Extreme Rules Review, 2012: Cena Wins, But Doesn’t Survive the Extreme

A bloodied Cena takes his chance to hit Lesnar with a final blow

A bloodied Cena takes his chance to hit Lesnar with a final blow

God I love wrestling. Yes there are bad times, the celebrity shilling, the occasional and relatively harmless PG racism and homophobia, but most of the time it’s good, and then sometimes you see something special, or a special night, and it’s revelatory. Chicago always provides those nights. There wasn’t a bad match on the card, and the three headline matches delivered different, wonderful stories and some great wrestling.

Preshow) Santino Marella def. The Miz to Retain the United States Championship
I’ll keep this short seen as it was a preshow match. Decent match here and a perfect warm up match for a PPV. Relatively short, with both men looking good. Miz did some nice stuff with the Cobra, big booting the Cobra itself. The Cobra recovered though to hit The Miz and hand Santino the retention. Ultimately, this was the right booking. Santino is way over while The Miz is above the US title now. Let’s just hope Miz can ‘use’ this to progress.

Match 1) Randy Orton def. Kane in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
This was a really good opener. These two have had a lot of brawls, and it would have been easy to have mailed this in. Thankfully they didn’t, and like at WrestleMania, they surpassed all expectations. The main thing with Falls Count Anywhere matches is to use the stipulation to it’s fullest; it’s one of the rare opportunities to see brawls all across the arena, and it is the only opportunity to see pinfalls out of the ring, which can be – at their best – inventive and unique. For the most part, Orton and Kane delivered this, brawling around the arena floor and backstage. This was a great choice to start off the PPV because despite spending most of the time outside of the ring,  them brawling in amongst the crowd in close quarters had them going nuts and really invested them in the match. Not only that, but the fighting was so intense, with dropkicks, body drops and more to the concrete and the running knee to Kane’s head against the wall. When they went backstage, the innovation continued, especially when they came across the WWE Superstars watching the event in the back. It was just refreshing; of course with the superstars backstage, there’s a chance that two people fighting might bump in to them, and bump in to another person who has an issue with one of the brawlers. Maybe this says a lot about Zack Ryder, but him seeing Kane and Orton brawling, and trying to attack Kane, makes more sense than pretty much everything he’s done since getting over. Of course Kane just brushed him aside, but as strange as it was, it was a very intelligent section of the match. Coming back out, they headed to the ring, and it got still more brutal, with multiple chair shots to Kane, which the Big Red Machine surviving. There were also some good, dramatic near-falls for Kane, including a Chokeslam which I totally bit for. The finish of the match was ok, if a little formulaic: frustrated, Kane took the natural next step, looking for a Tombstone to Orton on the chair, only for Orton to reverse in to an RKO on the chair for the return win. The formula of the finish aside, which was fine, the real problem with this was that it finish in the ring. This is the one chance where the match can – and is encouraged to – finish outside of the ring, and they didn’t take that opportunity. Some sort of big spot involving the set or something out of the ring leading to a pinfall in the midst of carnage would have made it great, and the finish showed a lack of imagination. A really good match let down a little by the finish. Time for both to move on now; for Orton, I think Bryan is the right way to go to elevate Bryan and deliver some classic matches, and as for Kane – that’s a harder one. I would go out there and suggest Ryback. He’s been jobbing people out enough now; have Kane attack Ryder once more and have Ryback make the save and let’s see what the guy’s got.

Match 2) Brodus Clay def. Dolph Ziggler
This was an unannounced match, and only 5 or so minutes, but it was really efficiently realised. Clay has lost a bit of momentum recently, partly because he’s not had enough serious competition, and partly because, frankly, Clay has toned down his hilarious campness. Well here we had the first time in his FUNKareer where he did have competition. For a while, with it being the umpteenth time that Ziggler has faced Clay, and with Swagger’s involvement, and with Ziggler being the prospect he is, I started to think Ziggler could get the scalp. Ultimately though, Funkasaurus was still too much for the Show Off, withstanding some great offense before striking Ziggler with that headbutt which Ziggler sells to look a million bucks before taking the big splash for the loss. Unsurprisingly with Ziggler involved, this was the best match Clay’s had yet. Now they have to progress him even more by either moving him up to another feud (perhaps a megapower cartoon feud with Tensai) or progress the stuff with both Ziggler and Swagger obsessed with beating Clay between them, leading to Ziggler finally getting the scalp. We shall see.

Match 3) Cody Rhodes def. The Big Show in a Tables Match to Win the Intercontinental Championship
This match was booked simply, but effectively. I loved the stipulation choice; it was different to the other matches, which tended to be several ways of saying ‘No DQ’. I didn’t see Rhodes winning, until it was announced as a tables match, simply because of how objectively impossible it would seem for Rhodes to get Show through a table. For the most part, the match told the immediate story of Rhodes not being able to get the best of Show, and at one point not even being able to set up a table for Show stopping him. Rhodes got a few moments of offense in, including that brilliant Disaster Kick off the propped-up table to Show, but it mostly consisted of Big Show dominance via chest slaps and some huge, nasty-looking throws in to the barricades. This doesn’t win a tables match though, and Rhodes had enough intelligence to take advantage of Show’s mistake in setting up a table and treating Rhodes complacently. With the table below him, Show was on the apron, and Rhodes dropkicked him so he fell backwards and put his foot through the table. This showed the intelligence of Rhodes, and gave him a legit but technical victory over Show, which also allowed Show an out for losing since he was hardly driven through the table by Rhodes. I was pleased to see Rhodes get the win, but it also makes me wish he hadn’t have lost the title at WrestleMania, and makes me think Show’s victory was given to him out of good will. If Rhodes would have kept the title, he would be on his way to an even more impressive reign than it already was. Ending here, I would have presumed the feud would have continued, but with Show getting the bitter Chokeslam through the table to Rhodes and then the ugly looking bump he gave Rhodes by pressing him from the ring through the table outside the ring, it gave the story a feel of closure. I hope it’s the end for the feud. It was interesting, but it’s run its course. Show should move on, perhaps to a tag team while Rhodes – if he’s ok after that final table bump – should find a new Intercontinental Championship challenger of course; and hey, if we want something fresh, give Tyson Kidd a shot. Wishful thinking I know, but it’d be great!

