Saturday 31 May 2014

NXT Takeover review

Three months into the WWE Network Era and we already have our second live NXT special. Perhaps someone in WWE realised NXT is their most consistent and enjoyable weekly programme and decided to treat us. More likely it was simply felt that the NXT stars warranted another live airing. Whatever the reason it was certainly welcome.

The commentary team for the evening consisted of Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and William Regal. It was a relief not to have Alex Riley clogging things up with his insipid comments. And I wasn’t sad that Jason Albert (formerly gaijin warlord Tensai) was sitting things out either. He’s far easier to take in the role than A-Ry but he’s still not close to being amongst WWE’s verbal elite.

Before I talk about the wrestling I’d like to mention William Regal. He’s always entertaining and knowledgable when providing commentary but he was particularly good here. He continually and tirelessly put over the efforts of all performers on the card, enhancing everyone with his comments and pushing NXT as the important part of the WWE machine it is. Particularly good was his commentary during the main event, during which he discussed British wrestling and the difficulties of making a name for oneself in the US as a foreign star

And he danced to Rusev’s music. The guy can do it all!

The show opened with Adam Rose entering Full Sail through the front door with his Exotic Express in tow. He came through the crowd. That simple little difference and the reaction he got made him look like a star. It’s a pity he’s not been given anything better to do since turning up on RAW because the characters very enjoyable (and is also facing a struggle because it fits better in the smaller NXT Arena than in the cavernous lairs RAWs held in every week.

By contrast Camacho didn't even get to ride out on his tricycle. And he was called a party pooper by the fans. He looked like the bit part player he is.

"Is that a lollipop in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?"
Rose played around for the first minute before Camacho took control. He kept control until the end of their five minutes, at which point Rose hit a spinebuster, an Exotic Express (formerly the heat-magnet-when-performed-by-Sean-Waltman Bronco Buster) and his Ace Crusher DDT for the victory. In this environment Rose is tremendous.

A video package recapped Sami Zayn's feud with Cesaro and how hard he worked to get to WWE. Also mentioned was his personal dislike of Tyler Breeze. Personally I like both guys. It was an effective video package that demonstrated Zayn’s passion for wrestling, as well as the much-vaunted heart and desire that are an integral part of his appeal.

After that ring announcer announced 'Prince Pretty' had entered the building.

And then The Ascension came out. They were loudly cheered, as has become the fashion. It would be nice if WWE made an NXT tag division a priority. Konnor and Viktor are over but they can only go so far without any meaningful opposition. People like them squashing jobbers, but it won’t do them any favours in the long term.

Challengers Kalisto and EL Local (the masked identity of ring announcer extraordinaire Ricardo Rodriguez) jumped the champions before the bell, sending them to the outside of the ring. A pair of suicide dives were met with elbows. That put things in the champions' favour and things stayed that way for a few minutes. Kalisto was kept in the ring for a while. He mostly took clotheslines and punches but there was a fair bit of getting rammed into turnbuckles too.

The Legion of Ascension.
Eventually he tagged in El Ricardo. That sparked off a frenetic sequence involving all four. It didn't take long for The Ascension to isolate Local and drop him with Fall of Man for another successful title defence.

Tyler Breeze was shown in the back looking from a phone to a mirror and back again. Just in case it wasn’t clear from his general gimmick that he’s a narcissist, presumably. A video about him was shown. It was far more gimmicky than Zayn's, because Breeze is more of a wrestling character than an extension of a real life personality. That said they did have Breeze say that being pretty isn't all he can do. For the record Breeze is still doing his Zoolander voice all the time. And it's still fun.

Zayn v Breeze followed that. It was a number one contendership match. The winner would progress to a match against the winner of the NXT championship main event. ‘Prince Pretty’ debuted new music. It featured the line “Part man but all model” and was as great as that should imply.

They wrestled. For fifteen minutes. Non-stop. It was pretty great. After starting out with some counter wrestling they got the story underway: Breeze shoved Zayn off the top rope to the floor, which put Zayn on the back foot and played into his recent (storyline) concussion trouble. After Breeze had controlled the pace for a bit the pair broke into the big spots.

Zayn v Breeze: match of the night.
Highlights there included a sitdown moonsault to the outside by Zayn; Zayn's blue thunder bomb; a high power bomb from the corner by Breeze; an exploder suplex into a turnbuckle from Zayn; a perfect super kick from Breeze, which earned him a scintillating near fall; and a suplex into a blue thunder bomb from Zayn (which was a really convincing false finish). It was ‘The Gorgeous One’ who got the win when he gave Zayn a Beauty Shot after a low blow during a Helluva kick attempt. Regal claimed he was just getting his hands up to protect himself. Phillips didn't seem convinced.

Backstage we saw Bret Hart having a chat with Tyson Kidd and Natalya. I’d like to think he was praising Natty for wearing pink and black and encouraging Kidd to do the same.

Back at ringside Lana strutted out into the entranceway. She introduced Rusev, as she tends to, who came out waving a Russian flag very aggressively. Rusev has, according to Lana, expanded his power across RAW and SmackDown. Putin was shown on the big screen and got booed. That's a great little gimmick. Rusev spoke in Russian then waved his flag like a madman again.

Mojo Rawley, who I still don't see the appeal of, came out and reminded Rusev and 'The Ravishing Russian' they were in America. Babyfaces tend to assume foreigners forget where they are all the time. 'The Hype Man' rushed the ring, got knocked down, and placed in the Steiner Recliner (or, if you prefer, The Accolade). That didn’t satisfy ‘The Ravishing Russian. She had Rusev chuck Mojo out of the ring and placed in the hold on the entrance ramp. Afterwards Rusev did a lot of hilarious fist-shaking. I want that to become a regular part of his act.

The pro-Russian shtick can, in the context of WWE, be ended by only one man. I'll give you a hint: he sells a lot of merch. I still think that could be a significant match at SummerSlam.

Another backstage scene was shown. Charlotte was walking around with her dad. That segued into a video showing the Charlotte v Natalya feud. Natty said she wants to be the best Hart ever and how she's proud to be the first female wrestler of the family. Charlotte said she's improved and keeps improving. The whole thing was given a Harts versus Flairs vibe. That didn't help Charlotte, because she’s nowhere near as charismatic as 'The Nature Boy' and she never will be. It was also inaccurate because the Flairs are not a wrestling dynasty as the Harts are. Only one Flair has achieved anything of note in wrestling, and that’s ‘The Nature Boy’. You can’t get a one man family dynasty, not even if you’re Ric Flair.

Paige strode out to the ring before the women's championship match. She thanked the fans and said the next champion needed to exhibit strength, character and grace. Yes, the NXT women’s champion needs grace. Also, she made the point that holding the NXT belt can lead to bigger things and brought attention to her Divas championship. Talking's not her strong point but she didn’t do too badly. It helps that she’s basically playing a regular woman and so can more easily draw on her personal experience and beliefs.

Charlotte entered to an enjoyable techno ditty featuring samples of the Space Odyssey theme no wrestling fan can hear without thinking of her dad. Flair looked better than he had in years. Natalya got her regular boring music. Bret was wearing jeans. He looked like he’d been sleeping rough. His insistence on hanging on to his raggedy ponytail didn’t help there.

The two were presented as an even match for the most part. Charlotte was the first to enjoy an extended period of control, impressing with her figure four headlock. Natty came back with a snapmare and a dash across Charlotte's neck, which looked dangerous (an indication of how good Natalya is). Charlotte busted out a top rope moonsault. As was usually the case for her dad the move to the top didn't pay off as Natalya rolled out of the way. Still, it was a good move smoothly performed.

The first championship of sixteen?
Natalya locked in a Sharpshooter. Charlotte survived around thirty seconds before rolling through it and applying a figure four (woooooo!). Natty pushed up and reversed the pressure but Charlotte refused to break the hold. Then they slapped each other a bit. Finally Charlotte rolled to the outside and hung off the apron for extra leverage. That prompted referee and noted Flair enthusiast Charles Robinson to break the hold. As an insult to Bret, Charlotte applied the Sharpshooter to Natty, looking right at ‘The Hitman’ as she did so. Natalya promptly countered out of it but wasn't quick enough to avoid a Bow Down to the Queen. That gave ‘The Nature Girl’ the win and the title. It was a very good match. Charlotte in particular was impressive, though that may be because I didn't expect as much from her.

Flair went nuts at ringside (he kept his shoes on luckily) and then the two women hugged in the ring. Ric and Bret shook hands and then congratulated the other's charge. It was a nice moment for all involved and emphasised once again that NXT is the wrestling show, not a storyline show.

The final video of the evening was a look at the build-up to Tyson Kidd versus Adrian Neville for the latter’s NXT championship. Kidd talked about being hungry and wanting to get back to the big time. Neville discussed being undefeated in 2014 and facing a variety of opponents. It was an approach I'd like to see WWE use more: they used wrestling to create a story and made the men relatable through their aspirations within their field.

It was another match that started with counter wrestling. They put a twist on it by casting Tyson as the cocky veteran who was underestimating his foe. This was best shown when he decked Neville with a big elbow shot and ruffled his hair. They exchanged the advantage throughout the match but they never seemed to quite click with one another. It wasn't a bad match, it's just that they set a relatively sedate pace when you consider they're both known for being fast high-fliers.

