Over the Limit Review 2012: Over the Limit and Jumping the Shark

Punk drops the Macho Man elbow on Bryan in the middle of a great battle, but this wasn’t the enduring image of the show.

Right, I don’t know what I just saw, other than a surprisingly consistently high quality PPV with a bit of pro-wrestling sureeality tacked on the end – and not a good, interesting kind of surreality. Thankfully, I am able to put the truly great match between Punk and Bryan at centre stage to the event in my own little way by making it the cover picture of the review. So, let’s talk this through, shall we?

Match 1) Christian Returned to Win the ‘People Power’ Battle Royal and to Gain an Intercontinental Championship Shot
This match was actually announced and started (or at least the entrances did) on the Youtube preshow. This was basically a fantastic move; the Kane-Ryder match was fine and probably got some people interested, but the last 10 minutes of the preshow thereafter would have been very convincing for undecided fans as we had introductions for the commentators (setting the PPV scene itself), but especially all the intros for the battle royal which would start the show. They offered you the match and then cut out before the PPV started. I doubt many bought the PPV just for the battle royal, but I think it would have whetted the PPV appetite enough to get buys. Another great thing about the battle royal was the amount of young talent it spotlighted: Tyson Kidd, The Usos, JTG, Yoshi Tatsu, among other who are better known but are struggling for TV time, like Alex Riley, Tyler Reks, Curt Hawkins, Michael McGillicutty, and especially Drew McIntyre. A clever aspect of this stipulation was that the winner could pick either the United States Championship or the Intercontinental Championship to challenge for, making it hard to narrow down the potential winners because it could be either face or heel. I don’t like to do play by play on battle royals, but it was one of the better ones. They can often be slow and clunking, but this was fast-paced and exciting. Especially Tyson Kidd made the most of his minutes with some great high-flying action with which he managed to get a reaction from the crowd, including most notably a springboard double dropkick. Eventually though, it was down to -as I thought – three heels: The Miz, David Otunga, and Christian; but then something unexpected happened: Miz and Otunga teamed up on Christian. This seemed like clear babyfacing characterisation, which I wasn’t expecting and wasn’t sure if I liked, but then he managed to eliminate Miz (around the turnbuckle with both of them on the apron) and seemed to pick Santino to challenge for the US title, which would make him heel, so I chalked it all up to the audience favouring Christian because of his return.

Kofi Kingston & R-Truth def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
I saw some good responses to this match, notably from a wrestling writer I respect (@AKATheMaskedMan), but I didn’t really see anything special here, apart from after Kofi’s hot tag, the few minutes thereafter being very explosive. It just felt to me like going through the motions. Admittedly for these four, going through the motions is entertaining, but I just feel like i’ve seen these guys together thousands of times, and it felt like just another time. Until the hot tag that is. Kofi has one of the best comeback’s there is, and from then on, it all built well around his incredible leaping attacks to an eventual Trouble in Paradise to Ziggler for the retention. No surprises here, but I think both teams have problems. Kingston and Truth’s chemistry is still implied at best while Ziggler is losing all the credibility he earned in his high profile title matches at the turn of the year. Kingston and Truth can still improve, but I think it should be the end of the line for Ziggler and Swagger. They can’t keep this up and be interesting. I saw Abraham Washington hinting about taking over their services from Vickie Guerrero, but here’s what should happen: Swagger and Ziggler break up, Swagger joins All World and Ziggler gets himself in to a #1 Contender match at No Way Out and wins impressively to take on Punk at Money in the Bank. As for the tag champs, I think i’d give them Titus O’Neill and Darren Young next.