Match 4) Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in a 2-Out-of-3 Falls Match for The World Heavyweight Championship
This match always promised to be fantastic, even before WrestleMania, but was finally realised last night at Extreme Rules. This one did a great match of putting on a pure wrestling match while largely ignoring all of the stuff surrounding their feud. They teased AJ involvement, and talked about the ’18 seconds’ victory a little, but for the most part, they let this be what it was: a match to finally determine the winner of the feud. 2-out-of-3 falls always produces interesting, old skool storytelling, and this was no different. I was expecting a very quick first fall for Sheamus, but what we got was better; a long, technically sound first fall, building to the first decision. Bryan was wrestling Sheamus down, working in his arm in anticipation for the YES Lock while keeping some really tough, strong grapples and strikes, while Sheamus was out-powering Bryan when on top, and adapting to Bryan’s style, like when he pulled out a very apt Cloverleaf following from a cool chain wrestling progression. The first fall finish came with Bryan smelling blood after Sheamus ran in to the ringpost and took an ungly spill to the floor with his arm caught in the turnbuckle. After Bryan worked his arm around the ringpost some more, he rolled him in to the ring, and started stiff kicking him to the arm, and in classic 2-out-of-2 falls match style, he played the long game, taking the DQ fall for Sheamus for the benefit of severely weakening his main target in Sheamus’s arm. The dividends came quickly as Bryan locked in the YES Lock. At this point, I even believed Sheamus might tap; but having Sheamus as the fightin’ babyface, it was probably best to have him refuse to tap, only to not be able to continue in the fall, and the second one therefore being given to AmDrag. Here, we had a fall for each without either man looking weak, and telling a great story about a wily heel and a brave face in a war. By this point, the match was becoming an epic saga. With Sheamus unresponsive, Bryan started leading the crowd in YES chants, getting the crowd really hot, and leading to dueling YES/NO chants. Sheamus struggled to get up, but showing both the effect Bryan had on him, and his own resilience, he hit a basic, desperation Brogue Kick which led to a good near fall which allowed Bryan to show his resilience. At this point, it became a blow for blow war as Bryan got a good near fall with a sickening stiff kick to Sheamus’s ear, which was requited with stiff forearms and other blows. Bryan tried to keep on top of him, but missed his turnbuckle dropkick and flying headbutt. With Sheamus back on top he managed to build to his finish; an Irish Curse backbreaker leading to the final, decisive Brogue Kick – sold with amazing backflip from Bryan – for an impressive win in which Bryan also looked great.  Both men gave their all, and the crowd were really into it. A great way to finish this feud and quite probably a Match of the Year candidate. For Sheamus, it looks like Alberto Del Rio will be in his future, which should lead to some good matches. As for Bryan, he needs a high profile feud to move on to now he’s so over. I support my idea about him being given Randy Orton, and I think that against a face so over as Randy, Bryan’s heat will be condensed in to more pure heel heat.

Match 5) Ryback def. Two Local Jobbers in a Handicap Match
Ryback isn’t ready for PPV really, but he had a job tonight in cleansing the palette between the MOTY candidate World Heavyweight Championship match and the Jericho-Punk match which would be looking to follow it. The heel jobbers – which I still don’t really understand other than Ryback can’t get over as a face without them I suppose – were actually quite good heels here with their repetitive ‘2 is bigger than 1’ routine. The crowd wanted to see them get beaten, and Ryback did that job well. Beating two jobbers rather than one is more impressive than his victories so far, but the people he’s beating are still essentially jabronis and his victories aren’t that impressive. Now he’s got this out of my way, I support – again – my own idea, to have him face Kane and see if he can get over as a babyface.

Match 6) CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight to Retain the WWE Championship
CM Punk emerging in Chicago is always the best. It is something that encapsulates what I love about pro wrestling: well, love. Part of me feels like the Ryback squash didn’t do enough to recharge the crowd from the awesome World Title match, but this reaction was at least it’s equal, and so was the match. The match itself – apart from the unfortunate formality of the Championship introductions – didn’t waste any time in then getting going, straight in to a ‘Pier 6’ brawl and the early introduction of kendo sticks and some sick kendo shots (seriously, look at the welts on Jericho’s back, if you can!). An impassioned Punk was dominating, so it made sense when the cowardly Jericho went to the referee for salvation before the veteran Jericho used the position to give Punk a thumb to the eye followed by a nice dropkick. There then followed some very unscientific but compelling brawling at ringside, punctuated by Jericho exposing the steel of the barricade in front of Punk’s sister and slamming Punk’s head in to it, before eyeing up Punk’s sister, being slapped by her, and looking to go after her. This was an important point in the match, not only in storyline with Punk’s sister’s involvement, but because the heinousness of Jericho’s implied intentions brought Punk’s urgency, and that of the match, up a further gear. Not only that, but this was pretty much her only involvement in the match aside from visual reminder of the personal nature of the feud. Best use of family in wrestling since, well, CM Punk and Rey Mysterio. Forcing himself to recover, Punk leapt on Jericho just in time to stop him before going nuts at ringside and tearing up the announce tables in foreshadowing of carnage. Until this point, i’ve always though attacks with announce table hoods are weak and shouldn’t be done, but in this match, it really worked, when Punk slammed Jericho through one that was propped up against the announce table,  before Jericho would later hit Punk with a tough blow with the broken half of the hood. Punk went on to tease a stomach-churning piledriver on the concrete, but Jericho managed to reverse in to a back body drop before taking the initiative with a shot to the spine of Punk with a monitor. This really was a nonstop, drag-out, brutal brawl, and it was unsurprising that they changed pace a little following it, returning to the ring for Jericho to dominate some. In fact, Jericho got such a hand over Punk that he was able to leave the ring to get a beer to pour on Punk before getting another for himself. The second was too far though, and showed the exact arrogance of a guy who thinks he’s the best in the world despite losing to the best a month prior – it allowed Punk t come back with some sweet, stiff kicks which led to multiple beer spits from Jericho. This was closely followed by more harsh kendo shots, including a brilliantly timed and executed kendo-assisted heel kick from Punk. This was the next step up in gears as the action quickened and we moved towards signature and finisher territory with Punk shouldering Jericho for a GTS which was reversed in to a Liontamer/Walls of Jericho attempt which was really convincing and made Punk look great and resilient to escape from. Shortly after came another, even better progression which could only be pulled off by two of the best, with perfect timing. Again attempting a GTS, Jericho escaped and hit a bulldog; looking for a Lionsault, Punk recovered, and caught Jericho exactly as he hit the ropes, and with Jericho caught on the ropes, Punk grappled him back to his shoulders for another GTS attempt, which Jericho again escaped before sending Punk into a wedged chair in the corner. This section in the ring really started to combine well the brutality of earlier with the drama of great wrestling and near-falls, and this only got more tense after Jericho hit a surprise Codebreaker from nowhere and then locked Punk in another Walls of Jericho, with Punk looking ever more likely to tap before eventually, again, making the ropes. With Jericho exploiting the Street Fight rules, Punk was forced to take what was at hand to escape, and what he used was the fire extinguisher which he first sprayed Jericho with before brutalising him with it. Punk followed Jericho on his escape, with the extinguisher, to the outside, a final shot laying Jericho out on the Spanish Announce Table. It was obvious what was coming, but that anticipation in pro wrestling, like with a lot of great spectacles, only makes the event sweeter, and so (despite the exhausted Punk barely being able to stay on the turnbuckle) when Punk finally flew through the air to connect with a Macho Man elbow through the table with Jericho, the crowd went mad and were simultaneously even more amazed by what they saw, especially given the table crashing looked even more devastating than usual. Punk then – after recovering himself- pushed Jericho in the ring and went for a count. This signified the beginning of the end. Punk only got a good near fall, but obviously unsatisfied, he went straight for an Anaconda Vice. Now I don’t know if this was intentional, but this section mirrored HHH in Undertaker’s Hell’s Gate from both WrestleManias 27 and 28 in that it involved the victim reaching out for, and then dropping a nearby weapon; the only difference here being that Jericho managed to keep a hold of the weapon and used it to bash Punk over the head to escape. Following this came the best near-fall of the night, and a really inventive one. Punk tried to keep control of the match, reaching for a chair he had tossed in to the ring ages earlier; driving it in to Jericho’s gut, Jericho grabbed the chair in that position, and used it for an amazingly smooth, chair assisted Codebreaker. I was convinced of a Jericho win, nut no! Punk survived! A frustrated Jericho, ever the meglomaniac, then picked up and shouldered Punk as if looking to beat him with his own move, only this time, Punk escaped, slingshotted Jericho in to the exposed turnbuckle before finally (after setting it up for the whole match, several times) hitting his GTS for a great, Match of the Year worthy, win! It was the best finish of the night by far in its inventiveness and unpredictability, and let Punk add another great defense to his ever-swelling reign. It was a totally different match to their masterpiece at WrestleMania, and just goes to show the breadth of their capabilities. I loved the carnage left behind them after the match: weapons, broken wood, a stripped and a destroyed announce table, and two spend warriors. This was another war. The only problem is, it’s going to get hard to justify the continuance of this great feud. Jericho was ‘given’ another shot after WrestleMania, but it perhaps needs too much grace for him to get another one, especially given Punk has now beaten by pin and submission. I hope they do get ‘one more match’, but if it does, it will need a significant progression from the alcoholism angle, most righteously involving Jericho ‘needing’ to beat Punk. If not then both men will need new opponents. For Jericho, it’s wide open, but I would figure he’d move on to a young up-and-coming face (and there aint too many of them! – Kofi Kingston, again?). As for Punk, I figure there could surely be only one man in line for a title shot, and i’ll speak on that later in the report.

