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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 9) John Laurinaitis def. John Cena
First of all, my most sympathetic reading of this: The WWE believe Big Show to be very popular, which he is, and John Laurinaitis to be very unpopular, which he is. So seeing Big Show side with John Laurinaitis and help him beat John Cena should be shocking right? It should feel like a betrayal that the fans will respond to emotionally, right? Wrong, and it’s because of the execution. WWE did everything to make the result of this obvious, from Show being fired only this week, to adding the ‘if you don’t win, you’re fired’ stip to John Laurinaitis, a man which a lot of the audience could work out wasn’t about to be fired, and further, the stip that no one could interefere or they would be fired, meaning that if someone not employed (kayfabe) by WWE was to show up, their intentions would be obvious. This match was going through the motions until Big Show … showed, and when he did, it was like most Big Show appearances, a little empty. And that’s the best thing you could say about this match. In order to redeem this at all, WWE needed to clear a lot of the telegraphing stipulations; John Laurinaitis, lauding all his power about special referees and changing stipulations to make it seem that, somehow, he could beat Cena, but not think it a foregone conclusion. He also should have ‘fired’ Big Show much longer ago – at least a month – so he wouldn’t be the first person people were thinking about when they were wondering how Ace could win. Have Laurinaitis throw everything at Cena, special refs, Lord Tensai, David Otunga, even restarting a match is Cena wins but have Cena endure through it all until Laurinaitis goes to run. Then, as they did, have Big Show … show, and have everything play out as it did, and there you have it, all the consequence, betrayal, and emotion you were aiming at. Oh boy, how far we were from that! I have said in the title that I felt the end of this PPV ‘jumped the shark’ and that refers solely to this match. For those not familiar with the expression, it means a few different but closely related things; the definition i’m using here is along the lines of when a particular scene, episode, character or aspect of a show in which the writers or actors use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate – and unsuccessful – attempt to keep viewers’ interest. I’ll explain the exact moment when this happened later. The match started with about thirty minutes left, and that was when alarm bells were ringing. I know Ace is a wrestler, but his character is a joke; he wasn’t going to have a straight up match with Cena for thirty minutes. I knew something bad was coming, but I had no idea how bad! I don’t want to waste my time talking about it. It doesn’t deserve it, but if I was to say it made me feel like i’d had water poured all over me (and down my pants), like i’d been sprayed with a fire extinguisher for a full minute, and had trash dumped on me, among other things, for about twenty full minutes, you’re close to how I felt when watching this. Then we got to the point where Cena and got an unconscious Johnny on commentary with himself and started to act out roles, him being Cole, and Ace being Booker T, AND ACE WENT ALONG WITH IT mumbling ‘five time … five time …’ that I couldn’t work out what the hell I was watching. That was where it jumped the shark. It broke the fourth wall in a jokey, inappropriate way, in a main event of a PPV that had earlier featured one of the best matches in recent memory yet was being deemed less important than this. Now maybe all of the genuinely clownish nonsense was supposed to set us up for what WWE expected to be a big, hurtful fall, but we’ve already established that it didn’t happen, and why it didn’t happen. Twenty minutes of Cena and Laurinaitis acting out a horrible three stooges impersonation, followed by a heel turn by the Big Show that everyone expected and no one cared about. It was flatter and stupider than a pancake. I don’t know what to say about it, it was a travesty, should never have happened, and certainly shouldn’t have been the main event over any of the top title matches. One saving grace is that Big Show is a heel now, and should (should) be more interesting as a character and a wrestler. They should Mark Henryfy him (eventhough he wouldn’t be as good) and when Henry comes back, make them Ace’s ‘3 Minute Warning’ style bodyguards/tag champions and we might be getting somewhere. The one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind the whole time was that Cena was just behaving strangely, like he was on RAW. I hope he wasn’t just allowed to go out and ‘have fun’ like he was seemingly on RAW, because as funny as it was (in context, in the middle of the show, some of it would have been funny), it’s no place for RAW main events, and certainly no place for PPV main events. If this is some reaction to his personal problems, I really think it’s time he takes time off. He needs it. We need it. See this for more: https://rtvwrestling.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/john-cena-your-newly-likable-heroic-underdog-is-in-danger-of-becoming-unlikable-again/

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

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

WWE Draft 2011: Reflections On the Annual Shake-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) Big Show to RAW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15) Alicia Fox to Smackdown

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

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

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

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

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

21) Chris Masters to RAW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Draft, 2011: How RTV Would Book It …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelle McCool
Gail Kim
Alicia Fox
Rosa Mendes

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.

RTV’s Preview of 2011!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAW Recall (26/07/2010): ‘You’re Either Nexus, Or You’re Against … Each Other’

Members of Team RAW start to splinter

The unity between Team RAW of last week instantly and almost completely collapsed this week during the opening segment of the show. Cena came out to maintain momentum following his announcement last week of an opposing team to Nexus, however, after referring to it as ‘his team’ once too often, consumate egoist Chris Jericho hit the ring to put Cena in his place. This promo solidified really well some of the most important themes of this storyline. Most importantly, Cena talked about how the battle was ‘for the business,’ and not about him – quite a relief. Jericho also added an interesting dynamic: saying that Cena is just as destructive to the industry as Nexus, in terms of fighting and pushing others aside for his own prominance (echoing the IWC perhaps?). This sentiment sets the Summerslam match up for the betrayal that many of us want to see.

