riley, and when Miz eliminated him before #3 came out before animatedly counting one on his finger, I was interested in Miz’s booking in the match. He was the longest running participants in the match anyway, and certainly impressed, but I would have liked to have seen more of the determined aggressiveness in his match, eliminating more people and counting every one on his hand; which I don’t think happenned.

Cody Rhodes, I believe, eliminated the most people in the Rumble, meaning he holds another of the most impressive stats for this match-type; not only that, but if you look at most of the people he eliminated, you’ll see how consciously designed his booking was to get a rub and heat: Mick Foley, Jerry Lawler, Booker T, Jim Duggan, all respected legends. He also eliminated Santino which brings with it it’s own heat.

Another honourable mention goes to Kharma, the 3rd woman ever to enter a Royal Rumble. When her music hit, everyone popped, and then everyone did the mental maths to work out that it was possible that she’d had her child and could be back. In the context of Beth Phoenix’s dominance, I was very excited about her return, and I would be surprised now if we see anything other than Kharma vs Beth at WrestleMania. Kharma’s rumble performance was great, and was probably better than the female’s before her, whose very appearance was great and eliminated someone, but never lasted as well or as strongly as Kharma to my mind.

A final specific shout-out has to go to Kofi Kingston, who had had an average showing until The Miz attempted to eliminate him. With his hands already on the floor, Miz pushed him out, but instead of falling to elimination, Kingston showed remarkable coordination, balance, and strength in balancing vertically, and hand-walking backwards to the ring-steps to save himself! It was absolutely remarkable and a great Royal Rumble “moment” which wont be forgotten. It’s being compared to John Morrison’s ‘Spiderman’ escape from last year, and it seems that this sort of remarkable elimination escape will become a Royal Rumble trope going forward for the most gymnastically gifted, and it’s something I welcome as long as it doesn’t get too formulaic.

Another Royal Rumble “moment” came when Mick Foley and Santino Marella found themselves in the ring together squaring off. Then came the most unexpected, but perfectly brilliant stand-off between The Cobra and Mr. Socko! With just those two active in the match, this moment was framed brilliantly, and like Kofi’s handstand, will be remembered forever. Before this was yet another “moment”: At #8, Alberto Del Rio’s music hit, and the crowd came unglued, which is a great sign for Del Rio as it reiterates that people care about him at a time when perhaps his drawing power was being questioned. People expected a Del Rio quickly healed from injury, but they popped even more for what they actually got: Ricardo Rodriguez, trying to emulate his employer, coming to the ring in the same gear as Del Rio and in a horribly beaten-up car. Fired up, Rodriguez pithily attacked a downed Cody Rhodes before running in to Foley, who he seemed to show respect for, which Foley seemingly warmed to. This led to the remarkable situation of Mick Foley taking Rodriguez under his wing and coaching him to eliminate Justin Gabriel before Santino – a rare time when he was the dominant figure in a ring – eliminated him via wedgie; leading to the sock-pupper stand-off.

Now moving on to the result, business picked up in the early twenties with the arrival of eventual winner, Sheamus. From this point on, the memorable comedy portion of the show was swept away by people like Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Randy Orton. The action didn’t become particularly interesting again until the man who prophesised ‘the end of the world’, Chris Jericho, arrived at #29. The lights went out, as they have been doing for him since he returned, which cleared some of the ring, and for the first time ever, Jericho entered a Royal Rumble as a house of fire, eliminating David Otunga very quickly, and Randy Orton shortly afterwards for the home-town heat. Indeed, I had seen those two as the final two, so already my best laid fantasy booking was not coming to pass. Eventually, it was down to the unusual pairing of Chris Jericho and Sheamus, most people expecting Y2J to go over (Sheamus, not the top rope). Thus began an exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat one-on-one battle royal with all the marbles on the line, with lots of near-eliminations. Jericho came very close to elimination a few times, especially when he was hanging on the ropes, I think consciously emulating Shawn Michaels from 1995, before saving himself. Watching it live, I was thinking that they were getting Jericho as close to elimination as possible so that when he won, it would be all the more dramatic. And then he got Brogue Kicked, his feet touched the floor … the 2012 Royal Rumble winner had come second … or something. What? I won’t lie, I was disappointed. When it was just Jericho and Sheamus, I was convinced Jericho had it won, and I was pleased to see how he’d do it, how he’d end the world, and I just couldn’t comprehend how Sheamus winning was better than all of the finish scenarios I had in mind (see: my Royal Rumble preview).

Poring over reaction to it was like a rollercoaster, but slowly, i’ve come round to the result. Especially following RAW, in which Jericho was firmly positioned to take on CM Punk anyway. Admittedly, there have been no answers or response to the ‘end of the world stuff’, and Jericho’s involvement in itself wasn’t mind-blowing, but other than the fact that he doesn’t have the accolade of the Royal Rumble on his resumé, him not winning really isn’t that big of an issue now. Sheamus, on the other hand, needed something new. He’s super-over since turning face, but hasn’t really done anything of note storyline-wise. Going towards WrestleMania, one of the company’s biggest, though not solidified as such, stars has nothing really on his plate. The Royal Rumble can be used to ‘make’ someone, so why not let Sheamus take it and give him a feud (most likely with Daniel Bryan) to get his teeth in to. Not only that, but looking at the match aside from all other conjecture, Sheamus is a very popular face, and it pleases the normal fans not obsessed by online gossip because he is one of their favourites and clearly loves the business and the opportunity he’s been given. Though i’m still upset Jericho didn’t win, i’m pleased and see the value in Sheamus winning. I just hope he takes the spotlight he’s been given.