Match 7) Layla def. Nikki Bella to Win the Divas Championship
This match was more of a rollercoaster before it began than it was once it began. Initially, it seemed we’d get Beth vs Nikki for the title and Kharma would come out to dominate. Then it seemed we’d get Kharma vs Nikki and Kharma would dominate. Then what we got was Nikki Bella defending against the returning Layla (though I initially thought it was Michelle McCool given the music)! I’m a huge fan of Layla, so I was in no way disappointed to see her return. Both she and the Bellas are very underrated wrestlers, and for the limited time they had, they put on a decent match (ring rust etc permitting for Layla). Some good, impressive moves from both women, but especially Layla, who was being showcased – including a crossbody from the top rope. This was all after some good, scientific focusing on Layla’s rehabbed knee from Nikki, but after Layla got control, they attempted Twin Magic. Usually, that spells the end, but Layla managed to simply beat Brie with her tough neckbreaker finisher for an emotional win. Yes, the fans were disappointed, but this was the right way to do things. This was an intense PPV, and a Kharma return wouldn’t have had as much impact, while her being mentioned and thought of as a generally terrifying prospect will only make her eventual return more impactful. Meanwhile, the belt is now back on a babyface that Kharma can terrorise when she returns, and hopefully, Layla will be able to have some impressive, Gail Kim style matches with her before Beth returns for the showdown! Oh yes, and come back soon, Bellas.

Match 8) John Cena def. Brock Lesnar
It should be noted that I was highly skeptical about this match before it took place, and after it, I disliked Brock Lesnar slightly less, so that bodes well. My main concern was about the MMA influence and how that could make the match a bit of an eyesore. The first bit of positivity came when Lesnar’s sponsored gear didn’t actually look quite as stupid as it seemed beforehand (though it was still kinda stupid). More importantly, I was worried we’d have long period of grounded grappling, MMA style, so imagine my dismay at the first few minutes of the match which was just that. Saying that, the MMA influence was, for the most part, well incorporated in to the professional wrestling match, and Cena being so bloodied, so early on, gave the match a distinct, uneasy feel, but in all the right ways. In many ways, this would be emblematic of the whole match, or at least most of it; Cena looking kind of incapable and defenseless against Lesnar. Doctors swarmed around Cena, and not for the last time while Lesnar seemed to relish his animalistic destruction. Lesnar was brutalising the face of WWE, and putting him in some pretty horrifying looking holds, especially that Kimura hold, and all Cena could muster was some pithy attempts at AA’s, which were quashed as quickly as they ever began. Otherwise, Lesnar was just finding inventive ways to torture Cena, including using Cena’s own chain to lock Cena’s feet together before assaulting him unprotected; and hanging him upside down from the turnbuckle by the chain and beating on him. As time went on, Lesnar only became more animalistic, thriving in the blood, wiping Cena’s all over him and licking it off his gloves. The match turned, however, after a big move which must actually have been a botch. With Cena hanging on to the apron, Lesnar sprung off the ropes and launched off the steps (which had been moved to the ring), but instead of just knocking Cena from the apron, he overshot and while knocking Cena off the apron, spilled over himself, taking a nasty tumble. Nonetheless, he got back up soon, remarkably, and went for the move a second time. This time, however, Cena had managed to grab his chain, and when Lesnar launched himself this time, it was in to Cena’s chain-loaded fist. This busted Lesnar open and allowed Cena to finally hit the AA, on to the waiting steel steps for a three-count few people saw coming. Some people were annoyed at this finish, and I understand why to an extent; the ultimate definition of SuperCena is when he wins a match after taking a lot of offense and hitting a few moves out of no where for the win. Usually, I hate Cena when he’s SuperCena as much as the next man, but this time it was different; Cena had been tortured, brutalised, and still stayed in the game while Lesnar was a sadistic monster. Cena earned everyone’s respect, which in the Allstate Arena shows just how epic and deeply brutal the match he survived was. A really well thought out match to manipulate the fans in to sympathising with Cena while providing a genuinely different aesthetic for a match, which is something laudable. I may not like Lesnar over a lot of top guys, but he is great in this animalistic killer role, and if he can stick to that, I think him and I will be just fine. A further shock came when Cena seemed to announce he was hurt and would be taking some time off. I think that was a work to justify some well-deserved time off, but whatever it is, it’s interesting. We don’t know how long it will be, but we will have a period of Cena-less time. This will obviously provide a huge spot for some up and comers (hopefully) to fill – i’m looking at you, CM Punk! Speaking of Punk, with him moving on possibly from Jericho, and Cena taking time off, it seems like Punk and Lesnar surely must be on a collision course. After Lesnar beat the hell out of Cena and put him on the shelf, Lesnar hasn’t lost much as a monster heel, and surely the only legitimate challenger for the title at the time of writing is Lesnar. This can make for a great feud, as long as Lesnar doesn’t squash Punk with ease. Punk has a lot to say about Lesnar, and could maul him on the mic while potentially having interesting, great matches. As for Cena, when he eventually returns, it’ll be to face a rampant Lesnar, and he’ll get a huge heroes pop.

