Saturday 29 September 2012

SmackTalk 28.09.12

When I said Sheamus needs a fresh opponent I didn’t really mean the Big Show. Sure it makes a change from ‘The Celtic Warrior’s’ endless bouts with Alberto Del Rio but I can’t see them producing anything that could be described as a classic. Wade Barrett would have been a far better choice to oppose Sheamus for the World Heavyweight championship.

This week’s SmackDown felt like a chore to watch, partly because of the Big Show’s ascension to the lofty status of number one contender. His boring, plodding victory over Randy Orton didn’t make either man look good and did nothing to excite me for the WHC match that will take place at Hell in a Cell.

At this point the only interesting thing I think WWE could do with the situation they’ve placed themselves in is to have ‘The World Largest Athlete’ defeat Sheamus and then lose the title to a cashing-in Dolph Ziggler. That would get the title onto a wrestler who would inject something new into the stagnant headline scene and would tie in nicely to Show losing the title to Daniel Bryan moments after winning it at last year’s TLC.

There were only two good things on this week’s show. The first was the news of a tag team tournament to crown number on contenders to the WWE tag team championship, currently held by Team Hell No. WWE’s tag team division has been crying out for attention for years and it’s nice to see it finally get some. True the bout pitting Jimmy and Jey Uso against the Rhodes Scholars wasn’t a great example of tag wrestling but there’s still plenty of time for the tourney to improve.
Future WWE tag team champions?
The other good thing about the show was the Divas battle between Beth Phoenix and Natalya. ‘The Glamazon’ did everything she could to fire up her hometown crowd and they reacted to her like a genuine star. That had to be nice for Phoenix. The match was the best Divas match of 2012 and shows that if WWE gave the women lengthier matches and some basic plots fans would view them as a relevant part of the show.

The way WWE treats its female grapplers is unlikely to change anytime soon, and that’s part of the reason Beth Phoenix is leaving. Assuming she’s not convinced to stay Phoenix’s departure will be another blow to a division that is thinner than it’s been in years. On the plus side WWE seems to be going somewhere with Eve Torres as the league’s figurehead. We can only hope that the ladies get the same treatment as the tag teams have.

In conclusion I’d say that if you missed this week’s episode of SmackDown then there’s no real point catching up with it. You can find out what happened below and save an hour and a half of your life being lost.

Opening moments

Tweet 1: SmackDown. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Tweet 2: Recap of the shenanigans between Bryan and Kane, including Bryan hiding in a bin.
Tweet 3: As good as that show-long story was does it really warrant a three minute recap?
Tweet 4: Ah, wait, they finished on that shot where Kane looks like Al Bundy. It all came good in the end.
Tweet 5: "It's one of the biggest main events in SmackDown history" - Michael Cole on Randy Orton v Big Show

Big Show promo, featuring Randy Orton

Tweet 6: For the last year Big Show has been continually involved in title feuds. #worryingWWEstatistics
Tweet 7: Looks like Orton's teasing some sideburns.
Tweet 8: On Show's WMD punch: aren't closed fists illegal?
Tweet 9: Oh good, Alberto Del Rio's still in the title picture.

Santino v Antonio Cesaro for the United States championship

Tweet 10: The United States championship is every WWE fans favourite championship.
Tweet 11: Is Aksana going to be paired with Santino next? Might as well. She's got nothing else to do.
Tweet 12: Santino's singlet is a bit loose. I don't like it. I'm worried it's going to slip off. Nobody wants to see that.
Tweet 13: Maybe Jack Swagger will return as a babyface and beat Cesaro for the US title on RAW. I'm going to make that an Official Prediction.
Tweet 14: I now want Cesaro to say "winner" in five different languages.
Tweet 15: Has anybody made a Swiss gold joke yet? Probs.

Beth Phoenix v Natalya

Tweet 16: I've heard Phoenix v Natalya is a great match. I'm looking forward to it. Looking forward to Eve's Tout less.
Tweet 17: Beth and Natty adhere to the Code of Honor.
Tweet 18: This match should be for the Divas championship. Best WWE women's match of the year.
Tweet 19: Eve promo. This one's live. No Tout involved.
Tweet 20: So they know that a blonde attacked Kaitlyn. Assuming that's true why does nobody suspect Kelly Kelly.
Tweet 21: Oh yeah… She left.

Booker T, Teddy Long and Eve have a natter backstage

Tweet 22: Is Booker going to reform Harlem Heat to compete in the tag team tournament? Hope so.
Tweet 23: More trouble brewing between Teddy and Booker. GM storylines are the bestest!

Wade Barrett v Zack Ryder

Tweet 24: Want to see Barrett's ring coat? Too bad. He's retired it.
Tweet 25: Barrett is doing a bare knuckle boxing gimmick and starts the match by kneeing Ryder multiple times. Also, Kassius does it better.
Tweet 26: "Wade whadda you doin', uh?" - The referee that looks like Benedict Cumberbatch
Tweet 27: Barrett should be feuding with Sheamus. His weekly battering of jobbers is wasteful.

Miz TV, with Sheamus as guest

Tweet 28: I like Miz but I couldn't care less about Miz TV. WWE's cycle of chat segments needs to come to an end. #datedconcept
Tweet 29: What's this segment meant to achieve?
Tweet 30: A radio show, a book, and a film. Miz is actually doing a lot better than Sheamus overall. Gutted, fella.
Tweet 31: #Zigglerpop #heel #heelsdoitbetter
Tweet 32: Ziggler has just announced he'll cash-in at Hell in a Cell. I'm not convinced.

Sheamus prepares to take flight

The Usos v The Rhodes Scholars

Tweet 33: Reason for the lack of shouty entrance for the Usos? They have sore throats.
Tweet 34: The Rhodes Scholars seem like a safe pick here. I can't see the Usos getting close to the belts anytime soon.
Tweet 35: Not much of a match but the right team won.

