Catapulted to the Glass Ceiling: The Bottle-Neck of New Stars in WWE (+ Some a Preview of Payback 2013)

The Wyatt Family - causing a stir and set to be the newest stars of WWE, photo credit to WWE

The Wyatt Family – causing a stir and set to be the newest stars of WWE, photo credit to WWE

WWE is increasingly finding it in a seasonal cycle. Precisely, a cycle of two seasons: WrestleMania Season, and Transition Season. WreslteMania Season is the period from (roughly) the TLC Pay-per-view until (roughly) the RAW after WrestleMania and is characterised by big-drawing part time stars and WWE’s toppermost talent being booked in dream matches, with only rare and fleeting appearances by full-time lower level talent and ‘divas’ who enjoy much less meaningful spotlight and feature time on WWE TV. This is a sea change from only recent years (up until WrestleMania 26 perhaps) when WrestleMania was traditionally a showcase for every active WWE talent to get a spotlight and a pay-day, even if it was just a spot in the preshow battle royal. WrestleMania 27 saw the return of The Rock to the WWE and the onset of part-time stars returning for WrestleMania builds and matches. During this time it becomes incredibly hard for non-established wrestlers to get any significant TV time to get over as top stars themselves. A recent exception to this has been The Shield who became firmly one of the most exciting, compelling and spotlighted acts on WWE TV in the build-up to WrestleMania 29, and even with that they were still only featured on an undercard match (though still a significant high-point of the show). This has led observers to criticise this new era of WrestleMania build for a short-sightedness regarding their year-round product and the state of their card after WrestleMania when the part-time stars are gone and they are left with spots to fill and only talent they haven’t deemed important enough for major spotlighting for 4 months previously (and so who the audience equally don’t deem important).

So after the post-WrestleMania RAW, with the part-time stars gone, WWE enters its Transition Season where they need to fill the vacated spots and – without the pressure of WrestleMania business – start to experiment with new stars and pushing stars to try and make more stars for the top of the card.

This roundabout summary of the WWE calendar is a way to set the scene for the topic of this article – the way fresh talent is pushed in WWE; and more specifically, how the way WWE cycles work is impinging on the potential of debuting new stars. In the past, around the time when – simultaneously – Brodus Clay, Ryback, and Lord Tensai debuted as unbeatable monsters (though of differing character), I had considered writing an article about how all these features basically guaranteed the failure of at least one of these unstoppable ‘big guys’ because they all had similar acts. I didn’t write that article but both Brodus Clay and Lord Tensai did indeed fall in to insignificance, together, as Tons of Funk. This article is about a similar danger. On top of Fandango, who only debuted towards the end of WrestleMania Season, WWE has introduced Curtis Axel and are set to introduce Bray Wyatt and his family in the coming weeks; and though they aren’t all similar acts, they all share the characteristic of being shot to prominent positions instantly upon their debut (Wyatt hasn’t debuted yet, but I think it’s clear that he’s only going somewhere prominent fast).

But because only this transitionary period from after WrestleMania until around Survivor Series is a time when WWE will put significant effort in to making and pushing new stars, these prospects find themselves trying to justify a top spot, and the creative team trying to write them in to top spots simultaneously, and when there simply aren’t enough top spots for them all. I think when you consider the push that Fandango got and the shine he got from being flavour of the month, that took him to a WrestleMania moment and a big victory over Chris Jericho, but when Curtis Axel debuted a few weeks later, he took the flavour of the month shine from Fandango before Fandango had really gotten over as a top star; and within weeks, Fandango seemed like an afterthought from the top of the card, stuck as he was in a triple threat with The Miz and Wade Barrett. Axel has replaced him in this feud, but that is more of a hotshot to make up for Fandango’s injury and is a match Axel will almost certainly win, giving him the title his father was one of the most celebrated champions of, and propel him further. Though Axel’s build has been based on somewhat sullied victories over top stars, he has been positioned among them, and certainly has the ‘new star glow’ that Fandango was enjoying before him. It will be interesting to see then what will happen to Axel and Fandango when Bray Wyatt and his Family debut (maybe even as soon as the next RAW). Wyatt has been the most hotly anticipated debutant in years having set imaginations alight with his genuinely scary, creepy, yet infinitely watchable preacher/cult leader character, and equally fascinating vignette’s introducing him. When he, his two Family members and his rocking chair finally debut on RAW, it isn’t difficult to imagine him being one of the brightest spots on the show, as well as the inheritor of that ‘new star glow’; and like Fandango before him, there is a risk that Axel could lose the rub that being the hot new star provides before he and WWE have capitalised enough to make him a top guy. This isn’t to criticise Fandango or Axel, who still very well may have bright futures ahead of them, it is simply to say that the frequent rate of debuts at this time of year, mixed with the simultaneous pushes of new stars handicaps their chances of success whereas if debuts were spaced out affording each new star the opportunity to grow in that valuable period where they are the freshest act on the show. Imagine if ‘another big thing’ debuted after Brock Lesnar – in retrospect, Lesnar would probably have made it anyway, but it would certainly have taken some shine away from him.

This isn’t the only problem though. As new debutants join the card, they join existing talent supposedly destined for success while much fewer leave or are fired. So while Fandango, Axel, and Wyatt have arrived to an opportunity to make themselves, their spot comes at the cost of another star deserving of a shot at the top. The two foremost examples of this in my mind are both members of Team Rhodes Scholars, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, but also Sin Cara, who had a chance to capture the erstwhile WWE Universe’s interest before being overshadowed by others. Perhaps this is an intentional state of competition, bred to encourage performers to stand out, as Daniel Bryan has recently, above the rest of the roster. Bryan undoubtedly deserves, and will get, a push thanks to the overwhelming, infectious reaction he has been receiving of late, but that kind of reaction is a rare gem, and just because one stands out, doesn’t mean than those that can’t match up aren’t deserving of an opportunity. Considering the current crop of new stars, to my mind, no act will be able to live up to that of Bray Wyatt and the family, and given the fact that all three can’t long be sustained with simultaneous winning streaks, one or both of Axel and Fandango may have to slip in estimation and could slip in to irrelevance like Tensai and Brodus Clay before them. Though this fits the ‘survival of the fittest’ model, both Fandango and Axel have interesting acts that deserve attention, and could be successful if nourished correctly, or ideally, at different times. If they fail, but are lucky, they might be able to keep a spot for further down the line where their talent could shine through and they get another shot (though that’s more unlikely with is a gimmicky act like Fandango’s). This is where Rhodes and Sandow are – incredibly talented but overshadowed by a cycle of new acts coming and being given the spotlight; and while they are occasionally given prominent matches it seems right now that they might have to wait – possibly forever – for their next opportunity where they are given a push and attention.