Extreme Rules always delivers, possibly because they take the ‘extreme’ mantra seriously, and really push the boat out in terms of innovation and bodily sacrifice. Another plus point is that it coming off WrestleMania, it often provides the definite, concrete end points of quite a few feuds, which adds a a certain satisfaction to the event. All the matches here were entertaining, and at least acceptable in quality; some were very good, and the three headline matches – the most important ones – were exceptional, with the two title matches providing Match of the Year candidates. Another excellent Extreme Rules, and another excellent WWE PPV, which have been of a very high standard for the most part for a long time.

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Extreme Rules Preview & Predictions, 2012

Extreme Rules, 29/04/2012, from the All State Arena, Chicago, IL

Extreme Rules, 29/04/2012, from the All State Arena, Chicago, IL

Chicago audiences are amongst the best in the world, and among the very best in the US. Passionate and loud, they are an extra performer in any wrestling show, and invariably, one that improves the show. It’s just a shame that Chicago’s favourite son, and the crowd’s most over babyface generally, almost certainly wont be in the main event and isn’t featured on the poster. I understand it, but it doesn’t make it right. But I shouldn’t rant on Lesnar just yet. His match with John Cena is a bonafide attraction, even if it’s not one i’m personally too interested in. I’ll be live-tweeting the event, so follow me for that, and more personal insight @RTVWOW!

Preshow) United States Championship Match: Santino Marella (c) vs The Miz
This is a fairly new feature to WWE, and obviously it has a different function to the other matches, to whet the appetite for people undecided as to whether to buy the PPV and to get the crowd hot, and that affects somewhat the booking, and therefore, the predictions for the match. The other primary aspect of pediction is what is currently happening to The Miz. The former WWE Champion and ‘Next Big Thing’ (pardon the pun) now finds himself struggling to make PPV, to get wins, and to get anywhere near the title picture. His cause hasn’t been helped by starts like The Rock or Brock Lesnar returning, but it also is a possibility that Miz’s downfall is to be used as a storyline. He had a resurgence at WrestleMania, getting the pin to establish ‘People Power’ under John Laurinaitis, but he’s again disappeared. Perhaps this is all leading to a response from The Miz that will see him re-surge to the top, possibly – possibly – as a babyface. I don’t think that starts with him taking the US title from the hugely beloved Santino Marella; it would just be more middling for The Miz. Not only that, but remember the function of the match. If they want a hot crowd, get the babyface over; if they want to whet the appetite, have a championship match, not a championship changing hands. So because it’s essentially a dark match for the PPV, and because they don’t want to give away a championship change for free, I see a Santino retention here. I have no idea how, but I hope it isn’t clean via Cobra! Now the only question here is, do I include this in my prediction stats, it being a preshow match. I suspect that will depend on how right I am!

Santino Marella

Match 1) Falls Count Anywhere Match: Randy Orton vs Kane
I mentioned on twitter how hard I was finding picking the opening bout, and was close to predicting Punk-Jericho. In the end, I plumped for this match because of the Randy Orton pop being a strong enough start to the PPV. As for the match, I have among the least to say about it. I’ve said before that Orton is the inheritor of the Shawn Michaels ability to not put on a bad match, and like at WrestleMania, i’m sure this will be a good match for what it will be: brawling. I think the real success of the match will hang on the inventiveness of the booking outside of the ring. If they do unique things backstage and really push the boat out, it could be great; if it doesn’t go far beyond the ring, it could be disappointing. I think the result is pretty clear. After losing at Mania, I don’t see Orton losing this match. This should be the end of this feud, which has really ran out of material I think, and so Orton should win, and move on. That doesn’t rule out a swerve of course, as happened (arguably) at WrestleMania, but I see less value in Kane going over this time now that he has a high-profile victory over Orton.

Winner: Randy Orton

Match 2) Intercontinental Championship with Stipulation To Be Determined By Roulette Wheel: Big Show (c) vs Cody Rhodes
Since Rhodes dropped the title to Big Show at WrestleMania, the value of both Rhodes and the championship has depreciated, and that in itself suggests that Rhodes re-winning the title would be the right way to go. I don’t see it happening though, not to the Big Show. I’d be pleased, but it doesn’t mean as much for Cody as a win at WrestleMania would, and the bright side is that if he loses, he can move towards the spot he deserves – the World Title picture. The quality of the match of course depends on what stipulation it is given, and, though there is absolutely no real logic to this, I have a feeling it’ll be a goofy stipulation rather than an ‘extreme’ one – something like a pillow fight. It would be a shame for the wrestling purist, but there would be a plus side. It would give Rhodes an excuse of sorts for the loss while giving Show a stipulation he can have a bit of fun with (e.g. WMD through pillow). Of course, they could be given a cage match or something, which would be pretty cool, but whatever happens, I doubt it’ll affect the result.

Winner: The Big Show

Match 3) 2 Out of 3 Falls Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus (c) vs Daniel Bryan
The most immediate thing i’d like to say about this is that Daniel Bryan will be the de fact babyface here, and Sheamus the heel, just because of the crowd. This match could be absolutely great is the second thing i’ll say. 2 out of 3 falls matches always invite interesting booking, and there’s a lot to play off between these two, especially with the 18 second loss at WrestleMania. I don’t think we’ll get a 36 second retention here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the champion gets the first first fall in up to 18 seconds. It would be a nice echo of their recent psychology without actually costing Bryan the match early. After that, obviously Bryan will get fall 2, and I think it will be relatively clean, though a lot of that depends on it there are any DQ’s. If so, Bryan might try and get himself a DQ fall, if not, he might to it via weapon. Although falls are easier to come by in these matches, I can’t see Sheamus going down straight up to any Bryan offense, so it’ll be interesting to see how it comes about. I like what Seth Mates has suggested for the third fall, especially after what Bryan did to Sheamus on RAW, that Bryan becomes obsessed with making Sheamus tap out to one of his 100+ submissions (as acknowledged by WWE announcers) and in so doing, ends up losing the final fall. That would make Bryan look great, while explaining his loss. Whatever happens, this will be one of the best matches on the card. I can’t see Sheamus losing though – they’ll want to get him over as a champ against Del Rio going forward.

Winner: Sheamus

Match 4) Divas Championship Match: Nikki Bella (c) vs Beth Phoenix
I am very vocal in my praise for the Bellas. As twins, they make a unique attraction and are underrated as wrestlers (I also unashamedly really, really fancy them), and I think Nikki would make a good champion. Unfortunately for her, this match has nothing to do with her. The return of Kharma has been much anticipated, and we saw at the Royal Rumble four months ago that she was on her way back. It seems Nikki Bella has the title so that Beth Phoenix doesn’t have to lose it to the returning Kharma, and that makes sense. It seems the story will be Nikki retains against the injured Phoenix before Kharma reappears and destroys Nikki with Beth looking on. Kharma actually has unfinished business with the Bellas after the way they berated her when she left, so I see Kharma getting the belt back at Over the Limit, dominating the diva scene before a Phoenix return for the dream feud we’ve all been waiting for can begin. Letting Nikki keep the belt for a month will also make Kharma’s victory seem a little more meaningful (though that all depends on The Bellas’ contract status). For what it’s worth, it’d be nice to see Nikki and Beth having some time for a good match; it would be good for everyone: It makes Beth look brave and strong, fighting through her injury, while Nikki will be allowed a good victory on PPV, which again will benefit Kharma when she eventually wins the title.