Neville's still the champion. The belt's still ugly.
Highlights included a big power bomb by Neville; a Russian leg sweep countered from a second rope springboard by Kidd; Neville suplexing Kidd over the top rope and tumbling over with him; and Neville’s match-winning top rope hurricanrana and Red Arrow. One the subject of ‘The Jumping Geordie’s’ repertoire he could do with adding one or two key or setup moves. That would give fans more to react to beyond his (admittedly impressive) corkscrew shooting star.

Kidd hung around in the ring after the match. When Neville had finished celebrating (after about two minutes) he offered a handshake. Kidd barged passed him and walked out. Perhaps he felt irked that it took the champion so long to acknowledge him. If so that’s understandable. If they do a rematch, and I suspect they will, I hope the pair gel better than they did here.

There wasn’t a single duff performance on the show. The forgettable segments (Rose v Camacho and the Rusev beatdown) were inoffensive and there were two very good matches in Charlotte v Natalya and Zayn v Breeze. The main event was a tad siappointing but it was still a decent match. NXT Takeover is not going to go down as WWE’s finest show of the year but it will go down as an enjoyable one. I think that’s good result.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Payback 2014 preview

Another month, another WWE pay-per-view. Or special event. It's not entirely clear what we're meant to call them anymore. They're still available on pay-per-view so that seems safe enough.

This show is an odd one. It was originally going to be headlined be three matches that had, in one form or another, taken place on previous supershow Extreme Rules. It was an undesirable situation that came about through the WWE writing team's failure to prepare anything fresh. But one of those three matches has been dropped, because of an injury to WWE champion Daniel Bryan. That’s made an undesirable situation worse, and here WWE's writing team are completely blame free. It's just one of those unfortunate, badly-timed things that happen.

Daniel Bryan will still appear on the show. He just won’t wrestle. Monday’s RAW saw Stephanie McMahon ask D-Bry to vacate the championship, explaining she didn’t want to strip him of the gold because it would only encourage people to support him more (a nice little way of stringing the plot out). Bryan refused so Steph decided to play hard ball, revealing that if Bryan didn’t turn up and hand over the gold at Payback she’d fire his wife.

It’s impossible to tell what will happen at Payback. It depends entirely on how quickly it’s believed Bryan’s going to be back in the ring. It was said on RAW that his time away was expected to be longer than had been hoped but there’s no way of knowing if that was a true statement or not. It’s possible WWE have been told Bryan could be back in the ring in a couple of months and they’re hoping to keep the championship on him.

Either WWE are trying to see how long they can hold out with an inactive champion because they don’t have a solid enough backup plan or they know Bryan’s going to be disappearing from TV for a while and they want him to be written out as a hero. I suspect it’s the latter. Although I hope I’m wrong and Bryan’s only going to miss a few months I don’t think it’s likely.  

Of the two big rematches left the one I think will main event the show is The Shield v Evolution. To be honest I'm surprised they didn't go on last at Extreme Rules. It was reassuring that Bryan got to headline, especially with what's happened since, but it felt as though the six man match had been set up to take precedence. The match in question was slightly plodding for its first half but picked up significantly in its second. Here the six men are being blessed with a no disqualification stipulation and an elimination format. If it can equal or better the quality of the Extreme matchup it should be a fitting headline bout, and those rules additions should see that it does.

WWE being as formulaic as it is would usually make me expect a victory for Evolution here. They lost the only other encounter the teams have had so they'd get a win here to set up a deciding third encounter for the near future. I don't think that's going to happen though. I think 'The Hounds of Justice' are going to get their second straight win over the three former world champions.

The elimination rule allows for a booking approach that can make a member of The Shield look strong, with two members being eliminated early by the veterans and leaving the third man to valiantly battle back against long odds. If this formula is used it seems pretty safe to assume that Roman Reigns will be the lone man battling Triple H, Orton and Batista. Something practically identical happened at Survivor Series and WWE have been keen to present Reigns as a wrestler who's not easy to put down for a three count. What better way to make him look a beast than to have him take on all three members of Evolution?

There are other things this booking approach has going for it. The first is that if Rollins and Ambrose are to go out first the opening minutes will be a blaze of fast action and big bumps as the two cram in as much as possible while they have the chance. It also allows WWE to tease the idea of a Reigns versus 'The Game' singles encounter. I'm torn on whether it's a good idea to have this match come down to those two. It would be a great moment if Reigns pinned Trips to win (or if Trips stole a victory by cheating) but it could also run the risk of giving too much away and devaluing a singles match.

Whatever the finish ends up being I'm picking The Shield to win. If Evolution do go over it'll likely be a quick pin after Reigns makes his second elimination. I'm convinced Reigns is going to go it alone for much of the match.

Down in the middle of the card we have WWE's secondary and tertiary titles being defended. Yes, the US title is being defended on a pay-per-view! I can't remember the last time that happened.

The night after Extreme Rules Sheamus won a battle royal for the United States championship, ending Dean Ambrose's eleven month run. He'll defend it against Cesaro. I like 'The King of Swing' and his association with Paul Heyman a great deal. I am distinctly less keen on 'The Celtic Warrior'. But as uninterested as I am in him I do think Cesaro is a good choice of opponent for him. They're a big pair of hosses who work pretty rough matches. It'll be fun if you like that kinda thing (and I do when Cesaro's involved). That said the most interesting aspect of the match for me will be seeing whether the fans turn on Shaymo and cheer Cesaro. I want them to.

The Intercontinental title match will see the fascinatingly popular Bad News Barrett defend against Rob Van Dam. It strikes me as weird that this is a rematch of the tournament finals held just before Extreme Rules. Bad News won there and went on to win the title. What has RVD done to earn a title shot against a man who beat him to progress to a title shot of his own just over a month ago? The situation demonstrates what a mess the middle of the WWE card is and how little planning went into 'Mr Monday Night's' latest stint with the promotion.

Since bringing his JBL and Cole Show antics to television Barrett's been entertainingly sarcy and had some good matches (nothing that explains why practically every audience cheers him despite him never officially turning face, but that's fine). I hope he gets given enough time to have another good showing here, and that he's able to work out how to do so around Van Dam's notoriously awkward, nineties spot-based style.

I don't think either of these championships will change hands. Both men have only just got their hands on their respective prizes and I think WWE's got plans for each. For Barrett the plan’s simply to finally get him over. For Sheamus it’s a heel turn (which for some reason involves the US title). Also making me doubt title changes is the fact that short reigns are fairly rare in WWE now.

In other title action Paige will defend her Divas championship against Alicia Fox. Yes, that’s Alicia Fox the wedding planner turned wrestler who has been built up as completely unstoppable over the last month. She’s been decent in her recent matches but it’s still disheartening to see WWE putting her against Paige when they have Emma and Natalya on the main roster and Sasha Banks waiting in NXT. All three all have more interesting characters than Ms Fox and are better wrestlers too.

I’ll be amazed if Paige wins. The entire purpose of Alicia’s push seems to be to make her appear unstoppable so it’s more impressive when Paige overcomes her challenge. Fingers crossed for a more competent challenger next month, and some of those hundred and eighty minutes of RAW we get every week getting devoted to making a worthwhile women’s division soon.

Providing the prerequisite filler are Big E and Rusev, who have had one of the most uninspiring feuds over the last several few weeks. It seems way too early to be putting ‘The Super Athlete’ against someone who’ll work a competitive match with him. I’d expected another month or two of squashes.

It will probably be Rusev who wins, although I wouldn't be surprised if Big E got the nod. He’s been a bit aimless lately. Being the man who ends Rusev’s undefeated streak would, in the hive mind of the WWE writing team, "get him back on track". Never mind the fact that the streak becomes more impressive the longer it goes. That’s not how these things are assessed in WWE.

Two other matches look likely for the show based on recent television happenings. The first is Jack Swagger v Adam Rose. I like the Rose gimmick a lot. As long as he gets an entourage of a decent size for his special event debut I'll be happy. Match quality is irrelevant in this. That's not the point of the Rose character. He'll probably win and Swagger and Colter will be peeved.

The second is a tag team title match between the Wyatt Family and championship pairing the Uso brothers. It’s been obvious for a while that WWE were planning to give us the Usos versus the Wyatts because Harper and Rowan are only team on the roster never to have challenged for the tag team titles and because they’re over. If the match happens a title change isn’t impossible but I’d slightly favour Jimmy and Jey winning, either by a flash pin or by disqualification. That would set up a rematch for Battleground.

Of course if the tag title match doesn’t happen I expect all four will get involved in the latest instalment of the Cena versus Wyatt programme. It's worth mentioning that this feud started in January at Royal Rumble. It was left alone for a month and they didn't actually have their first match until WrestleMania but that's still a long time. And it's entirely possible it will continue beyond Payback into Battleground and Money in the Bank. I hope it ends here because I can't imagine what the pair could do to keep things going for that long. My interest is already flagging and I’ve enjoyed a lot of what they’ve done.

Another thing worth noting about this match is that it's to be fought under Last Man Standing rules. Cena has a good record with that stipulation, both in kayfabe and non-kayfabe terms. In kayfabe terms he's never lost a LMS bout. In non-kayfabe terms he almost always produces something worthwhile with the stip. There's something about it that brings out the best in him and suits his style. Which is a bit odd when you consider the match is actually about pacing comebacks and selling, two things that are not Cena strong points.

This could be a worthwhile match. Which is good, because it needs to be. Their 'Mania bout wasn't bad but Wyatt losing was a disappointing result. The Extreme Rules cage match was mostly bereft of heat and featured one of the most ridiculous finishes I've ever seen. It was inventive but didn't do Wyatt any favours and went far too far in its goal of protecting Cena. This series really should be the making of 'The Eater of Worlds', something that propels him up the card. If it's to do that then at least some of these matches have to be memorable for being really good as opposed to memorable for their insane endings.