Match 3) Layla def. Beth Phoenix to Retain the Divas Championship
This match was a surprise in many ways, but luckily, in the right way this time. I had hoped for them to be given time in the preview, and I was very pleased when it actually happened. Given the (relatively, for divas) good time for this match, both Layla and Beth put together a solid, entertaining match. It showed a technicality not often shown, or not often given the time to show as Beth worked Layla’s legitimately hurt knee brutally, using the ringpost, focused power moves and submissions. Layla showed a great deal of gumption in staying in the fight, and really took it to Beth herself with some well executed strikes, dropkicks and reversals. Indeed, as the match went on, there were some cool sequences as Beth tried to finish Layla off, with Layla being too quick and determined until The Glamazon walked in to a stunning Lay Out neckbreaker to earn Layla the retention. This is bittersweet though. I am very pleased that Layla has been afforded some big legitimacy by beating Phoenix clean, as well as the knock-on legitimacy that gives to the championship; but though the Kharma chants annoyed me during this match (seriously fans, at least give what you’re watching a chance!), I, too am desperate to see Kharma vs Beth Phoenix. This result doesn’t help Phoenix’s credibility as an opponent for Kharma and so either Beth will have to go up against her sooner without really showing her power (recently), or we’ll have to wait. What I would do is bring Kharma back to feud with Layla. The Kharma-Gail Kim feud in TNA has become very well thought of, and I think Layla could help replicate that, with Kharma eventually taking the belt. Meanwhile, give Beth the chance to build up her own sense of invincibility (again), and have her face Kharma when she becomes champ.

Match 4) Sheamus def. Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Fatal Four Ways can go either way: clunking messes, or high octane masterpieces – this was the latter. Going in, the main narrative was about Sheamus and Randy Orton and their tense oneupmanship, but for me, the star was Chris Jericho. Everyone was great here, and made a fantastic, breathless match, but Jericho was a magician here, doing little things which seemed so fresh and innovative throughout the match which really helped build the matches drama. The start of the match was a bit more formulaic, with the heels teaming up on the faces, getting the upper hand for the most part until one of them (Del Rio) went for a cover. Then the honour amongst thieves was gone, but the match also went to the next level. There was a distinct period in which either Jericho was allowed to look fantastic, or just looked fantastic anyway after he hit a signature enziguiri to Orton and then a baseball slide to Sheamus sending him flying rapidly in to the announce table, leaving Jericho standing alone in the ring like a mastermind. Jericho and Orton entered in to some really great back-and forth, before being cleared by Del Rio and Sheamus, who effectively replaced them in the ring after Sheamus shoved them both off the top turnbuckle for a nasty spill, and showed their own wares, with Del Rio using Ricardo Rodriguez to gain an advantage and work Sheamus’s injured arm. The interaction between them all grew faster, more innovative and unpredictable as the match went on. The first of the really spectacular sequences came when Orton hit his Hangman DDT on Sheamus and turned in to a really wrenching cross arm breaker from Del Rio, before Jericho went to break it up with a Lionsault, only for Del Rio to get his knees up, Orton to hit Jericho with his signature backbreaker, and Sheamus to recover to hit Orton with the Irish Curse backbreaker for a good near fall. The match would continue in this vein until it’s end. After more fast-paced action, including a double Hangman DDT to Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez together, Alberto managed to get Jericho in the cross arm-breaker, but the veteran managed to use that position to reverse in to the Walls of Jericho. With the Walls of Del Rio, Sheamus tried to break it up with a Brogue Kick, but Jericho ducked the kick while keeping the hold on Del Rio! Amazing, and then even better as Sheamus went to shoulder block Jericho, but Jericho rolled through to secure the Walls on Sheamus. Again, Jericho was looking invincible with sheer skill and experience. An RKO put paid to him momentarily though as Sheamus and Orton renewed their rivalry in micro form for a little while, with a breathtakingly quick call-and-response of  Orton ducking Brogue Kicks and Sheamus avoiding RKO’s until, finally, Shemus hits the Brogue Kick. I’d have bet on the three count there, but in classic Jericho fashion, he popped up out of nowhere to roll Sheamus us, and i’d have bet EVEN MORE on that near fall, but Sheamus managed to kick out and secure Jericho for the White Noise and the victory. It was seriously one of the best match finishes i’ve ever seen. Everyone looked phenomenal in it and for the first time, Sheamus looked like a champion and not just someone carrying the belt between Brogue Kicks. I would like to see Jericho get another match with Sheamus as I think his effort was central to this match, but if he is leaving (please no!), it’ll be interesting to see who will get the next shot. I know he and Orton have a friendly rivalry going on, and Orton has currency having not being pinned, but surely it would be bad to have one of those two tap talents turn heel at the moment. Maybe Del Rio? I don’t know, I would have picked Christian were it not for what would happen later on in the night.

