RTV’s Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, Class of 2013

Wrestling has not been forgotten as RTV’s World of Wrestling transforms in to The Neon Idols. Formulating that Hall of Fame took a lot of time and was a labour of love, and so now that the WWE’s Class of 2013 is in the books, I would like to induct a new class in to my Hall of Fame alongside it, as was originally the plan. So without further ado, the 2013 Class of the RTV Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (Richard Morgan Fliehr, born 1949)
Ric Flair
Words can hardly match the icon that Flair has cast for himself over his long pro-wrestling career. The only reason he wasn’t in my initial 50 automatic inductees was that he was wrestling with TNA and didn’t consider him retired. However, now he’s back in WWE as a ‘legend’ it feels like we wont be seeing him wrestle regularly again, so here he is. Taking his nick name (and basically his gimmick) from the first ever WWE Champion, Buddy Rogers, Ric Flair has managed to surpass even that legend; as well as arguably every other legend.

His career has spanned over 40 years now, from the AWA to Japan, various NWA territories, WCW, WWE, and TNA, and so its hard to really chronicle such a career. Flair won the NWA Heavyweight title having already fought famously with the likes of Harley Race, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat and even the original “Nature Boy”, but to my mind, the first really era-defining work Flair did was in his feud for the ages, alongside his Four Horsemen, against “The Common Man” Dusty Rhodes. The ‘stylin’, profilin’ champion born with a golden spoon in his mouth, against the son of a plumber fighting for his family made for a great story and great matches as a result, full of career highlights like the Horsemen breaking Rhodes’ arm and putting “hard times” on the Common Man. Moving to WCW and later the WWF, Flair became the greatest wrestler of his era, putting of some of the best matches ever against the likes of Steamboat, and ultimately, Randy Savage  for the WWF Championship, during his short initial run in the WWF – winning the title in one of the best Royal Rumbles of all time in 1992.

After being part of the exodus to WCW during the Monday Night Wars, Flair would return to the now WWE 2001 after being a victim of NWO over-exposure. Initially more of an on-screen personality than a wrestler, there as some life in the nature boy yet, literally evolving as a character with Triple H’s Evolution, and helping build future top talents like Randy Orton and Batista before finally bowing out gracefully following a loss to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV.

It would be hypocritical for me not to mention the controversial parts of Flair’s career, especially given that my first post on this blog was scathing to the Flair that sullied his retirement by wrestling again for money and even using his Hall of Fame ring in a TNA angle. The same Flair that had multiple marriages, had to disappointingly wrestle beyond his prime to pay for his “Nature Boy” lifestyle, is exactly as arrogant as his talent allows, and is, frankly, a bit of an asshole. Like many legends though, his issues are balanced by greatness, originality, and achievement. Through his controversies came moments like selling out the Rŭngnado May First Stadium in North Korea with Antonio Inoki, working on heated relations with the nation, being one of the few to ever hold both the NWA and WWE Championship, and being the only ever two time WWE Hall of Famer (so far.) Truly, Flair encapsulates every side of pro wrestling, the exquisite and the ugly, and for that, he is one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest.

The Rock (Dwayne Douglas Johnson, born 1972)
The Rock
When I first started watching wrestling as a young man, The Rock was my joint favourite wrestler alongside Chris Jericho, and though my love for Rocky has dissipated to a dread for his appearances as I’ve matured, the reasons for my initial love for him hasn’t changed. He was, and is, still an incredibly charismatic man, a prototypical athlete, and while not among the very best technical wrestlers, he knew how to put on the show perfectly. He was among the brightest stars of the fames ‘Attitude Era’, and though his act has grown stale (to my mind) for a 2013 audience, his star has only grown, becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

Though I sympathise with the talking point of him ‘abandoning’ the business, I also believe that though he doesn’t show it all the time, he does have the business in his blood as a third-generational star. His return to the WWE to face John Cena in a series of blockbuster matches broke box office numbers and helped bring more positive eyes to the company. His career was relatively short, but he is truly perhaps the only wrestling star with a claim to being bigger than Hulk Hogan, and considering memorable matches and feuds with Triple H, Mankind, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and now John Cena, he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

Paul Bearer (William Alvin “Bill” Moody, 1954 – 2013)

Paul BearerAny mention of Paul Bearer must be prefaced, I think, by mention of his reputation as one of the nicest men in the business, and a sincere lover of wrestling. He was certainly dedicated to it, working in the business throughout his adult life, firstly as Percy Pringle III – a classic heel, loud, wealthy, flash, and bleached blonde who worked with and elevated several legendary talents such as Rick Rude, Lex Luger, “Stunning” Steve Austin, and eventually “Mean” Mark Calloway in federations like Florida Championship Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling.

He would work later again with Calloway, with a much darker character, with significantly more success as part of what people commonly consider the greatest wrestling gimmick of all time – The Undertaker. No one commands more respect than ‘The Phenom’ after his 20+ year career, but without the creepy, captivating mouthpiece of Bearer by his side, it’s hard to tell whether ‘Taker’s gimmick would be quite so convincing. Thanks to him, The Undertaker’s lack of natural charisma was covered up and replaced with carefully protected mythical mystique, the prop for which being his iconic urn. In his darker guise, Bearer was able to help guide The Undertaker, and later, Kane and Mankind to some of the greatest and most memorable moments in wrestling history. To that point, every wrestling fan of Bearer’s era is familiar with the image of Bearer holding the glowing urn aloft to give his charges power, and with the unmistakable sound of his accompanying “Ohhhhhh Yeeeeaaahhh!”.

His death took an emotional toll on fans and workers alike that when he passed, a tribute was demanded and happily given in the touching form of both Undertaker and Kane giving their familiar salute of respect to each other in the ring – a powerful angle which also helped birth one final angle between the Undertaker and upstart CM Punk. Even in death, Bearer was a part of the story – just as the old school wrestling fanatic would have wanted it.


