Money in the Bank Review, 2012: Cena Muscles Through Again

Cena after winning a Money in the Bank briefcase at the first attempt

Cena after winning a Money in the Bank briefcase at the first attempt

Money in the Bank was put on the map after 2011’s seminal effort in which CM Punk became a proverbial GUY after mesmerising Chicago and the so-called WWE Universe. Without such a hook this year, it would be hard to live up to that effort. While it may not have achieved that, it was entertaining and fun in the right places. Though card placement, it seems, was the most controversial aspect of the show.

Match 1) Dolph Ziggler def. Christian, Damien Sandow, Tyson Kidd, Santino Marella, Tensai, Cody Rhodes, and Sin Cara to become Mr. Money in the Bank for the World Heavyweight Championship
This, I believe, was the most packed, if not the most stacked, Money in the Bank lineup to date. I think, realistically, that I shouldn’t call spots in this match (or in fact most of the matches because, realistically, time isn’t on my side just now), but what I can say is that two days removed from the event, I don’t remember there being quite the frequency of spots in this match. The two moments that really stand out are (unfortunately) the Sin Cara/Dolph Ziggler botch which could have broken Ziggler’s neck, and (fortunately), Tyson Kidd’s sunset flip powerbomb. That, and Ziggler’s bump over the announce table was spectacular. It is only fitting then, that most if not all of the most memorable moments featured the eventual winner of the match. Make Ziggler central to the match and then have him win. This is how you make a guy. Everyone played their part here, and fitted different roles. Sandow showed some good aggression on a big stage, which is a slow but steady step in the right direction, though perhaps it would have been more adventurous to have given him some more offense against the others and a bit more of his character, but nonetheless, he seemed to fit in to the field. Tensai provided a wrecking ball for the smaller talents (see again: throwing Ziggler over the announce table). Christian was a great workhorse, as was Cody Rhodes. I love Santino, and Santino did his job as a comic wrestler, though I thought the fear of heights counteracted by the cobra was a little bit too comic in tone when compared to the seriousness and brutality of the rest of the match, so while I enjoyed it in a vacuum, that is the only real genuine criticism I would have. Meanwhile, I was heartened by Ziggler’s post-win interaction with Chris Jericho on ‘RAW 999’. While I think they could have gone along with the later cash-in that night, and it could have worked, it is probably sensible to let Ziggler grow with the briefcase, and who better to do that with than Chris Jericho. The matches will be fantastic, as will the interactions; and it’s fresh! That is most important, and it’s going to make Ziggler a top guy.

Match 2) Sheamus def. Alberto Del Rio to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
I was looking forward to this match, and for the most part, it delivered. In keeping with Del Rio’s new aggressive attitude, this was a brawl, though with Alberto mixing it with technical prowess to beat down Sheamus’s arm in preparation for the cross arm-breaker. It was great to see this, and Sheamus sold it as something that might actually make him tap. Like often with Sheamus, he is a powerhouse with a smaller guy hitting and running against him, and against someone like ADR, with his talent, this is certainly entertaining. As it sounds though, this provided exactly what we would expect. The problem with that was that the Brogue Kick for the win was, for me, the wrong result. The fans love Sheamus, but as champion, he has become a little staid. He has beaten a lot of people and in non-too-dramatic fashion, to the point where it has become formulaic. That is why I was calling for Sheamus to drop the belt to Del Rio. I thought Sheamus chasing Del Rio would be a lot more intriguing than the current situation. On the plus side, I hope that the thinning field of contenders means there will be some fresh upstarts. I’m thinking specifically of Cody Rhodes, who could easily legitimately learn a title shot, a returning Wade Barrett if he’s ready or maybe even The Miz.

Match 3) Primo & Epico w/ Rosa Mendes def. The Prime Time Players (Titus O’Neill & Darren Young) w/ AW
One of the positioning worries from Money in the Bank was that the tag team champions, Kofi Kingston & R-Truth wrestled Hunico & Camacho on the preshow, while the #1 contenders wrestled the former champions live on PPV. This seemed like a RAW match building to a title match between the champs and the Prime Time Players, a match we eventually got the next night on RAW. The tag team championships, I think most people agree, should have been defended on PPV to make them seem more important.  Nonetheless, I think this match was enjoyable. I’m outspoken as a big Primo fan, and Primo really stood out here again, with loads of high-flying, springboard combinations. Epico is in that league too, and together, they are a great team. The Prime Time Players are more jockish powerhouses and so compliment them well. One big talking point recently has been AW and his headset. Of course I find it irritating, and a lot of smart fans have been critical of it for that reason. It is important to remember though that this is his job. Just like Vickie Guererro’s screeching ‘Excuse Me!’s, he does it get heat for his team, and it works. The only problem is when it distracts from the match, but overall, I think it’s different and working. This compliments their characters well, and along with their attention-grabbing characters make them seem like a fresh force, but since becoming #1 contenders, they have only lost that momentum. The result of this match might be seen to add to that, but I don’t actually think it did. Primo & Epico have become faces by merit of AW’s betrayal, and so their ongoing feud with the Prime Time Players gives depth to the division without necessitating the tag team championships themselves (something that was holding the division back). Yes, the matches should have swapped places, but it was a fun, entertaining match with storyline significance, so there’s only so far I can criticise it, especially seen as it gets Primo on PPV!