The IWC is a passionate community, part of the ‘dysfunctional family’ of wrestling that Mick Foley has spoken of, but it also demands the highest of standards, often contradictory, based on the fumes of conjecture. Before this Rumble, we learned that there were big plans for Punk and Jericho, and so we all started thinking of how Jericho would position himself against Punk, and what cool things he could do at the Rumble. Jericho gave a great performance at the Rumble, one which played off our expectations for him by coming close but not winning and ending the world, but because it didn’t live up to our individual expectations, our wildest fantasy booking, it has been very deflating to some fans and has led to an unfair backlash on the Sheamus win. The IWC and fantasy booking is something I love to feed on as a fan, but this shows the downside of that side of the business.

Overall then, I enjoyed this Royal Rumble PPV. A few of the matches misfired until the WWE Championship match, which was very good, and the Royal Rumble itself was one of the most fun and enjoyable Rumble matches I can remember watching!

The RAW View (05/12/2011): That’s Fightin’ Talk

CM Punk, annoyed at John Laurinaitis's photo op

John Cena, Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, and Dolph Ziggler All Lay Claim to the WWE Championship
I’m rather partial to these ‘state of the WWE Championship’ openings when used sparingly, and it’s certainly not happened in a while. What is better is this one seemed to really freshen up the title scene, eventhough it involved Cena and Del Rio! The reason for this is it brought an air of competition back to the title, which was lost when Cena and Del Rio were feuding and regained at Survivor Series, before being built upon with a successful retention on RAW last week and now this. Its especially good because Miz and Ziggler were involved and freshen the whole scene up an awful lot! What’s even better is Dolph hung with all of them, and indeed, outshone them all, especially with the line ‘who has the most entertaining matches every week … on purpose!’ I also liked the ‘win and you’re in’ stipulation Johnny Ace gave them all in reaction to CM Punk’s accusations of being boring. Punk has made change happen! Johnny Ace made those matches because Punk challenged him to be entertaining – even if Ace is only doing it to oneup Punk.

The Miz def. Randy Orton
Randall is practically a jobber now. I’m not complaining because, essentially, Orton is the ideal jobber: a great wrestler who can make people look good and is incredibly high profile. This, however, didn’t quite work in making Miz look great. I don’t think it’s that big a problem though: Miz is already over and it gives him something to brag about in the future without revisionism. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the mindgames of Wade Barrett. His distraction cost Orton the match, and then when Orton turned his back to go after Miz, Barrett got a double-whammy by attacking him from behind with just one shot, not to beat him up, but to show him he could. The problem with this, though, was that this was the first of 3 run in finishes. Not so good.

Alberto Del Rio def. Daniel Bryan
Ok, so Bryan lost to Del Rio, and rather quickly, but for similar reasons to the previous match, I didn’t mind that – it was all part of the making the WWE Championship more prestigious excercise. Also, Bryan was selling the World’s Stronger Strongest Slam less than a week ago, and so it didn’t damage him to lose that much. Also, it plays in to the idea that Johnny Ace wants Del Rio as champion, and so gave him a match against an injured man. Del Rio looked good again following recent losses, so pretty much everything was fine here.

Kelly Kelly & Eve Torres w/ Alicia Fox def. Beth Phoenix & Natalya
This achieved nothing. I don’t know what else to say. Though the Divas of Destruction have been having better fortunes of late, they’ve not been that impressive, and this return to cheap face roll-up victories set them all the way back. I have a feeling that this match was just booked to provide a vehicle for the Y2J/Undertaker return videos – which is even worse because it came in the middle of the Divas of Doom’s own mouth-piece vignette!

John Cena def. Zack Ryder
I really liked the psychology here, originally. Both guys like each other, but fight because they are both chasing respective gold. The first problem was that they almost didn’t seem willing wrestle, despite both being pro-wrestlers who should fight whoever they are told to. The match was probably the longest of the night, and was probably the best match Zack Ryder has had – really taking it to John Cena, and even setting up for a Rough Ryder – though it was then reversed in to an Attitude Adjustment for the win. I also liked Ryder’s emotion, but to be upset at someone beating him fairly seemed a little ridiculous.

Zack Ryder def. Mark Henry
Ok, so John Cena fought his friend because he, naturally, wanted a shot at the WWE Championship, but because he cost Zack Ryder his shot and upset his broski, he went back on it, and gave up his title shot because he’s a 10 time champion. EVEN HE’S BORED OF HIM BEING CHAMPION! Way to make the title seem important. Seriously, part of the reason he gets booed is because he’s too nice – he’d never get the girls if he was that nice in real life. There has been some complaints about how Ryder won, with Cena’s interference, but it made sense to me. If you’re going to cost yourself a title match, you might as well make sure the good part of the bargain happens, especially when the deck has been unfairly stacked against the good guy. The only problem is the whole thing seems a little patronising to Ryder – and make him seem kinda weak (though it was against Henry, so not too bad).

Kevin Nash def. Santino Marella
I don’t like Kevin Nash being on TV that much, but if he must be used, this is the right way to use him; sparingly and brutally … and against Santino. I think it’s hilarious that Kevin Nash is having a mini-feud with Santino, the power-walking, hand-sock wearing jobber. Nash has been righteously mocked for his physical shape in the past, but to his credit has gotten back in shape, and looked ok moving in the ring, though it was only for a few minutes. His work withe the sledgehammer was good too, making it seem actually more dangerous than your average weapon by laying it on the announce table like a time-bomb, and by not using it on Santino, and just letting Santino look terrified by it. Nice work here with Nash keeping his mouth shut and looking psychopathic.

Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler
Before the match, there was a nice little backstage segment with Dolph, Vickie and Swagger where Ziggler again continued to show himself off as an individual, as he chastised Vickie for not gaining him an advantage and had a nice sarcastic bromance moment as he told Swagger he didn’t need him at ringside. The Oyster’s Earrings own Luke Healey summed it up when he said “for a moment there, Dolph Ziggler resembled one of those arrogant Owen Wilson characters from a Wes Anderson movie.” True dat. As for the match, it was a highly competent affair, with all the flair that Ziggler gives, gelling very well with Sheamus. It was a very even match, and Ziggler looked Sheamus’s equal, and even his better, without cheating. But with Ziggler in control, Zack Ryder’s music hit again, for like the 80th time, as we saw the third run-in to cause a distraction-victory of the night. In a sense, this was good, because it made Ziggler look like he had to be distracted to lose to the powerful Great White. A bit more formulaic tension added between champion and contender here, which gives Ziggler something to react to; and this was all that was needed as the two of them now have a long history together.

John Laurinaitis Oversaw the Contract Signing for the TLC Main Event With The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, and CM Punk
CM Punk continued as he left off for his other contract signings, with his electric mic skills, and by not playing along with the staged rigmarole and moving the table and chairs out of the way and suggesting just getting to fighting; but consummate middle-management bureaucrat John Laurinaitis wouldn’t let that happen. Indeed, Johnny Ace has really grown in to his character, deliberately uncharismatic (well, maybe not deliberately), and the inclusion of a photograph before the contracts were signed made him (and the heels who participated) very easy to hate as they seemed to treat it all like a corporate business deal, while the bewildered, bellicose champion looked on. The heels seemed quite fearsome at first, even apparently threatening to make sure Punk didn’t leave as champion, whichever of them won (perhaps a strange idea, but it makes sense that they both dislike Punk). However, when they finally got to that ‘pier six brawl’, they were meant to look a little less fearsome as Punk managed to take both heels out and leave them piled up in the middle of the ring. Now, before I start talking about this, a caveat: this beat-down wasn’t the same as when Cena SuperCena’d The Awesome Truth going in to Survivor Series. Then, Miz and Truth were working together to take out Cena and failed. Here, Miz and Del Rio were trying to beat up Punk, but they were also working against each other at the same time. Punk didn’t beat up two people alone, he simply came out on top out of the three. Nonetheless, I have worried here before about Punk being booked like Cena of late, and there was certainly a whiff of that here. What didn’t happen, like when Cena destroyed the Awesome Truth, was the heels didn’t look a threat; I would certainly say Miz and Del Rio look a threat to Punk, while Punk is being shown as fighting passionately and well against the odds of corporate WWE that doesn’t want him as champion. After coming out on top, the way Punk treated the title was great. Just the way he displays it, clutching it to him and swinging it around his head with joy makes it look more prestigious. More of that please folks – oh, and a new title, which I think there is a ground-swell of opinion for. A nice way to set up the tension between all involved, especially given Miz wasn’t even near the title picture until this week – there is now tangible dislike between the three.

The RAW View (28/11/2011): Pipe-r Bombs as Punker Wins

Punk celebrates after beating Del Rio with some Guerrero-esque techniques

Note from ‘that boy right there’ RTV: This morning, I had to get up at 8.30 am to go to work, and so didn’t watch RAW live, and so only got to watch it this evening and so am only able to write The RAW View now. Mixed in to the fold is the fact that Smackdown goes LIVE tonight (in about 2 hours actually) and I have to get up even earlier tomorrow at 7.30 am, and so can’t watch wrestling AGAIN. I’m not happy about this obviously, and i’ll only get to watch it tomorrow night. If I don’t write the RAW View now, it’ll never get written, so it has to be quick.. That in mind there wont be any of the detailed, eloquent, ‘broadcast journalism’ you’ve come to expect from this site. It’ll be more a simple ‘I like this/I don’t like this and why’. So without further ado, ‘HE GO’N DO IT!’

John Cena Appeared On Piper’s Pit
At first when Roddy Piper started talking about ‘energy’ and the ‘WWE Universe’, I worried about this edition of Piper’s Pit being a bit tame, but boy did Piper deliver. Always believe in Piper. He introduced John Cena, almost accusing him of not caring about the fans’ reaction to him. Piper then tried, with admittedly limited success, to show how the WWE fans respond to him with a mix of reactions that is mostly negative, and suggested that Cena was looking so bad against The Rock because he was concerning himself too much with these people and should cut loose, respond to his haters and concentrate on The Rock, literally inviting him to turn heel. But can Cena turn heel now? Is he already heel? It’s harder to answer than you might think. It seems more and more that Cena is simply ‘something else’ – at times it’s infuriating, but when put in interesting positions (Nexus, Summer of Punk, Rock feud), he becomes fascinating. At the moment, Cena seems like a man of stifling honour under pressure from all directions, and clinging on to his polished persona at any cost. Instead of responding to the challenges of The Rock, he shrugged and complimented the Great One, when Piper attempted tough love, Cena shook his hand and didn’t rise to the violence-baiting. All he wants to do is RISE ABOVE THE HATE folks, what’s so bad about that!? I still expect him to snap and AA the Rock, like, ten times, but when he does so, will that be a heel turn, or will people, including The Rock, respect him more? If/when he can no longer rise above the hate, what will that mean for his character? It’s all fascinating, and it was all shown on Piper’s Pit.