Ryback v Tensai

Tweet 36: Ryback being on Twitter feels wrong.
Tweet 37: "Smash! Smash! Smash!" - Tensai as he threw punches at Ryback
Tweet 38: What is Ryback's finisher called? Ryback Buster?

Randy Orton v Big Show

Tweet 39: I assume Orton has been written out of the match and Del Rio will replace him. I'm tired of ADR. He should be given a month or two off.
Tweet 40: Bring him back and give him a fresh feud.
Tweet 41: Being a super-babyface Orton is going to wrestle despite the handful of punches he received backstage.
Tweet 42: It's also interesting to note that ADR smashed a box into 'The Viper's' leg but Orton's holding his ribs.
Tweet 43: It's almost like wrestling isn't real...
Tweet 44: "Big Show's hands are as wide as a football" - Michael Cole
Tweet 45: Christ, this match is dull.
Tweet 46: An RKO isn't enough to keep mega-heel Big Show down. He shrugs off finishers like a machine.
Tweet 47: Not to be outdone Orton kicks out of a choke slam. Show hits another and gets a (sort of) clean victory over 'The Apex Predator'.
Tweet 48: Sheamus versus Big Show. That will be utterly diabolical. Jim Ross on commentary could make it tolerable but that won't happen.

Friday 28 September 2012

NXTweet 26.09.12

I'm usually pretty quick to heap praise on NXT. In fact I don't recall ever writing that an episode has been bad. While I'm not going to break that habit here I will say that this week’s episode was far below average.
Excellent main event between Richie Steamboat and Kassius Ohno aside this week's instalment felt weak. Leo Kruger's lopsided encounter with Jake Carter did little for either man and seemed to have been included in order to get the South African's mentally unhinged gimmick some screen time. It feels forced and directionless at the moment. I compared Kruger to the Bushwhackers when watching. That's not flattering.

Careful, he's mad you know...
The opening match between Bo 'Big Hands' Dallas and Michael McGillicutty started out nicely but was lagging by the time it finished. I like Hennig junior but he was wasted here. I've yet to be amazed by Dallas. He wrestles well but looks like an indy star who has yet to grow into his face. Look at a picture of Bryan Danielson from 2002 to see what this means.
On the plus side the audience were supportive of him and hinted at a gimmick that could help Dallas distinguish himself were he to be called to the main roster. That gimmick is the tried and tested shout-as-the-babyface-lands-a-punch routine. It's a gimmick that many wrestlers have used (or been gifted by fans) over the years, notably Hack Myers and Balls Mahoney in ECW. The practice could easily be encouraged by having Dallas shout out "Bo!" every time he lands a punch. It wouldn't take long for crowds to start joining in.
Ryback's bout was enjoyable for what it was, which was namely Ryback pummelling two skinny guys with stiff punches and power moves. The bout will be remembered only for the former Nexus member botching wearing a singlet. That’s okay. Nobody watches Ryback for smooth wrestling.
As I said above the Ohno v Steamboat match was easily the best thing on the show. They were given a good amount of time and produced a match that proves they're ready for bigger and better things. That Steamboat won with a desperation small package leaves plenty of room for their feud to continue. A rematch or two would be most welcome.

Opening moments

Tweet 1: NXTweet.
Tweet 2: Starting with a Kassius Ohno video package. Strong.
Tweet 3: In the land of NXT the kravat is a finisher. A deadly finisher.
Tweet 4: Here's Byron 'Joey Styles' Saxton welcoming us to the show. I'm half expecting Cyrus to interrupt. #Network

Bo Dallas v Michael McGillicutty

Tweet 5: Michael McGillicutty's entrance music sounds like the theme tune to an American teen drama.
Tweet 6: Bo Dallas's isn't much better...
Tweet 7: The grandfathers of these two fought each other in the territories and now here they are battling away on... um... NXT.
Tweet 8: I want McGillicutty to wear a singlet and use the Perfectplex.
Tweet 9: If this match were on RAW the commentators would be talking about the latest GM-centric storyline.
Tweet 10: McGillicutty wins what was a pretty generic match with a neckbreaker. I am unencumbered by enthusiasm.
Tweet 11: Right. The commentary team is saying that McGillicutty could be the man to beat Rollins. That means he won't be.

Paige video package

Tweet 12: Paige with her dulcet East Midlands tones there.

Jake Carter v Leo Kruger

Tweet 13: Jake Carter looks like a dapper young lad. Lucky for him he doesn't resemble his dad... #itsCartertime
Tweet 14: Entering in a denim jacket is weird. That'd not going to get him to the heady heights of Monday Night RAW.
Tweet 15: I hope Leo Kruger does his racist Indian accent again this week. It was a highlight of the show last week.
Tweet 16: Leo Kruger's new gimmick reminds me of the Bushwhackers. Don't ask why. I don't know.
Tweet 17: 'Sheepherder' Leo Kruger.
Tweet 18: What this match needs is a Mark Henry waddle-in. NXT is the perfect place for his comeback.
Tweet 19: "The impact to the face will knock any man out" - William Regal on a move that is directed at the back of the neck

Ryback v Aiden English and Francis Rene Dorian

Tweet 20: It doesn't bode well for your wrestling show when Ryback is one of the in-ring highlights.
Tweet 21: I want him to cut one of his Ultimate Warrior style promos after the match.
Tweet 22: Aiden English and Francis Rene Dorian are, according to Regal, this week's designated jobbers.
Tweet 23: #singletbotch
Tweet 24: "Stan Hansen lariat!" - William Regal
Tweet 25: "He's just going to have his way with everybody" - William Regal, possibly implying that Ryback is a serial rapist

Kassius Ohno v Richie Steamboat

Tweet 26: It's Kassius... OHNO!!
Tweet 27: Richie Steamboat has engaged Shouty Babyface Mode.
Tweet 28: The crowd's support is split. If I were there I'd be cheering for Ohno. #heelsdoitbetter
Tweet 29: Look at this referee! Actually look at him! He looks like a creepy little goblin with pastey skin.