Match 4) CM Punk def. Daniel Bryan (w/ Special Guest Referee AJ) to Retain the WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan and CM Punk have had a lot of matches now, and every one has had a slightly different flavour. When it was announced that this would be a no DQ match, I had visions of WrestleMania X7, but what it really meant was that Punk and Bryan could use weapons this time – that was the twist. That element made the match more of a brawl than the techical clinics that had occurred before, but that didn’t make it any less impressive or innovative. Before the weaponry could come out though, Punk and Bryan brawled around the ring, and in the process of coming back in, AJ was knocked from the apron and taken to the back. A lot of people had a problem with her leaving the match for a while, but I didn’t as it was a sensical dramatic move to make; the only problem was that AJ is a wrestler and shouldn’t be taken out by being knocked off the apron once. It was soon that the weapons became involved. An interesting thing happened early on, the crowd wanted tables, and I guess as ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’, Punk obliged by getting one out. Given the finish of the match, it’d interesting to know whether the finish was an audible based on that moment, or whether the chant was just a convenience that allowed Punk to get a pop with him knowing the finish. The table wouldn’t be involved yet though, as Bryan grasped the kendo stick and set about Punk brutally, relentlessly in to double figures, which was enough for a near-fall.  Later, after fighting out of a Mexican Surfboard, Punk was able to reach for the kendo stick and turn the tables. The real joy of the story of this match came when AJ returned with both men downed. When she pulled out the steel chair and placed it between the two downed men for her enjoyment, it hit the apex of what the AJ story was at its best – not just a ‘crazy chic’, but someone essentially playing with two of the top wrestlers in the company and the world for her own amusement; having them in the palm of her hand. Bryan won the race to the chair, and gave Punk a good working over with it, but it was Punk who really used it well. In a move I haven’t seen before, Punk cradled on Bryan’s back and slammed him. Around this time, still desperate for attention, AJ went about inserting herself in to the match, blocking Punk from whipping Bryan in to the chair, and standing on the kendo stick when Bryan reached for it. She was showing no favouritism, not competing for their affections, and was instead trolling them for her own entertainment, which is the best this angle could be for her and me as a progressive. Then came the breathless closing stages, starting with a Yes Lock from Bryan, using the kendo stick for more leverage. This looked brutal, and with AJ calling the shots, I believed Punk might submit, or be said to have submitted. He didn’t though, and slingshotted Bryan in to a GTS for a big near fall after an exhausted Punk was slow to make the cover. This was finally where the table came in to play as Punk and Bryan again played with the format by having Punk place Bryan on the table looking for a Macho Man elbow, only to have Bryan disrupt him, looking for the reversal through the waiting table. Eventually, Punk re-wrestled the advantage away from Bryan and hitting a back suplex through the table which was enough for a three count. Nice finish as something outside of finishers makes it more surprising, dramatic, and unpredictable. Another really great match between these two to end their epic feud, well booked with AJ being involved, but not too much. Punk continues as champion, and is looking great. Moving on to John Cena at RAW 1000, he puts it on the line again. I’m confident he’ll keep it too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Punk made even more of a MAN and continue his run up to the full year. Just a shame they had to mess around with the title after last year’s Money in the Bank, otherwise he’d have had the title for a year already!

Match 5) Ryback def. Tyler Reks & Curt Hawkins
There isn’t much to say about Ryback’s matches. They’re repetative but entertaining, and short. Recently, he has stopped jobbing out jobbers and moved on to main roster talent. It is hard to make the switch from jobbing spectacles that gain simple noteriety to dramatic matches where the talent is challenged, and we have to invest in him, but WWE are doing a good job with Ryback. Like his later match with Jack Swagger on RAW, Ryback took some offense, and even looked vulnerable at points. That in itself is interesting when its never been seen before, but when he pulled himself together to get back in to his usual routine and beat two quality (in relative terms) talents, it added a new layer of resilience to his character. The way I always judge talent is whether or not you can see them having a dramatic match in a WrestleMania main event; downed, and battling with the fans on the edge of their seat. Right now, the answer is still a clear ‘No’ for Ryback as he is still being pushed as almost unbeatable, but this subtle change in booking has brought him a tad closer to that WrestleMania image.

Match 6) Layla, Kaitlyn, & Tamina Snuka def. Beth Phoenix, Natalya, & Eve Torres
Initial thoughts regarding this match were that it was a shame we weren’t getting a Divas Championship match, but then I realised it was another bit of necessary filler between the Punk-Bryan match and the main event as it was a hard act to follow. Its a shame that talents like Layla, Beth, Nattie are involved in such a meaningless match, but on the plus side, it was entertaining, so its hard to be really upset about it.

