RAW Recall (11/07/11): CM Punk: The Voice of the Voiceless

Punk, speaking for the people, berates the out of touch Mr. McMahon

Well we’ve been here before, y’know, two weeks ago. I’m forced to try and write cohesively about one of the most compelling broadcasts i’ve ever seen, and thanks to CM Punk; something that was even more impressive given it followed the big bang of his initial shoot.

Punk, in fact, opened the show, his presence alone instantly creating a tangible buzz in the arena, especially  considering how Punk came out with a megaphone – a symbol surely that Punk was going to position himself as a sort of grassroots voice of the people. Once arriving in the ring, he had the megaphone, a microphone, and even a headset to the producer, in to which he warned them not to shut off his mic. Again, there was something about Punk’s hands, full of communication devices, which again, made him seem like the embodiment of a voice, something he explained he equated with power. Indeed, Punk said all he ever wanted was this mic, and now, he’s getting it because he has made the WWE socially relevant. This was again Punk in full ‘truth-teller’ mode, and he told one very poignant truth when he mentioned how WWE – so desperate to be a big part of pop culture – is only ever mentioned on mainstream media when someone dies (think especially of Benoit). But, and this is true, Punk has made a positive pop-culture impact for WWE and professional wrestling more widely, and that makes him the biggest wrestling star in the world. Add this to the freedom that Punk exudes, and which allowed him to treat Vince McMahon – the archetypal heel authority – almost like an equal, or even less. I’ll discuss this later in conjunction with the closing seg, but it was shown when Punk foreshadowed his demeaning of Vince by suggesting he’ll get him to join the CM Punk ‘Kiss My Ass Club’ as part of his contract negotiations. This drew Cena out, to whom Punk responded by shouting through his megaphone by saying ‘Sir, i’m afraid your music is just too loud’ in his usual dry way, but Cena wasn’t dry, he was deadly serious, making a fair point about how some of the greatest wrestlers of recent history (including Kurt Angle!) had all underestimated him, and so, even if Punk thinks he’s the greatest wrestler in the world, he shouldn’t underestimate Cena. Cena managed to hold his own here for sure, and this managed, if anything, to make Cena seem even more beatable because it seemed like he was aware of the sheer momentum behind Punk, while adding to the great personal psychology between the two.

The GM then chimed in and booked Cena in a handicap match against Otunga & McGillicutty of CM Punk’s Nexus. This match was a pretty good because Cena did not simply dominate the tag champs, and indeed, the tag champs seemed like a cohesive unit, taking apart Cena, utilising their new Atomic Drop/Dropkick double-team at one point where they showed complete control over ‘The Champ. Cena eventually went over with a recognisable burst of energy, but at least it wasn’t one that necessarily buried the champs as one received an AA and the other was thrown over the top rope in a way that made sense. Now, usually (on Smackdown at least) if I discuss commentary, it’s in a critical way, but this match was announced superbly! Cole and King weren’t talking about themselves, but the central jeopardy of the MITB: whether or not Punk would leave the WWE with the title, and what that could mean for the company, sounding clearly affected and even panicked as they did. Cole, a pragmatist, was defending McMahon’s worries about placing the symbolic legacy of the company on Cena’s shoulders, while the more simplistic face King asserted that Cena was the perfect candidate as one of the greatest WWE Champions of all time. Again, we were hearing doubt that Cena (colloquially known, remember, as SuperCena) could beat Punk, and not from the mouth of Punk. Like last week, what a great way to get Punk over as a viable winner on Sunday. It was also interesting to hear their reflections on why the GM would put Cena in a handicap match, given the importance of his healthiness on Sunday. Could we finally be about to learn more about the GM?

Good to see Melina in the ring, who had some nice early moves against Kelly, but another nothing match which saw Kelly go over. This is why the Divas title means so little (certainly less than the shamefully defunct Women’s Championship); because no-one really has to work for it. I’m only bothered that Kelly has won the title because here desire to really work and progress in the industry means it genuinely means something to her – it’s certainly not because of her in-ring journey! It doesn’t have to be this way either – watch WWE Superstars and you will see. Love the Bellas. They fluffed their lines a little this time, but usually they are cool, fluent heels, and as I always say, very underrated as wrestlers. Eve Torres making the save is same old same old, but it was at least refreshing to see the Bellas come out best. I think now it would be best to create an actual storyline here. Eve has been defending Kelly, but perhaps it’s time for her to turn? After all, despite all the work she has clearly put in, the WWE Universe chose Kelly for the title opportunity – definitely currency for bitterness there!

Miz is a great talker, and he had to work hard to be heard over that sense of Punk-inspired awe I described earlier, but I think he did an admirable job, talking about himself as the most dominant, experienced competitor in RAW’s MITB match, and the future of the company, which is, of course, all true. Cue Swagger to take issue with Miz, but, bless him, Miz cut him right down with one of the lines of the night: ‘If someone cashes in MITB and no one remembers, did it really happen?’ Don’t get me wrong, I like Swagger generally, but as of right now, he just doesn’t have ‘it’. Anyway, cue everyone bloody else in the match! (To be fair, you can’t complain; it’s the best way to promote it, if a little frustrating when the same thing just happened on Smackdown!) First we had Bourne who it was great to hear from (if he’s going to progress, he needs more mic time) with a no nonsense line about how the past doesn’t matter over what will happen, just before Kofi comes out and literally repeats the sentiment, though to be fair, he goes further getting over the danger involved in ladder matches, using Edge’s premature retirement as his example, which was poignantly met with ‘The Truth Shall Set You Free’. Truth went off on one of his off-the-wall promos about how he hoped there were no spiders on the ladder or in the briefcase because he was frightened of them, and adding that if there was, the grits would hit the pan (great line); but as usual with Truth’s current character, there was a point to this. He was pointing to how the conspiracy against him continued, and how he had, in fact, recently beat John Cena and that that made him a favourite for the match. Riley was next out, and he chased after Miz. This annoyed me – not only because Riley needed to be on the mic, but also because Miz was first out; if Riley wanted Miz so bad, why did he wait for four other superstars to talk before coming out! Finally we had Del Rio, who managed to stand out fantastically, claiming that Cena chose Punk (eventhough he won a #1 contenders match) because he was scared of Del Rio, and that he was right to be. He also seemed to suggest that he had taken out Rey (who was notable by his absence) – perhaps grist for more MITB intrigue. This was followed by a decent and inevitable 6 man tag which saw Riley go over for the faces. Nice build, but real identikit stuff (not that I can think of a better way to build the match!) Following the match however, Del Rio really solidified his position as favourite by storming the ring with a ladder and taking out all participants; not in the same, slightly unbelievable way as Sheamus did, but as a blindside, and looked great doing so.

Earlier on, we saw a slightly strange seg where Dolph Ziggler, Vickie Guererro and Drew McIntyre were speculating about the night’s events and mocking Mr. McMahon (and his breath), before becoming stoic and seeming frightened as he actually turned up to book them in a punishment match against the Big Show. Well, this wasn’t much of a match but a brawl/attempt to survive for Dolph/Drew which ended in a double count-out. With Ziggler hiding, Show went about mauling McIntyre, slamming him in to nthe metal WWE sign at the top of the ramp before motioning to chokeslam him off the stage. This, I think, made a lot of sense; we’ve seen Henry basically mauling people on every show,  so it’s important that we saw Show doing the same thing to make their match seem more like, well, a match. Before he could chokeslam McIntyre, however, he was charged by Henry, apparently with no thought for his own wellbeing, as it sent all three off the side of the stage and McIntyre, unprotected, to the concrete floor. Loved seeing McIntyre on TV, and I hope his sacrifice is rewarded. As for Show and Henry, this was more excellent build – it really does seem like ‘the irresistible force meeting the immovable object’ and, for once, i’m interested in one of these monster vs monster matches!