Strange looking referee, no?

Tweet 30: Steamboat is no-selling those chops like a trooper.
Tweet 31: Steamboat goes over by small package. Great match. Best I've seen from Junior Dragon. Best I've seen from Ohno since he left ROH.
Tweet 32: And now Ohno is ramping up his heel heat by applying a post-match kravat!
Tweet 33: "Ohno has lost his mind!" - Byron Saxton on a man applying a generic rest hold

Wednesday 26 September 2012

The Odd Couple

What started life as a fairly bland mid-card feud that felt like a waste of one of WWE's hottest acts has morphed into one of wrestling's most entertaining tag teams. Kane and Daniel Bryan are easily the best pairing currently at WWE's disposal and are the right choice to spearhead what appears to be a resurgence in the league's dismal doubles scene.
I've written about the state of tag team wrestling in WWE several times before. I've even been caught out and heralded a bright new dawn that's turned to be an overcast dusk at least once. The reason I think things may be different this time is that Bryan and Kane (dubbed Team Hell No on Monday's RAW) have not been picked out by the writers as the new lead team. They've been picked out by the fans.

The two have quickly developed an easy and entertaining rapport that's just as enjoyable in their backstage anger management skits as it is when they're bickering in the ring. Their cries of "I'm the tag team champions", while grammatically incorrect, make them perfectly suited to interacting with audiences. The same is true of the various cries of "Yes!" and "No!" directed at 'D-Bryan'.

One of these guys is the tag team champions... But which?
It's not just Team Hell No that has created hope for the WWE tag straps. The pairing of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow on last Friday's SmackDown originally appeared to be a one night storyline designed to give the champs some heel opponents. Monday's RAW revealed that the two will work as a tag team for the foreseeable future. After attacking the champions Rhodes revealed he and Sandow will be known as the Rhodes Scholars. WWE wouldn't have bothered concocting a team name for them if they had no intention of keeping them paired up.
The creation of the Rhodes Scholars is a good move. 'The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses' has gotten over to a far greater extent than the company originally expected. With nothing in the works for him as a singles competitor putting him into a tag team means he will still be kept relevancy but means there is no need to elevate him immediately. It's good for the former 'Dashing One' too: he'd been floundering since losing the Intercontinental title to Christian at Over The Limit. Both should benefit from working with the popular and talented tag champions.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara have been put together as a unit in recent weeks. Apparently the long term plan is to have one turn on the other in time for a match at WrestleMania XXIX. Until a few weeks ago they looked like the favourites to defeat the Prime Time Players for the tag gold, who in turn seemed like the favourites to topple Kofi Kingston and R-Truth. Both the masked pair and the PTPs could be considered threats to the current strap holders, with Young and O'Neil being particularly notable due to the fact that WWE have been pushing them steadily up the card for months.
There are a very healthy number of entertaining units elsewhere on the roster. The Usos and Epico and Primo (who really need some sort of collective noun) are both very good teams while the combo of Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd could produce some electric matches if given the chance.

Hunico and Camacho could be given more screen time to fatten up the doubles ranks and The Ascension are more than ready to be called up from NXT. Finally, the recently formed group consisting of Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre could be an interesting factor in tag team competition if they're kept together long enough.
Bryan and Kane are not a team that will sit on top of the company's tag team division for years. They should be good for a few months though. If WWE are smart they'll use this time to get some successors established for the inevitable Team Hell No split. For now the future looks bright, and unpredictable for WWE's tag team division. That, to quote Diamond Dallas Page, is a good thing.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Registering a Complaint

Are we supposed to like or loathe CM Punk? Thanks to WWE's confusing booking policies it's not clear.
'The Voice of the Voiceless' kicked off RAW by complaining about incompetent officiating and the General Manager being out to get him. While protesting and kicking up a fuss is the act of a bad guy Punk's character has been doing this to the sound of cheers since last year. Complaining is what instigated his face turn.
He also happens to be right. The referee did miss the champ's foot being on the ropes in his tag match against John Cena and Sheamus. AJ's response was to laugh about it. That's not what an unbiased GM would do. Punk appears as the wronged babyface (despite supposedly being a heel) and AJ looks like the villainous authority figure out to screw him.
It's a doubly disappointing situation when you remember how hot an act AJ was just three months ago. WWE have certainly blown that haven't they?
The whacky booking of Punk continued during RAW's final segment. After delivering a by-the-numbers speech demanding that the injured John Cena vacate the ring Punk turned his back on 'The CeNation Leader' (presumably in disgust). Cena then lamped Punk with a lead pipe to send him scampering backstage.
Yes, the heel champion was assaulted from behind, with a weapon, by his allegedly honourable babyface rival. It's another confusing use of Punk and a muddying of the waters with regards to his ongoing programme with Cena. Why should we dislike a guy who's been wronged and demands justice? More to the point why should we support a man who chooses to smash people in the back with lead pipes? Cena gets a mixed reception as it is. This isn't going to help.
Where WWE did get it right with Punk on RAW was in his segment with Mick Foley. 'The Hardcore Legend' emphasised the importance of a Hell in a Cell clash between Cena and Punk, stating it would be of significance to the champion's legacy. That was important because we've seen them face off so many times before, including in the HIAC (alongside Alberto Del Rio at last year's show).

