Survivor Series Review, 2011: Punk Deified, MSG Electrified, Cena Humiliated

The Rock Rock Bottoms Cena to Close the Show and Make a Point

An opening gambit to this review will be a bit of a spoiler for the rest: this PPV was fantastic. Considering this PPV nearly died, it certainly underwent a rebirth last night! The similarity of feel to this year’s classic Money in the Bank PPV is quite remarkable, in match quality and crowd participation, and certainly makes it an instant classic – thanks, in part, to The Rock, but not exclusively by any stretch of the imagination.

Match 1) Dolph Ziggler def. John Morrison to Retain the WWE United States Championship
It can’t be avoided that Ziggler wasn’t really at the centre of attention by the end of the night, so hot were some of the performances, but when looked at as a whole, Ziggler really did as expected and shone last night. One of the memorable things about this match was the crowd’s burying of Morrison because he was there instead of Internet Champ Zack Ryder, and their consequent support for Ziggler. Vickie’s valet-ship was excellent here, covering her ears to the ‘We Want Ryder’ chants. It is clear though that WWE cultivated these chants; they’re building (or perhaps just capitalizing on) a ground-swell of support for Ryder which will surely end with Ryder taking the US title and Ziggler moving on up to the main event fringe. As for the match, it was really good, with Ziggler doing his best methodical, showy, performance. Spectacularly besting JoMo before soaking up the crowd’s reaction. Tailored to that, Ziggler was probably in control for most of the match, but there was some really good back and forth too, and in fact, Morrison looked close to winning after a big tornado DDT, only for Vickie to get Ziggler’s foot on the bottom rope. With this happening, it was clear Morrison wasn’t simply being buried here, and he was – to be fair to him – a important part of the match’s success for once. As the match continued to a finish, the two traded some cool, quick progressions that really got the crowd going and forget about Ryder briefly. Morrison looked to have the best of it following a big knee as he went for Starship Pain, but Ziggler got his knees up to Morrison’s back to sell Morrison’s neck in a nice bit of storytelling. Ziggler followed up with a Zig Zag, and after that, the retention was just a formality. The crowd were happy about, eventhough Morrison provided a good performance, because they didn’t want Morrison, they want Ryder. Ziggler’s ‘follow that!’ post-match promo was pretty sweet, but, in a way, in all its simplicity, Ryder’s inclusion was wonderful. Whether it was planned, or whether it was a responsive audible, Ryder’s post-match run-in really made the crowd happy and justified Ryder’s continuing push. Surely he will receive a title shot on the back of that reaction, if he wasn’t due one already, and that just goes to show the magic of sincere support for a guy who loves the business and wants to make a success of himself.

Match 2) Beth Phoenix def. Eve Torres in a Lumberjill Match to Retain the Divas Championship
This was a decent match, but let’s face it, it is only really memorable because of the amazing Super Glam Slam that ended it. Still, as (relatively) short as it was, the two gave us a respectable outing. The lumberjill stip didn’t have too much of a bearing on the match apart from the important storytelling moment of Beth bailing the ring at the sight of Eve booty-popping, only to be sent back in without much incident. After some nice work, Eve teased a moonsault, only for Beth to stop playing possum and attack, which led to the awesome finishing move and the retention. In the preview, I was unable to even consider that the outcome could be pleasing, but they really succeeded. It seemed like a rebirth for the ‘Divas of Doom’ as Beth looked dominant, won with a super-powerful finisher, and looked unbeatable. Not only that, but the announcers framed her as such. They have quite a mire to get out from, but last night went some way to success.

The Rock Cut a Promo and Did His Whole Act in Three Minutes
Rocky is an unbelievable talker. He is electrifying. That really is the best word to describe him, he gets you interested; he gets you excited.The problem is, the excitement is often (though not always) empty as a lot of the excitement is about how great The Rock is being, and not how we’re excited to take on, say, The Awesome Truth later. I understood the significance of his promo, especially at the start when he explained the meaning of MSG to him because his father and grandfather had both wrestled here, but then it turned in to some sort of self-tribute act where he simply went through all his cathphrases. Electrifying, but not interesting. I actually tweeted that Rock is arguably the best talker ever, but that Punk is the best promo today. Compare Rock’s RockyMania tour promo to this 15 second promo from Punk which built for the match and got him over in a fraction of the time Rocky took.

Team Barrett def. Team Orton With Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes as Sole-Survivors
To labour a point I always make, matches with so many people in it are hard to review. In these matches, keeping score is more important than the wrestling for the most part, though that is not to say that there can’t be lots of sweet moments. This was the only traditional Survivor Series match on the card, but perhaps because of that, this match stood out and was carefully booked. Ziggler was, again, a star just coming to the ring, shouting, in response to his earlier question about who could follow him with ‘oh, I’m gonna follow me!’ – what a great line! When I saw him enter the ring to face Orton, I was hoping for some wonderful wrestling from two of the best alive, so I was a little upset it was cut short with a quick RKO. This isn’t too big of a problem though, because Ziggler simply doing double-duty was what was impressive last night. Less impressive was Sin Cara’s exit, though it’s not fair to be too hard on him because his injury is more sad than anything; after a lacklustre start to his WWE career, this set-back is going to cost him months and potentially kill any momentum he has. His one hope now is that he can rely on a well-timed ‘return pop’ to get him back in the favour of the fans. Mason “Tastes Like Chicken” Ryan’s exit was at the hands of a lovely sequence from Cody Rhodes, who used his tag team prowess to get a perfectly timed blind tag to Hunico to allow him to hit a Beatuful Disaster followed by CrossRhodes for the pin-fall and a big pop from the MSG crowd who were high on Rhodes and good wrestlers and unsupportive of Mason “Income Tax” Ryan. The way Rhodes went to smugly celebrate with his team just goes to show the little things he does which makes him a future superstar. Kingston did ok in the match. He had some nice spots, as you would expect, including a nice sequence where he hit his pendulum kick to one of the heels on the apron, which put him in the perfect position for Barrett’s new Big Boot signature (apparently now called the ‘Barrett Barrage’). As is right and usual since Bourne’s suspension, however, Kingston is on the back-burner, so he wasn’t a highlight player in the match, and was eliminated by a Wasteland by Barrett. Rhodes and Orton had some more great work together before the most baffling bit of booking of the whole night. For some reason, Sheamus started his heel knees to Swagger, ignoring the ref’s count and getting DQ’d, and then after being DQ’d, he was so angry at Swagger for receiving his knees that he felt he deserved a Brogue Kick. Swagger’s no nice guy, but what did he do to deserve that? I understand it was probably a way to get Swagger eliminated (he was pinned after the Brogue Kick), but more importantly, to get Sheamus eliminated in a way that doesn’t require him being beated because that doesn’t happen to Great Whites. Hunico, who had a pretty nice outing last night, not looking out of touch with the bigger stars in the match, was eliminated with the crowd-pleasing though perhaps a little waring springboard in to Super RKO spot. This left us with just Orton, Barrett and Rhodes. Given that Orton had gone from four against 1 to two against one relatively quickly, I think most people expected a couple of RKOs, a babyface win, and drinks backstage for Orton, but happily, this formulaic booking was interrupted as the more realistic numbers game came in to play. Orton went down fighting, as a face of his stature should, but after fighting off Rhodes with an RKO, he ran in to Barrett to be barraged with a Wasteland, allowing Barrett and his team to pick up the unlikely win. Before the match, Cole had made a great call about Orton’s unprecedented success at Survivor Series (indeed, this will be the only mention of the commentary here because it was actually pretty good), and especially with this fresh in our minds, the victory made Barrett and Rhodes look and appear to be really strong. Now Barrett and Rhodes have legitimate bragging rights over Orton and Orton arguably has something to prove, while not at all looking bad as he went down to numbers.