“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
(Theodore Marvin “Ted” DiBiase, Sr, born 1954)
Ted DiBiase
For years I never fully appreciated the Million Dollar Man; considered him something of an ‘also ran’ who never really made it. For some reason though, I saw him in a new, more impressive light rewatching the 1992 Royal Rumble. Watching him stroll out smugly to his music, I really connected with the character like the people of the time would have – or close to it.

Though wealth and smugness were and are stalwart heel tendencies, The Million Dollar Man was a truly original gimmick, reflective of a moneyed era. To an audience still predominantly working class, this smug ‘Millionaire’ showed total disregard for them or the contests they came to see, using his privilege to undermine the wrestling contests by hiring a Virgil to help him cheat, buying a Million Dollar Championship, and later, the WWF Championship. He was a true original, a top star, and larger than life – in an era with big, larger than life stars.

DiBiase’s career spans further and wider than the Million Dollar Man, but with that, he became etched in the consciousness of pro wrestling.

“Ravishing” Rick Rude (Richard Erwin Rood, 1958 – 1999)
Rick Rude
Compared to the others on this list, Rude’s career in wrestling was relatively short, partly because he came to wrestling, and sadly due to his early demise – however, he achieved much in his short career.

Starting in the territories, and known for his incredible physique, Rude was managed by Percy Pringle III and feuded with The Road Warriors, Kevin Von Erich and even Jerry Lawler in Memphis, but it was in the WCW and WWF where Rude really cemented his legacy. As part of Bobby Heenan’s Family in the WWF he feuded famously with Jake Roberts, approaching his wife, berating her, and taunting Roberts by printing his wife’s face on his tights.  Moving to WCW he joined Paul Heyman’s Dangerous Alliance and feuded with Ricky Steamboat, Ron Simmons and Ric Flair. In his time in the two companies he won both the Intercontinental Championship and the United States Championship.

After a botched suicide dive, he was forced to prematurely retire in 1994. That didn’t keep him from the business though, becoming embroiled in the Attitude Era, famously appearing on both RAW and Nitro on the same night (thanks to RAW being taped), being a founding member of D Generation X and later joining the NWO. It was said that he was training to get back in to ring shape, but unfortunately, in 1999, he joined an overlong list of wrestlers dying young due to their lifestyle. Who knows if he could have made that return, but even without it, he made his legacy clear.

Betty Jo Niccoli (born 1946)
Betty Niccoli
An often overlooked female wrestler, perhaps overshadowed by Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah, Betty Jo Niccoli was a truly war hardened, experienced wrestler.

She wrestled around the world, winning titles in several different places, becoming the AWA Women’s Championship, the NWA Women’s Championship as well as their Texas Women’s Championship. Like many battle-hardened male wrestlers, Niccoli travelled to Japan to wrestle for All Japan Pro Wrestling, even winning their Women’s Tag Team Championship.

Throughout her successes, Niccoli truly tried to progress the cause of Women’s wrestling, and became influential in lifting New York’s ban on women’s wrestling in the state before retiring in 1976.

Advertisements

Smack of the Week 03/12/2010: Edge Still One Step Ahead

 

The opening segment of this week’s show was unusually understated (not even any pyro!). Rey Mysterio came out to the ring meekly to cut a promo on Alberto Del Rio costing him his shot at King of the Ring, and though it was intentionally methodical, it seemed to drag. Eventually Del Rio came to respond and liven things up, being put through a table for his trouble. It seems they have a match at TLC, but the message wasn’t conveyed that well. This is one of a few feuds that has gotten somewhat stale on the blue brand.

The next match saw MVP’s final performance in a WWE ring (for now at least) tagging with Kaval against Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. This was a good match, and right to the end (presumably MVP knew this would probably be his last match), MVP wrestled just as well as he always does and had the crowd on his side. He will be sorely missed. Drew McIntyre played off his own aggression well and he and Ziggler came out the victors after some good heel-work gave Ziggler the chance to hit his Zig Zag on Kaval for the win.

In a re-match from last week’s epic encounter, Kofi Kingston took on Jack Swagger, this time for the #1 contendership to the Intercontinental championship. That made it fairly obvious that Kofi (a face to oppose heel Ziggler) would win, but that didn’t detract from the quality of the match. These two seem to gel really well, and again they were given a long time to do so. Like last week, it started slow, but picked up in the second half (as should happen). Counter after counter; innovative reversals to each other’s moves, lots of back and forth and near-falls. The drama was high, but again Trouble in Paradise came out of nowhere to down Swagger for the three. Really good match, but bad for Swagger. I think he should feud with Kaval now. Arrogant former World Champion against tough upstart; massive collegiate wrestler against smaller warrior. It writes itself and it would be excellent for both too if it got good time.

We saw Rosa Mendes actually wrestle for the first time in forever. Against Layla (with Michelle McCool), it was always going to be a tough prospect, but the limited time she was in the ring she fought well and showed she could hold a match. Layla bested her eventually however with her Layout and LayCool preceded to assault her. At this point I expected to see brand new diva Kaitlyn come to her aid (after appearing earlier backstage), but I had forgotten about Beth Phoenix. Now as good as Beth is, i’m not surprised I forget her, she’s been doing the same thing every week (y’know, saving someone from LayCool). Book a damn tag match already!