Match 7) John Cena def. The Big Show, Chris Jericho, The Miz, and Kane to Become Mr. Money in the Bank for the WWE Championship
On its own, this match was better than I ever expected. I thought this would be a disappointingly bland edition of Money in the Bank, but I think it rivaled the earlier effort in terms of entertainment – helped of course by the fact that it was the main event (but more on that later). I had predicted that both The Miz and Rey Mysterio could/would return for this match to add some shock value and also some talents more suited to the match, and i’m pleased to say I was half-right. The Miz’s promo halfway through the PPV was exciting for a lot of reasons. During his own MITB/WWE Championship run, he earned a lot of good will from the audience that has stuck despite  his more recent slide on the card, and so when his music hit after a c. two-month absence, the reaction was encouraging, and made him seem important. His new look essentially makes him look more mature, and a more composed competitor, which is also good news, even if it does just result from a new haircut. Finally, his actual promo was well executed – he spoke like he believed what he was saying, which is crucial to promo success, and had something interesting to say about reclaiming his spot and no longer being overlooked. Also, he added another smaller body to the match to bump around for the bigger guys and make a more entertaining match. Before Miz’s return, all we had for that role was ladder match master, Chris Jericho, who was also the man that would steal the show for this match. There weren’t too many memorable spots, though Cena’s AA to Big Show through the Spanish announce table was fantastic and spectacular, but when there were, Jericho, characterised accurately as a wily veteran, was always above it and able to capitalise. For example, Big Show being buried under ladders was a fun but cartoonish spot to get Show out of the match/give him a rest, but once everyone had contributed to the pile and were pleased at their handywork, in came Jericho with a ladder of his own to knock down Miz and Kane. At times he seemed in absolute control of the match, and perfectly at ease with the stipulation, as soon after Miz tried to prevent him from reaching the case with a threatened Electric Chair Drop, only for Jericho to counter in to a Lion Tamer Walls of Jericho that he knew he didn’t have to break for the ropes, before stopping an advancing Kane with a dropkick to the ladder. Again, after some suitably cartoonish spots from Cena, including a double five-knuckle shuffle to Miz and Jericho on the ladder, and an AA to Kane on Miz on the ladder, Jericho again took control by hitting Cena square with a ladder and climbing a ladder – only for a returning Big Show to stir and stop Jericho. At this point, we saw the worst of the Big Show. While his giant(‘s) ladder is impressive, it just goes to highlight the awkwardness of his frame which WWE should be trying to hide in a monster heel, and reminds us of his time as more comical babyface. Atop the ladder, Show was fighting off allcomers, including Kane and Cena, but again, it was Jericho with the wherewithal to  save the match, learning from their mistakes trying to fistfight a man with a KO Punch and instead using a chair to neutralise him. At this point, we saw Jericho giving his everything to win this match, battling John Cena with a sleeper for literally minutes before sending him to the mat, battling Miz atop the ladder, literally clinging on to the case for dear life in one of the matches best spots where Miz headbutted him and sent Jericho swinging perilously but refusing to let go of the case and finally getting the best of The Miz. Seeing this determination was infectious. I’m a huge Jericho fan, but I could sense the whole crowd supporting him, seeing just how hard he was fighting. It seemed at this point that he had the will of the whole crowd, and was going to keep fighting until he won. Unfortunately, this distracted Jericho enough that a recovered Big Show managed to surprise him at the top of the ladder. Knowing his fate, Jericho took the KO punch, and sold the drop amazingly, putting him out of contention. Finally we were left with just Cena and Show atop the ladder, fulfilling a story that wasn’t sold well enough during the build – that Cena was there, in part at least, to stop Show from winning, and that he did by bashing the case against the giant’s head. The finish with the broken handle was a minor botch, leaving the case in Cena’s hands, but I actually think it was in some ways fortutous, representing exactly how Cena is successful, with brute force. So not the ladder match that the first one was, but arguably as entertaining. The only shame was the positioning. It seems that this match went on last because it was felt the end was more memorable than a championship retention with no cash-in. I disagree still though, because what does that say about championship matches generally? In a PPV with no big marquee matches, give the man who should be regarded as the crown jewel of the company (your WWE Champion), who will also be in the best match on the card, top billing. To not do so shows an over-reliance on Cena when it is clear that Punk can draw. It isn’t good for the title, and it isn’t good for Punk. Hopefully, however, it will give “The Voice of the Voiceless” some good ammunition for hos future match with Cena. We already know Cena’s plans for his MITB case; he’s cashing it in honourably, which is the only way he ever could, against CM Punk at RAW 1000. My personal feeling is he will fail, but it will be interesting to see, and I expect a RAW classic in the tone of Cena vs Shawn Michaels from 2007 to help MAKE CM Punk more than he already is.

So overall, a good but ultimately unspectacular PPV. Not many surprises, but predictability can be a good thing when the moment is a good one. It was only let down by the positioning of the champions. I feel that is the WWE Championship, and WWE Championship MITB matches were swapped, this PPV would be significantly more satisfying. In order to grow more sustainably, WWE need to know that while Cena will always be centre-stage, the men they pick as WWE Champion – especially when they’re as over as CM Punk – have to be considered on that level too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Draft 2011: Reflections On the Annual Shake-Up

Right, i’m going to try to, for the most part, rush through this due to everything I do being a rush at the moment. I’ll basically go through the draft picks as they happened and give my thoughts if I have any. One general point i’d make is that 30 drafts seems too many. There’s a fine line between ‘shaking things up’ and simply switching almost an entire roster to a different show. Less is more guys! I hope and am pretty confident this draft has just about managed to succeed in not crossing that line. To me, the two big drafts were Randy Orton to Smackdown and Alberto Del Rio to RAW, but only one of those is a good idea …

1) John Cena to Smackdown. We all know how this eventually ended, so I wont talk too much about it. Reports are that WWE were going to genuinely draft him, rightly thinking that RAW could be carried by Orton (who gets universal admiration in a way Cena doesn’t), but ultimately nixed that idea. Pretty shocking TV though; cheap shock, but shocking nonetheless.

2) Rey Mysterio to RAW. When this happened in 2008, for whatever it didn’t work. This pick is intrinsically linked with Sin Cara’s move to Smackdown, and keeping them on separate brands makes a lot of sense. Anyway, there’s no reason why Rey fundamentally can’t get over on RAW surely!