Match 4) Mark Henry Retained the World Heavyweight Championship as The Big Show def. Mark Henry via DQ
The MSG crowd last night really helped make the PPV special with their sincere, creative chants and their sheer enthusiasm for most things on the show. I have talked innumerable times about how good, hot crowds can make good shows great, but I have also explained that bad crowds can make decent shows bad, and unfortunately, the MSG crowd fell in to this category for this match. This was a good match made ok, if you follow. There’s no getting around the fact that the opening half of the match was pretty dry, but that does not excuse the fans chanting ‘BORING’. As is often the case, Brandon Stroud put it better than I can be bothered to try and best: “There is never, ever a legitimate reason to chant “boring” at two wrestlers wrestling … “Boring” is disrespectful, and makes you look like an asshole. Bottom line. “Boring” is the reason why wrestling became so ADD in the late 90s … 24/7 hardcore titles were born, people started turning on each other every week, and even the Gods of Puroresu gave up complex storytelling for head-drops. “Boring” is a statement on you, not what you’re watching.” Back to me, and one of my favourite things about wrestling is the sheer respect between everyone involved. OK, the ‘boring’ and ‘you f**ked up’ are parts of a 90’s desire to be more involved with the kayfabe world, but when it comes down to it, these guys are putting their lives on the line, and if you don’t like it, do something else for a while or make no noise or whatever, but don’t shout ‘boring’. Not everything everyone does is going to be great and it really makes it difficult to rise above the stigma of the chant. This match succeeded in doing this anyway, which is a real testament to Show and Henry! As the match progressed past the slowly-developing holds, they moved on to more shocking spots which drew upon their big spots together. They teased a superplex, crashed through the barricade to chants of ‘Holy S**t!’, and finally hit an improbable elbow drop from The Big Show which again threatened the ring, led to a beautiful Randy Savage chant, and allowed Henry to look amazing by kicking out. The crowd were won over, and had started to help rather than hinder the match, but at this point came the somewhat disappointing finish to the match. Despite kicking out of the Showstopping Elbow Drop, Henry was on the ropes, and after avoiding a WMD, he apparently decided to cut his losses and get himself disqualified. This made sense I suppose, to keep the title on Henry and continue the feud, but first of all, at PPV, DQ finishes are never pleasing, but more importantly to me, the finish showed Henry as something other than amazingly unstoppable, again. A decent enough match which was certainly memorable though, thanks to all the big-weight-break spots. Big Show KO-ing Henry makes sense as Henry’s cheated him out of his match and potentially a championship, though the leg drop to Henry’s chair-wrapped ankle perhaps seemed a little far; it was, however, an apt form of revenge, and these two should definitely be given a chairs match at TLC. Of course, thoughout this, the crowd were begging for Daniel Bryan to cash in his MITB briefcase. Indeed, I think, like with the collapsed ring at Vengeance, WWE are actively staging these perfect opportunities for AmDrag to cash in, in order to highlight the sheer honour in his character which wont allow him to win a championship that way. No doubt, Bryan will only be tempted more going towards WrestleMania, which will be very intriguing, however he reacts to it.

Match 5) CM Punk def. Alberto Del Rio to Win the WWE Championship
In the preview to this PPV, I explained how the build to this match didn’t enthrall me, but at least when it really mattered, these two did enthrall me with a match I certainly consider to be a Match of the Year candidate! The North-East MSG crowd were behind Punk from the start, and after Del Rio came out with his usual pomp and circumstance, including personal ring announcer, Punk did a great job of countering that self-satisfied ceremony by having undeniably awesome best ring announcer ever Howard Finkel announce him to the ring. Even I was chanting Howard Finkel at home when he approached and the emotion on The Fink’s face shows exactly why he’s so respected. And boy, when Punk approached the ring, I actually think the noise rivalled, and maybe even bested the noise in Chicago. It was electrifying in its own right, and like that night in Chicago, Punk worked the crowd to perfection, to a frenzy. With them in tow, and two great wrestlers facing each other, the stage was set for a fantastic championship match. Instantly more important than it appeared in the build to the PPV. After a deliberate start to the match, which saw the two feeling each other out as technical wrestlers should, the story moved to being around submissions, and Del Rio especially working Punk’s arm, but Punk working on Del Rio’s arm himself. Rodriguez was always going to be a factor too, and in order to win, Punk would need to dispatch him, as was seen when Punk chased Rodriguez round the ring, only to run in to a beautiful, perfectly timed dropkick through the ropes from Del Rio, which he capitalised on by smashing Punker’s hand on the steel ring steps. Indeed, most of the first portion of the match was Del Rio dishing out the punishment, with him regaining the advantage pretty quickly after attempted comebacks from Punk. This was especially great when Punk went for his ‘patented’ knee, only for Del Rio to avoid it and hit a low version of his enziguiri to Punk hanging from the turnbuckle. As the match progressed though, the gritty Second City Saint fought his way back increasingly in to the ascension. Punk fought off Del Rio’s attacks to the arm on the turnbuckle before the Savage elbow and more sweet Savage chants. Punk had spent a lot of time trying to hit the GTS, but after this, after another attempt, Del Rio reversed in to the Cross Arm-Breaker, and because it was in the centre of the ring, and because of Punk being a face not afraid to sell pain. He didn’t, however tap, and managed to make it to the ropes. Just the fact that a top face looked like he might tap is great for everyone, and great for the WWE Championship as a whole – it’ll mean defenses mean more. After another GTS attempt, the Rodriguez factor was concluded as the ring announcer hit the apron for the distraction, but in a nice bit of splicing, as Del Rio pushed Punk away, Punk carried the momentum and hit a big boot to Rodriguez. Del Rio goes for the Cross-Armbreaker, but this time, Punk is able to jockey in to the Anaconda Vice, and though Del Rio was clawing at Punk’s face in a pretty gritty, cool way, he eventually succumbed and tapped. Wonderful, wonderful match here; certainly a rival to Punk-Cena from MITB, especially with the perfectly clean finish in mind. The scratching and clawing was awesome in itself, the sweet progression between submissions aside as they gave a real sense of realism that is lacking from submission ‘struggles’ like John Cena’s shiny lying on someone’s back and hugging them routine. It was great to hear The Fink announce Punk as ‘the winner of the match, and Neeeeeeew WWE Champion’ and it must have been special for Punker too. Following the match, we saw the familiar celebrating with fans routine, but this time it seemed, again, more genuine, just because it’s Punk. Instead of just standing by them, he added his own touch by diving in to a delighted crowd and really being among the people, again, like the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ should!