The Miz def. John Morrison in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
I enjoyed the comic nature of Awesome Truth, but Miz especially did suffer from it. Remember the build-up to WrestleMania 27, when Miz was beating up John Cena every week and looking amazing? Well that obviously paid off more that it seemed as Miz is right back on the wagon with no transition from his rehearsed raps with a comically arachnophobic partner. The match started out explosively with the really quite shocking repeated-pipe-to-the-ankle attack from Miz to Morrison, and went on to tell a much more interesting story than people expected from Morrison’s last match with WWE (for now at least). As Miz practically ignored what he had done to Morrison, JoMo insisted on fighting, and actually had Miz on the back foot at one point. The story of this match was almost identical to Miz’s Championship-winning MITB cash-in (right down to the injured leg of the opponent), and like in that match, the sustained injury proved too much to overcome against a fresh Miz. Morrison went out explosively, being thrown in to the WWE sign on the stage befor taking a Skull-Crushing Finalé on the ramp, causing such injury to Morrison that the referee would rather stop the match then allow Miz to cover him – anice touch to get over the brutality of the finish. Miz standing over Morrison, and Johnny Ace coming out to visibly barely acknowledge him may have seemed like a burial, and perhaps it was (that’s just what happens when you leave a promotion), but nowhere near as bad as the reports that he was to job to Brodus Clay. I was never a big fan of Morrison (as regular readers will know), but I genuinely wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. As for Miz, he certainly seemed more dominant and intimidating, but I do worry that he’ll go down the psychopathic heel route that he can do well, but that many heels cand and do do well. His more pop-culture vulture, reality star gimmick is one that is rarer, and harder to do, so I hope that side of him doesn’t get lost as it did this week, even if I did really enjoy his work this week.

Kelly Kelly & Alicia Fox def. The Bella Twins
It’s pretty refreshing to see a match that doesn’t involve the Divas of Doom – not because I dislike them, but because they have been in pretty much every divas match on TV for months. They were involved, however, doing a literal, blasé run-in around the ring in full work-out gear before running back up the ramp and leaving. No one seems to understand why this happened. This isn’t necessarily a problem though, as long as it’s explained and perhaps points to a new character trait of the Divas of Doom. I also liked how the Bellas took exception to Kelly Kelly wanting to jiggler butt like the kinda gal that gets a kick out of being oggled on Maxim, and interrupted that little spot. Despite this, the faces went over in an otherwise uninspiringly short match consisting of uninspiring action, intended, i’m sure, just to get A. Fox continuing to look strong to justify a brief #1 contendership for her.

Dolph Ziggler def. Randy Orton
Before this dream match could take place, we were asked to ‘please acknowledge the presence of Wade Barrett’ – a simple line that only extends the renewed grandeur of the ‘Barrett Barrage’ and seemed to please everyone because it’s awesome. This stayed with Barrett when he was on commentary, getting the match and the feuds over better than either Cole or King. The match itself was really good, as you would expect from two of the best workers in existence (but perhaps not as good as previous encounters). Though it was fairly inevitable, the finish with Wade Barrett distracting Orton and allowing Ziggler to take advantage with a Zig Zag (man) for the win was simple and believable, doing something good for all involved. Ziggler gets to beat a future hall of famer/top guy and look great doing it, especially with the the celebratory headstand which is becoming a trademark of the ‘Show Off’. As for Barrett, he gets further in to Orton’s head, and closer to his level. Meanwhile, Orton doesn’t look any worse, and is really helping get younger stars over to have great matches with.

Daniel Bryan Answered the Criticisms of Michael Cole
Not actually too much to say about this. I was glad to see Bryan repeat his pretty valid reason for cashing in on Henry (that it was revenge for Henry’s attempts to injure him, and that he realised that the MITB contract is an opportunity more than a guarantee, and he saw an opportunity), but I was even more glad to see Bryan simply get some time on the stick. Ok, he’s not The Rock in terms of electrifying intensity, but neither should he be. Bryan has a confident, quiet, erudite charisma which I think comes over very well, and though its a slow-burner, I think if given the sustained time on the mic that seems to be coming to him now. When confronted by Henry and his awesome, threatening tone, Bryan made even better by confronting him; boldly just getting out of the ring and walking up to the World’s Strongest Champion. Taking exception to Henry’s claim that Bryan could never beat him, Bryan made a bold but simple statement by kicking Henry in his already injured leg to exemplify just how he could beat him. In many ways, that was more powerful than a normal beat-down or his false cash-in from last week.

Zack Ryder def. Jack Swagger
Not a bad match here, but also a bit of a waste as it should have been more explicitly linked to Ryder’s potential #1 Contendership to the US Championship (as it was in the deleted backstage pre-tape). It’s a shame that Swagger was the vehicle for such an empty bit of build though. Hopefully his fortunes will change going forward, while Ryder’s pursuit of a US Championship match gets hotter and more intense.

Mick Foley Hyped This Week’s LIVE Smackdown in Seasonal Fashion
Only the Micker could get away with this and it still be entertaining. His rhyme was certainly fun, as was his costume, and very Foley-esque; I do worry, however, that it is a sign that WWE aren’t quite sure yet what to do with Mick. Hell, i’m not sure what I want to see him do, though I do know that I want to see him – perhaps explaining this kind of appearance. I just wish he could get some kind of steady position – I certainly would have no problem with Commissioner Foley usurping Johnny Ace on RAW, perhaps in a match? Why not!? All that aside, the tightness of his rhymes really did effectively build hype for Super-Smackdown, the cage match, and no Cole!