Match 5) Brodus Clay def. The Miz
Another bad night for the Miz in kayfabe and in reality. Having come close but lost in the battle royal, Miz was sent out to dance. I actually enjoyed his thread about being the best dancer in the WWE, simply because of how irrelevant it was despite his sincerity. His dancing was quite entertaining though, even if it was regressive to his career (seriously, it was like the sort of thing he was shown doing on his way to WrestleMania in that epic video package of WrestleMania 27). I’m being very positive here when I say that it’s good he was on the PPV twice because when Brodus came out, it was little different to most of Brodus’s matches. Ok, Brodus had a bit of work to do, but there have been others who have provided the smallest of tests before being literally squashed, and Miz was one of those. As for Brodus, nice to see him incorporate a new move in the super fall away slam type move from the turnbuckle; give it a dinosaur name and let’s carry on. As for Miz, I don’t know what to say. In the past, people were suggesting this run would lead to him ‘snapping’ and becoming a destroyer, but now he just seems lost. I think he needs time away from TV (and I don’t just mean being left off RAW) – he should get frustrated and try to entreat Laurinaitis for a spot again, but while Ace is angry about something, and get himself ‘fired’ for a month or two. Give him a return and I think a lot will be forgiven.

Match 6) Christian def. Cody Rhodes to Win the Intercontinental Championship
Speaking of returns, previously, on Over the Limit: Christian, a heel returned and got teamed up on by heels, making him appear sympathetic, but then he seemed to target babyface Santino’s US title – a heel move, so he seemed to be still a heel. Now he was backstage as Cody Rhodes bragged about Christian being lucky he didn’t choose him, so Christian chose him to face and in so doing became totally babyface. This left us in a bind. Rhodes only won the title back three weeks ago, but Christian as a returning babyface who earned his shot earlier in the night should win the match hands down otherwise, according to wrestling rules. Despite the awkward situation, I was still looking forward to the prospect of these two having a match. It was good for sure, but a little understated, which can probably be put down to Christian being away from the ring for a while and he and Rhodes not really wrestling each other before. There were some nice progressions, and some surprisingly brutal moments outside the ring, but I think my favourite bit about this match was when Rhodes hit his spectacular moonsault to the former World Champion and only got two at which point Rhodes started ranting, including the quite powerful “I’m 26 damnit, name somebody who’s better than me?!” Well quite. Unfortunately, this lack of focus cost him the match as Christian recovered and hit the Killswitch for the win and the title. The positives: I like Christian. He deserves gold and being a main event calibre guy, he will be good for the title generally. Also, this could lead to a Rhodes-Christian feud, which could be superb. The negatives: Rhodes shouldn’t have won the title just to lose it three weeks later. It isn’t good for anyone. I get that Big Show was probably given it as a ‘lifetime achievement’ thing, but that really messed everything up. Rhodes should have retained at WrestleMania and kept it til now. His reign would have been even longer and impressive that it was until WrestleMania, he wouldn’t look transitional now, and this title loss would actually mean something. Also, as great as the IC title is, Christian may potentially suffer from being booked at that slightly lower level. Let’s see and try not to chant Kharma and/or Colt Cabana … yet.