Match 6) The Rock & John Cena def. The Miz & R-Truth
Of course, The Rock came out last out of the four, and just before he did, I realised how special the moment would be, and it didn’t disappoint. I expected Rock to look slightly ridiculous, his massive body squeezed in to trunks, but no, he looked like normal Rock pretty much, other than his Goldberg head and vaguely tribal tattoo, but upgraded to a kind of superbeing … out of a movie. And to my surprise, his performance was equally surprisingly pleasing. I was pleasantly surprised also that Rock started the match out. I kinda expected the hot tag to get him in the match, but instead, refreshingly, Rock wanted to start the match out , and prove that ‘he still got it’. To my mind, he certainly hasn’t ‘lost’ anything. Rock clearly wanted to make a statement – a wrestling statement, and he did that with his opening salvo of sweet, deep arm-drags, and a La Magistral pin. It’s not a surprise that he can do it, but it was great to see him do it so effortlessly and crisply, and the consequent ‘Wel-come back’ and ‘you still got it’ chants were deserved. I don’t want to go over the top, because Rock wasn’t in the ring for that long, but during my preview, I worried about Rock not being as explosively brilliant as his 2001 self, but if anything, again, he was at least as good  as that, and, if anything, better than that – the super-Rock I mentioned earlier. One word sums up his early performance, and it isn’t surprising: ‘electrifying’. I was pleased to see Miz and Truth each wanting a shot at The Rock, because it showed a bit of bravery against The Great One, which obviously shows them in a good light. Unfortunately for them, Rocky pretty much bested them again, before it was decided they wanted Cena. Here came the almost obligatory awkward tag between the two as Rock dismissively slapped Cena’s hand as if to say ‘follow that’. Of course, Cena had a tough act to follow, and of course, that was the whole point of the story of the match. Cena then deployed all of his ‘technical’ wrestling – snap mares, a monkey flip, a dropkick, though somehow, when Cena did it, it seemed more cynical. Possibly importantly, Cena wasn’t as dominant as Rock was and instead went in to usual SuperCena booking of getting beat up for ages, but never, ever, giving up. This was good as it gave Miz and Truth a bit of the spotlight, and not just against Cena,because at times when it ‘broke down’, Rock was vulnerable to attack, and indeed, the only time he looked at all vulnerable was when Miz and Truth cheap-shotted him at ringside. This was especially true when Truth clotheslined Rock at ringside, which was the only time I remember him being knocked down in the match, before being dropped on the barricade and selling it like a champ. For a while, Cena continued to struggle against Awesome Truth, having to fight off the effective team with a partner disinterested in his safety, but eventually after making Truth miss with a fancy leg drop, he got the hot tag to Rocky, who exploded out of the corner to dominate the heels with more trademark moves like his boot and DDT combo to Miz, the Rock Bottom to Truth, the Sharpshooter to Miz – which was broken up by Truth, who was subsequently speared out of the ring by Cena in the first bit of really effective teaming from the faces. Meanwhile, Miz tried to beat on the Rock, but ended up with the huge trademark spinebuster, followed directly by the pulling off of the elbow pad and the People’s Elbow for the win. One criticism is that the end of the match was a little formulaic. Maybe the break down of the match didn’t work quite enough, but though the People’s Elbow is a cool and natural way to end , it seemed a little sudden. While I expected Miz and Truth to win, and while that loss hurt them even more than they have been hurt as of late, perhaps today’s announcement of a wellness policy suspension for Ron Killings explains it. On reflection, I certainly don’t mind Rock getting the pin. It was a natural, feel-good finish to the match, and the crowd ate it up. After the match, Cena was meekly allowing Rock to ‘have his moment’, but this is where Cena was publicly humiliated. Rock called him back in the ring, ostensibly to allow him his moment, but then it became clear that Rock wanted to show Cena, passive-aggressively, that he is the man. After getting his pops on the turnbuckle, he invited Cena to get what he ‘deserves’: boos ringing out. Right here, Cena really looked pathetic, and it must have been intentional, but though he had words with The Rock, the fact the he got Rock-Bottomed himself seconds later undermined any manliness in Cena while Rock continued to pose and take all the adulation. This sounds like criticism, but it isn’t. It’s fresh and interesting to see Cena be humbled in this way. It doesn’t mean that Cena wont snap down the line – indeed, one day, he will snap, and the more tension we build between them until then, the better. An understated but impactful finish there, and while people may have wanted a big brawl, it is too soon for that. This was the right level I think, and it capped off a wonderful, memorable PPV.

Indeed, it was wrestling near-perfection. The weakest match on the card, Henry-Big Show wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, while the rest of the matches were good, and at best, we had some moments that will go down in history surrounding The Rock, and a MOTY candidate from Punk and Del Rio. This will be another PPV I buy the DVD of.

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The RAW View (31/10/2011): The Sodding MUPPETS Were On RAW

Lookalikes? Vickie Guerrero and Jack Swagger berate Miss Piggy and Kermit

The Rock Accepted John Cena’s Request to Tag With Him at Survivor Series
First off, we had The Rock … via satellite. I don’t know whether there was a problem with Rocky’s diary or whatever, but at this point, if he’s made commitments to WWE (especially considering his claim that he’s never going away, as well as the fact that his answer was sold as a big cliffhanger), he should be making an effort to be in Atlanta for a few hours to duel with Cena. All this aside, Rock’s promo was pretty good. Last week, Cena was probably too complimentary of Rocky last week, and so it was especially important to retain the tension between the two, and Rock made sure to do so by noting his sheer distaste for Cena before eventually agreeing to team with him for the good of the kids (Team Bring It). So a good way to progress the storyline and keep the tension between the two, while allowing them to tag together at Survivor Series. Just a shame Rocky couldn’t make it.

Mark Henry def. CM Punk via DQ
I was surprised to see this go out first because I expected it to be the main event. Happily, this card position made sense. This was more of an angle than a match as Henry and Punk started out with some nice spots as Punk reverted to his strong style to try and weaken the World’s Strongest Man, while Henry, of course, out-gunned Punk. Importantly, Punk had Henry down and had the upper hand following a Macho Man elbow, at which point, Del Rio appeared with Ricardo Rodriguez, but not to harm Punk. Instead they wanted to cost him his claim to a title shot, and given that the stipulation was that he would get one if he beat Henry, it made sense that Del Rio would attack Henry to cost Punk the match. In fact, i’ve never understood why this spot hasn’t been used the in the past. It makes so much sense! Del Rio wont say that he fears Punk, but he’ll say it with his actions, and rather than risking Punk winning by DQ, they made sure he would lose by ensuring he was DQ’d. Not only that, but it has created more bad blood between the two.