3) Randy Orton to Smackdown. The blue brand will undoubtedly be Orton’s show from now on, and as a replacement for Edge, you couldn’t ask for much better. Considering Orton hasn’t appeared regularly on Smackdown for roughly five years, this is a very fresh change of scenery for both brands, and highly welcome. His prestige and experience will make for some great feuds/matches with the younger Smackdown up-and-comers (i’m thinking especially of former Legacy ‘bretheren’ Cody Rhodes.

4) Mark Henry to Smackdown. Initially, this seemed like a bit of a throwaway, but given his dominating heel turn in the RAW main event, it seems that Henry might get a push as a monster heel, again. The repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing though; like a lot of big guys, he just works better as a heel.

5) Sin Cara to Smackdown. Rey’s draft was necessitated by this move, and this was done because Cara was seemingly a little shaky in his opening matches on RAW, and so would be a safer prospect on the taped and edited Smackdown. While I totally understand that, it does seem a bit of an instant lack of faith in Sin Cara. Nonetheless, i’m sure he’ll be able to dazzle just as much on Smackdown!

6) Big Show to RAW.

7) Alberto Del Rio to RAW. Now, I understand that a draft to RAW, especially when you’re a top up and comer like ADR is, is a huge sign of faith, and that’s great, but this just smacks of the pilfering of Smackdown talent yet again. ADR was made on Smackdown without even winning the world title. There was just so much more for him to do on the blue brand and they would rightly have reaped the rewards. RAW is also now very heel-heavy with ADR, Miz, Punk, and up-and-comers Swagger and McIntyre, while Smackdown is struggling for a real top heel (Sheamus probably fitting that bill). I was salivating at the idea of an Orton-Del Rio feud on Smackdown, but alas, it wont happen. He deserves to be on RAW, no doubt, and i’m sure he will do great, but it is to the detriment of Smackdown and probably one or two of those guys that I mentioned who will have to fight for decent spots. I would have saved him for now.

8) John Cena to RAW. Definitely a unique move in the draft (or should I say double-move), but instead of involving Cena, why not publicise two other draft picks (e.g. McIntyre, Swagger, Bryan)

9) Daniel Bryan to Smackdown. Great move for Bryan and a no-brainer in many ways. He was between feuds on RAW, and is more suited to the blue brand and will get more opportunity to put on great matches. I’m desperate to see him feud with Wade Barrett for the IC title, and storyline-wise at least, it makes a lot of sense.

10) Jack Swagger to RAW. I dislike this move. With ADR gone to RAW, there is an opening for Smackdown’s top heel position. Had he stayed on Smackdown, Swagger would have been a strong contender for that spot. I’m sure he’ll do fine on RAW, but he will be behind at least two other heels (ADR and Miz, and three depending on Punk’s status) consistently. He’s definitely improved, and is improving, but I think staying in Smackdown would made for easier success for the All American American.

11) Great Khali to Smackdown. I’d prefer this to be meaningless than him being pushed as a monster heel. I’m confident of the former.

12) Jimmy Uso to Smackdown. Lord knows why they moved the Usos and Tamina separately, but they did. Its a good job they did too, because a change of scenery is exactly what they need. Hopefully they’ll get a good run on Smackdown as one of the few classical tag teams.

13) Kelly Kelly to RAW. She’s very popular, and very marketable, so this makes a lot of sense. I’m very interested in what part she’ll play in Kharma’s debut. The former Awesome Kong has been starring in vignettes in which she tears up dolls. While this could have ramifications for all of the more modelesque divas, it could be a bad sign for Kelly in particular, who’s real name is Barbie (Yeah …). Expect a tonne of heat when Kharma decimates Kelly.

14) JTG to RAW. I don’t see much coming from this. To be honest, I wasn’t actually sure he was on Smackdown to start with … I like JTG. He’s very likeable and has a nice, unique, ring-style. I don’t think it’ll be good enough though.

15) Alicia Fox to Smackdown

16) William Regal to Smackdown. I really don’t get this one. Regal, for all his skills, is practically semi-retired now and commentates (very well) on NXT more than he wrestles (at least on TV). With that in mind, it seems like a watering-down of the draft. Could this maybe be a sign of a feud with mentee Daniel Bryan? He would also make an awesome heel manager for someone. He could even make commentary I suppose.

17) Yoshi Tatsu to Smackdown. I think RAW was just as good for him as Smackdown. Maybe he’ll get some TV time to try to get over on Smackdown, which would be good. I think what he really needs, however, is a gimmick tweak, rather than a draft.

18) Drew McIntyre to RAW. I’m excited about this draft. As a fellow Scotsman and otherwise legitimate admirer of McIntyre, I hope and think he will eventually be a regular main eventer. On RAW, I think he could flourish, depending on who he feuds with. Give him Cena, why not? The only problem is again that ADR and Swagger have been drafted along with him, and he’s jostling with Miz, ADR, Punk, Ziggler, Swagger and Truth for a decent heel spot. Like Swagger, I think he could really have made top Smackdown heel quick. Nevertheless, I think they have faith in him however, and hope he fulfills it.

19) Natalya to Smackdown.  I’m a big fan of Nattie, but I can’t, just now, imagine what she’ll be doing on Smackdown. I’m sure we can anticipate some nice one on one matches with Michelle McCool. Otherwise, i’m sure she’ll feature prominently.