I'd like to pick Wyatt to win at Payback. It would be two singles victories over Cena in a row as well as Cena's first loss in a Last Man Standing bout. Those are things that could be used to hype Wyatt, noting that he’s achieved things few other wrestlers could. But I've got a feeling that Cena's going to win. He doesn't need to. A victory over Wyatt does nothing for him. But this match is one that could go to either man, and in those situations, if he’s involved, it tends to go to Cena.

This show doesn't look anything special, which is a pity but not a surprise. The injury to Daniel Bryan hasn't helped but it's not the only problem. WWE have done well introducing their new characters to TV but less well at giving them things to do. Both areas need equal attention for shows like this to have the strong appeal they should. Hopefully WWE will make the best of a bad situation and focus on areas on their entire roster in the build-up to Battleground.

Oh, and this show being held in Chicago and all CM Punk returning probably needs addressing. Not gonna happen. 

Predictions summary:
The Shield to defeat Evolution
John Cena to defeat Bray Wyatt
Sheamus to defeat Cesaro
Bad News Barrett to defeat Rob Van Dam
The Usos to defeat The Wyatt Family
Paige to defeat Alicia Fox
Rusev to defeat Big E
Adam Rose to defeat Jack Swagger
El Torito to defeat Hornswoggle

Tuesday 27 May 2014

That RAW Recap 26.05.14

For the final major TV show before a special-event-per-view I thought the May 26 RAW was pretty uninspiring. It's not that nothing happened. It did. Sheamus heelishly attacked Cesaro after he'd beaten Rob Van Dam, prompting 'The Swiss Superman' to even the odds later in the evening by attacking Sheamus after he'd tangled with Alberto Del Rio. Big E ran Rusev off from the ring. Alicia Fox won a match. Bo Dallas's motivational character made its RAW debut. Jack Swagger and Adam Rose had yet another set to during which the audience failed to embrace Rose. Goldust and Cody Rhodes got beaten in an elimination match by Evolution.

Things were happening. It's just that in the grand scheme of things they were not particularly interesting. It's a result of WWE concentrating on the top two or three feuds so much: others deemed less important feel marginalised and dashed together. If the audience has to work to invent a backstory for so much of the show something's going wrong somewhere.

But it wasn't completely forgettable. There were a number of scenes that are destined to make it to the Payback opening video at the very least.

The first was an opening scene which saw The Authority mouth off about Daniel Bryan and The Shield before bringing out Brad Maddox. Maddox had allowed Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to be guest commentators during a Batista v Roman Reigns match the week before. That hadn't sat well with Triple H and Steph. They had Kane come to the ring and rough him up then give him a choke slam and, just for good measure, a Tombstone piledriver.

Afterwards Maddox was fired as RAW General Manager. That had been a long time coming. The presence of Stephanie and 'The Game' on television every week has been making the GM position pointless since last summer. Maddox had barely been featured and when he had been he'd usually been doing something minor. This frees him up to be reintroduced in a new role. Possibly as a wrestler, which is presumably what he was signed to do in the first place.

Hour two's opening saw Bray Wyatt target Jerry 'The King' Lawler in the latest stage of his quest to upset John Cena. Why would targeting Jerry Lawler upset Cena, you ask. Apparently the two are very good pals. Such good pals in fact that it's never been referenced before. The real reason behind involving 'King' was that RAW was being held in Tennessee. That's firmly Lawler country, making what happened an easy way to present 'The Eater of Worlds' as a bad guy.

Tennessee heat!
Lawler was brought into the ring by Harper and Rowan. JBL tried to make the save but got a discuss clothesline for his trouble. Cena dashed to the ring and stopped the Family from going too far with Lawler but wound up being held by Harper and Rowan. Before Wyatt could resume his heinous antics and perform a wrestling move on trained wrestler Jerry Lawler the Uso brothers entered the fray. With the numbers evened the faces managed to chase the Family off.

Cena told Bray he'd crossed a line by attacking Lawler (something he didn't say to Randy Orton when Orton attacked his dad in January, but whatevs). He ran through his arguments against Wyatt. Wyatt responded by saying he was a god. Cena's general gist was that he'd beat Wyatt at Payback. Sadly that seems entirely plausible.

Significant event number three was a showdown between Stephanie McMahon and WWE champion Daniel Bryan. Steph wanted the injured D-Bry to vacate the championship and assured him he could have a title match when he was cleared to return to the ring. Bryan said that doing that would be a slap in the face to all the fans that have supported him on his journey to the top. The title belts stayed with him, on his shoulder and around his waist.

Stephanie's response to that was to air two week old footage of Brie Bryan (a ring name I think she should adopt) giving her a shove backstage. Stephanie then threatened to fire Brie if Bryan didn't agree to vacate the championship. But instead of forcing the issue and getting Bryan to make a rash decision to save his wife in the heat of the moment she gave him the deadline of Payback to make a decision.

In non-storyline terms that's a good decision. The fate of the WWE championship and an appearance from Daniel Bryan are two extra reasons for people to tune into the currently-not-so-supershow. With Bryan unable to wrestle this is the next best thing to do with him.

The evening ended with a contract signing between Evolution and The Shield. What was the contract for? The six man elimination tag match at Payback. Yeah, that match that WWE had been advertising for weeks but apparently hadn’t had the participants officially agree to. For shame! Then again, why do contract signings need to take place in WWE at all? Last minute matches are made on a weekly basis without participants signing contracts. The whole setup’s ridiculous.

Lawler looks surprisingly happy, doesn't he?
After being introduced by Michael Cole 'The Hounds of Justice' lobbed the chairs, table and fancy black cloth out of the ring. Evolution sauntered out. The two factions had words before Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns signed the paper (Ambrose managed to botch holding a clipboard, which was amusing). The inevitable brawl happened once Batista, Orton and Tripper had inked their names. Evolution got the better of that when H3 introduced his trademark sledgehammer to proceedings. Ambrose and Rollins were thumped about in the ring before Reigns was triple power bombed through the announce desk.

Based on this show the top of the Payback card stands a good chance of being enjoyable. The undercard is looking pretty abysmal though. But hey, that’s nothing new at this point.

Monday 26 May 2014

Protect Your Neck

Neck injuries have sidelined many wrestlers. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Terry 'Rhino' Gerrin, Chris Benoit, Hurricane Helms, BJ Whitmer, and Scotty Riggs are some. It was neck troubles that prematurely ended the career of Edge. And it was a very severe neck injury that paralysed Darren Drozdov from the neck down. Basically neck problems are something that wrestlers take very seriously.

The last few weeks have seen Daniel Bryan admitted to the neck troubles club. It doesn't come as a surprise. Bryan's in-ring style does not mesh well with his personal safety. Whenever Bryan returns to the ring, whether it's in a week, a month or a year, it's clear certain moves are going to have to be dropped. Or at least become less frequent.

The most obvious is probably the diving headbutt. It's a move synonymous with Chris Benoit (which has made me uncomfortable with Bryan using it regularly for entirely different reasons) and was almost certainly a contributing factor to his neck troubles. The suicide dives will probably have to go too. The running drop kicks may be on the list too. D-Bry has less control over his landings when performing the move at the speed he does.

Personally I'd like to see him drop the headbutts altogether. It's uncomfortable to watch him perform a move that's noted for having such an effect on the neck (and the Benoit thing really doesn't help: Bryan's style is not dissimilar and he shouldn't be doing anything to invite further comparisons). I'd be fine seeing the suicide dives scaled back to special occasions only. Pay-per-views and major television matches specifically, although how often do we get the letter these days? The running drop kicks I like but if they're endangering the man doing them I'm happy not seeing them, or seeing them used rarely.

Eliminating moves from a repertoire necessitates the introduction of new moves. That's true of any wrestler but it's particularly true for high profile WWE stars (which D-Bry is, obvs). The average WWE match is so short that a wrestler needs a handful of signature moves to structure the match around and a finisher to end with to stand the best possible chance of ensuring consistent reactions. There's no room for variety in the average bout.

Being a well-travelled and versatile performer Bryan has plenty of options open to him. A secondary submission move could be established as a wear down hold for the Yes Lock. One that could be applied to a standing opponent would be pretty interesting as it's not something seen often in WWE (even AJ Lee's Black Widow hold usually ends up with the opponents sagging down to the ground). The octopus abdominal stretch would be good and most wrestlers in WWE are sturdy enough to allow Bryan to completely leave the ground while applying it.

No direct replacement for the diving headbutt springs to mind but to be honest I don't think one's needed. Bryan is not, by any reasonable standards, a flyer. If it's something that's deemed an integral part of his act then a splash would work well enough. Better would be a cross body block rolled through into a small package-like pin. That would fit with Bryan's use of the flash pin gimmick and be safer than the headbutt. The only major change would be that the person taking the move would be standing rather than lying down, which isn’t particularly significant.

My guess is Bryan will swipe a couple of fresh moves from Japan. KENTA's probably been (proverbially) bled dry by this point but I'm sure there are plenty of other guys who could be cribbed from. Whatever solution he goes with I think a change is coming for Bryan. And I also think he's easily talented and popular enough to pull it off seamlessly.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Missed Opportunities

Over the last several years TNA have had a number of guys under contract that they could have turned into something special. Wrestlers who could have helped TNA grow and expand if they’d been married to an extended period of good booking and decisive wins in enjoyable matches. In fact I think they’ve had more of these names than I think they’re usually given credit for.