Match 7) CM Punk def. Daniel Bryan to Retain the WWE Championship
The fact that this match wasn’t on last is some sort of sick joke – a bit like the main event, but more on that later. This match was the complete opposite to our main event. No nonsense, full of passion, effort and sacrifice. There are some times when I don’t want to write up play by play of matches because it can’t live up to the action. This is one of those matches. If you haven’t just watch it, and you can read the rest of what I say about it and hopefully agree! It was clear that the crowd were here to see this match, and probably this match alone, because they were alive for it, duel-chanting ‘CM Punk’ and ‘Daniel Bryan’ for most of the duration, and who could blame them. As usual, a good audience made a great match a awe-inspiring Match of the Year candidate. These two wrestled a great WWE style match, but with lots of influences from their more free indy past, with Punk going beyond his normal (admittedly already large) arsenal to make his offense completely unpredictable, including rareties from him like the curb stomp, A Perfect Plex, and more submissions than he usually goes for. In fact, against submission expert Bryan, Punk was wise to show his own prowess to protect his ‘Best in the World’ crown, and so he worked Bryan’s legs, following up with Figure Four Leg Locks and Indian Death Lock’s looking for the submission. For Bryan’s part, he was everything of Punk’s match, working stronger than even he usually does with kicks and knees to Punk’s neck and back, and using more of his over a hundred submissions than usual, including that amazing Mexican surfboard he executed while pulling Punk down further in to a chin lock which looked incredibly painful. This back and forth didn’t come in phases, but was constant, and gave the match a real urgency. While I said I wouldn’t detail play by play, I will talk about a few, including this amazing progression where, after trading headbutts and kicks, the two artfully and with beautiful timing, missed a roundhouse each before Punk shouldered Bryan for a GTS. Bryan then countered in to a roll up, which Punk reversed in to his own roll up, which Bryan then maneuvered in to a YES Lock attempt. Punk escaped this and managed to slingshot Bryan over the top rope, only for Bryan to skin the cat, straight in to a huge roundhouse from Punk which would have got 3, but Bryan managed to get his foot on the rope. Phenomenal stuff! At this point, the action was relentless and the crowd were going out of their minds! A Macho Man elbow drop got another 2 count, but Bryan wouldn’t stay down. Indeed, he came back with more relentless knees and soon after reversed Punk’s running bulldog, amazingly, in to the YES Lock. Punk sold it well, looking like even he may well tap. Indeed, knowing this, he had to roll Bryan over for the pin while Bryan kept the hold on trying to make Punk submit. Punk didn’t submit until after the referee had counted 3, when it was safe to. These man were equal in this match throughout, and Punk’s win was by a very narrow margin forged in grit and determination to withstand the YES Lock. At first I thought we’d been given one of those simultaneous pin/submission finishes, which lead to confusion and a lack of clarity that hurts the package of the single match, but it was later clear that Punk was wise enough to only tap after Bryan was pinned. Excellent, simple premise. Without much accompanying storyline, this was all about the wrestling, which is a great way to have a first match, and boy, the wrestling was great! This is a sure-fire Match of the Year candidate! And given the closeness of the contest, and the fact that Punk seemed beatable to Bryan, they could well have one more dance together at No Way Out – something i’m sure we all want to see. The story writes itself with Bryan having come so close. It’s these sort of defences which make a championship prestigious. Unfortunately, that was somewhat undermined by the jokes that followed it …

Match 8) Ryback def. Camacho
I realise this was intended to cleanse the palette, but as The Masked Man (again) said “Thank god that Ryback match was there to wash the taste of good wrestling out of my mouth.” One point here is that we didn’t need a palette cleanser, because the main event was hardly a super-serious main event that lots of people cared about; it was, itself, a joke. The next match was John Cena and John Laurinaitis – I doubt they were worried about trying to follow Punk-Bryan. I like Camacho, and I think if WWE were smart, they’d make more of him and Hunico, but the fact is, Camacho is pretty much nothing – there is no far anticipation to see what he might do to a guy, so he makes a great jobber, ridiculously. So not only was this match not good for Cena, Ace, or the show, it wasn’t good for Ryback or Camacho either, as Ryback didn’t look any better than we’ve seen because he only beat Camacho! For this to have any meaning, he would have needed to move up the chain a bit; give him Jinder Mahal or something. Even then, it was just a waste of time in my estimation, and not needed.

