Some Thoughts On the WWE Releases/Resignation

Some really brief thoughts …

The wrestler i’ll miss most is Gail Kim. She is undisputedly one of the best female wrestlers alive, and really should have been given more opportunities with the title and storylines. I don’t understand why WWE brought her back if they had no plans to utilise her. I hope she gets to move on to somewhere where she gets time to wrestle, and is happy doing so.

The biggest shocks for me were Melina and Vladimir Kozlov. I understand completely Melina’s reputation, and how she is known (or in the fans’ case, believed) to have a bad, egotistical attitude, but she is a great female worker, a veteran even, and not to mention, well, sexy too! I would have thought that if her attitude bothered WWE, she wouldn’t have made it at all far in WWE at all. Kozlov didn’t deserve to get fired. After his short run at the top, challenging for the WWE title, he fell in to obscurity; but not many other ‘monsters’ would have made a success out of themselves after falling from the big time. Koz succeeded and has become very popular as, I suppose, a comedy wrestler with Santino, and he deserved kudos for that, because that tag team (who managed to become champions) could easily have flopped if it wasn’t for two talented performers.

I understand that, in Masters’ case, he was ‘just another guy’ and not going anywhere, but he was a solid worker who could make others look good and was maybe worthy of some title shots. This is coming from someone who once had absolutely no time for ‘The Masterpiece’ (I still think the Masterlock is one of the worst submissions ever!). Don’t get me wrong, I can live without seeing Masters on TV every week, but I just think he had more to offer in the right circumstances; maybe in a tag team.

DH Smith was one I think we all thought inevitable, and while he certainly has the skills, and the legacy, he wasn’t going to make it. He couldn’t talk – it really is as simple as that. He was never going to get over and that’s why I don’t mind this, especially given that he seemingly has designs on an MMA career. All power to him.

It is rumoured that there may be more cuts to come, but we’ll see about that. If it does happen, i’ll give you some thoughts. This doesn’t change the fact that I am still, officially, on hiatus though. I’ll provide some Summerslam predictions in some form, but other than that, just keep the faith. I will be back at the end of the month!


RAW Recall (04/07/2011): Cena Gets ‘Fired’ Up

Mr. McMahon returns to threaten Cena with termination if Cena doesn't keep the WWE Championship in the WWE

Damn spoilers. I thought i’d avoided most of what happened on last night’s pre-taped RAW, but as it turns out, i’d gotten the gist of it. I didn’t know precisely what was said, however, and therein was a lot of interesting ideas which i’ll discuss later on.

At the start of the show, it was announced that CM Punk had been ‘suspended indefinitely’, but if anything, this made the presence of Punk all the more conspicuous, especially when his Nexus followers came out to his music to face Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella. This was no mistake as they usually come out to the ‘We Are One’ song, and I liked how it started a trend for the show, with there being a constant spectre of Punk hanging over the show. The match was fine, and put the champions over which is good to see considering there have been quite a few losses for champions of late. The future of the Nexus tag team could well depend on the future of Punk. If Punk gets pushed as a heel, then they could get pulled along for the ride; if not, then I think they’ll still be fine. I just hope that, whatever happens, they stick together for a while. They may have been thrown together, but they have familiarity now, and if they stay together, they’ll be part of a suddenly burgeoning tag division. Following their victory, Zack Ryder came out alone and performed his catchphrases. I was pleased to see him get a really good pop and have the fans chanting along to the ‘Woo Woo Woo’ chant so vigorously. I’m excited to see Ryder on TV, and though I don’t think it’s the best, most exciting course for him, the most obvious consequnce is that The Major Brothers (Hawkins and Ryder) will reunite to take on Otunga and McGillicutty and further bolster the tag division.

It’s the 4th of July! Wheel out Hogan! Wheel out Dusty! Wheel out Duggan! Wheel out Serge! It was Serge this time. Maybe it’s my conditioning, but the pledge of allegiance in this sort of crowd setting is such prescriptive, surreal chanting that it freaks me out – partly because of the unthinking call and response, and partly because of it being slightly distastefully arrogant, coming as it always does in conjunction with strong nationalist sentiment. NONETHELESS! It was independence day, and I can understand the pride involved there, and it only took a minute or so, so it didn’t infect the broadcast. I liked Swagger wrestling Serge, even if it wasn’t much of a ‘match’. Swagger seems, once again, to be struggling to get over, and WWE seem to be trying to book him against legends as part of some sort of loose storyline. After ‘The Legend Killer’, this seems a bit stale, but if WWE could make a tighter storyline behind it, it could go somewhere. I’d like to see him linked with the more charismatic legends (Piper, Hayes, Dusty,Patterson, Nash, DDP and so on and so on) and/or give him a manager as a mouthpiece because he really needs to get noticed, and giving him a good manager could really help him! Nonetheless, I like that Evan is involved, and if he and Swagger are given opportunities in the ring in the run up to MITB, with a legend in Swagger’s corner as a manager, it could be great.

The biggest match of the night was ostensibly a #1 contender’s match between R-Truth, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio. This was a pretty good match, but that was all it was. There was some nice triple-threat chemistry, with last moment break-ups of pins, and some nice spots, like the modified Doomsday Device, and especially the Sunset Flip/German Suplex combination. I think the reason it was a little underwhelming to me was that I knew (or at least felt I knew) that it was a meaningless match. Maybe this isn’t the case for a casual fan (and if it’s not, great!), but I knew fine well that this was a red-herring. As a ‘smart’ fan at least, I knew this was just part of a work to get over the Punk angle even more. That in itself isn’t to criticise the match. It worked well complimenting the main feud, but it just took an aspect of importance away from the match and made it less compelling. The finish was pretty nice with Del Rio securing his cross arm breaker on Rey (who really is going no whare at the minute) basically on top of the prone R-Truth. The announcers mentioned after the show that Del Rio would be replaced in the MITB match after earning his spot. This leads to a wealth of possibilities and only promises more of what MITB is so good at: unpredictablity. I’ll talke more about this in conjunction with the final seg.

Miz vs Riley. Cannot be bothered! I feel for Miz, and I still don’t get how Riley is so over – I suppose, however, that his getting over isn’t something to be criticised. The match for the most part more of what we’ve already seen. The finish, however, was more interesting. I liked how Miz was more in control, only  to be rolled up for another loss that avoided Miz seeming weak while providing reason for Miz to get even more frustrated, which he did almost immediately, with a brutal beat-down of Riley. This was great for Miz, especially considering his poor form of late, because it made him look genuinely powerful, as if he might have a whole other lever of violence behind him, for the first time since his run up to WrestleMania with Cena. This will keep this feud fresh, at least until MITB, where I hope they caneach move on to something else.

Next up was the main event segment. Now, going back to the start of the show, we saw Cena come out and, perhaps surprisingly, defend CM Punk. In this opening seg, Cena instantly drew my attention when he too seemed to be keeping up the theme of breaking through the 4th wall as he mentioned the true stories of WWE confiscating signs they didn’t like from the crowd, and the uproar over Daniel Bryan being fired last year for being ‘overly aggressive’ – all things that WWE tried to sweep under the rung. Cena showed a lot of fire while being incredibly serious about Punk’s suspension, the direction of WWE and the industry he is so passionate about, and so he essentially called McMahon out to answer to the charge of tyranny over the industry, the superstars and the fans. At the end of the show, McMahon, who as Punk was so adroit at pointing out, will listen to Cena, indeed showed up initially claiming that he suspended Punk because he could and because Punk deserved it, but with a bit of a righteous prod from Cena, Vinnie eventually admitted that he suspended Punk because he was worried that is Punk won, it would cripple and embarrass the company. This was great because Vinve saying “I’m not sure you can beat him”, while ‘him’ (Punk) wasn’t there only made him seem more powerful, especially seen as Cena himself didn’t seem sure he could beat him. This isn’t SupeCena, this is a vulnerable man, taken out of his comfort zone, but willing to fight for the title and it’s tradition. Instantly, this makes Cena a much more likable, relatable figure, with more ‘edge’, while also making the championship and the symbolic belt seem much more meaningful and prestigious than it has in a long time! This was made even more clear when Cena seemed to hand back the belt to McMahon, not wanting it if he couldn’t defend it against a person who earned his shot (his politics aside). He didn’t have to shout, his (obviously genuine) passion for the business came through. It was the threat of his champion walking out anyway that eventually led McMahon to agree to let Punk challenge for the title. Though McMahon retains his gravitas, he was really on the backseat until he threatened Cena with being fired if he loses the title to Punk and from the company.