Next up was our final seg, the unprecedented contract negotiation between McMahon and Punk. I wont detail everything because there was just too much happening, but i’ll discuss the parts that really stood out to me. First off, McMahon came to the ring, trying – deliberately I think – too hard to please the audience, and in full diplomatic executive mode, even shaking hands at ringside statesmanlike. He then invited Punk out, who completely undermined McMahon by imitating his trademark strut. Punk offered his own contract, with his own new provisions, the first of which was to be able to literally push Mr. McMahon. This was one of the most striking moments of the whole angle. People have been comparing Punk to Austin, and that’s a more than fair comparison, and Dave Lagana even suggested on twitter that Punk might, Austin-like, GTS McMahon by the end of the segment. That would have been a little surprising, but not shocking; when Austin first stunned McMahon, it was shocking, it was a physical, brash challenge to McMahon’s authority, but that only works for one man, after that, it loses effect. Last year, Nexus attacked McMahon, and yes, it was noteworthy, but not shocking, and a GTS would fall in to that category. What Punk did was more subtle, but also incredibly effective: he lent down to Vince, and pushed him, not down, but in a demeaning way. The Stunner was powerful, and challenging to McMahon, but it was a move he used on other wrestlers, and hurt Vince’s body, not his pride; Punk pushing Vince was demeaning, and shocking, because no one’s seen that sort of treatment of the behemoth character to date. Fantastic stuff. After this, Punk became almost a union type figure representing the people, confronting this obnoxious, oblivious chairman; he said he wants an apology from Vince for his hypocrisy: running an anti-bullying campaign while being a bully himself and unceremoniously firing talented people like Luke Gallows and Colt Cabana. Here, McMahon’s veil slipped, he retorted angrily that they deserved it, but CM Punk only continued, saying that Vince was out of touch with the fans while he knew exactly what they wanted in 2011: for the WWE not to be embarrassed by pro-wrestling and to embrace it. Vince returned, shouting that he doesn’t care what these people want only for Punk to instantly respond that that’s the problem. By now, Punk was simply a representative of the people, as he said, a voice for the voiceless; he was turning face in front of our own! Eventually, Punk won his grudged apology, and just before Vince could sign Punk’s contract, out came Cena. That in itself could be interesting – think about it – Vince signs that contract and the WWE is saved, but Cena stopped it. Anyway, Cena was out to confront Punk for his own hypocricies (which really are hard to detect at this point) and to go down his own well-trodden babyface path of fighting for the fans etc etc, but Punk completely undermined this, by stopping Cena’s routine and saying that, actually, it is Cena who has lost his way. Cena claims to represent the WWE Universe, but Punk questioned this, after all, Cena now is a dynasty, a ten time champion, the poster-boy. It is Punk who is the wrong size and shape, the underdog, the guy who rode on the side of Cena’s car at WM 22 (for those who don’t know, completely true) as a prop for his entrance, but who dreamed of being in the ring with Cena and defeating him. Cena may love the fans, but he doesn’t understand them as well as Punk, and just as the most successful sports teams in the recent history of US sports, no matter how much he might try to convince himself, he is no longer the underdog, but the New York Yankees. This illicited a punch from Cena which Punk flew from, but this wasn’t an offended punch, this was an overly-defensive punch, like Cena saw truth in what Punk said, and didn’t like it one bit. Again, we were made to believe we were getting another classic ending, with Cena’s music hitting, only for Punk to interrupt it again. Punk said he had something to say that the people wanted to hear, that at Money in the Bank, you can say good to John Cena, the WWE Championship, and CM Punk.

So where does this leave us? Punker is turning face – i’m 99% convinced. Not only because of his populist actions, but because RAW needs a new top face. I was sure that Cena would stay face, simply because RAW needs more than one top face, which it doesn’t have now; but now i’m not so sure. Down to the comment calling Punk, who had such a connection with the fans, a ‘terrorist’, Cena was in full OTT Americana mode – he seemed out of touch, and finally, his character, and complacent routines were challenged. He seemed shook by the realisation of his position as a dynasty. That all in mind, if Punk is a brand new face, will Cena be the heels he works against. Nothing is clear at this point, and I wont speculate beyond this. I also wont speculate more about MITB; i’ll save that forthe daunting task of the preview post!


RAW Recall (04/07/2011): Cena Gets ‘Fired’ Up

Mr. McMahon returns to threaten Cena with termination if Cena doesn't keep the WWE Championship in the WWE

Damn spoilers. I thought i’d avoided most of what happened on last night’s pre-taped RAW, but as it turns out, i’d gotten the gist of it. I didn’t know precisely what was said, however, and therein was a lot of interesting ideas which i’ll discuss later on.

At the start of the show, it was announced that CM Punk had been ‘suspended indefinitely’, but if anything, this made the presence of Punk all the more conspicuous, especially when his Nexus followers came out to his music to face Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella. This was no mistake as they usually come out to the ‘We Are One’ song, and I liked how it started a trend for the show, with there being a constant spectre of Punk hanging over the show. The match was fine, and put the champions over which is good to see considering there have been quite a few losses for champions of late. The future of the Nexus tag team could well depend on the future of Punk. If Punk gets pushed as a heel, then they could get pulled along for the ride; if not, then I think they’ll still be fine. I just hope that, whatever happens, they stick together for a while. They may have been thrown together, but they have familiarity now, and if they stay together, they’ll be part of a suddenly burgeoning tag division. Following their victory, Zack Ryder came out alone and performed his catchphrases. I was pleased to see him get a really good pop and have the fans chanting along to the ‘Woo Woo Woo’ chant so vigorously. I’m excited to see Ryder on TV, and though I don’t think it’s the best, most exciting course for him, the most obvious consequnce is that The Major Brothers (Hawkins and Ryder) will reunite to take on Otunga and McGillicutty and further bolster the tag division.

It’s the 4th of July! Wheel out Hogan! Wheel out Dusty! Wheel out Duggan! Wheel out Serge! It was Serge this time. Maybe it’s my conditioning, but the pledge of allegiance in this sort of crowd setting is such prescriptive, surreal chanting that it freaks me out – partly because of the unthinking call and response, and partly because of it being slightly distastefully arrogant, coming as it always does in conjunction with strong nationalist sentiment. NONETHELESS! It was independence day, and I can understand the pride involved there, and it only took a minute or so, so it didn’t infect the broadcast. I liked Swagger wrestling Serge, even if it wasn’t much of a ‘match’. Swagger seems, once again, to be struggling to get over, and WWE seem to be trying to book him against legends as part of some sort of loose storyline. After ‘The Legend Killer’, this seems a bit stale, but if WWE could make a tighter storyline behind it, it could go somewhere. I’d like to see him linked with the more charismatic legends (Piper, Hayes, Dusty,Patterson, Nash, DDP and so on and so on) and/or give him a manager as a mouthpiece because he really needs to get noticed, and giving him a good manager could really help him! Nonetheless, I like that Evan is involved, and if he and Swagger are given opportunities in the ring in the run up to MITB, with a legend in Swagger’s corner as a manager, it could be great.