Match 9) John Laurinaitis def. John Cena
First of all, my most sympathetic reading of this: The WWE believe Big Show to be very popular, which he is, and John Laurinaitis to be very unpopular, which he is. So seeing Big Show side with John Laurinaitis and help him beat John Cena should be shocking right? It should feel like a betrayal that the fans will respond to emotionally, right? Wrong, and it’s because of the execution. WWE did everything to make the result of this obvious, from Show being fired only this week, to adding the ‘if you don’t win, you’re fired’ stip to John Laurinaitis, a man which a lot of the audience could work out wasn’t about to be fired, and further, the stip that no one could interefere or they would be fired, meaning that if someone not employed (kayfabe) by WWE was to show up, their intentions would be obvious. This match was going through the motions until Big Show … showed, and when he did, it was like most Big Show appearances, a little empty. And that’s the best thing you could say about this match. In order to redeem this at all, WWE needed to clear a lot of the telegraphing stipulations; John Laurinaitis, lauding all his power about special referees and changing stipulations to make it seem that, somehow, he could beat Cena, but not think it a foregone conclusion. He also should have ‘fired’ Big Show much longer ago – at least a month – so he wouldn’t be the first person people were thinking about when they were wondering how Ace could win. Have Laurinaitis throw everything at Cena, special refs, Lord Tensai, David Otunga, even restarting a match is Cena wins but have Cena endure through it all until Laurinaitis goes to run. Then, as they did, have Big Show … show, and have everything play out as it did, and there you have it, all the consequence, betrayal, and emotion you were aiming at. Oh boy, how far we were from that! I have said in the title that I felt the end of this PPV ‘jumped the shark’ and that refers solely to this match. For those not familiar with the expression, it means a few different but closely related things; the definition i’m using here is along the lines of when a particular scene, episode, character or aspect of a show in which the writers or actors use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate – and unsuccessful – attempt to keep viewers’ interest. I’ll explain the exact moment when this happened later. The match started with about thirty minutes left, and that was when alarm bells were ringing. I know Ace is a wrestler, but his character is a joke; he wasn’t going to have a straight up match with Cena for thirty minutes. I knew something bad was coming, but I had no idea how bad! I don’t want to waste my time talking about it. It doesn’t deserve it, but if I was to say it made me feel like i’d had water poured all over me (and down my pants), like i’d been sprayed with a fire extinguisher for a full minute, and had trash dumped on me, among other things, for about twenty full minutes, you’re close to how I felt when watching this. Then we got to the point where Cena and got an unconscious Johnny on commentary with himself and started to act out roles, him being Cole, and Ace being Booker T, AND ACE WENT ALONG WITH IT mumbling ‘five time … five time …’ that I couldn’t work out what the hell I was watching. That was where it jumped the shark. It broke the fourth wall in a jokey, inappropriate way, in a main event of a PPV that had earlier featured one of the best matches in recent memory yet was being deemed less important than this. Now maybe all of the genuinely clownish nonsense was supposed to set us up for what WWE expected to be a big, hurtful fall, but we’ve already established that it didn’t happen, and why it didn’t happen. Twenty minutes of Cena and Laurinaitis acting out a horrible three stooges impersonation, followed by a heel turn by the Big Show that everyone expected and no one cared about. It was flatter and stupider than a pancake. I don’t know what to say about it, it was a travesty, should never have happened, and certainly shouldn’t have been the main event over any of the top title matches. One saving grace is that Big Show is a heel now, and should (should) be more interesting as a character and a wrestler. They should Mark Henryfy him (eventhough he wouldn’t be as good) and when Henry comes back, make them Ace’s ‘3 Minute Warning’ style bodyguards/tag champions and we might be getting somewhere. The one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind the whole time was that Cena was just behaving strangely, like he was on RAW. I hope he wasn’t just allowed to go out and ‘have fun’ like he was seemingly on RAW, because as funny as it was (in context, in the middle of the show, some of it would have been funny), it’s no place for RAW main events, and certainly no place for PPV main events. If this is some reaction to his personal problems, I really think it’s time he takes time off. He needs it. We need it. See this for more: https://rtvwrestling.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/john-cena-your-newly-likable-heroic-underdog-is-in-danger-of-becoming-unlikable-again/

A very good show then, punctuated with two fantastic World Title matches which was ruined by the main event. This is why Punk/Bryan should have been the focus. The crowd obviously wanted it, the crowd obviously loved it, and it would be better for everyone, the WWE Championship, and the WWE.

In the mean time, for more opinions and live tweeting of RAW and PPV’s, follow me on twitter @RTVWOW!