Eve Torres Won a Battle Royal to Become the #1 Contender to the Divas Championship
I have a love-hate relationship with the divas costume … events? I enjoy the tradition of them seen as they only really happen once a year, but it does seem a little awkwardly objectifying still. Maybe ‘objectifying’ is the wrong word; perhaps ‘disrespectful’ is better – after all, why couldn’t the men do it, for one match at least? All that aside though, I like the idea behind this. Regular readers will be aware of my demand for more #1 contendership contests, and if WWE want Eve back in, it makes sense to have her beat the rest of the roster and earn another shot. It surprises me a little because Alicia Fox seemed destined for the next shot after beating Nattie on Smackdown (the fact that this result rendered that loss unrequired kinda annoyed me), but perhaps that was nixed – again, as a fan of Eve, I have no problem with that. It was quite a good battle royal actually, and Nattie was allowed to regain some dignity in the match, really looking dominant but falling to an attack from behind from Eve.

Wade Barrett & Cody Rhodes def. AirBoom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston)
My first reaction to this was surprise: why were Rhodes and Barrett tagging together!? I figured it was just a way to get them both on TV. It was a good, fever-pitched match from all, but especially, as you would expect, from AirBoom. Nothing too interesting happened – possibly because Rhodes and Barrett don’t have too much chemistry … because they’ve never (I think) worked together. The end was good though; playing on the finish to Barrett’s win against Trent Baretta on Smackdown, Evan Bourne attempted a hurricanrana, only to be hoisted on to Barrett’s shoulders for a Wasteland. Now, Bourne escaped this attempt, but later, was caught on the turnbuckle by Barrett for a successful Wasteland and the win. I was really surprised at the tag champs losing like this, and with the run-in from Christian (and therefore, Sheamus) following, I pressumed it was a set-up for a traditional Survivor Series match. That may still be the case, but with the shocking news that Evan Bourne has been suspended for a violation of the wellness policy. This may explain the loss (and Bourne taking the pin), but it must surely signal the end of their impressive tag title reign, which is a real shame – in fact, it is rumoured that they could even drop the titles on Smackdown. If they do, I hope it isn’t to Rhodes and Barrett. I’m not sure about their chemistry, and Rhodes seems set on a fascinating path with Randt Orton. Though the ‘Barrett Barrage’ seems like an individualistic pursuit, I think he and that apparently (somewhat) reinvigorated Drew McIntyre would make a good challenging team, with Barrett demanding a match (with a partner of his choice) for the titles based on this win.

The Big Show def. Alberto Del Rio
I always bitch about Big Show (well I have been recently at least), but he has been putting on better matches than I would usually expect from him. There were some nice moments of Del Rio trying to comba Show’s sheer size, especially the epically long sleeper hold which ADR applied. I liked this technicque, but it did make for a very slow-paced match, for most of the match; and though Show’s tree-trunk like legs being wrapped around the Mexican Aristocrat for some time was very visually engaging, it didn’t make for the most exciting encounter, though there were some good near-falls throughout. Del Rio looked good against The Giant, getting some near-falls, but Show looked good too to stay in the match (though his throwing Del Rio out of the ring at every near fall was a little repetative), Del Rio was getting most of his offense from his feet. As it turned out, he went to the well too many times as, when attempting his rope step-up enziguiri he was caught with a W.M.D. (punch) from Big Show, earning Show the three count. It’s pretty clear that Show will be challenging again for the World Heavyweight Championship and so I guess this will be part of the currency for doing so. I dislike the booking very much though. Del Rio, the WWE Champion, lost for no good reason, and so looked weak, at best, to get Big Show currency to challenge for a different championship.

CM Punk Forced Alberto Del Rio To Give Him a WWE Championship Match at Survivor Series
CM Punk was destined to get his match at Survivor Series, but in order to do so, he would have to jump through the hoops of the WWE machine. John Laurinaitis first insisted that Punk would have to beat Mark Henry, and later, that he would need the unlikely permission of Alberto Del Rio himself. There was some perfectly logical booking in Punk’s first attempt, and equally logical booking at this, his second attempt. With Del Rio down, he woke him up with some of R-Truth’s water (probably explaining his only brief appearance last night) before calmly explaining to him that he was going to get Del Rio to agree to a title match by putting him in the much-beloved Anaconda Vice. This worked as Punk planned and Del Rio agreed to the match. Alone, this may have seemed like a cowardly act, but with the knowledge that Laurinaitis was trying to block Punk’s attempts, and that Del Rio had cleverly cheated Punk out of his opportunity, it was only fair that Punk did what he could to play the system back to his advantage. It seems again that Johnny Ace is protecting Del Rio, but Punk used Funkhauser’s own words against him by fulfilling his conditions far a title match, forcefully. Now you may wonder why Punk couldn’t just have beaten Henry at the start for the same result. Well this option was much better; Henry didn’t have to lose, while the idea that Laurinaitis is in Del Rio’s pocket and against Punk was further confirmed, while the events themselves added more tensions between the two competitors. Very clever build.

Santino Marella def. Jack Swagger
One of the first things to happen on RAW last night was Vickie Guerrero and Jack Swagger confronting our Muppet hosts (pictured above). It was a really funny bit of slapstick cartoon in the wrestling vein as Miss Piggy and Vickie angrily chest-bumped each other whice Swagger bullied Kermit by pinching his mouth closed to the point where Kermit collapsed. Watch the funny scene below:

Well after Santino interrupted the heel bullying, a match between him and Swagger was set up. Swagger hasn’t been a bastion of comedy in the WWE, but he was taking part in a comedy match with one of the best in Santino, and given the light-hearted nature of the match, I enjoyed how it went down. Swagger was dominating for the most part, to keep him looking strong, though Santino wasn’t out of it yet. At the ropes, Beaker appeared and gave Santino an ‘energy drink’ made by Dr. Bunsun to help him compete. I expected him to drink it and become unstoppable, but instead (and much more funnily), Santino couldn’t swallow the powerful mixture, and when turned around by Swagger, spat it all in his face, blinding the All American American and gaining the victory. A really nice, entertaining match for what it was, and because it was a comedy match with the Muppets, it didn’t cost Swagger anything really. The footage of the fun and surreal moments can be viewed below:

and while i’m at it, here’s reality imitating art as the much photoshopped companionship of Sheamus and Beaker (a meme long before anyone knew the Muppets would be anywhere near RAW) came to fruition last night:

Zack Ryder def. Dolph Ziggler
These two are great together. I don’t know how many weeks in a row I can say it. This was pretty short, but also probably the match of the night, such is the efficiency of each guy’s in-ring work. This was high paced and impactful, with Ziggler hitting one of his wonderful dropkicks, only to be (perhaps surprisingly) matched by a missile dropkick of Ryder’s own. Each man was doing great in their respective roles too, with the fans loving Ryder and hating Ziggler, so much so that the duelling chants were between two Ryder chants (‘Lets Go Ryder’ and ‘Woo Woo Woo’). As the match progressed, it only got quicker and better. After a Bro Kick, Ziggler was on the ropes and hit a desperation jawbreaker. He looked to follow this up with a splash, but dived right in to double knees, seemingly for a 3-count, but Ziggler’s feet was under the ropes. I don’t know if this was intentional or not (i’m not sure why it would be given the result), but the referee saw it, and restarted the match. Usually, under such circumstances, you would expect the person pinned to win, but here, Ryder again got the win following a Rough Ryder after avoiding a Zig Zag. A nice finish and a good match. I suppose, if the false-finish was intended, it was invented as a way to show Ryder’s toughness and perseverance, which makes sense to me. The controversy and the further win for Ryder puts him right back in the US title hunt (and sweeping Mason ‘I Lost My Ball’ Ryan back out) while creating even more tension between the two very modern superstars.