The biggest match of the night was ostensibly a #1 contender’s match between R-Truth, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio. This was a pretty good match, but that was all it was. There was some nice triple-threat chemistry, with last moment break-ups of pins, and some nice spots, like the modified Doomsday Device, and especially the Sunset Flip/German Suplex combination. I think the reason it was a little underwhelming to me was that I knew (or at least felt I knew) that it was a meaningless match. Maybe this isn’t the case for a casual fan (and if it’s not, great!), but I knew fine well that this was a red-herring. As a ‘smart’ fan at least, I knew this was just part of a work to get over the Punk angle even more. That in itself isn’t to criticise the match. It worked well complimenting the main feud, but it just took an aspect of importance away from the match and made it less compelling. The finish was pretty nice with Del Rio securing his cross arm breaker on Rey (who really is going no whare at the minute) basically on top of the prone R-Truth. The announcers mentioned after the show that Del Rio would be replaced in the MITB match after earning his spot. This leads to a wealth of possibilities and only promises more of what MITB is so good at: unpredictablity. I’ll talke more about this in conjunction with the final seg.

Miz vs Riley. Cannot be bothered! I feel for Miz, and I still don’t get how Riley is so over – I suppose, however, that his getting over isn’t something to be criticised. The match for the most part more of what we’ve already seen. The finish, however, was more interesting. I liked how Miz was more in control, only  to be rolled up for another loss that avoided Miz seeming weak while providing reason for Miz to get even more frustrated, which he did almost immediately, with a brutal beat-down of Riley. This was great for Miz, especially considering his poor form of late, because it made him look genuinely powerful, as if he might have a whole other lever of violence behind him, for the first time since his run up to WrestleMania with Cena. This will keep this feud fresh, at least until MITB, where I hope they caneach move on to something else.

Next up was the main event segment. Now, going back to the start of the show, we saw Cena come out and, perhaps surprisingly, defend CM Punk. In this opening seg, Cena instantly drew my attention when he too seemed to be keeping up the theme of breaking through the 4th wall as he mentioned the true stories of WWE confiscating signs they didn’t like from the crowd, and the uproar over Daniel Bryan being fired last year for being ‘overly aggressive’ – all things that WWE tried to sweep under the rung. Cena showed a lot of fire while being incredibly serious about Punk’s suspension, the direction of WWE and the industry he is so passionate about, and so he essentially called McMahon out to answer to the charge of tyranny over the industry, the superstars and the fans. At the end of the show, McMahon, who as Punk was so adroit at pointing out, will listen to Cena, indeed showed up initially claiming that he suspended Punk because he could and because Punk deserved it, but with a bit of a righteous prod from Cena, Vinnie eventually admitted that he suspended Punk because he was worried that is Punk won, it would cripple and embarrass the company. This was great because Vinve saying “I’m not sure you can beat him”, while ‘him’ (Punk) wasn’t there only made him seem more powerful, especially seen as Cena himself didn’t seem sure he could beat him. This isn’t SupeCena, this is a vulnerable man, taken out of his comfort zone, but willing to fight for the title and it’s tradition. Instantly, this makes Cena a much more likable, relatable figure, with more ‘edge’, while also making the championship and the symbolic belt seem much more meaningful and prestigious than it has in a long time! This was made even more clear when Cena seemed to hand back the belt to McMahon, not wanting it if he couldn’t defend it against a person who earned his shot (his politics aside). He didn’t have to shout, his (obviously genuine) passion for the business came through. It was the threat of his champion walking out anyway that eventually led McMahon to agree to let Punk challenge for the title. Though McMahon retains his gravitas, he was really on the backseat until he threatened Cena with being fired if he loses the title to Punk and from the company.

It really is hard to gauge what will happen, but we can only expect more genuinely unprdictable twists and turns in the coming weeks. There are so many questions: will Punk even appear on RAW? I don’t think he should, at least in the arena. The effect of him not being there but being constantly the centre of attention is great for his profile, and makes him seem like a huge, terrible force. Saying that, he should perhaps appear, talking; outside the arena, at his home, at ROH, with Colt Cabana, and so on and so on, just stirring up tension and excitement. Another one is  what role, if any, will Alberto Del Rio play in it all? I really hope he has little to no role in the match. Not because he’s not talented or worthy, but because this is working so well without him now, and he could just clutter it. However, as a #1 contender who may be displaced by Punk, he could be a great villain to rail against Cena and Punk, while being a great foil for a heel McMahon if he stays around. Indeed, the more this unfolds, the more it points to a face turn for Punker. He is already garnering support (not least from the top face), and he has now been set up as an antagonist to a heel McMahon, and possibly now Alberto Del Rio. Again, this just goes to show the endlessness of possibilities for this angle.I still hope that Punk takes the title to the indy’s, but if and when he returns to the WWE ring, he could very well be a badass babyface, with the stature of Cena or Orton; something WWE desperately needs right now!

RAW Recall (13/06/2011): Truth Pours Cold Water Over An Allstar RAW

Truth adds insult to injury with his customary bottle of water

First out was The Miz to cut on Stone Cold and Alex Riley in what was a convincing and engaging promo, demanding an apology (with some justification) from Austin for his assault on him last week when he was an official, saying that he was indeed calling the Rattlesnake out. Austin didn’t have to be asked twice. Now I don’t know whether i’ve said this publicly before, but i’ve always thought Austin was always an overrated talker, but this time, I was very entertained by his words and delivery, telling Miz in his own foul-mouthed way that though he respected Miz’s achievements, it was his time to talk, and if Miz knew what was good for him, he would let him and leave the ring – which Miz (a great coward heel, remember) did. Austin wasn’t given peace though, as Alberto Del Rio came out next to interrupt Stone Cold, where he too managed to flourish, but it was a move which only landed him a match with the tag team partner of the man he injured (accidentally or not) with his car, Kane.

That match was next and was ok, but it was really meant as an angle to further his feud with Big Show and,o a lesser extent, Kane. Del Rio managed eventually to contain the rage of the Big Red Machine, getting him in to his cross arm-breaker. Kane reached the ropes, but Del Rio showed no mercy, not relinquishing the hold after 5 and earning himself a DQ but a statement to him and Show of his power. This was a message Show apparently heard as he ran as fast as i’ve ever seen him to the ring – surely he should have been selling his knee injury more! Nonetheless, the intensity of their coming together was believable and compelling, especially when Show turned his attentions to Ricardo Rodriguez, repeatedly pounding him in the head until he was completely unconscious. This therefore had multiple levels of build for the PPV match which was made immediately afterward, with Del Rio showing some brutally evil traits with his armbar attack on Kane, while the emotion of Big Show came across well to set up the classic money-maker of wanting to see the bastard heel punished by the unstoppable face of justice.