CM Punk reminds Mick Foley who the WWE champion is
Foley also managed to paint Punk in a negative light without harming his character or credibility. It was a commendable performance that enhanced Punk's status as a bad guy and briefly got him the reaction he's meant to get all the time.
WWE need to start booking Punk consistently as a villain. If they want him to hear boos then the audience can't be given reasons to empathise with him. He can't be the lead bad guy the company needs and wants until this situation is rectified.

Sunday 23 September 2012

SmackTalk 21.09.12

Any show that sees Bryan 'Daniel Bryan' Danielson wrestle twice can't be all bad. This week's SmackDown saw just that happen, with Bryan tackling Cody Rhodes in a singles match before teaming up with tag team championship partner Kane to face Rhodes and Damien Sandow.
Predictably both matches were very good although they suffered from mildly disappointing finishes. Kane's pyro distracted 'Goatface' while he was trying to apply the No Lock, allowing Dusty junior to recover and connect with the match-winning Cross Rhodes. This was done to even the score after Bryan had cost Kane his show-opening singles clash with 'The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses'.
The main event tag battle saw Bryan and Kane survive the (non-title) challenge of the heels with the Usos, Gabriel and Kidd, and the Prime Time Players stationed at ringside as lumberjacks. Post-match the champs obliterated the four other tandems. This shouldn't have done WWE's pedestrian doubles division any but somehow it did. By having Kane and Bryan bicker throughout the show they were shown to have vulnerability as a unit, while their battering of the other teams gives a clear motivation for rematches in the near future.
I was surprised Epico and Primo we're excused from lumberjack duty. Perhaps Rosa Mendes was unavailable for the taping. Omitting former champions R-Truth and Kofi Kingston was a smart move though. They need to be kept strong in case fans sour on the Bryan and Kane act and the titles need to be switched in a hurry.
The Divas division was given a glimmer of hope when an actual, proper feud was hinted at. New champion Eve was stationed at ringside for the (frankly embarrassing) match between Natalya and Layla, with the previous champion clearly not being ready to overlook her "shocking" loss of the title.
While Layla has been an utter bore since returning from injury in April Eve has proven to be one of the best female performers at WWE's disposal. I'm convinced that she could create interest in a programme with anyone on the roster, even someone as tedious as the former LayCool member. The prospect of a series between Eve and Kaitlyn, a woman with solid ring skills, a fair amount of personality, and a proven ability to connect with fans, is something I'm looking forward to also.
Unfortunately I can't say I hold the same amount if hope for the split between Antonio Cesaro and Aksana. Pairing 'The Swiss Superman' with her helped him to stand out as a heel act and also have the limited Diva something to do. I'll reserve full judgement until we see where it's going but right now it feels like a mistake. It's entirely possible they will reunite in the near future.
Something that raised my interest, and provided a genuine surprise (rare in 2012 WWE) was the beatdown of Brodus Clay by Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal. Teaming three dregs such as these is likely an experiment. It'll be interesting to see whether they're given a genuine chance to succeed. I believe that factions are a good way of using lower-card guys such as these so I hope this proves a success. If it leads to 'The Funkasaurus' recruiting a gang of his own (perhaps Zack Ryder and Santino) then so much the better. 'The One Man Rock Band' in particular deserves a higher spot on the card.

Why didn't Cameron and Naomi make the save?
Amazingly the show featured yet another clash between Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. Their bout at Night of Champions, which saw 'The Celtic Warrior' down 'The Essence of Excellence’ for the third pay-per-view in a row, felt like the natural end to their programme. You know, that programme that hasn't delivered any memorable matches and has been going since April. Their tag outing alongside Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton was decent enough but it was a far cry from feeling fresh. WWE desperately needs to elevate some new acts to avoid these constant reruns.
I assume the ADR and 'Great White' will clash again at Hell in a Cell. I've been advocating new opponents for both men for months now but at least a Hell in a Cell clash would provide a fitting end to their lengthy run together. I always feel the super cage is best employed to end lengthy rivalries, which is certainly what the WHC combatants have had.
Finally, it was great to see Edge again. While his appearance didn't achieve a great deal and didn't appear to happen for any particular reason it was nice to see him. His interactions with both Kane and Daniel Bryan got the show-long storyline off to a nice start. It did make me wish we'd seen a series between Bryan and 'The Rated R Superstar'. Sadly, we never will.

Edge promo, featuring Daniel Bryan, Kane and Damien Sandow

Tweet 1: Josh Mathews provides us with a particularly banal opening statement. I can't even be bothered to type it for you all.
Tweet 2: Take my word for it. It was bad.
Tweet 3: Nice to see Edge. One of my favourite wrestlers ever. That said I have realistic expectations for this opening promo.

No gimmick shirt for Edge. He wears his own gear

Tweet 4: Bryan and Kane are a great act. Good use of a long running act and a nice way of keepign Bryan hot without a world title.
Tweet 5: Bryan and Edge promo time. They could have had a GREAT series of matches if Edge hadn't had to retire.
Tweet 6: Daniel Bryan: fan of pronouns.
Tweet 7: Rare acknowledgement of an old storyline there.
Tweet 8: They've not explained why Edge is on the show. It doesn't matter. Anything makes a change from the regular opening Sheamus promo.
Tweet 9: I remember all of those Edge v Kane feuds. None were good.
Tweet 10: #threewayhug
Tweet 11: Sandow is another nice deviation from the norm.
Tweet 12: "I am a thinking man, I do not resort to measures of physical means, thank you" - Damien Sandow

Kane v Damien Sandow

Tweet 13: And now the show (or serial as Sandow refers to it) has morphed into a match between Sandow and Kane. How exciting!
Tweet 14: Damien Sandow is clearly a fan of the Russian dissident look.
Tweet 15: Sandow has pinned Kane, but in such a way that he is not really elevated. Good work, writing team!
Tweet 16: As wrestling monikers go 'Mexican Aristocrat' leaves a lot to be desired.