It really is hard to gauge what will happen, but we can only expect more genuinely unprdictable twists and turns in the coming weeks. There are so many questions: will Punk even appear on RAW? I don’t think he should, at least in the arena. The effect of him not being there but being constantly the centre of attention is great for his profile, and makes him seem like a huge, terrible force. Saying that, he should perhaps appear, talking; outside the arena, at his home, at ROH, with Colt Cabana, and so on and so on, just stirring up tension and excitement. Another one is  what role, if any, will Alberto Del Rio play in it all? I really hope he has little to no role in the match. Not because he’s not talented or worthy, but because this is working so well without him now, and he could just clutter it. However, as a #1 contender who may be displaced by Punk, he could be a great villain to rail against Cena and Punk, while being a great foil for a heel McMahon if he stays around. Indeed, the more this unfolds, the more it points to a face turn for Punker. He is already garnering support (not least from the top face), and he has now been set up as an antagonist to a heel McMahon, and possibly now Alberto Del Rio. Again, this just goes to show the endlessness of possibilities for this angle.I still hope that Punk takes the title to the indy’s, but if and when he returns to the WWE ring, he could very well be a badass babyface, with the stature of Cena or Orton; something WWE desperately needs right now!

Smack of the Week (17/06/2011): Orton Shows His Power, But Not In a Match

Orton puts Sheamus as Smackdown closes

The first match that aired on this week’s Smackdown was a re-match from RAW pitting Sin Cara, Daniel Bryan & Ezekiel Jackson against Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase & Wade Barrett. These guys have been tearing it up of late and i’ve really enjoyedtheir matches (Zeke aside). Thiw was another quality match, though it did seem to have lost a bit of the cutting edge that has been apparent in their earlier matches, perhaps because they’ve been booked together for so long. Nonetheless,there weres some nice moments. Early on, with Sin Cara charging him, Rhodes connected with a perfectly timed Beautiful Disaster. Otherwise, Ted DiBiase had some nice progressions with Sin Cara while Daniel Bryan showed his intense aggressiveness well in the ring, darting about and making heavy contact with his opponents. It was, in fact, Bryan who scored the ‘pin’ in this match, after hitting a huge clothesline to DiBiase followed by a brutal dropkick in the corner. With DiBiase down, Bryan went for the cover and indeed got the three at a seemingly slightly unnatural time and despite the fact that DiBiase seemed to kick out just in time. At first I thought this was a botch, but I’m not so sure now given that WWE decided to highlight the incident and the announcers questioned the decision. Maybe this was just to cover their asses, and if so kudos, but I hope that indeed it is a storyline thing (or at least something that can evolve in to one), because while i’ve enjoyed this feud, it has been lacking a storyline which would make it a PPV-worthy match, something all involved (again, bar Zeke) deserve.

Next up was the exciting prospect of Jinder Mahal to take on Vladimir Kozlov. My first reaction was to Mahal’s music, which I think has been changed or tweaked and toned down somewhat. It’s not quite as sinister and has lost the chanting. Despite that, it’s still good. Mahal is on his way up, and Kozlov isn’t, and so this was something of a squash. At least Kozlov took a lot to get beaten, receiving a bit of a pithy chop from Khali before walking in to Mahal’s full nelson slam finisher. Kozlov also essentially jobbed on RAW. Without Santino, you’d have to wonder where he’d be in his career. As for Mahal, he continues to look strong, but he’s the sort of guy who needs to enter a proper feud soon, prabably after Capitol Punishment.

When Big Show came out, I was initially pretty unhappy seen as he’s a RAW guy, but I have to admit, the build that came out of his angles on Smackdown was the best his and Del Rio’s feud has received. First off, Show was interviewed in the ring, and he did a good job of coming across as still in shock from being ran down and unable to express his fury about what happened. This was followed by an impromptu match with Mark Henry, a match which didn’t actually get going because despite the fact that Show didn’t seem to want to, he seemed compelled to attack Henry as he entered the ring, beating him down brutally and eventually straight knocking him out, to the point where he had to be carried up the ramp on a stretcher. Seems like Henry’s push is over! Later on, feeling safe because Teddy Long had threatened to fire Del Rio if he used such violence again, Del Rio came out threatening Show, talking – interestingly – about how Ricardo Rodriguez is his best friend and how he would spit in Big Show’s face if he saw him. He did see him sooner than he thought as he came out to face Del Rio. Luckily for both of them, Del Rio flew to the stands and left alone, Show, after breaking the bottom rope upon entering the ring, started defacing the ringside area Nexus style, tearing the announce booth apart and picking up and throwing down the barricade (remarkably). This violence, when not happening to Del Rio, only makes up anticipate their match more. We were left with this image of violent carnage with Del Rio looking down from the stands, looking understandably worried about his immediate future, which was a great image building for the PPV.

The divas match was ok but regrettably short. I liked the finish though, with AJ going for a crucifix pin, but because of her size, only receiving a Samoan Drop for the loss to Tamina. I liked this because, despite the fact that AJ was probably the best wrestler out there, it told a story of her and Kaitlyn being green (which Kaitlyn is) and being in the process of being taught by Natalya. What is needed, however, is for these divas to stop being booked together and for them (especially AJ and Kaitlyn) to be entered in to a proper storyline.

The tag team division received a boost when The Usos were given their first serious match in a very long time against the newly Corre-less team of Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. These two teams had a pretty nice match, but I was kinda surprised to see the Usos working as faces against the newly free Slater and Gabriel (thinking that them leaving Barrett would get them pops). This was one of the first tag matches i’ve seen in a while that was wrestled as a tag match, with specific tag spots. Both teams worked this well and really impressed me, and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that The Usos went over – not because I dislike Slater and Gabriel, but because they’ve had a good spot for some time while the Usos haven’t, and they did so in style. Their throw into a Samoan Drop is amazing and following that we saw a Superfly Splash for the victory. Hopefully these guys get to keep working together and with the tag champions as well. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but suddenly there is a tag division emerging, and maybe this could be the start of something good for the division.

Our main event was Christian against Sheamus in a match which would place Sheamus in to the main event at Capitol Punishment if he won. I thought Sheamus was a lock for this – partly because Orton was not yet cleared to wrestle Sunday, and partly because it’s odd to provide the opportunity for that sort of stipulation without pursuing it. The match itself was unspectactular in terms of moves and spots, but had a very natural back and forth and some nice progressions. The real intrigue came from Randy Orton being at ringside. This manifested early when Christian was dumped out of the ring and was confronted (unphysically) by Orton; this put Christian off his game and he walked in to a kick from the Celtic Warrior. Orton also took a closer look at several other points in the match, sending a message to both, but mostly, obviously, Christian. The finish of the math was pretty good, as with Orton looking on, there was a scramble to hit finishers, which started after Christian seemed to look for the Spear (his use of the move now seeming very sinister, rather than euphoric like it was when he was a face). Neither man was successful however, in hitting their respective finisher. The finish came, instead, when Sheamus was, again, distracted by Orton’s presence while he was going for a superplex. This distraction allowed Christian to slip loose and push Sheamus on to the actual ring post which knocked him out and gained Christian the pin. The only problem I had with this was i’d have liked to see Sheamus stumble in to a Killswitch, just to make his loss seem less weak (not that he seemed that way, but this would have helped even more). Following the victory, Christian was forced to flee after Orton charged the ring. Staring Christian down, Orton familarly realised that Sheamus was still in the ring and he went to take his frustrations out on Sheamus (as well as do what he likes best: hurt people). Orton was successful at hitting the punt on Sheamus, which was another thing that sort of surprised me, simply because a punt usually means at least a month away from the ring, so it will be interesting to see whether this is an angle or whether Sheamus is injured. Anyway, like with Big Show and Del Rio, the amping up of tension as well as the rejection of the confrontation made for great build for the PPV.