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Over the Limit Preview & Predictions, 2012

Over the Limit, 20/05/2012, from the PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC

Over the Limit, 20/05/2012, from the PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC

I won’t beat around the bush. While Extreme Rules has historically been a great PPV on the calendar, Over the Limit has never in it’s short history been a most enjoyable PPV. Unfortunately, I don’t see this being much different, partly because it comes so close off the heels of Extreme Rules. Nonetheless, this is a pro-wrestling PPV, and the two title matches are chock-full of great talent, no less our WWE Championship match between two of the very best wrestlers in the world. There aren’t many matches on the card, and Cody Rhodes and Santino Marella have been playing up their champion vs champion feud, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see an impromptu non-title match between those two, alongside any number of FUNKASAURUS and Ryback job matches.

As ever, follow me on Twitter @RTVWOW for live-tweets and bonus reaction to the World of Wrestling!

Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Sheamus (c) vs Randy Orton vs Alberto Del Rio vs Chris Jericho
This is a fatal four way in which all four are great workers, and that is mouthwatering. However, fatal four way matches can be messy and hard to follow, so it’s success will depend on the booking and the skills of the wrestlers involved. Luckily to that end, as mentioned, we have four good to great wrestlers involved. If there are some clever unique booking on this smaller PPV stage where there is less risk, it could be a very very good match. The only person i’m sure wont win is Randy Orton, simply because that would lead to an Orton-Sheamus rematch feud at a time when they both need to be babyface. There has been a lot of narrative (not on TV) about this (somehow) being Jericho’s last chance to win in his career, and so with that in mind, I think Jericho is the main threat to Sheamus’s title. Jericho has a solid and well-maintained history of stealing championships in matches with more than two people, and so if he is to win, I don’t doubt it would be by taking advantage of someone else’s efforts while no one is looking – or something similar. Despite that point, I still see Sheamus defending successfully. I think he’s having a decent (if unspectacular) reign that only started at WrestleMania, and I think they’ll want to give him a reign of a decent length to make him somewhat.

Winner: Sheamus

2) Tag Team Championship Match: Kofi Kingston & R-Truth (c) vs Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
Kofi and Truth haven’t been exciting me too much since teaming up; their chemistry has seemed lacking and while I appreciate their talents, I think Primo & Epico were objectively better tag team champions. Because of that – though I want to be proven wrong – I can see this match being watchable, but not much more, even with the inclusion of Ziggler. Excitement for the match is further nullified by the fact that the result seems cut-and-dry. With Kofi and Truth relatively high profile for the division and brand new champions, they wont be losing it now, and the victory over a strong team like Swagger and Ziggler will be purely to give them a rub.

3) Divas Championship Match: Layla (c) vs Beth Pheonix
This match is an intriguing one. The returning Layla has some momentum and fan support behind her, while being a very underrated wrestler. Her smaller size against the also interesting story of Phoenix returning angry from losing her championship could be make for a interestingly and impressively booked match. If given time, this could be an unexpected hit for the PPV. There is a problem though. With Kharma surely to return imminently to feud with Beth, WWE seem to have booked themselves in to a corner. Before Layla returned, most expected Kharma to be first back, take the Divas championship, and call out Beth. Layla as champion obviously throws a spanner in here. If Beth beats her, she loses a lot of credibility, and could fall out of the spotlight which is a shame for a very popular and talented wrestler who has a lot of good will on her side after an injury return. On the other hand, Beth certainly can’t lose to Layla if she’s to be a credible challenge to legitimate monster, Kharma. So neither can win without causing significant damage to the other. The only option, as I see it, is to give them decent time for both to shine, but eventually have Beth seem dominant, and in an aesthetically dominant position (press slam position or similar), about to win the match, when Kharma’s music hits, she comes to the ring and attacks Beth. Beth wins by DQ and Layla keeps her title. The Beth-Kharma feud is exciting enough to not need the title, so it would protect Layla and add more depth to the division with her in championship feuds and Beth-Kharma happening separately.