If you want to go back years then they had Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels and AJ Styles. They mixed with one another for years and put on a variety of cracking matches amongst themselves and with others. Joe and Styles in particular were on the cusp of becoming ‘The Man’ in TNA on several occasions each. They were always standout guys wherever they worked, but if TNA had set their minds to it and worked at presenting them as the best wrestlers in the world, as opposed to second tier talent not on the level of former WWE names, they could have helped the promotion find greater meaning. Neither became the leading man they deserved to be.

It’s not just those three guys though. The end of 2011 saw Beer Money split and feud over the world championship. At the time I felt both men could contribute to expanding the company. In hindsight I was wrong about James Storm. His physique, promo style and plastic cowboy hat all scream mid-card. I remember a particularly excruciating advert airing on Challenge hyping an Impact tour that featured one of the worst vocal performances I’ve ever heard from a wrestler. ‘The Cowboy’ is suitable only for the mid-card even in TNA.

Not enough faith was placed in this man.
But Bobby Roode is a different story. He looks like an athlete, carries himself like a champion, gives very good verbal performances and can excel in a wide range of match types. He had a lengthy reign as TNA champion as a result of that 2011 split and headline run and he looked the part. A main event built around him would have been one of the best things TNA could have done over the last few years. Instead they dropped Roode down into the mid-card after he lost the title and structured their major storylines around Jeff hardy, Chris Sabin and Eric Young. Had TNA stuck with Roode for another year things could have been very different.

Then there was Austin Aries. He’s another guy who has a good look, fits the bill as a good guy or a bad guy and can wrestle a fantastic match when given the chance to. TNA did the right thing in putting the title on him when it became clear that fans wanted to see it, but they didn’t know what to do next. ‘A Double’ flip-flopped between face and heel during his reign and has crossed the line so many times since that it’s practically impossible to make sense of his character’s motivations anymore.

Bully Ray surprised most long-term wrestling fans by getting into the best shape he’s ever been in and transforming himself into a singles act. He was never going to morph into a top guy, age and length of time spent working as a mid-card and tag guy made sure of that, but more could have been done with him. Before he was swerve turned to head up Aces and Eights TNA audiences were really into him. He knows how to keep his character consistent and can put on a pretty wild match with the right opponent and stipulation.

‘Calfzilla’s’ heel turn may not have destroyed TNA and brought them to their current undesirable situation but it didn’t help. People liked Bully in early 2013 and they wanted to continue supporting him. A plan being concocted for when Aces disbanded wouldn’t have hurt either. For that matter the group’s split coming sooner would’ve been a blessing. Heading up a terrible faction didn’t do the former Dudley Boy any favours.

And most recently they’ve had Magnus. No, he’s not the best wrestler in the world. But he’s not bad. His slightly above average in-ring ability is nicely complemented by his good looks and proficiency with promos. The Magnus package is not stellar but it is solid. If he’d had the TNA world title for a few months longer and lost it to someone who fans had been primed to be desperate to see topple him his reign would have been closer to a success than it was.

TNA could still try a recapture what they had with Magnus. He’s still the sort of heel who could be booked to retain his belt via tricks and cheats and work good or great matches with a variety of wrestlers. A short, convincing victory over Eric Young would help establish him as dominant champ and could be used to explain that he “lost his focus” when he originally lost the gold. Having him end a few more careers wouldn’t hurt either. He already has the bragging rights to Sting and Styles beign gone. Angle could be next. It could be a good way of writing people off TV as their contracts expire and would build Magnus up.

Ultimately all thinking and writing about this subject does is frustrate. If TNA had tried harder, planned better, and realised when they were on to something good they could have built themselves a compelling main event roster. With that they could have presented very good matches and storylines and provided people with reasons to watch every week.

Friday 23 May 2014

Good Influences

For those who missed it, and who haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else since, the ROH and New Japan War of the Worlds co-production featured a scene that saw Chris Daniels announce he will be returning to Ring of Honor at June’s Best in the World. This has come about because of ‘The Fallen Angel’s’ departure from TNA, a result of the promotion senselessly opting not to renew his contract.

He’s promised he’s not coming alone and the frontrunner to be accompanying him is his Bad Influence tag partner Frankie Kazarian. His TNA contract has also expired recently and there’s nobody else ROH could bring in that would be a particularly meaningful pairing with Daniels. Outside of him joining up with AJ Styles as a Bullet Club member, which isn’t going to happen, there’s nothing that could satisfy the promise of Daniels returning “home” with an accomplice quite like Bad Influence.

The duo being added to the ROH tag ranks seems like a safe bet. It’s an injection the division could do with after the loss of the American Wolves and the failed experiment of Outlaw Inc. The pairing of Top Prospect tournament entrants Raymond Rowe and Hanson is something fresh but they don’t have the name power to step into the gap at the top. Given time they could work their way up and become a popular combo (they have a look that helps to set them apart and have been pretty good in the matches I’ve seen them in) but that’s a gradual process. And while it’s great that ROH have been making use of Forever Hooligans and the Young Bucks they’re not available regularly enough to help keep the tag scene sufficiently varied and interesting.

'Phenomenal' Frankie and 'Stick Man' Chrissy D.
Bad Influence would be great opposition for reDRagon and could also be put to good use in big event matches against the Bucks and Hooligans. Hey, if Outlaw Inc does miraculously turn back up again at least they’d have a fresh match waiting for them against Daniels and Kazarian. Plus there are various singles matches that would be interesting to see both guys in. Daniels versus AJ Styles in particular could be a big thing for ROH.

I think Bad Influence could also be a good fit with Truth Martini. Over the last couple of years ROH’s resident manager extraordinaire has moved away from managing large groups to being paired with just one client. Which is a waste. Martini is more than just a mouthpiece. Granted that was his function with Matt Taven and is a large part of what he’s doing with Jay Lethal but he can work up a crowd simply being at ringside, he doesn’t necessarily need a microphone. I imagine he’d do well in the stooge manager role of providing outside interference, laughing at jokes, and providing a hyped up intro for clients who can talk well (think Bobby Heenan with Ric Flair).

Not only that but I think Martini’s character would be a nice fit with the former world tag team champions of the world, and that a stable of Daniels, Kazarian and Lethal could be pretty enjoyable. It’s easy to imagine the trio having very good six man tag team matches and working alongside a charismatic guy like Daniels would help to mask Lethal’s less than flamboyant manner. Martini would benefit from managing tag team champions (which I’m sure Bad Influence will become at some point in ROH) and have more bragging rights when he inevitably ends up managing a newcomer at some point in the future. Meanwhile Daniels and Kazarian would benefit from having more people to involve in their skits.

If Truth Martini doesn’t manage Bad Influence it won’t be the end of the world. They’ll still wrestle great matches with reDRagon and Lethal will continue to benefit from playing a new character alongside a manager who helps hide his flaws. But I hope it does happen. Because it could be very entertaining.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

ROH and New Japan War of the Worlds review

We start, as always, with a video package. This one was little more than a hype video showing the best of both companies. In the arena the crowd kicked off with a loud chant for New Japan. Steve Corino and 'Cool as a Cucumber' Kevin Kelly welcomed us to the show before AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and the Young Bucks walked out to the ring. They too got loud chants. Anderson introed 'The Phenomenal One'. There was a "Fuck TNA!" chant before he could speak. When he did it was to say he's not the leader. Because all Bullet Club members lead.

Kazuchika Okada and Gedo interrupted him. Gedo, as translated by Anderson, said Okada could beat Styles. Styles disagreed, and did Corino's aside-to-the-comedy-sidekick shtick (which I enjoyed even if no one else did). He also said he had his hands full with Elgin and that Okada would have to wait for his title rematch.

Then Michael Elgin wandered out. He asked for Nigel McGuinness to come out and make a three-way title match (odd as he was stood in the ring with one of New Japan's bookers). After checking with the NJPW chairman Nigel said the match would happen if all three wrestlers agreed. They all did, giving us a changed, and much more desirable, main event.

Takaaki Watanabe teamed Forever Hooligans to take on ACH, Matt Taven, and Tommaso Ciampa in the solid enough opener. Everyone did what you'd expect. That basically meant it was enjoyable but there were no surprises. There was a buzz of finishers followed by a dive onto the Hooligans by ACH before Taven got the win for his team with the tumbling DDT. I was surprised at that result. I thought the hooligans would win, being the regular combo who've held tag gold in both promotions and all.

Match two saw Roderick Strong and BJ Whitmer of the Decade team to face The World a Class Tag Team. The wrong graphic was displayed when the Decade entered, which was pretty embarrassing. The match was good. There were several exchanges of stiff kicks and chops but many seemed oddly mistimed, probably because the two teams aren't used to working with each other. Strong survived a chair shot from Gedo to hit a gut buster, followed by a Whitmer lariat and a sick kick for the victory. It was another mildly surprising result. Gedo and Jado are an accomplished team and it felt like they should have been the ones to win.

After the match Cedric Alexander ran in and took out every member of the Decade before being restrained by security. The Decade ran off. It was ROH's way of reminding us of that feud. It was effective enough and practically guaranteed a stipulation and-or gimmick match between the two at Best in the World.

Match three saw Marty McKUSHIDA challenge Jay Lethal for the ROH TV championship. The New York City crowd didn't provide the intense heat for Lethal that the Toronto crowd had. That was disappointing. Lethal had looked like a top of the line villain at Global Wars simply because of the crowd heat.