John Cena def. The Miz /w R-Truth
In this WrestleMania re-match, Cena and Miz had a pretty decent match in which Miz didn’t look too bad for the most part. I don’t have the determination to go in to too much detail about the match though, given the result and overall feeling of the match. Though Miz was close to a match for Cena, towards the end of the match, R-Truth appeared in the crowd, in a Halloween Scream mask to attack Cena. It was at this point that we saw the resurgence of SuperCena. He dispatched Truth ‘with the greatest of ease’ , avoiding Miz’s Skull Crushing Finalé and reversing it in to an STF. Miz tapped quickly before Truth entered the ring (still in Scream mask), and walked straight in to an AA like a Bond henchman. For the second consecutive week, Cena dispatched both Miz and Truth ‘with the greatest of ease’. It’s been said so much it’s almost a cliché, but if Cena can beat up both on his own, surely he could team with anyone on the current WWE roster to beat them, and not, y’know, the man he supposedly hates. There are two explanations for this. The first is going to sound like a very broken record: the only reason Cena could want Rock there is if he wants him there to attack him – i.e. if we have a Cena heel-turn; something that would make sense for many reasons. Or, less tangiably, Cena could want Rock there to ‘send a message’ with his performance. Now, whatever happens, this match will be interesting (it is a build that genuinely can’t be messed up, simply because The Rock will be wrestling again, alongside Cena), but going in, is anyone watching genuinely worried that the evil Awesome Truth are going to be able to topple Rock and Cena? Just because the build can’t be botched, doesn’t mean it should be done as poorly as possible, and in the coming weeks, Miz and Truth will need to score some points against the faces – hopefully on the 3 hour ‘Rock is here’ special, which will otherwise be another burying Rock love-fest like his second ‘birthday’ was.

RAW Recall (22/11/2010): Welcome to Mizville!

Miz after capturing his first WWE Championship

 

How quickly the focus of the WWE Universe changes. This time yesterday, the fallout of Survivor Series and Cena’s firing was all most people were talking about. Leave it the the Miz to get people talking …

Yesterday, I was wondering how Nexus were going to stay relevant as a force in the WWE. Well, the first segment answered that question, for this Monday night, at least. Barrett came out and employed some classic wrestle-logic by suggesting that referees have never before laid their hands on a competitor like Cena did on Sunday, and for that reason, he should get a re-match. Of course, any one who remembers Earl Hebner’s WWE tenure will remember that this is hardly true even at a cursory glance. It was wrestle-logic well employed though, because the GM granted a rematch, meaning Nexus remained central to proceedings for the night, and seemed like legitimate threats to the WWE title, and therefore, the WWE.

As CM Punk came out to rehab at the announce booth, a lot of the night’s attention then shifted to the return of the King of the Ring concept which will take place next week on RAW. The first qualifier saw Sheamus take on R-Truth; two people who would fit in the tournament, making this match more unpredictable than most ‘qualifier’ type matches are. R-Truth had a decent showing, but the match was all about showing a ‘house of fire’ opened up in Sheamus after losing to John Morrison at Survivor Series. Indeed, the spirited Truth eventually seemed to just be being dragged along the ring, and Sheamus used all of his power moves (including the rarely executed Irish Cross) to go over Truth, despite the fact he could have pinned him before that. Bad for Truth (though that doesn’t really bother me), but good for Sheamus, who needs wins elsewhere if he’s going to put Morrison over. I wont speculate on who will/should win KOTR until all eight participants are announced on Friday.

The next qualifying match was slated to be Ezekiel Jackson against the Miz. When I saw the graphic, I thought “what’s the point of Miz being in KOTR, he doesn’t need to be.” Thankfully, therefore, Alex Riley took his place in the match (cue a joke from Punk regarding Riley’s recent DUI). I haven’t been sure up until now, but it seems they’re selling ‘Big Zeke’ as a babyface, which is fine by me as he seems surprisingly over. I think we need to see him do a little more in the ring though (his match against Riley was little more than another squash victory) and have him in some really good matches, all of which can be obtained by placing him in a good feud; for the sake of argument, let me suggest his ex-associate, William Regal. Like Goldust, Regal doesn’t seem to have too much long left in the ring, and, like Goldust, WWE may provide him with one last TV rivalry. A lot of this one would write itself.

Half-way through the show we saw Cena give his ‘farewell address.’ Some people dislike Cena (myself not included, though I thought his character was stale before this whole Nexus thing), but the one thing no one can take away is his knowledge and his passion for the business. Everything he said in that ring, I believe, was straight from the heart. He was sad but upbeat, he knew he’d stayed true to the business, to the community, and was proud and thankful of it. Cena also showed he is more tuned in with the fans than his detractors suggest, pulling out a cheeky curse-word (has Mae Young single-handedly ended the PG era!) and asking the WWE Universe to use their most sincere chant: “Lets’s go Cena/Cena sucks!” He has managed to refine his character of late. He is more than just a face, and that says a lot about his talent. On his way out, the locker-room, and long-time rival, Randy Orton, all paid respect. The last one to see him out, Wade Barrett, however, wished him good riddance with a mocking ‘you can’t see me’ gesture. It is emblematic of the new stars being made, many of which Cena has helped along.

Back to KOTR qualifying, and Daniel Bryan took on new rival Ted DiBiase. To me, it seemed like a no-brainer to have DiBiase go over. Daniel Bryan, as US champ and shooting star, doesn’t need the KOTR, and a loss after a successful title defence wouldn’t hurt him too much, especially if DiBiase gained it unfairly. The other ‘strory’ from this match was the strange accompaniment of Bryan to the ring of Brie Bella. Not that I particularly disliked it, but I thought the comical ‘ladies man’ idea was over before it begun. Apparently not, and Brie seemed quite taken with the American Dragon. Unfortunately for Bryan, this distracted him for the opening part of the match, and DiBiase didn’t let up for some time. However, Bryan got back in to it and managed to beat DiBiase, again, with the LaBelle Lock. Post match, as Brie was attending to Bryan, Nikki Bella  came out to contest for him. Bryan seemed stunned by it, and respectfully removed himself from the situation. At this, Cole called him a nerd, and for once, I have to agree! Another loss for DiBiase doesn’t seem great for his progression, but in a little preview to my KOTR post, I doubt Bryan will be winning, so expect DiBiase to cost Bryan his KOTR match and set up a US Championship rematch at TLC.