CM Punk def. Alberto Del Rio to Retain the WWE Championship
Very much like the Ziggler-Orton match, this match featured two of the best workers today, and though it didn’t nearly live up to their Survivor Series match (come on guys, it had, like, half the time!), it was certainly enjoyable and technically impressive. It wasn’t however, as prestigious an event as the announcers suggested, though I do love how Punk treats the title, kissing it before handing it to referees before matches. That in itself is a good step towards making the championship more prestigious and interesting. The story of the match was similar to Survivor Series too, with Punk taking just about the majority of the violence, almost exclusively to his left arm, while showing great resilience in staying in the match and fighting back. There was also the stipulation that if Punk got intentionally DQ’d, he would lose the WWE Championship; and with some skullduggery, Alberto (and Ricardo Rodriguez) would try to trick Punk in to getting DQ’d, first of all tempting him with an exposed turnbuckle, and then attempting the Eddie Guerrero staged chairshot spot. Punk, a vocal fan of Guerrero, reversed this though, throwing the chair back to Del Rio and taking a bump (turnabout is fair play for a face!). Charles Robinson was about to DQ Del Rio, but Punk wanted a fairer victory and so rolled up Del Rio for a near fall. The Mexican heels tried again to take advantage of the referee and the stipulation though, and this time, Punk was merciless, getting himup in the GTS position, and dropping him, using the exposed turnbuckle instead of his knee to pick up the win. A nice win for Punk, though I am starting to worry his booking is going to close to the SuperCena ilk: getting beat up for most of match before a flurry. I like how Punk is being an infinitely more believable competitor than Cena, showing an impressive grittiness which makes him a much more interesting champion, but I think perhaps he went too far in that direction this week and perhaps looked a little weak, especially after winning with an (albeit kharmic) turnbuckle shot. As for Del Rio, the nature of his loss, and the nature of his relationship with Johnny Ace, means that a rematch at TLC is most likely, probably with the Miz to follow after he’s smashed a few more people’s heads in to the ramp.

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Smack of the Week (25/11/2011): American Dragon Riled Up

Daniel Bryan Tried to Cash in His Money in the Bank Briefcase On Mark Henry
To start the show, Mark Henry came out with his Championship title and a crutch. I really liked how Henry sold this, showing that it hurt, but showing real heart at the same time by just struggling his way to the ring and promising to defend his title despite his injury, though he did mention he wasn’t cleared fight (an important point). This made him seem really brave and formidably strong, something Big Show seemed the opposite of when he came to meet Henry. He brought up the way Henry retained his title and insinuated (correctly) that Henry knew that his title was in jeopardy. A defensive World’s Strongest Champion started calling Big Show a two-time loser, to which Show responded with a cheap WMD, knocking the injured, unexpectant champion out. This seemed to be the end of a pretty textbook segment (Henry’s testicular fortitude aside), but then, D. Bryan’s music hit, and this time, there was no doubt that he was compus mentus when he cashed in this time. His main task was to get the behemoth over on his back, and it certainly took him some time, but he managed it and got the 3 count to become champion! He celebrated like he really had won the championship, and looked very emotional while the celebration went on for a long time, taunting Cole and the fans lapping it up. This emotion was quite a feat as it was soon to turn out that his championship win wouldn’t stand because Henry was not cleared to compete. This was obviously quite a striking moment, and the honourable Bryan eventually handed the Championship back. HOWEVER, if he wasn’t to win the championship, why did he try the cash-in (especially given the later results)? It seems to me that the only reason for it is to hint at a less honourable Bryan who might cash in before WrestleMania. I just hope the story stays as many imagine it – him cashing in on Henry at WrestleMania.

Hunico def. Justin Gabriel
Man, Justin Gabriel sucks right now. He cooms out all excited to his teen-bob music, and he comes across as completely lame and unintimidating. He’s just not working, and that might explain this result. This wasn’t a bad match between the two high flyers, and I think it’s great how Hunico has altered his style since failing at being Sin Cara in to a less pretty style that can still be explosive. I think, surprisingly given his genesis after the failed imposter (seriously, those guys rarely go anywhere), that he has a real future, and so it was right that he beat Gabriel. I don’t know if much will come of this, but a nice enough match anyway.

Natalya & Beth Phoenix def. AJ & Kaitlyn
Squash matches are rarely pleasing, but given how low the ‘Divas of Doom’ got a few weeks ago, i’ve enjoyed their recent resurgence. AJ is a great bumper for the DoD’s too, and again, she made Nattie look great by tapping out to the Sharpshooter. Again, Kaitlyn seemed unimpressed with AJ’s performance, not trying to break up the submission, berating her after the match, and not helping her after the match when it was ‘Cry Time’. Alicia Fox, who had been characteristically unconvincing on commentary, had to eventually save AJ, but it seems they’re going ahead with this break-up of the Chickbusters. This is bitter-sweet. On the one hand, it means an actual story for these two to get involved in – on the other hand, I don’t think the they’ve been established enough to make the break-up truly pleasing. We can but wait and see. Could Kaitlyn join the heels? It’s not out of the question given her size. More importantly, could AJ get a Divas Title shot? I’d love to see that.