Don’t forget, if you enjoyed this post, my thoughts can also be found in bite-size form on twitter, where I give my reactions to current wrestling events as well as live-tweeting RAW and PPVs. If that interests you, you can find me at @RTVWOW

WrestleMania XXVII Review: Atlanta Gets Rocked

The images we've all been waiting for, the Rock Bottom to Cena

It is difficult to sum up a WrestleMania. Each individual fan goes in with a specific vision of what they want to see and what they expect to see, and if they are not realised, it can be a dampener on the whole show. It wont please everyone, especially in the fickle internet wrestling ‘community’, but the show put out last night was, for the most part, excellent, and certainly ‘Mania worthy.

One disappointment, though, was the nixing of the US title match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan – a match many wanted to see given the high quality of Bryan’s matches and the fact it would be his first WrestleMania. Given the relative brevity of some of the matches, the reasoning that time constraints were such that one match had to be cut makes sense, and I would rather this than Bryan and Sheamus being forced to go out with only five minutes. It’s unfortunate, but for the greater good.

Match 1: Edge w/ Christian def. Alberto Del Rio w/ Brodus Clay & Ricardo Rodriguez to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
For many it was a surprise that the first match out was the World Heavyweight Championship match. This wasn’t the insult that it perhaps used to be. In fact, its a compliment to them, showing that they have the star quality enough to garner immediate interest in the show. This match was very well paced. There was a big match feel with the timidness of the start which built and built as Del Rio worked on Edge’s injured shoulder against the ring-steps. When Del Rio worked his way in to his arm-breaker, the match started to take off. After escaping that, Edge retaliated with a somersault to Del Rio on the outside, the sort of move that he’d only save for WrestleMania at his age. The back and forth continued, with Del Rio hitting an arm-drag and an enziguiri from the top rope, and Edge hitting his signatures, The Edge-o-matic and the Edgecution for near falls. Towards the end of the match, the outside participants started getting involved. One excellent spot was when Edge tried to stop a pin by putting his foot on the rope, only for Ricardo Rodriguez to take it off and force Edge to kick out properly. As everyone outside the ring took each other out, Edge and Del Rio fought to finish the other. Edge, having escaped an arm-breaker attempt, managed to hit a Spear for the win. This was a little abrupt, and I think the match could have lasted a little longer, but especially in retrospect, this was still a good match. Many will be disappointed about the lack of a Christian heel-turn, but at the very least, it can be called a swerve that made the result more unpredictable. Also, just because Christian didn’t turn heel last night, it doesn’t mean there are no plans for that in the future. A more legitimate gripe might be at Del Rio not fulfilling his ‘destiny’ and going over when it seemed to be so clearly the next stage in his development. I don’t think this is the end of his push though. Like with Christian’s heel turn, I think its just been differed for the time being as WWE seem to feel there’s more to come from this feud.

Match 2: Cody Rhodes def. Rey Mysterio
Cody Rhodes came out next to a bit of a comparatively tepid reaction, but I liked his entrance with the freakshow news clippings. Mysterio, for his part, came out in customary pomp as Captain America. I would have liked to have seen Rhodes wrestle in his hoodie thing as it would have shown even more how he wanted his face covered. In many ways, central to this match was the synthetic extra-bodily appendages each man has been using in this feud. Early on, Rhodes was using his mask with diving headbutts before trying to rip Rey Mysterio’s knee-brace off, something he later managed. Rhodes’ dominance continued, leading to some awesome spots including a Beautiful Disaster to Mysterio as he was tangled in the ropes, and another where Rhodes went for a superplex on Mysterio, but made it a delayed superplex, holding Mysterio upright for quite some time before dropping him to the canvas. Following this, Mysterio gained the upper hand with quite a lot of offense back on Rhodes, including a great moonsault on to the standing Rhodes for a near-fall. It was around here that both the knee-brace and Rhodes mask were ripped off, in an interesting exchange of bodily enhancements, before Mysterio put Rhodes mask over his own. Forcing Rhodes to the outside, the referee was suitably distracted so that Rhodes could hit him with his own knee brace and follow up with a Cross-Rhodes for the pinfall. A very good match in storyline terms, playing off the various enhancements/weapons that have been so key to the story. It was also great to see Rhodes go over on the big stage, with more matches seemingly in the pipeline.

I quite liked the little talent segment. I though William Regal did a good job of rapping in-character while Zack Ryder got a huge pop simply for singing ‘Friday’ on screen – Vince must surely have heard that! It’s time for Zack to make TV.

Match 3: Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella & Kofi Kingston def. The Corre
This was by far the worst match on the card. It was a five minute match which seemed almost completely pointless. It broke down very quickly in to a finish-fest which saw the faces go over, and seemingly without any good reason, while the growing Corre was stopped in their tracks. Even if Vlad was injured, I don’t see why he couldn’t have worked this match. Kofi Kingston being subbed in for Kozlov seemed completely needless. I would rather the extra five minutes or so be added on to the main event than watch this waste of time.

Match 4: Randy Orton def. CM Punk
For me, this was one of the most highly anticipated matches on  the card, and could certainly main-event any WrestleMania in itself. As you would expect from two essentially evil characters, the in-ring psychology in this match was perfectly pitched and very intense. Punk started off with the obvious step of targeting Orton’s injured knee right from the get-go. Orton, however, managed to avoid these early attacks well, absolutely pounding on Punk including some signature European Uppercuts while it was all Punk could do to get away. Outside the ring, Punk avoided being Irish whipped in to the steps and managed to kick them instead in to an oncoming Orton. This slowed down The Viper for obvious reasons, and so began the cat-and-mouse psychology which Punk is the perfect person to play. After working on the knee for some time and in various ways, Punk tied Orton up in the tree of woe, standing on Orton’s knee and looking exceedingly pleased with the pain he was inflicting. Even further, he managed to get the ring post figure-four leg lock on Orton in a way which seemed absolutely excruciating. At this point, Orton seemed almost defenseless against the maniacal Punk, being as he was barely able to stand, but he manged to muster some adrenaline-fueled offense with some clotheslines, his Angle slam and his scoop slam. Punk, however, maneged to recover, and again get the better of Orton with some strong style kicks. As the match started to reach its climax, Orton again got an adrenaline rush and managed to hit his Hangman DDT on Punk, seemingly setting up for the next in the series of Nexus punts. However, like on RAW the past week, Orton’s knee buckled under him, and he collapsed to the canvas. At this point, the complacent Punk returned, seemingly knowing that he was surely to go on and win. Orton truly seemed like a wounded animal, swiping defensively at Punk, attempting an RKO which Punk simply swept aside. However, this complacence, or this ‘faith’ was, as Orton promised, Punk’s downfall, and attempting a springboard-clothesline, Orton managed to muster the energy for a super RKO and the victory.  A great match between these two, deserving of more of a programme, though I’m not quite sure how that could be justified storyline-wise.