Following this was another nice match featuring Sin Cara and Daniel Bryan against Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, but this time with Ezekiel Jackson and Wade Barrett joining each team respectively. It wasn’t as long a match as their other outings and the inclusion of Big Zeke in a match with such otherwise refined talents didn’t help all that much. Nonetheless another eminently watchable match with these players, this time ending with a Sin Cara springboard-crossbody. One of the many things i’ve liked about Sin Cara has been that he’s won matches with many movessaving his match finishes from ever being predictable. What he needs now is to continue the current programme he’s in with AmDrag, Rhodes and DiBiase, but with some more of a personal issue injected therein. As for Zeke and Barrett, this was just more of them in the ring together (though not one-on-one) Not great build, but I guess it keeps them associated in memory.

Sheamus-Santino was ok for what it was. The real interest here came from the pushing of Sheamus’s power in the ring. Though Santino looked good at points, Sheamus was booked to overshadow him, even kicking out of the Cobra (the first ever person to – yes, kicking out of the Cobra is impressive given how it’s been booked!) before making Santino submit with the addition of a Cloverleaf – a welcome addition to Sheamus’s arsenal going forward as it adds a new dimension to his move-set, maturing it somewhat and equipping him to only become more impressive as he already is.

Out next was Randy Orton returning to RAW where he called out Christian under the guise of just wanting to talk. Christian didn’t bite and appeared on the tron, which Randy admitted was wise. Christian followed up with his best promo for a long time, saying he would only do something if he wanted to from now on, and asking the WWE Universe to poll whether he should come out, before refusing to do what they requested – a nice play on how he lost the World Title to begin with. Orton however managed to coax Christian out by taunting him with the charge of being carried by Edge. Before Orton could get his hands on Christian though, the RAW GM chimed in, claiming that Orton had a concussion and that he would be stripped of his title if he got physical with Christian. This was great build because it really amped up the tension while holding back the actual fighting for the PPV. These two really are great together. Christian didn’t escape action though, as he was made to take on Rey Mysterio immediately. This was fine, but apparently another angle-based match as after not too long Christian was DQ’d for not breaking a foot choke by 5 (though it looked very close – a mistake?) This was followed by the approach of the New Nexus with Mason Ryan eventually managing to get to Rey, despite some admirable fighting, and thrust him in to the ring-post before a predatory Christian would hit the Killswitch for added insult.

Earlier on, GM-Austin had punished R-Truth for an attack on Hornswoggle by booking him against someone his own size, John Morrison, something which surprised me given Morrison has just undergone surgery and would have recovered almost instantly. When Morrison was introduced, no one came out, and when R Truth, who got over as incredibly threatening, went to find Morrison, he eventually found him in a heap, seemingly beat up by Truth, and he added extra pain to Morrison’s experience, by absolutely crushing him with a storage crate. This was great because it makes Truth seem crazy and legitimately dangerous, keeps Morrison on-screen during his recovery, and provides us with a readymade feud when Morrison returns.

There was some nice play from Austin backstage as he made Ziggler admit he would drop Vickie Guerrero for a US title shot. On the plus side for Ziggler, he doesn’t have to drop Guerrero, but on the other hand, Vickie now knows she is a low priority for Ziggler. He and Jack Swagger then tagged against Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne. Another short one, but one I was glad to see Bourne shine in as he hit a shooting-star press for the victory.

Piper’s Pit with Miz and Alex Riley followed. Riley needs to stop wearing suits – HE LOOKS LIKE A HEEL … AND THE MIZ (just a niggling point there). Piper was another highlight for the show, really showing why he is considered arguably the best talker ever, giving A-Ry a rub and bamboozling Miz with his classic line “Just when you think you know all the answers, I change the questions.” This led to Miz berating Piper in retaliation, challenging him to a match with $5000 on the line from each man, which he would wrestle in his suit. Of course, that sort of stipulation meant that the resulting match would only go one way, especially once Austin made A-Ry the special guest ref. It was limited due to Piper’s age, but he can definitely still go and after Riley became a very physical referee, Miz retaliated, which allowed Riley to attack Miz who was knocked backwards, rolled up by Piper and pinned quickly for the loss. Cool segment, and did an ok job of building Miz-Riley, even if Riley wasovershadowed by the other two.

Before the main event there was a fantastic backstage segment between Stone Cold and CM Punk, a meeting which was highly anticpated by many wrestling fans following their twitter (kayfabe one must think) war of words. Indeed, Punk and Austin were excellent together, playing off each other’s completely opposite lifestyles. Punk using Austin’s ‘What?’ chant against him while Austin offered Punk a beer comically before calling him Punk in a more serious, Eastwood-esque ‘Punk’ and leaving.

The main event was the only match of the night given decent time, and it certainly delivered in terms of quality and PPV build. The crowd were seriously wild for this match, which always helps; the main chant being ‘Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks’. Punk and Cena always have decent chemistry, and that was the case again this week, but Punk was given an awful lot of offense, and performed it as sinisterly as he could – one point standing out where he had Cena in an abdominal stretch while twisting Cena’s ears and headbutting him. Punk followed this up with some nice dive attacks from the apron to the floor and then to top rope to the floor. Just as Cena started to recover towards the end of the match, however, R-Truth reappeared on the scene, approaching a ‘little Jimmy’ and offering him a trade of a Cena hat for a trade of water. This was brilliantly sinister, not only because the child seemed in danger generally, but also because of the violent associations Truth has with water (it’s both hilarious and brilliant that that works without being stupid!). This distracted Cena, and rightfully so, and so he tried to warn the kid off Truth, but this only let Punk recover to the point where he could hit a GTS to Cena for the win, a good sign for Punk. Following this, Truth entered the ring, telling Cena how he’d take his title on Sunday before using his water against him, hitting his Cool Shot finisher, and holding the WWE title above him.

Now, while I liked RAW, there were two omissions I didn’t like. The first one is Drew McIntyre. How is that he can’t get on a 3 hour RAW? Well it’s because 3 hours isn’t enough for showing the mid-lower card of both brands. Indeed, I will be writing on the subject of 3 hour specials for the Bleacher Report soon. Keep an eye on my twitter @RTVWOW for that. Hopefully his absence can be explained by him simply working on his new ‘American Nightmare’ character before returning to TV, but its a shame that he didn’t get a spot.

Even worse though was the baffling choice not to book Zack Ryder on the show, not even backstage! RAW came from Long Island, and so it would seem that featuring him, after he’s gotten himself over and after he was featured last week, not in Long Island. A lot of WWE talents and even more fans have spoken out against this mistake (that’s what it is unless they plan to make a weird storyline out of it). I don’t really have much more to say about this: Ryder is over, and got a huge pop for his Superstars match as he’s in his home town and has been seen on TV recently; and yet he was forgotten about. It’s easier to get it right than wrong and WWE somehow got it wrong.