LayCool showed up at the arena only to be turned away. Of course Natalya has to now show up on Smackdown, but it may be a sign that there will be no LayCool rematch. Natalya had a classic sort of post-title victory match against Alicia Fox in which she dispatched her with ease to appear a dominant and deserved champion. All will be more clear for her after Smackdown.

The final KOTR qualification from RAW was determined between John Morrison and Tyson Kidd. Now, it’s good for Kidd that he got TV time, but he came out to generic music and lost, which may be a bad sign. The guy needs a good feud with DH Smith pronto, unless he wants to become a Superstars regular. The match was ok, but given the mutual high-flying skills of both, you might have expected more. I suppose the problem for Kidd is that his sort of almost lucha style isn’t that consistent with being a heel, so he might feel he needs to slow down and be more methodical, or risk not getting over. Neither is desirable. Before the match, Melina gave Morrison a flirtation slap on the ass, so to speak, and it seems rumours that MNM were getting back together may have some founding. As for the match, it was ok. None of the qualifiers were spectacular, as you might expect, but none of them were boring or bad, so there’s not much more to say. Morrison looked strong, which was just as important to him as it was to Sheamus.

Our main event saw Wade Barrett getting his championship rematch against Randy Orton. From this point, we had a rollercoaster of emotions and chaos. Initially, I couldn’t see Barrett winning. What would be the point of that after losing the night before? But then Nexus came out and Orton made a point of seeming debilitated for the title match, so at this point, a title change seems more possible. This match in itself was very good. Barrett played the calculating predator brilliantly while Orton sold his injury well while staying mobile, actually resembling a wounded animal (or viper). His eventual success, with the help of the vengeful Cena, was genuinely inspiring and uplifting. It was at this point that I realised there were seven minutes left in the broadcast. THERE ARE SEVEN MINUTES LEFT! … “AWESOME! … I CAME TO PLAY! …” No matter how many times it is done, a cashing in of MITB will always get everyone sat or stood up, as Punk mentioned the crowd in the arena were. An important aspect of the ensuing title match was that it wasn’t simply a Skull-Crushing Finalé and a three-count. Orton was stood up, and Miz had to actually work (though a lot less so than he usually would have) to overcome the Viper. He spent a fair amount of time working over a game Orton. Indeed, it seemed that the speculation (and hopes) of much of the IWC that Miz would be the first to fail to successfully cash in his MITB contract, may have been realised as Orton set-up for the RKO. However, Miz legitimately out-wrestled Orton with a great reversal in to the Skull-Crushing Finalé for the win. It wasn’t a clean victory, but it was one which suggested, as was essential, that Miz belongs on that stage. I have said recently that I thought Miz needed to wait to cash in, but this was very well executed, and made Miz look more like a credible champion. All of that, along with the almost child-like excitement of MITB made for a brilliant RAW! I imagine Orton will receive a rematch, and a simple one-on-one match would surely end in an Orton victory, so I imagine the cheated Barrett may also lay claim to a spot at TLC. Expect a triple-threat.

Survivor Series Results & Review, 2010: Cena Sacrifices Himself to Do the Right Thing

Cena dutifully hands the WWE Championship to Randy Orton

Daniel Bryan def. Ted DiBiase to Retain the United States Championship
There was something about DiBiase right from the get-go that I liked a lot more than I have since he left Legacy. He’s been too bound up in his father’s image, and it’s hurt him and set his progression as a superstar back. Last night, he looked determined, ruthless and much more interesting. The early going was all about him and the remarkable aggression he showed Bryan, beating him down, picking him up, and beating him down again, including that sickening elbow drop to Bryan’s throat from the turnbuckle. I don’t know whether it was legitimate or not, but during Bryan’s resurgence, he hit a Suicide Dive on to DiBiase where he looked to fall awkwardly on his shoulder. If it was legit, kudos to Bryan for continuing, if not, kudos to both for making it a focal point of the match. DiBiase attacked the arm, and looked like he could beat Bryan, but Bryan eventually won by applying his LaBelle Lock from the other side of DiBiase, keeping his injured shoulder in mind. A very good opener though, and i’d be surprised if it has ended the feud. After the match, the Miz attacked Bryan from behind and cut a promo saying that he was sick of carrying that MITB briefcase around with him, teasing that he may cash it in on the night.

John Morrison def. Sheamus
This was the match I was least looking forward to. I didn’t think the build-up was very good, and I thought (and still kinda think) that Morrison isn’t charismatic enough to provide interesting narratives. The match started slowly, but to their credit, about a third of the way in, it started to pick up. The pace of the match picked up and there was some good back-and-forth, but mostly in Sheamis’s favour. A crucial moment came when Sheamus sweeped Morrison’s legs away when he was (I think) looking for Starship Pain. This started a nice progression involving Morrison’s leg, starting in style with some sort of (and this is my best identification of the move) leg-snapmare, which involved great athleticism from Morrison. Sheamus followed this up with a single-leg Boston crab, which I was really pleased to see as it showed some evolution from Sheamus, incorporating submissions. This still wasn’t enough though, and after Sheamus missed with a Brogue Kick, the resilient Morrison hit his flying chuck before a shining wizard and to pick up the three. A better match than I expected, and a good way to keep Sheamus interested in Morrison for now, though I was surprised to see Sheamus go down without receiving one of Morrison’s finishers.

Dolph Ziggler def. Kaval to Retain the Intercontinental Championship
This was another excellent match, and, as I expected, one that was high-octane and unpredictable. Ziggler’s highly competent mat-skills were never quite enough to contain the World Warrior, who even more than usual, was all over the ring, hitting springboards and flips and kicks whenever he got a moment’s breath. Some particularly special moments were his springboard moonsault on to Ziggler, and his corcscrewing flip into a Warrior’s Way which, unfortunately, Ziggler was able to avoid. It seemed Ziggler just wouldn’t be able to beat Kaval, so he resorted to holding his tights for the pinfall. Though Kaval is a new challenger that lost, that ending means i’m sure Kaval will go on to confront Ziggler and wrestle him again for the title at TLC. I’m putting my order in now for a ladder match. This was a very good match, and add in a ladder, and these two could steal the show.