Match 5: Michael Cole w/ Jack Swagger def. Jerry “The King” Lawler via DQ
This match was never going to pretty, and indeed, it wasn’t, but it was more entertaining that the simple brutal justice of Hart-McMahon from last year. As I expected, Cole came out in an amateur-inspired Vickie Guerrero-esque comedy outfit. Another cool and funny angle came when Swagger was doing his trademark push-ups on the ramp when Stone Cold’s music hit, leading to the camera panning in on Swagger’s shocked face before Austin charged Swagger on his 4×4, forcing him to dive from the ramp. There was something about that, in it’s craziness, that was quintessentially WrestleMania. I was glad that they reverted to King’s old music, and he came out in a rather spectacular outfit which was more than fitting for Lawler’s big moment under the lights of WrestleMania. This was indeed a comedy match-up at the start, especially when King was banging Cole’s head against the Colemine. As the match went on, King obviously had the early advantage, pounding cathartically on Cole. There had to be a means of prolonging this match, however, and Jack Swagger provided them, attacking King from behind as he was escorting Cole to the ring, before synching in the ankle lock. Cole’s working on the leg was, let’s face it, pretty pitiful, and it did ruin any perception that Cole might be able to conceivably work over Lawler, even with the help of Swagger. Most notably, when working on Lawler’s ankle in the ropes, he was noticeably holding himself off Lawler’s ankle with the ropes. Later, Cole would go for Swagger’s version of the Vader Bomb, purposefully making it look like a struggle for him to do so, and eventually only doing it from the bottom rope. After performing the ultimate insult to King by pulling down one strap, Cole went for the Ankle lock himself, but was not able, obviously, to make Lawler quit. Recovering, Lawler trapped Cole, beating him and stomping a mudhole. At this point, Swagger threw in the towel, but Austin would not allow that. Confronting him, all Swagger got was a Stunner to a huge pop. Nice rub for Swagger in all this. Cole starts to plead with Austin like the slimy heel he is, before turning angry at Austin for not showing any sympathy. Austin pushes Cole in to some huge right hands from Lawler and in to a huge dropkick before going for the pin, only to drag Cole’s carcass up, wanting to apply even more punishment in the form of the Ankle Lock. Although Cole was tapping like a girl, Austin pretended not to see, only acknowledging it when Cole said that he quit. This would seem all well and good, and there was the usual beer-bath in the ring, even involving Booker T, who quickly received a stunner for his trouble; but then the anonymous GM chimed in, saying that Austin’s involvement in the match earned King a DQ and Cole the victory. This was met with great indignation from everyone in attendance (i’m not sure whether you could call it ‘heat’), and pure fury from King, who decided to shoot the messenger, Josh Matthews, who was thrown in to the ring for another stunner. This seemed totally unfair, but there was at least one reason for it. Mainly, it meant that J.R., who joined the announce team along with Booker, could call the rest of the PPV with his old partner, King, alone, but secondly, it could be material for the continuation of this feud, which now seems inevitable. I find it difficult to believe that Cole going over Lawler will be the end of the feud, and indeed, Matthews showed a degree of sympathy for Cole during the match. Perhaps this unjust attack, as well as Matthew’s wrestling training could lead to a Lawler & Austin vs Cole & Matthews match down the line?

Match 6: The Undertaker def. Triple H to Extend The Streak to 19-0
What an announce team in place for this match. What an excellent job J.R. did on commentary along with his old partner, Jerry Lawler. The two competitors gave us a great match, but those two, and J.R. especially, made it even better. I’m almost worried about trying to review this match. I think, like all of the greatest matches, it was a spectacle, and so needs to be witnessed. What I will do then, is go over the major talking points, and then post a video of the match in the MOTY section, so you can see for yourself. Right from the get go, this was an aggressive match, involving two veterans leaving it all in (and out) of the ring to chase their respective interlinked goals. Within minutes, Triple H had been thrown over the top rope, and the two men had gone careening through the Cole Mine, leaving it jagged, poised, and an almost living example of the carnage of the match. Later, Triple H teased a pedigree through the announce table, only for a back body drop reversal right to the floor with a sickening thud. Seeing the downed HHH, Taker then climbed back in to the ring, and hit his no hands plancha spot which he saves for WrestleMania on The Game, who only just catches him sufficiently to save the Deadman from landing directly on his neck. Trying to capitalise on this, Taker looked to hit a Tombstone on HHH on the ring steps. After Hunter escaped that, Taker charged him, only to be met with a spinebuster right through the Spanish announce table. This was all within the space of the first half of the match, and already, the two were tearing their bodies apart. Lots of back and forth after this with Chokeslams, spinebusters, and more near-falls. There was also what has become the familiar exchange of usually match-winning finishers for near-falls which not only create great drama, but amp up the pressure each time one is hit, making every pin attempt more credible as a match winner, as a streak ender, only to be continually reprieved briefly from our anguish. This is never more so than in a streak match where now 19 years of history rides on every count on the mat. There was one point where Undertaker kicked out of three almost consecutive Pedigrees, obviously with less vigour and more shock each time. It is at this point that the end seems imminent for either competitor, and it is also at this point where the history of similar matches from the past started to manifest. HHH was in the definite ascendancy at this point, and started shouting to Taker to ‘stay down’ very much like Taker did to Shawn Michaels last year, while Taker struggled to keep his hands up like Ric Flair did when HBK retired him. All of these visual cues pointed to it being The Undertaker’s ‘time’, which was no doubt a big part in my belief that The Streak was indeed about to end. Frustrated after Taker’s refusal to die, HHH took to a steel chair,hitting him eight times with it like he was flogging a dead horse, before going on to hit him with a rare and sickening unprotected head shot with the chair. At this point, the Undertaker’s power certainly wasn’t bodily – it was all spiritual, psychological, the aspects of his character which gives him a constant edge, and then came the most heart-wrenching near fall. Again, struggling to stand, Undertaker received his own tombstone, and at that point, I was convinced The Streak was dead, but no, not yet – Taker again, somehow, kicked out. At this point, HHH looked actually scared, backing off from the body of Taker. After regaining himself, he went to get his iconic sledgehammer, but even given that short time to recover, Undertaker managed to clutch HHH in the Hell’s Gate, and The Game had nowhere to go. No one has survived that move for more than a few seconds before, but HHH seemed to survive for several minutes before, with nowhere to go and his hammer out of reach, finally, reluctantly, powerlessly, being forced to give up. In many ways it was the perfect end. Two huge iconic powers colliding, and after almost canceling each other out, one slowly expiring out of necessity. It was Undertaker who looked to have the worst of it though, and indeed, his body did go through some horrible punishment. Now i’m sure, with some assistance, Taker may hve been able to walk out, but his lifeless body seemed to have more truth to it than some would think possible. He truly gave us everything he had. This led to one final moment which I found really touching. After the match, HHH wasn’t bitter in any way, but resigned. Being helped from the ring, Undertaker collapsed to the ground, and HHH reacted with an instinctive, concerned motion towards him, eventhough 1o minutes earlier, he was delivering a flurry of chair shots to the man. That shows more respect that even a handshake or anything like that could. Taker eventually left on a gurney, without even his trademark raised fist. More than anything, this leads me to believe that his twentieth WrestleMania match will be his last. The image of the lifeless Deadman shows that between the bells at the big event, he is the best there is (at least in kayfabe terms), but after all these years his body is relenting. All this, to me, points to WrestleMania XXVIII being a release of some sort for The Undertaker. As ever though, we’ll have to wait and see. Some seem disappointed that Shawn Michaels didn’t cost HHH the match, but I think that would have sullied what we saw. For one thing, HHH tapping out in the context of that match is nothing to be ashamed of, while HBK costing The Game his chance of breaking The Streak would run the risk of being treated as a heel turn, surely something undesirable just after The Showstopper had entered the Hall of Fame.

Match 7: Snooki, Trish Stratus & John Morrison def. Michelle McCool, Layla & Dolph Ziggler
There was an awful lot of indignation when people saw that ‘Snookimania’ would be higher up the card than Taker-HHH, and I understand that, but it must be remembered that, as I said earlier, the card structure isn’t as simple as the higher the match, the more imortant it is. This was a good decision because it broke from the trauma of the previous match, gave the main event something much easier to follow, and gave future stars John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler, high spots on the card. This was a short match, and certainly nothing ‘special’, but it was fun, and provided us with the most interesting match-up between the teams, Trish vs Michelle (very much the Rock-Cena of the divas division). Those two were great for the short time they had together, culminating in that brave spot from the turnbuckle to the floor. Its a shame Morrison and Dolph couldn’t have any one-on-one time in the ring, but there was at least a cool spot where Morrison hit Starship Pain from the turnbuckle to Ziggler on the floor. Snooki, of course, went on to get the pin. From here, I don’t see much of a feud continuing. Maybe Morrison and Ziggler will continue for a while. As for LayCool, the hiatus of their split seemed to have ended even before the match started, with Michelle shoving Layla aside so she could face Stratus, and later, accidentally booting Layla in the head. I look forward to that.

