I stayed in last night to watch game 7 of the Cup Finals, and decided to *stay* in to watch the 10 pm replay of Smackdown.
It was FANTASTIC.
CM Punk, Jeff Hardy and Edge in a three-way feud over the show’s top title. Chris Jericho is sniffing around the perimeter. That’s four of not only my favourite wrestlers, but objectively four of the best in the world.
Contrast that with RAW’s title picture: Triple H (meh), Randy Orton (no complaints here), The Big Show (really?) and John Cena (s’okay I guess). It’s the very definition of stale, and there isn’t a single match combination we haven’t seen recently.
Not only did we get Jericho-Punk and Hardy-Edge on Smackdown, but a really fun tag match; Morrison, Truth, Benjamin and Haas may be stuck in limbo, but that was a fine, fast-paced, and dramatic match. My wife and I were literally cheering. She’s officially requested we ditch RAW and start watching Smackdown, and how can I argue? It’s just sooooo much better right now.
After Punk got Edge disqualified, we were in the mood for more wrestling, and decided to eatch ECW. WWE’s third brand comes on Friday nights at midnight, and I think this was actually the third time I’ve seen it.
It may have been the last.
I’ve seen Nattie Neidhart, Tyson Kidd (as TJ Wilson) and DH Smith (as Harry Smith) grow up and compete in Stampede Wrestling for years; I interviewed them both several times for stories – part of my Quixotic quest to generate coverage and interest in Stampede before it finally died. They’re great talents, and we root for them to succeed.
I’m also a huge Christian Cage fan. (That sentence is too weird without the now-inaccurate word “Cage,” so indulge me.) I actually own a t-shirt of his – the only actual wrestling apparel I own. I also have his TNA DVD. He’s one of the few wrestlers I genuinely and truly mark for, along with Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, and Jericho.
It’s not enough.
ECW was absolutely awful last night. On a one-hour show, 15 minutes of Smackdown and RAW recaps are just way, way too much. There was a harmless but ultimately pointless Tony Atlas – Evan Bourne match, and a Kozlov handicap squash. I have no time for two things in wrestling: handicap matches, and ref bumps. (The first is more of a WWE disease, the second a TNA disease, but there’s way to much crossover.) If we banned them both outright, the world would be a better place. Both count as match and even card ruiners.
Worst of all, one stretch went build for main event – commericial - RAW Recap, Hart Dynasty entrance – commercial. That was unforgivable. Again, in a single hour, it’s just too much wasted time.
Yeah, the main event tag match was fun, but 10 minutes of decent wrestling isn’t enough.
As much as I like the Harts, and Christian…yeah, I won’t be watching ECW again any time soon.
Yeah, I know, WrestleCrap does this sort of thing exceptionally well. This is different - an invitation to describe a time when you, personally, were genuinely embarassed to be a wrestling fan. God knows there’s been oodles of potential.
For me, it was WrestleMania 2000. I didn’t have PPV capability at my apartment at the time, and had just moved back to town, and didn’t really know anyone else into wrestling. Not wanting to sit in a bar by myself, my parents (who can’t stand wrestling) were decent enough to let me order it in their rec room. Yeah, I chose to watch WrestleMania alone in my parents’ basement. Strike #1.
Anyway, my father decides to come downstairs and have a beer with me, and poke light-hearted fun. He arrives just before the immortal Head Cheese v. T&A match. Al Snow introduces their mascot, the midget Chester McCheeserton.
My father slowly looks at me, gives me a look of puzzlement, and goes back upstairs without a word. He left his beer and never came back for it. He was genuinely shocked that I would make a point and pay to watch something so indefensibly stupid.
That day…yes, I was embarassed to be a wrestling fan.
Man has RAW ever gone down the drain without Chris Jericho, CM Punk, and Jeff Hardy around to keep things moving. No? Anyone still around these parts? I miss you guys and hope all is going well.
At WrestleMania, like many others I was wowed by Ricky Steamboat’s performance. Evidently he was even better at Backlash – though I didn’t see it. (I paid for WrestleMania and Lockdown in a three-week span; that’s more than enough money spent on wrestling, thanks.)