This is what I mean by talent being ‘Catapulted to the Glass Ceiling’. WWE has enough faith in these talents to push them hard to the top, but usually not to the point where they win or even compete for top titles straight away, and especially with competition, they are almost doomed to failure to meet their expectations apart from the most notable of exceptions. To make things worse for the current up-and-comers, a bonafide top star in CM Punk is set to return to the WWE this Sunday at Payback, taking a top spot right away and creating even more competition for spots at the top and below as potential top stars are displaced. And so without further ado, some WWE Payback thoughts …

WWE Payback, 16/06/13, from the Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL, photo credit WWE

WWE Payback, 16/06/13, from the Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL, photo credit WWE

This wont be quite in the detail of the PPV previews from what i’ll go ahead and call the ‘RTV Era’ but you will get predictions in match order:

Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) def. Alberto Del Rio
A sleeper match because Dolph has been away and the build has had nothing to do with him – a mistake seen as he could have been a visible presence on TV at least. These two could have a very good match together though to kick the show off hot, but Ziggler is champ to stay for a while.

Match 2) United States Championship Match: Dean Ambrose (c) def. Kane
Difficult o place it so early, but despite Ambrose’s talent and Kane’s veteran abilities, this will probably be the least intriguing match of all. After the strange decision to hand The Shield their first six-man loss ever on Smackdown, and seen as Ambrose has only been champion for a month, I don’t see him dropping the title because that would seriously damage one of the hottest acts on WWE TV.

Match 3) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (c) def. Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton
I feel we’ll get the ol’ Shield one-two here. Daniel Bryan is now the hottest act in wrestling, and the reaction in Chicago may well even match Punk’s, but saying that, I don’t think that leads to another tag title. I haven’t read any spoilers but an Orton heel turn seems possible – turning on Bryan maybe due to him stealing the show? At the very least they wont be able to stay on the same page against the ‘Hounds of Justice’, who will retain for the same reason Ambrose will.

Match 4) Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee def. Kaitlyn (c)
The Kaitlyn and AJ saga is one that has lasted, organically, for years. That makes it a welcome relief in the Divas division – an actual storyline that isn’t based on one simply calling the other a bitch. It’s telling that i’m eating it up and hoping Kaitlyn kicks the bejesus out of AJ for her treatment, but in my head the better story is AJ beating the emotionally broken Kaitlyn, holding a title alongside Dolph, and then having Kaitlyn, with the crowd right behind her, chase the title.

Match 5) Intercontinental Championship Match: Curtis Axel def. Wade Barrett (c) and he Miz
This was a terrible build made instantly more interesting by the introduction of current ‘hot new act’, Curtis Axel. In short, Axel can’t lose and i’ll be absolutely flabbergasted if he does. This is his first PPV match and that is a crucial spotlight and even if he didn’t take the fall, it would damage his shine. On father’s day, Axel will win the title his late father was one of the greatest champions of.

Match 6) CM Punk def. Chris Jericho
This is the most intriguing match of the night, and only not the main event because a Cena match with that stipulation is almost main event by default. When this match was made, it came without warning out of left field as what otherwise seemed a throwaway segment on Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and for that reason I then didn’t believe for a second that we’d get that match, and i’m still not sure if we’ll get a straight-up match between the two, but the degree to which they’ve advertised the match makes me think Punk will certainly appear and may well wrestle. What actually happens is up in the air though – it really smells like some sort of twist will have to happen. I don’t think Jericho turns because he wont be around to follow up on it soon as he goes on tour, but think Punk turning on Heyman for exploiting his name and turning face is possible, and that doesn’t rule out a match. Now Axel is in a match, I don’t see him replacing Punk, so I don’t know what would happen is Punk shows but doesn’t wrestle, but if Punk wrestles, he probably goes over (with the outside guess that if Punk turns on Heyman before the match, Axel comes out and costs Punk the match).

Match 7) WWE Championship Match: Three Stages of Hell – John Cena (c) def. Ryback
I think Cena retains here as you’d expect him to retain more than once. I think because he is losing on PPV AGAIN he will win the first fall clean somehow, gives him a rub of a clean pinfall against Cena and gives Cena the mountain to climb, but then Cena wins the next two falls to retain. It also gives Ryback a reason to demand another title match next PPV. Though Bryan/Cena is rumoured, it doesn’t quite make sense to me. I don’t see Bryan going heel seen as he is SO over, and though there is a possibility of a Cena-Bryan respect feud it seems a little off to me on face value. I would finally give Ryback the title at the next PPV and have the much smaller but hotter Bryan chase, and eventually win, the title from the monster.

Advertisements

RAW View: Slammy’s Pre-Drinks and Serious Questions

Ok, so the Slammy’s are pretty cool. There’s no denying. Some of the categories, however, leave a bit to be desired in terms of gravitas. So as a quick preview, I thought I’d ask some salient questions by way of … AWARD CEREMONY! And let’s get interactive, like WWE undoubtedly will, by having polls!

Enjoy the speculation! Please comment, subscribe, and follow me on twitter (@RTVWOW) where I will be live-tweeting the Slammys tonight!

‘It’s Clobberin’ Time!’: How the Summer of Punk Has Enraptured Wrestling Fans of All Climbs

Before the Monday Night RAW of the 20th June, the big thing in WWE was the rise of R-Truth. People were excited because Truth was a fresh character and a fresh face at the top of the card, but one vanquished the night before by the status quo aka John Cena. I love the WWE for the most part, but it would be stupid to deny that aspects of the product at that time were stale. CM Punk, however, ended the show by claiming that he was going to win the WWE Championship and leave the company with it. Interesting, especially in the hands of Punk, and certainly more interesting than any other storyline in some time, but it wasn’t yet a possibly era-defining angle. What came at the end of the next RAW, when CM Punk seemed to hijack the show and venture forth with a brutal and familiar honesty about himself and the WWE that we, the fans, related to more than anything else we had seen in some time, and that night, CM Punk became a figurehead, ‘the Voice of the Voiceless.

Since then, Punk has only cemented his position as a shaman for the people, and with John Cena, was the heroic protagonist of one of the best wrestling matches of our generation.

There are seemingly countless reasons why the so called ‘Summer of Punk’ has grabbed the attention of seasoned and casual fans alike, as well as the mainstream media. The idea of this post is to try and collate a cross-section of opinion, not to try to explain why it is so successful, but to try and share our enjoyment of it in a positive way, and show how this angle has captured the hearts of so many people for so many reasons. That said, I have collated the testimonials of several friends and contemporaries about how the angle has interested and fascinated them.

Many thanks to twitter follower Jessica Hill (@JessiJ116) for her two cents. For years, the internet has provided fans with the ‘smart knowledge’ to be wise, for the most part, to what is a work, and what is not, and few wrestlers have been consistently sincere and convincing enough to transcend those binaries. With that in mind, Jessica’s comment sheds light on why some people have found the Punk storyline a refreshing departure:

“I think just the fact that people have to ask “Was that a work or was that real?” That blurred line is what makes this special.”