Winner: Beth Phoenix

Match 4) WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs Daniel Bryan
This match should categorically be the main event, but it doesn’t look like it will be after being oveshadowed by the Cena-Laurinaitis rivalry as the ‘go home’ RAW ended. I do think it should (and could) go on after the divas match though; for one thing, this divas match will be more than the usual light relief this Sunday, and despite it being downgraded by a match involving a retired wrestler, I think WWE will want to profile this match high up the card. The Cena-Laurinaitis match will be very different to this anyway, so they wont have to worry about following the (hopefully) wrestling spectacle that Punk-Bryan will create (though I worry about untenable expectations from the fans). This, indeed, will be a pure wrestling match. There is barely a story here. Bryan got this opportunity by winning a #1 Contender’s match and while he’s had some run-ins with Punk since, they haven’t really developed an ‘issue’ together. That means the match will be free of outside metaphorical influence and will instead be just about the wrestling – something both men hold close to their character. I doubt Bryan will win; he’ll get the rub from wrestling the company’s second biggest star in a high-profile match for the top title, but Punk is categorically ‘the man’, at least in the championship picture, while giving Bryan the title would seem like too much too soon. This, no doubt, is testing the waters for him to be competing at the highest level, but they wont follow through with it yet at the expense of Punk.

Winner: CM Punk

Match 5) John Cena vs John Laurinaitis
My wrestling writing abilities have deserted me here. I literally don’t know what to say about this match. Without lots of help, Johnny Ace wont be able to hold a candle to Cena in the ring. I think the main interest will be in watching Ace in the ring and possibly throwing an Ace Crusher (for one thing, if he does that, how will it be treated be the announcers with it basically being an RKO?). This is literally all I can think to say about the actual match. The real story is how it will finish. As soon as the stipulation that Laurinaitis will be fired if he loses, and that no anyone interfering will be fired was added, it was crystal clear that Johnny Ace would somehow be winning given his effectiveness in the role and only recent promotion to be GM of both RAW and Smackdown. Ace can’t beat Cena clean, so the question becomes: which (kayfabe) uncontracted wrestler will help Ace win? Well, the answer is either Brock, Big Show, or a surprise. Obviously, a complete surprise would be welcome, but I think the most likely answer is Big Show, doing what Ace says to get his job back. I approve of this too because Big Show could make a monster heel again very easily and would make his character infinitely more interesting. As for Cena, I hope they follow through with what should have happened after Extreme Rules and have in in a state where he needs time away from the ring. The very good reason of his current personal problems aside, he has gained a lot of good will against The Rock and Brock Lesnar, but he is close to losing it if the WWE refuse to show any genuine consequence of all the tests he is facing. I wrote an entire article about it here: https://rtvwrestling.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/john-cena-your-newly-likable-heroic-underdog-is-in-danger-of-becoming-unlikable-again/ Whatever happens, this match has flummoxed me ever since it was booked. I just want to see an Ace Crusher.

Winner: John Laurinaitis

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.

Smack of the Week (20/05/2011): 99-100%

Christian and Randy Orton face off before their match at Over the Limit

This show was bookended by Randy Orton and Christian showcasing their honour and their relationship of respect. First off, Christian took on Sheamus in a physical bout which saw Christian often in flight mode, but taking the role of classic resilient face character against the sheer brute power of the Celtic Warrior. That is not to say Sheamus is free of flair, and ha and Christian had some very nice technical back and forth before Captain Charisma finally managed to roll up his adversary for the three count (in a way which made him seem very game and spared Sheamus the ignominy of being dominated). Following the match, Mark Henry came out to attack Christian, and he and Sheamus did indeed start to savagely beat down the former world champion. In previous weeks, Orton has been very quick to come to Christian’s aid, but this time, he made a point of showing a delay in aiding his comrade/adversary. Finally, however, he did come to Christian’s aid and both managed to fend of the heels to keep alive a tenuous and temporary alliance.

Next up was Divas Champion Brie Bella against Natalya. I often say that the Bellas are underrated, and this may be an example of it. Brie and Nattie had a nice match which was given a nice amount of time (which in itself just goes to show the positive impact Kharma has already had on the divas division). Nattie was obviously the one leading predominantly, but there were some very nice sequences, like Nattie’s sitout takedown in to pinning combination. It seems that this was about boosting Brie’s momentum going in to Over the Limit where she will defend her title against Kelly Kelly. To this end, Brie was booked to be able to hang with Natalya, and eventually beat her clean with a powerful combination ending with her version of the X Factor and the pinfall. This was obviously good for Brie, but I think it was almost a step too far in terms of believability. This would work well as a further step of booking someone strongly. Nonetheless, it was a good match, and as I say, a good sign for the division. Kharma was a notable absence, but I think that was to create a sense that she may not have an impact at OTL, eventhough she obviously will.

