Thursday 24 May 2012

Limit Exceeded

This is not intended as a play-by-play recap of last Sunday's Over The Limit pay-per-view. There are plenty of those online already and I have no interest in transcribing matches. This is more about my reaction to the show.
WWE did a great job with their booking of Over The Limit. The undeniable highlight was the WWE title match between champion CM Punk and challenger Daniel Bryan. The two men were given the time to put together a Match of the Year contender worthy of their considerable reputations. The match was timed perfectly, featured plenty of memorable spots and was believable. That's a rare combination for wrestling matches these days (and not just in WWE).

CM Punk taunts Daniel Bryan before their excellent WWE title match
Towards the end of the match I found myself thinking that it would be a good choice of bout to show to non-fans as an example of how good wrestling can be. There aren't many higher accolades a match can get than that. Punk and Bryan deserve credit for producing such a compelling and memorable encounter and WWE deserve credit for giving them enough time to do so. It was by no means guaranteed that that would be the case.
The finish of the match saw 'The Straight Edge Superhero' reverse the Yes Lock into a pinning position, get the win, and then start tapping. It was slightly bizarre but it wasn't as bad as many people have made out. It was clearly done to setup a rematch. That's a good thing. Bryan and Punk will have plenty more encounters in the future which will have clean finishes. The finish does nothing to spoil the fine bout that preceded it.
On any other show the fatal four way match for the World Heavyweight championship would have stood out as the best thing on the card. It's the bad luck of combatants Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio that they found themselves competing with such a well-received Punk v Bryan match.
The four men constructed what was possibly the best four-way clash I've ever seen. Avoiding the regular WWE route of basic wrestling and brawling they constructed a match built around the well-timed execution of signature moves and finishers, giving us a match that rocketed along stuffed with near falls and false finishes. Something of a novelty by WWE standards, that formula worked so well because the men had so many moves at their disposal that fans have been conditioned to accept as match-finishers.
Elsewhere we had an entertaining tag title clash between champions R-Truth and Kofi Kingston and challengers Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger. Over the last year 'The Show Off' and 'The All American American' have clashed with Kofi several times (alongside Truth as well as his Air Boom partner Evan Bourne). They never produce a bad match but the repetition does illustrate that WWE could do with investing in some duos. Titus O'Neil and Darren Young are not the shining stars the company’s tag ranks need.
On a side note WWE's website has recently been asking fans to vote for a team name for the tag champions (sadly Legion of Boom, one of the options for Kingston's team with Evan Bourne, didn't hasn’t been an option). Had WWE gotten their act together they could have been ready with a new team name for the pay-per-view. Isn't that exactly the sort of touch that PPV customers deserve? That's a minor quibble though: the tag match itself was excellent.
The show-opening battle royal was a forgettable affair, but then all such matches are. I was heartened when William Regal's elimination was met with boos from the audience: it's nice knowing that such a great wrestler is appreciated.
It was nice to finally see Christian back on WWE television too. The right decision has been made in turning him face as he has more opponents as a good guy and is one of WWE's most popular acts. Seeing him win his fourth Intercontinental title was nice for someone who's been a 'Captain Charisma' fan since the late nineties but I can't help thinking an opportunity was missed. Had an underutilised performer such as Tyson Kidd won the battle royal and been the man selected to topple Cody Rhodes later in the evening a new mid-card star would have been made in one night. 'The Instant Classic' was going to receive a warm welcome whenever he returned, he didn't need the IC title. A mid-carder would've benefited from the win far more.
Even the John Cena v John Laurinaitis match was booked well. The bout was sensibly played for laughs with Cena kicking Laurinaitis around ringside for the majority of the match. It wasn’t anything close to the best match on the show but it provided fans with a sight they’ve wanted to see for months: John Laurinaitis taking a beating.

The finish, which saw Big Show swerve turn on Cena, was utterly predictable but didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the evening. A surprise return in Show’s place would have been better but that was never going to be.

Why, Big Show? Why?

With Over The Limit WWE gave us their third consecutive pay-per-view worth watching. At a time when they are lambasted for having a shallow talent pool or not booking things properly (and I’m well aware I make those accusations on a regular basis myself) it’s pleasing to see that WWE can still turn out shows that, in and of themselves, are highly enjoyable. I want more of the same at No Way Out.

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