Were they legendary encounters? No, of course not; he’s in his mid-50s and hasn’t wrestled in years. That said, he didn’t just not embarass himself; it’s blasphemous to admit these things publicly, but I’d argue he looked less out of place than did Ric Flair over the past few years. Flair had/has off-the-charts charisma (which covers a multitude of sins), could still tell a compelling story, and consistently worked with people determined to move heaven and earth to help him tell it. These are all good things, but to a new or non-fan, it was difficult to see how he could possibly keep up with, say, MVP.
I digress. My point, and I did have one, was something I said offhand during my WrestleMania review on this site – that Steamboat reminded me of Shawn Michaels. Both suffered career-ending injuries, and both came back looking damned impressive…it’s just that Steamboat waited until his 50s and was out longer. Had he been able (and willing) to go back in 2000…who knows?
There’s no doubt the notorious wrestling schedule contributes to serious injuries – wrestling is hard and dangerous enough, but the body simply can’t repeat the process on a near-nightly basis indefinitely. This isn’t anything new. However, a handful of wrestlers have left for extended periods of time, and come back even better despite being (duh) a few years older. Some left because their body gave out (Michaels, Flair in the 70s, HHH after the quad tear), some because they had other projects (Cena’s movies, etc.), and some just because they needed a break (Jericho, etc.)
I’m completely convinced that wrestlers need at least four months off every two years.
I’m sure that sounds like an unreasonable amount to Vince McMahon, but I would answer with the following:
1- It’s a better long-term investment. I’d rather have (and would make more money with) John Cena for 12 more years working an average of 10 months per year, than full-time for another…what? 6, 8 years before something bad happens?
2- You have more than enough talent to fill in the gaps every so often – it’s not like you’d need a formal offseason. If HHH leaving RAW for a month or two (or six) doesn’t cripple the show (I’m using an argument he’s likely to respond to here), then how bad could it be for, say, Big Show to take his turn afterward? Or Batista, or Orton, or Jericho?
3- It’s a ready-made narrative device. You’re already doing a brilliant job of this with Randy Orton, so it scarcely needs repeating, but for the record: there’s no better or more proven story in wrestling than: heel injures face, face goes away for a while, face comes back for revenge. It works almost every time. If you plan these really well, you could artificially keep two people apart longer than otherwise, helping build towards dream matches – and you have precious few of these left. I’d argue the “off time” would build as many stories for you as your championship belts.
4- It would nullify the single competitive advantage TNA has over you. For otherwise valuable performers like Kurt Angle and Booker T, a reduced schedule may well be more attractive than extra money. You don’t want to create a situation in which a steady stream of your established stars jump ship for the tempting combination of fewer dates, more time at the top of the card (novelty and nostalgia both sell in Dixieland), and a longer overall career. I’m not suggesting TNA is likely to steal HBK, Batista and Edge in a few years, or even that they’ll be any threat to your dominance- but would you have guessed two years ago Mick Foley would leave? You know losing one performer you’d otherwise prefer to keep is one too many.
What do you say?
Yeah, I actually paid to order the show last night. TNA tries to make Bound for Glory their signature show, but in many ways BfG takes a backseat to Lockdown and even Slammiversary. BfG usually gets the long-built main event match, but Lockdown tends to have a better top-to-bottom card, and Lethal Lockdown is fast becoming a TNA tradition. Certainly PPV puyrates indicate Lockdown is actually the biggest date in TNA’s year.
I had precious few expectations for the main event; Sting is still competent, but his TNA work has been inconsistent. Foley is the very definition of broken down. That said, TNA almost accidentally stumbled into a great build for this match, relying on two strengths TNA rarely has access to: long-standing history, and phenomenal promos, respectively. Obviously TNA’s short history prevents a lot of feud-building shortcuts, such as “Evolution dumped me years ago and I’m still pissed off.” Similarly, TNA’s roster tends towards stronger ring work and less-than-solid promos (with a few notable exceptions.)
Foley vs. Sting was the reverse, a feud built on history at least as much as current events, and almost entirely from promos. For regular TNA fans, this was a nice change – not all feuds should be built this way, but variety makes everything better.
