Monday 24 October 2011


It's been a while since we had a pay-per-view as jumbled as Vengeance. The best matches went on first, the matches with the most hype and the biggest names filled out the middle, and the disappointments went out last. Perhaps WWE was trialling a new approach to wrestling booking, starting with a bang and building up to a whimper.
The WWE tag team championship opener was an exhilarating back and forth affair that saw Air Boom retain the gold against challengers Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. Kofi and Evan work well as an opening match act, providing lively, fast-paced bouts that pump the crowd up and get them in the mood for the rest of the show.
Following his unsuccessful tag match Ziggler had to immediately defend his United States title in contest number two. His opponent was 'The Woo Woo Woo Kid' Zack Ryder.
I was expecting this match to be good and it didn't disappoint. In fact it surprised me by being the match of the night. Ziggler looked suitably fatigued and pensive as Ryder made his entrance which really helped to get the challenger over as a genuine threat to the gold. It was exactly how a heel champion should look in that situation.
Sadly it wasn't 'Long Island Iced Z's' night. 'The Heel' retained the belt after a beautifully executed finishing sequence: 'Long Island Iced Z' blocked a Zig Zag before booting an interfering Swagger in the face, only to turn around into a surprise superkick from a recovering Ziggler.
While it felt like this would be Ryder's night the fact that Ziggler needed help to keep hold of his belt could indicate we'll see a rematch at Survivor Series. That's not a bad thing if Ryder wins the belt there: it allows him to be booked as the hungry underdog chasing the champion for the next month and gives Ryder his first singles strap at one of the Big Four pay-per-views.
WWE Divas' champion Beth Phoenix defended her title against Eve Torres (who debuted some fairly dodgy new entrance music) in match number three. By the standards of the challenger and WWE women's bouts in general it was a good contest. 'The Glamazon' surprised no one by retaining via the Glam Slam.
The heel turn by one of the faces that I've been expecting for months failed to materialise. I'll mention it again in my Survivor Series blog.
Sheamus v Christian was an entertaining encounter that, as expected, featured a lot of the Irishman's Clubbing Blows™. A highlight of the match was Booker T claiming he called the punches Irish hand grenades. It trended on Twitter moments later. Booker's ability to create a meme is alive and well.
While the match was good the wrong man won. 'Great White' had pinned Christian at Hell in a Cell which meant Vengeance should have been 'Captain Charisma's' turn to go over, evening the feud up and keeping it alive for another month. This didn't feel like a feud ending bout, but with Christian having lost two straight supercard clashes and multiple TV encounters why should anyone care if the two meet again? Sheamus has proven the Canadian is no match for him.
I expect these two will have one more match (pun very much intended) between now and Survivor Series before aligning with the respective face and heel teams for the ten man tag team main event. Should that happen expect 'Captain Charisma' to be the first man eliminated.
The match that should have gone on last got shoved down to the middle of the card due to a spot in the World Heavyweight title match that would have made a non-gimmick bout impossible. Awesome Truth made the best entrance of the night with their "You Suck" routine and proceeded to have a perfectly competent match with CM Punk and Triple H (who appears to be on the Stan Hansen diet right now). Had these guys gone on last (with a functional ring) I think they would have gone longer and included more memorable spots. As it was this match did everything required of it without doing anything fancy.
A run-in was inevitable and was provided by 'Big Sexy' Kevin Nash. Sporting a svelte physique and lashings of Just For Men Nash appeared out of nowhere as 'The Game' brawled with R-Truth at ringside, blasting his former best mate with a punch before taking him into the ring for a Jackknife powerbomb behind the referee's back.
Just because outside interference was predictable doesn't mean it was a bad booking decision. It kept the Laurinaitis/conspiracy storyline ticking over and helped to set up the Survivor Series main event. This match needed interference to achieve all its goals.
Orton versus Rhodes was predictably enjoyable. Both men got good crowd reactions and entered crisp performances. Cody was particularly impressive, busting out two moonsaults, amusing facial expressions and finally encouraging his bag men to get involved in the bout, something that an underhanded heel should've been doing for months now.
As good as this match was it didn't quite equal the US title match in my eyes. I'm sure most people will disagree with that but the title match featured fewer regular (perhaps even overused) spots and a man who is nowhere near as overexposed as 'The Viper' and Rhodes are and so it felt fresher as a result.
I predicted Mark Henry versus Big Show was going to be a train wreck. While it was better than I expected it still wasn't an enjoyable affair. I suppose if big man matches are your thing you may well have a different view.
The finish borrowed from a Big Show v Brock Lesnar match in 2003 in which a superplex caused the ring to collapse. The spot provoked just as loud a response as it did eight years ago, and both Henry and Show deserve credit for agreeing to take such a risky bump (at their size it could have killed them had something gone wrong). Both men sold the collapse for several minutes and the match just halted in a disappointing no contest. I expect we'll see a gimmick rematch of some description between the two on November 20th in New York City.
Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis came out to oversee the medical staff tending to the two mounds of blubber. After several minutes of concerned facial expressions it was Laurinaitis (the heel) who was chosen to make the announcement that the show would continue as planned while Long (the face) ambled off to the back. If WWE want to get Laurinaitis over as a heel they cannot give fans any reason to cheer him, which is precisely what they did with this announcement. While there's no chance of him turning accidental babyface giving fans reason to cheer during his promos is only going to confuse matters. Limit him to contemptuous smirks and pro-heel decisions and let Teddy take care of babyface announcements from now on.
With the worst match on the card out of the way we were treated to the second worst in the main event position. Although Alberto Del Rio is one of WWE's best all-rounders and Cena does his best work in gimmick situations the two still haven't clicked and found their chemistry yet. As such this WWE championship match was decent but nothing more.
Cena, who entered wearing a new T-shirt far less garish than his old red one, made a large number of ridiculous comebacks, usually climbing briskly to his feet at around the count of seven. That undermined his opponent and made it difficult for viewers to suspend their disbelief and buy into the near falls. But that's nothing new: Super Cena pulls stunts like this on a weekly basis. It's part of the reason WWE is finding it hard to create new main event stars.
After what must have been around twenty minutes Truth and Miz returned to the ring to beat down the challenger. Despite being left laying from a vicious beating from two of the promotion's top heels Cena clambered back to his feet before the ten count looking only mildly phased. He was immediately put back down, for good this time, by ADR, who had spent over a minute selling an AA through a table. The chasm between how the two men were booked was never more glaring.
'The Essence of Excellence' posed with his WWE championship belt as Vengeance went off the air, with Cena pouting and doing his puppy dog expression in the ring. I expect these two will meet in the Survivor Series main event next month before moving on to new feuds in December. I hope that happens anyway, because I'm not interested in seeing another pay-per-view singles contest between these two.
Vengeance was far from disappointing. There were several matches and storyline developments worth tuning in for. It's just that the running order seemed a little questionable. That's a problem unlikely to affect WWE's next PPV extravaganza. Survivor Series has clearly been planned months in advance with the aim of blowing off multiple feuds and storylines while kickstarting new ones to begin the build up for the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania XXVIII. Vengeance played it's part in setting the stage for the show and as such can be considered a succe
ss for WWE.

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