The story of the bout was that KUSHIDA was good enough to beat Lethal (there was a lovely spot where Lethal went for the Lethal Injection and KUSHIDA countered with a drop kick to the face during the handstand portion) so Lethal had Truth distract him to get the advantage and then slowed the pace with stomps, rest holds and other similarly dastardly moves. Eventually KUSHIDA made a comeback and almost had the match won after a DDT but Martini pulled the referee from the ring. That got him ejected from ringside. Lethal survived a wonderful top rope hurricanrana before winning with a super kick and a Lethal Injection. KUSHIDA took the move better than I've ever seen it taken before. It's not easy to make it look natural and as though it's a surprise to see coming. That guy is a talent.

Up next were Mark and Jay Briscoe challenging Bullet Club members Doc Gallows (the artist formerly known as Fake Kane) and Karl Anderson for the IWGP tag team titles. The crowd were pretty evenly split. NYC has a history of not being keen on 'Dem Boys'. Perhaps they're mellowing on them.

This was not a technically sound match, not that that should surprise anyone. They started off with a brawl around the ring which saw a table get destroyed and Jay Briscoe perform a modified plancha. When they got back into the ring the action was rough and ready. After a while Mark was wiped out with a back body drop on the floor, leaving Jay at the mercy of both Bullet members. He withstood some double teaming before Mark managed to return. The Briscoes downed Anderson and got a near fall with Mark's frog elbow drop but the crowd didn't react. Which was a pity.

Jay was wiped out with a double handed choke bomb and Mark was dropped with a shoulder height double team move for the win. The two teams shook hands afterwards. Jay glared at Gallows and refused to let go of his hand for an uncomfortable amount of time. It was a powerfully erotic moment.

Shinsuke Nakamura v Kevin Steen was one of the matches I was most looking forward to on this show. They're interesting characters who generally work pretty intense matches. Beyond that they're among my favourite wrestlers from their respective promotions. Everything pointed to them meshing and having a solid match. Steen got more streamers than Nakamura. I hadn't expected that. It speaks to Steen's popularity.

Everything about the match was great. Nakamura's movements were so fluid. Even when doing something as simple as running the ropes over a dropped down Steen he exuded grace and poise. His mannerisms were perfectly judged and warmly received while his moves were perfectly timed and, as always, looked thoroughly believable. 'Mr Wrestling' was not to he outdone. He worked the crowd expertly and matched Nak when it came to well timed offence.

The closing moments were a triumph. Steen reversed running knee into pop up power bomb. Nakamura rolled through a package piledriver attempt and kneed Steen in the face, then followed up with the Boma Ye. Steen stunned Nakamura by kicking out of that at one. But the adrenalin wouldn't last. He fell to another knee seconds later.

Nakamura left immediately. He didn't hang about to shake hands or tease a rematch or anything. Steen took a mic and joked about his jaw possibly being dislocated (or at least I assume he was joking). He acknowledged he hasn't always been happy in ROH but that he loves the company. For a year he's not felt like he belongs, and losing two big matches in a row reaffirms that. He said he was going to step away for a bit, which got "No!" chants. Then Silas Young interrupted him.

'Wrestling's Last Real Man' said he agreed with the fans regarding Steen leaving. To illustrate how much ROH needs "real" men Silas mentioned that the world champ looks like a ladyboy (which prompted Corino to say "a sexy one"), the tag champs look like kids off a Disney show and the TV champ "runs around with a fruit" (peculiar when you consider a major part of Truth's gimmick is that he likes the ladies). Perhaps they're trying to establish Silas with an overtly homophobic gimmick. Apparently wrestling has not moved beyond such things in 2014. Pity.

Silas felt Steen was the only other man in the locker room. Then he called Steen a pussy for thanking the fans and for walking away. Steen went to leave then Young said his son would grow up to be a quitter too. Because Steen's a fightin' face a brawl erupted. It ended when Steen leapt off the top rope onto security, at which point it was revealed that Silas had wandered off, evading the attack. This was followed by intermission.

It seems clear from this that Kevin Steen is getting ready to move away from Ring of Honor. It's common knowledge that he participated in a WWE tryout in February (alongside ACH and Roderick Strong) and doesn't appear to be working a number of ROH's future shows. The obvious assumption to make is that he's been made and has accepted a developmental offer from WWE. If that's the case I hope Steen can succeed in the WWE system. There's nothing to say he can't. He knows how to develop a character and make it popular and he's been a fan of WWE for years (and has friends in the company) so knows what to expect. It will be a blue for Ring of Honor if he leaves though. With or without the championship he has been ROH's top star since 2011. Hopefully he can give Silas Young a boost on his way out.

The second half opened with Michael Bennett facing Hiroshi Tanahashi. For the record Tanahashi had opened the second half at Global Wars too (not counting RD Evans's win over Bobby Cruise). Also, Bennett was wearing a shirt which read "Eat, Sleep, Beat Tanahashi, Repeat". It was modelled on Lesnar's pre-'Mania Streak-beater T-shirt and his conquer and repeat T-shirts. The thing is combining them doesn't work here, because beating Tanahashi again and again is not something that Bennett's going to get the chance to do.

Anyway, the match followed the basic pattern of a Bennett match but was better than his average outing. He stalled, trolled the audience with deliberately poor wrestling, brawled at ringside, and channelled CM Punk. The match was significantly poorer than the average Tanahashi match. There was once again a miscue between Bennett and Maria, this time Bennett ended up lightly tapping his girlfriend on the cheek. On the subject of Maria, she interfered and got placed in a cloverleaf by Tana. The crowd were into that. Personally I thought it was uncalled for.

Tanahashi overcame Maria interference, a piledriver, and the anaconda vice to win with a High Fly Flow. The reaction to his victory was staid. By this point it was clear that the audience were not as good as the guys in Toronto. The did bust out a "Please come back!" chant though. But that's almost a nicety at this point. Not that I think that was the case with 'The Once in a Century Talent'.

reDRagon were accompanied to the ring by a UFC personality named Tom Lawlor (no relation to Jerry (because it's spelt differently)) for their match with ROH tag champs the Young Bucks. It was the best match of the night, meaning that for the second weekend a row the Jackson brothers and reDRagon stole the show.

Once the action got going it didn't stop. Matt hit a perfectly timed handspring through the ropes into moonsault. Moments later he was at ringside to combat an O'Reilly flying knee from the apron with a super kick. Fish thwarted a springboard double Tombstone. O'Reilly avoided a super kick and countered into a double dragon screw leg whip on the brothers. Fish hit a falcon arrow from the top rope on Matt (he was doing more than his fair share for the Bucks, eh?). Nick hit a leg drop on O'Reilly as he had Matt scissored in a guillotine. The kick out got a great response. The champs went for More Bang For Your Buck on O'Reilly, but Nick was met with knees and Matt a triangle choke. Matt kicked out of Chasing the Dragon. O'Reilly locked in an armbar on Matt. Nick tried to make the save but Fish stopped him. Matt had no choice but to tap in another excellent ROH tag title match. O'Reilly in particular looked great.

The Bucks opted for crotch chops over handshakes. I imagine that's why people love them. Maybe I'm just too old to see the appeal.

Jushin 'Thunder' Liger was met by loud cheers that petered out quickly (because the crowd had become actively bad by this point, only reacting to moments of particular significance) when he entered for his match with ROH world champion Adam Cole. They kept the pace relatively slow for the most part, because of Liger's age (49) although that was by no means a bad thing. His offensive flurries were carefully planned out to gradually build towards a lovely finishing sequence. A better crowd willing to make the appropriate noise for the duration of match would have helped make it come scrims as the accomplishment it was. But we had what we had. Liger survived multiple super kicks and Florida Keys before falling victim to Cole's figure four leg lock. That's not as bad as it sounds. It's being built up as devastating when used by Cole.

Liger offered a handshake after the match. Cole held up the belt and then walked off sniggering. Whadda heel!

The final match was the three-way match for the IWGP championship. It was we were informed by Kevin Kelly, the first three-way IWGP heavyweight title since 8 October 2005 when Brock Lesnar successfully defended against Kazuyuki Fajita and Masa Chono (Styles is in fine company). Something I'd like to note about the main event is that it came close to having the best of three companies in it. Elgin could be considered to be ROH's best. The same goes for Okada in New Japan. While AJ Styles was until recently almost universally acknowledged as TNA's best, and is in the running for the best in NJPW too. Beyond that almost being a meaningless little achievement it's entirely irrelevant, but it demonstrates the calibre of talent involved. Elgin, Styles and Okada really are amongst the world's best.

They paced the early going with the one-on-one stretches that are now standard in three-way dances. When it started the stuff involving all three guys couldn't have been better. Early highlights included a stalling suplex from Elgin to Okada with kicks to the kid-section from Styles, which didn't put Elgin down and 'Unbreakable' also hit a Samoan drop and a fallaway slam on both his foes at the same time.

Elgin's knee got injured as he tried a new move from the turnbuckle (nicely worked into the story by Kevin Kelly) and performed a Tombstone. It was made worse when Styles put him in the Calf Slicer. He managed to perform his deadlift second rope suplex on Okada but was too injured to go for the cover, leaving him open to a 450 splash from Styles. Styles got a Pele kick on Okada and then went for a Styles Clash. 'Rainmaker' fought out of it and floored the champ with a Tombstone. Then he picked him up for the Rainmaker. Elgin made the save when he rocked Okada with a clothesline and a buckle bomb. Seconds later Okada was in control and finally connected with a Rainmaker on Elgin. Styles sent him rolling from the ring with a springboard drop kick before he could attempt a cover then gave Elgin a Styles Clash to win the match.