20) Curt Hawkins to RAW. I like Curt Hawkins, and I like his look. Unfortunately, the only way he could get over on RAW is if he completely changes it by reuniting with the buzz-covered Long Island Iced Z, Zack Ryder.

21) Chris Masters to RAW.

22) Jey Uso to Smackdown. Same as with Jimmy …

23) Kofi Kingston to RAW. At first I was skeptical, but on reflection, I think this is, marginally, a positive move. He’s stalled of late on Smackdown, and on the face side, there aren’t many more people above him on the face side there as there are on Smackdown. If he gets a good feud, he could start to climb the ladder again.

24) Ted DiBiase to Smackdown. This was one I was desperate to see (my twitter followers (@RTVWOW) will have witnessed this as I live tweeted the draft!) DiBiase needed to go to Smackdown. Over there he could completely re-boot his career, which was supposed to be advancing as Rhodes’ is now, but never really did. He could either stay as he is or show up as a reinvented face. Either will work, and it is very interesting that he is on the same brand as both of his former Legacy ‘brethren’. Lots of storyline potential there itself.

25) Tyson Kidd to Smackdown. I’d still really like to see Kidd feud with Bryan, and this is still on the cards obviously. Kidd is hugely talented, and seems to have more faith behind him than DH Smith did/does, so hopefully he can make something of himself on the blue brand, where, luckily for him, charisma isn’t quite the pre-requisite as it is on RAW.

26) Tamina to Smackdown. Now she’s been separated from Santino, she can reunite with The Usos and hopefully be a part of their renewal as well as hopefully getting more action as a diva on the more scarcely populated Smackdown diva lockerroom.

27) Tyler Reks to RAW. Reks bores the hell out of me. Generic Generic Generic. The only way he can be used well is as a new member of the Nexus.

28) Alex Riley to Smackdown. This one is fascinating, even if it doesn’t make the most sense (wasn’t Riley fired and only able to show because Miz hired him under some obscure job title). Firstly I think it’s great for Miz. Riley often provided a way for him to win, but Miz doesn’t need that any more. One or two defences without Riley will make Miz look even more credible than he already does. As for Riley, the Smackdown world could be his oyster. He’ll need to work hard at escaping his past with the Miz though, because otherwise, his character is just that Varsity Villain gimmick from NXT, and that needs to be worked on.

29) Beth Phoenix to RAW. Beth deserves all the attention she can get, and I hope she gets it on RAW (having lacked it on Smackdown of late). I have dreams of her working with Kharma, either against her, or maybe in some sort of anti-Barbie team. Each could be great!

30) Sheamus to Smackdown.This was a bit of a shock for many reasons. Sheamus is probably favourite to fill that top heel void, and certainly has the pedigree. The complication, or opportunity, is that Sheamus joins Smackdown, which already hosts Barrett’s Intercontinental Championship, as United States Champion. This could mean one of many things. Either they could be uniting the US and IC titles, or we could be about to see either Sheamus or Barrett drop their belt. I’d say they’re about neck and neck in terms of heel-positioning, and that a top heel should really be above the admittedly prestigious upper-midcard belts. So what I think will happen will be that one of them drops their championship to someone from RAW (someone who has just left Smackdown on their last show? McIntyre? Swagger?) only to go on to become the top heel on the blue brand eventually. Lots of questions here, and excitingly, they should/could well be answered on this week’s Smackdown!

WWE Draft, 2011: How RTV Would Book It …

I announced my first 9 picks (the one’s that would air on TV), real-time style, on twitter last night (!/RTVWOW). Now i’m going to go through them in more detail here anyway, as well as the supplemental draft, but that should let you know the benefits of following @RTVWOW on twitter! Dave Lagana (@Lagana), a former member of the WWE creative team has been blogging on his IWantWrestling blog about former drafts with a very interesting perspective. Like he has argued, I think the brands need to return to a bit more of a tribal relationship with much less cross-over. Hopefully, that will be the way it goes. So without further ado …

1) Big Show –> RAW
My first draft move would be Big Show to RAW. The reason behind this is that most people will be expecting Smackdown to go over in a big way in this draft, so making the first draft a big name draft to RAW will have great shock value. Also, eventhough tag teams can appear on either show anyway, drama can be built up around whether Kane will join him on RAW with the tag titles. Even without that, the Big Show being drafted to RAW, to appear exclusively when he drops the title, is a big deal.

2) Kelly Kelly –> RAW
Kelly Kelly has become a very popular diva as a babyface, and without getting crude, she is very ‘marketable’. All this adds up to Kelly being drafted to RAW, and she is now, rightly or wrongly, quite a big name. If Awesome Kong is to debut on RAW with some sort of ‘anti-Barbie’ gimmick, Kelly would also serve as a perfect foil for that.

3) Drew McIntyre –> RAW
Drew McIntyre has been on the bubble for a while, and a move to RAW could be enough to break him through to the main event, especially if he gets to work more with Mr. McMahon, who appears a lot more often on RAW. Not only that, but Sheamus is on RAW (and I don’t see him moving), and those two working together (be it together or apart), would be absolute money. Obviously, after the 3rd RAW draft in a row, there would be lots of dismay on the Smackdown side, but fear not, it’s all part of the story …

4) John Morrison –> Smackdown
The whole point of this draft is clearly to provide fresh main-event players on Smackdown, and that is where JoMo will come in. He is too lacking on the mic at this point to really make it big on RAW, but on Smackdown, I see him being an upper-mid carder again at the start, but being more regularly in high-profile matches, and breaking in to the main event eventually within a year, and maybe sooner rather than later.