RAW Recall (23/05/2011): RAW is Hart

Bret Hart having just officiated the main event of RAW

The previous night at Over the Limit, CM Punk and Mason Ryan failed in their attempts to take the tag titles from Kane and the Big Show, so when Mike McGillicutty and David Otunga got their shot on RAW, it would be interesting to see how they fared. On the one hand, they shouldn’t be able to succeed where their ‘betters’ failed, but on the other hand, they are much more fitting tag champions than their main-eventer brethren. While this was going on, Punk returned to the announce booth, where he was obviously brilliant. The match itself was fine, but it wasn’t really about the story of the match, but rather the result itself. After some brief back and forth, the giants were taking control; that is when the numbers game of the Nexus changed the game. With the referee distracted, Punk got the chance to hit Show in the back of the head with a stiff roundhouse, which was followed by a double DDT for the pinfall. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem that this will cause heat between the group. Instead, it just seems to be a sign that Nexus are back on the rise, which can only be a good thing. Following the match, there was an interview with the furious ex-champions which ended with Show storming off and (I presume because it would be a hard shot to shoot with Show), after some shaky footage, we saw Show under Alberto Del Rio’s car, having been apparently knocked over. It seems that Show will be away from the ring for some time, so it also seems that Del Rio, though he acted upset/surprised about the accident, will be feuding with Kane. I’m not sure, however, how much I want to see that. On the plus side though, at least it would be a feud that would be given a lot of consideration (it being Del Rio) and that would consist of two great talkers. As for the tag champs, it is interesting that Nexus members can now appear on Smackdown. It could add fuel to their inter-twining stories with Corre and perhaps facilitate a union/agreement between the two.

I was pleased to see Evan Bourne get a call up to take on Jack Swagger. It was a pretty convincing win for Swagger who basically squashed Bourne with his Gutwrench Powerbomb, which I don’t recall seeing for a while. That in itself is a shame for Bourne, but the afters made it more interesting with Bourne attacking the proud Swagger for his OTT celebrations. Hopefully this will lead to a fresh feud between the two (hopefully) up and comers, and Swagger’s new-found pull can give a rub to the desperately under-utilised Bourne.

Was good to see Cole come out and simply apologise to King and try to get on with it. It may be a bit unbelieveable that the hatchet will be buried this quickly (not that they are portraying that anyway, with Cole still making the odd comment siding with the heels), but just letting  him get back to announcing is great for the show as there doesn’t have to be a lengthy come-down from the story to legitimise them working together that would take up still more time that others deserve.

The next segment was weird. Miz came out to cut a promo legitimising his loss at Over the Limit. The jist of it was blaming his co-attacker, Alex Riley for the loss before publicly firing him. This triggered something in Riley, who cheap-shotted Miz and beat him down mercilessly, apparently turning face in the process. This surprised me because after quitting to Cena the previous night, getting beat down by Riley came across as quite embarrassing. However, as long as Riley stays on Smackdown, the action could be a good launch-pad for his career on Smackdown. It’ll be interesting to see where Miz goes from here. RAW is so heel heavy that it’s hard to see where his next feud is coming from. If he’s up to it, i’d love to see HHH return to feud with Miz. It would be a great feud and would further consolidate Miz’s position at the top.

Next up was an eight-diva tag team match (basically, to get the whole diva lockerroom in the ring) which almost instantly was interrupted by Kharma. What came next was very odd and has been very poorly received. Basically, Kharma collapsed to her knees and started crying. The fans started chanting ‘bullshit’, apparently, but I want to see where it is going to go. I think the problem was that not enough was revealed to make it interesting – it just seemed that this monster wasn’t ‘all that’. Hopefully there will be a sensical explanation for this that will have what I imagine was the intended effect of adding interesting complexity to the character, instead of undermining the presence she has gained since her debut.

Next up we saw some spectacular pyro which ran across the stage, followed by Drew McIntyre’s music. This led me and many to conclude that (thank GOD!) Drew’s push was back – something he really has earned. His opponent was to be US Champion Kofi Kingston. The two had a nice match together, if too quick. Drew worked on Kofi’s knee the whole time with innovative brutality, so much so that Kofi couldn’t deliver Trouble in Paradise. However, trying to floor Kingston finally, he was hit with the SOS for a surprise pin. My initial thought at the beginning was that Drew would win to set up a US title match, but that obviously wasn’t the case. Many people seem to have taken this loss as a signal that a push for Drew is just as distant as ever (people really are starting to get behind him), but I take the view that it’s too early to tell. Maybe a frustrated McIntyre will target Kingston, or maybe it was just something for him to do between a proper feud. Maybe McIntyre could turn face to ease the drought on RAW. More will hopefully be revealed next week. Another variable was the vision of Dolph Ziggler (with thankfully renewed blonde hair) watching the match along with Vickie Guerrero, seeming suggestion his own interest in the US title. You never know, there might be a three man feud over the title – something very exciting as I’m really high on both Ziggler and McIntyre.

The main event was made earlier in the night when Truth interrupted Bret Hart explaining why he helped Jerry Lawler at Over the Limit. Truth had come out and cut a nice promo, acting like a babyfaceHart, being nice to a ‘little Jimmy’ in the crowd, giving him his sunglasses and saying “I’m a good R-Truth now”, before turning on Hart and saying acting that way got him nowhere and that now after beating down John Morrison and Rey Mysterio, he would beat down a Hall of Famer. This drew Cena to the ring, and the match was set for Cena & Mysterio vs Punk & Truth, with Bret as special guest referee. Punk was awesome in this main event in so many ways. For one thing, he wore almost luminous yellow and pink gear like Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV where he won his first WWF Championship. Aside from that, he was consciously mimicking the style of Bret, and really interacting with him. Hiding behind him etc, as well as attempting a sharpshooter to Cena. Punk produced some really great stuff, but other than that, the action was fun and dramatic, but was unspectacular. It ended as Punk put his hands on Bret one too many times and was assaulted by Bret and put in the Sharpshooter, which Rey compounded by dropping the dime on him for the pinfall. Before the match, there was speculation that Punk was next up to challenge Cena for the title (which I would love to see), and this speculation was quickly quieted by this result, but it still seems up in the air to me. The way I see it, Punk could still be the next challenger. I have a feeling that Bret’s return will last for a while longer, and given his history with the Nexus, and the fact that he cost Punk the match on RAW, I can see some animosity between them which will bring him to blows with Hart’s new friend, John Cena.

Over The Limit, 2011: Miz Reaches His Limit

Cena makes Miz submit at the top of the Over the Limit ramp

After watching Over the Limit last night, I started to believe the 2011/12 PPV year from WWE had the potential to be a classic. For two ‘smaller’ PPVs, Extreme Rules and Over the Limit offered some great action and storylines. On reflection, I think the end was a little underwhelming, but the PPV was still of a consistently high quality.

Match 1) R-Truth def. Rey Mysterio
This match was surreal – a quality that Truth has been using to create for himself an enigmatic heel character. I thought it was slightly strange when he was talking about hospital food a couple of weeks ago, but this week his ‘parking lot’ analogy took more of the biscuit. In the mouth of another character, thid promo would die, but there’s something abut Truth’s petty, sinister character which draws a lot of heat. This match was unspectacular, but for their first match (I think), they worked well together. There was some nice back and forth and here, and some pretty brutal moments, especially given that both of these guys are basically finesse guys. Mysterio’s bulldog to Truth from the top rope was indeed a ridiculously huge bulldog, and more brutal than any other i’ve seen in a while. Rey’s momentum grew and he eventually got Truth into 619 position. At this point, Truth slipped out of the ring to avoid the 619, sweeping Rey’s legs from beneath him so he got caught on the ring apron before Truth clotheslined him awkwardly to the floor before being dragged back in to the ring to receive Truth’s finisher and get pinned clean. This was a shock for me as I didn’t expect him to go over quite so easily, but it certainly provided Truth with quite the rub, making him look impressive against a top guy. Nice enough match though i’m not sure it was impressive enough a whole match for him to really make an impact as a top calibre guy just yet.