Afterwards Adam Cole ran out and hit everyone with his ROH championship belt. Then he shouted about being the best in the world as Kevin Kelly signed off to an ad for the next major ROH show, Best in the World.

And then... there was a comic book style "post credits" sequence. An appletini was placed on a bar. Then clips of Chris Daniels matches were played. Back in the bar 'The Ring General' was shown sitting on a stool and said he was coming home and that he wouldn't be alone.

The final two developments involving Cole and Daniels are both good news for ROH fans. It hints at a proper feud between Styles and Cole over the ROH gold in which ‘The Phenomenal One’ will play face. While fans were persuaded to boo him at the joint New Japan shows it’s not something that can be expected all the time. Simply put Styles is too well liked and fresh to the promotion to be getting booed regularly yet. Cole’s actions could also set up future bouts with Elgin. We’ve seen them clash before but not excessively. There’s even the option to have a future joint effort headlined by Cole versus Okada.

The return of ‘The Fallen Angel’ is obviously more good news. He’s a talented, charismatic veteran who’s gone through one of his periodic reinventions since he last left ROH. It’ll be interesting to see how his current character fits into the company. Of course he brings with him plenty of fresh matches (he’d make another fine challenger to Cole for example), particularly if Bad Influence teammate Frankie Kazarian is the man joining him in ROH. Daniels and Kazarian versus reDRagon is a match that could mean a lot if held off for a memorable first encounter.

War of the Worlds as a whole was a very good show. The tag title match was a match of the year contender. KUSHIDA v Lethal was the surprise of the night, being a lively tussle that established Lethal as a rulebreaker and KUSHIDA as a potential singles star (how great would it be if NJPW decided to send him on a sabbatical to Ring of Honor?). Steen versus Nakamura just about lived up to my lofty expectations. The main event was superb and a fitting end to a week of co-promotion. Everything else on the card was at least good and both companies ended up looking better than they had going in. Any future co-productions will be more than welcome if they’re this good.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Vengeance 2006 review

The trouble with wrestling shows nowadays is that out and out stinkers are so rare. Most current shows from any company not named TNA are either acceptable with few or no standout performances or very good affairs with a number of memorable matches and storyline developments. And sometimes, when writing about a wrestling show, you don’t want that. You want something that pushes you to the limits of endurance and shows you just how bad wrestling can get.

There are two answers to this. The first is to review TNA shows. I imagine that in years to come a lot of people will enjoy looking back and analysing the nonsense TNA currently puts out. But to do it as the company’s still in existence isn’t something I want to do. Because it’s depressing that a major company can exist and be as poor as TNA in 2014. Not paying much attention to it is about the only defence I have against it.

The other answer is to look back at old shows that are notoriously bad. I decided to go for this one, but I wanted to watch something and be surprised by the matches that were taking place and the results that cropped up in them. That could have made picking something pretty tricky, because can you can’t gauge a show’s likely quality until you know what’s on it.

Thankfully WWE produced a lengthy run of dismal pay-per-views in the mid-00s. You can pick out pretty much anything at random from around 2003 until 2008 or so and be pretty much guaranteed a rock solid unenjoyable experience.

That’s what I decided to do, and I selected Vengeance. For no other reason that it was readily available to watch. It will differ from my reviews of current events only slightly, in that I’ll take a break after each match to discuss where the guys involved are now. So, let’s get to it.

We start, as always, with a video package. This one focused on John Cena's problems with the concept of ECW, Rob Van Dam's feud with Edge, and DX's war with Vince McMahon and his troupe of male cheerleaders. I'll discuss all of that as we get to it. All you need to know here is that in June 2006 Rob Van Dam was the WWE champion, Edge was coming into his own as a dickish heel who would do anything to stay on top, John Cena had been the most pushed top act for over a year and resentment over that was beginning to bubble away with more vocal crowds, and Triple H and Shawn Michaels were frequently involved in "hilarious" skits featuring spray paint, slime, midgets, bare buttocks, and Jonathan Coachman.

On commentary in Charlotte, North Carolina were Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Immediately noticeable is how JR can make a show prominently featuring the Spirit Squad seem exciting.

The first guy to enter the arena was a pre-sleeves Randy Orton with his old Burn in My Light music and gold curtain pyro entrance pose. Fans of his in-ring turnbuckle pose needn't worry. That was an integral part of his act by this point. He was representing RAW against ECW's Kurt Angle. This was during the period where Angle's music was remixed so people didn't get the chance to chant "You suck!" (although they still gave it a shot). I thought that was a stupid decision at the time and I still think so now. That kind of audience chant should be embraced.

This makes the match look far more lively than it was.
At this point you're probably thinking "Wow! Angle versus Orton opening a pay-per-view, that's pretty promising!" And you're not wrong. It should be incredible. But it wasn't. It quickly became obvious that both men had entered the match as heels and neither seemed particularly liked by the fans. That meant that the match took a while to warm up, something not helped by a focus on slow mat wrestling for the first few minutes. With nobody knowing who to cheer for and neither wrestler willing to embrace the good guy role the match didn't come anywhere close to meeting its potential. I'm not especially knowledgeable about Orton v Angle matches but I wouldn't be surprised if this was their worst encounter. And just to top things off Lawler seemed dead set on making anti-ECW gags every thirty seconds.

Despite all of this the crowd were loud throughout the entire thing. And things came together for the closing sequence, which helped. Orton was trapped in an ankle lock for a bit before reversing out of it, driving Kurt into an exposed turnbuckle (ah, the exposed turnbuckle, it's a classic) and giving him an RKO for the win.


What they did next:
Randy Orton: He’s been up and down the card but he’s never been too far away from the top. Other than a few tattoos, taunt variations, and entrance rejigs Orton has remained unchanged.

Kurt Angle: 2006 is the year Angle went spectacularly off the rails. WWE released him on August 2006 because they were concerned over his physical well-being and didn’t think Angle was willing to take things easy for his own safety. Angle has claimed he asked for a release because he was unwilling to work hurt. So both sides agree on the reason, just not on the topic of whether Kurt jumped or was pushed.

We all know the basic Angle story from there. He joined TNA and immediately had a stellar feud with Samoa Joe. He spent several years flipping between good guy and bad guy as his body continued to deteriorate. Like, really badly deteriorate. To the point where he looked like a frail old man. He’s currently making noises about leaving TNA when his contract expires and returning to WWE for one final, glorious run. It’s currently unknown whether or not WWE would have any interest in him as a performer.


Backstage Vince McMahon was having one of those one-sided recap conversations that used to be so popular with WWE heels (and that have recently started to go out of style with behind the times TNA heels). He was telling someone about how the Spirit Squad would never forget DX dumping green slime on them on RAW. I'd like to imagine it was Linda and that it's how she and Vince communicate. Someone knocked on the door so Vince wrapped up his convo. You'd assume the person knocking would be a wrestler. Perhaps the Spirit Squad seeking advice before their match or a mid-carder like Charlie Haas asking for an ill-defined "opportunity". Or maybe DX, come to play more "hilarious" pranks on the boss.

It was none of them. It was a young lad in a wheelchair. Vince assumed it was a DX prank and referenced some of their comedy gold (including roosters, space aliens and corporate genitalia). Then he got angry and heeled the kid out of his office. A crash was heard, the implication being the kid was harmed. He wouldn't appear on the show again so we'll never know his fate.

Coach wandered in to make a poor segment worse. In 2006 Coach was regularly paired up with Vince for comedy segments like this one. Despite being routinely bad they held a certain appeal thanks to Coach's willingness to do and say pretty much anything and Vince's ability to perform funny facial expressions. Here Coach handed over a penis pump he'd found lying outside and revealed that the young kid in the wheelchair was a close family friend he'd invited to the show who considered Vince his idol. Sadly they didn't explain why a kid of about eight considered Vince McMahon his idol. That could have been excellent.

Match two featured another surprise mid-00s highlight: the combo of Umaga and Armando Alejandro Estrada. Umaga, a savage-inspired character who could only be controlled by Estrada, had debuted a few months earlier. The man behind the gimmick had previously been best known as Jamal, half of the sloppy but still underrated 3 Minute Warning tag team. He'd mostly been winning squash matches until this point. It was the Alexander Rusev push for 2006.

Umaga was facing Eugene. That's not a sentence anyone ever wants to read. Ever. Under any circumstances.

The monster that is Eugene, finally slain.
Because Umaga was unstoppable at this point and Eugene, well, was not unstoppable, Eugene had found himself some backup. While that was a sound idea all he'd been able to drum up was Jim Duggan, Doink the Clown (yeah really, Doink the clown in 2006) and Kamala (sadly without Kim Chee or Harvey Wippleman). And then a match happened. It was not pleasant. But it was quick. Umaga squashed Eugene with the Samoan spike (a thumb to the throat which, against all the odds, became an over finish). Just to illustrate how dangerous Umaga was he obliterated Duggan and Doink after the match. Estrada made him walk away from Kamala though. Which was absolutely the right call. A young upstart 33-year-old shouldn't be facing a legend like Kamala unless it's been advertised beforehand. You don't give a quality meeting like that away unannounced.


What they did next:
Eugene: By this point the Eugene character was on a downhill slide. As an adult with special needs he had been introduced as the nephew of Eric Bischoff in 2004 and quickly become insanely popular. He’d managed to stay relevant into 2005 but by this point crowds had become tired of him and it’s hard not to see why. He was a one note, exploitative character that had a limited shelf life. His future held an ill-conceived heel turn and contract termination.