5) Daniel Bryan –> Smackdown
Though the balance may have tipped a little recently, the blue brand is still more receptive to pure wrestling than the flagship show. Bryan is earning his popularity with every great match he puts on, but since dropping the U.S. title a few weeks ago, he has become lost in the shuffle on RAW. I see him moving to Smackdown to challenge Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship. They have great history together, being two of the standouts of the original NXT and with Bryan quitting Nexus for ‘ethical’ reasons. THey could have a great programme, and going up against Corre could really get Bryan over. Depending on how popular he is on the heels of this, he too could get the main event push he deserves.

6) Melina –> Smackdown
To level out the draft, I think Melina going to Smackdown would be wise. She’s not been doing much on RAW, and is a big name move to add extra shock and prestige to this draft. (Also, if dirtsheets are to be believed, she wont stand for being on a different brand to boyfriend, JoMo).

7) R-Truth –> Smackdown
For very similar reasons to JoMo. If Truth is getting a push, as it shockingly appears, he too will struggle to make a big impact on RAW with his lack of mic skills. He is, however, a very interesting physical actor, which might play better on Smackdown. All that aside, the blue brand will be struggling for top heels, so there is a spot for someone to fill, and he will need to stay on Smackdown anyway for the inevitable feud with Morrison. For both of them, that needs to be top notch.

8) Kane –> RAW
To even things out on TV going in to the final draft pick, RAW will get it’s fourth pick and stem the Smackdown counter-attack. Like Big Show, Kane is a solid babyface who could be booked great to get someone like McIntyre over, and this would alleviate the tension of the tag champs maybe being split. Could I suggest Sheamus & McIntyre (The Celtic Connection) feuding with Kane & Big Show for the tag titles?

9) Randy Orton –> Smackdown
This is obviously the shocking, top name switch of the draft. Orton is arguably the most popular superstar on the roster and is more than adequate as a replacement for Edge as Smackdown’s top babyface. The only problem with this switch is that, while Cena is obviously still the top face of the whole company for now, he doesn’t get the universal pops that Orton does. This is part of the reason I drafted Kane and Big Show to RAW to add more babyface popularity to the brand, but I think for this to work, RAW really needs Triple H to be a regular feature on RAW to provide those universally big pops. We’ll see about that, but this is the most widely slated draft, and if it happens, I will look forward to the matches between the Viper and Alberto Del Rio.

That’s all i’d show on TV, but there are usually several further drafts announced later on, and these can often end up being just as impactful as those shown on TV. I wont go into them too much, however, unless there is something interesting to be said about the decision. Most are to balance out numbers or to provide a fresh start for a superstar.

Evan Bourne –> Smackdown
Ted DiBiase –> Smackdown
(He really needs to work with former Legacy ‘brethren’, Cody Rhodes, in some way)
Beth Phoenix –> RAW (This is ostensibly to meet Natalya, but if the Awesome Kong ‘anti-Barbie’ idea goes down, Phoenix, Natalya, and Kong together could be a ‘anti-Barbie’ faction, either heel or face.)
Yoshi Tatsu –> Smackdown
Chavo Guerrero –> RAW (I think Chavo needs to wrestle more on TV, and being on a brand with Vickie Guerrero will facilitate that. With that in mind, he could be a great help at getting Dolph Ziggler over even more)
Gail Kim –> Smackdown
(It might seem Melina is the replacement for Kelly Kelly on Smackdown, but Gail is the real replacement as she is a babyface)
Michael Tarver –> Smackdown (I’m a big fan of Tarver, and when he was appearing on his own just looming backstage, I was hopeful that he might get a good story. That didn’t work out, however, so seen as it looks like someone might be leaving Corre, Tarver could be a good replacement potentially)
Tyler Reks –> RAW
(I’m not a fan of Reks, but similarly to Tarver, he could go the other way to bolster the New Nexus is Mason Ryan leaves)
DH Smith –> Smackdown
Alicia Fox –> Smackdown

With all this in mind, and to round this all off, here’s a break-down of the post-RTVdraft rosters, in their orders of importance (not my opinion, but realistically):

John Cena
The Miz
CM Punk
Triple H
Big Show
Dolph Ziggler
Drew McIntyre
Sin Cara
Mason Ryan
Skip Sheffield
Alex Riley
Santino Marella
David Otunga
Mark Henry
The Great Khali
Michael McGillicutty
Zack Ryder
Tyson Kidd
Vladimir Kozlov
Chavo Guerrero
Husky Harris
The Usos
Tyler Reks
William Regal
Kelly Kelly
Eve Torres
The Bellas
Beth Phoenix

Randy Orton
Alberto Del Rio
The Undertaker
Rey Mysterio
Jack Swagger
John Morrison
Cody Rhodes
Wade Barrett
Daniel Bryan
Ezekiel Jackson
Evan Bourne
Kofi Kingston
Justin Gabriel
Brodus Clay
Ted DiBiase
Heath Slater
Yoshi Tatsu
Trent Barreta
Chris Masters
Curt Hawkins
Michael Tarver
DH Smith

Michelle McCool
Gail Kim
Alicia Fox
Rosa Mendes

RAW Recall (10/01/2011): Trials by Fire

Miz leaves the ring 'like a scolded dog', unwilling to take on Orton

This week’s RAW was very segment heavy, maybe too much so. Indeed, I think there were only two really serious matches throughout the show, which isn’t really enough. Nonetheless, it was definitely a compelling show as ‘The New Nexus’ emerged for the first time as a definable unit and the dynamic between Miz and Orton continued to mature.