Did the match deliver? Let’s say instead that it didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t spectacular, but then it was never realistically going to be. There were some nice touches, such as Foley dropkicking the camera guy to try and escape through the camera hole – a spot which is (probably) 100% original, a rarity in wrestling. I don’t know that Sting needed to lose the title, and not necessarily to Mick Foley, but it’s an interesting move as a dare. Given WCW’s reaction when Foley first won the WWF title, does anyone with WWE dare disparage this win? I’m sure Jarrett and co. will be scouring JR’s blog for locker room fodder.
One thing that did hurt the main event, and really the entire card, was the crowd. Surprisingly and strangely, the Philly crowd was quiet all night. They popped for certain entrances, and one or two moves, but in general sat on their hands. They even seemed to back the MEM against Team Jarrett, especially when it was Styles and Daniels against Angle and Booker. There are a number of ways to read this – the crowd was bored, the crowd wasn’t comprised of regular TNA fans, or they were respectful, like Japanese crowds – but it really detracted from some of the matches.
Lethal Lockdown was OK. They briefly attempted a six-camera screen, which had the effect of showing everything and nothing at the same time. The match is fast-becoming an elaborate excuse and prop for an outrageous AJ Styles spot, and he didn’t disappoint – diving from the top of the cage – through ther roof, in fact – onto the MEM…sort of. Looked like a nasty landing. The match seemed rushed and just sort of ended.
Bobby Lashley was a nice and genuine surprise, which TNA is actually pretty decent at delivering every so often – remember when Kurt Angle debuted?
3D – Beer Money was fine. The thinking seemed to be to rely on a hot crowd, which as mentioned never really happened. The crowd was more awake for this match than anything else tonight, but never had the epic, classic ECW feel they were obviously gunning for. TNA would be well advised to keep pushing and building tag teams; it’s one of the few areas they’re clearly and demonstrably ahead of WWE. With 3D, Beer Money, LAX and the Gunes alone, they have a solid core.
The Knockouts title match was obviously marred by the botched finish, but it’s hard to hold a genuine injury against the wrestlers. These things happen, and it’s not Taylor Wilde’s fault that she was momentarily at a loss what to do. That said, it did happen, and ruined what should have been a huge moment for the division, getting the belt on one of its most-over stars. The Beautiful People have a fantastic thing going; they’re perfect heels, and their eventual comeuppance seems to be one of the few long-term and consistent TNA storylines. I really hope they avoid breaking them up over the title, at least for a while.
Abyss vs. Matt Morgan was more of the same from these two. They try hard, but they just don’t seem to have great chemistry together. Not bad, but certainly not great. Abyss does seem to be getting progressively more careless about blading right on camera, which I always find disconcerting; Brother Ray manages to get halfway under the ring to conceal it most of the time, and it’s not like Abyss never blades.
The IWGP tag match was EXACTLY what TNA needs more of – fast-paced tag team action, which again, WWE just doesn’t have. It’s also refreshing to see them holding off on LAX’s briefcases; ADD storylines have been a major TNA failing in recent years (not naming names, just saying) and it’s nice to draw some things out.
The random Knockouts match was easily the worst match of the night, although Daffney looked awesome. (Her look, not necessarily her work.) Again, one of TNA’s inherent strengths viz. WWE is the Knockouts division. The WrestleMania battle royale really brought that point home – all the thin blondes were interchangeable to the point that you truly couldn’t tell them apart. For better or worse, individual TNA women stand out.
I really, really don’t like the Suicide gimmick, so the less said about this, the better. Bashir is a great find for the X Division, a consistent and competent villain, which they haven’t had since Daniels. I think it’s about time Lethal shred the Machismo gimmick, as the crowd seems to have burnt out, and Creed is still coming along.
Going in to this show I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it. But I usually try to go in to these shows with an open mind. I figure if I’m going to be spending 3 hours watching something, I may as well at least try to enjoy it. I never understood the folks who went in to these things trying to hate something. Regardless, it was a pretty bad card top-to-bottom with 3 large tag matches, a terrible big man match, a terrible match for the Smackdown title, and a match I was expecting to be 30-seconds long for the Raw title. I knew the show was going to end with a title change that I wasn’t going to like so I was down on the card before it started.
So, full disclosure out of the way, let’s get to it.