For creator of cultural blog The Oyster’s Earrings http://theoystersearrings.wordpress.com/ and presenter of the ROYGBIV podcast http://www.mixcloud.com/hello_roygbiv/ Luke Healey, part of the success of the Summer of Punk is in the natural and raw connection Punk has rediscovered with the fans, and the fact that, for the first time in a long time, we saw a man become a star before our eyes, allowing us to witness a truly iconic moment:

“This year’s Wrestlemania was the first I had ever watched start to finish, and aside from everything else, one of the things that stood out to me was the powerful presentation of the wrestlers’ entrances to the ring, from Alberto Del Rio’s awesome pomposity to Triple H’s ‘King of Kings’ get-up to the ambivalent roar which greeted Cena. In each case, it was a combination of performance prowess, impressive stage-setting, crowd reaction and VT packages (in some cases). Punk’s entrance into the Allstate Arena at last week’s Money in the Bank PPV, in my mind, blew all of these away. What’s more, and besides the favour-garnering Chicago-themed t-shirt that Punk had chosen to unveil for the occasion, there was very little need for any dressing up of the situation – this was a pure connection between performer and (an albeit partisan) audience. Punk’s entrance truly vindicated the label ‘Sports Entertainment’ – here was a spectacle as vivid and as frenzied as any world cup victory, the sort of spectacle that makes your organs feel light. As Punk continued to circle the ring, to lap up the freshly-minted adulation and the more long-term respect of his fans, it became clear that we were witnessing something truly special, something on a par with, say, Triple H’s return to the ring in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 Invasion angle. Regardless of what came before, this may well have been Punk’s legend-making moment. And, regardless of how the company treat Punk from here on in, they can never erase that moment.”

Daniel Swain, who will be a guest presenter on the RBR Weekly Wrestling Talk podcast (http://bit.ly/pCc8Mt) this Saturday , loves this angle because it is the true culmination of a long journey which saw Punk fly in the face of the image of a typical WWE ‘superstar’, and on the back of sheer and awe-inspiring talent reach the position he deserves, as the biggest star currently in professional wrestling:

“I was first exposed to Ring of Honor in 2005, and one of the first things that stood out to me was CM Punk. Ring of Honor always had big characters who were also good wrestlers, but Punk was the biggest character, and the best wrestler. Everything about him was outrageous, his radical, anarchistic appearance, his forceful, preachy promos and his on-screen antics. From calling a pole-dancer a whore in a Falls Count Anywhere match, to dressing up as Christopher Daniels to fool a crowd. I was in. I was a 15 year old who delighted in underage drinking and even I loved CM Punk. What did CM even stand for? I didn’t even care. After he left ROH following the amazing Summer of Punk, I began to lose interest, I’d stopped watching WWE since Jericho left, TNA was shit and I’d lost another of my favourites.

I started watching again in 2009, I turned on Smackdown and there he was. CM Punk – World Heavyweight Champion. My old favourite from ROH was feuding with Jeff Hardy, it was odd but man was it awesome, he was calling out Hardy on taking Drugs as if it was Homicide. However, then Undertaker returned, buried CM Punk, and my old favourite became a main event whipping boy for John Cena, Big Show and Randy Orton. It was pretty sad.

Then he got his break, and brought us a storyline where CM Punk got to do what the biggest star in company couldn’t do in 1997, leave the WWE with it’s most prestigious title, the WWE Championship. He got to say what no-one had ever been allowed to say before, and in a way that only he could. And then, had an absolutely classic match at Money in the Bank with John Cena. I’m a mark for CM Punk, and that’s why I loved this angle. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Jack Davison is a one-time wrestling skeptic turned casual (and evermore interested) fan. For him, CM Punk represents what makes pro wrestling sublime, and the antidote to what can make it seem a cynical and puerile circus at times:

“It has taken a long time for me to ‘get’ wrestling. As a child I didn’t watch any due to my parents (they simply felt wrestling was a bad influence, probably because of the violence) and through that a resentment grew in me towards wrestling. I never thought I would enjoy it or any of the features that make it what it is, especially when I grew up with many friends who disliked the way it ‘faked’ being a ‘real’ sport. I place emphasis on  the words, or what is meant by the words, ‘get‘, ‘fake‘, and ‘real‘, because they are essentially the three aspects that people misunderstand or fail to acknowledge when it comes to professional wrestling.

Now I have a great appreciation for what the pros do, and the intense atmosphere it can create; not only for the fans but wrestlers themselves. CM Punk has only gone on to reiterate that in the most recent weeks.

Even now I still struggle to fully grasp what the professionals try to create outside of the ring, such as the storylines, acting and relationships. While that may seem strange to those who adore wrestling, for someone who would still consider themselves an outsider  to the universe it can often be tedious or simply off-puttingly poor. But not with Punk. For the first time ever in my short time period with the world of WWE I have been gripped by the intense verbal aspect (or ’out of the ring aspect’) of Wrestling. For the first time ever I wanted to truly stay up to watch a wrestling match in order to see what would become of Cena and Punk in “Money in the Bank” setting, and it was totally worth my while. The emotion, storyline, and abilities of Punk have shone through and, for myself, have set the bar very high for anybody wanting to make their name in WWE. There are wrestlers I admire, love, dislike, and hate, but Punk has gone on to show the standard I almost now expect throughout all aspects of wrestling entertainment, not just inside the ring. Bring on “The Summer of Punk”. I am waiting to be entertained.”

I think what I would add that, for the first time, possibly ever, I and the rest of the fans feel genuinely connected with a superstar. Punk is consistently (and rather ironically) compared to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and it’s difficult to think of a superstar since Austin’s time who has caused the crowd to erupt with such vigour, even when he isn’t there, but Punk doesn’t use catchphrases that the crowd can repeat back, they just agree with what he says, and shout as loudly as they can for him. Punk has always beat to his own drum, a characteristic which has possibly held him down the ladder somewhat until now; he has for years disregarded what creative tell him to say, and spoke from the heart (of his character). That is one of the main reasons he has been so successful in this role as ‘the voice of the voiceless’ – people believe what he is saying, and connect with it, because they know he is sincere. It’s a special quality, one that only the best ‘sports entertainers’ have, and one which has invited the fans to follow Punk in his quest to reinvigorate the business and be the best that he can be.

It is still early days in this angle, and indeed, some might think it remarkable that a wrestling angle can excite people so much and so vigorously, but that is the power of pro-wrestling at its best, and CM Punk is pro-wrestling at its best. There’s still so much yet to see, but we can hope that this is the beginning of a new ‘real’ or ‘sincere’ era (someone really needs to name it!) in pro wrestling, and we can rest assured that it is the creation of a new and electrifying ‘top guy’ in pro-wrestling. It’s clobberin’ time.