The first appearance of ‘The New Nexus’ was very similar to that of the older incarnation. Before a scheduled tag team titles bout, they came out and cemented their will, saying the match was now postponed. Punk’s promo was obviously very good, as you would expect, and he commenced characterising the Nexus along his own lines. Punk has always, as a heel at least, toyed with parallels (and parody) of Christ and organised religion, and this began in earnest with his new followers, saying that they could all reach a promised land (stardom and success in WWE) if they, including himself, were willing first to make sacrifices. The first one of which was a cancerous attack from the group to one of their own, Michael McGillicutty. And so, reluctantly at first, Nexus went about this familiar sight, hitting each of their finishers on McGillicutty. This seemed to provide a disturbing bodily bonding among the members, who carried the injured McGillicutty from the ring on their shoulders, as if to a pyre. Excellent viewing.

Husky Harris’s initiation was to receive three lashes from the remaining Nexus members, including Punk zealously strapping Harris nine times. This was an even more archaic ordeal, and the stunned silence in the scene and among the crowd spoke to the success of the scene as it carried a real atmosphere of genuine sacrifice.

At some point after this, we had a strange segment where Cole read an email from the Anonymous GM which praised Cole to the sky. Surely this makes it sure that the GM will be a heel and/or actually Cole? It’s pretty interesting, and is just waiting to be utilised in a storyline now it’s been in place for so long. I hope they do actually reveal the GM’s identity sometime.

David Otunga was next sent in to the archetypal lion’s den, to provoke the Big Show and take the punishment he would innevitable receive. Otunga appears to have changed from self-serving egoist under Wade Barrett to perhaps the most unquestioning of the Nexus disciples. Facing an angry Big Show, Otunga held out his arms and closed his eyes to receive the beating. The real success of these seacrifices, and especially this one for the sheer passiveness of Otunga is that it has managed to make an attack not shocking in it’s brutality, shocking, in an arena where violence is commonplace. This is because there is an innate lack of comfort with seeing a passive man get beaten up, especially when it comes from a supposed ‘hero’.

The first match of real note on the show was the re-booking of Sheamus against John Morrison. Though we must have seen these two square up a good dozen times or so now, they, for whatever, reason, have excellent chemistry meaning the booking hasn’t yet gotten stale. This match featured simply excellent storytelling with Sheamus wearing Morrison down while Morrison stayed in the game, showing a lot of ‘heart’. This feud has been excellent for both, helping Sheamus become a more rounded in-ring performer, and helping Morrison get over as a legitimate, tough, main event player. Apart from the solid technicality of the match, there were other eye-catching moments, firstly, Morrison attempting a Starship Pain, only to be shoved from the turnbuckle to the floor. This started an attack on Morrison’s arm, on which he landed awkwardly. That wasn’t all though. Sheamus also worked on Morrison’s abdomen. It’s not that often where you see an aggressor work on more than one area of the anatomy. The abdomen attack really accelerated when Sheamus hit a front suplex to Morrison on the ring stairs. At this point, Morrison was really debilitated, and Sheamus was setting up for his Brogue Kick. Now what happened next was remarkable (though i’m not sure it was intentional). At this point, you expect Morrison to turn around and either take or avoid a Brogue Kick. However, Morrison just, sort of, fell over. As I say, i’m not sure it was intentional, but if it was, what a powerful way of getting over someone’s vulnerability, especially in this industry where competitors can generally stand until they are actually beaten. Sheamus took this in his stride, and approached Morrison for more offense, before Morrison grabbed ‘The Celtic Warrior’s’ arm, dropping to the floor and snapping it against the top rope, leaving Sheamus vulnerable for his running knee smash, which again took Sheamus out for a three-count. Another excellent match between these two. I wonder what they’ll do now though. I feel they’ve exhausted the feud in storyline terms, so it’s important that both move on to new storylines and keep up the good ring-work.

Next up was the initiation ordeal for Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. CM Punk asked them to look each other in the eye and hit each other with kendo sticks until he told them to stop. This was another psychologically interesting one, but Gabriel and Slater refused to take part, even after Punk offered to let them attack him. It seems their problem was with the clear needlessness and irrationality of the act, which the announcers were talking about throughout. Indeed, given Punk’s clear parallels with Christ, even down to the stigmata, I think it was a conscious parallel of the irrationality of unquestioning followers of big institutions, such as organised religions, but not restricted to that. That is to be applauded not only for the sentiment, but for the creativity and depth of the storytelling. It seems, then, that Slater and Gabriel are out of Nexus (though it probably wasn’t clear enough), and Punk didn’t even seem that annoyed. If that is true, they could possibly get over as faces more than Barrett could, and so could possibly stay on RAW. Unfortunately, for Gabriel (though less so for Slater), he is/was infinitely better as a heel, and if he has to change, it’ll probably be to his determent. The other option is they follow Barrett to Smackdown, having realised that he was a less zealous leader. The Old Nexus, so to speak, could definately be a fresh entity on Smackdown, and would fulfil my dreams of Nexus permeating all of WWE. This of course is something Punk suggested in his opening promo, but perhaps it’s too much to hope that, if there are two organisations, they will be coordinated. As for the New Nexus, they need new members sharpish. There are lots of potentials: We know Awesome Kong is being considered, but aside from her, David Hart Smith hasn’t been seen on TV in a while, and certainly works better as a heel, similarly, Tyson Kidd could replace Gabriel as a disturbing high-flyer; and seen as this is the time of year where the brand borders become a bit more fluid (e.g. Wade Barrett to Smackdown); from Smackdown, Tyler Reks could potentially make a good member; and also, from FCW, Seth Rollins (Tyler Black) could get his break this way, the same maybe for Wes Brisco.