MAIN EVENT: The Miz def. John Cena to Retain the WWE Championship
This one kicked off with WWE flexing their production muscles with an awesome video recounting the rise of The Miz, all while the Miz of today watches on as if he never doubted it would happen. Excellent stuff to build for this match. I also liked the inflatable ‘Awesome!’ which he burst through on his way out and the pyro he received. As for Cena, he got a similar video, but one that just made me feel how well trodden his story now is, and stale in comparison to someone like the Miz. His entrance was roundly booed as he was introduced by a full choir and red while and blue titantron, along with new red merch. This is usually a bad sign for those wanting a heel turn, but I got the feeling that more was going on here. WWE were almost knowingly trying too hard to ‘shove him down our throats’ here, and the fans reacted with a chorus of boos. It is worth noting here from the outset that this match was solid, but not 5 star. The two guys were very aggressive at times, but there were no big spots or anything like that. It is also worth noting that the crowd was more than fairly pro-Miz. I’m going to talk about the possibility of a Cena heel-turn later, but it should be said now that if he is not turning heel, the WWE seriously need to listen to their Universe and make plans to turn him pronto. At WrestleMania, it rarely only takes one finisher to put down an opponent, and this was no different. After some palaver, Alex Riley managed to strike Cena’s head into the exposed turnbuckle which was followed by a Skull-Crushing Finalé. Now it will surprise no one that Cena kicked out of Miz’s finisher, but what will surprise many was Miz’s kicking out of the biggest Attitude Adjustment i’ve ever seen! Right then and there, if he hadn’t already arrived, The Miz arrived. Following this, the two men brawl in to the crowd, with Cena crashing Miz over a couple of barricades while the referee counted eventually to 10 and labelled it a draw. The crowd hated it, and there was no way that was going to be the finish. Cue The Rock. Restarting the match, Rocky made it no-DQ, and as the match spilled back in to the ring, Cena turned around and ate a Rock Bottom, the image the world has been dying to see, and which allowed The Miz to pick up the win and retain his title. There’s a lot to be said about this, but it should be said first that it was crucial that Rock also attack Miz, which is exactly what he did, performing the People’s Elbow on him one last time. This was crucial because it shows that the Rock is essentially a benevolent figure. Cena wasn’t attacked by a heel, be was attacked by a face, which makes all the difference, and everyone cheered as it happened. After that, The Rock soaked in the crowd’s approval as the show faded to black. This was a decent match as I said, but I think it was more angle-driven than anything else. It had it’s drama of course, and if given extra time before the re-start, and one or two one-off WrestleMania moves, it would have made it excellent. It leaves questions and plants seeds. Could Cena turn heel? The stars have seemed alligned in the past and it hasn’t happened. This time, however, I think it really could happen. For the sake of argument, here’s how: On RAW, Cena comes out to call out The Rock and goes over what happened at Wrestlemania. He would say something like “I bust my ass 7 days a week, and then this movie star comes in having been away for 7 years and thinks he can cost me the title? And what is more, you, the WWE Universe, cheered. The fans, who have always had my back, turned on me. If that shows me one thing, it shows me that I don’t need the fans …” Instant heel turn. Lets hope so, eh?

It is important, however, not to pin our enjoyment of something like whether John Cena turned heel or not. We have to concentrate on what we saw and how it made us feel. For me, the Corre match and the Snooki match aside, all the others were of at least good quality, and in the case of Punk-Orton and Taker-HHH, they were five star. A little too much brevity in some of the matches, but nothing predictable. The spectacle was exhinited, stars were made, and this was a WrestleMania fit for consideration among some of the best.

WRESTLEMANIA XXVII: Preview & Predictions

WrestleMania XXVII: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia, 03/04/2011

It was roughly this time last year when I started this blog, so moved I was by the event, and especially the performances of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. This year I am here to cover the Grandaddy of them all, the annual blood-letting of wrestling, the most important day of the sports-entertainment year; WELCOME TO WRESTLEMANIA! (well, my preview of it …)

I’ve heard a lot about this WrestleMania having a disappointing build-up, but I really don’t understand that. It seems to me more like the bitter IWC shitting on whatever is offered to them. How people can’t get excited about The Rock and John Cena facing off, Alberto Del Rio and Christian (an IWC darling) making the main event, a Streak match against a credible opponent in future Hall of Famer, HHH involving the spectre of head of this year’s HoF class, Shawn Michaels.

The only fair criticism in my eyes is the loss of the Money in the Bank match. Until this year’s MITB PPV, this match was quintessential WrestleMania, and I don’t see why it couldn’t be involved this year round. Saying this, there is plenty of scope on a 9 match card to add to it, and I think some early electricity could be generated by our host, The Rock, by coming out, cutting a promo, and then announcing a MITB match. Wishful thinking perhaps, but if you can’t wish at WrestleMania, where can you!?

Dark Match) WrestleMania Battle Royal:
Being a dark match, this might not seem like a big deal, but it most certainly is. It is the route to WrestleMania for those not booked for the taped extravaganza, gives them a taste and a drive to progress, as well as earning them a PPV bonus. Especially with the probability of there being no MITB match this year, there is definitely licence to make a bigger deal out of the result of this match, maybe giving the winner some sort of accolade allowing them some TV time and a push, like the former benefits of the King of the Ring. As for who will win, there seems to be little reason to it as Yoshi Tatsu won it last year, but if more was to be made of it, I would suggest Sin Cara. He is to make his television debut on the RAW following WrestleMania in the aftermath of his very successful series of hype vignettes. A victory at WrestleMania would add even more momentum to his debut.

Winner: Sin Cara

Match 1) Corre (Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater & Ezekiel Jackson) vs Kane, The Big Show, Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
This was the final match (as far as we know) added to the card, and so, you have to imagine, the one with the least creative depth to it. That, mixed with the big star attractions involved (Barrett, Kane, Big Show), make it the perfect match to open the show with. The combination of the faces seems a little thrown together, despite the fact that its made up of two genuine teams. Contrast them with Corre, who now hold three belts and a tonne of momentum, and it’s difficult to see why the faces would ever win this match. If anything, I think it’s more likely that someone from the faces could turn heel and possibly join the Corre, adding to their momentum and making them even more intimidating. Kane? They do have history with him? Big Show? He could do with a new direction. Kozlov? No longer a tag champ. Speaking of Kozlov, following a match at Axxess, he was attacked by Corre, who severely injured his shoulder. I don’t know whether this will affect the booking, but it will surely add a new story to the match itself. This is a great way for Axxess to be utilised. Not only does it give those in attendance more ‘axxess’, but it adds even more mystique to the whole build for WrestleMania, showing that it is more than a one-night thing where anything can happen at any time; it is a city-wide, week-long spectacle. This can only help Corre, taking some blame away from the faces when they lose. Though there is possibly a chance that the disadvantage factor could swing momentum towards the faces, whatever happens, Corre are going over.

Winners: Corre

Update!: Following the incident at Axxess, Kofi Kingston has apparently replaced Kozlov in the match. I can only think Kozlov is legitimately injured, which is a real shame if it is the case. I can’t see, on the other hand, WWE taking a Mania spot away from someone just to get Kingston involved live. Its difficult to tell how this could affect the match. The fresh element of Kingston helps the faces chances, but it is also offset by the consequent removal of the adversity factor of taking on a larger team. That being the case, i’m sticking with my original prediction.

Match 2) United States Championship Match: Sheamus (c) vs Daniel Bryan
Last year, Sheamus took on HHH at WrestleMania whereas Bryan was still on NXT (I think), so both have had quite opposite fortunes over the last two years. Bryan had a very impressive US title run while Sheamus dropped from the WWE Championship to the US Championship. However, since picking up the US title, Sheamus seems to be on something of a climb-back to the top, while Bryan hasn’t had many opportunities on TV, having to contend with people like The Rock and Stone Cold for minutes. Nonetheless, Bryan has been involved in some of the best matches in WWE this year, and I fully expect him to make the most of his WrestleMania debut in a match with Sheamus who certainly has potential to put on a good match, especially with Bryan. Given time, which it should be, this could contribute to a consistently very high quality of wrestling on the show. The winner is seemingly quite predictable, however. Having just won the title a few weeks ago, I don’t see Sheamus losing his title.