Feel free, of course, to share what you like about the Punk story in the comments, and otherwise, feel more than free to follow me on twitter (@RTVWOW)

Over The Limit, 2011: Miz Reaches His Limit

Cena makes Miz submit at the top of the Over the Limit ramp

After watching Over the Limit last night, I started to believe the 2011/12 PPV year from WWE had the potential to be a classic. For two ‘smaller’ PPVs, Extreme Rules and Over the Limit offered some great action and storylines. On reflection, I think the end was a little underwhelming, but the PPV was still of a consistently high quality.

Match 1) R-Truth def. Rey Mysterio
This match was surreal – a quality that Truth has been using to create for himself an enigmatic heel character. I thought it was slightly strange when he was talking about hospital food a couple of weeks ago, but this week his ‘parking lot’ analogy took more of the biscuit. In the mouth of another character, thid promo would die, but there’s something abut Truth’s petty, sinister character which draws a lot of heat. This match was unspectacular, but for their first match (I think), they worked well together. There was some nice back and forth and here, and some pretty brutal moments, especially given that both of these guys are basically finesse guys. Mysterio’s bulldog to Truth from the top rope was indeed a ridiculously huge bulldog, and more brutal than any other i’ve seen in a while. Rey’s momentum grew and he eventually got Truth into 619 position. At this point, Truth slipped out of the ring to avoid the 619, sweeping Rey’s legs from beneath him so he got caught on the ring apron before Truth clotheslined him awkwardly to the floor before being dragged back in to the ring to receive Truth’s finisher and get pinned clean. This was a shock for me as I didn’t expect him to go over quite so easily, but it certainly provided Truth with quite the rub, making him look impressive against a top guy. Nice enough match though i’m not sure it was impressive enough a whole match for him to really make an impact as a top calibre guy just yet.

Match 2) Ezekiel Jackson def. Wade Barrett by DQ (Barrett retains the Intercontinental Championship)
This match was ok. Ezekiel Jackson is not really going to be able to put on a great match with anybody, but he did a good enough job of putting on an acceptable match, led mostly by Barrett. A good sign for them is that, at the start of the match,the crowd wasn’t really popping for either man, but towards the end, after Zeke’s multiple slams (hardly the three amigos or repeated German suplexes!), the crowd started to get interested and making some noise. Shortly after this, Zeke got Barrett up for his impressive torture rack (his only really impressive move), which triggered the rest of Corre coming to the ring to stor Barrett from tapping and saving his title. Perhaps a finish not fit for PPV, but a workable way to keep the feud going. They’ll need a new angle, however. to keep it interesting.

Match 3) Sin Cara def. Chavo Guerrero
This was one of the matches I was anticipating most on the PPV, patly because the angle is interesting, and partly because I’ve thought Chavo could do great things in a properly developed angle for a while now. Their match was as good as you would expect. The idea was surely to give Cara someone to work with who understood his style perfectly and show him off. Chavo looked great against Sin Cara too; really competative and wonderfully underhand. Between that, Cara was finding yet new ways to fly around. He really does seem to have countless ways to fly. One thing he did that I hadn’t seen before was a handspring to the ropes where he kicked Chavo to the head from upside-down. There was lots of great guys, and back and forth until the end. Unfortunately, the end was spoiled a little  by a botched hurricanrana which gave Cara the victory. It was a shame not just because of the botch, but because it isn’t one of Cara’s signature moves. That makes me think an audible was called for whatever reason – hopefully not an injury because I want the feud to continue, but it seemed a little underwhelming a finish for an otherwise quality match.

Match 4) Big Show & Kane def. CM Punk & Mason Ryan (Nexus) to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
This match was ok. Punk is obviously the talisman in a match like this with three big guys who aren’t really technical masters. They did a good enough job though, making an entertaining tag match from it. Great to see Punk pay tribute to Macho Man a few times over the night, culminating in his ultimately fruitless elbow drop. This was the beginning of the end for the Nexus duo, who couldn’t stop the immovable objects, who sent Punk to the outside and Ryan to hell with a double chokeslam for the win. Decent match for what it was.

Match 5) Brie Bella def. Kelly Kelly to Retain the Divas Championship
This was a nice match between these two. There was some nice, natural  back-and-forth between the two with Brie getting the early advantage with the help of her sister, beating down on Kelly and trapping her in a very painful looking armbar for quite some time. Kelly managed to fight out of this, and we saw some nice brawling to the outside, including a great dropkick to Kelly from Brie on the outside. Back in the ring, kelly regained the advantage, with a Lou Thesz Press followed by slamming Brie’s head in to the canvas. At this point, with the referee distracted, The Bellas pulled off twin magic (something I love about them – it’s a unique ability they have and are right to utilise it) and a fresh Nikki Bella hit an X Factor on Kelly to pick up the victory. Relatively short, but a nice match. I was surprised that Kharma didn’t make an appearance though. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

Match 6) Randy Orton def. Christian to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Up until now, as you may be able to tell, there was some nice stuff, but nothing spectacular. Then came this match, which everyone has said is a MOTY candidate. This was not because of the spots, but because of the remarkable emotion surrounding the match, and Christian’s journey. It was just a match filled with fantastic storytelling. The two seemed equally matched throughout, and every near fall was believeable and dramatic. Christian, a 17 year veteran continues to add to his repetoire with his moves, incorporating a spinebuster, a reverse DDT, and a diving headbutt (surprisingly, Benoit style) in to his move set against Orton. This just shows the effort Christian is putting in now that he’s tasted the main event. He is evolving all the time and making a real effort to surprise the fans. For Orton’s part, he was working as fluidly as usual, and hit a gigantic superplex on Christian. As the match started to reach a crescendo, the fans were really in to it and were making an obviously deafening noise. The guys were trading attempts at their finishers with some nice wrestling progressions, but none were yet successful. Orton then managed to get Christian in a reverse Boston Crab, a move popularised by Colt Cobana who calls it the Billy Goat’s Curse and Christian came close to tapping but eventually escaped. The crowd were going crazy at this point, chanting primarily for Christian, who then played a great bit of storytelling, building off the finish of the match where he lost his title, kicking Orton in the gut and pretending to go for his sprnigboard sunset flip, which drew Orton to prematurely go for an RKO, and allowed Christian to roll up Orton for a great near fall. Orton then managed to block Chritian’s pendulum kick and hit his hangman’s DDT for a close near fall, showing Captain Charisma’s resiliency. After some more progressions, Christian saw the space conducive to the Spear, and again calling on the spirit of his friend Edge, started preparing to deliver it, though Orton countered in to a scoop powerslam for another near-fall. Here, Orton sets up for his punt, and as he is running up, he stops short, whether showing mercy or something else. Revoking the mercy, he re-sets for the punt, but this time runs in to a Spear. What followed was the near-fall that everyone bit on – so symbolically brilliant a finish it would have been. But Orton is just as resilient as Christian, and managed to kick out. The finish came when both men were wrestling more nice progressions around their finishers, and finally, after going for a Killswitch, Orton went for a backdrop, but Christian landed on his feet, only to eat a huge RKO with beautiful fluidity, and the pinfall to end a spectacular match. This really was a match of equals and to continue the respectful rivalry story, Orton went to shake Christian’s hand. At first, Captain Charisma was unwilling, having come so close, but eventually, he returned to the ring to shake Orton’s hand. Though it’s hard to justify another title shot for Christian, I think the fans would have absolutely no problem seeing a third outing between these two. Both are at the top of their game right now, and surely Christian has done enough, both in performances and fan reaction to justify his position in the Smackdown main event permanently.