Our main event was Kane against Edge, the winner getting to choose the stipulation for their match at TLC. Now all through the night, Kane had been chasing Edge all through the arena, luring him every time with Paul Bearer, only to pretend to force him in to an accident and for Kane to buy it every time. It’s getting ridiculous, and ridiculously repetitive, and I wont dignify it anymore until there’s a shift. The match was good – there was a lot of good storytelling. Edge out-pacing a distracted Kane in the ring with Kane sometimes using brute force to swing the momentum. The ending was good, with Edge getting a rest as Kane decided whether or not to do the obvious thing and look for Paul Bearer while Edge was distracted by the match, or to do the compelling thing and go to win the match and improve your chances at TLC. Unfortunately for Kane, his indecisiveness got him the worst of both worlds; after some deliberation, he returned to the ring and received a quick Spear. Edge selected, unsurprisingly, a TLC match – not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just the build up that’s difficult to stay interested in now.

Overall, a show that showed a repetitiveness in Smackdown which needs to be addressed. The Kane-Edge and Mysterio-Del Rio storylines both have to finish by the Royal Rumble at the latest. I also thought how great it would have been with Drew McIntyre as King of the Ring – it really would have freshened things up! As for MVP, I think if he were in Edge’s spot now, the brand would be, conversely, fresh and vibrant. I didn’t ask that he won the World Title immediately, just that he was placed in the picture; and if he had of been, maybe he’d have stayed.

Smack of the Week (26/11/2010): Kings in Waiting

The competitors in this week's King of the Ring qualifiers

 

This week’s show opened basically where it lest off last week, with Edge toying with both Kane and Paul Bearer. This of course went on through the night, but i’m starting to dislike the angle, so i’ll talk about it all in a oner. The main problem with the angle is that it is starting to get goofy. Surely there are only so many threats and traps Edge can set for Kane to get him upset/angry, and if if this is what the TLC build-up is going to be, we have three weeks of it left. Surely they can’t continue with the idea past next week though! It’s a shame too because the idea of Paul Bearer’s kidnapping affecting Kane is interesting, and a lot of the set-pieces have been disturbing (in a good way). It’s just starting to wear a little thin, and I think we are cracking Kane’s monstrous veneer a little too much considering the dominance he has had of late.

The first King of the Ring qualifier of the night saw Kofi Kingston take on Jack Swagger. There was instant interest in this match as either man could feasibly progress (and become king), so it was genuinely unpredictable. It was a very long match, and not always thrilling as a prominent story was of the calculating Swagger grounding the chaotic style of Kofi Kingston. Swagger looked very strong, at one point apparently having dominated Kofi so much, Kingston was almost out on his feet, at one point, almost collapsing out of the ring. Towards the end of the contest, it became more equal, with both men trading momentum. Swagger tried to end it with his Vader Bomb, only to be countered by Kofi in to Trouble in Paradise for the victory. A good match, but I would have preferred Swagger to have progressed. I will talk about King of the Ring, however, seperately in another post.

In a match of main event booking, the next qualifier saw Alberto Del Rio take on the Big Show. This was an enjoyable match, as Del Rio put on a show of trying to wrestle down the bigger man. He looked very impressive sticking-and-running against the Giant, consistently managing to drive him to his knees or to the canvas completely. An especially well thought out moment came when Del Rio attempted his cross-armbreaker on an already downed Big Show, only for it to be reversed in to a back drop. Thankfully, Del Rio managed to find a way to beat Show, after his personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez managed to distract Show enough to cause a count out. I say ‘thankfully,’ not because I dislike the Big Show, but because I feel his character has gotten stale ever since he became a ‘comedian’ and he certainly had no need to be in the running for King of the Ring.

The third qualifier saw Drew McIntyre take on MVP. Personally, I think both guys should have been in different matches and allowed to progress, but it’s clear there simply wasn’t enough room. This was an excellent match and probably the best match of the night as both men played their respective roles in the match superbly, based, as it was, around a determined MVP with a severely injured arm and a sadistic McIntyre using it to his advantage. It all started with a trademark use of the steel stairs from McIntyre as he stamped on MVP’s arm resting on it. From this point on, he would battle valiantly against McIntyre and give him a very good match before finally being snuffed out by the ‘Sinister Scotsman.’ MVP sold his injury very well (apart from the final conceit of it giving out and causing him to hit his head on the turnbuckle in to a waiting Future Shock DDT) throughout the match, showing the practical ways that sort of injury might affect a wrestler (rather than just wincing everytime it got specifically hit). McIntyre, who played the almost psychopathic aggressor, deserves to be in the competition, I just hope MVP, who has been on something  of a push lately, has something else to move in to and grow.

It looks as though LayCool aren’t necessarily getting a Divas title rematch after this week saw them continue their feud with the returning Beth Phoenix, who appeared again after a shock Kelly Kelly victory over Michelle McCool in an ok match. I can see another handicap match in the offing perhaps …

The main event saw Rey Mysterio take on Cody Rhodes for the final spot in next week’s King of the Ring. These two worked very well together I thought, with Rey’s quickness and Cody’s technical and malleable style gelling well. Rhodes was all over Mysterio at the start, hitting him early with a Beautiful Disaster and an Alabama Slam for a believable near fall (especially notable given how early it was in the match). Just in terms of establishment, Rey had to be considered the favourite, so Cody sharing a main event with him was a good rub, and Cody looked very competent against Mysterio, managing to keep a lid on him without dominating him. All the while Alberto Del Rio was at ringside, playing an excellent heel. His comments to the other commentators were nothing special, but just the way he stood in front of the booth with the headphones on made him come across as brilliantly arrogant. It was he that swung the balance in favour of Rhodes, thrusting Mysterio in to a ringpost after Mysterio accidentally hit him with his West Coast Pop. Rhodes took advantage, hitting the Cross-Rhodes and thankfully (for the exact same reasons as concerned Big Show) getting the victory.

With neither Mysterio or Big Show making the King of the Ring cut, there is, rightly,  a collection of great young talent in the brackets for the competition. But i’ll discuss this more in my upcoming King of the Ring post.