Winner: Sheamus

Match 3) Rey Mysterio vs Cody Rhodes
This is among the most intense feuds on this year’s card; remarkable, seing as how it all started with an accidental injury in a TV match. This has been one of the most visually stimulating feuds for a long time, based as it is on Rhodes’s formerly ‘dashing’ looks turning beastly and requiring a mask of his own which is seemingly contrary to the meaning of Mysterio’s mask, which he then made a prize of. Since then, Rhodes has started to seem part-machine, part beast, making a point of using enhancements to his body, and using them as visual cues to their feud. Last year, Rhodes went down, along with Ted DiBiase, to Randy Orton to secure Orton’s face-turn. The idea of his affiliation with Orton was to propel him upwards. For DiBiase, it hasn’t yet worked, but Rhodes took on his ‘Dashing’ gimmick, and seems ready for his first iconic match on his way to the top. His natural talent, along with Mysterio’s wily high-flying experience, should make for another good match. I understand Mysterio asked for Rhodes personally, so that, along with the rise of Rhodes, makes me think Mysterio is going to put Rhodes over and help launch his career.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 4) John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki vs Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool & Layla
One of the most controversial inclusions in this year’s WrestleMania is Jersey Shore airhead, ‘Snooki’. I understand the skepticism, but I have no problem with her involvement. Like it or not, Jersey Shore is one of the biggest phenomenons in contemporary pop culture, and WrestleMania, like WWE in general is intentionally a pop culture juggernaut, as well as sports entertainment monolith, and from the original WrestleMania, the pop culture icons of the day have been a part of the event. She will hopefully bring eyes to the product and not actually wrestle enough to botch up the whole match. Meanwhile, Trish returning to the ring is always a pleasure, and especially when against the current heads of the divas division, LayCool. That is genuinely of interest. Also, there is the continuation of the burgeoning feud between John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler (a possible future main event in itself). Add all this together, and you have a nice mixture of pop culture and sports entertainment, as well as a match which promises to be fun. Perhaps to add some extra attraction to this match, it would be worth having a mixture of lumberjacks and lumberjills by the ring consisting of those not otherwise booked for the televised event. All this aside, it is absolutely clear that the faces will go over. Future Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus and celebrity guest Snooki wont be showing up to WrestleMania to lose. Snooki will get the pin over Layla, as I don’t see Michelle going through that indignity.

Winners: John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki

Match 5) Randy Orton vs CM Punk
In complete contrast to the match before it, which is in many ways a relief match, this feud is as dark and intense as you would expect from CM Punk and Randy Orton. This feud goes back to Unforgiven 2008 where Orton as a heel cost Punk as a face his World Championship. When this was renewed, the feud had no pretense of good vs evil. Indeed, Orton seemed to know that Punk had a point. In fact, this seems more of a competition over who can be the most despicable. Orton certainly achieved that by punting the whole of the New Nexus in the head, but those four or so weeks of build were a repetitive waste. It was only when Punk was left alone that the match started to build well. Two weeks ago, Punk pounced on Orton’s understandable complacency by threatening The Viper’s family as a trap to lure out Orton and attack him with a wrench to the knee, saying ‘now ‘aint that a kick in the head’. He followed up on this the next week with another attack on a seriously injured Orton, showing the shift in momentum that has seemingly taken place. The textbook would suggest that Orton will come back and defeat Punk, but I have a feeling that there’s more to this feud, and that its continuation will be best helped by a Punk victory. Not only that, but Punk, despite being a definite top talent, would benefit more from the victory and be hurt more by the loss. Saying that, this is the first really difficult match to predict, especially seen as a Punk prediction will really tip the balance towards the heels. Nonetheless, i’m sticking to my (unsure) instincts.

Winner: CM Punk

Match 6) Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole w/ Jack Swagger, with Special Guest Referee, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Like the Bret Hart-Vince McMahon match of last year’s WrestleMania, this match is not going to be pretty – this year’s blood-letting. The inclusion of Stone Cold and Swagger will just be to prolong the spectacle. Of course, if it was a one-on-one match, it would be over in seconds. I don’t expect it to be that long a match, but it will last out for some time. I imagine Swagger will get involved, gaining Cole the upper-hand for a while before Austin chases Swagger off, allowing Lawler to recover and beat Cole. After celebrating with a cold one, Cole will get up, only to be stunned back down. It wont be the best match, but seeing Lawler at WrestleMania will be special enough, and the sheer release of seeing Lawler finally dish out some justice to WWEs most obnoxious employee.

Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 7) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge w/ Christian vs Alberto Del Rio w/ Brodus Clay
Ever since debuting in WWE, Alberto Del Rio has been on an express route to the top, and since winning the Royal Rumble, his path seems all the quicker. It seems clear that he can only prevail at WrestleMania, earning his breakthrough moment and continuing his meteoric rise. For Edge to beat him now would undermine this. His feud with Edge has been intense, but it was only when Christian became intrinsically involved that it really took off. The long history between him and Edge not only makes his involvement more anticipated, but more engaging. People seem to be sure that Christian will turn on Edge at this event, partly for storyline purposes, and partly to legitimise Edge’s loss. I too believe this is a strong possibility, and believe it is so obviously a possibility that WWE could add an extra element to this angle. It seems quite an oversight not to have Drew McIntyre on the card, and given that he has been feuding with Edge recently, this could be his opportunity to get on the show. Depending on how big of a rub management want to give the Sinister Scotsman, they could have him actually cost Edge the match as his retaliation for coming between him and Kelly Kelly. If not, Christian could cost Edge the title after McIntyre’s already interfered, making it seem like it takes even more to defeat Edge. Either way, Christian could continue to beat down on Edge after the match, saying he’s waited all these years to humiliate Edge on the grandest state of them all. The only problem with such a promo is that it would take some spotlight from Del Rio. Either that, or the swerve could be that Del Rio wins clean and Christian stays alligned with Edge. Either way, i’m sure Del Rio will be leaving WrestleMania as the World Heavyweight Champion.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

Match 8) The Undertaker vs Triple H
It will be a brave call if this match is not the main event after the effect the streak match not being the main event had on WrestleMania XXV. Nonetheless, for reasons which will become clear, I think the WWE Championship match will be the main event. As for this match, it obviously has the potential to steal the show, being as it is between two of the most decorated veterans in recent history. Despite his weaker body these days, we can always count on ‘Taker to deliver at WrestleMania, and as for HHH, he has his own history of great matches. The build to this match has been truly memorable. There has been no physicality whatsoever, as if these two ‘outlaws’ have no need to make any points through violence any more. This is purely a match based on respect, and no doubt that will show during the match. There will be lots of drama and near-falls, and with an 18-year streak on the line, the tension will be unbearable whenever there is a pincover, and that is surely the makings of another great streak match. I also believe the spectre of Shawn Michaels will be present in this match, especially after that mesmerising promo this week on RAW. There has been a lot of speculation that HBK may actually cost HHH the streak, angry that he feels he can do what Shawn couldn’t. That would surprise me though. For one thing, physical interference would affect the purity of the match and it would surely be something of unwarranted heel-turn for a guy who is actually retired and a new entry in to the Hall of Fame. What I can see is Undertaker using HBK’s music or something to get inside The Game’s head as part of his legendary mind-games. Despite how much jeopardy the streak seems to be in, I can’t see it being broken this year, if ever. If it ever is to be broken, which I don’t think it should be, it will be in Undertaker’s final match, and I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