Match 7) Jerry “The King” Lawler def. Michael Cole in a ‘Kiss My Foot’ Match
This was the match these two needed to have at WrestleMania really. A perfect blood-letting blowoff. The match itself wasn’t too long, and though Cole got some obviously flukey offense in, it wasn’t enough to stop Jerry beating him down and getting the pin from a flying fist. The best bit came in the aftermath, as all of Cole’s ‘crimes’ came back to haunt him. Eve Torres, his maion target of ire towards the divas came out and berated Cole before hitting a nice moonsault. Then out came good ol’ J.R., who bathed Cole in his BBQ sauce – as Cole had earlier done to him – humiliating him, and finally, out came Bret Hart! He, who has himself beaten King in a kiss my foot match, came out to assist King in doing the same to Cole – the reasoning being that at least he respects Lawler as a competitor. He put Cole in a Sharpshooter as Cole ‘kissed’, or sucked on Lawler’s foot in a scene which was nauseating, but in the correct way.

Match 8) John Cena def. The Miz in an ‘I Quit’ Match to Retain the WWE Championship
There is an instant problem with booking Cena in an I Quit match, and its that John Cena simply doesn’t quit, at least as the face he is now. This means that unless there is to be as a massive swerve, the match is incredibly predictable. This match basically took the same story as Orton’s I Quit match with Cena from a couple of years back (I think it was Breaking Point) where Orton basically tortured Cena mercilessly throughout the match, but Cena simply refused to quit until he eventually got the upper hand and made Orton quit. This was very similar, though Miz was a little different to that Orton: more emotionlessly rational than psychopathically dark. He was telling Cena exactly what he was about to before he did it, appealing to Cena’s rationality, and asking him to quit. He didn’t account, however, for the code Cena lives by (namely, to ‘never give up’), which kept Cena going despite the ridiculously brutal beating he took from the Miz, who was helped all the way by Alex Riley (Miz taking advantage of the no DQ nature of the match), caning him mercilessly with the kendo stick, and hitting him repeatedly with a leather belt, as well as a particularly sickening spot with an open chair wedged in to the ropes in to which he hit a Skull Crushing Finalé.They then wedged Cena in the barricade and hit him with a brutal chairshot to the head (though cushioned quite a lot by the barricade itself. Frustrated, Miz then instructed Riley to pull the spot from the infamous 1999 ‘I Quit’ match between The Rock and Mankind where he played a recording of Cena saying “I Quit” in to the mic. For a while, the ref bought it, and for the second time in 2 PPVs, Miz was awarded the WWE Championship. However, finding Riley’s phone, he realised (somehow) what had happened and re-started the match. A characteristic of Cena’s matches recently, is that he’s been ending them incredibly quickly, and this was the same this past Sunday. Riley goes to hit Cena with the title but Cena ducks and Riley hits Miz and is quickly hit with an AA through the announce table. Cena then turns his belt back on Miz and whips him all the way up the ramp, where he gets him in the STF and makes Miz quit. I really dislike it when I Quit matches finish with a conventional submission – it ignores the far more interesting ways they can be won. Nonetheless, it was a good match, and very brutal (Joey Styles even gave it an ECW nod of approval), and ad it been someone else than Cena in the match, it would have been even better. Cena just shouldn’t be booked in this type of match as it is too formulaic a story when he’s involved. That made the ending of the PPV a little underwhelming, but it was the right result, and well played out.

Overall, not quite as good as Extreme Rules, but not far behind. Solid throughout with the highlights being the Cole-Lawler blowoff and the incredible Orton-Christian match, while the main event did it’s job playing to the unique conventions of an I Quit match.

Over the Limit Preview and Predictions, 2011

Over the Limit, 2011, The Key Arena, Seattle, WA

I think for many people, Over the Limit is probably the least anticipated PPV of the year – it certainly is for me. Nonetheless, any given PPV is an exciting event as you know, as a viewer, that some of the biggest angles and the best matches will take place at PPV. This PPV is no different, and the card is actually pretty stacked with almost every match offering something whether it be mouth-watering match-ups or the promise of some interesting storyline progressions. Again, like Extreme Rules, the build has only really been pursued belatedly, but Extreme Rules nonetheless turned out to be a good PPV, so that isn’t necessarily a death sentence.

Match 1) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Big Show & Kane (c) vs CM Punk & Mason Ryan (Nexus)
For the last few weeks, Big Show and Kane have been essentially handy props for the storylines surrounding both the Corre and Nexus, and indeed, the two storylines have paralleled each other quite closely. It does seem after last week’s RAW that Punk and Nexus are getting something of a renewed push, but while Punk and Ryan would make nice tag champs, I think Punk may be re-emerging in the main event picture sooner rather than later. If the Corre and Nexus storylines are to continue to parallel, Mason Ryan could be about to split from Nexus after a difficult relationship with the group. For this reason, and because I can see Kane and Big Show being built as strong champions, I see the awkward Nexus partnership stalling. There may of course be some Nexus-Corre cooperation that could affect this, but the interference of someone like Ezekiel Jackson could counterbalance that anyway.

Winners: Big Show & Kane

Match 2) Rey Mysterio vs R-Truth
This is quite a difficult match to predict. For different reasons, I can see Truth going over, and I can see Mysterio going over. The first thought that comes to mind is that Truth is going through something of a pet project push, and so him losing in his first subsequent PPV match seems unlikely. On the other hand, however, Truth’s new heel persona has been largely based on his frustration at being robbed of opportunities and victories, and so perhaps that will be the case again. Whatever happens, this is a big match for Truth – perhaps the most important of his career. If he puts on a good match, he could be elevated up to main event status; if not, he could fall back down the card. These two are both quick, if getting on in years, and I think their similar work-rate could make for nice chemistry in this match. My prediction on this, as I say, is almost a coil flip, but I think the more surprising or intriguing result would be for Mysterio to win, either clean to frustrate Truth even more, or by DQ, following a savage attack from Truth who gets frustrated after Mysterio kicks out of his Cool Shot.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Match 3) Intercontinental Championship Match: Wade Barrett (c) vs Ezekiel Jackson
The obvious instinct going in to this match is that Big Zeke is going in to this match with huge momentum after leaving the Corre, cutting a strong face promo and beating his former team-mates on Smackdown. Giving Zeke the title at this point, unless there is some sort of wildcard element to the booking, seems like a bad decision to me. Barrett hasn’t been champion for that long, and hasn’t had many defences. I think what would be better would be to amp up the face chase, and have Barrett go over with help from the Corre (therefore legitimising a further future title shot for Zeke).

