Thursday 31 May 2012

Sixty Days Without Orton

Last week WWE announced the suspension of Chris Jericho. This week they've announced the suspension of Randy Orton. While 'Y2J's' time off is linked to his behaviour at a house show 'The Viper' finds himself on the sidelines due to a violation of the company’s Wellness Policy.
This is Orton's third suspension during his WWE career but only the second that has been Wellness related. Previously he has served a thirty day suspension for smoking a banned substance backstage and a sixty day suspension due to incidents related to his anger management issues (which he has since overcome if you believe what he says in interviews). This now puts 'The Apex Predator' in the undesirable position of being one Wellness slip-up away from a future endeavour.
It also leaves WWE with a big gap to fill at the top of their next pay-per-view. Orton and Jericho had both been a part of the excellent four-way World Heavyweight title bout at Over The Limit and work had already begun on the plan to segue them into a one-on-one feud for No Way Out on June 17th. When it was announced Jericho was being suspended the silver lining was that somebody would get promoted for a supershow showdown with Orton. With both men suspended WWE finds itself lacking two established stars that could work with an upper mid-card talent and give them the rub.

Randy Orton is going to have lots of time for sitting down over the next two months
It's not all bad though. While an Orton v Jericho match would have been a nice addition to the PPV it hadn't had that much time dedicated to it, meaning the amount of effort that has been wasted is minimal. Furthermore WWE can always book the feud later in the year and there's now free time at No Way Out to give to some of the roster's fresh prospects. Coincidentally this is exactly what I discussed in my previous article (which you can read here).

WWE's team of writers have until Monday to concoct some entertaining and engrossing mid-card storylines to fill the next fortnight of television with. The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Santino and Zack Ryder are all deserving of increased exposure and would benefit greatly from working in a feature pay-per-view bout. The tag team of Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd looked promising before 'There Werewolf of Cape Town' got injured, a match between them and Truth in Paradise (or whatever they're being called this week) would serve as an ideal pay-per-view opener. Meanwhile Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow and Ryback are all making steady progress establishing themselves in WWE and would receive a boost by having a match announced for a supershow.
Now is the perfect time to reward these men by giving them time to shine on a big show. The key is to give every match a little history so shows don't feel rushed and cobbled together.
Randy Orton made a foolish mistake. He's fortunate that he's in the position he's in: being one of WWE's few bankable stars he can afford to do things like this and suffer only light repercussions. If he were further down the roster he would risk having his push curtailed and perhaps even getting fired. As it is he will return to the same spot he's had for many years once he’s served his sixty days because WWE finds it so difficult to create stars of his level.
It's not fair and it's not right but that's the WWE system for you. Nothing will protect ‘The Viper’ in the future though. His next violation will be his last. Let's just hope he learns his lesson before both he and the company he works for pay the price.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

What's Old is New

In the middle of the 90s the then-WWF launched their In Your House line of pay-per-views. The idea was that in the seven months of the year during which one of their Big Five pay-per-views (WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and King of the Ring) wasn’t broadcast they would air a shorter, cheaper show featuring matches that would help advance storylines for the bigger events and capitalise on the success of Monday Night RAW.

As the promotion was only just beginning to get to grips with producing a monthly pay-per-view the cards were of unpredictable quality but something that stands out when you look back now is the variety of men who were thrown into prominent spots in order to fill up the show. This happened, of course, because the WWF was struggling to create top line talent.

Sounds familiar yes?

The In Your House product of the 90s is similar to WWE’s pay-per-view product today. IYH shows usually guaranteed matches featuring the WWF champion and the Intercontinental champion while today we can usually expect bouts starring the WWE champ and the World Heavyweight champ. In a way the WHC has become WWE’s second tier title, replacing the once meaningful Intercontinental title.

WWE could learn something from its mid-90s approach to pay-per-view booking but the logo is best left in the past

In Your House cards generally featured a lot of random filler matches tossed together to fill time, also like WWE’s modern pay-per-view product. Let’s take the recent Over The Limit show as an example. While it was an enjoyable show four of its nine matches weren’t even advertised beforehand. If WWE is going to take this approach to its product I think they should really embrace the move and take some genuine risks when it comes to these filler bouts.

If shows are going to be built around two or three key matches then there’s no harm tinkering with the undercard is there? Give men like Ezekiel Jackson and Drew McIntyre feuds with established upper mid-card talent like The Miz or Dolph Ziggler, or even headliners like Randy Orton and Chris Jericho. Let Cody Rhodes wrestle the satisfying technical matches so many people are sure he’s capable of producing against the Yoshi Tatsus, Tyson Kidds and and Justin Gabriels of the roster.

Give this guy a pay-per-view match with Randy Orton and see if he can get over

The approach to the big matches featuring established stars shouldn’t change. They are what sells the shows. But there’s no harm in trying out different things and giving underutilised wrestlers a chance to succeed and make an impression. The regular pay-per-view roster could be thinned out a little in order to allow more young guys a chance to flourish. WWE’s buy rates for the secondary PPVs have been falling for years now. At this point they should be looking to the past and embracing their old approach rather than sticking with what has gotten them to this undesirable point in the first place.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Chris Jericho's Brazilian Adventure

WWE has suspended Chris Jericho for thirty days. For once this is nothing to do with a Wellness Policy violation…

On Thursday 24th May WWE held its first live event in Brazil. That’s a country WWE has been wanting to break into for a while thanks to its status as a growing economic power. As such the company wanted to make a good first impression and ensured that it booked quality bouts in the top spots. One of those matches was John Cena (the company’s biggest star) against Dolph Ziggler (a bumping machine talented enough to make a bore like Cena look good). The other was WWE champion CM Punk defending against Chris Jericho.

During the early going in that match ‘Y2J’ grabbed a Brazilian flag and threw it to the ground. That act has been a standard heel tactic for decades (perhaps doing something so unoriginal is why Jericho is “the best in the world at what he does”) but not in Brazil, where it is illegal to disrespect the flag.

Police arrived at ringside and demanded ‘The Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rollah’ apologise for his actions or be arrested. Jericho, suddenly taken from the entertainment world of WWE to a very real situation with very real repercussions, did so. That was the sensible thing to do.

Chris Jericho parades around the ring with the Brazilian flag, looking decidedly un-heelish

When Jericho kicked the flag he had no idea it was an illegal act. He was playing the part of a television villain (as it’s Jericho the term pantomime villain is more accurate) and antagonist. His job in that role is to make people hate him. He did that but broke the law along the way. He did the right thing and apologised for the act but has still been suspended. Why?

Well, in 2012 WWE markets itself very successfully as family entertainment. It cannot be seen to let one of its employees go unpunished for an illegal act on one of its shows, no matter what extenuating circumstances are involved. Shawn Michaels did something similar but went much farther in Montreal at Survivor Series ’97 when he humped the Quebec flag, but that was a different country and a different era both in WWE and the wrestling industry in general. More importantly it was not an illegal act in Quebec.