Pre-PPV: Jeff Hardy found unconscious in a stairwell at his hotel: Here’s the thing I find baffling about the WWE. Vince constantly complains that he can’t get mainstream media coverage. Then, he works a story that he leaks to mainstream media that one of his wrestlers is found unconscious at his hotel to work the sharks in to thinking they might have another wrestler death to report. He gets mainstream coverage and it turns out the story is fake. The media looks stupid for not checking their facts and being used by a con-man and then continue to ignore wrestling stories. Is it any wonder that people wondered for a significant amount of time whether the Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, or Chris Benoit stories were real at first? Regardless, this was really irritating for me. They finally had a “what were we thinking” moment when they realized their title match was Triple H vs. Vladimir Kozlov so they worked Jeff Hardy in to the match. Then, after everyone bought the PPV, they announce that Jeff Hardy’s not in the match. Way to deliver, ass.
Classic Survivor Series Match #1: Team HBK (Shawn Michaels, Khali, Rey Mysterio, and Cryme Tyme) vs. Team JBL (JBL, MVP, MnM, and K): I never really caught the explanation of how Smackdown guys ended up on either of these teams, but decided to ignore it for the sake of enjoying the classic SurSer match. I thought this whole match was pretty good, filled with little things that made a 5-on-5 match enjoyable. I like the simmering issues between Morrison and Michaels and hope they go somewhere with it. I can’t imagine that they’re going to give Morrison a decent feud with Shawn Michaels, but one can hope. JBL continues to be an awesome heel with something so simple as being angry a fan patted him on the back getting out of his limo and staring him down and then asking security to “remove” him. The good thing about these matches is you can take a feud between two guys and use the storyline as the match unfolds to create issues leading through the next six months. I will say that I don’t understand the ongoing burial of MVP but it seems to be the WWE’s M.O. Let a guy get over and then bury him for six months and see if he survives it. It makes no sense to me but, hey, it’s worked I guess. Good match full of decent workers and a great way to start the show.
Classic Survivor Series Match #2: Smackdown Divas (Michelle McCool, Maryse, Natalya, Victoria, and Maria) vs. Raw Divas (Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Jillian Hall, Candice Michelle, and Kelly Kelly): Brutal. No other real way to put it. Decent visual to start the match seeing the two women’s champions facing off. Maryse is hot enough that one can ignore that her hair is essentially a mullet wig but is not ready to be in any PPV match. This pretty much goes for Kelly Kelly, too, but at least her participation in this match was kept to the couple of things she does well. The Kellycanrana pin and then getting pinned. This was a crowd-killing 20 minutes brightened only by a “Just Get Naked” chant by the Boston crowd. Well done, gents.
Matt Hardy Interview: Quick interview backstage with Matt Hardy regarding Jeff Hardy’s “attack” and hospitalization. It was weird and delivered in such a way that I thought they were actually going to pull the trigger on a Matt vs. Jeff feud.
Casket Match: Undertaker vs. The Big Show: There was no version of this match that was going to be good. The Big Show is an, uh, methodical worker and the Undertaker’s best matches are with smaller guys who can work and bump. There was no way that this wasn’t going to be amongst the worst casket matches ever. The finish was OK, which saw a second casket brought out to be stood up by the Big Show, only for him to find himself Irish whipped in to it by the Undertaker, knocking it over and snapping it shut. I would like a rules clarification on the casket match. Any casket is OK? There is not a designated casket? I was unaware of this and feel it should have been disclosed for gambling purposes.
Classic Survivor Series Match #3: Team Batista (Batista, R-Truth, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, and Matt Hardy) vs. Team Orton (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Shelton Benjamin, William Regal, and Mark Henry): Odd thing to see William Regal eliminated in 10 seconds by CM Punk. I really don’t understand the whole Regal thing. They take the belt of a super over Santino and put it on Regal and then immediately start screwing with him. It makes no sense. Regardless, this match encompassed many of my favorite scrubs and I’m glad they all got a PPV appearance. The Orton and Priceless stuff really needs to go somewhere relatively soon, though. It’s pointless as it is. Loved the finish to this match with Randy making the blind tag, sneaking up on Batista, and delivering a surprise RKO. Well done finish.