Match 2) Ezekiel Jackson def. Wade Barrett by DQ (Barrett retains the Intercontinental Championship)
This match was ok. Ezekiel Jackson is not really going to be able to put on a great match with anybody, but he did a good enough job of putting on an acceptable match, led mostly by Barrett. A good sign for them is that, at the start of the match,the crowd wasn’t really popping for either man, but towards the end, after Zeke’s multiple slams (hardly the three amigos or repeated German suplexes!), the crowd started to get interested and making some noise. Shortly after this, Zeke got Barrett up for his impressive torture rack (his only really impressive move), which triggered the rest of Corre coming to the ring to stor Barrett from tapping and saving his title. Perhaps a finish not fit for PPV, but a workable way to keep the feud going. They’ll need a new angle, however. to keep it interesting.

Match 3) Sin Cara def. Chavo Guerrero
This was one of the matches I was anticipating most on the PPV, patly because the angle is interesting, and partly because I’ve thought Chavo could do great things in a properly developed angle for a while now. Their match was as good as you would expect. The idea was surely to give Cara someone to work with who understood his style perfectly and show him off. Chavo looked great against Sin Cara too; really competative and wonderfully underhand. Between that, Cara was finding yet new ways to fly around. He really does seem to have countless ways to fly. One thing he did that I hadn’t seen before was a handspring to the ropes where he kicked Chavo to the head from upside-down. There was lots of great guys, and back and forth until the end. Unfortunately, the end was spoiled a little  by a botched hurricanrana which gave Cara the victory. It was a shame not just because of the botch, but because it isn’t one of Cara’s signature moves. That makes me think an audible was called for whatever reason – hopefully not an injury because I want the feud to continue, but it seemed a little underwhelming a finish for an otherwise quality match.

Match 4) Big Show & Kane def. CM Punk & Mason Ryan (Nexus) to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
This match was ok. Punk is obviously the talisman in a match like this with three big guys who aren’t really technical masters. They did a good enough job though, making an entertaining tag match from it. Great to see Punk pay tribute to Macho Man a few times over the night, culminating in his ultimately fruitless elbow drop. This was the beginning of the end for the Nexus duo, who couldn’t stop the immovable objects, who sent Punk to the outside and Ryan to hell with a double chokeslam for the win. Decent match for what it was.

Match 5) Brie Bella def. Kelly Kelly to Retain the Divas Championship
This was a nice match between these two. There was some nice, natural  back-and-forth between the two with Brie getting the early advantage with the help of her sister, beating down on Kelly and trapping her in a very painful looking armbar for quite some time. Kelly managed to fight out of this, and we saw some nice brawling to the outside, including a great dropkick to Kelly from Brie on the outside. Back in the ring, kelly regained the advantage, with a Lou Thesz Press followed by slamming Brie’s head in to the canvas. At this point, with the referee distracted, The Bellas pulled off twin magic (something I love about them – it’s a unique ability they have and are right to utilise it) and a fresh Nikki Bella hit an X Factor on Kelly to pick up the victory. Relatively short, but a nice match. I was surprised that Kharma didn’t make an appearance though. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

Match 6) Randy Orton def. Christian to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Up until now, as you may be able to tell, there was some nice stuff, but nothing spectacular. Then came this match, which everyone has said is a MOTY candidate. This was not because of the spots, but because of the remarkable emotion surrounding the match, and Christian’s journey. It was just a match filled with fantastic storytelling. The two seemed equally matched throughout, and every near fall was believeable and dramatic. Christian, a 17 year veteran continues to add to his repetoire with his moves, incorporating a spinebuster, a reverse DDT, and a diving headbutt (surprisingly, Benoit style) in to his move set against Orton. This just shows the effort Christian is putting in now that he’s tasted the main event. He is evolving all the time and making a real effort to surprise the fans. For Orton’s part, he was working as fluidly as usual, and hit a gigantic superplex on Christian. As the match started to reach a crescendo, the fans were really in to it and were making an obviously deafening noise. The guys were trading attempts at their finishers with some nice wrestling progressions, but none were yet successful. Orton then managed to get Christian in a reverse Boston Crab, a move popularised by Colt Cobana who calls it the Billy Goat’s Curse and Christian came close to tapping but eventually escaped. The crowd were going crazy at this point, chanting primarily for Christian, who then played a great bit of storytelling, building off the finish of the match where he lost his title, kicking Orton in the gut and pretending to go for his sprnigboard sunset flip, which drew Orton to prematurely go for an RKO, and allowed Christian to roll up Orton for a great near fall. Orton then managed to block Chritian’s pendulum kick and hit his hangman’s DDT for a close near fall, showing Captain Charisma’s resiliency. After some more progressions, Christian saw the space conducive to the Spear, and again calling on the spirit of his friend Edge, started preparing to deliver it, though Orton countered in to a scoop powerslam for another near-fall. Here, Orton sets up for his punt, and as he is running up, he stops short, whether showing mercy or something else. Revoking the mercy, he re-sets for the punt, but this time runs in to a Spear. What followed was the near-fall that everyone bit on – so symbolically brilliant a finish it would have been. But Orton is just as resilient as Christian, and managed to kick out. The finish came when both men were wrestling more nice progressions around their finishers, and finally, after going for a Killswitch, Orton went for a backdrop, but Christian landed on his feet, only to eat a huge RKO with beautiful fluidity, and the pinfall to end a spectacular match. This really was a match of equals and to continue the respectful rivalry story, Orton went to shake Christian’s hand. At first, Captain Charisma was unwilling, having come so close, but eventually, he returned to the ring to shake Orton’s hand. Though it’s hard to justify another title shot for Christian, I think the fans would have absolutely no problem seeing a third outing between these two. Both are at the top of their game right now, and surely Christian has done enough, both in performances and fan reaction to justify his position in the Smackdown main event permanently.

Match 7) Jerry “The King” Lawler def. Michael Cole in a ‘Kiss My Foot’ Match
This was the match these two needed to have at WrestleMania really. A perfect blood-letting blowoff. The match itself wasn’t too long, and though Cole got some obviously flukey offense in, it wasn’t enough to stop Jerry beating him down and getting the pin from a flying fist. The best bit came in the aftermath, as all of Cole’s ‘crimes’ came back to haunt him. Eve Torres, his maion target of ire towards the divas came out and berated Cole before hitting a nice moonsault. Then out came good ol’ J.R., who bathed Cole in his BBQ sauce – as Cole had earlier done to him – humiliating him, and finally, out came Bret Hart! He, who has himself beaten King in a kiss my foot match, came out to assist King in doing the same to Cole – the reasoning being that at least he respects Lawler as a competitor. He put Cole in a Sharpshooter as Cole ‘kissed’, or sucked on Lawler’s foot in a scene which was nauseating, but in the correct way.