Survivor Series Match: Team Mysterio def. Team Del Rio with Rey Mysterio and Big Show as Sole-Survivors
As I always say, it’s difficult to really analyse these big ten-man matches – there’s just too much going on in short bursts. That is not to say, however, that quality is lacking, and this Survivor Series match was, to my mind, excellent. The early stand-out was home-town boy, MVP, He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and was besting everything that moved. Though i’m sick of saying it, while your pushing people, WWE, why don’t you push someone who barely needs any pushing (MVP!) Del Rio got himself great heat by cheating MVP out of the match, tripping hm and then holding his feet while Drew McIntyre pinned him. Alberto was playing a fantastic heel indeed, after dispatching Masters with (relative) ease, and seeing Big Show enter the ring, he went to tag in McIntyre before mocking Show right in his face; his wink bringing him a swift Knock-out Punch to take him out of the match. Reks was characteristically powerful but indistinct, taking Show off his feet before getting eliminated without much fanfare. One stand-out was Jack Swagger. He was besting everyone in the ring, finding ingenius ways of grappling his way to an Ankle Lock. It’s obviously rare that faces tap, but Swagger’s determination paid off as Kofi succumbed to the devastating move. Swagger had McIntyre at his side as they took on Rey and Show, and McIntyre stood out too, working well with Swagger and being the last member of Team Del Rio to be pinned. As I say, a great Survivor Series match, though it was a little samey to see Rey and Show as sole-survivors.

Natalya def. LayCool to Become WWE Divas Champion
This was a relatively short but very good and physical match, which seemed to be well received. Natalya managed to handle the two heels in a way which didn’t seem unnatural, largely because of, I assume, the forays to ringside which makes the situation chaotic enough to allow that sort of unlikely dominance. The match progressed in almost the exact way I predicted it, but predictability is not necessarily a bad thing. LayCool are great heels, while most will acknowledge (in kayfabe terms or not) that Nattie deserves the title. It was almost like a right of passage, and so to have it delivered just as you might imagine it, makes it all the sweeter. Post match came a big surprise as Beth Phoenix made her return to save Nattie from the vengeful LayCool before celebrating with Natalya. Some interesting questions came from all this. Firstly, will LayCool stay together? Will they get a re-match? If they do, who will fight for them? Could the decision split them up? A LayCool split would be a genuinely big deal. Secondly, surely Beth Phoenix is interested in the Divas title? And if so, how will that effect her friendship with Nattie? Expect a tag match this Smackdown to provide some answers.

Kane and Edge TIE Allowing Kane to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This was, in many ways, an interesting and compelling match. It was a pretty slow one, because the story was based around Edge’s psychology and Kane’s mental state regarding his missing father. The early going was dominated by Edge drawing Kane in and capitalising on the angry champion’s lack of focus. This was obviously countered with some devastating offense from the Big Red Machine as he tried to punish Edge and beat some answers out of him. This was good, but the match wasn’t really action-packed until the very end. Kane, looking dominant, managed a Chokeslam, which provided us with a dramatic near-fall. An infuriated Kane set up for the Tombstone-Piledriver, but Edge escaped and hit a Spear, which seemed to give him the three count. On closer inspection though, both men were covering each other, allowing for a Kane retention. This is usually frustrating at PPVs, but it seemed justified here. Kane got to keep his title while Edge had a reason to stay focused on Kane. No doubt ther’ll be a rematch at TLC, and seen as Edge is involved, it’ll probably be a TLC match. A decent match, and i’m glad Kane kept the title for another month.

Nexus (Slater & Gabriel) def. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
Though predictable and relatively short, this was a neat little match which really played off Nexus’s distinct character. It was also good for the challengers as Santino was made to look stronger than he has in the past (indeed, a badly kept secret being that, in reality, he’s a very talented wrestler) and Kozlov was made to look like a dominant force. They really took it to Nexus, but Slater and Gabriel really performed a fantastic heel tag match, finding ingenius ways to keep te advantage and get in regular cheap shots, as well as their regular (within seconds of each other) tags meaning they can basically double-team for a lot longer. This, and involvement from other Nexus members was eventually too much for the faces to handle, as Nexus went over to retain in a way which showed the group’s strength, a point which was reinforced by their posy-match beat down of the challengers.

Randy Orton def. Wade Barrett to Retain the WWE Championship and John Cena Fired
Yes, this match was big and significant, though not for the reason I expected. The match was pretty good, and a point was made of making Barrett seem like a credible challenger, dominating Orton for the first quarter or so. The real focus was on Cena though, as he continued to call it down the middle. Orton was in the ascendancy towards the middle of the match, making every count very interesting, but again, towards the end, it was Barrett in control, using all sorts of moves: elbow drops, pumphandle slams and even a Wasteland without being able to keep Orton down. This frustrated Barrett who shoved Cena, but Cena, with nothing to lose, shoved Barrett in to an RKO and (though he briefly hesitated) counted the 1-2-3. Now I must say that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat like I was at Hell in the Cell, but I think that’s down to the fact that I so expected Barrett to win, and indeed, when he didn’t, I was surprised. Needless, to say, this isn’t the ideal scenario that I wanted to see, but it was not a bad way to end it. Had Barrett won clean, or had Miz have cashed in, it would have been frustrating, but here, when Cena realised what had happened, the response from the fans, and his connection to them restored was all genuinely emotional, and a testament to Cena’s acting in this storyline. Orton too, did a good job of showing immediate reconciliation with Cena, silently acknowledging the sacrifice Cena had made. There are more questions than answers though. What will become of Nexus? Surely it will be hard to justify another Barrett-Orton title match? It is crucial for them that they continue to make an impact, and I expect them to do something borne of anger on RAW tonight (one idea being they could beat down Orton and help Miz cash in, though I still think it best that he waits until post-Wrestlemania). It is crucial for them that they manage to stay relevant.  The most important question surrounds Cena. For this to be an un-frustrating ending, he needs to either be gone from RAW for a significant amount of time (until, say, Elimination Chamber), or he has to go to Smackdown. I was gunning for a heel-turn, but a switch to the blue brand would be the next best alternative as he would have plenty of opportunities for fresh feuds, e.g. with the likes of Kane, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio. If he comes back to RAW within a month, I will be furious.

Overall, a very good PPV. The main event had to deliver, and largely, it did, pending the fallout from it. There was not one bad match on the card, even considering the shorter ones. Compared to last years outing, it was much better!

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.

RAW Recall (15/11/2010): RAW Goes Old Skool

Cena leaves both Orton and Barrett lying in the Piper's Pit

As I said last week, I wasn’t sure that this ‘old skool’ show would work well, but I actually think the theme worked very well as a one-time thing. It was great to see the current guys being portrayed in all of the old-skool graphics and alongside stalwarts like Howard Finkel and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund without the veterans completely hampering the progression of current storylines.

The first match of the night was Dolph Ziggler against Mark Henry who was sporting his throwback ‘Sexual Chocolate’ gimmick, something which was rapturously received by myself and the audience. Mark Henry has never been one, largely due to his size, to put on great matches – which probably explains why he never frequented the main event, but this match was pretty good, with Ziggler running rings around Henry while Henry would intercept him with slams and shoulderblocks every so often. In other words, it was a very well played out small guy vs big guy  match. Ziggler won, rightly, in the end though, to continue an impressive run.