Then, in some of the most surprising booking this year, Randy Orton took on Jay Uso. Every match on this week’s card was more about promoting Summerslam angles, and this was the same. This was little more than a squash to make Orton look strong, but the booking was refreshing, and the Uso’s will have gotten something of a rub from it. All the while, Sheamus was at ringside, and in the post-match afters he tried to get one up on his #1 contender, instead, hitting his Brogue Kick on Jimmy Uso who was also trying to make a name for himself and eventually eating an RKO. Cue the celebrity stalker, The Miz, again attempting to cash in his MITB contract, well, at least he was going to, until Orton hit another RKO on the (probable) future WWE Champion. I really like the Miz-MITB abgle, in which he’s always on Sheamus’s back, though I hope Miz’s continuous scupperings don’t point to a lack of success in cashing in.

For the first time in years, The Great Khali was meant to look like a big-time player, as he had a verbal and physical confrontation with Edge. This led to a typically (for Khali) in-ring encounter which ended rather strangely. Nexus came towards the ring, apparantly looking to feed of the scraps from Team RAW’s disagreements. Edge fleed and Khali stayed, and after forming the familiar surrounding formation, Nexus let him go. This was out of character for Nexus, and while I would think Khali would be the last person to be given the post of traitor, make a note of that moment.

In what was billed as a taster to the big Summerslam main event, Nexus took on the slightly less impressive RAW team of Evan Bourne, Tyson Kidd, DH Smith, Yoshi Tatsu, Golddust, Mark Henry and Jerry Lawler. Surrounded by splinters in the RAW team, this match was a great metaphor for the contrasting tight-knitted nature of the Nexus. One-by-one, each Nexus member got to put away a RAW superstar, cleaning house. This was followed by a strong set of promos by Wade Barrett, Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield, really growing in to their roles. On another note, I noticed during the eventual beat-down of Bourne that Justin Gabriel (who I had no interest in during NXT) is growing in to a very striking heel.

We then had an uninspiring divas match between Alicia Fox and Brie Bella. The only up-sides being a nice conceit where Jillian Hall stopped the Bella’s ‘switcheroo’ move, helping Fox claim the win; and A. Fox was made to keep looking strong with her deadly axe-kick.

In another match that was more about the splits in Team RAW, Ted DiBiase took on John Morrison. The match was ok, with a very effective finish. R-Truth was on commentary, and on-hand to first save the match for Morrison and then inadvertantly cost him the match. Despite seeing on the tron that it was all an accident, Morrison seemed pissed at Truth, and even looked on the brink of a welcome heel turn, and one that would set up the rumoured MNM reunion to come.

Our main event was quite a breath of fresh air, with Jericho tagging with Cena, and Sheamus tagging with new main-eventer, The Miz. Throughout the night, Miz had been chipping away at Sheamus’s patience, with Sheamus seeming genuinely distraught at Miz’s actions – making Miz seem credible as a main-eventer. The match was pretty good, with some good and unique storytelling between the four superstars. Finally, Jericho, a’la Invasion, 2001, turned his back on his partner, hitting him with a Codebreaker. Miz also demonstrated his prowess as an opportunist, tagging out Sheamus and getting the cover on Cena, making him look very threatening as a MITB brief-case holder. All this dissention made Team RAW split apart yet further, as Jericho locked the Walls of Jericho on Cena, then Cena using his STF on Jericho, before Khali and the rest of team RAW came out to try to calm the situation down, only worsening the situation, with pushing, shouting, finishers, disagreements and inter-fighting. The egoism of Team RAW contrasted completely with the perfectly unified Nexus, still harbouring their secret agenda.

The momentum is now squarely with Nexus, and a nice bit of storyline progression thoughout the night, rightly placing the invasion central to the RAW climate.

RAW Recall (12/07/2010): Strange Bedfellows

Sheamus and Cena form a surprisingly strong-seeming alliance against the Nexus

Before getting down to the coverage, I want to say that i’m not even going to talk about Florence Henderson and this week’s guest host segments. I used to defend the concept, thinking it fitted well with RAW’s place as a pop-culture juggernaut, but with the perspective of general managers since Bret Hart, it now appears needless and often detremental to the show. Everything this week that regarded the guest host was goofy, and desrves no further comment. While there have been good guest hosts in the past, it’s spot as a regular feature needs to be stopped now. That’s not to say there can’t be one off guest hosts every so often (i’m mainly thinking of The Rock’s rumoured future angles), but it can’t remain as it is.

After the decent promo by Cena setting up the main event (including a funny line about Nexus, calling them the ‘clan of NNNNNNN’, referring to the appearance of their shirts in a line), we had Alicia Fox against Gail Kim. Alicia is really coming in to her own in and out of the ring, and, despite my initial misgivings, has become a great Divas Champion already. Her athleticism and potential meeting the experience and talent of Gail made for a good match with some nice, technical stuff from both, and a pretty good finish with Fox reversing Gail’s finisher. Unfortunately, time was against them. It must have been a five minute match at best. Give it another, say five minutes, and you make a really really good divas match, that builds a lot better to the PPV match. I really like Alicia and Eve, but I doubt many will be more inclined to buy Money in the Bank because this is on the card. It’s not their fault, just time-restraints.