Next up was an incredibly moving and ‘showstopping’ moment as, in a relative surprise, Shawn Michaels was revealed as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the first inductee in to this years Hall. Not only that, but he made an appearance! His music got a HUGE pop, and deservedly so. He looked great and very thankful to be there. Before he could say anything, however, Alberto Del Rio, who had managed to beat R-Truth again earlier in the night (including an ear-aching, heat-gaining Mariachi performance from Rodrigo Rodriguez), came out to some of the worst heat i’ve ever heard to make a name for himself against HBK. He cut a textbook promo to Shawn about him being washed up, and him being the future (a future hall of famer indeed) before Shawn delivered one more Sweet Chin Music to shut him up and make the crowd happy, before shining his old boot and leaving the ring to near-hysterical reactions from the crowd. J.R. pointed this out on his blog (I think): Shawn drew all this emotion and appreciation, without having to even say a word. Now that is a performer! The Hall of Fame is no less than the Showstopper deserves.

In a complete switch of mood, it was now Punk’s turn to undergo his initiation ordeal. He ‘stole’ the segment from John Cena, who was meant to address the crowd, instead appearing at the dizzying height of the top of the tron. A height that is of course, just another element of worship. Now, without seeing this segment, it may be hard to really comprehend the seriousness and gravitas of this promo, and for that reason, I will post a video of it below. The announcers really helped sell the danger here, as Punk was apparently about to leap from the top of the tron, which was basically up in the rafters of the arena. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think he was actually just going to jump to his death, but I thought he might dive in to a bunch of cardboard boxes or something like that (a’la Shane McMahon at Summerslam 2000), or jump off the back of the tron with a harness. Even knowing this, it would have been a spectacular and shocking move. The whole crowd bought it anyway, as did, i’m sure, most of the audience, and there was a real sense of panic among his baiting of the crowd. In the end, however, Punk revealed that he was never considering such a ridiculous act,  that, as leader, he doesn’t have to prove anything, and all that he did prove was how gullible the crowd can be. Indeed, this fitted in nicely with the whole theme of people acting irrationally in the face of charismatic/hope-giving/apocalyptic rhetoric.

(I’ll try to get a more specific video, but for now, the segment in question begins at 2.00 in this video).

Cena soon confronted Punk in full stride, by way of live satellite, saying that given that he had promised to take out every member of Nexus, Punk still needs to be ‘dealt’ with. Cena really cut through this atmosphere making him seem even more heroic, confronting this powerful new entity. He even got so heated that he said the slightly un-PG ‘i’m gonna whoop your ass’. Cena stated on twitter that he was fined for his outburst, but that makes me think that it was actually done on purpose. Why would Cena, the consummate company man, reveal that on twitter other then as a way of covering his own (and WWE’s) ‘ass’ for slipping that bit of impassioned speech in there. Well, maybe anyway. It’s not like ‘ass’ is that bad! Next week we’ll see Punk take on Cena, and I am fascinated to see what happens. I would like to see (and I think there’s a chance of it happening)  the debut of a new member to help Punk.

Our main event saw Jerry Lawler in the main event again, tagging with Randy Orton to take on The Miz and Alex Riley. This match was all about The Miz trying to escape the match with a victory. Miz had even said earlier in the night that he was worried about his WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble because of how intent and demonic Orton is. During the match, Miz wanted no part of the action unless he was on top or was needed, tagging in when the opponent was beat-down. Of course, both Orton and Lawler took it to A-Ri, so Miz had to get momentum by manipulating the match. He did all this with the old-fashioned ref distraction. As Lawler was crawling to Orton for the tag, Miz got in the ring, meaning that the ref missed the tag to Orton, and while Orton was remonstrating, Miz dragged Riley to their corner and tagged him before knocking Orton from the apron. This was really good storytelling for a resourceful heel champion, but before he could hit a Skull-Crushing Finale on King, Orton recovered and hit an RKO on Miz. This left Riley in the ring with Orton, who received his own RKO before Orton tagged in Lawler to finish the match. In a move that i’ve never seen before, Orton (poetic licence being played with Orton’s obligation to vacate the ring) stood in front of Miz, daring him to save Riley and the match as Lawler dropped a fist on his apprentice from the second rope and pinned Riley. This was brilliantly played off by both men, as Orton glared glassy-eyed at Miz and Miz, intimidated and confronted by the challenge to his reign, backed down and left, hugging the title close to him. A good way for this feud to get the final word in on a show packed with emotion. Over the past two weeks, Miz’s contrasting performances have really set him perfectly as a man who is skilled enough to be champion, without necessarily being better than everyone else. He knows he could be beat on any given night, just as easily as he could win, and so he exercises excellent self-preservation. King is really stepping up in the ring, but i’m still not sure he should be appearing so regularly. I think it’s time for an up-and-coming face to take his place, the problem being, both blue-chip candidates, Daniel Bryan and Evan Bourne, are not suitable at the moment for varying reasons.

RTV’s Preview of 2011!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!