Smackdown World Title: Triple H (c) vs. Vladimir Kozlov: I don’t know what they were thinking. Honestly. No one in the universe thought anyone was putting the world title on Vladimir Kozlov. Look, guys, I know you want to refuse the existence of the Internet, and that’s fine, but you also have to realize that even fans who don’t read internet reports or the Observer know enough about wrestling to know that a guy who’s been around for six months that no one’s ever heard of is winning a World Title. Good job to the Boston crowd for immediately turning on this match like New York turned on Goldberg/Lesnar. “Boring” chant 30 seconds and “We want Hardy” chant 90 seconds in. Even Triple H’s offense got booed. When Vicki Guererro finally interrupted and presented the “surprise” return of Homeless Bearded Edge, he got a pop like she’d just announced the return of Steve Austin. I am SURE that Triple H will tell you that he made sure the match was extra boring so the Edge and Hardy appearances would seem better but we know better. Matches with Triple H are boring simply because a solid portion of the crowd know what’s going on. He’s losing when he wants to. Regardless, I was glad to see Edge take the belt off him but only a little. Why? Because there is no way on Earth that Triple H doesn’t book himself to win the Royal Rumble from the first slot (or near there) and then book himself over Edge at Wrestlemania. Even though almost everyone in the universe would prefer some version of Edge/Jeff Hardy. So long, interesting-heel Jeff Hardy… we hardly knew ya.
WWE Raw Championship: John Cena vs. Chris Jericho (c): In all honesty, I thought there was only two ways in this match was going to end. Version 1 was Chris Jericho winning after Randy Orton interference. Version 2 was 30 seconds, F-U, Cena wins. Version 2 was essentially to hide the fact that Cena had neck surgery 15 minutes ago and probably was full of ring rust and had lackluster cardio. Unfortunately, they decided to go with a slow, plodding match that Chris Jericho was very obviously running at Cena’s pace to not blow him up. A couple of good psychology moments where Cena was afraid to go for a move and risk re-injuring himself. Unsurprisingly, Cena won which further cements his Superman status, considering he just had neck surgery three months ago and just beat the World Champion. A loss here would not have hurt Cena at all in his big “return” match and the next months could have been his “mission” to get back on top and get the belt back. Now, he’s the World Champion, no one on the roster (save Batista) can beat him at the top of his game and now, apparently, no one will be able to beat him fresh off surgery. I can only presume that Randy Orton is next on the list and I have no idea where Jericho goes from here. Stupid, stupid waste of a title change that should have happened at Wrestlemania after Jericho spends four months ducking and screwing with Cena and being a heel.
Verdict: The two men’s tag matches delivered very well. Everything else, not so much. One terrible title change to allow Hunter to continue his fantasy booking extravaganza. The other designed to put the belt back on Cena for….. some reason. Avoid. At all costs.
So, I apparently have fallen in to an “only watch one show” pattern.
1) The show kicked off with the VIP Lounge. The “curtain came up” and MVP was on his cell phone. He let go some dead air when he finished up his phone call, starting the show on HIS time. Really nice touch of arrogance.
2) “The Great Khali epitomizes entertainment.” The Punjabi Playboy is my new hero.
3) I was actually hoping for a segment spanning match when they announced Shelton vs. Truth for the US Title. Unfortunately they only gave them about 10 minutes — six of which was Truth’s entrance. Good little match for what it was, but these guys need to be given 15 minutes when Shelton’s on.
4) Really odd choice of music behind the Jericho/Batista recap. When I think of wrestling, I think of the piccolo.
5) Triple H and Jeff Hardy vs. Miz and Morrison. Well, will this be a further squashing of Jeff Hardy or will Triple H take this opportunity to bury two guys on the roster in one shot. With no surprise, Jeff plays Face In Peril for awhile before refusing the hot tag to Triple H and making the comeback on his own, fighting off both guys. Jeff ends up cleaning house with a chair and drawing the DQ… which was not a finish I was expecting. And then Triple H Pedigrees the Miz… just cuz. Jeff teases heel turn, which I guess is how they are going to draw this feud out a little longer. Unfortunately, it will be meaningless because I doubt HHH has any intention of letting Jeff steal the belt and run with it for awhile, even though heel Jeff cheating to win and getting killed at Wrestlemania will be huge. The problem with Jeff is I don’t think he can deliver a good heel promo.
6) I’ve finally started reading Bret Hart’s Hitman biography. Now, when I see Natalya Neidhart I wonder just how much of the Hart family crazy she inherited. It’s kinda hot.