CM Punk's interaction with the Brazilian flag was received more positively

WWE’s hand was forced by the legal aspect introduced by the incident taking place in Brazil. The suspension is not popular but it is understandable. WWE wants to return to Brazil in the future and there is a greater chance of that happening if the man that broke the law on their debut show in the country was punished for his actions.

Times may have changed in the wrestling business but there is still a place for flags to be used to produce heel heat in 2012 (I realise how odd a statement that is). Not in WWE though. Unfortunately for Chris Jericho he has found that out the hard way. Taking into account his upcoming tour dates with Fozzy, his thirty day suspension form WWE and the gaps in his announced wrestling schedule it’s possible we won’t be seeing the former ‘Paragon of Virtue’ for a while. That may not be a bad thing. It will allow this embarrassing debacle to blow over and give Jericho the chance to come back with a renewed focus and make the impact he should have made in January.

Saturday 26 May 2012


On Wednesday something astonishing happened: David Otunga got “#OtungaforUSchamp” trending on Twitter.

I’ve been a fan of David Otunga for a while now. Not because he’s a great wrestler or because he’s someone who will clearly make it to the top of WWE because he’s not a great wrestler and is not ever going to rise above the mid-card in WWE. No, I’m a fan of David Otunga because he’s such a great character.

The ever-present coffee; the crisp, eloquent delivery of his lines; his use of the #Otungalaw hashtag on Twitter; the ridiculous poses he pulls before, during and after his matches; and, most importantly, his wonderful tendency to botch practically everything he does. These are the reasons I am a fan of David Otunga. Not everyone has to be a great wrestler.

Watch any match involving the former Nexus member and you are almost guaranteed to see him do something wrong. The best part is that it’s often something basic, such as on the April 16th RAW from London where Otunga faced Santino and somehow managed to botch going for a pin. How can any wrestling fan not love the inadvertent hilarity of a wrestler who cannot master a pinning position?

This picture needs no words

Otunga is someone who’s found his niche on the card and performs it very well. He’s clearly an intelligent man (law degrees from Harvard don’t come easy) and has made the intelligent move of weaving his real life background into his wrestling gimmick. That’s always a smart direction to go in as it makes it easier to portray the character with conviction. It’s helped him gain a regular spot on RAW alongside his on- and 0ff-screen boss John Laurinaitis. See? Smart.

So, “#OtungaforUSchamp”? I’d agree with that. The belt has been worthless ever since Zack Ryder was senselessly booked to lose it to Jack Swagger on January 16th. ‘Long Island Iced Z’ and Dolph Ziggler had done fine work making the belt mean something to fans in the latter months of 2011 and WWE has carelessly frittered that effort away. If it has to be on a comedy worker it should at least be on a comedy worker who will do something entertaining with the opportunity being a champion represents. That man is not Santino Marella.

That man is David Otunga.

Friday 25 May 2012

Awesome No More?

It was around this time last year when The Miz’s main event career ended. Having captured the WWE championship (historically by far the more important of WWE’s two designated world championships) from Randy Orton at the end of the post-Survivor Series 2010 RAW the former reality TV star had been at the top of the company for almost half a year. During that time he had been awarded further victories over Orton and, at WrestleMania, John Cena. Although he was never able to beat either man clean (he invariably obtained those wins after interference from Alex Riley or via other underhand tactics) that he was booked to beat the promotion’s two top babyfaces under any circumstances was a clear sign that WWE wanted the man to succeed at the top.

At Extreme Rules 2011 Miz lost the WWE championship to John Cena in a steel cage match (also involving John Morrison). He was unable to regain the belt the next evening on RAW or at Over The Limit three weeks later. It was after that loss to Cena that Miz’s position on the card changed significantly.

Instead of continuing his feud with champion Cena ‘The Awesome One’ instead took issue with his apprentice Alex Riley. Blamed for Miz’s loss of the WWE title A-Ry found himself fired on the post-Over The Limit RAW. The two men clashed in a singles match at Capitol Punishment and then came to blows at Money in the Bank, where they both participated in one of the titular ladder bouts.

At the time it seemed that WWE was using Miz as a star-builder, someone who would help Riley establish as a featured babyface. Despite expectations Riley actually flourished in the role and gained a lot of support from fans for standing up to his bullying ex-mentor. It seemed like a mild comedown for Miz after being involved in the headline picture (to great acclaim) for several months, but most assumed it would just be a temporary arrangement designed to slow down his career and stop him becoming burned out and overexposed.

The epitome of awesome

Unfortunately for ‘The Cleveland Screamer’ he was kept waiting for something new to do for far longer than expected. Once the Riley rivalry was over and done with Miz was left treading water until he formed Awesome Truth alongside fellow ex-headline heel experiment R-Truth. Miz sunk his teeth into that opportunity with characteristic gusto. Awesome Truth was one of the highlights of WWE television in the latter months of last year thanks to their clashes with Air Boom and their memorable worked shoot firing at the hands of Triple H.

The peak of the team’s tenure came when they clashed with John Cena and The Rock at Survivor Series. Held in Madison Square Garden and being ‘The Great One’s’ first match in over seven years it was a match of huge significance in the careers of all four men. Being booked to lose didn’t deter Miz from entering a strong performance and showing why he’d been selected to topple Orton for the gold one year before.

The next night Awesome Truth were abruptly split (thanks to a violation of the Wellness Policy by Truth) which originally seemed like a waste and a setback for the Miz. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him as it freed him up for inclusion in the triple threat Tables Ladders and Chairs match for the WWE championship at TLC on December 18th.

That would turn out to be the final match of any great significance that ‘The Most Must See WWE Superstar in History’ would have for a while. Since then Miz has been treading water again, given no real storylines and almost finding himself left off of WrestleMania (he was the final addition to the Team Johnny v Team Teddy bout). Miz is no longer guaranteed to appear on RAW each week and when he does there’s a fair chance he’ll be staring at the lights for someone higher on WWE’s list of priorities.

The recent news that he will be starring in WWE Studios’ latest venture, The Marine: Homefront, could be a blessing in disguise for the underutilised star. The project will require him to be off of WWE TV for a couple of months which will provide the opportunity to reintroduce him with a renewed purpose and accompanying push. If I were WWE’s head booker I’d have Miz suffer another standard loss on an edition of RAW then take a microphone and unleash a vicious promo about being overlooked and forgotten before storming out of the arena.