Winner: Wade Barrett

Match 4) Sin Cara vs Chavo Guerrero
The idea behind this programme is one that i’ve liked, with Chavo claiming ownership of Mexican heritage wrestling and also for Cara’s success. I’m so pleased Chavo’s gotten himself on a PPV because he’s been underutilised for such a long time. Apparently the house show matches between these two have been awesome, and I would expect nothing less tonight. As the story goes, there is a shared heritage between the two, so their styles fuse nicely. As for the result, I think if Cara was to vanquish Chavo now, Chavo would have no recourse to continue the programme, and so I think, eventhough it will mean handing Sin Cara his first loss, Chavo will go over here, though by unscrupulous tactics.

Winner: Chavo Guerrero

Match 5) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Christian
This is arguably the most emotionally engaging match of the night. The way Christian dropped the title three weeks ago, after only holding it for 5 days, and his legitimate and kayfabe back-story has meant that the fans are behind his cause more than ever. Meanwhile, Orton himself is a highly honourable babyface who commands a lot of respect. Indeed, this feud has become one around mutual-respect and the battle to rove you are the better man.Its been a while since WWE have tried one of these storylines and the cast is picked perfectly. On top of that, both guys are highly experienced and talented, and have already had a superb world title match. This will be given some good time, and could be a classic. I notice that Cody Rhodes isn’t on the card, and given his meteoric profile, I would be surprised not to see him at all. Now this could come with a short paper bag promo, or it could come here. Given that Legacy brethren Rhodes and DiBiase have been reunited, they might have some business to take care of with Orton. I believe that Christian wont win back the title just yet though. I think he’s to be tested emotionally and physically still more as a top talent before he regains his title. Three title changes in a month would be a little OTT, even if it would be understandable, and so I think Orton will retain on this occasion, even if he has to fend off his former mentees.

Winner: Randy Orton

Match 6) Divas Championship Match: Brie Bella (c) vs Kelly Kelly
This match is the hardest to predict because doing so means predicting the effect Kharma will have on the match. Obviously Kharma is enjoying toying with Kelly, but could part of that involve destroying anyone taking on Kelly so she can have her toy to herself? Unlike the last match, this wont be a classic by any stretch, but the Bellas are underrated as wrestlers, so there might be some nice spots in the match. I also think it’ll be given more time than usual divas matches – an effect Kharma already seems to have had on the division. This could go either way, but I think i’m going to plump for Kharma helping Kelly to lose – not necessarily by attacking her, but by scaring/distracting her enough to cost her the match before ‘playing’ with her more psychologically. This may also lead to more of a ‘feud’ as Kelly will have a legitimate gripe at being cost the Divas title.

Winner: Brie Bella

Match 7) ‘Kiss My Foot’ Match: Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole
I think, despite Cole entertaining run as a heel, most people feel this feud should have ended at WrestleMania, and certainly at Extreme Rules, but it is clear that it will definately end tonight. The stipulation is that if Cole wins, he goes in to the Hall of Fame, and there is no way WWE will mess with that institution. Added to that, Jack Swagger has now abandoned Cole’s cause. Now there is no way that any sort of wrestling match will take place – they learned their lesson at WrestleMania. Cole might get some flukey early shots in, but this will be a quick blood-letting as Cole is fed to the hall of famer and forced to kiss The King’s foot.

Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 8) WWE Championship ‘I Quit’ Match: John Cena (c) vs The Miz
I love an I Quit match. Not only can they get absolutely brutal, but they can be some of the most innovative matches going. As Miz said on RAW, there are a million ways to win, and the best victories come when it isn’t physicality that makes someone quit, but emotional or psychological coercion. Miz is one of the most wily, uncaring characters in the WWE, and I expect some ingenuity from him. The question is, how could he ever get John Cena to quit? My initial reaction to this booking was that it was perhaps a little misguided because it is too predictable given how Cena famously never quits. It does make me think that everything is so much in Miz’s favour that there could be a swerve victory for The Miz, making Cena quit and regaining the title so quickly and so making him seem like even bigger a deal. I do feel, however, that Miz is already at that level and doesn’t need that rub, even of it would be great for him. Cena will keep his title and his dream WrestleMania main event alive for now, and Miz will move on to something else going forward, hopefully giving a run to an up-and-comer himself, Evan Bourne perhaps, or a face-turned Drew McIntyre.


Winner: John Cena

This, I suppose like any other PPV, has the potential to be fantastic. If the right matches are given good time and there are some shocking or meaningful angles, the matches and storylines. The success of the PPV depends on Truth being successul on this stage, Sin Cara making an impact, the Kharma story being progressed in a fresh way that will help the divas division, and if the I Quit match delivers a match with good storytelling. If it does, as I say, it could be fantastic.

Extreme Rules, 2011: Preview and Predictions

Extreme Rules: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL, 01/05/2011

Unfortunately, I have to open this with a criticism. This has to have been the worst built WWE PPV in years. Fair enough the draft caused a huge distraction, but its all just been a bit limp. WrestleMania hangover maybe? There have been some well built matches. This week’s go-home Smackdown brought Christian to the fore where he has needed to be. The LayCool match builds itself and has all their history behind it. So much attention has been paid to Cole/Swagger/King/JR that it has probably taken from the build of other matches. This is not to say, however, that it will be a bad PPV. In fact, in many ways, the card is stacked (ignoring the commentators whipping each other) and the ‘extreme’ nature of the night adds an extra dimension to the whole night, especially as WWE emerges from it’s ultra-sanitary era and pushes the envelope a little more. So, without further ado!

Match 1) Christian vs Alberto Del Rio – Ladder Match for the Vacant World Heavyweight Championship
This is a difficult match to predict. The heart says Christian, the head (smark) says Del Rio. Del Rio definitely has the higher profile and is on an absolutely meteoric rise, underpinned by his draft to RAW while Vince is said to not be high on Christian as a main-eventer. Usually, Del Rio would go over without any doubt, but that would be to overlook the reason why Christian is even in this match in the first place, and that is his emotional attachment to the recently retired future Hall of Famer Edge. The people want to see Christian win the title, and that’s a big factor. Del Rio going to RAW is also a factor. Smackdown has been something of a whipping boy in the past, but they wont leave it without a top title, which is what would happen if Del Rio won. Now, they could always find a way to get the title on Orton, but that seems complicated, and what would Orton have done on Smackdown to earn a shot at their title? If Del Rio stayed on Smackdown, I would have backed him and the face-chase, but seen as he isn’t, for those reasons, i’m picking Captain Charisma to finally get his hands on the belt on Sunday, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. As for the match itself, i’m expecting big things. Christian is an innovator of the ladder match, and will know how important a huge performance from him is if he wants to remain in the main event. As for Del Rio, he is just great, and at TLC last year had an honourable showing.