Next up was a tag match between Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater and the troubled Hart Dynasty. Before the match, however, all seemed ok with them trying to patch up their differences. This match was one where the tag champs showed they were deserving, employing the quick tags that they have made them seem such an efficient team of late. The real story though was the timely split between of the Hart Dynasty. Just as Smith was looking for a hot tag, Kidd struck with a kick to the head before leaving the ring and leaving Gabriel to hit his 450 Splash for the win. The split had been a long time coming, and I was surpried to see Kidd be the one to turn heel, as I woul have thought his size and frenzied attack would lend better to the face. Saying that, Kidd is probably the better talker and will probably make the better heel in that sense, and for Smith to get over, he’ll need to be a face. It’s important fo both that this programme is good; if it isn’t it could be the last for one of them.

Good to see the Brooklyn Brawler back, an it’s the only time anyone will be pleased to see a job. It’s also good for Ezekiel Jackson too, who was the one to benefit.

Alex Riley took part in probably the biggest match of his career against John Cena. Having followed the Brooklyn Brawler, this wasn’t that competative a match. It was more about the tenuous climate that was set up at the start of the show. Miz threatened to cash in his MITB, so Cena insisted on neutralising him to protect his Survivor Series match, so Barrett instructed the Nexus to protect Cena while Orton seemed resigned to having to neutralise Cena himself. This was why Miz nominated Riley for the match in the first place, and why the end of the match saw all these forces colliding in te ring.

I was surprised to see Santino and Kozlov beat the Usos to become #1 contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championships. Saying that, they are really popular, and a good team against which the Nexus can look strong and gain even more infamy. The match was ok, and it was cool to see Jimmy Snuka alongside theUsos, but it was quite short, something in keeping with Santino and Kozlov’s team. Afterwards, Sheamus hit the ring to further attack and intinidate Santino, only for John orrison to again make the save. Though it is the role Sheamus is playing, I think the way Morrison described Sheamus as a bully seemed a little juvenile (in the sense tha he said it like an earnest teen might have). Nonetheless, this feud has huge potential, and we’ll be seeing them square off at Survivor Series.

Kofi Kingston had a match next against David Otunga. I noticed in this match that Otunga has been working on some new moves, whichis something he definately needed to do. A simple one, but an arresting one of him charging Kingston fro the ropes and from a right angle and hitting him square on the jaw with an elbow. It’s the sort of signature move that Otunga will need to incorporate to move on. It was a good match between the two, the chemistry of which I imagine was down to Kingston rather than Otunga, but they both put on a good match, which Kingston won in the end after George ‘The Animal’ Steele distracted ‘A-List’ by reliving his trademark biting of a turnbuckle enough for Kingston to hit Trouble in Paradise. Speaking of Otunga, it seems my happiness at the end of his rebellion was premature as he was admonished by Barrett backstage for claiming he was the leader. I really hope they can hold off going down a Nexus civil war for the time being.

Wade Barrett took on R-Truth in one of the best matches of the night. The stakes were legitimately high for Barrett as he’s rarely won on the main roster without Nexus help, and if he had of gone down to Truth, it would have been quite damaging; although for that reason, it was possibly predictable that he ould go over. Nonetheless, Truth looked good, and there was a lot of back-and-forth and good near-falls for either man before, after a good progression of moves and reversals, Barrett hit the Wasteland for the victory. This was especially good as it made Barrett look like a legitimate champion even without Cena’s help, and therefore, even more threatening to Orton.

Alberto Del Rio had a surprisingly competative match with Sgt. Slaughter, though that’s not to say it was that copetative. I was surprised Slaughter could go at all, and to see him wrestling Del Rio in to a Cobra Clutch twice made the match seem more competative. Of course, Del Rio eventually won, and unsurprisingly continued to attack Slaughter after the match. This drew MVP to aide the Hall of Famer and set up a Survivor Seies match involving the two. I’m very pleased about that in itself because a Survivor Series PPV without a traditional Survivor Series match would have been a travesty. Unfortunately, it means MVP wont be competing for the Intercontinental Championship on Sunday, which was something I was hoping for.

The evergreen (or grey) Mae Young was next to make an appearance, being shown some highlights of her career before LayCool came out to confront her with some pretty savage insults. Mae was never one to hold back though, and returned her own, including the very un-PG ‘sluts’ and ‘bitches’. This evolved in to a no-disqualification, falls count anywhere match between her Mae and LayCool. Luckily for Mae, the entire diva lockerroom came out to aid her in taking the ‘flawless’ girls to the woodshed, so to speak, and beat them.

The next match probably provided the biggest and most popular ‘Old Skool’ surprise as GOOD OL’ J.R. returned to the commentary booth to call the match between Daniel Bryan and Jack Swagger. The match was obviously very good between these two highly talented wrestlers, but the real story was hearing J.R’s voice again. The problem was that,while I woul have expected some dissention from Cole, it was really overplayed. He basically wouldn’t shut up in trying to score points against J.R., to the point where it detracted quite a lot from his commentary which was, unfortunately, a little rusty anyway (though that itself must be forgiven seen as han’t announced wrestling in somtime). A huge treat nonetheless. The match was very good as these two grapple-savvy wrestlers hooked up in one of those matches that that is so technically good that you barely notice the progressions of the match. Bryan won, and surprisingly easily with  stiff kick to Swagger which may have made him look weaker than needs-be.

The main-event segment was filled with tension as a Hall of Famer now questioned John Cena’s motives, something meaningful in itself as Cena is exactly the kind of guy that would actively listen to those that paved the way (as, of course, any face would). Being honest, I’ve never seen why Roddy Riper’s promos are/were so legendary, but his interaction with Cena was, I imagine, a glimpse of his former greatness. It was one of those promos where you can tell that the performer really means it. Piper spoke of contemporaries lik Mr. Perfect, Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat who never got the chance to carry the WWE Championship, eventhough they were more than worthy, and so to just give it to Barrett would be a travesty and make Cena worthless as a wrestler and role-model. This seemed to genuinely afect Cena and he promised to call th match sraight down the middle, before Barrett made his way to the ring. He said that Cena was obviously going to help him win, and made him wear the Nexus T-shirt (something he should have been doing from the start. Just as he was about to make Cena symbollically raise his hand, Randy Orton came to the ring. He said he could drop Cena, but dropping Barrett would have the same effect, and went after the Nexus leader. Setting up for an RKO, Cena stood in his way, knowing he has to protect Barrett for Sunday. A furious Viper hit the RKO on Cena instead, but after more Nexus distraction, received an Attitude Adjustment. Barrett came to congratulate Cena with a handshake, but Cena turned it in to anothr AA and left both challenger and champion layed out in the ring. The situation is suitably poised as opaque. Both outcomes seem shocking, but one must occur, an while it seems out of character even now, and as you’ll read in my Survivor Series preview, I have a feeling that Barrett and Cena may be sharing a mutual and sincere handshake this Sunday.