Once filming on Homefront was completed Miz could return to TV by interfering in a WWE or World title match on pay-per-view, setting him up as an opponent for Sheamus or CM Punk. He could potentially be booked to beat either man and have another run at the main event level. Punk has held the WWE title since last year’s Survivor Series and Sheamus has had the World belt since WrestleMania. By the time Miz returns to TV they’d both have lengthy title reigns notched up and a switch would freshen the company up.

I’d be inclined to go with Miz taking the belt from Sheamus: it’s a fresher match and would allow Miz to be moved to the Friday night show where he’d be given more room to breathe as a performer and could concentrate on re-establishing himself. It would also set up a feud with a heel Daniel Bryan, whose “Yes!” catchphrase (is one word a catchphrase?) could be used to counteract Miz’s sardonic “Really?” promos (is one word a promo?). Live audiences would have great fun with warring phrase chants there and the feud could be used to gradually turn Miz face (or Bryan for that matter).

Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin has all the tools to be a regular at the top of WWE cards. He has the look the company likes, is a proficient wrestler, has tremendous promo skills, is famously dedicated to improving himself, isn’t afraid of the promotion’s gruelling travel schedule (he makes the second most public appearances for WWE behind John Cena), and has a nice stash of phrases that fans like joining in with. He’s been to the top once. If given the chance I think he could get back there again.

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.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Blueprint Examination

If I were Matt Morgan I would give a return to WWE some serious consideration.

That’s not a random statement from nowhere, Morgan’s contract status with the Orlando outfit expires this year and he’s stated in numerous interviews that he hasn’t yet ruled out a return to his former employer. He will either be a free agent in October, when his contract officially runs out, or he is one right now, having fulfilled the number of dates specified in the document. Whatever the case ‘The DNA of TNA’ will soon find himself in a position where he has to make an important career decision. Notably, Morgan has stated that WWE have made it clear they would be interested in signing him.

The truth is that the big man should have achieved far more than he has in TNA. He has all the tools a pro wrestler needs to succeed. He’s eloquent, has a good physique, a tall frame, knows how to wrestle and can provoke a reaction from fans. Yet the most he’s ever done in TNA is capturing the tag team title (with no-hopers Hernandez and Crimson). Had TNA ever been serious about creating its own name talent Matt Morgan would have been an ideal candidate.

How long will TNA retain its DNA?

Morgan has played every role possible in the company. He’s been both a face and a heel. He’s been the independent thinker and the heel stable’s insurance policy. He’s been the tag team guy and the singles star. He’s wrestled everyone there is to wrestle. The only thing he’s not done is capture TNA’s world championship and that’s unlikely to ever happen because the promotion has locked itself into a stale pattern of promoting the same guys in the same top spots. Bobby Roode and James Storm may have made it to the top but it took both a very long time to do it and a storyline (of sorts) was planned out for them both before they went to the top.

The recent return to WWE of Matt ‘Lord Tensai’ Bloom shows that John Laurinaitis is prepared to re-sign former stars who were not draws during their original runs with the organisation if they have improved in their time away from the company. Bloom travelled to Japan and turned himself into a standout worker.

Morgan has done the same while in TNA. He wasn’t bad during his time in WWE, but he was rough around the edges. He has become polished and reliable in TNA, thanks to the greater freedom the promotion affords its talent. Morgan could do a lot to improve the WWE product and would benefit from a roster of almost completely fresh match-ups. If WWE had a mind too they could turn him into a big star. That’s true of anyone really, considering how much money the company has at its disposal and the systems they’ve established for themselves over the years, but with Morgan significantly less work would be required.

It’s possible Morgan will stay in TNA. That’s his comfort zone. He knows he’s going to get a paycheque, wrestle on TV most weeks and get to wrestle the top names (even if he does usually lose to them). A return to WWE would be a gamble as he could very well end up failing in whatever new role he was given, leaving him to head back to Orlando with his tail between his legs.

I think ‘The Blueprint’ should take the risk. He could potentially gain a lot from a second stint in WWE, easily enough to outweigh the potential embarrassment of failing.

Monday 21 May 2012

Year of the Wolf

I’m not Davey Richards’ biggest fan but I was fully expecting him to hold onto the ROH world championship for at least a few more months. That he lost the belt to Kevin Steen came as a huge shock to me. It may have seemed obvious to some that ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’ was going to walk out of Border Wars victorious but I was convinced that Richards would retain the gold and drop it Steen in a few months’ time. He seemed the first candidate in a long time to enjoy a title reign that would equal those enjoyed by celebrated champions Samoa Joe, Nigel McGuinness or Bryan Danielson.

I thought this for a couple of reasons. First of all it seemed too early in the Steen-Richards feud for a title change. I assumed Steen would lose and then somehow obtain a rematch (this is wrestling, stipulations such as “this will be your only title match” are overturned all the time) and leave as champion then. It’s uncharacteristic of Ring of Honor to put the title on a wrestler at the peak of their popularity, they usually procrastinate and end up putting the title on popular stars months too late.

That was originally the case with Richards himself. Following his unsuccessful challenge against Tyler Black (who himself was kept waiting too long to win the ROH title) on June 24th 2010 everyone knew it was just a matter of time until he became champion. That “matter of time” ended up lasting a full year, by which point Richards, while still undeniably popular, was not as over as he had been a year before. The fans were not as desperate to see him as the company figurehead because ROH had waited too long.

My point is that it is far more like ROH to keep a wrestler as the popular challenger for just a little too long and it was surprising that they deviated from this annoying habit with Steen. It’s the right move and one I’m personally happy with (I much prefer Kevin Steen to Davey Richards) but it’s still surprising.

We're not going to be seeing this sight for a while. Some may say that's a good thing...

The second reason is that ‘The American Wolf’ was only just beginning to hit his stride as champion. He’d had the belt for eleven months and the first half of his reign was completely forgettable. During his first four months he defended the title only three times, once against non-ROH competitor Tommy End, once against entertaining non-threat Colt Cabana, and once against Roderick Strong. This was not Richards’ fault, ROH had scaled down the number of shows they running during this period in preparation for their 2012 relaunch. But the point still stands: Richards was not being given the best opponents possible.

Another problem was that much of Richards’ reign was characterised with matches against Roderick Strong and Eddie Edwards. All three are great wrestlers and they never produced any matches that disappointed but there are only so many times you can see three men clash with one another. It was a lack of variety that damaged the majority of the Davey Richards ROH title reign.

What’s frustrating is that he was just beginning to defend the belt against a wider variety of opponents. By all accounts Richards’ matches against Jay Lethal and Adam Cole were impressive and his main event match with Michael Elgin at Showdown in the Sun was an astonishing display. More defences like that against different names plucked from all levels of the roster could have really helped Richards make more of his time as champion. Had Richards been facing those sort of guys from the start of his reign (rather than the small cadre of main event talent at Ring of Honor’s disposal) I think we’d be looking back on a far more impressive reign.