Survivor Series Preview and Predictions, 2010

 

Survivor Series, 21/11/2010, from the American Airlines Centre, Miami

The poster says it all in many ways. This PPV has to be shocking in some way. It has been set up in such a way as to make it inevitable, and unlike last year’s outing, one that will be memorable. Indeed, this has the potential to be the biggest, most infamous PPV in years, and for one reason only: the future of John Cena. But more on that when I talk about the main event.

Match 1) WWE Tag Team Championships Match: Nexus (Gabriel & Slater) (c) vs Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
I think Nexus will start and end the show. Hearing the Nexus music to start out the show is the perfect way to set the tone. Barrett and the rest may all come out for a pre-match promo. I think this one will be intentionally short to get over the strength of the Nexus, but given Kozlov’s size and reputation, they will probably need outside help to achieve that. Expect a later segment where Barrett tells Cena that they all have to work together to achieve the Nexus’ goals, as in the tag match.

Winners: Nexus

Match 2) United States Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Ted DiBiase
For the first time, I think Bryan’s reign as US champ may be in jeopardy. In the past it’s been a case of Bryan beating whomever is placed before him. This time, however, it seems that DiBiase could be on a similar run. After his part-comic feud with Goldust, he seems to have come out of his experience hungrier and more ruthless. Of course this is all judging from one attack only (i.e. the one on Bryan on RAW), but the change in DiBiase was unmistakable. As we have come to expect with Bryan (and as DiBiase has potential for, even if he’s never quite shown it fully), this will be a very good match. I’m not sure whether Maryse will play a part or not; it seems to me that DiBiase was on the verge of dumping her. I think this is the start of a programme between the two, but I think it’s too sudden to have DiBiase take the title just yet.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

Match 3) Divas Championship Match: LayCool (c) vs Natalya
I think this is the time where Natalya will finally beat LayCool and take her first, very much deserved, Divas Championship. This will probably happen for a couple of reasons. Firstly, every match-up and outcome between them has been exhausted, and secondly because the almost insurmountable odds for Natalya probably works in her symbolic favour. The story is quite easy to imagine. Natalya will take a big-time beating initially, but during a surge for Nattie, LayCool will accidentally hurt each other, allowing Natalya to take the victory. As for LayCool, it might necessitate a split – after all, who will get the statutory re-match? Saying that, LayCool are so successful still, that they may find a way of staying together for now.

Winner: Natalya

Match 4) Intercontinental Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Kaval
Like the United States Championship match, this is another tight one to call, and for the same reason; Dolph has been very strong of late whereas Kaval hasn’t been in the title picture until suddenly, two days ago. However, there are slight differences: firstly, Kaval actually beat Ziggler in the ring as opposed to ‘beat’ing him down, but more importantly, Kaval is ‘cashing in’ his statutory title match. The conventions of that sort of privilege usually end with the challenger taking the title. This could be another excellent match (and it’s important for Kaval to have one) as they are both great wrestlers, while Ziggler has proven himself against Bryan, another smaller guy with a Japanese-esque style. Kaval will provide a more high-octane opponent (though perhaps a, slightly, less technically gifted one) which is conducive to a dramatic and unpredictable match, and in the end, will take the shock victory. After all, he wouldn’t be breaking that losing streak, just to lose again.

Winner: Kaval

Match 5) Sheamus vs John Morrison
To be honest, this is the match which least interests me. I like Sheamus and i’m warming to Morrison as being towards that level, but I just think the build-up for this match has been a little tame. Sheamus is doing his part, but Morrison still doesn’t have the charisma or mic skills to make a really compelling story. I’m sure it will be a good match though, and probably one that gets a lot of time. I think a Sheamus victory wouldn’t make any sense. Why all this if Sheamus is just going to win. It wouldn’t do much to spark off a full-blown feud like a shock (as it would be) Morrison victory would. Therefore, I expect a Morrison victory, perhaps after a roll-up (though that would detract somewhat from the victory.

Winner: John Morrison

Match 6) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Kane (c) vs Edge
A very good job has been made of  building this match up, and though, as I mentioned in my Smackdown review,  i’m less keen on Edge’s reprise of his meniacal side, there is no doubt that a sense of genuine hatred has been established between these two. What you can expect from these two veterans is a well thought out match, and one with high drama as regards the end of the match. A crucial factor will be the role played (or not played) by Paul Bearer. Will he even be there? If not, how will that affect Kane? Could Bearer turn on Kane? If Undertaker is approaching his last run, maybe Paul will be returning to his side. As to the result of the match, partly because of the result i’ll be predicting in the main event, but mostly because of the nature of Kane’s reign, I see Kane retaining. I don’t see the point of giving the title to Edge and stop Kane’s seemingly unstoppable run. I think Kane will be keeping the title until the Royal Rumble at least, and continue to seem unbeatable.

Winner: Kane

Match 7) Smackdown Survivor Series Match (Team Mysterio: Rey Mysterio, MVP, Big Show, Kofi Kingston & Chris Masters vs Team Del Rio: Alberto Del Rio, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes & Tyler Reks)
The two team captains have a good degree of ‘beef’ with each other, and with the addition of MVP, there is genuine interest in who wins between the two teams. I’m pretty sure the faces will be going over here, as MVP and Kofi Kingston especially could do with the spotlight that ‘surviving’ this match would bring, while the recently split Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes will doubtlessly be on different pages, Del Rio has proved himself no team player. I expect, given the build-up, to see MVP and Rey Mysterio as sole-survivors.