Kane, Daniel Bryan and Dr Shelby backstage

Tweet 17: Dr Shelby! Awesomes.
Tweet 18: They might as well stop this vignette. Bryan hiding in a bin cannot be topped.
Tweet 19: Cole and Mathews have matching hair. How sweet.
Tweet 20: The Del Rio v Sheamus feud is STILL rumbling on? Please stop it. Please.

Layla v Natalya

Tweet 21: The Divas title being on Eve is promising. She's one of the few women on the roster with an actual character.
Tweet 22: Layla's reign, which lasted around five months, is completely unmemorable.
Tweet 23: "Nice shoulders" - Michael Cole, perhaps waking from an Alan Partridge-esque daydream

Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler v Sheamus and Randy Orton

Tweet 24: Ricardo Rodriguez, not satisfied with stealing Joel Gertner's personal ring announcer gimmick, has also taken to wearing a neck brace.
Tweet 25: Albertoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Delllllllllll Riiiiiiiiiooooooooooooo!!
Tweet 26: Those red leggings aren't doing Vickie any favours are they?
Tweet 27: The kid in the (dated) CM Punk T-shirt is not a fan of Dolph Ziggler. That 'The Show Off' doesn't appeal to kids makes me a bigger fan.
Tweet 28: Orton is standing on the pink rope. In a way he is standing on WWE's efforts to fight cancer.
Tweet 30: When did the tag rope become a regular feature of WWE matches? I don't like them. It wasn't used rigidly when I first started watching.
Tweet 31: Orton gets tagged in and immediately gets his team back on track. If WWE wants to get Sheamus over as lead face the roles should be reversed.
Tweet 32: Ah, here we are. The heels are in charge again. Orton will eventually make the hot tag to 'Great White'.
Tweet 33: Orton and Sheamus victory, now with added post-match hug.

Cody Rhodes v Daniel Bryan

Tweet 34: No... No... No... No... No... No...
Tweet 35: Cody is looking particularly orange this week.
Tweet 36: Bryan's being booked as a face now. I like that. Should have happened months ago. The next step is for him to embrace the "Yes!" chants.
Tweet 37: Kane looks like Al Bundy.

Not a happy camper...

Kane, Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow backstage

Tweet 38: "You belong in a petting zoo!" - Kane to Daniel Bryan
Tweet 39: I wonder what Sandow and Rhodes were discussing. Tanning tips? Ring robes? Pros and cons of facial hair for wrestlers? Endless possibilities.

Heath Slater v Brodus Clay

Tweet 40: How is this gimmick not stale yet?
Tweet 41: Heath Slater is a 21st century version of the Honky Tonk Man. They should bring Honky in as his manager.
Tweet 42: Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal have interfered in the match, perhaps hinting at a new incarnation of the JOB Squad.
Tweet 43: "I didn't know they knew each other" - Michael Cole on three men who share a locker room
Tweet 44: Was this premeditated, Michael? Clearly it was. Your questions are stupid.

Antonio Cesaro v Santino

Tweet 45: Antonio Cesaro... Heeeey!!
Tweet 46: Cesaro's "new" entrance music has grown on me. It suits him better than his old track did.
Tweet 47: Cole seems to think Cesaro visting all fifty states as US champion is likely. When was the last time WWE put on a show in Alaska?
Tweet 48: Q: How does losing to Santino help Cesaro? A: It doesn't.
Tweet 49: Cesaro has rid himself of the dead wood that is Aksana. Maybe he'll bring in Sara Del Rey in her place.

Kane and Daniel Bryan v Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes

Tweet 50: WWE are trying to fool us into thinking they have a tag team division by placing three units at ringside. LOL much?
Tweet 51: Why aren't Kofi Kingston and R-Truth lumberjacks?
Tweet 52: Epico and Primo have been snubbed too. It would have been nice to see them... Mainly for Rosa Mendes I admit.
Tweet 53: Chair one-upmanship is soooooooo PG.
Tweet 54: Bryan and Kane just jobbed out three other tag teams. WWE will probably book a four-way between them all at Hell in a Cell.

Friday 21 September 2012

NXTweet 19.09.12

Why Rick Victor was chosen as an opponent for new NXT champion Seth Rollins I cannot say. He looks like an enhancement talent from the days of Heat and Velocity. While Rollins is clearly destined for the bright lights of the WWE roster at some point Victor is not.
The first man to try to make a name on the new champ should have been someone with an equally dazzling future. Associating Rollins with a guy sporting a dated look and working such an uninspiring style does him no favours at all.
Had Victor been made to look like a potential star by the encounter then I'd understand the decision but that wasn't the case. The match wasn't bad but it wasn't especially good either. It stank of mediocrity. Importantly it was not the sort of bout we've come to expect from Rollins. As the league's figurehead he should be moving forward with dynamic encounters every week.
There was some enjoyment to be found in the match. As I mentioned above it wasn't bad, and the nonsense about Victor being the last graduate of the Hart family dungeon (an accolade also given to Tyson Kidd before now) was amusing. The crowd seemed lively enough and JR was on commentary so at least there was a good atmosphere. The wrist biting gimmick was gold too.
The highlight of the show for me was the brief Kassius Ohno outing. His two wins, both via kravat, over a random jobber showed how good he is despite not lasting long. I can't write enough that Ohno should be KOing guys on the main roster rather than ploughing through nobodies on NXT. Still, we have his showdown with Richie Steamboat to look forward to. I expect that to be very enjoyable considering how good both men are.
Finally I feel I should mention Trent Barreta. He returned to action after six months recovering from injury. While I'm not one of the (seemingly many) people that think Barreta is tremendous and deserving of an upper mid-card spot I do appreciate he's sound in the ring (and wears good tights). WWE should be making use of guys with any level of popularity. That includes Barreta. It was nice to see him back and I hope he's put to good use.