Saturday 19 May 2012

SmackTalk 18.05.12

As WWE’s finally TV show of significance before Over The Limit SmackDown was inevitably going to be used to muster up a final bit of buzz for the RAW feud between Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis and the company’s top star John Cena. Thankfully that was kept to a minimum. Laurinaitis kicked the show off by talking about the unfairness of having to compete in a fair bout, earning himself some pretty good heat in the process, and then wasn’t seen again for the rest of the show.

Sadly the rising stars didn’t get as much exposure as they’ve been enjoying recently on this week’s show. What with it being the final show before a pay-per-view that’s understandable. Antonio Cesaro and Ryback failed to appear, although Ryback did get highlighted with a video of him squashing jobbers. Darren Young and Titus O’Neil got to wrestle the tag champs, but neither former NXT regular will amount to anything of note so that’s not a bout worth dwelling on. It was Damien Sandow who once again stood out in the newcomer pack. He refused to wrestle but did get into the ring to brutalise his scheduled opponent Yoshi Tatsu after Tatsu mocked him. It was a spirited performance and a good indication that Sandow won’t disappoint when he starts wrestling, whenever that may be.

The episode did a good job of highlight Over The Limit’s two world title. Daniel Bryan downed Zack Ryder in a quick match, which may not have done ‘Long Island Iced Z’ any favours but did make Bryan look strong going into his much anticipated WWE championship match with CM Punk.

Bryan stuck around to provide guest commentary on the Kane v Punk match that followed, and did a great job of putting ‘The Straight Edge Superstar’ over as a great wrestler and worthy champion. By doing that Bryan helped build anticipation for his WWE match on Sunday because he deviated from the WWE norm of burying an opponent. By talking Punk up Bryan made it clear that they would have a competitive, enjoyable match and helped enhance Punk’s standing in the eyes of fans.

Meanwhile two of the four Over The Limit World Heavyweight title match participants clashed in the main event. Champion Sheamus pinned Randy Orton with a schoolboy rollup, a counter to ‘The Apex Predator’s’ RKO. It was an enjoyable, if subdued, match that should have done its job of creating interest in the pay-per-view title bout.

The best thing about Orton and Sheamus’s interaction was ‘The Viper’s’ post-match RKO. That got him back on course as the unpredictable character he should always be presented as when a babyface. It helped him recover from his clean loss too (clearly the intention).

So has this episode of SmackDown got me excited about Over The Limit? No more than I was already, I’m afraid. I do think Over The Limit will be a good show (and possibly it will be better than good) but nothing that I’ve seen on RAW or SmackDown has swayed me one way or the other. They certainly wouldn’t have convinced me to pay for the show if it wasn’t free on Sky Sports. One of the reasons wrestling companies have television shows is to give people reason to buy pay-per-views and attend live events. WWE need to remember that.

John Laurinaitis promo

Tweet 1: SmackDown begins with a recap of the Cena and Laurinaitis segment from RAW. WWE should be ashamed that's their top feud.
Tweet 2: John Laurinaitis promo to open the show. This is actually happening is it? Making things worse is that there's no David Otunga in sight.
Tweet 3: Big Johnny claims he's approaching 40. He's 46.
Tweet 4: Punk v Laurinaitis is hardly McMahon v Austin. That they just mentioned bosses makes me think WWE are striving to equal that famous feud.
Tweet 5: Laurinaitis is in the ring shouting "You!" over and over at fans. Perhaps he's trying to create his own "Yes!"
Tweet 6: Cole's getting VERY animated about the alleged unfair treatment of John Laurinaitis.

R-Truth and Kofi Kingston v Darren Young and Titus O’Neil

Tweet 7: That entrance confirmed that R-Truth is not as athletic as Kofi Kingston.
Tweet 8: How does Cole build up the challengers for the tag team titles? He describes them as very good.
Tweet 9: Swagger and Ziggler are better than very good.
Tweet 10: Kofi and Truth are facing Titus O'Neil and Darren Young. Young is once again sporting his giant knee pads.
Tweet 11: “Oh, he just hit that boy with the rocket” #Bookerisms
Tweet 12: R-Truth won with his finisher. Once again the commentators didn't name it. I'm pretty sure nobody knows what it's called anymore.

Damien Sandow v Yoshi Tatsu

Tweet 13: Damien Sandow doesn't see the appeal of Zack Ryder. He's not the only one. Ryder's popularity has plummeted over the last few months.
Tweet 14: Damien Sandow is holding the microphone as though it were a wine glass. Nice touch.
Tweet 15: Sandow doesn't want to face Yoshi Tatsu as he's unworthy. I don't blame him.
Tweet 16: Tatsu just spoke and then imitated a chicken. He sounds like he's mentally deficient.
Tweet 17: We finally get a look at Sandow's wrestling gear. Purple knee pads and pink trunks. That just makes him more entertaining in my view.

Damien Sandow is one of WWE's brightest prospects

Matt Striker interviews Sheamus and Randy Orton

Tweet 18: Sheamus and Orton arguing? But I thought all WWE babyfaces liked each other...
Tweet 19: Look at the love in Striker's eyes. He lives to interview Orton.
Tweet 20: I think WWE are preparing to turn either Orton or Sheamus. Orton would benefit from going heel more.

Zack Ryder v Daniel Bryan

Tweet 21: Ryder v Daniel Bryan! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Tweet 22: That was pretty much a squash match and it lasted less than five minutes but it's STILL going to be the best match of the show.
Tweet 23: Bryan's Yes Lock is my favourite WWE finisher at the moment.

Kane v CM Punk

Tweet 24: And now we get Bryan on commentary for Punk v Kane. I wasn't looking forward to this match so that's a nice bonus.
Tweet 25: Bryan understands how (and why) to build up his opponent. That's rare in WWE.
Tweet 26: Those are some particularly limp kicks from Kane.
Tweet 27: That Bryan was allowed to mention the indies is a good sign for the Punk v Bryan match at Over The Limit.
Tweet 28: Comedic run from Bryan there.
Tweet 29: Kane showed a lot of focus after that chair shot. Perhaps he should consider getting hit with a chair before every match. He might win more.

A graphic for Randy Orton v Sheamus

Tweet 30: Is that the Eye of Sauron being used in Orton's graphic?

Santino v Cody Rhodes

Tweet 31: I'd normally be upset with Cody having to face someone like Santino. Not today. I'm just pleased he's not facing Big Show.
Tweet 32: Booker thinks the IC title is more prestigious than the US title. He's right.
Tweet 33: This is just an excuse for the commentators to read facts about championships off of Wikipedia.
Tweet 34: Rhodes jobs to Santino. I despair.