Winners: Team Mysterio

Match 8) WWE Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Wade Barrett (John Cena, Special Guest Referee)
There is so much to say about this match i’m almost hesitant to begin. This match will be just as nerve-wracking (and probably more so) than the classic Cena-Barrett match from Hell in the Cell. The first thing to say is that it’s almost a given that Wade Barrett will be the new WWE Champion. John Cena is not getting fired (unless, in the lamest kop-out in wrestling history, Cena ‘does the right thing,’ is fired, and is brought back in quick measure). I’d like to see Nexus make it as difficult as possible for Cena too. Have them come to the ring, interfere and dare him to disqualify Barrett. No doubt he’ll find diplomatic ways to deal with such situations. The moment of truth will come, as you might expect, towards the end of the match. I am among the hoards of people begging for a Cena heel turn, and on Sunday, I believe, one way or another, will turn that way. The most shocking way of achieving this would be for Barrett to enter the ring with the belt or a chair and Cena to appear as if he wants to stop him before turning round and striking Orton with the weapon and counting the pinfall for Barrett’s victory. That would make my year, and the year of many others. Another year-making event would be the more slightly more subtle turn of Cena counting the three before cracking a smile and shaking Barrett’s hand. Even if Cena’s heel-turn is unrelated to Nexus though, it could still happen. Imagine he counts the three but follows his word of beating down Barrett. In the following weeks he’ll be getting heat from fans and the other wrestlers that he’ll be driven to snap and turn heel. There has been lots of talk of Miz cashing in his MITB opportunity – that will not happen. I still think he needs a big feud with a main-eventer (someone like Triple H or Orton) to get over at that level. Him cashing in would distract from what has happened already and be a bit of an overload.  Whatever happens, this will be one of the most compelling matches in recent WWE history, and could be one of the very most important and iconic matches in WWE history.

Winner: Wade Barrett

Here is the moving promo for the match, to get you in the mood:


Smack of the Week (19/11/2010): Paul Bearer’s is Only One Fight for Survival

Smackdown opened this week trying to hype up the only recently announced traditional Survivor Series match between team Del Rio and team Mysterio. Del Rio himself came out to cut a promo about his outing on RAW against Sgt. Slaughter and his disrespct for the legends. When heels say things like ‘I already am a legend’, as Del Rio did, the very fact that it is (at that time) completely unconvincing only helps them get heat, so it was a good promo from him, which suggested that he, who has done little (at least in mainstream terms) has the inherent qualities of a legend, as opposed to the ones that earned that monicker. MVP, who has had a new lease of life this past month or so, came out to a huge reaction and cut a typically fluent and charismatic counter-promo about the importance of respecting those that ‘made the universe’ which is of course, exactly what they did. MVP wanted Del Rio, bu Del Rio was already booked, so MVP got another member of team Del Rio, Drew McIntyre. This is indeed a good match of skills, depite their differing physiques. There was believeable back-and-forth, and both guys played up to their respective roles well, as McIntyre use his trademark ring-apron attack on MVP, while the ‘Ballin’ Superstar’ gritted his way through the match, taking a lot of beating subsequently. Eventually, McIntyre made a mistake, rushing Montel in the corner only for MVP to move; the blow sent McIntyre to ground allowing MVP to hit a refined version of his ‘drive-by’ kick for the pinfall and a big win.

It turned out much of the entire show would be dedicated to the sole-surviving (for now) Survivor Series match on the PPV card, something I approve of as it requires and deserves the attention. With this in mind, the next match pitted two more people of opposing Survivor Series teams, Jack Swagger and Chris Masters. This was a very good match. The announcers made a very good point about Masters (having gotten smaller) being more agile and varied in the ring, and that is clearly true. He didn’t look a chump against th former World Heavyweight Champion, indeed, at a few points he had the upper hand. Most notably, Masters locked in his Masterlock, an it was believeable at tha point that he could possibly win, but in a great moment, Swagger escaped the hold by leaping over the ropes to the apron for the break. Showin frustration (always a sign that the opponent is doing well), Swagger reverted to smashing Masters’ ankle on the ring post; a move which eventually saw him win the match with the Ankle Lock.

Next up we saw Kaval already in the ring, i.e. in classic  jobber position. When I hear Dolph Ziggler’s music hit, I didn’t think much for the World Warrior’s chances as Ziggler hs been on an extremely hot run. What I did expect though was a good match as both can be great in the ring. Of course, they delivered in that respect. Dolph, however, was probably a bit overconfident, and allowed the battling Kaval to break his losing streak with an innovative and almost infallable pin. I always knew this losing streak wasn’t going to last, and indeed, Kaval has shot to prominance, invoking his NXT-allowing title shot at Survivor Series for the Intercontinental Championship. Kaval’s career from now on could be very exciting.

When Kofi Kingston came out, I was left a little cold (as I have been by him for some time), but I must say, his match with Cody Rhodes was posibly the best of the night. Lots of good back-and-forth, while Kofi was at his high-leaping best. The end of the match really quickened in pace, and there were believable near-falls, and a very good end of the match where Kingston missed his Trouble in Paradise before Rhodes missed his Beautiful Disaster. After more chain-wrestling, Cody countered an attack by pulling Kofi’s trunks and hair towards him and in to Cross-Rhodes for the victory.

Next up LayCool teamed up to take on Divas Championship contender Natalya & Kelly Kelly. This match ended quickly as LayCool teamed up to hit a double big boot on Natalya for the quick victory. I believe there was a reason for this, so tune in to my Survivor Series preview for that!

The next match was also a bit of a squash. Big Show taking on Tyler Reks. The announce team kept insiting on Reks being the x-factor of Team Del Rio, and a dangerous un-known quantity. This however, is inaccurate. He is simply indistinguishable and unremarkable. That is why the announce team can’t find anything to say to him. Big Show won quickly with a Chokeslam to get him over, yet still, as a monster.