Match 5) Chicago Street Fight for the WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho
This, again, is obviously the match i’ll be most looking forward too. This will be a brawl more than a traditional, scientific wrestling match like at WrestleMania, but I trust these two to make gold of anything. One of my favourite moments ever is watching Punk emerge to face John Cena in Chicago last year to a thunderous ovation. This will happen again, and that is a great thing. I have no idea what to expect from the match itself, but their feud is personal, that if they can fight with that urgency, it will be fantastic. That is easy to predict, what isn’t so easy is the winner. Jericho certainly could win, but then either Punk would just win the title back, rendering it a little needless, or Lesnar would challenge him (see next match prediction) and that would be a heel vs heel feud with no build. So what is Punk wins? Does Jericho win another battle royal to get in the title picture? Maybe. Wrestling can facilitate anything, but it would be quite cynical to do it two months in a row. Would Lesnar take on and beat Punk for the title? After Lesnar is down with Cena, the only thing it would make sense for him to pursue would be the Championship. That could be great, but I don’t know how wise it would be to have Lesnar go over Punk with ease. These are some of  the calculations in the complicated title picture, but it makes it hard to predict. Ultimately, despite WWE’s history of jobbing out home town stars, I just can’t see them doing it to Punk in Chicago. If it is Lesnar’s destiny to take the title, Punk will need the best reign possible before dropping it, and at the least, dropping it to Lesnar is better than dropping it to most other heels on the roster just because of his monster-esque booking and a feud with him could allow Punk to flourish on the mic, especially since it seems he has some shoots in hand for Lesnar. All this nonsense aside, the match in hand will no-doubt steal the show, especially with Punk’s family to be at ringside. They are a big part of the feud, and as master psychologists, Punk and Jericho will make the most of it before handing Punk another memorable victory.

Winner: CM Punk

Match 6) Extreme Rules Match: John Cena vs Brock Lesnar
I’m intrigued by this match, but I wouldn’t say i’m looking forward to it. I’ve made my feelings about Brock Lesnar abundantly clear both here and on twitter (@RTVWOW), and I don’t relish seeing him wrestle, especially in those goofy MMA-inspired shorts which suggest its only real when it’s Lesnar. As usual, Cena is handling this all brilliantly, and it’s been refreshing seeing the attitude adjustments (cheap pop) in Cena’s character – even showing straight fear for the first time in pretty much ever. For some reason though, i’m just not pumped for the match. I think it’s partly because the result seems so sure, and also because of my worry that Lesnar will be doing MMA style grapples and beating the s**t out of Cena for a lot of the time. That style is not something I think lends itself to pro wrestling, and it isn’t one I want to see. The only result that makes any sense is Lesnar winning, and that’s fine; Cena going through a crisis of confidence is interesting, but Lesnar winning wont be of interest to me. Again, Seth Mates has come up with the sort of scenario which makes me wish he was still on WWE Creative: that after Lesnar eventually, inevitably decimates Cena, Cena is either written off TV through injury, or simply by ‘walking away’ in shame and a lack of confidence. Lesnar goes on to run rampant while Cena takes a much deserved rest until finally Cena returns to a huge reaction to save the day. It would be genuinely different and surely not that much of a risk with people like Punk, Orton and Sheamus around on the babyface side. That’s all wishful thinking though; lets just hope something more interesting than Brock Lesnar = beast that’s always on our TV happens.

Winner: Brock Lesnar

With the crowd on it’s side, I expect this PPV to be a big hit for the most part, and who knows, if the crowd is hot enough, I may even enjoy the main event (which shouldn’t be the main event) more than expected! One more time, for live tweets and more, follow @RTVWOW on twitter!

 

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.

RAW Recall (07/03/2011): Miz May Be ‘the Only Thought’

Miz delivers The People's Elbow to John Cena in a show-stealing segment

I have to say, i’m still not out of the woods in terms of busyness, but I do have time to write this RAW review, especially given that the last two days have seen the most traffic to this blog EVER. So thanks to everyone that has visited here, eventhough i’ve been on semi-hiatus.

The cold-opening with Undertaker’s promo was another nice one from Undi. His style is a little more relaxed under his ‘last outlaw’ gimmick, and it’s made him easier to listen to. Saying that, I don’t understand why he appeared. He spoke on Smackdown, and you’d have thought it would have been better to see Triple H. Seeing that ‘taker will, again, be talking on Smackdown, I don’t understand why he couldn’t announce the no-holds-barred stipulation there and save time for another match, perhaps featuring Trips.

The Abrupt cut to the backstage assault on Orton was nice, and a return to the brutality we’ve seen in the past from Nexus, and when Punk told them to drag Orton to the ring, I thought we’d get a return to the awesome iconography of their best days. Unfortunately, that moment was acted out during the commercial break, which I think was a mistake. As for Otunga’s match withe The Viper, it looked like Otunga had improved some what in-ring, but the match, and it’s finish, was unfortunately predictable. After taking a beat-down, Orton hit an RKO out of nowhere for the win. This has been Orton’s booking for a while now, and it’s predictable and not entertaining. The RKO is so awesome because it can be hit at any time, like Stone Cold’s Stunner, but if it’s used in the way it was this week it’s really unbelievable and completely empty of impact. And then, predictably, we saw the punt. Seeing a punt every week, on the dot, completely strips it of it’s meaning. I would rather have seen Orton take the Nexus members out in more imaginative, edgy ways that fit his persona. One of them could be punted, but i’d like to see the others attacked brutally away from the ring (backstage, at home, at a media appearance, for instance). Also, if Orton’s going to take out the rest of Nexus, spread it out throughout the Wrestlemania build-up, and on the weeks where Orton doesn’t take someone out, have Nexus be on top, doing something characteristically sick for CM Punk, to Orton. Something shocking, like putting his dad through a New Nexus style sacrifice, something that will make them seem really evil. That would make it more unpredictable, and therefore, more entertaining and shocking. As of now, it looks like it’ll be CM Punk on his own to take on Orton, though i’ve heard rumours that Mason Ryan will make it to the big dance, and at Wrestlemania, Nexus will be destroyed. This is arguably the least inspiring storyline going in to Wrestlemania, and something should be done to fix it. If I was tasked with saving the story, i’d rebuild Nexus in to the scary entity it used to be. Have Punk convince previous members, such as Tarver, Young, Sheffield (if he’s healthy) to re-join the group, and maybe some new members (Alex Riley? Awesome Kong?) and have them absolutely torment Orton while Punk keeps a big distance between him and the Viper, so that Orton, by the time Wrestlemania comes around, really wants to get at Punk. Also, play more on the past; talk more about Unforgiven, 2008, have Nexus play on some of the atrocities Orton has committed in the past, perhaps including past victims of the former heel Orton, and maybe have Nexus break in to his home and attack his family, like Orton did to HHH two years ago for instance. Have Nexus behaving in their old, sinister way, with Punk just talking all the way through. All this will make Punk over-confident, and he will agree to take on Orton one-on-one at Wrestlemania and get beaten, despite the eventual attempts of Nexus to interfere, which could be scuppered perhaps by the WWE lockerroom. Their match should be great anyway, but with an interesting, emotional story like that, it could be a show-stealer.