I have a lot of respect for the Hart Dynasty. They have all the talent in the world, but this feud with the Usos is one of the most uninteresting feuds I have ever seen. The wrestling (at least from the Harts) is of a very high quality, but we’ve seen nothing new since it started several several weeks ago. The Usos attack from behind, win by cheating, or the Harts fend them off. Nothing new has happened. For a while, Natalya brought some intensity to it, but even that’s disappeared. This match could have been fought on any of the previous week’s RAWs and made no difference to the storyline, and that is terrible. As soon as MITB has taken place, they need to drop this feud like a David Arquette title reign!

A very fresh feud is materialising between Ted DiBiase and John Morrison, fuelled by antagonism not only related to violence, which is always a good start. Unfortunately, while DiBiase is a pretty good mic worker (without being fantastic) and Maryse is always intriguing and slightly off-the-wall, John Morrison continues to be held back by his mouth. While i’m not much in to French jibes, he had a great opportunity for some funny lines when ‘translating’ Maryse’s french. Instead is said stuff about smelly hippo breath and platypus’s. Does he expect that to go down well? Well it didn’t. Nonetheless, they are capable of some great matches and an interesting feud if someone writes Morrison’s material for him.

Our first main event was a tale of two halves. Edge and Orton will always draw, but the first half of their match was a bit of a slow, bitty affair. Nothing much of interest happened, and I started to wonder whether they were holding back, as the momentum was more than once stalled. The match eventually grew though, and the in-ring chemistry we would expect from two with so much history started to come to the fore. One of the best segments was when we had a build up to an RKO attempt, blocked by Edge who then went for a Spear, which Orton jumped over, leading Edge to the corner for a School Boy near-fall. Great back and forth and believable, dramatic near-falls. Jericho then came down to distract Orton, allowing Edge to finally deliver a Spear for the win. The aftermath was all about MITB though, as Jericho hit a Codebreaker on Edge before eating an RKO. Bourne then hit the ring, looking for a revenge scalp on Orton, setting him up for a Shooting-Star Press, and quite possibly the best spot i’ve ever seen, in terms of technicality if not threat. With Bourne in mid-flight, Orton gets up and hits the MID-AIR BOURNE WITH AN RKO! Don’t take my word for it though, i’ll show you the post-match footage:

Miz was up next. The sort of attention he’s getting has to make him, along with Orton, a favourite for the MITB match. Cole told him he would be facing the replacement for R-Truth in the match, Mark Henry.  I like Mark Henry, he’s paid his dues, but he’ll be dead weight in the RAW MITB match. The rest of the field are more light, agile guys, which isn’t essential, but a lot easier to pull off in a way that will make good wrestling. Why not put Yoshi Tatsu instead and give him a good showing. He’s certainly a lot more capable than Henry in this situation! Saying that, it remains to be seen how they sell Henry’s injury after colliding with the GM podium. Maybe he’ll be replaced too, which would make Miz look even better. I would have liked a double-count-out from the ref; it was a bit lame that the match just stopped.

Throughout the night, Nexus had been singling out some ofthose that came out to defend Cena last week: Yoshi Tatsu, John Morrison and Evan Bourne (who, for someone being pushed for having great ‘heart,’ looked terrified!). Semantically, this was very good. By definition, Nexus are tight-knit and work as one whereas the RAW roster have had to put personal differences aside to take them on, a message which Sheamus seemed to get when they looked to turn on him.

The much-hyped 6-on-1 match was alright without being special. Perhaps there would have been more jeopardy had they not have had to tag, but I suppose then it would have just resembled another beat-down. For a while, I had a horrible feeling that Cena would go over, but thankfully, he didn’t, and the correct result came after several of the Nexus hit their finishers. It was clear when that familiar uneasy feeling came over the ring with Nexus preparing to assault Cena, that Sheamus would be making a save. Indeed, a bloodied Cena was joined by Sheamus to fight of the Nexus with chairs. It may not seem like much, but this was the sort of change this story needed with Sheamus potentially even turning face! The new aspect of two bitter rivals coming together for the good of the wider spectacle is one of great interest and contrasts well with the story of others, Chris Jericho for instance, who are happy to see Nexus attack certain guys, and even encourage it. For one thing, it means John Cena isn’t once again the sole centre of attention, which must be good. This is a step in the right direction. What is needed now is, by next week, either the identity of the GM to be revealed, or the Nexus to gain an established WWE guy (again, Jericho is the most likely) to lead them, probably the latter seen as I think they’re holding out for the possibility of Daniel Bryan being revealed as GM.

I understand TNA are starting an ECW invasion of iMPACT! While, if I remember correctly, the ECW angle has been planned for a long time and so they’re not simply copying WWE, the comparison is there to be made, and I will be doing so in a seperate post.