Throughout the night, the #1 contender Edge was playing mind-games with Paul Bearer, but more specifically, Kane. The scenes with Edge performing what amounts to mental torture and humiliation on Paul Bearer was legitimately disturbing. This made for compelling television, though i’m not sure whether I like the direction it hastaken Edge in. He has returned to his meniacal state, similar to that of his heel-run before his latest injury. That’s one thing, but mixed with the fact he was doing it to the much-beloved Paul Bearer means that his actions may not have gotten him over too well as a face. Nonetheless, the story did mke sense, as he got under Kane’s skin and made him appear and act more human, breaking him down so much thathe ended up crying! (and crucially not in a way that seemed unbelieveable). Altogether, it was a great way to amp up the personal tension and make for an excellent match at Survivor Series. As I say though, I hope Edge reverts to his ‘Rated R’ persona as opposed to his meniacal one.

The main event was slated to be the Survivor Series team captains Alberto Del Rio and Rey Myserio taking on each other. This lasted for a while until the heel team hit the ring to cause a DQ, followed by a ten-man battle royal to replace the spoiled main event. As I always say about these sorts of matches, there isn’t much to say, but it was definately a good way to set up for the Survivor Series match on Sunday. Mysterio and Big Show showed the team ethic that you would expect from faces going in to this match. It remains to be seen whether that will follow through on Sunday.

Smack of the Week (12/11/2010): Live from Manchester! *Spoilers*

Results from 09/11/2010 taping of Smackdown

After attending las night’s Smackdown taping, it seems clear to me that British fans, like Canadian ones, like to mark out for the heels. I’ve said it before – I hate that trait. It reflects badly on the faces, the show, and especially the cheered heels as it makes it seem like they aren’t doing their job properly.

NXT
I don’t know how it came across, but NXT seemed like a better-than-usual episode to me. The segments and challenge didn’t overshadow the wrestling, and the wrestling (and storylines) were good too.

The first dark match was a pretty good one between Chavo Guerrero and local-boy and Batista look-a-like newcomer, Mason Ryan. It was a good match, but it’s almost disturbing how similar Ryan is to Batista. There is no call for it.

Superstars
They also taped the Superstars main event last night, a mouthwatering match-up of Kaval and Drew McIntyre. The match lived up to it’s billing too as they produced a long, well-paced and thought-out match which McIntyre ended up winning. If the Drew-Cody feud isn’t pursued, I think thisone could really work. It’s a shame very few people care about Superstars because it clearly focuses on good wrestling matches.

Smackdown
Smackdown started out with Edge coming out to share his thoughts on his upcoming title match with Kane. He was then ‘joined’ by Nexus, who surrounded the ring in characteristic fashion. Iliked how they showed support for Otunga – it made sene after he helped Barrett win on RAW. Despite Vickie Guerrero (in charge for the night) making them shake hands, Edge delivered the final shot with a spear to Otunga off the apron and into his Nexus brethren.

Alberto Del Rio was up next, and I ust say, his entrance when seen live is INCREDIBLE. He had a match with Kofi Kingston which was very quick and athletic as you might expect. Lots of high-flying and evn lucha-style moves before it was ended with Del Rio’s cross-armbreaker, which he does sometimes apply a little sloppily as compared to how he can do it. A good match, but not much interest in it (as far as I can remember, these two have no history, though it may also have been an injury angle as Kofi came out later with his arm all bandaged/taped) though it seemsthey’re jus keeping Del Rio impressive while his programme with Rey Mysterio – who jumped Del Rio afte the match with a 619 – continues.

Layla was on her own for an excellent match with Natalya. Thedivas have definately been stepping up as late, and these two are among the highest ‘steppers’. You expect Natalya to be impressive, delayed vertical suplexes (with presses!), suplexes, submission, but people don’t give Layla the credit she deserves for her skills and ingenuity. She worked really well and used that unique head-scissors she has and used it to slam Natalya’s head to the mat while retaining the grip. Natalya went over this week which makes sense in terms of build-up. Next week, i’m sure she’ll take on Michelle as they was tlk on RAW of having her face the two in a handicap match at Survivor Series.

David Otunga faced Edge next in a lumberjack match. Again, Nexus accompanied him, but the Smackdows roster as also there as lumberjacks and chased the Nexus to the ramp. This was effective at first, allowing the match to go on as normel. The match itself was pretty good. Obviously Edge was carrying the less-skilled Otunga to an extent, but the match was good. Meanwhile, outside, Del Rio decided to attack Edge when he wa thrown from the ring (until now, Smackdown’s policy had been to protect dge while attacking Otunga whenever he left the ring). This drew the ire especially of MVP, and he and Del Rio ‘discussed’ the incident for quite some time until eventually thelumberjack action kicke off eith faces against heels. The wily Nexus realise their opportunity and while some distracted the referee, Michael McGillicutty tried to help Otunga, only to receive a Spear. However, as Edg lined Otunga up for the same, Kane appeared and Chokeslammed his Survivor Series opponent, allowing Otunga to pick up a big win and stay in the Nexus. Again, it was nice to see fellow Nexus members help Otunga from the ring and fight their way through the Smackdown superstars to safety. Hopefully that will be the endof the Otunga-Barrett saga for now … As for Kane, it’s certainly notable that he and Nexus continue to cross paths. It’s impossible to know for sure just yet what the connction is though.

Next up was the part I was most looking forward to: MVP’s title shot against Dolph Ziggler. The match didn’t disappoint, and MVP’s ‘brallin” style (though that undermines his technical skills) gelled well with Dolph’s speed and grappling acumen. This match probably told the best in-ring story with there being lots of good bac and forth, as well as a few really good near falls. Either man looked capable of winning it, with MVP getting a near fall, from which Dolph saved himself with a foot on the rope, and ditto for MVP … except the referee didn’t see and Dolph was awarded the match. I wasgutted at this, but th ‘out’ of the foot on the ropes makes m confident that the match will be replayed at Survivor Series, and quite possibly, that MVP wll win!