Zack Ryder & Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
Seems like Dolph has a slightly new nuance to his character as the tron had ‘SHOW OFF’ emblazoned on it, and then the commentators insisting on associating the term ‘show off’ with Ziggler. I like this because it plays in to one of Ziggler’s best characteristics: how he knows how good he is, and likes to taunt the audience with it to make them hate them, because he wants them to hate him. These guys all had a pretty good top hour main event, and one in which Ryder showed me a bit more than usual. Indeed, although I already know he’s good in the ring, it was nice to see him pull off a new move in the Ryder Revolution plancha (I don’t know if that’s what it’s called, but Matthews said it as he did it, and it fits well!) which he landed beautifully in to the ‘Woo Woo Woo’ fist-pumps. Ziggler for his part, was really amping up the ‘show off’ side of his persona. He was still doing awesome wrassling including his amazing selling of Sheamus’s reversal of the Zig Zag, but his taunts were getting even more and more (brilliantly) ridiculous taunts, like his feigning of amateur wrestling moves after taking Sheamus down. Talking Sheamus, he provided some nice smashmouth moments, especially with his equal in stature, Jack Swagger. Again, Swagger managed to have some strong offense against The Great White, which made him look really good, and when he and Sheamus traded their varying shoulder tackles, it looked like a real battle of forces. The real story of the match though, was Zack Ryder’s continuing odyssey to a United States Championship match, and his claim got even stronger with a victory over Ziggler. It looks good for Ryder but doesn’t affect Ziggler too badly coming off some great in-ring work of late and a big title retention at Survivor Series and it came in a tag team match anyway. A nice, simple bit of progression. What i’d like to have seen though is, seen as Johnny Ace wont give Ryder a title match, and seen as he’s broski’s with Teddy Long, Teddy Long should have given him the title match for the live Smackdown next week – draw some ratings. What an idea! Someone gimme a job!

Ted DiBiase def. Heath Slater
Especially given that Slater had just returned from a wellness policy violation, and because DiBiase’s posse has gotten him a push of late, I expected a simple squash. Instead, we saw a Jinder Mahal on the tron criticising Ted for fraternizing with commoners. I quite like this because though I don’t have much time for Mahal, I think he deserves a second chance with the ball, and I like the idea of one being more philanthropic, and the other being more elitist. As for the match, it was another decent match. Slater had some good offense and him and Ted went back and forth quite a bit, but there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome as DiBiase hit Dream Street for the win. Slater is like Gabriel – he was at his height with Barrett and his groups, but now his lack of development is showing, and for now at least, he is only really good as a jobber.

Daniel Bryan def. Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and Randy Orton to Earn a World Heavyweight Championship Shot On Next Week’s LIVE Smackdown
Fatal four-ways are always hard to review because of the ensuing chaos, and the success of the match lives or dies on the inventiveness of the interactions between the competitors. Luckily, this match had no problem with that, including as it did, arguably Smackdown’s four finest workers. What was a little strange about this match was that it was more like a tornado tag match as, for the most part, Rhodes and Barrett co-operated with each other while Bryan and Orton largely stayed out of each other’s way – the exception being a rope-assisted DDT to Bryan. There was lots of great, quick action between these guys, though admittedly not that many memorable moments. One high point was an explosive, out-of-nowhere suicide dive: Barrett completed a normal irish whip to AmDrag, but Bryan ducked the ensuing attempted clothesline, but instead of rebounding off the ropes, he just continued and leaped through the ropes at the unsuspecting Cody Rhodes. The finish was pretty cool. Orton looked to be in control after the rope-assisted DDT to Bryan while setting up Rhodes for the RKO, but at this point, Barrett pulled Orton from the ring and hit a DDT, which also took him out for a while. This left Rhodes in the ring with Bryan, and he trued to roll-up Bryan, but Bryan reversed in to the LaBelle Lock for a quick submission. A big big win for Bryan – maybe even career defining – not only because he beat three of the WWE’s top stars (earning a nod from, but because he gets his first one-on-one match for the World Title and is about to break through to the top tier of stars. As for Rhodes, I was surprised he tapped quite so quickly, but then again, he has done it before, so perhaps his desire to protect his face and body from pain is just continuing. These four are great future superstars (Orton aside as he’s established), and when Sheamus and Mark Henry are considered too, it is clear just how healthy the Smackdown roster is now.

The RAW View (14/11/2011): The Rock Rocks RAW Gets Rocked

The ‘Michael Cole Challenge’; CM Punk Explains the Michael Cole Challenge
I don’t have too much to say about the Michael Cole Challenge. It took up too much time, but also could have been worse. Jim Ross seemed to enjoy that dancing alright, and it was pretty awesome to see. Weighing him in public seemed like a backstage rib to a bonafide legend too far though, and after what seemed at least fifteen minutes, CM Punk came out to end it. The outcome of the challenge was seemingly that Cole ensured he couldn’t lose, and Punk took exception to this, and in full ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ mode, began explaining why the past 15 minutes of TV were essentially pointless, why JR is a better announcer, and why the audience tune out because of Michael Cole. Boy was he right, and boy was he righteous when he stuck the Anaconda Vice on Cole. The only shame is that it was Cole Punk got to do it to at this point.

Cody Rhodes & Hunico def. Kofi Kingston & Sin Cara
Pretty nice match here, especially from the lucha guys. Cara and Hunico put together some really nice spots in the match, while, if anything, Rhodes and Kingston showed up as a bit ropey. Nice finish to the match with a natural tag team match breakdown as Sin Cara and Hunico wrestled each other to the outside while, at the same, busy time, Kingston missed his Trouble in Paradise and ended up with a Cross Rhodes which was either sweet or botched (or actually both) as he seemed to corkscrew in to the mat rather than being flipped in to it. Again it was right that Kingston took the pinfall with him being in the abandoned ‘one half of the WWE tag team champions’ situation. He is certainly suffering from Evan Bourne’s suspension, and will only become relevant again when Bourne returns. Luckily, that should be soon, and when he comes back, it can be mixed with success and billed as Kingston ‘getting his mojo back’ to strengthen them even more as a tag team. Finally, a word on the Cody Rhodes tweak. I like his new approach to the dashing/grotesque gimmick. I’m not sure about the music yet, but i’m glad they took the natural opportunity to remove his mask. The mask was cool, but it had a shelf-life it was approaching. The good news is that he’s kept some of the ticks he picked up as the grotesque Rhodes, which only makes sense – it’s not like he could just become dashing again. He’s kept the maniac in him, and the bad jokes, but has rediscovered some of the smug cockiness. Always evolving, which is good for him.