Recap of Big Show’s firing

Tweet 35: "For many it was one of the most stunning things they had ever witnessed" - Michael Cole on the storyline firing of Big Show
Tweet 36: That was followed by a picture of Big Show crying with "Why?" written underneath. My sentiments exactly.

Randy Orton v Sheamus

Tweet 38: Randy Orton used to do a great dropkick. Every one I've seen him do for the last few months has been sloppy.
Tweet 39: "Randy Orton's been the franchise player on Friday Night SmackDown for a while now" - Michael Cole, polluting the world with his filthy lies
Tweet 40: Orton just smashed Shemus's arm into metal steps. Surely that's a disqualifcation isn't it?
Tweet 41: #tenpunchesintheropespot
Tweet 42: Sheamus's battering ram from the apron (that's what Cole called it) needs work. He's barely clearing the rope.
Tweet 43: Orton's already a nine time champion? WWE switches its world titles far too often.
Tweet 44: Sheamus hasn't told us he likes to foight this week. Poor.
Tweet 45: RKO countered into a schoolboy by Sheamus. Give it a year and that will be the standard counter. Shoving Orton away is played out.
Tweet 46: That show closing RKO to Sheamus was painfully predictable.

Friday 18 May 2012

Announcement Wars

Thursday 17th May saw noteworthy announcements from the western world’s two most notable wrestling promotions.
First WWE announced that beginning on July 23rd Monday Night RAW will be a three hour show, starting one hour earlier than it currently does. Not to be outdone TNA announced that IMPACT will air live on May 31st and that the trend will continue "through the summer." They followed that up a short while later with the less noteworthy news that Brooke Bollea (daughter of Hulk Hogan and failed pop starlet) has signed a contract with the organisation to appear as the Executive in Charge of the Knockouts Division. She will naturally be using the stage name of Brooke Hogan.
Let's start at the bottom and work our way up, shall we? TNA does not need another on-screen authority figure. They already have Hulk Hogan and Dixie Carter. That’s one too many. Plus it's only a matter of time before Eric Bischoff shows up as a TV regular again, at which point he will no doubt have some sort of match-making ability. More to the point there are less than a dozen female performers in TNA. Does such a sparsely populated Knockouts roster really need an Executive exclusively dedicated to it? Of course not. If it did then it would certainly require someone with more credibility in the world of wrestling than Brooke.
Brooke's leap into the world of wrestling is not dissimilar to Garrett Bischoff’s. Neither has paid any dues (the time honoured wrestling tradition of grafting for very little or no pay and constantly losing your matches while you work your way up the card in the eyes of your peers and fans) which will create resentment from fans and wrestlers alike. There’s simply no reason or need for Brooke to be appearing in the IMPACT Zone.
If she wants to be involved in the wrestling business that's great. Considering who her father there would be interest in her as a novelty act if nothing else. Being in charge of the Knockouts division is not her route to the top though. If TNA wants Brooke to be a boon for them then she should be posted to OVW for a year or two. There she could learn how to wrestle before being called up to IMPACT to be used as an active wrestler. That's what TNA needs, not more people conducting twenty minute promo segments on a weekly basis.
WWE's announcement of RAW becoming a three hour show has been expected ever since people noticed the show was being advertised to start an hour earlier than planned from July 27th. There are rumours that it will be used as a pre-show. If that's the case then it could work out to be a good move, though that will depend largely on what WWE believes a pre-show should consist of. There's potential in that idea and that's what I'm hoping the plan is.

Look on the bright side: RAW getting more time means Alex Riley is likelier to wrestle on the show...
If, on the other hand, WWE are simply going to be promoting the same product but with an additional hour this is an absurd move. The creative team are struggling to write two hours of captivating television each Monday as it is. A third hour will only serve to exacerbate the situation. It won’t improve the product and stands a good chance of making it worse. It would have been a better idea to concentrate on improving the quality of the timeslot they currently have before obtaining an extra hour.

I would imagine that Brock Lesnar has indirectly played a part in this decision. By running three hours RAWs every Monday WWE can get more screen time out of ‘The Pain’ without eating up more of his limited appearances.
It's also worth noting that RAW routinely features a fifteen minute overrun. That means it actually runs for two hours and fifteen minutes rather than exactly two hours. This may not seem like much but if the trend continues it will mean that RAW runs for a whopping three hours and fifteen minutes. Nobody needs that much wrestling every Monday night no matter how much they like wrestling.
Three hour weekly shows didn't do Nitro any favours. Maybe Vince and company should watch some of that videotape library they bought.
The best news is TNA’s announcement that IMPACT will be going live. This is something they should have done long ago. The positives should be obvious: live TV means no spoilers, which means it's easier to surprise fans, build interest for big televised matches and increase ratings. It will make IMPACT seem a more spontaneous, exciting product and will hopefully serve to encourage better viewing figures.
The next logical step will be to broadcast IMPACT from different locations. Hopefully the company won't wait too long to do that. For now though they deserve praise for finally taking the plunge and broadcasting their flagship show live.
It's nice to see TNA giving us more reason to be happy than WWE. Brooke Hogan may not be a particularly thrilling signing (especially on the heels of a man encouraging crossover in King Mo) but lives IMPACTs are great news. If TNA plays things right they could use this as a way to reboot their product. But then we’ve heard that before, haven’t we?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Over The Limit preview