Winner: Christian

Match 2) Sheamus (c) vs Kofi Kingston in an Extreme Rules Match for the United States Championship (?)
Ok, so this is a complete guess as it hasn’t been booked yet, but there are two reasons I think this will happen. After the draft, both the US and IC titles are on Smackdown, which obviously wont do. I was expecting one to change hands to an outgoing superstar on Smackdown, but since that didn’t happen, it’ll have to happen at Extreme Rules. What did happen was Sheamus brutalising Kofi Kingston on Smackdown before what was meant to be a title match. He’ll get it on Sunday, and he’ll take the title back to RAW. Why Kofi is getting it is beyond me. He’s been boring the life out of me for a while now. Kofi was really the only viable outgoing superstar so maybe having someone come from RAW to reclaim their title, someone fresh like Evan Bourne, would have been good. They’ll have a decent enough but short match. Sheamus drops the title so he can feud with Christian over the title. How’s that for a bold prediction! Oh God, that means more Orton vs Sheamus down the line!

Winner: Kofi Kingston

Match 3) Cody Rhodes vs Rey Mysterio in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
Tough to call. Rhodes has absolutely shone in this feud, and his promos including paper bags have been star-making. Had he not won at WrestleMania, and if it wasn’t to be Rey Mysterio’s last Smackdown match, I would have no hesitation in giving it to Rhodes, but losing twice in a row to Rhodes at PPV and heading to RAW doesn’t seem a great way forward for Mysterio. On the other hand again though, Rhodes still needs this victory far more than Mysterio. I have a feeling Cody will be moving on to Randy Orton after Sunday, and it’ll be very hard to seem credible against WWE’s #2 guy coming off a big loss. These guys have had so much history that a straight-up brawl will seem believable and so a Falls Count Anywhere could work. I always want Falls Count Anywhere matches to finish outside of the ring myself, and you’ve got to think it will as that is the whole basis of the stipulation. With solely that in mind, i’m backing Cody Rhodes. Non of Rey Mysterio’s major offense is possible without the ring being used. In the crowd or by the stage, he wont be able to 619 anyone. I see this one increasing in intensity before Rhodes eventually does something shocking like pushes some equipment on to Mysterio, earning the victory. Mysterio can afford it.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 4) Layla vs Michelle McCool, No Disqualifications, No Count-Outs – Loser Leaves WWE
This is less of a ‘prediction’ as it is being said with near certainty online that Michelle McCool is legitimately leaving WWE after this match, and not just for a break. While I can’t imagine McCool never coming back, and certainly hope it’s not the case, it seems like a possibility, and makes this match an almost definite win for Layla (barring swerves and the like). Its a shame, because I always hoped for a great feud between these two after their long association. With that in mind,  have high hopes for this match. I think it will get decent time and i’m sure if it is they’ll be able to put on a really good show and do the divas proud! As for Layla, I would have pegged her as a babyface, but without Michelle, on Smackdown, she may have to stay heel after this match.

Winner: Layla

Match 5) Randy Orton vs CM Punk in a Last Man Standing Match
God this match has ‘awesome’ written all over it, even without Miz! The main speculation surrounding this match (especially given the lack of build since ‘Mania) is about the rumours of CM Punk wanting to leave WWE for a while, at least. People seem to assume that Punk will not get anything significant for that reason, but really, it could work both ways. WWE, trying to get Punk to sign a contract extension, could give him good results like this to sweeten the deal. All I know is that these two are two of the most sinister characters in recent wrestling history, and a match like this is made for them in both the brutality, and the sinister psychology of trying to be the ‘last man standing’. I hope it lives up to that expectation and sure it will, though it’s difficult to imagine the booking of the match. I dunno … Orton won at WrestleMania, so …

Winner: CM Punk

Match 6) Michael Cole & Jack Swagger vs Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler in a Country Whipping Match
Right, i’m sure they’ll explain the stipulation before the match starts … The match at WrestleMania was rightly panned as the lowlight of the show. It wont be booked like a wrestling match again, that much is clear from the stipulation. Swagger vs King to start. King gets the best of Swagger. Cole berates Swagger. Swagger leaves Cole. King beats on Cole. J.R. beats on Cole. One of them pins Cole. The crowd goes wild. The angle is over. And thank God, as much as Cole is a fantastic heel, it should have finished at WrestleMania and it has started to consistently take precious TV time away from wrestlers, and that is unacceptable.

Winners: Jerry “The King” Lawler & Jim Ross

Match 7) The Miz (c) vs John Cena vs John Morrison – Cage Match for the WWE Championship
In many ways, this match has had the most anonymous build. Has Morrison even been in the ring with either Miz or Cena? I can’t imagine how this match will be booked inside the cage, though i’m sure Morrison, who needs to shine more than anyone else there, will pull out some cool parkour-inspired move with the cage. The Miz will retain this and extend what has happily become a lengthy Championship reign. I’ve heard some say they’ll have Cena go over so Del Rio can feud with him over the title, but what about Miz? Cena and Del Rio don’t need the title to feud. Their profiles are enough to make people watch whatever the circumstance. That is, however, why Del Rio could be involved. Bitter about not gaining the World Title, he comes after the biggest dog on RAW, and prevents Cena from escaping. It is obvious, though no less the right booking, that R-Truth will do the same to Morrison to continue their feud. In fact, if both he and Del Rio were out at the same time during a race to escape the cage, allowing Miz to escape unopposed, that would be awesome. If this is how it goes, I would personally see the World Title match open the show. I picked this because its the RAW main event for the WWE title and involves both Cena and Miz, but the emotion of Christian win the title would be a better closing shot, so don’t be surprised if these matches are switched on the card. Saying that, if it is booked as i’ve suggested, we would close with three heels backing up the ramp, triumphant with the faces, dejected and/or angry, still inside the cage, which in itself is pretty cool.

Winner: The Miz

Lots of cool matches there, extreme rules and a guaranteed BRAND NEW World Champion. Sounds good to me.

RAW Recall (11/04/2011): A Star Burns Out

Edge during his emotional announcement

One story has completely dominated the aftermath of this week’s RAW, and rightly so – the shock retirement of Edge from WWE. I’ve already posted on this, but I will add to it in this post. A LOT happened on this week’s episode, and I think some of the less inspiring moments can be attributed to the time taken up by Edge’s shocking, upsetting announcement, so a bit of slack has to be allowed to management this week.

The opening seg was a bit of cookie-cutter booking, but what better way to get three young guys out there claiming stake to the title, than having a free for all in which people claim a right to the #1 contendership?  How R-Truth can justify a claim at the title is beyond me though, given that he’s barely been on TV recently to the best of my knowledge! I liked the idea for determining the new #1 contender; a singles version of ‘Tag Team Turmoil’. Easy excitement, and a good way of highlighting the importance of the WWE Championship by making people literally jostle for the spot.