Then, out came Ezekiel Jackson, to cut a babyface promo in the wake of his split from Corre. It was better than I expected from Big Zeke, as he came across as confident and determined, and didn’t seem like a big dope. This eventually led to Zeke teaming with Kane and Big Show, ostensibly because they were impressed by him showing the individualism and honour to finally turn on the bad guys. I don’t have heart enough to really discuss this match – not because it was bad, but because these six have been wrestling each other in some form for weeks, eventhough this was admittedly a new combination. Though there was a point to it in terms of creating a building and building intensity, Zeke’s sequence of multiple slams just went to show his lack of actual wrestling ability. Though he’s improving, he is still far too limited for any sort of major place in my mind. Anyway, the big faces got the win eventually to help build momentum for Zeke’s face chase of Wade Barrett’s Intercontinental Championship at OTL.

Following this, Chavo Guerrero got to cut his first promo in years as far as I can remember, and it was a nice one, claiming that he could beat Daniel Bryan quicker than Sin Cara did. At this point, I worried that Bryan was being buried – used as a toy for a feud. However, this was no burial, and Bryan again managed to have a great match with Chavo, as you would fully expect. They had instant chemistry, and eventhough it was only 5 minutes, it was a great 5 minutes. I would have liked to have seen a longer time-limit perhaps, but that would have detracted from the arrogance of the challenge. Although Chavo came very close, Bryan was booked as a resilient athlete and managed to kick out of Chavo’s most powerful moves. Following this, Chavo started to frustratedly beat down AmDrag, only to be interrupted by Sin Cara, setting the stage for their match at OTL.

Last week, Cody Rhodes defeated Ted DiBiase after DiBiase rejected Rhodes’s paper bag. This week their interaction was incredibly enigmatic. DiBiase came out with Rhodes and his bag-wielding employees in tow. DiBiase cut a promo personifying the town where Smackdown was being taped, Corpus Christi as a pathetic, ugly, ashamed juvenile. Rhodes then said he was helping the wilted flower of DiBiase’s career to flourish, something which I think may actually be close to the truth, before DiBiase called out his opponent, Trent Barreta. Though Barreta did okay in this match, it wasn’t that much more than a job for the furtherment of DiBiase’s career, which was completed with Dream Street followed by putting a bag over Barreta’s head. Really great stuff here. Going forward, i’d like to see Barreta being the face taking on these heels and give him the rub he needs to progress up the ladder.

This job was followed by another job – this time for Great Khali – noticeably sans Ranjin Singh – against the unfortunate Jey Uso. The story here was very nice as Uso started off well against Khali, until Jinder Mahal appeared, his mere presence enough to inspire Khali to turn up the brutality, manhandling Jey and chokeslamming him for a victory, and then assaulting his brother Jimmy, finally earning Mahal’s approval. Very nice stuff, and as i’ve herad that plans are for the two to form a tag team, it would be nice to see them work with the Usos to not only get them some deserved exposure, but help build a tag team division again.

The main event was the other side of the Christian-Orton booking: Randy Orton against Mark Henry. This was actually surprisingly ok given Henry’s inclusion, with Henry getting a bit of a rub from Orton, and Henry playing the monster heel well, even if it was Orton playing a big part in making him seem good. This match was almost an exact mirror image of the first match though, with Sheamus (less explicably) coming out to assault Orton. Duly, Christian came out and stood at the top of the ramp for some time while Orton got beat down before coming to his aid. In response to this, Orton seemed pretty peeved, shoving Christian a little before the heels regrouped, only to be put down again by the faces, after which the sense of mutual respect between the two seemed to return as the show closed with a stare-off. Nice build, especially with the delayed help to each other, if a little unexciting …

I was going to write my predictions tonight, but I felt I had to write a post about Randy Savage, and that took up time, so I’ll do that tomorrow. In the mean time, i’m gonna put my predictions (literally who I think will win without any commentary) on twitter immediately following this. Its this sort of insight that you get from following me on twitter, so do that! @RTVWOW

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.