I was torn by the divas match. I really want to see more time, more effort (creatively), and more regard given to the divas division, but I thought the Michael Cole interruptions were really funny! It was unique and drew, rightly, tonnes of heat. It’s just a shame it had to be during a divas match, especially one that was actually taking shape quite nicely between Nikki Bella and Eve Torres.

The segment Cole was so keen to get to was his announcement of his special guest referee, and JBL’s entrance was a huge shock, even if it did turn out to be a red herring. Now I never had much time for the JBL gimmick, but I was very up for seeing him on RAW this week. Saying that, it was almost inevitable that Stone Cold would make his appearance here, with a huge Stunner to JBL before having a few un-PG beers and signing the contract to take the place of the special guest referee for the Cole-Lawler Wrestlemania match. This segment was awesome, from Cole’s obnoxious, smarmy heel characteristics, to the somewhat old-skool beer-bath Stone Cold gave Cole, humiliating him by pouring beers straight over his head while Cole whimpered like the worst kind of coward. The second Stunner after a beer-toast to JBL, was certainly reminiscent of the attitude era, and for those upset Cole didn’t get stunned – don’t worry, he’ll get his at Wrestlemania.

Daniel Bryan actually has some decent history with Sheamus, so a feud with him seems to make sense. Their match was regrettable short, but it was really a preview of next week’s title match in which is Sheamus doesn’t win, he will quit. That stipulation convinces me that Sheamus will indeed be ‘fired’ next week, Given that Dolph Ziggler is now on RAW, as we will see later, there is a spot for a heel on Smackdown (well, sort of, they need another big face really), so I think that’s where he’ll be heading, maybe to join Drew McIntyre.

CM Punk vs R-Truth was ok. The main thing I wanted to mention was how welcome a victory with the Anaconda Vice was. Could this point to the match at Wrestlemania being a submission match? Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I think it would be a good idea for variety. Ryan’s beat-down and shoulder-breaker to Truth was also cool.

As mentioned earlier, Dolph Zigger was, as I predicted, drafted to RAW, and his first match was against John Morrison. This match was ok, but they’re obviously holding a little back. This is a really mouth-watering feud, and a real picture of the future of the company. While I liked their match this week, my point really is that this points to a potentially great feud between the two!

Our main event segment was Cena’s ‘knock-out’ blow to The Rock. Well, it was far from that. Cena’s good at making fun of people (just ask Heath Slater), so it doesn’t need to be through rap. I’ve liked the return of ‘the Doctor of Thuganomics’, but only if he can pull it off, like he did the first time. Cena’s strongest stuff is about the Rock simply not being there, and he did talk about that a lot, and his amended t-shirt was a really cool move, but that was surrounded by an un-fluent, un-clever mess. An optimist might say that the poor quality of the rap might be a sign of a heel-turn, but unfortunately, given the face characteristics (such as the comedy props), I think it was just crap. It was now though that the Miz struck. Attacking Cena with his WWE title twice, Miz went on to deliver a great promo, which culminated in the awesome spot where he started his catchphrase, “because i’m The Miz …” before hitting his Skull-Crushing Finalé to Cena and then, in an unscrupulous affront to The Rock, performing The People’s Elbow to Cena and finishing his promo, “…and i’m AWEEEESOME!” Again, this storyline continues to soar. Though Cena’s promo was poor, the heat being built between him and Rock continues to build and make their eventual encounter seen almost mythical. And though Miz is definitely getting a rub from it all anyway, he is performing at Cena and Rock’s level, if not surpassing them the past couple of weeks. He is being made to seem a real, main event player, and certainly looks like he deserves to be there in every way.

RAW Recall (17/01/2011): Another Joins the New Nexus Flock

Punk kneels before his new leader to receive the iconic 'N' armband

The first match of RAW this week was, unfortunately, a big disappointment. The stage was set, as far as I believed, for a good tag match at the Royal Rumble between Santino & Kozlov against the Usos. The Usos score a clean victory over the champions, their match was delayed last week, and to add some genuine feeling to it, Tanina was backing Santino against her old allies. How does that make a PPV match, especially when there is barely another contending team for the titles? Instead, we get a five minute (if that) squash of the Usos on RAW in a tag title match. So now what? Not only did it render the past couple of weeks with these teams pointless, but it was a match too short to be in any way good. No Doubt Mark Henry will find another literally random partner to compete for the titles.

Luckily this was followed by the best match of the night, pitting face against face, United States Champion, Daniel Bryan against meteoric star, John Morrison. Both guys had been booked as incredibly strong up until this point, so it was a tough one to call. Lots of good technical back and forth here, and a nice element where the two were consciously shown to be equally-matched. The match had it’s share of physicality though, with Bryan nearly beating Morrison with a straight roundhouse and a horrifically powerful mid-air cross body to each other. After a throwback pin/reversal progression, Morrison nearly got caught in the LeBelle Lock. Escaping this, Morrison managed to hit his flash kick, and then his running knee for the victory, which seemed to impress the Bellas. Now I like this storyline with the Bellas being besotted with Bryan; it’s good for him and his character, and I like how Bryan’s natural skill and likability is being shown as admirable. Or is it? After the match, the Bellas were talking about Morrison, admiring his looks, seemingly a little disappointed in Bryan. Nonetheless, they went on to fight over who would be Bryan’s ‘first’. Now, whatever meaning you attach to that, I think it’s a step in the goofy direction. I wonder whether this could point to a Morrison heel-turn, somehow to do with ‘stealing’ the Bellas from Bryan; either that, or the more preferable situation where Brie (the nicer one – indeed, it wasn’t long ago, Brie was being shocked/disturbed by Nikki’s aggression and attitude) sticking with Bryan, and Nikki (the mean one (and genuinely decent wrestler)) valeting for a potentially heel Morrison. Whatever happens, with a victory under his belt, it seems this story will stretch at least to a US Championship defense, and more of these two working together is to welcomed. They are certainly two of the leading lights among the up-and-comers.

Orton and Ziggler had themselves a very good match too. It was a push match in the style of Miz’s last year against Orton and Cena in many ways. Ziggler was allowed to beat down on the Viper for a long time, really working in his leg and weakening him to make Ziggler look legit at this level. This was also achieved with back-and-forth which gave Ziggler the appearance of resiliency. Ziggler even came very close to beating Orton after reversing an Angle Slam in to his Sleeper, which really seemed to nearly end the match, before hitting him with his Fameasser for a VERY near fall. Water off a duck’s back to Ziggler, who decided to go for his finisher, the Zig Zag, the first attempt saw Orton hold the ropes, but Ziggler went for it again, and this time Orton reversed it in to a slightly messy but nice idea of an RKO for the win (I like Orton’s attempts at unique reversals of finishers in to the RKO). Both #1 Contenders looked strong in a good match that was nice build-up for the Royal Rumble.