WWE has been doing great work introducing new wrestlers to its TV product since WrestleMania. It's a shame the approach hasn't been extended to pay-per-views. Newcomers Damien Sandow, Ryback and Antonio Cesaro are all absent from this Sunday's supercard. Instead of an announced match featuring one of the newcomers WWE are (apparently) trying to establish as the stars of tomorrow we have a show with only five confirmed bouts, one of which features a clash between on-screen authority figure and failed wrestler John Laurinaitis and limited, overexposed muscleman John Cena. The supposed stars of tomorrow don't get a look-in.
When Cena v Laurinaitis was announced I assumed shortcuts would be added in the form of a relaxed rules gimmick match or guest referee (I was hoping David 'Botch Machine' Otunga). That would have allowed the combatants the luxury of having to worry about match quality even less than they will anyway. Surprisingly no shortcuts have been added. Instead WWE have stuck to this being a straight singles match, even going so far as to introduce a stipulation that anyone caught interfering would have their contract terminated.
Unfortunately that presents us with an all too predictable finishing sequence. Monday's RAW saw the storyline firing of Big Show because he failed to provide a satisfactory apology for making fun of John Laurinaitis's voice (yes, really) which the GM had made a sackable offence the previous week.
That development could be leading elsewhere but it seems to me a very simple way of having someone interfere in the match without terminating them. Big Show could help Laurinaitis to win, regaining his job and setting him up as the next opponent for Cena. The stipulation that Laurinaitis will be fired if he loses (an addition made by the Board of Directors) makes me inclined to believe that Cena is going to lose this one. There are no alternatives for the on-screen authority role (no, Triple H isn't an option: he's being used as a recurring character and is preparing for a feud with Brock Lesnar) so if Laurinaitis lost who would take over?
I expect the match will go on last and be an absolute abomination. Laurinaitis is a trained wrestler but he's not wrestled regularly for over a decade. By all accounts (including YouTube) he wasn't much good even in his "prime." There are men in WWE who may be capable of dragging a bearable match from him but John Cena certainly isn't one of them.
While Cena v Laurinaitis exemplifies the sports entertainment approach to wrestling WWE has popularised over the past three decades it could be considered that the WWE title match between champion CM Punk and challenger Daniel Bryan represents independent wrestling at its finest. Both men made names for themselves prior to signing with WWE, in particular Ring of Honor where they both enjoyed reigns with the promotion's prestigious world belt. They are not sports entertainment Superstars, they're wrestlers.
The expectations for Punk and Bryan to produce something memorable are understandably high. Both have received strong pushes over the last year and both have formidable reputations when it comes to quality wrestling bouts. This is undoubtedly the match that should go on last but I'm sure it's destined to play second fiddle to Johns Cena and Laurinaitis.
I expect this match to be the best of the night. I'm picking CM Punk to leave as the champion. I wouldn't be massively surprised if Daniel Bryan won because he's so talented and someone WWE management clearly see as a reliable headliner but such a switch would jar with recent booking. It's not impossible but it is unlikely.
Beth Phoenix v Layla should have been built up into something special but the creative team have let the Divas down. Again. WWE has the talent to create a decent Divas division (Layla, Phoenix, the waiting-in-the-wings Kharma, Natalya and the ever-improving Tamina) but continually fails to do so. Because of this approach very few people actually care about the Divas or their title. It's almost impossible not to regard women's matches on a WWE show with disinterest.
I imagine this will be standard Divas fare. That means it will be booked as filler. I will only be interested in it if Kharma returns, which isn't an impossibility. She could come back to attack the winner, establishing her as the next challenger. In an ideal world that would be Layla, which would allow Kharma to capture the pink belt in a squash and have Beth Phoenix chasing her.
A winner? I'll pick Layla. Why? I'm hopeful WWE are going to do the right thing.
If the Divas division is in a bad way the tag team scene can only be described as worse. The doubles gold is thrown on to any two convenient singles guys who aren't doing anything else and gets sporadically defended before a new duo gets slotted together at the last minute to take the gold, leaving the original duo to fade into obscurity and never regain their prize. It's a frustrating approach as there are so many men on the roster doing nothing of value that it would easy to create three or four new teams and start work on rebuilding the division. The company sees no value in tag teams though, so we're unlikely to see that cycle change any time soon.
The match in and of itself will be good. Ziggler is one of WWE's best talents while Kingston and Swagger could both be bigger stars than they are if given the chance. R-Truth is the odd one out in that he's never going to produce the best matches on a show but he does stand out thanks to his gimmick. It should be a fun diversion. Ideally it will open the show or be placed around the mid-way point to break things up a bit. If we get to see 'The Show Off' interact with Little Jimmy so much the better.
As good as Swagger and Ziggler are as a team and as much as they would be the ideal candidates to head the division I don't think we'll see a title change. The promotion seems intent on pushing Air Truth, or whatever name they're going by this week, for the foreseeable future.
Finally there's the four-way World Heavyweight championship match. Had WWE concocted a long-term booking plan they could have given us two singles matches at this show and held off the four-way for next month's No Way Out. A World title match between Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio and a number one contendership match between Orton and Jericho (ending in some form of shenanigans to get them both into the title picture for June) would have been the better approach.
That would have allowed the four-way to come about naturally and given each man more room to breathe as a performer, rather than all cramming into one match slot. It would have bulked the card up to six matches too. That would have been a big positive: a five match pay-per-view seems a paltry offering for the biggest wrestling company in the world.

Proof, if proof were needed, that being on the poster of a WWE pay-per-view does not ensure the show will be built around you
The booking of Orton over the last few weeks could be the groundwork for a heel turn. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing: while he keeps getting good reactions as a blue eye he's not been part of a decent feud since the beginning of the year and there are several babyface stars 'The Viper' could elevate if he were to switch to the dark side. If that is the plan I don't expect him to turn at Over The Limit. While WWE generally rushes things these days they tend to book their bigger stars with care. It's something to bear in mind though.
I'd like this match to be great. It has the potential to be but something tells me it will fall short. Its quality will depend on Jericho not being sloppy and the crowd popping for face versus face action when 'The Apex Predator' and 'Great White' clash. Neither is assured.
Sheamus is my pick to win. WWE are said to want him to have a lengthy title run (which I agree he needs as it would help to establish him as a reliable good guy that fans can believe in) and I'm of the opinion that none of the other competitors have been adequately prepared to replace him at the top.
On the whole OTL looks like another lacklustre WWE B show. However I'm pretty sure that was the sentiment I expressed before Extreme Rules and that turned out to be very good. Laurinaitis v Cena aside (and even that has novelty value) every announced match could conceivably be worthwhile if given enough time and the right finish. Let's hope WWE pulls off another surprise performance.

Predictions summary:
John Laurinaitis to defeat John Cena
CM Punk to defeat Daniel Bryan
Sheamus to defeat Alberto Del Rio, Chris Jericho and Randy Orton
R-Truth and Kofi Kingston to defeat Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger
Layla to defeat Beth Phoenix

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Full Sail Ahead

WWE announced last week that NXT is no longer going to be recorded in conjunction with SmackDown on a Tuesday night. Instead the show, along with the TV output of developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling, will be recorded on Thursdays at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. This is a venue a short distance from the FCW training facility which is said to look fantastic on television and have a great live feel. It was hand-picked as the new location for FCW and NXT tapings by none other than Triple H, a man who’s been heavily involved in the talent development process of WWE for several years now.

I think this is a good move. The NXT portion of SmackDown tapings have provoked disinterest for at least eighteen months, largely because most people attending the tapings have no idea who the NXT regulars are and don’t care about finding out. That’s not a good atmosphere to have for a televised wrestling product (or an untelevised one come to that).

The impressive new location for FCW and NXT television shows

Instead of having crowd shots of dozens of people looking bored and restless the smaller venue will looked packed with excited, passionate fans. A regular venue will encourage regular fans who will form a more lively crowd and get to know the performers. They’ll have a reason for caring. There’s the potential for Full Sail to become like the ECW Arena: a relatively small venue that attracts loyal, passionate fans who decide who gets over.

A product that has excited fans on its TV show is more likely to be exciting to viewers at home.