Winner: The Undertaker

Match 9) WWE Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs John Cena
No one knows yet exactly what role The Rock will play at WrestleMania. I have a feeling he’ll be there almost throughout, appearing with as many superstars as possible to give them a rub, but one match where he will clearly play an important role will be this match. Before I get to that though, it’s important not to overshadow the Miz and this match in itself. This is actually quite the established rivalry. Years ago, when Miz was still a mid-carder, he started his rise to the top with his anti-Cena phase which saw him lose, but in some high-profile matches with the face of the WWE. From there he continued to periodically bash Cena before beginning this main event feud with The Champ. To me, The Miz has more than proved his main event status in his beat-downs and verbal assaults on Cena, and main-eventing WrestleMania will not only be the zenith of his rise, but also of his feud with Cena. Neither Miz or Cena are the greatest wrestlers in the world, but they are also both very underrated, and can and have put on excellent matches. They both have a real knack for drama in matches, even if its not based in technical wrestling. Regarding The Rock, most people are scared that this will all end in Rock deciding to back Cena, beating down Miz, and raising Cena’s hand at the end of the night. However, far too much seems to have passed between the two for such a clean, polished finish. There will be phsyicality between Rocky and both Miz and Cena. I don’t think Rock will cost Cena the match, but I do think Cena will take a Rock Bottom, and I do think Miz will retain. Miz has also been on a huge rise (like Del Rio), and for Cena to win at WrestleMania again would stall all that surely, denying Miz his WrestleMania moment. After a lot of confusion, and maybe interference from Alex Riley, Miz will come through and retain his title. I think this will close the show, not only because Rocky’s involvement is part of the marquee, and because Miz’s win will be shocking in many ways, but because I also see Cena turning heel. After losing the match, a furious Cena would attack Rock from behind and would later blame his loss on relying on his useless fans while Miz went all out to win the match using underhanded tactics. If that’s not shocking enough to cause a heel-turn, then maybe Cena will need to win the title in an underhanded, heelish way, while also attacking the Rock from behind after the match. Whatever happens, I think what happens at WrestleMania will only continue the feud between these three. Indeed, The Rock is said to be very open to wrestling again, and that could lead to him sticking around until Summerslam, or even WrestleMania XXVIII in his hometown of Miami. With all these variables, nothing is predictable with this match, but i’m going to stick with The Miz for this match, simply for the reason that it seems important to his rise to being undisputed top heel.

Winner: The Miz

Again, the idea that Cena will turn heel is perhaps wishful thinking, but this is one of the most timely opportunities for it to happen since Cena was forced in to the Nexus. Though that is desirable, even without it, this promises to be an excellent WrestleMania. Even the relief match should be good, while every other match has interesting or compelling reasons to watch them. The final two matches hold the most interest for me, but every match here could be satisfying and fantastic.

RAW Recall (28/03/2011): Final Stop!

Rocky's first in-ring encounter with Cena didn't end well for him

Surprisingly, the opening shot of the night was CM Punk sitting cross-legged in the ring in spotlight. It amazed me how Punk managed to make a warm, home-town crowd, turn on him almost instantaneously. Punk could have been describing the early build for his match with Randy Orton when he called Orton complacent after punting the New Nexus in the head. Indeed, it seemed that way last week when Punk managed to trap Orton, and again this week, Punk’s comments drew an injured Viper to the ring to face his antagonist. Orton got the upper hand initially, but when attempting  to repeat another punt on Punk, his knee gave way (sold very well) and saved Punk. Looking back at the ring, the conniving Punk realised that Orton was vulnerable and re-entered the ring, attacking the bullseye on his knee and hitting a GTS to him before leaving the ring with a new confidence and a definite swing in momentum.

I have been saying it was a mistake to not make the most of the Edge and Christian reunion since it began at Elimination Chamber, so I was pleased to see them tag again on RAW. I would have thought it obvious, however, to have them enter the ring to their old music, so I was a little disappointed. Now my stream cut out lots during this match, so I can’t really say that much about it, but it seemed suitably lively to build well for Edge-Del Rio at WrestleMania. At first I was annoyed that the Canadian duo prospered 3 times in a row over Del Rio, but given that it was Clay, and not him, that got pinned, it didn’t seem so bad. Not only that, but Del Rio got the final word, locking in his brutal arm-breaker to the recovering Christian before laying out the World champion next to him. This has been one of those tit-for-tat rivalries, and will make for a good atmosphere in Atlanta.

There isn’t much to say about the Gabriel-Santino match. Wrestling, rightly, takes something of a back-seat to heat creating angles in the weeks before WrestleMania, and this match was simply an angle to set up a four on four match at WrestleMania between Corre and Santino, Kozlov, Kane and Big Show, which will add some much needed diversity to a WM card consisting mostly of one-on-one encounters. Well, you couldn’t have a ‘Mania without Kane, Big Show and Wade Barrett!

The next segment was fantastic. I expected the face-off between Undertaker and HHH to be compelling, and i’m sure it would have been anyway, but when Shawn Michaels involved himself, it became absolute gold. After some classic supernatural flexing from ‘Taker when he interrupted The Game’s entrance with a gong, I was wondering what could possibly happen between these two; they couldn’t fight, and it seemed like they might simply stare at each other in a flacid refrain to the chilling 2 21 11 promo. Then, Shawn Michaels hit. The Showstopper is obviously one in a million, and he injected yet another emotional context in to this rivalry. Before, it was hard to see HBK as impartial, but he seemed to challenge HHH at every turn, asking what makes him think he can do what he couldn’t against The Deadman. HHH responded by repeating one of the major stories of this feud, that he is calculated and remorseless where Shawn got ‘soft’. Undertaker said Trips’s confidence would be his downfall, and Michaels seemed to agree after Taker blocked an attempted Sweet Chin Music after things started to get heated. Obviously seeing this as telling, Shawn literally, ran away from HHH’s request to tell everyone why he would win, mouthing ‘You can’t win’ back to his friend. Fantastic promo, and fantastic build. My only problem with it is that I would have liked it to have been swapped with an earlier promo. Deep down, we all are sure Taker will win, so the most pro-HHH promo the better, and one where Trips seems vulnerable in the go home show was perhaps not best advised. Nonetheless, spectacular stuff, and proof of the power and talent of all involved!

I would have liked to have seen a longer Swagger-Lawler match, as it could actually be excellent, but time constraints were obviously a problem on Monday. It was all pretty standard build, but the bit I really liked was at the very end when Cole provoked Lawler, ran to his ‘Cole Mine’ leading to Lawler clawing at Cole while being held back by security and allowing Cole to throw his drink in The King’s face, further establishing his pettiness. This was a great way to make the moment when Lawler finally does get his hands on Cole even more satisfying.

Bryan and Morrison vs Sheamus and Ziggler was in theory a great way to build both of the matches those guys are involved in, and I suppose it was somewhat successful in that, but it was too short to build anything impressive. It makes me wonder whether the final RAWs before Mania should be 3 hour affairs … There might be a post in that. Elsewhere, we had a field segment between LayCool and Trish & Snooki which was obviously cut short, causing it to lose some of it’s impact. Nonetheless, I like angles away from the arena. It adds to the ‘big deal feel’ of WrestleMania for me.

The final seg was the long-awaited, much-anticipated, showdown between The Rock and Cena (and Miz, of course). Great choice by WWE to tape in Chicago as they go nuts for The Rock, and shouting loud that they are part of ‘the millions’. Rock cuts a classic ‘Rock’ promo, expertly mocking Cena (who looks like a homeless power ranger) while making himself seem like an irresistible force. Then we hear Cena’s music and it’s on! The two exist together in the ring in a vision that is amongst the most eagerly desired in wrestling history. The Rock paces the ring like he used to, showing just how much he wants to get at Cena. Cena’s rebuttal was strong and suitable not in the form of rap; he asked Rock what exactly his problem is with Cena, and build’s it to the highly intense question: Who the hell are you? Who is the Rock to question Cena’s lifestyle and character? This is crucial. After all of the jokes, Cena did what Rock asked, and addressed him and his issues man-to-man, and just as Cena’s invitation to a fight was about to taken up by Rocky, who said that even the good lord can’t save him from having his ass whipped all over Chicago, out came Miz (with Alex Riley) for their rub off the two. Miz largely holds his own with Rock and Cena, calling them the two O’s: Overhyped and Overrated. Crucially again, Miz says that at least Cena will ‘go down swinging’ whereas Rocky will not risk his post-wrestling acting career by actually acting physically. Then, after Cena has left the ring and Rock tells Miz that it doesn’t matter what he thinks, Riley cheap-shots Rock and a beat-down begins while Cena stands outside, unlike a hero, not intervening. Rock recovers and lays the smackdown on Riley over the top rope in classic fashion before a characteristic DDT and finally a People’s Elbow to Miz. Then, from behind, Cena picks up Rock and hits an Attitude Adjustment to the Great One. This was again crucial. After explaining how he was facing Rock face-to-face, an attack from behind is hardly an act of a hero, and was met with a huge chorus of boos as Cena gave a self-congratulatory ‘You Can’t See Me’ taunt to the fallen People’s Champ. What am I saying? That this wasn’t far from a heel-turn in itself. It’s difficult to see how we can have what would be many people’s nightmare scenario of Rock and Cena palling up at Mania. It was more physicality than I expected, but it certainly left a lot of huge questions for Sunday.