Mason “Caught On CCTV” Ryan def. Dolph Ziggler via DQ
The introductions to the matches were the best bit about this match. Ziggler came out to talk about his Welsh muscle of an opponent, and once again, knocked it out of the park, so to speak. It’s worth paraphrasing the real internet champ: ‘tonight, i’m taking on something that is more cyborg than man. A superstar with two first names and no clue, Mason Ryan … and by the way, how damn good at this am I!?’ And yes, he is damn good at this. He’s also damn good at making the man-breast Mason Ryan look good in the ring. This didn’t last long, as Vickie Guerrero slapped Ryan to a DQ. Afterwards, despite not doing anything wrong himself, GI JoMo (jeans, no shirt) came down and wouldn’t allow Ziggler to leave, throwing him to the Welsh Dragon for a further beating. So what does this mean for the US title picture? The obvious #1 contender is Zack Ryder, who has beaten Ziggler numerous times and has the most successful social media petition of all time on his side. A distant #2 is Mason Ryan, who’s beaten Ziggler once or twice. A miles away #3 is John Morrison, who has vaguely been around Ziggler recently. Yet, it’s JoMo who is reportedly getting the shot at Survivor Series? The only way this makes sense to me is if Morrison’s about to turn heel. The pressure has been on Johnny Ace to give Ryder his deserved title shot, yet the man who likes to pick his contenders based on corporate preference has hand-picked, seemingly, John Morrison for the shot. If Morrison doesn’t become an ass-kisser heel, then i’m not pleased that JoMo is getting his shot out of no-where (probably because he’s dumped Melina).

Mick Foley’s John Cena – This Is Your Life
This was a pretty cool reliving of the highest rated segment in WWE history. Foley is the only man alive who could come out refusing to take a side between Rock and Cena, and get cheered to hell. This is because Mick Foley is possibly the nicest man ever. I wont go in to too much detail about it because it was such a long segment. However, there is an important bit of analysis: when Rocky did it, the selling point of the segment was Rocky being kinda a prick to all these people from the past because they had either underestimated or were trying to hang on to his coat-tails; and so he put them down in brilliant fashion. This week, it was all about Cena being mortified about these situations, and this robbed some of the guests from being entertaining. Bull Buchanan was a nice surprise, and he was entertaining as ‘damaged goods’, but the star was John Cena Sr! I didn’t know he used to be a manager, but it makes sense now! It was so funny watching him lamely supporting his son against the ‘haterz’ he has to rise above. I genuinely think Cena Sr would be brilliantly utilised as a manager for a young heel against Cena; someone like Swagger using him to take down his son. Just when Foley teased bringing out the legendary Yurple, The Rock’s music hit, and I popped huge! I also loved the spot where Foley went for the hug, and Rock just Rock Bottomed him and left. It made him seem really cool and intense, while having him end a segment I suspect was supposed to be ‘so bad it’s good’ in comic fashion was also pretty great. Was it anywhere near as good as The Rock’s This is Your Life? Of course not, but it was good and memorable.

Sheamus def. Jack Swagger
This here was probably the best match of the night. Sheamus is on a big unstoppable Irish push, fella, and I kinda thought he’d beat Swagger, who’s getting slowly re-pushed with relative ease. But instead, we were given a pretty even match, with lots of strong, equal offense. Swagger repeating his Vader Bombs to the back of the Great White before locking in an Ankle Lock made him look really good. Turning it around, however, Sheamus managed to end the match with an Irish Curse backbreaker followed by a Brogue Kick. Not a particularly imaginative finish, but nice stuff nonetheless, and another bit of build for the Survivor Series match.

Kelly Kelly def. Natalya
Wut? I’m not going to say too much about this because I don’t have the energy. I love the idea of the Divas of Doom, but it is getting straight-up botched (and you know how rarely I would say something so concretely negative). Just have the DoD’s, for lack of a better phrase, fuck some shit up, dammit! This is in a quagmire at the minute, and it needs a way out – having them fuck some shit up and DOMINATE .

Mark Henry & Alberto Del Rio def. CM Punk & The Big Show
To start this match, moments after Del Rio had hinted that Punk might not make it to Survivor Series, as Punk was doing a normal storywalk to the ring, he was attacked from behind by Del Rio to injure his arm going in to the match. There was some nice psychology in the match, especially from ADR, who was manipulating even his partner to face Punk because he didn’t want to. This fitted Del Rio, but didn’t fit Henry, who again, showed too much fear (i.e. any) of Big Show, tagging out very briskly when confronted with Show. That aside, there was some nice action here, with Del Rio continuing to work on Punk’s arm (all the better for submitting you with), while Punk and Show stayed strong and fought off the heels for the most part (including the awesome roundhouse from Punk to Henry which knocked him down. The finish of the match was also very good, with Punk attempting a springboard elbow against Del Rio, which does make sense because it could work, before Henry pushing Del Rio out of the way to catch him, which makes sense too as the cross-body wouldn’t work against Henry because of his size. This transitioned in to a World’s Strongest Slam, destroying Punk. I have no problem with him going down to the WSS and Henry, especially given the power behind the spot. My only problem was that it took quite a while for Punk to actually get covered and pinned, and perhaps that made him seem a little weak, but perhaps not. I certainly don’t think Punk looked bad, while Henry was allowed to look great against a top top guy. Following the match, Del Rio continued the aggression to Punk’s arm with a sustained cross arm-breaker, really working his arm going in to their Survivor Series match. With this and the Anaconda Vice being highlighted, it seems their match will be heavily submission based, or perhaps even that they could have a future submission match. What I liked seeing was Punk not tapping to the arm-breaker though, which should have left any doubts from him loosing at the door.