Orton didn’t look so strong, however, when Miz, almost immediately, put a savage beat down on his Royal Rumble opponent. It was nice that they continued to attack Orton’s knee before ramming him brutally in to the announce table, ring post, and new favourite toy, the collapsible barrier at ringside. It was then that Miz delivered his catchphrase (as he’d promised to do earlier in the night). Very powerful and intense from The Miz, showing just how much of a step he gains (kayfabe) with his opportunistic ruthlessness.

The main event saw CM Punk against John Cena, and as soon it was announced that New Nexus were banned from ringside, I was even more sure of my prediction of last week that we would see a new member. Even before this new member was unveiled though, we had ourselves a good match. Cena dominated early, which made sense given he would be pretty mad at how Punk had treated him weeks ago, injuring him. Lots of back and forth and good reversals. Punk seemed to be re-jigging his moveset somewhat, reusing his springboard clothesline, and returning to his submission grounding, incorporating an awesome Koji Clutch in to his move-set, which had Cena in a lot of trouble (and made Cole (who had previously called the Koji Clutch the Anaconda Vice, a move that works on a different part of the body!) labeling Cena as the ‘submission specialist’ a damn joke). This match built perfectly, with both guys gaining momentum at the same time, simply moving towards their finishers as the match went on with reversals in to and out of the GTS and AA. Both guys looked very good, and it was at this point that the mysterious new member of the New Nexus (FCW talent, Mason Ryan) came to the ring. He distracted Cena so Punk could attack him. It was at this point that we saw the extraordinary scene of Punk opening his arms and asking Ryan  to attack him, which he duly did, destroying him with a big boot, causing the DQ victory for Punk. This is really unprecedented, and while it has similarities to the Straight-Edge Society, as long as they don’t start shaving each other’s heads, i’m happy to call it original, because there is something unique about it. It’s really a backwards look at the whole climate of wrestling, and it’s very interesting. Trust Punk to come up with something like it. As for Ryan, we’ll see in the coming weeks what he’s made of. The guys main problem is that he’s Welsh. I’ve never heard a wrestler with a Welsh accent speak and be able to be taken seriously, especially as a heel. His aesthetic similarity to Batista is remarkable, and it seems he’ll be treated similarly. He seemed quite sprightly when he delivered his boot to Punk, so maybe he’ll have a bit more about him than Batista (who is/was genuinely underrated to be fair) or fellow countryman Rob Terry (who it is impossible to underrate). Meanwhile, the growth of the New Nexus has been very good, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more member join in the coming weeks (either next week or at the Rumble).

 

RTV’s Preview of 2011!

This classic Survivor Series team from 2009 could comprise of some of 2011's biggest stars

This time last year, few would have believed most of  the four world title reigns emanating from these five superstars. In the past year, Sheamus has reigned twice, and incredibly surprisingly, The Miz and Jack Swagger have also become World champions. Indeed, these five men were consciously put together to represent the future of the WWE, and 2011, I believe, will be the year in which every one of them will have made it to the main event.

The Nexus
One storyline that must be talked about is the Nexus storyline. Consistently exciting if not always brilliantly executed, this storyline was undoubtedly the biggest storyline in wrestling last year, and indeed, for some years. I’m not going to predict the outcome of the storyline, but I would like to discuss how I believe it should run. The worst thing that could happen would be for Cena to act exactly as he did when Wade Barrett was in charge, and simply eliminate Nexus once and for all at Wrestlemania in ‘supercena’ fashion. Nexus’s management has changed, and so should he. We don’t need to see him taking out the Nexus one-by-one again. There are two ways (at least) that I would like it to go: one story would be similar to that of the 2001 Invasion in that, now established star CM Punk leads the group, other established stars could join up too (though hopefully only young, new talent and appearing on both shows. Under this arc, the lockerroom would essentially split in two, the young and hugry Nexus and the loyal WWE stars, culminating in a big Wrestlemania match to end it all. Another option is for Cena to turn heel this time and join Nexus. This would obviously lead to something else, but I don’t care what that would be; a Cena heel turn would be big and important enough to make whatever it could be a success.

The Divas Division
Another crucial aspect of this wrestling year will be the evolution of female wrestling. There have been some hugely positive signs from WWE recently: Nattie Neidhart winning the Divas title, a divas table match, longer divas matches, and the recent signing of Awesome Kong are all signs of the WWE taking female wrestling more seriously. Add to all that the talent already in place (Gail Kim, Melina, Beth Phoenix, AJ, Michelle McCool, as well as promising talents Layla and, yes, Nikki Bella. I would hope and expect WWE to take this golden opportunity, give more time to female wrestling and really make it a jewel in the respected WWE crown.

Randy Orton to Smackdown
This is a bold prediction, but I think it really needs to happen, and I actually think there’s a decent chance of it hapenning. The main event scene on Smackdown has gotten pretty stale as of late, and with new stars aplenty on RAW, that show will be able to spare talent. Orton would freshen up Smackdown no end, as well as that of RAW where he has been a regular fixture. I think WWE could go for it because he’ll be a big draw for the blue brand while RAW will draw on it’s own.

Every year, several people also get fired, and this year, like every other, their are people in danger of being ‘future endeavored,’ some that deserve it, and others that probably don’t.
Superstars/Divas That Should Be Fired (and very well could be)
Darren Young
R-Truth
The Great Khali
Rosa Mendes
Tyler Reks
Superstars/Divas That Should NOT be Fired (but might be anyway)
The Usos
Michael Tarver (HUGELY underrated. His injury and removal from Nexus could be the end of him)
Primo (Probably held back by his brother these days, could have a good on-screen story with AJ if WWE wanted it)
Yoshi Tatsu (Obviously a good wrestler, but the language barrier is damaging him)
Zack Ryder (Could be a legit US Champion in my eyes, but is getting treated like a jobber now)
JTG (WWE seem to want him around, but doing nothing on TV is awfully damaging)

Future Stars To Rise in 2011
Daniel Bryan – A lot of momentum behind AmDrag currently. It’s clear WWE were listening to the relentless ‘Daniel Bryan’ chants after he was released briefly. He has also been stealing shows whenever he has been in the ring, and isn’t far from proving himself a big draw. Feuds with main eventers like CM punk will establish him as a main eventer. I’m not certain he’ll win the WWE title, but he’ll reach that level.

John Morrison – Huge momentum right now, going in to his first challenge for the WWE Championship. In my opinion, he still can’t talk enough, but he is gaining in credibility. I think he could be a World Champion (as opposed to a WWE Champion, though I wouldn’t rule that out necessarily), but i’m sure he’ll be established as a future champion.

Wade Barrett – He came awfully close to a WWE Championship in 2010, and though his return after losing to Cena at TLC will be difficult to square, he’s already a main event player and could even go on to a WWE title.