Before the main event, Paul Bearer ent missing, and Kane had to come out alonefor his match with Big Show. Both these guys are talented veterans, but monstr vs monster rarely makes for a great match, and while this was pretty good, it was never any more than that. Towards the end of the match, Edge appeared on stage with Bearer who was bound to a wheelchair and gagged (in a moment of apt-attitude style spectacle). Pressumably pissed at Kane’s interference in his match, Edge used the threat of throwing Kane’s father offstage to distract him from the Big Show, who took the opportunity to Chokeslam Kane fo the win. In his opeing promo, Edge said he had a plan. Could it be to take away from Kane the advantage of Paul Bearer? Thi was where the taping ended.

Latter Dark Match
Kane shouted to the back that, instead of kidnapping a tired, fat man, he sould come to the ring to settle their differences. Alberto Del Rio and Rey Mystrio both decided they wanted a part of it too so it was Kane and Del Rio against Edge and Myterio. It was a dark mtch, so it wasn’t too long and involved, but quick and exciting to send the crowd home happy. Edge and Mysterio, therefore, won with a 619 in to a Spear.

Bragging Rights Results and Review, 2010: Cena Gets His Way

Cena explains to Barrett why beating up the Nexus is a good idea ...

Remember my twitter handle!: http://twitter.com/#!/RTVWOW

Right, a lot of people have come away from the PPV  a little … flat. I don’t blame them, because I did too to a certain extent, but i’ll explain that when I review the individual matches that lest that impression. After the brilliant Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell PPVs though, this was certainly something of a disappointment.

Match 1: Daniel Bryan def. Dolph Ziggler
This was the first match of the night as well as the wildcard to a certain extent, simply because of how alien Dolph and Daniel have been in their career paths to date. However, this was undoubtedly the match of the night. It’s easy to forget (given his ‘perfection’ persona) that Ziggler is an accomplished collegic amateur wrestler and certainly a match to the naturally gifted Daniel Bryan. Given how little they presumably know about each other, it is understandable that the match started out tentatively, with the two guys feeling each other out, but even this was high in quality. As the match grew, so did the performances, and the aggressiveness was also turned up. This started with Bryan’s brutal buzzsaw style kicks to Dolph (which i’m sure included one or two ‘potatoes’) and advanced to Ziggler’s death-defying reversal of Bryan’s attempted big back body drop in to a mid-air cross body, which drew ‘this is awesome’ chants, and then to that horrific mid-air collision as both attempted another cross-body. The announcers suggested they may both have broken ribs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did! Bryan’s ‘heart’ started to frustrate the hot-headed Ziggler who was caught off-guard with the LaBelle Lock and was forced to tap. I was pleased to see Bryan get such a positive reaction from a crowd that isn’t his home town. It’s that sort of fan-backing he’ll need to achieve a deserved main-event spot, and as for Ziggler, it gets harder and harder to deny that the guy could be a future world champion.

Match 2: David Otunga and John Cena (Nexus) def. Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre for the WWE Tag Team Championships
This was one match I doubt anyone was expecting to see. During their promo, incidentally, I noticed that Drew McIntyre had really been working on his mic work. It was never bad, but it’s certainly improved even more. Anyway, the prospect of Nexus going after the tag team championships was very exciting to me; given that i’d predicted a Barrett victory, I foresaw Nexus on RAW tonight holding three belts and genuinely being conquerors of WWE. The match itself was pretty good, but nothing special – though, to be fair, the quality of this match would only  be judged by the result and it’s consequences. There was a nice in-ring story with Otunga trying to take the glory from Cena who was basically doing all of the work, pepped up by his being let of the leash to wrestle heels. When the Nexus pair won, I thought Otunga was going to hog the belts (which would have been pretty good I suppose, though I didn’t want to see it). In the end it was Cena who left with both belts, representing a nice bit of self-assertion in-between all the cruelty and exploitation he’s suffered. As for Drew and Cody, I have no idea what will happen to them, but there are actually almost endless possibilities which I wont bother going in to. Needless to say they are both ‘big deals’ and will be moving on to something meaningful from this.

Match 3: Ted DiBiase w/ Maryse def. Goldust w/ Aksana
Now i’m more than happy to report that my prediction for this match was very wrong. I predicted a short intervening match between these two which probably wouldn’t be worth much, but instead, it was a serious match with some good time behind it. I was also pleased to see DiBiase get to talk seriously beforehand (something he’s rarely been able to do of late). Huge kudos to Goldie who is among the best in the ring, still. He had a very good match with DiBiase during which they both worked hard and with great fluidity and chemistry. That ultimate compliment to wrestlers can again be applied here: it just seemed completely natural and legitimate. Also, the match progressed their feud more than I expected, with the finish being down, in large part, to either man’s valets. After Maryse attacked Aksana, Goldie showed some genuine concern, only for DiBiase to attack him from behind and hit him with a low DDT for the win. After the match, Aksana seemed to be turning on Goldie, approaching DiBiase seductively with the Million Dollar Championship, but alas, it was just a rouse so Goldust could hit the Final Cut to DiBiase and keep the belt. This will probably lead to a rubber match at Survivor Series to determine the owner of the belt, or at least a match between the two, and it will be interesting to see if Maryse reacts to DiBiase being seemingly so willing to drop her in favour of Aksana and his championship.