Generally I’m against wrestling companies using the same venue on a weekly basis. I’ve been very outspoken against TNA in particular for their unwillingness to broadcast or tape IMPACT at different locations. The difference between TNA and FCW/NXT should be obvious though: TNA is a promotion alleging to operate on the national level while NXT and FCW are marketed as training grounds for the WWE stars of tomorrow. Ratings are not an issue for those leagues, training is.

FCW's current regular haunt is a dingy dive. The sooner they move location the better

It’s a great opportunity for the men and women of the two shows. They will be getting just as much screen time but in better surroundings and in front of more receptive fans. It will be a more positive atmosphere and one in which they can continue progressing towards the WWE main roster. That’s the entire point of FCW. Meanwhile NXT has become a sort of halfway house between FCW and the bright lights of RAW and SmackDown.

It’s also worth noting that WWE have confirmed Jim Ross will be on announcing duties for the first show, alongside ring veteran and talented colour commentator William Regal. Whether this will be a regular gig for the former RAW lead announcer remains to be seen but it will be good news if it is. JR is such a talented commentator that he’s practically a draw in his own right. It’s also great for the wrestlers on the FCW and NXT rosters to have the chance to have one of the best commentators ever call their matches.

How the change will impact WWE’s call-up process we can only guess at at this stage. Presumably it will remain largely unchanged:  if a wrestler is able to get over in front of the new crowd they’ll stand a better chance at being used in dark matches and at live events at RAW and SmackDown. That’s how Dean Ambrose and Antonio Cesaro have found their way to the big leagues in recent months. Hopefully the trend will continue and the crowds of Full Sail will help a new batch of WWE talent learn and develop into the stars WWE needs.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Mo Bang For Your Buck

Before Friday morning I had never heard of Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal or Bellator Fighting Championships. Then I saw a press release from Spike TV proudly mentioning both in relation to TNA Wrestling.
Mo, it turns out, is an MMA star with an impressive record of ten wins in twelve fights (also having one draw and one loss). From what I can gather he has little to no training as a pro wrestler but he has an amateur background and is a fan of the business. He certainly appears charismatic enough to stand out in the elaborate world of professional wrestling: sporting a crown before his matches and giving interviews clearly inspired by the Attitude Era Mo is one of a growing number of MMA combatants taking influence from wrestling. He's also one of the better ones at doing so.
A promising start then?
My initial reaction to this story was that Dixie and co. were once again aping WWE, specifically the recent signing of Brock Lesnar. I think this assumption is understandable considering the Orlando outfit's obsession with their main competitor and the very obvious parallels between the King Mo signing and Lesnar’s WWE return. But in fairness it looks like there's more to it than that. Bellator currently airs on MTV2 in the States and will be moving to Spike TV in 2013. The plan is to have Mo regularly appear in TNA (as a wrestler) throughout 2012 in order to encourage MMA fans to check out the wrestling company and expose the fighter to a new audience to aid Bellator next year.

King Mo: a man clearly inspired by professional wrestling
Another potential reason TNA may have agreed to this deal with Bellator is one Dave Bautista’s recent negotiations with the MMA outfit. Best known (obviously) under the name Batista in WWE, Bautista has been plugging away at his mixed martial arts career for a few years now. He's not made anywhere near the impact he was hoping for. A working agreement between Bellator and TNA may be the best thing that could happen to him right now as it would allow him to return to the world of wrestling while still continuing his attempts at fashioning a shoot fighting career for himself.
It goes without saying that TNA would be interested in 'The Animals's' services. TNA is always interested in former WWE talent and Bautista is one of the biggest name free agents currently available to a wrestling organisation. Any appearances at the IMPACT Zone would create a genuine buzz. The question is more would Bautista be interested in appearing for Total Nonstop Action?
It's possible he would be. He has been very outspoken against WWE's current PG direction and has stated he prefers working with as much freedom as possible. TNA may have some pretty insane storylines but it also features blood and swearing, which 'Big Dave' seems to equate to the perfect wrestling formula.
I think it would take a bit of work but TNA could bring him on board. Doing so would give them a new drawing card untainted by their Reverse Midas Touch who could have enjoyable bouts with every single one of their current headline roster and wouldn’t mind putting people over if the loss were handled right. TNA should definitely be trying to bring Bautista on board: if handled correctly he could be a big help to the group.
The Bellator agreement is a big chance for TNA. It remains to be seen whether Mo is any good as a wrestler or if he'll entice some MMA fans to check out TNA but there's certainly a lot of potential in the cross promotion. If Mo turns out to be as good in the ring as he is on the microphone it could do him and TNA a lot of good. If Bautista is brought on board too all the better.

Saturday 12 May 2012

SmackTalk 11.05.12

Did somebody in WWE really think it would be a good idea to book this week’s SmackDown to start with a rematch of a match we’d seen just a few nights earlier on Monday Night RAW, which had had a (relatively) clean finish, and then have it end on a disqualification? Whoever made that decision needs to be told that if you’re going to book a rematch that soon after the original encounter then there needs to be a reason for it and it has to have an actual finish.

I understand that it was done to set up singles clashes between the competitors later on in the show but that could have been achieved without the opening tag bout. In fact the singles matches would have had more time that way, potentially making them more enjoyable.

That they took place was a problem in itself though. Randy Orton v Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus v Chris Jericho are two of the few fresh matches between established main events stars that WWE has at its disposal. That they were so casually booked on free television is worrying. If they had to happen on RAW or SmackDown they could at least have been given a week’s build so as to attract an increased audience.

A better approach with the singles bouts being booked as additional unplanned matches would have been to go with ‘The Viper’ taking on ‘Y2J’, leaving Sheamus to face ADR. Jericho and Orton have faced one another many times before, so there isn’t that feeling of freshness to their matches now, while Del Rio and ‘Great White’ fought on SmackDown just a month ago. Had WWE booked the older bouts it would have felt like far less of a waste.

All that said, the match quality was high and I very much enjoyed seeing Ricardo Rodriquez taking an RKO. At least the booking should have created some interest in the upcoming four man clash at Over The Limit.

Outside of the main event WWE continued doing a fine job of building new stars. I shan’t go into specifics as I’ve done that quite a lot on SmackDown recaps lately. Suffice it to say that WWE has done a commendable job introducing Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, and Ryback to its audiences in such a short amount of time. It’s also worth pointing out that new roles have been found for Aksana, Darren Young, Titus O’Neill, Zack Ryder, Santino, Mason Ryan and Eve (among others) over the last month. That’s an impressive creative output and a good sign that 2012 will be a strong year for WWE newcomers.