Alberto Del Rio – Already practically a main eventer and will quite possibly make the leap to the World Heavyweight Championship this year.

Christian – The book on Christian is that Vinnie O’ Mac doesn’t think he’s a star and resents his time in TNA. Nonetheless, when Christian returns, it will be to take on main eventer Alberto Del Rio, and WWE are obviously aware of the natural desire of the fans for Edge and Christian to work together again (by their revival of their relationship on Smackdown vs RAW and at this year’s Slammy’s) so a Edge-Christian renewal (either as allies or antagonists). If these things happen, Christian will go on to reach the level his loyal fans feel he deserves.

Dolph Ziggler – The guy is on a huge run right now, and has had some excellent matches with established talent including the franchise, John Cena. I am absolutely certain he will be a main eventer this time next year.

Drew McIntyre – A few weeks ago, I was worried that his ‘chosen one’ persona was getting a little stale and forgotten, but of late he has been on a major charge, and an apparent relationship of some kind with Kelly Kelly seems to have catalysed his push again.

There are others, but these are the ones that really stand out. I haven’t included Miz and Swagger, as they have arguably already made it. As for other future stars like Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston, i’m sure they’ll make it eventually, but I think it might take them longer than this year.

Cena Heel Turn?
I’m sure it’ll happen at some point, eventually, if not this year. We can only hope!

RAW Recall (06/12/10): Cena’s Firing Brings Severance for Nexus

Rattled Nexus members turn their back on Barrett

I can’t believe John Cena is still stealing the headlines. Under these circumstances, it’s actually infuriating.

Anyway, starting off on a better note, the ending of the previous week’s RAW made the opening of this week’s episode ‘must see.’ Cole handled the segment wonderfully and got tonnes of heat for his holier-than-though bureaucratic attempts to worm out of the situation, eventually blaming ‘The King’ himself for stealing the spotlight. As ever with heels, he may have had something of a point, though he acted in such a way as to make the question of who was in the wrong very clear. Him getting an RKO from Orton was cool too as the fans loved it, and it just about came across that he was sending a message to the watching Miz.

Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella against Ted DiBiase and Maryse was a pretty good match. I do like the Brie Bella/Bryan burgeoning relationship, especially seen as Nikki has been doing a very good job of being so heelishly different to her sister as of late. It being a mixed tag match, there was also a focus on Maryse, and the diva components of the match took it over and made it more of an angle. DiBiase’s recent change appears now to have seen him eschew Maryse, and I think this is a good move. His demeanor now is much more interesting, and I look forward to seeing him more than I used to. These two will probably square off for another US title match at TLC, and if they do, it promises to be very good. Perhaps the Bellas fighting over Bryan will be enough of a distraction for him to drop the belt?

I like that, of the Hart Dynasty, it was Tyson Kidd to turn heel, as in these situations, you would expect the sparkier guy to be face and dazzle the crowd. Nonetheless, this feud needs to have more to it than it has, and maybe that’s what Tyson Kidd’s MASSIVE new associate will bring. It’s too early to tell with that though. It was a decent enough match, as is the least you’d expect from these two, and Kidd eventually held the tights for the win. On it’s own, that seems quite empty unless he starts doing more personal attacks on Smith. Hopefully, this new variable will add something of that to it; otherwise, kill the feud and move on.

Next up we had a 4 tag-team elimination match for the WWE Tag Team Championships. This could have meant one of two things; either Nexus survive and look united in the face of Cena, or Cena costs them the titles somehow – the latter was the case. The match was pretty good in a lot of ways. Gabriel and Slater were great as a tag team and managed to fight their way to the final two against Santino and Kozlov. It was now that Cena struck, causing enough of a diversion so that Santino could use his Cobra for the win. Now, in terms of the Cena-Nexus storyline, this was good – it continued Cena guerrilla exploits and further wounded Nexus in an exciting way. And I do like Santino and Kozlov, my only problem is that, when they are the best pick for a babyface tag team, that’s pretty telling on the state of the tag team division. I think the Usos, who also gave a good accounting of themselves, will be taking them on first.

I wasn’t too keen on the Sheamus-Morrison segment. Though I like the history of the Irish kings to an extent, I think Sheamus overdid it with the dogma of being a king (calling the fans his ‘subjects’ etc), but it was Morrison that was the real problem. He tried to be funny, and he is not funny. He was bleating on about elves and gnomes for what seemed to be five minutes. He didn’t stop! It just goes to show that Morrison can’t cut it as a main event face yet. They’ll probably have a good match at TLC before HHH comes back to take Sheamus to task on calling himself a king.

A very high quality divas match took place next between two of the best in the business: Melina and Natalya. Both were showing great technical prowess and using impressive suplexes and slams before Natalya understandable went over. What was interesting was that it was face vs face. It seems that Natalya may have to beat either one or both of LayCool first, but I can see a Melina heel-turn coming up. After the match, LayCool attacked Natalya, and the announcers made a point of  discussing how Melina didn’t come to Natalya’s aid. Perhaps it will be some sort of ‘friendly rivalry’ turning Melina heel. It’s just a hunch, but it was definitely hinted at, and if we saw more matches between these two, it would be great for the divas division.

The main event match between between Randy Orton and Alex Riley was pretty good, but more dominated by the angle regarding the Miz. Alex Riley gave a decent accounting of himself, playing on Orton’s injured knee and the like, but the match was more about Orton punishing Riley, like he did with Cole, to send a message to The Miz, who again avoided the Viper’s clutches, hitting him from behind with a Skull-Crushing Finale to end the match when the result was inevitable. Miz elected to ‘show’ Orton what the stipulation will be at TLC by getting a table out. Before he could send Orton through it though, Orton reversed and looked to put Miz through the table. Escaping, however, Miz left his apprentice to an MDF fate as Orton used an uncharacteristic powerbomb Riley through the table. This, should have been the ending of the show in  my eyes.

Like with my review of the past Smackdown, i’m not going to give much time to the ending of RAW this week, because I hated most of it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind Cena sneaking around and trapping Nexus one by one (though I would like it to be a bit more methodical and with less acceptance from security and the like, and I don’t want to hear his music! Why would they play it!?), and I also understand the idea of Nexus questioning their leader in light of this. What I don’t like is that it looks like it’s going to be used as leverage to bring Cena back to the company (kayfabe). Within two weeks of Survior Series that is, frankly, a joke. It makes a mockery of the storyline, a storyline that was excellently dramatic and very engaging. Now, it’s just stale. I don’t know how Nexus will progress from here. Everything points to a split, but the new merch seems to suggest otherwise. I presume that Cena will take on Barrett at TLC, but I can’t see what will come of that. I can’t see there being another ‘free or fired’ type stipulation, so what the situation needs is some sort of change to the Nexus, perhaps a new member. I really think Cena needs do beat Barrett (or vise versa) and move on. If they can get it past TLC, the Royal Rumble offers lots of opportunities for shifts. For instance, I think Jericho could come back as a face and take on his former rookie. What is clear is that, especially if Cena is re-hired, something drastic needs to change, or this story will become completely unsatisfying.