Match 4: Layla def. Natalya to Retain the Divas Championship
I’ve really liked LayCool on the mic of late, and last night was no different. They are great at drawing heat, and really getting the fans to support the other competitor. This match was good. It was short, but not too short, and both Layla and Natalya performed very well in the ring. Obviously Natalya is a natural and supremely talented, and probably helped Layla to look good, but there is no question that Layla held up her end too. There were lots of well executed dropkicks and other moves, accomplished holds and grappling,and a few pretty tough bumps. Natalya was too much for the last Women’s Champion eventually, overpowering her and outwrestling her, persuading Layla that she should leave and fight another day. Interestingly, McCool questioned Layla’s decision to leave before Nattie dragged her back to the ring. While they were at the ropes though, Michelle took advantage of te distracted referee to hit Natalya with her Big Boot to hand Layla the victory. It’ll be interesting to see if Natalya stays in the title picture. I have a feeling she will as this feud is clearly well over, and looking at Natalya, if she does challenge for the title at Survivor Series, she would be a very credible next Divas Champion.

Now, up until this point we were having another excellent PPV in my view, and I had been very much looking forward to the two world title matches. Things were looking up. Unfortunately, there was a lot (though not uniformly so) of disappointment to come.

Match 5: Kane w/ Paul Bearer def. The Undertaker to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Undertaker is clearly pretty beaten up, and all of these gimmick matches have been good, not only because they fit the storyline so well, but because they allow ‘Taker to mask his inability to wrestle properly in his current condition. Understandably, this match was a brawl, but it was little more than that. There was a very long exchange when the two were trading punches, which is fine, but without much else to build on to it with, it’s a little uninspiring. I would also have liked to have seen Bearer play more of a role; rather than just watching ‘Taker choke his son out with the Hell’s Gate, why didn’t he pick up one of those shovels and threaten to hit ‘Taker with it. That would have made the Deadman turning to him with those piercing eyes and duping him in the cold soil, a bit more compelling. Nonetheless, this story lives and dies on the quality of the storyline and the intrigue, and the involvement of the Nexus, not as simple disruptors but actively trying to help Kane win, was very interesting and tantalising.  This must be the start of a tangent storyline. Dare I suggest that Nexus’s bigger plans (which they haven’t forgotten about judging by the Survivor Series advert) may be something to do with a ‘higher power’? Whatever their reasoning is, it is enough to save this match from poor reviews. If Nexus do extend that far, it is only good for both storylines (which, let’s not forget, started around the same time) as the deeper they go, the more compelling they are. Nexus involving themself in Smackdown issues only heightens how they should be considered a genuine threat to the industry.

Match 6: Team Smackdown (Edge & Rey Mysterio) def. Team RAW
The problem with this match is that no one cares about who wins. Why would they? Most people who watch one brand, surely watch the other too, and there is little reason for brand loyalty other than personal tastes. For a big elimination match, it was good though. But that’s really all there is to say about it. Ezekiel Jackson and Tyler Reks both didn’t impress enough for my liking. Smackdown won, and no one that wasn’t being paid to be there pretended to care. If they are going to keep up this concept, they have to do something to make the fans care. Again, I suggest making it so that the captain (or at least a member) of the losing team has to join the winning brand; maybe even merge it with the draft and put it after Wrestlemania. If this isn’t done, then the buyrate of this concept will continue to be low.

Match 7: Wade Barrett w/ John Cena def. Randy Orton via DQ
After Nexus won the tag titles earlier in the night, I was even more behind Barrett to take the WWE Championship last night, and this became even more probably when Barrett told Cena that he would be fired if he didn’t win. So much so that I thought it was a spoiler. The match was only ok really. I don’t know whether Barrett’s lack of experience was a factor or not, but it never really seemed to grow. Despite this, it was quite compelling as we, the audience thought that, at some point, Cena would have to impede Orton (even tripping him at the rope would have been amazing and surreal to see). This was never forthcoming though. There was a glimpse of it at best when Cena took out the Nexus members to stop Barrett from being disqualified (which Jerry Lawler rightly said he was disappointed in), and finally, when Cena crept in to the ring behind Orton, we all thought it was going to happen; Cena was going to turn on Orton! But no, he went straight past Orton and hit an Attitude Adjustment on Barrett … After a little bit of conclusion, it became clear what Cena had done; he knew Barrett had to win, but he didn’t want to have to attack Orton, so he attacked him so Barrett would win by DQ. This is by no means a ‘good deed’, at least in the world of wrestling, as Orton was about to RKO Barrett for the victory, but Cena robbed him not only of the victory, but his ability to defend his championship properly (a pretty bad thing to do to a face). So no doubt it was a morally questionable act from Cena, and actually quite selfish, and he ate an RKO for his trouble. The problem with all this though, is that it’s the sort of booking you expect on television. It’s more build-up than turning point/milestone. The main even of a PPV should bring some sort of significant change to a storyline or end it for good, but this did none of that, and provided the fans with a DQ finish to their main event, which is pretty unfulfilling. A pretty static match and pretty static storyline leaves everyone watching it come away feeling a little cheated, and this was almost certainly the most disappointing match of the night, in stark comparison to Hell in a Cell, when it was heart-wrenching. This storyline simply needs to progress at a quicker rate.

Overall, the PPV was split almost down the middle in terms of quality. The first half was excellent; the second half was mostly disappointing, with the notable exception of Nexus’s involvement in the World Heavyweight Championship match. I think what can be learned from this is that, as I say, PPV matches need to offer more than matches on TV do, and if they don’t, they’re going to be criticised, and rightly so. It also shows that we need fewer PPVs, even if only by two or three. I think one of the problems for Bragging Rights was that it was the third PPV in a month (or close enough) and consequently, the storylines just weren’t progressing quickly enough to fulfil big PPV twists. This isn’t the fault of the writers. It is only right that storylines progress at their own pace, though I would add that the Cena-Nexus story is moving too slowly at this point.