I like the Bellas. They’re better wrestlers than people give them credit for (though not to give them too much credit!), but I don’t understand why Eve should drop the title to Brie. It just seems like the division is a bit directionless at the moment. It was a decent match, but characteristically brief. Saying that, there was a couple of interesting developments that might bring more interest to the division. Firstly was the vignette of Awesome Kong. Whatever happens, she will be great for the division, and I can’t wait to see how she is booked. Obviously people are already dreaming up fantasy matches for her with the likes of Beth Phoenix and Natalya, but my idea, given her destruction of a doll in her vignette, is to have her form some sort of alliance (Gail Kim? Natalya? Beth Phoenix?) against the models in the division, though the ones that can wrestle, to help drag up the standing of the whole division. She could target people like Layla, Eve, Maryse, the ones hired for their looks who have really taken to the craft, for being there as models and not athletes, and this could lead to some great matches, and especially when the group eventually splits. The second interesting development was the backstage segment following the match with Eve decrying the backstabbing in the divas lockerroom – a storyline of sorts coming from that seems a lock, and a storyline is halfway to great wrestling.

When I saw Primo in the ring to face Sin Cara, I admit to instantly thinking ‘squash’, but it was certainly more than that. It was an odd one though. The early exchanges were suitably quick and high octane, which really showed the potential excitement that Sin Cara (and Primo, for that matter) can bring, and Cara really got the crowd on his side. Primo did, however, get a surprising amount of offense in, but this may not have been the best time for it, as it robbed Sin Cara of some of his momentum. Nonetheless, some awesome stuff from Cara, such as his many ranas, his remarkably fluid sunset flip powerbomb, some nice strong kicks, and his backflip downward spiral finisher. He did fall from the turnbuckle before he could deliver his finisher, which was obviously a botch, but he recovered quicly – though maybe he should have sold more. I was amazed we didn’t see his La Mistica finisher (tilt-a-whirl into a single-arm DDT and a Fujiwara armbar). As far as I know, that’s his primary finisher, and we probably should have seen that, but I suppose it might have been intentionally saved to make it seem like he keeps on offering more in the ring when he does use it. It was a good match, though maybe not the best vehicle for introducing this important star. Apparently Vince hasn’t been too happy with his impact yet. Yes, he nearly botched his first trampoline entrance, but that’s a hard thing to just take away – it will be very noticeable if they do. Maybe we’ll see him feuding with Primo – I certainly hope Primo benefits from the association, though apparently management are down on both guys after the match, which seems a little unfair.  I hope there’s little truth to that.

Next we had ‘Apple’, take on The Corre. This was comic stuff here, and i’m sure it wont last, and it was good to see Corre going over again – something they really needed. My only problem with this is that Bryan deserves better. Switch places between him and Truth in booking, and everything’s perfect. Fun match which did it’s job. Before and after, Corre were squabbling though. It’s definitely too early to split them up, so I hope that isn’t the plan.

Not much to say about Lawler-Swagger. Nice enough match, again showing that Lawler is simply class in the ring. This match was punctuated by the shouts of Cole and J.R. at ringside in respective corners, a highlight of that being J.R’s line: “Your guy had you in an ankle lock and now has a wrist lock. Show’s how stupid he is!” Eventually, following the distractions from ringside, Swagger was rolled up by The King, allowing him to choose the stipulation for his match with Cole at Extreme Rules. I was hoping for a one-on-one strap match, but we were instead offered a tag team match (does that count!?) between Lawler & J.R. against Cole & Swagger, who Cole had just slapped and alienated, perhaps signaling a face-turn down the line? I’ll save more for the eventual preview for the PPV, but i’d rather have J.R. announcing than wrestling! Still, he and Lawler have fought together before, so it has that desirable nostalgia/emotional aspect to it.

Next up came Edge’s retirement speech. I’ve already discussed this somewhat here: https://rtvwrestling.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/thank-you-edge/ but i’d like to reiterate my thanks to him for everything he’s done. Maybe traditionally, he should have put Del Rio over at WrestleMania, but I really believe this news is sudden, and they weren’t sure then that he would be retiring. On the plus side, for one of the most popular superstars of his generation (both with the fans and contemporaries, as can be seen in the remarkable outpouring for him), it was great that his last match was a successful World Title defense at WrestleMania with Christian by his side. It was truly moving to see, pretty much, the whole roster, babyface and heel alike, backstage applauding him following the speech. He has truly earned their love and respect. Again, thank you Edge.

The main event was fun, but as with chaotic matches like this, there’s not much to critique, as it’s all storyline progression. Miz gets needed TV time on commentary, watching his prospective challengers, and the first match-up is Orton vs Ziggler. Nice stuff here, and it shows that these two could work an awesome programme. Eventually, the New Nexus show up, coming back surprisingly quickly from the punts, and cost Orton the match. Nice way for Ziggler to go over a tog guy while continuing Orton’s feud with Punk and the New Nexus (though Punk apparently had the night off …). I thought the Nexus was dead, but i’m happy to see them back, with the strict caveat that they can recapture some of the most shocking impacts they’ve gained in the past. I was surprised to see Truth go over Ziggler – surely WWE doesn’t rate him higher? Now I don’t like Morrison that much, but he’s definitely a better fit for the main event than Truth, so imagine my surprise when Truth went over Morrison too! (Avoid heat with the management people!) Nice interaction between Miz and Morrison here, as Miz talks about Morrison’s showmanship costing him, right before Morrison’s showmanship costs him the pinfall after not covering Truth following his Flash Kick and instead crashing and burning with the Starship Pain. Miz-Morrison is a definite future PPV main event, but Morrison simply still isn’t at Miz’s level. Finally, we have Cena vs the beaten-up R-Truth. Truth would take even more of a beating from Cena, who delivered the most powerful moves in his moveset short of the AA, all of which, Truth inexplicably kicked out of (it wasn’t bad storytelling necessarily, just why Truth all of a sudden!) Eventually, Miz seemed intimidated by the tough display in the ring, and brought Alex Riley to the ring to attack both guys at once to cause the double-DQ. Having bragged about there now not being a #1 contended, the anonymous GM, in a rare moment of anti-Miz fairness, announced that both Cena and Truth, in fact, would challenge Miz for the WWE title at Extreme Rules in a triple threat match (again, not an ‘extreme’ match!). It’s certainly fresher than just Miz vs Cena, but Truth? Really? Not only would Bryan be much better in the role, but it would make more sense, given his history with Miz and his current transitional state after dropping the US title. Luckily, I think its just a means of helping Cena look strong after losing another title match to Miz at Extreme Rules, but it does mean more prominence for Truth when it isn’t really deserved.