A Recap of Monday’s RAW

Tweet 1: Let's chew the Smack...
Tweet 2: But first, let's spend seven minutes recapping one RAW match.
Tweet 3: "I beat him most recently" - Chris Jericho

Sheamus and Randy Orton v Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio

Tweet 4: Sheamus has been selling that shoulder for two weeks. It's time to put a stop to it.
Tweet 5: Cole is essentially claiming that Orton fluked his way into a World title match. That's not going to encourage people to rally behind him.
Tweet 6: Or buy the pay-per-view for that matter...
Tweet 7: Albertoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Deeeeeeeeeeeel Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiioooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!
Tweet 8: "Chris Jericho, ever the veteran" - Michael Cole, with a sentence that makes no sense
Tweet 9: Remember when SmackDown and RAW had separate referee rosters? I always thought the SmackDown refs' blue shirts were nicely designed.
Tweet 10: This is the second week in a row that SmackDown's started with a match that ends in a DQ.
Tweet 11: Singles matches have been set up involving the tag teams. Just like last week. To quote Booker T, this is ridiculous.

AJ v Kaitlyn, followed by a Daniel Bryan promo

Tweet 12: AJ needs to be pushed as a monster heel.
Tweet 13: That was perhaps the sloppiest attempt at a Shining Wizard that I've ever seen...
Tweet 14: Daniel Bryan! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Tweet 15: Bryan is looking forward to moving on... to Kaitlyn. #playa
Tweet 16: Where is this storyline going? Is it going to lead to AJ costing Bryan the WWE title?
Tweet 17: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Daniel Bryan v Big Show, followed by a John Laurinaitis promo

Tweet 18: Now let's all watch as Daniel Bryan pulls an entertaining match out of Big Show, proving he's the most talented wrestler in WWE.
Tweet 19: Well that match didn't last long.
Tweet 20: Powerful mic work from John Laurinaitis here. Moving stuff.
Tweet 21: Laurinaitis said Show's forty but it sounded like he said four. #Johnnymumbles
Tweet 22: I miss David Otunga.

Ryback v Heath Slater

Tweet 23: Heath Slater thinks his opponent looks like the pinnacle of evolution. Presumably he's facing Ryback...
Tweet 24: Yeah, he is. Ryback looks like a caveman.
Tweet 25: Stop Ryback posing! Just have him get in the ring, start throwing suplexes, beat his opponent, and leave.
Tweet 26: What did Ryback shout after he'd beaten Slater? Something about swimming...?

From The Vault

Tweet 27: CM Punk v R-Truth on From The Vault. This bout is from the period when WWE were trying to get Truth over as a singles babyface.
Tweet 28: That didn't work because they didn't bother giving Truth a character of any sort. He was just a walking collection of catchphrases.
Tweet 29: He's over now because of the Little Jimmy gimmick he's created, which came about while he was a heel last year.
Tweet 30: Sort of indicates that guys should spend time as a heel to develop their acts before being switched face when appropriate.
Tweet 31: I've thought that should be the case for years. Heels tend to have more creative freedom to develop their characters.
Tweet 32: Anyway... this match is a bit tedious isn't it? Even with Punk involved. It's been packed with rest holds so far.
Tweet 33: Meanwhile Striker and Grisham are talking about Punk having filed a grievance against a referee. Doesn't sound like a great storyline...
Tweet 34: CM Punk wins a slow match that the crowd didn't get into by holding the ropes. WWE has matches far better that could've been used instead.

Antonio Cesaro v Alex Riley

Tweet 35: Antonio Cesaro! ‘The Swiss Sensation’ is a great moniker!
Tweet 36: I hope Antonio does some flexing...
Tweet 37: I wish the crowd were intelligent enough to start a "Kings of Wrestling" or "Claudio" chant.
Tweet 38: European uppercut! #veryEuropean
Tweet 39: What's the point of this storyline? Any woman would choose Antonio Cesaro over Teddy Long. It doesn't make him a better heel.

Randy Orton v Alberto Del Rio

Tweet 40: Del Rio v Orton and Sheamus v Jericho are both fresh matches. WWE should not be giving them away on free TV.
Tweet 41: They should be happening at Over The Limit and the Fatal Four Way should be taking place in June.
Tweet 42: It all feels rushed and they're wasting what few fresh matches they have (which should in theory encourage ratings and PPV buys) on TV.
Tweet 43: No televised entrance for ADR? Poor.
Tweet 44: Not just a veteran but a seasoned veteran.
Tweet 45: Ricardo just attempted a top rope cross body and got hit with an RKO. He's taking big bumps lately.

R-Truth v Jack Swagger

Tweet 46: If R-Truth and Kofi Kingston are kept together they could get over. They're not history making yet, as Booker just claimed.
Tweet 47: Ziggler and Swagger v Kofi and Truth at Over The Limit. That will be a great match! WWE needs a tag division with those two teams on top.
Tweet 48: All World watch the match on a monitor in the back.
Tweet 49: If Abraham Washington is managing these guys he's not doing a very good job. They haven't wrestled on TV since they signed with him.
Tweet 50: I'd name Truth's finishing move but they've had it called around seven different things and I no longer keep track.

Zack Ryder and Santino v Titus O’Neill and Darren Young

Tweet 51: Santino and Zack Ryder could get over as a tag team. Both are popular and they occupy a similar position on the roster.
Tweet 52: They have far more potential as a unit than Darren Young and Titus O'Neill.
Tweet 53: Why are Darren Young's knee pads so large? Are his knees above average size?
Tweet 54: Darren Young can't even get thrown back into the ring without botching.
Tweet 55: Titus O'Neill slurs his words and Darren Young doesn't know how to talk into a microphone. They should not be cutting post-match promos.

WWE's tag ranks continue to struggle with these two being pushed as a formidable duo

Damien Sandow promo

Tweet 56: Damien Sandow. Now this guy's got star potential.
Tweet 57: "This concludes our interview... You're welcome."

Brodus Clay v Hunico

Tweet 58: Funkasaurus! Yes!!
Tweet 59: Cole is joining in on the dancing... or having a fit.
Tweet 60: Hunico on the bike!!
Tweet 61: Hunico on the mic!!
Tweet 62: I wonder how people would react if Hunico beat Brodus in this match.
Tweet 63: Brodus gets the predictable quick win. Sadly he didn't celebrate by dancing with kids this week.

Chris Jericho v Sheamus

Tweet 64: Anyone else miss the countdown being part of Jericho's entrance?
Tweet 65: Chris, you're forty. Time to dress like it.
Tweet 66: My mistake. Jericho is actually forty-one...
Tweet 67: Jericho beat Austin and The Rock on the same night. Eleven years ago. Move on.
Tweet 68: #askhim
Tweet 69: Jericho v Sheamus ends in DQ after ADR gets involved. That means the original tag match and both subsequent singles matches have ended in DQ.
Tweet 70: That is astonishingly poor booking.
Tweet 71: Randy Orton and Sheamus gaze into one another's eyes as the show goes off the air.