Match 8) John Cena def. The Miz in an ‘I Quit’ Match to Retain the WWE Championship
There is an instant problem with booking Cena in an I Quit match, and its that John Cena simply doesn’t quit, at least as the face he is now. This means that unless there is to be as a massive swerve, the match is incredibly predictable. This match basically took the same story as Orton’s I Quit match with Cena from a couple of years back (I think it was Breaking Point) where Orton basically tortured Cena mercilessly throughout the match, but Cena simply refused to quit until he eventually got the upper hand and made Orton quit. This was very similar, though Miz was a little different to that Orton: more emotionlessly rational than psychopathically dark. He was telling Cena exactly what he was about to before he did it, appealing to Cena’s rationality, and asking him to quit. He didn’t account, however, for the code Cena lives by (namely, to ‘never give up’), which kept Cena going despite the ridiculously brutal beating he took from the Miz, who was helped all the way by Alex Riley (Miz taking advantage of the no DQ nature of the match), caning him mercilessly with the kendo stick, and hitting him repeatedly with a leather belt, as well as a particularly sickening spot with an open chair wedged in to the ropes in to which he hit a Skull Crushing Finalé.They then wedged Cena in the barricade and hit him with a brutal chairshot to the head (though cushioned quite a lot by the barricade itself. Frustrated, Miz then instructed Riley to pull the spot from the infamous 1999 ‘I Quit’ match between The Rock and Mankind where he played a recording of Cena saying “I Quit” in to the mic. For a while, the ref bought it, and for the second time in 2 PPVs, Miz was awarded the WWE Championship. However, finding Riley’s phone, he realised (somehow) what had happened and re-started the match. A characteristic of Cena’s matches recently, is that he’s been ending them incredibly quickly, and this was the same this past Sunday. Riley goes to hit Cena with the title but Cena ducks and Riley hits Miz and is quickly hit with an AA through the announce table. Cena then turns his belt back on Miz and whips him all the way up the ramp, where he gets him in the STF and makes Miz quit. I really dislike it when I Quit matches finish with a conventional submission – it ignores the far more interesting ways they can be won. Nonetheless, it was a good match, and very brutal (Joey Styles even gave it an ECW nod of approval), and ad it been someone else than Cena in the match, it would have been even better. Cena just shouldn’t be booked in this type of match as it is too formulaic a story when he’s involved. That made the ending of the PPV a little underwhelming, but it was the right result, and well played out.

Overall, not quite as good as Extreme Rules, but not far behind. Solid throughout with the highlights being the Cole-Lawler blowoff and the incredible Orton-Christian match, while the main event did it’s job playing to the unique conventions of an I Quit match.

Over the Limit Preview and Predictions, 2011

Over the Limit, 2011, The Key Arena, Seattle, WA

I think for many people, Over the Limit is probably the least anticipated PPV of the year – it certainly is for me. Nonetheless, any given PPV is an exciting event as you know, as a viewer, that some of the biggest angles and the best matches will take place at PPV. This PPV is no different, and the card is actually pretty stacked with almost every match offering something whether it be mouth-watering match-ups or the promise of some interesting storyline progressions. Again, like Extreme Rules, the build has only really been pursued belatedly, but Extreme Rules nonetheless turned out to be a good PPV, so that isn’t necessarily a death sentence.

Match 1) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Big Show & Kane (c) vs CM Punk & Mason Ryan (Nexus)
For the last few weeks, Big Show and Kane have been essentially handy props for the storylines surrounding both the Corre and Nexus, and indeed, the two storylines have paralleled each other quite closely. It does seem after last week’s RAW that Punk and Nexus are getting something of a renewed push, but while Punk and Ryan would make nice tag champs, I think Punk may be re-emerging in the main event picture sooner rather than later. If the Corre and Nexus storylines are to continue to parallel, Mason Ryan could be about to split from Nexus after a difficult relationship with the group. For this reason, and because I can see Kane and Big Show being built as strong champions, I see the awkward Nexus partnership stalling. There may of course be some Nexus-Corre cooperation that could affect this, but the interference of someone like Ezekiel Jackson could counterbalance that anyway.

Winners: Big Show & Kane

Match 2) Rey Mysterio vs R-Truth
This is quite a difficult match to predict. For different reasons, I can see Truth going over, and I can see Mysterio going over. The first thought that comes to mind is that Truth is going through something of a pet project push, and so him losing in his first subsequent PPV match seems unlikely. On the other hand, however, Truth’s new heel persona has been largely based on his frustration at being robbed of opportunities and victories, and so perhaps that will be the case again. Whatever happens, this is a big match for Truth – perhaps the most important of his career. If he puts on a good match, he could be elevated up to main event status; if not, he could fall back down the card. These two are both quick, if getting on in years, and I think their similar work-rate could make for nice chemistry in this match. My prediction on this, as I say, is almost a coil flip, but I think the more surprising or intriguing result would be for Mysterio to win, either clean to frustrate Truth even more, or by DQ, following a savage attack from Truth who gets frustrated after Mysterio kicks out of his Cool Shot.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Match 3) Intercontinental Championship Match: Wade Barrett (c) vs Ezekiel Jackson
The obvious instinct going in to this match is that Big Zeke is going in to this match with huge momentum after leaving the Corre, cutting a strong face promo and beating his former team-mates on Smackdown. Giving Zeke the title at this point, unless there is some sort of wildcard element to the booking, seems like a bad decision to me. Barrett hasn’t been champion for that long, and hasn’t had many defences. I think what would be better would be to amp up the face chase, and have Barrett go over with help from the Corre (therefore legitimising a further future title shot for Zeke).

Winner: Wade Barrett

Match 4) Sin Cara vs Chavo Guerrero
The idea behind this programme is one that i’ve liked, with Chavo claiming ownership of Mexican heritage wrestling and also for Cara’s success. I’m so pleased Chavo’s gotten himself on a PPV because he’s been underutilised for such a long time. Apparently the house show matches between these two have been awesome, and I would expect nothing less tonight. As the story goes, there is a shared heritage between the two, so their styles fuse nicely. As for the result, I think if Cara was to vanquish Chavo now, Chavo would have no recourse to continue the programme, and so I think, eventhough it will mean handing Sin Cara his first loss, Chavo will go over here, though by unscrupulous tactics.

Winner: Chavo Guerrero

Match 5) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Christian
This is arguably the most emotionally engaging match of the night. The way Christian dropped the title three weeks ago, after only holding it for 5 days, and his legitimate and kayfabe back-story has meant that the fans are behind his cause more than ever. Meanwhile, Orton himself is a highly honourable babyface who commands a lot of respect. Indeed, this feud has become one around mutual-respect and the battle to rove you are the better man.Its been a while since WWE have tried one of these storylines and the cast is picked perfectly. On top of that, both guys are highly experienced and talented, and have already had a superb world title match. This will be given some good time, and could be a classic. I notice that Cody Rhodes isn’t on the card, and given his meteoric profile, I would be surprised not to see him at all. Now this could come with a short paper bag promo, or it could come here. Given that Legacy brethren Rhodes and DiBiase have been reunited, they might have some business to take care of with Orton. I believe that Christian wont win back the title just yet though. I think he’s to be tested emotionally and physically still more as a top talent before he regains his title. Three title changes in a month would be a little OTT, even if it would be understandable, and so I think Orton will retain on this occasion, even if he has to fend off his former mentees.

Winner: Randy Orton

Match 6) Divas Championship Match: Brie Bella (c) vs Kelly Kelly
This match is the hardest to predict because doing so means predicting the effect Kharma will have on the match. Obviously Kharma is enjoying toying with Kelly, but could part of that involve destroying anyone taking on Kelly so she can have her toy to herself? Unlike the last match, this wont be a classic by any stretch, but the Bellas are underrated as wrestlers, so there might be some nice spots in the match. I also think it’ll be given more time than usual divas matches – an effect Kharma already seems to have had on the division. This could go either way, but I think i’m going to plump for Kharma helping Kelly to lose – not necessarily by attacking her, but by scaring/distracting her enough to cost her the match before ‘playing’ with her more psychologically. This may also lead to more of a ‘feud’ as Kelly will have a legitimate gripe at being cost the Divas title.