Elimination Chamber Review, 2011: A Clear Road to Wrestlemania

Cena cemented his place in a predictable but 'must-see' Wrestlemania main event

My impression after last night’s Elimination Chamber was that it was a good PPV with every match delivering at least decent quality. The results were somewhat predictable, but that is easily forgivable because the results were, in my mind the ‘correct’ ones, and ‘shock’ results, say Jerry Lawler winning, would have set up less interesting match-ups for Wrestlemania. Also, in a noteworthy bit of trivia, this PPV was the first time since No Mercy in October, 2008, that the RAW world title match didn’t feature HHH, Batista, John Cena or Randy Orton, the first time since Cyber Sunday, later that month, that none of Cena, HHH or Randy Orton were in the RAW main event. There is of course the large caveat that one of the guys in the match was 61 years old, but nonetheless, any move away from that monopoly of the RAW main event is a good thing and a good sign for the future.

Match 1) Alberto Del Rio def. Kofi Kingston
Now, my stream cut out half way through this match, so my critique of it comes out of context, having watched it again this morning. The main thing I liked about this match was how Kofi was booked to be a little green, a little too nice in the early goings. Where Del Rio was ruthless, Kofi would hold off on inflicting further punishment, like when Del Rio was sent to the outside. Kofi seemed to go through a learning-process though, as, in the second half of the match, he really brought it to Del Rio, including an awesome missile dropkick which was legitimately the highest i’ve ever seen with incredible hang-time. Throughout, Del Rio was working Kofi’s gut with ingenius moves, like his double knee-buster reversal of Kofi’s cross-body. This, and some distraction from Ricardo Rodriguez, helped him finally overcome the Intercontinental Champion, but only after fighting off a nice counter to the cross-armbreaker which involved him holding his other hand and stopping his arm from hyper-extending. Del Rio pounded Kingston until he couldn’t continue this defence and had to tap.

Match 2) Edge def. Rey Mysterio, Kane, Drew McIntyre, Big Show and Wade Barrett to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This chamber match was fantastic. That may be something of a surprise seen as the mystery entrant turned out to be the always (recently) disappointing Big Show. I barely see the point of having him in, other than him being a scary guy. I would have rather Christian (if he was fully healthy) or Cody Rhodes to interact more with Rey Mysterio and purposefully target only him, this costing him the title and creating more heat for Wrestlemania. In some ways it took a while to really get going, starting out tentatively with little interaction with the Chamber, but once Drew McIntyre (one of the stand-out performers of the night) came out, business picked up! McIntyre was a house of fire, throwing Mysterio in to one of the pods. He then teamed with Barrett for a while, which I thought was a nice touch before the even nicer touch of his turning on Barrett as he entered the ropes and throwing him through one of the pods, and generally causing brutal havoc, even managing to Future Shock Big Show! He was eventually eliminated, but his intensity, and the heat he managed to generate (he had to work for it) showed him off as a big deal at the highest level. On the other side, I don’t think Barrett succeeded at making much of an impact. He was eliminated first and didn’t really get to do anything memorable. The same really goes for Big Show, who was clearly nothing more than filler. Kane was a house of fire (pardon the pun) for a while, and added a psychotic element to the match, but the match really went to the next level when we were left with Edge and Mysterio, the two opening combatants. They had an excellent, dramatic mini-match with lots of near-falls, with either kicking out of each-other’s finishers. The only way the match could be won was with an even more powerful version of their finisher, and Edge accomplished that with his super-Spear which met Mysterio coming off the turnbuckle, and resembled a spine-buster. Great match overall, probably the best of the night. After the match, in a move that made complete logical sense, Alberto Del Rio returned to the ring to beat down and intimidate his Wrestlemania opponent, getting Edge in his armbreaker and refusing to let go. Cue Christian, who came out (not looking too injured) to take down Del Rio. This points to me as if Christian will have some involvement in the world title match at Wrestlemania. Why do it otherwise! It makes sense too. Not only was it Del Rio that took Chriatian out for months, but, more importantly, the history that Edge and Christian share is deserving of any Wrestlemania story, be it as opponents or partners, and if we get to see this, it will be what they call a ‘mark out moment’.

Match 3) Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre) def. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to Win the WWE Tag Team Championships
This was definitely the weakest match of  the night, but that doesn’t mean it was particularly poor. Santino was continuing to show his wrestling skill, while Corre used quick-tags while the teams traded the ascendancy. There was a good, conclusive ending as Slater dropkicked Santino to ringside while Gabriel hit the 450 Splash on Kozlov. This was probably a good result for Corre, as they need something to catalyse their impact. As for Santino & Kozlov, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to them. Keep them together; they’re popular.

Match 4) The Miz def. Jerry “The King” Lawler to Retain the WWE Championship
Though the Smackdown match was the better match in many ways, this match was the most moving. Lawler’s story of never being WWE Champion, and never competing at Wrestlemania was moving enough, but the added (legitimate) tragedy of his mother’s death just added another, and very powerful aspect to the atmosphere of the match, partly because we knew Lawler had to be thinking of his mother, even if he knew he was going to lose. I could feel my heart beating during the match, and that’s telling. I must add to this point that I didn’t want Jerry to win. If he had, i’d have been pleased about his moment in the sun, but I think it would have hurt Miz too much. I think it was right that he lost; he’ll get his moment at Wrestlemania, probably against Cole. As for the match, it played on all of this very well. It was quite an evenly-matched contest, but if anyone looked like they could win, it was Lawler, who had the most near-falls. You know a match in which you can believe that a 61 year old man could become the WWE Champion is a good, dramatic and unpredictable match. Cole, who had been obviously berating King at ringside, finally got his when Lawler threw Miz over the announce booth on to Cole, and thus surely starting their road to Wrestlemania. Back in the ring, Miz, rightly, managed to just get the better of King with a Skull-Crushing Finalé. This was followed by a nice spot where Cole went in to the ring to congratulate Miz and raise his hand. Very well played-out.

Match 5) John Cena def. CM Punk, Sheamus, Randy Orton, John Morrison and R-Truth
This was another good chamber match. Perhaps not as good in terms of drama as the first match, but it used the chamber very well and was probably more brutal than the first. The stand-out talent here was, as you might expect, CM Punk. His character was by far the biggest in the match, be it in his general demeanor in the pod, his re-instatement in the match, and his amazing elimination of ‘Randall’ Orton which involved him mocking Orton’s Viper taunts before delivering a GTS. Elsewhere, Morrison got in his obligatory parkour (kinda) spot in the match when he scaled the roof of the chamber in a way we’ve never seen before, before dropping down on to Sheamus with a cool but slightly messy crossbody for the three. The last two fighters were Cena and Punk, and after a little wrestling, Cena went for the AA, to which Punk responded with the standard block of grabbing the ropes. However, that obviously doesn’t work in a chamber match, and Cena adapted nicely, hiting the AA over the rope on to the steel grid for a well thought out but abrupt finish. Perhaps the finish was so abrupt that it was a little anti-climactic, but we had the right winner in my opinion (Cena and Miz have had tension for about 2 years now!) and a good finish using the chamber, so it’s fine by me.

Overall, we learned a lot about Wrestlemania from five good matches which produced the right winners. Not as shocking as in the past, (though Christian’s return was surprising and points to the much desired and highly sensical involvement of Christian in the World title match at Wrestlemania) but very well realised.