Umaga: To this surprise of anyone who remembered his time as a member of 3 Minute Warning Umaga became a very reliable upper mid-card singles act. His undefeated streak would continue until the end of the year, at which point he would enter into a feud with Cena, which included a Last Man Standing meeting at the ’07 Royal Rumble which still stands as one of Cena’s greatest matches.

Umaga would also go on to win the Intercontinental championship and enjoy feuds with names such as Jeff Hardy, Batista and Triple H. Not bad for a guy who had been released in 2003 for being involved in a bar fight and generally not being very good. Umaga was granted a contract release in 2008 following a disputed Wellness Policy violation.

He died of a heart attack in December 2009.


Backstage Mick Foley spoke to Todd Grisham. This was during Foley’s infamous feud with Ric Flair. Basically, Fley and Flair didn’t like one another. As in they really didn’t like one another and had gotten into screaming matches backstage over things that they’d written about each other in their biographies. Foley had criticised Flair for being a poor boss and booker in WCW. Flair had labelled Foley a “glorified stunt man”, almost certainly as revenge for the cracks Foley had made about him. Both men had large egos and were not willing to back down.

For some reason somebody in WWE thought it would be a good idea to turn the real life hatred into a storyline. It’s a logic that had worked in wrestling many times before (I’ll give the lazy examples of Hart and Michaels’ feud and the fact that Austin and Rock really didn’t like each other when they started working together). The trouble was that Flair and Foley were both physically knackered. They both relied heavily on shortcuts and their opponents making them look good. Plus Foley had turned heel a few months before and had been doing his best work as a face for years at this point. And, y’know, Flair was pretty much one of the most natural heels ever. It was obvious from the start that match quality was going to be poor. Things only got worse when Foley and Flair started cutting insider promos on each other that only people who follow the inner workings of pro wrestling (which is a minority in WWE’s fan base) and things that had happened around a decade earlier. That this got televised shows you what sort of company WWE was during this period. Everything about it was a spectacular mess. But it remains incredibly watchable stuff because of just how low things got.

At Vengeance they were booked in a two-out-of-three falls match because Foley wanted to prove he was a wrestler and not a stunt artiste. Being held in Charlotte meant that Mick was going to definitely be playing the bad guy, a role I’ve already said he was ill-suited for at this point. Because North Carolina is Flair country. Woooooo!

First the factual stuff. Flair won two falls to none. He got the first fall off an inside cradle as Foley went for a figure four. Then Foley got disqualified when he used a trash can (or, if you will, a rubbish bin) while trapped in the hold himself.

Mr Sockoooooo... Nah doesn't work. Sorry.
The match was a mess. The promise that Foley would outwrestle Flair, which had been a significant part of the build-up was gleefully ignored. Which was disappointing because it could have been an interesting story: Foley actually managing to surprise 'Naitch' and push him to his limit, forcing him to pull out every cheat in his arsenal (which in Charlotte would have gotten a great reaction) would have been an interesting story that’s wasn’t (and isn’t) seen much in WWE. It's not actually that surprising though. I’ve already said both guys were passed their respective peaks and incapable of working a match without shortcuts (which here included a special Mr Socko designed to look like Flair). What we got was what both men were capable of in 2006.

Foley smashed 'The Nature Boy' with a barbed wire baseball bat after the decision. Flair bled. A lot. He was helped to the back but didn't really make out he was in any particular pain despite being drenched in his own blood. It came across as Flair wanting to prove he could play the hardcore hero better than Foley.


What they did next:
Mick Foley: He jumped to TNA and filled a variety of roles, including on-air authority figure and champion. He returned to WWE when he realised how terrible TNA was. He dressed up as Santa a few Christmases ago and acted as the GM of Saturday Morning Slam before it was unceremoniously cancelled. He spent the rest of his time making special appearances on RAWs and pay-per-views before letting his contract expire, opting not to re-sign because he felt he wasn’t being paid fairly for video game licensing.

Ric Flair: He joined Foley in TNA. He mostly worked as a manager there, representing guys as far apart on the quality scale as Gunner and AJ Styles. He wrestled a few times but the less said about that the better. The most noteworthy part of Flair’s TNA run, at least for the purposes of the show we’re talking about here, was that he resumed his rivalry with Foley. They were getting on better by then but both were older, so the match quality balanced out at around the same level.

Since his return to WWE last year Flair has made various appearances on pay-per-view expert panels, episodes of RAW and at the SummerSlam Axxess event. He was hammered at pretty much all of them. In fact he was so out of control at SummerSlam that Jim Ross was fired for failing to control him (yes, you read that correctly). Oh, and he also pulled the classic Flair trick of burying someone he disliked. In this case it was Daniel Bryan, the day before he was due to defeat John Cena for the WWE championship.

Basically, Ric Flair has continued to be Ric Flair. Woooooooooooo!!


This got pay-per-view time.
In the back Maria and Carlito discussed coolness and paradoxes. Then Torrie Wilson showed up in a bikini. Carlito held her puppies as she and Maria went off to rub baby oil on one another, something that was actually shown and given time on a pay-per-view. Carlito provided some commentary on that before his music hit. Things like this used to happen all the time. We didn't even question why Torrie was prepping for a photo shoot in the middle of a pay-per-view. It was a more naive time.

'Caribbean Cool's' match was a triple threat for the Intercontinental championship. His opponents were Johnny Nitro and champ Shelton Benjamin. Carlito was by this point a bland babyface. Nitro was still doing his red carpet entrance with Melina and was just starting out on the cheap heat route of blocking particularly revealing shots of his scantily clad girlfriend. Shelton Benjamin was probably even more bland than Carlito but was trying to hide it by wearing sunglasses and loud shirts to the ring.

What's most striking looking back at this match now is that the three all seemed like they were going to be something significant for WWE at one point or another and yet none of them managed it. They were victims of the mid-00s lax approach to star building. If these guys, as they were back then, debuted in today's system they'd stand a far better chance of being helped to the top, because while the current system is far from perfect it is at least structured to give new guys a chance at getting over. The quality of the match demonstrated they all could have achieved far more during this period had they been allowed to just go to the ring and wrestle their metaphorical socks off more frequently. They put on a great match and the crowd were into it. That sounds like an ideal second tier championship match to me.

Nitro won the championship (his first reign) off a Carlito back cracker on Shelton. The two losers looked upset while Nitro spent an she standing around grinning and posing at the top of the entrance ramp.


What they did next:
Shelton Benjamin: Independent circuit, Ring of Honor, and New Japan.

Carlito: Independent circuit and the WWC.

Johnny Nitro: Became John Morrison. Independent circuit, stand-up comedy, film directing, and continued dating Melina (which makes him the winner).


Backstage we found the Spirit Squad screaming at one another about destroying DX. Then Vince entered and joined in, because no young pups are out-hollering the boss. The Squad left so Vince had a look at the penis pump box Coach had handed him earlier. In a toile, which was probably for the best. Nobody needs to see that much of Vinnie Mac. An explosion was heard and then he came out with some green paint lightly dabbed on his face.

"That damned DX!" said Vince, like a character from a rubbish 70s sitcom. What would those crazy DX kids do next?!

Out at ringside Jerry Lawler said we'd just witnessed a booby-trapped penis pump. His laughter indicated that this was one of the most spectacular things that had ever happened to him.

A video package reminded us of RVD's Money in the Bank win and cash-in on Cena at the One Night Stand show. Van Dam won that match after interference from Edge. 'The Rated R Superstar' made an appearance on ECW's TV show to say he respected RVD and looked forward to tearing the house down with him. But then he speared him, because mid-00s Edge was full of dick moves like that. He also had boob job Lita at his side. There was a lot to like about him.

Edge cut a pre-match promo about how the Stanley Cup (a hockey award of some prestige) was won for North Carolina by Canadians, comparable to how he'd beaten Cena for 'Mr Monday Night'. Then he claimed he'd win the gold and have a live sex celebration afterwards. RVD didn't get to respond, but he was introduced simply as "the champion" by Lilian Garcia, which was something.

A rare excuse to put up a picture of RVD as WWE champion.
This match is not as well remembered as it deserves because of the reasons Van Dam would end up losing the title. It's famous for the reason why he lost it. A few weeks after the match RVD would test positive for a substance banned by WWE's Wellness Policy. If you're familiar with Van Dam's past you can probably hazard a guess as to what that substance was. That violation meant Rob had to be written off TV for thirty days. His reign as a double champion was cut short. The decision was made that he'd lose the WWE belt to Edge on the July 3 RAW. The next night he dropped the ECW strap to Big Show.

But we're concerned with Vengeance. The match the two men had here was excellent and showed that Edge had been sincere when he'd said he wanted to steal the show. They packed an incredible amount into their eighteen minutes: tonnes of counter wrestling, plenty of moonsaults, and a satisfying number of big bump spots. Particularly impressive moments included a sunset bomb to the floor from Edge to Van Dam, a cross body over the top rope down to the floor from RVD, an Edge power bomb onto the crowd barrier, and Edge countering the tumbling senton into a power slam. Plus all the usual spots you'd get from both, which is a fair few. The match stands as an example of why RVD originally became popular and why Edge made it as far as he did. Van Dam won a cracker of a match with the Five Star frog splash. Edge had speared a chair and knocked himself out seconds before.