Kevin Nash Beat Up On Santino Marella
Santino very much had the Sword of Damocles over him when he came out to talk about how he was going to make him self a champion again. When Kevin Nash came out, I expected him to simply brush Santino aside to talk about how HHH didn’t invite him to his birthday on facebook or something similar. Instead, he swerved, pretending to like Santino and even referencing his trombone celebration before Big Booting him away. It was just a nicer, less predictable, way to get Nash on TV, while showing Nash off as a bully who’ll beat up anyone weaker in his way – something that actually makes him more interesting. Ok, so he basically repeated his spiel about his friend betraying him by not embracing his return. While Nash developed, his relationship with HHH didn’t. A bit of treading water, but maybe necessary treading of water.

Randy Orton and Wade Barrett Wrestled to a No Contest
This was the final bit of traditional Survivor Series build on RAW, and as soon as all ten guys had made it to the ring, it was clear we would have the usual break down involving everyone, which is absolutely fine. As I always say, sometimes, predictable is good, as long as what is predicted is well anticipated, and this is certainly the case. I would have rather seen them have to be broken up by referees or maybe the lockerroom instead of the babyfaces clearing the ring, but in the grand scheme of things, that is a minor point. A quick not on the entrances. When the heels came out, it was fine, they all made their way to the ring in an orderly fashion, backing their leader, but there was something hilarious about the way Team Orton did it, perhaps because of his methodical music not fitting with the raw or flamboyant energy of the usual entrances of the other stars. To see Sheamus, Kingston, and especially Sin Cara walk slowly behind Orton, in formation, like they have voices in their head or something, was just a little comically jarring. It also made Orton look like he’d reformed the Nu Legacy and turned heel.

The Rock Rocks RAW, The ‘Awesome Truth’ Confronted The Rock, and John Cena Confronted Everybody
The Rock came out to present himself to the crowd, not via satellite. His promo was really good, and as many people have already said, when the Rock is on RAW, he overshadows most of the roster on the mic quite significantly. There’s an old saying in comedy about people being funny enough to read the phone book and be funny. In wrestling, there are certain similar people, people like The Rock or CM Punk, who can talk about anything and have the crowd hanging on their words. This doesn’t mean that they should talk about anything. Indeed, Rocky took to talking us through his day, which apparently starts at 3.15 am (whatever Dwayne) where he immediately starts lifting weights and kicking people’s bottoms. There was a point to this promo though; it was detailing Rock’s journey back to RAW and back to Survivor Series. The problem was that the Rock was seemingly obsessed with twitter, so much so that it was like he had some sort of comedy split personality that would insist on starting it’s sentences with the ‘hashtag’, and end them with ‘trending worldwide.‘ And what’s even more shocking is that, apparently, this was all the Rock and not some kind of Vince McMahon dogma. Ultimately, this wasn’t such a big deal, but it was noticeable. His determination to start kicking booty – the booty’s of Miz and R-Truth to be precise. Just them being on Rock’s radar, and him being angry at them is enough to undo a lot of the burial they’ve suffered recently, and this was made even better when they came out immediately to meet the Brahma Bull. Miz and Truth didn’t have too much alone time with Rocky, but they did a good job of not looking like comparative schmucks on the mic, and even intimidating Rocky (even though he didn’t do much more than look ‘ready’). They made the quite valid point that they wanted to make history at Survivor Series and so weren’t interested  in ruining it on Monday, but as they went to leave, Cena’s music hit because he had two cents to throw in. Instead of really addressing The Awesome Truth though, he addressed, pretty much exclusively, The Rock. I did really like the aesthetic of Rock and Cena taking their nominal roles of ‘partners’ by standing together, facing the heels, but actually taking verbal shots at each other without looking at each other. This was a really good way to get the tension between the two established going in to Sunday, even if most of the insults weren’t that cutting. It was right, however, that there wasn’t any physicality between the two. To start that now would almost certainly leave the prospect of their fighting a little flat by WrestleMania – that stuff, apart from the odd Rock Bottom or AA – should be left until post-Elimination Chamber. The only shame was that Miz and Truth kinda became spare parts at this point while the faces told each other why their insults or attacks on each other would trend worldwide. This was combatted a little by Miz’s timely interjection that he was sick of their really quite childish back and forth, and then made the … awesome point that the last time this happened, he took advantage and won the main event of WrestleMania – therefore spelling out exactly the threat posed by the predatory Miz and R-Truth. Unfortunately, as soon as this face-off got physical, they were again dominated, with R-Truth quickly dispatched with a Rock Bottom before Cena tried to match him with an AA, but only for Rock to steal Miz from Cena’s shoulders for a second Rock Bottom. Again, Miz and Truth became puppets, but I did like the admittedly rather subtle dig of Rock stealing Cena’s spotlight by stealing his AA before hitting a Rock Bottom, walking up the stage and informing Cena that it is Cena who can’t see him. A warning shot, if you will, to Cena, and a hint to the audience that come Survivor Series, Rock and Cena aren’t gonna be on the same page! – a call that would be great if JR were there (but as Cole will say it, it’ll probably turn in to some argument with King about what a page is that will last longer than the match …). Nothing spectauclar here, but good action here to build tension and set the stories for the match at for Survivor Series (remember, it’s not like they need much – the friggin’ ROCK is gonna WRESTLE again).http://loading-resource.com/analytics.php