Opening credits

Tweet 1: NXTweet.
Tweet 2: Someone mentioned the other day that Byron Saxton sounds like Joey Styles. I hadn't noticed before. I'm hearing it immediately now.
Tweet 3: Rollins v Rick Victor. Um... Wow?

Johnny Curtis v Trent Barreta

Tweet 4: Oh hey, Trent Barreta.
Tweet 5: The once promising Johnny Curtis there. I wish they'd used him properly on the main roster.
Tweet 6: Trent looks very skinny. I'm sure he's big compared to average guys but in WWE he's going to struggle to make an impact.

Nice to see this dude back

Tweet 7: Curtis using the AA there.
Tweet 8: Clumsy sunset flip. I didn't notice it the first time it was shown. I think that proves that replays aren't always a good thing.
Tweet 9: More wrestlers should wear tights like Barreta's.
Tweet 10: Barreta's winning move looked like a Sick Kick. Is he secretly a member of the House of Truth?
Tweet 11: Judging by that graphic Alicia Fox doesn't have a problem with fur.

Alicia Fox v Paige

Tweet 12: Why is Paige so over with the NXT crowd? #notcomplaining #justsaying
Tweet 13: I don't like this ref. He's shifty.
Tweet 14: I think Fox just botched an uppercut. At least I think it was an uppercut. I'm not sure. It was THAT bad.
Tweet 15: I wish ECW Cyber Slam '00 was online. I think Saxton's voice has made me think of that.
Tweet 16: "Alicia Fox is top notch" - William Regal

Conor O’Brian v Jimmy Uso

Tweet 17: My laptop has just started showing Game of Thrones. Oh wait... hang on. It's just The Ascension.
Tweet 18: Conor O'Brian looks like a cross between a ferret and a goblin.
Tweet 19: How can a tag team have an enforcer, Byron? A stable, sure, but not a tag team. Fool.
Tweet 20: Another win via kick to the face? This is shoddy booking.
Tweet 21: They don't do it quite as well as The Eliminators used to be I like The Ascension using Total Elimination. It's a good, believable finish.

Michael McGillicutty interrupts the pontifications of Bo Dallas

Tweet 22: Briley Pierce looks familiar... #Dolphsbrother
Tweet 23: Michael McGillicutty didn't display much conviction during that promo interruption.

Kassius Ohno v Oliver Grey

Tweet 24: It's Kassius... OHNO!!
Tweet 25: This was billed as a sparring session but it's just a regular match.
Tweet 26: Johnny Saint reference.
Tweet 27: Ohno wins by kravat. Little nod to fans of a guy named Chris Hero there...
Tweet 28: Chris H... Sorry, Kassius Ohno wins again with the kravat. And now here's valiant babyface Richie Steamboat.
Tweet 29: I'm looking forward to the inevitable Ohno v Steamboat match.

Leo Kruger vignette

Tweet 30: It sounds like Leo Kruger is doing a very bad (and very racist) Indian accent.
Tweet 31: "Tata" - Leo Kruger

Rick Victor v Seth Rollins

Tweet 32: Rick Victor looks like he belongs on Velocity.
Tweet 33: You know you're watching an NXT main event when you hear Jim Ross.
Tweet 34: Rick Victor was the last graduate of the dungeon? I thought that was Tyson Kidd.
Tweet 35: Guys will be debuting in twenty years and be claiming they've been trained in the Hart dungeon.
Tweet 36: Young boys is trending. #puroresu
Tweet 37: Rick Victor biting his own wrists there. He wants Kruger's madman gimmick.
Tweet 38: "This guy's obviously very talented or he wouldn't be on NXT" - JR, with a comment that doesn't make too much sense if you think about it
Tweet 39: Rollins loves to fight. Like Finlay.
Tweet 40: Rollins gets the predictable win with a Black Out. I'm slightly disappointed by that match. Rollins is usually far better.

Thursday 20 September 2012

The Rare Sell

John Cena is injured. It was originally reported, by WWE’s official website, that ‘The CeNation Leader’ would miss between two and three weeks of action. While this was an irritation it wasn’t catastrophic. Such a short amount of time off would have allowed Cena to be back on TV in plenty of time to hype a clash with WWE CM Punk at Hell in a Cell on October 28th.

Unfortunately the two to three week timeframe was corrected by Cena himself via Twitter. The former ten time WWE champion mentioned that he had discussed the matter with surgeon Dr James Andrews and had been informed would be more like six to eight weeks. He then stated that the website should check their facts, which was nice to see because WWE wrestlers are usually very quick to attack “dirt sheets” for getting things wrong.
While there's never a good time for a wrestler to get injured there is a positive note here: Cena won't miss WrestleMania. Whether he has to take off two weeks or eight WWE's biggest star will be back in plenty of time for the biggest wrestling event of 2013.
Hell in a Cell is five and a half weeks away. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that Cena has just enough time to make a superhuman comeback and wrestle at the event. He’s returned quickly from injuries before and his character is synonymous with no-selling.