What they did next:
Rob Van Dam: RVD was another guy who made a jump over to TNA. He was booked fairly well for a year or two, capturing the TNA world championship in decent storyline which quickly became a mess. Inevitably TNA lost interest in him and he drifted down into the mid-card. He left last year, after being given the X Division championship for literally no reason at all, and returned to WWE at Money in the Bank. He’s not done anything major yet and I don’t think he will. But at least he’s getting pay now. That’s nice for him.

Edge: Between 2006 and his unexpected in retirement in 2011 Edge became one of WWE’s premier talents. His list of accomplishments include multiple WWE and World Heavyweight championship reigns, being the de facto lead figure on SmackDown for years on end, and giving Undertaker one of his finest Streak matches ever. 2006 was the breakout year for ‘The Rated R Superstar’ and he would go from strength to strength.


Backstage ECW wrestlers such as Roadkill, Stevie Richards and Little Guido celebrated their boy's victory with alternating chants of ECW and RVD. Then Paul Heyman sauntered in and told the locker room that they'd be joined as lumberjacks by some RAW wrestlers. He acknowledged nobody liked the decision but said it was happening anyway. Why, if nobody liked it?

At this point I was beginning to get worried that the show hadn't been as comedically bad as I'd hoped. Then, as if to prove me wrong, Kane's music played. And this wasn't just any Kane match. This was the Kane versus imposter Kane match. This is the sort of storyline that has routinely been thrust at Glenn Jacobs throughout his fifteen plus years as Kane. Basically Kane's gimmick had by this point become that anything too lunatic to be done to the Undertaker could be done to him. At this point that list included the famed Katie Vick necrophilia angle, a feud with Matt Hardy over who to marry Lita, and a feud with Snitsky over an aborted child .

The match was not a pleasant experience, for a number of reasons. Drew Hankinson, the man now known as Doc Gallows in New Japan, was not very good at this point. Neither was Kane, although he was at least a known quantity audiences were willing to react to. The biggest problem was that fans were not interested in the Kane v Kane angle, amusing themselves with chants of "Boring!" and "Take the mask off!" instead of reacting to things as WWE wanted. It's hard to blame them. It was never clear what Fake Kane wanted, what Real Kane stood to lose, why anyone should care who won and who lost, or where the story was heading. As it turned out the fake won with a choke slam and the cover Real Kane used to do after performing a Tombstone.


What they did next:
Real Kane: Any insane wrestling idea you can think of. And a bunch you can’t.

Fake Kane: Became Festus, then Luke Gallows, then DOC, then Doc Gallows.


At this point you might be wondering what the official theme song of Vengeance 2006 was. Well I'll tell you, because it was plugged at this point of the show. It was Victim by Eighteen Visions. Jerry Lawlerp loved it, so you know it was good.

The Cena v Sabu video package reminded us of Cena's hard night at the second One Night Stand event and subsequent feud with ECW at large. That's a feud, just so you know, that included Cena decking Heyman, wrestling a match on RAW with Balls Mahoney and getting put through the announce desk by Sabu. There were loads of shots of all the ECW guys hanging around together during the video. That included Tommy Dreamer and Sandman: who had once had a lengthy feud that included Sandman pretending he was blind so that he could attack Dreamer with a cane. But they're BFFs now LOL!

JR put over how tough and dangerous Sabu is not by pointing out the scars that crisscross his body or discussing the ridiculous death matches he'd been a part of but by saying he "allegedly" glued his wounds up after matches. It didn't destroy the myth of Sabu or anything as melodramatic as that but it didn't do the match any favours. Most people watching wouldn't have had a clue who Sabu was or why he was a tougher opponent for Cena than, say, Tommy Dreamer. It would've been nice if Ross had done everything he could to put him over as a madman who'd take himself apart in order to beat Cena. But for whatever reason he couldn't be bothered or was directed not to.

The RAW lumberjacks are a fascinating insight into the roster of the time. Names such as Rob Conway, Trevor Murdoch, Garrison Cade and, perhaps the epitome of this era of the WWE mid-card, Gene Snitsky were on offer here. If that doesn't excite you on a so-bad-it's-good level there's something wrong with you.

'The Homicidal, Suicidal and Genocidal Freak'... and Sabu
The setup was a mess. Cena had been booked as a valiant face taking on an entire company. But this was the beginning of fandom's turn on Cena, which meant people had not rallied behind him as fully as expected. Meanwhile ECW, which had a rep as the underdog fed, had been booked as a bunch of heels against Cena but were also being launched as their own show, meaning many of them had also had thoroughly babyface moments. Just to thoroughly confuse things the RAW lumberjacks stationed at ringside by Vince, to even the odds, were all heels (with the possible exception of Charlie Haas). So Cena, who was becoming firmly established as an unbeatable face, was taking on a roster of underdog misfits and was backed up by bad guys. Or, to put it another way, John Cena was working a Sabu style match with Sabu surrounded by a bunch of jobbers.

As wacky stunt matches go it was pretty satisfying. Cena and Sabu lobbed chairs at each other, the triple jump offence got an airing, Cena took some Sandman cane shots, and Sabu was FUed out of the ring through a table. Cena won with the STF as the RAW guys held back the ECW guys. Yeah, Sabu tapped out, something he's known for disliking. JR did at least emphasise the rarity of a Sabu submission. That was something, but it could have meant slightly more if Sabu had been established we the embodiment of insanity before the match began.

Immediately after the match Cena wandered backstage and ran into RVD. They agreed to a title match on RAW. "Pack all you got, bro," were Cena's sage words of advice to Van Dam. He said stuff like that a fair amount back in 2006.


What they did next:
John Cena: For better or for worse he is still John Cena.

Sabu: Somehow managed to stay employed by WWE until May 2007, at which point he was released for unspecified reasons. He returned to working to working for smaller promotions and took some bookings in Mexico. The most significant thing I can remember Sabu doing since 2007 is facing Sami Callihan at a Dragon Gate USA (or possibly EVOLVE) show. Although he also made an appearance or two for TNA in 2010.


The pre-match video for DX v SS started out with Shawn Michaels' face being rubbed against Vince McMahon's bare backside. That's a fairly accurate snapshot of what RAW had been for a while at this point. Vince wanted to teach Shawn a lesson about not being disrespectful. So he roped in five cheerleaders and Triple H to rough him up. 'The Game' ended up turning face on his allies, refusing to smash his old pal's skull and instead jobbing out the Squad. Tripper was taken apart in a five-on-one handicap match, then Shawn Michaels returned the favour and made the save. The two officially reunited and embarked on a campaign of hilarity the likes of which WWE had never seen before. Everything was covered: Vince loves cocks gags, male stripograms, penis pumps, and graffitied magazine covers, it was all on offer.

Throw your hands up in the air and wave them around like you just don't care!
A five-on-two handicap match was inevitable. It was also a guaranteed way to bury five new talents. Not that the squad gimmick was destined for the top, but it could have been used to launch one or two guys into singles careers and another two into a tag team. But that wasn't a priority. The priority was relaunching DX as a nostalgia brand that could make periodic returns to WWE and bring in some merch sales.

More than any other PPV main event I can remember this one felt like a dark match that goes on after the end of RAW. The DX lads did their pre-match shtick and the audience went crazy for it. Then the Spirits came out to absolutely zero reaction. It should be noted that the Squad held the tag straps at this point. It gives you an idea of what sort of state the roster was in.

Had this been in the middle of the card it probably would have been fine. Completely forgettable, but inoffensive. Exactly what D-Generation X versus the Spirit Squad should be in other words. But it wasn't in the middle of the card it was the main event and as a main event it was not good. The psychology of the match was all off. Instead of worrying about the significant numbers advantage their opponents had Triple H and Michaels larked about and never seemed to be taking things seriously. That that hurt the Spirits' chances for advancement isn't the point. They weren't getting to the top under that gimmick anyway. The problem was that it made it hard to get into the match: if DX weren't taking a five-on-two situation seriously why should we? The finish saw Kenny take a pedigree and nicky take a sweet chin music for a double pin. Several minutes of posing then ensued before the broadcast finished.


What they did next
Triple H: Became Vince McMahon 2.0.

Shawn Michaels: Continued to be one of the best wrestlers ever. Then retired before he lost his touch.

This happened for a while.
Kenny: Finished up his feud with DX, returned to developmental and then returned to the main roster as Kenny Dykstra. Everyone thought he would be the member of the Spirit Squad that became a somebody. Everyone was wrong. Dykstra proved to be an athletic dude but didn’t have a good enough understanding of the character work pro wrestlers need to make it to the top to advance beyond the mid-card. He was outshone by…

Nicky: He became a caddy to Kerwin White then disappeared before returning as Dolph Ziggler. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

Mikey: He never received another crack at becoming a somebody in WWE. He was released in 2008. In 2010 he wangled himself a spot in Ring of Honor thanks to the reign of error instigated by Jim Cornette. He held onto his spot until 2013 before getting released. He now works mostly for Ohio Valley Wrestling. Presumably his work is enjoyed there.

Johnny: Um…

Mitch: … I’ve got nothing.


Final thoughts:
As mid-00s pay-per-views go this was nowhere near as bad as it could have been, or as bad as I was hoping for. Kane versus Kane and Foley versus Flair were bad but that was about it. The triple threat match and Edge v Van Dam were both great. The main event was more a peculiarity than an out and out failure. The Umaga v Eugene match avoided the bad bin by being about a minute and a half long and having Umaga destroy two other guys afterwards. Vengeance 2006 could have been a far worse affair than it was.

Next time I’ll try a SmackDown show. Those are the real stinkers.