7) I love when they force announcers to be idiots. They finally did the “big reveal” that Brie Bella was two twins.
8) I like how they show John Cena’s debut match against Kurt Angle clipped to make it look like Cena just beat the bejesus out of Kurt. I’m surprised they didn’t air any clipped versions of his match with Lesnar.
9) I can’t remember a wrestler getting a main event push that I cared less about who was inexplicably getting a main event push. Kozlov is literally the argument for the need to still have managers in wrestling.
10) Jeff ends the Kozlov/Undertaker Number One Contender match with a chair and a DQ win for Kozlov. OK… I do want to see where this Jeff Hardy thing is going to go. Mission accomplished.
The show kind of dragged through the middle but strong ending with the Jeff Hardy stuff saved it. Hunter successful has killed off non-cheatin, good guy Jeff Hardy as a threat. Maybe anything to win Jeff Hardy still has a shot.
The first Friday night that I haven’t been remote for Smackdown in quite some time… go figure it’s on Halloween.
1) I’ve accepted Jon Morrison in to my life and I think you all should, too. I mean, the guy is now outlining his abs with glitter. It takes a certain level of awesome to first, consider doing that and, second, actually doing it.
2) While I can appreciate the cross promotion with the “How Magic Works” show, I think it might be a little better to use a “trick” that doesn’t look horrifically fake. I mean, you could at least try to make the “back of Maria’s head” at least not look like a wig. I mean, I’m sure the girl has extensions… wouldn’t it be better to use some of those?
3) Jimmy Jon Wayne Yang dove over the top rope to knock down Big Zeke who just caught him and tossed him back in the ring and wrecked him. I can’t wait until Zeke turns on The Kendrick in like six months and is promptly pinned by Triple H.
4) The Great Khali Kiss-cam? OK, if they’re just going to go ridiculous with him now, I’m on board. Is Khali the new “Fat Chick Thrilla?” This is awesome. And the girl passes out at the end. Haahahahahahaa, I love it.
5) Glad to see that, since Jeff was apparently too popular, he’s been demoted from “World Title Contender” to six man tag matches. Can I assume that Kozlov is the next to be humiliated?
6) I must be a precog… Kozlov comes out and demands a title shot. Triple H goofs on his accent which is stunningly weak. This Kozlov thing is stupid. They’re pushing this guy to the moon and no one cares. Give the guy a manager or something. Are we really doing a Russia vs. USA storyline in 2008?
7) Same costumes on Smackdown as on Cyber Sunday for the Divas? Weak divas… very weak.
8) Undertaker gets druids on Smackdown in a casket match against Chavo? Why devalue my druids? I look forward to druids after every extended Undertaker vacation. They aren’t just to be tossed around lightly.
9) “There is a dark side to the Undertaker.” Thanks for the insightful analysis, JR.
10) Kozlov faces Undertaker next week and, if he wins, he get Triple H at Survivor Series. So… Triple H helps Kozlov win, sets up a 4-month feud culminated with Triple H ending Undertaker’s streak at Wrestlemania? Book it, done.
To be honest, I’ve never been entirely in to the Cyber Sunday idea. Basically, I always figured they’d just skew the voting they way they wanted. I know, crazy to think that a wrestling company wouldn’t be fully on the up-and-up about something. This year, though, I guess once you start charging to vote as publicly traded company that you at least have to try to be honest. A voter fraud scandal probably wouldn’t be good for the ol’ share price. Also, nice placement of this PPV to make a push about voting one week before Election Day. Appreciate the effort in getting people to get out and vote.
Quick thoughts as noted when I got home following the show and fleshed out a bit as the day wore on.
No Holds Barred – Kane vs. Rey Mysterio: I’m kind of over this feud considering the whole storyline really went nowhere. We got that Kane tortured and broke Mysterio — then Mysterio returns showing no ill-effects. The torture thing is never really mentioned again. Then we jump right to the mask-match — which really should have been the match we built toward instead of the match right at the beginning — and now we get a pretty bad NHB match. This whole thing has been booked oddly from the beginning. Unsurprisingly, Mysterio won again and this feud continues to go nowhere.
Continue reading ‘Quick PPV Thoughts: Cyber Sunday 10.23.2008′