Winner: Brie Bella

Match 7) ‘Kiss My Foot’ Match: Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole
I think, despite Cole entertaining run as a heel, most people feel this feud should have ended at WrestleMania, and certainly at Extreme Rules, but it is clear that it will definately end tonight. The stipulation is that if Cole wins, he goes in to the Hall of Fame, and there is no way WWE will mess with that institution. Added to that, Jack Swagger has now abandoned Cole’s cause. Now there is no way that any sort of wrestling match will take place – they learned their lesson at WrestleMania. Cole might get some flukey early shots in, but this will be a quick blood-letting as Cole is fed to the hall of famer and forced to kiss The King’s foot.

Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 8) WWE Championship ‘I Quit’ Match: John Cena (c) vs The Miz
I love an I Quit match. Not only can they get absolutely brutal, but they can be some of the most innovative matches going. As Miz said on RAW, there are a million ways to win, and the best victories come when it isn’t physicality that makes someone quit, but emotional or psychological coercion. Miz is one of the most wily, uncaring characters in the WWE, and I expect some ingenuity from him. The question is, how could he ever get John Cena to quit? My initial reaction to this booking was that it was perhaps a little misguided because it is too predictable given how Cena famously never quits. It does make me think that everything is so much in Miz’s favour that there could be a swerve victory for The Miz, making Cena quit and regaining the title so quickly and so making him seem like even bigger a deal. I do feel, however, that Miz is already at that level and doesn’t need that rub, even of it would be great for him. Cena will keep his title and his dream WrestleMania main event alive for now, and Miz will move on to something else going forward, hopefully giving a run to an up-and-comer himself, Evan Bourne perhaps, or a face-turned Drew McIntyre.

Winner: John Cena

This, I suppose like any other PPV, has the potential to be fantastic. If the right matches are given good time and there are some shocking or meaningful angles, the matches and storylines. The success of the PPV depends on Truth being successul on this stage, Sin Cara making an impact, the Kharma story being progressed in a fresh way that will help the divas division, and if the I Quit match delivers a match with good storytelling. If it does, as I say, it could be fantastic.

RAW Recall (16/05/2011): Neither Cena or Miz Quit Before Over the Limit

Miz attacks Cena with a pipe before Cena turned the tables

The first match on this weeks RAW was CM Punk against Kofi Kingston, and while it was a nice match, it wasn’t long enough to really stretch each other in the ring. It may have been weird that the US Champion went down, but it was to CM Punk, and him having a high profile, it was acceptable, especially seen as Punk has needed this win for a while. What is even better,is that Punk seemed to lay the foundation for a progression with Nexus’s storyline. Punk said afterwards that he had led by example, and so would Nexus. Hopefully that is true and we’ll see some shocking actions from Nexus in the coming weeks.

It was important that Kharma started to develop this week, and this indeed happened in the aftermath of Kelly Kelly’s victory over Divas Champion Brie Bella. Why little was made of that I don’t know. Why give Brie the title only to ignore it? Hopefully this will be righted with a Divas title match on RAW next week (I couldn’t bare to see Kelly vs Brie on PPV (eventhough the Bellas are underrated)). Following that, Kharma again advanced on the ring, and initially, I expected another takedown of a Bella, we did get that, but this time Kharma advanced on Kelly for the first time, flicking her in the head like she did on her vignettes. At this point, she is literally playing with Kelly, and this could make for a very psychologically engaging story. Indeed, I would like to see Kharma stalking Kelly before finally either destroying her or maybe one of Kelly’s enemies, before taking the divas title and making the division relevant again.

Next up, Rey Mysterio hit the ring to call out R-Truth for his attack last week. Truth didn’t come, but old-time enemy Alberto Del Rio did. These two then had a match, and while their chemistry is great, I think it was still too soon from their previous match to seem particularly fresh. The main story here was about R-Truth, who made his presence known as the match was going on, suggesting that he doesn’t have to answer to Rey when beckoned, while distracting Rey by asking the audience to ‘stop that thief’ (of Truth’s title shot). Rey wasn’t affected by this however, and managed to maneuver Del Rio in to 619 position before Ricardo Rodriguez put his body in the way for the DQ. Only after this did Truth appear, again assaulting Rey Mysterio before telling Mysterio that at Over the Limit, he is ‘gonna get got’ – a great line from Truth, who can be genuinely scary in his new persona.

I don’t want to give much time to Cole-Lawler, as entertaining as it can be. It is worth noting though that Over the Limit was basically confirmed as the blowoff for this feud as Cole drove Swagger away from his corner by belittling his title reign. Telling King “he’s all yours”, Swagger left, and an almost blubbering Cole started begging for forgiveness. There is no was Cole will be booked to go over King clean.

Next up was more Nexus build as Otunga and McGillicutty went over Kane and the Big Show with the help of sly interference from Punk. Great for McGillicutty to be able to pin Kane, while the turn in Nexus’s fortunes therefore turned even more severely. It was then revealed that Punk and Ryan will compete for the tag titles at Over the Limit. Whether this is good for Nexus or not remains to be seen, but it does seem that their fortunes are turning rapidly again. Signs perhaps that Punk has re-signed?

Some people have been very critical of how Jack Swagger has been booked with Cole and Lawler, but it cannot be denied that it has garnered him a profile that he had lost before his involvement. Apparently coming out of that angle, Swagger was catapulted, in a pleasantly shocking way when he was introduced as Miz’s chosen opponent for John Cena, in a No Holds Barred match. Now, this match did have some okay ‘no holds barred’ spots: ring posts, steel chairs, computer-shots from Swagger to Cena, making him seem dominant against the top guy, and therefore potentially on par again. A lot of that, though, came during the commercial break, which made what we didn’t see on replay seem quite tame for what is meant to be a brutal match. Swagger was really made to look a threat to Cena though, locking him in the ankle lock several times and dominating him at others – exactly what Swagger needed to return to being a top player. Eventually, Cena fought through the ankle locks, specifically showing his ‘will not quit’ attitude and managed to pick up the win and send a message to Miz. This obviously irked Miz, who proceeded to warn Cena about the innumerable number of ways one can make another quit (a characteristic which makes it one of my favourite kinds of matches) and threatening that at Over the Limit, he will use a method Cena has never seen before – a statement which visibly worried Cena. He then says that, while sheer violence might not be the answer on Sunday, he’s happy to use it tonight, and with the help of Alex Riley’s distraction, he attacks Cena with a metal pipe. Cena eventually manages to turn this round, however, and Cena, furious, warns that on Sunday, he will be the Miz, and he will say I Quit. Great build for the OTL main event. It’s just a shame it took until the last seg of the ‘go home’ show to bring it. Any PPV needs adequate build, but especially one with such a psychologically engrossing match as an I Quit match. If Miz and Cena had built around that for 3-4 weeks, we could have a real mouth-watering prospect on our hands. As it stands, we may still do, but it will be no thanks to the limited build.