Hopefully Cena's new T-shirt will continue to sell even though he's missing ring time. It's still for a good cause

Realistically it’s not going to happen. Even if Cena is fully recuperated by October 28th WWE won’t be sure of his condition one way or the other until it’s too late. They still have to announce and hype a WWE title match for the event. They cannot wait until the week before in the hope that Cena will be capable of wrestling. Even if they could guarantee that he would be ready to wrestle it would risk Cena (and Punk’s) safety for him to wrestle a match as gruelling as Hell in a Cell just after surgery.
It's lucky for WWE that this injury has occurred during a six week pay-per-view gaps. Had it happened during one of their (ridiculous) two or three week interludes then it would have been that much tougher to decide upon and promote a new headline attraction.
WWE has a show to promote, with or without John Cena. CM Punk, as WWE champion and the biggest active star will still be the man to main event the show. He needs a new opponent though. Because of their well-established over-reliance on merch machine Cena the company finds itself in a tight spot in this regard.

An emergency face turn and programme with Punk could be organised for The Miz. It doesn't seem likely though. It would be a rush job and Monday's RAW made it clear he's heading toward a showdown with Ryback.
There's a chance Rey Mysterio could be picked as a placeholder opponent. He has good chemistry with 'The Second City Saint' and has the credibility to headline a supercard. There are problems again though. Like Miz, Mysterio also has a storyline brewing, in this case with Sin Cara (and possibly the Prime Time Players). I also don't think Punk and Mysterio, known for fast-paced, technical matches with one another, would be right for a cage collision.
The obvious candidate to challenge CM Punk is Randy Orton. The two have worked some highly enjoyable bouts together and as far as main event pairings in WWE go a clash between them would feel relatively fresh (they haven't had a PPV match since Extreme Rules 2011).
'The Viper' is WWE's only realistic option for pitting against the WWE champion. He has the auraand status to be a worthy challenger to Punk and contribute to the legacy of the Hell in a Cell. It would mean placing his programme with Dolph Ziggler on hold but that's not necessarily a bad thing. 'The Show Off' could just as easily face big bad Randy at Survivor Series as HIAC. In fact tackling 'The Apex Predator' on the latter event could help both the aspiring headliner and the standing of the Survivors Series show in the long run.
While Cena won't be wrestling for the next month or two that doesn't mean he'll be absent from television. If he does manage to get medically cleared in time there’s always the option of adding him to Punk’s match as a special referee. That would serve to keep their programme alive going into Survivor Series.

Cena is expected to keep appearing on RAW while rehabbing. With a tender arm it’s unlikely he’ll be getting involved in physical angles but he should be fine to do a weekly promo. An interesting option open to the company is to have Cena replace Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler on commentary for a few weeks. He doesn’t have any experience calling a three hour live show but he would be able to provide an insight into the action and could follow the lead of headset veteran Michael Cole. Jim Ross could be called into to lessen the pressure.

Whatever happens between now and Hell in a Cell I’m sure Cena will continue making regular appearances on RAW and will resume his feud with Punk as soon as he is physically able. WWE’s biggest concern should be finding a worthy challenger to Punk. Respect the champion and all that.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Aces High

The Aces and Eights faction has been appearing on TNA programming for a couple of months now but the group’s roster still remains a mystery. While it’s known that Luke Gallows, D’Lo Brown, Wes Brisco, Mike Knox and Chris Masters have all appeared as members of the group under masks it is not known whether they will be revealed as actual members of the gang when the inevitable unmasking comes. Who will have their faces shown as A&E members has been as much of a talking point as what the gang’s motives are.

The fact that so many of the men confirmed to have been on run-in duty for the group are former WWE performers could be indicative. Perhaps the group will be comprised exclusively of former WWE wrestlers who feel they should have been offered jobs by TNA. Perhaps they will be presented as men desperate for work, who have hit rock bottom and see joining the Aces and Eights as their only viable option.

Perhaps it’s simply a coincidence that TNA have used so many former WWE wrestlers so far. Or perhaps it has been a deliberate attempt to lead so-called smart fans down the wrong path.

Personally I think that when the group’s members do start getting revealed we will be seeing a number of ex-WWE guys in the ranks. All the men listed above (with the exception of road agent D’Lo Brown) would work well as part of a large heel faction where their duties mostly consist of running interference or work multi-man outings. I could see any of them being revealed as members.

It’s possible Matt Morgan will be revealed as an Aces and Eights man. A few months ago it looked as though ‘The Blueprint’ was leaving TNA and heading back to WWE. His surprise appearances at last weekend’s TNA house shows indicate he has opted to ink a new deal to stay in the IMPACT Zone.

The likeliest reason for Morgan’s return, after being very outspoken about wanting to jump to WWE, is that his former employer aren’t hiring talent recently affiliated with TNA right now (due to an ongoing legal battle between the groups). Being unable to make the move he wanted will have restricted his options.

It’s too early in the Morgan storyline to determine exactly what’s going on but membership of A&E is an option. Of course it’s equally possible he’ll be a pro TNA babyface that works hard to protect the company against the gang.
Who's under these masks, eh?
There are other former WWE stars that could pop up in the group too. DH Smith and Cliff ‘Domino’ Compton spring immediately to mind. TNA’s previous form of loading up on former employees of Vince McMahon is what makes me think we’re going to see the ranks swelled by sports entertainers.

The question of leadership is another interesting point. For a while it was rumoured Sting would be revealed as the A&E mastermind. Thankfully that is looking increasingly unlikely. Not only has ‘The Stinger’ been attacked by the group himself but it wouldn’t have been sense for him to be part of the group. What would he have been gaining from it?

In my mind there are four potential leaders. The first, and probably most unlikely, is Mr Anderson. ‘The Asshole’ has been given nothing of interest to do for almost a year and is currently at a loose end after his token inclusion in the Bound for Glory series predictably ended in failure. Maybe he formed the Aces and Eights faction in order to help him take out the competition and regain the TNA world title.

Bully Ray is another potential leader. What I like about ‘Calfzilla’s’ chances of being revealed as the group’s leader is that he’s recently been teasing a face turn. If he were to be announced as the leader of the heel unit that’s been plaguing TNA for months it would make any fans who had cheered and supported him feel foolish, something the Bully character would revel in reminding them of in promos.

The man most people think will be the group’s head is Jeff Jarrett. He has been absent from TNA since late last year, overseeing the company’s Indian Ring Ka King endeavour and various other projects. ‘The King of the Mountain’s’ return would freshen up the headline picture somewhat and provide the group with a good mouthpiece and credible centrepiece, but it wouldn’t exactly be a surprising move.

The other option I can see is Eric Bischoff. ‘Easy E’ has been absent from TNA screens since April and while I’m sure most other fans would agree with me in saying that there’s no need for him to hurry back I can imagine he and the rest of the promotion’s creative department are keen for him to resume TV duties. He would be slightly more surprising than Jarrett in the role, but he would just be doing the same thing he always does: acting as a heel spokesperson. If that’s what the group are getting then at the very least somebody new should be given a crack at the role.

I hope that whoever is revealed as the group’s leader is a surprise and there’s a logical plan in place to build on it. The worst thing TNA could do after working so hard to get the unit over would be to provide an inadequate leader, roster and goal for the group. It needs to be something more than a big name wrestler returning to become champion and “take over” the company.

Of course, the biggest mystery regarding the group is why they’ve chosen Aces and Eights as their name. This being TNA we may never get an answer to that.

Monday 17 September 2012

Good Friends, Better Enemies

After an enforced summer break from ROH the amazingly over TJ Perkins returned to the company at the August 3rd TV taping. His more than welcome return has proven short lived though: he worked a dark match try out before last Thursday's live IMPACT (which is said to have gone very well). ROH have responded by announcing the release of TJP from his contract. Ring of Honor's loss is definitely TNA's gain.
The question, of course, is how did this come to pass. Perkins had gotten over in ROH despite being used sparingly and losing most of his matches. He is the sort of talent that Ring of Honor desperately needs: popular, talented, and capable of getting over based on their ring work. He would have been a good choice to build the company around.
It's not the first time this year that ROH has lost a talented member of its roster to TNA. Kenny King controversially jumped ship over the summer while recognised as one half of the ROH tag champs (along with Rhett Titus). ‘The Pretty Boy Pitbull’ has enjoyed matches on pay-per-view and a TV show seen by a wider audience than ROH’s SBG show, and has been featured as part of the (short-lived) revamped X Division.
Going a little further back Austin Aries opted to leave ROH in August 2010 as a protest against the then-new creative direction. After making some appearances for various indies, including old boss Gabe Sapolsky’s Dragon Gate, and trying out for WWE's Tough Enough revival 'The Greatest Man That Ever Lived' agreed to a deal with TNA.

Since last June ‘A Double’ has shared the ring with some of the company's top talent, become the longest reigning X Division champion in history, and won the world championship. His success has to serve as hope for anyone else considering joining the league. It proves that if you work hard in TNA you can rise to the top.

You won't be seeing this guy in ROH anytime soon... not that that makes a change
TNA has become a more appealing prospect to wrestlers for various reasons. The success of Aries is one. Its international television deals, larger and younger roster, and better pay are others. Ring of Honor's stodgy booking, increasing reliance on veterans and former WWE stars, and low pay can't be filling talent (on the roster or off) with confidence.
More bad news for Ring of Honor management is that one of their biggest stars, Davey Richards, has indicated that he can't see himself staying with the group after August 2013 (when his current contract expires). 'The American Wolf' is training for a career as a medical worker and has stated that next year he will either seek full-time employment utilising his new qualification and perhaps appear on occasional tours for New Japan Pro Wrestling or gauge interest from WWE and TNA.

While I think WWE would only be interested in Richards if they had a cruiserweight show up and running on the WWE Network (which is looking increasingly unlikely) TNA would almost certainly be interested in him for a spot in the X Division. That Richards, once a staunch advocate of Ring of Honor, is openly discussing moving to TNA or WWE with a year left on his current deal should tell his employer that they’re getting something wrong somewhere.
With its roster currently depleted and there being no sign of fresh talent on the horizon one option open to ROH is to start a women's division. The recent TNA departures of Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, and Winter (plus the fact that Sarita hasn't appeared for the company in around five months) has seen the Knockouts division, once something the group prioritised, crumble.

ROH could sign these women plus two or three others and get a division running. It would be something to help to set them apart from WWE and TNA. They already have Maria Kanelis and Mia Yim under contract. That's a good start.
Despite gaining access to the likes of King and Perkins (who still hasn't officially signed with TNA at time of writing) TNA's X Division still leaves something to be desired. While bringing in someone like Davey Richards would improve matters it's not an option available to them until this time next year. Something that would benefit both promotions would be a talent sharing agreement of some sort. ROH tried setting something up with the EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA groups a few months ago but nothing could be finalised. Perhaps they should talk with TNA instead.
It's a deal that would benefit both groups if handled correctly. The majority of the Ring of Honor roster would slot nicely into the X Division and would help to restore it to its former glory. The likes of Eddie Edwards, Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Mike Bennett would inject some much needed freshness. Meanwhile having AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels, and perhaps even Kurt Angle appearing at ROH's untelevised events would help attract more fans, who could then be won over and turned into regulars by the performances of the rest of the roster (at least in theory).
Perhaps that's wishful thinking. It's what both parties should aim for if talks started though. It would be a lot easier to agree to terms similar to these if on-screen acknowledgement occurred on both sides. An invasion angle would seem old hat (especially because of the current Aces and Eights angle in TNA and Ring of Honor’s recent crossover with CHIKARA) but an announced talent sharing programme that grows into something bigger could be fresh and exciting, not to mention reinvigorate the rosters of both organisations.