Wrestling Worth Watching: WWE Vengeance (10/23/11) and Webshows
I’m going to keep putting this out there: I love indie feds. I love ‘em so much I could hug them and squeeze them and love them and hug them…but I am incredibly inept at finding free, legal webshows to cover on this here blog. Oh sure, I could post a match from NWA Hollywood or FCW in this space, but I’d feel better knowing that I had your permission. If you run/know of an independent pro-wrestling promotion that could use some free, err, promotion, use the contact form and give a shout.
WWE NXT (10/19/11) (Watch it on YouTube)
Maxine Touts the Prowess of Derrik Bateman: He’s got a lot more flexibility and a lot more “stanima” than Titus O’Neil. Stanima. Stanima.
Curt Hawkins’ Pimp Cane: Pimp canes. Always a fan. The rest of the promo was pretty good, too…right down to Hawkins’ injury being the result of a simple shove, and Recks dedicating his victories to him.
William Regal Mentions Jushin “Thunder” Liger: I love when wrestling announcers know what they’re talking about without sounding like absolute assholes. This is the line that separates a guy like Regal from a guy like Matt Striker.
Diva Outfits: It looks like the 80s have abducted the WWE Diva undercard. It’s great.
Fascinating Maxine Fact of the Week (With Local Flavor): Her auntie is a careless maiden from Guadalajara. She happens to be engaged to a one-legged Elvis impersonator who does a wonderful rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Kaitlyn vs. Maxine: Almost single-handedly made up for the horror that was NXT Season 3.
Derrik Bateman, On Life: “My life’s weird.” Yes, bro, it is.
Titus O’Neil & Percy Watson vs. Derrik Bateman & JTG: I need a new way of saying “decent match, nothing spectacular.”
Questionable Decision of the Week: Returning NXT to its roots as an awful hybrid wrestling/physical game show. This was an awful idea from word one, and it came back in Mexico, who I’m sure missed their obstacle courses and trivia challenges like everybody else. I’d be fine with it if somebody could explain to me how grabbing a bunch of flags from the ring ropes is going to prove somebody’s mettle as a future WWE superstar but, oh wait, nobody can. There is, of course, a way to make NXT an exciting TV show about the search for the next WWE Superstar, but I’m not giving any ideas away for free, and WWE seems content to allow Matt Striker and the NXT rookies to moon around the ring doing contrived sketches for the “entertainment” of 9,000 or so people, so I guess they can keep doing what they’re doing.
WWE Superstars (10/20/11) (Watch it on YouTube)
Mexicans Booing Jinder Mahal Because He’s Indian: The WWE’s formula works everywhere, I suppose. The reaction to Ted DiBiase had to be canned, unless the DiBiase Posse has a Mexican chapter.
Stupid Matt Striker Fact of the Week: Jinder Mahal can’t go two steps in India without “Gypsies coming out and throwing rose petals at his feet.” The Gypsies left India in the 11th century.
The DiBiase Posse’s Menu This Week: Tacos. A lot of them.
Air Boom vs. A Couple of Mcs (Michael McGillicutty and Drew McIntyre): Air Boom continue to gel well as a team, and the WWE tag team division continues its slow rise back towards something like prominence. I highly doubt that A Couple of Mcs will be a team this time next week, but if they are, it’s not a bad start. This one match was better than anything McGillicutty did as a member of the New Nexus (my pick for worst stable name ever) or as David Otunga’s tag team partner. McIntyre continues to be his solid, reliable self, and my heart always warms when the bad guy stomps on the hands of the suffering face while he’s trying to make the tag. Superstars wasn’t much to write home about this week, but this was a good match. If you like tag team wrestling, check it out.
Questionable Decision of the Week: I just noticed it, but WWE announcers have stopped referring to WWE referees by name. Instead, it’s “WWE officials” or “WWE referees.” This is terrible to a nerd like me. I can rank, in order of greatness, WCW’s 1997 referee roster. I can tell you that Jack Doan referees the vast majority of WWE’s Last Man Standing matches because he has the best ten count in the business. I know that referees are best when they’re in the background (which is why Earl Hebner is the worst referee of all time), but they all have little idiosyncrasies that add to the uniqueness of any given match. People know the names of prominent boxing and MMA referees, not to mention umpires and referees of other sports. Moreover, dedicated fans know their quirks and know what they add to the proceedings. Shouldn’t the WWE have something like that? Just a small layer of reality? It’d be nice, if nothing else, to be able to call Black Ref something more than “Black Ref.”
WWE Vengeance (10/23/11)
Probably one of the most enjoyable WWE PPVs in a long time, up there with Money in the Bank as the best show of the year. The pleasure of Money in the Bank was purely emotional, though, as, outside of Daniel Bryan’s huge win and CM Punks now-diminished one, I really can’t remember what the hell happened. Vengeance was something like a technical masterpiece, hitting all its spots without relenting. In an effort to catch up on TV shows that I like that aren’t wrestling-related, I saw an episode of 30 Rock where Jack was “Reaganing,” or going through an entire day mistake-free, perfectly solving every problem. That was pretty much this show–big spectacle wrestling coming through and delivering in just about every match.
Zigglerthon 2011: Dolph Ziggler wrestled two matches to open the pay per view, and both of them would have been just dandy as far as opening contests go. In the first, he and Jack Swagger, the tag team known as Swaggler (or, as Booker T would say, “Zig Zag and Swag”), went for the WWE Tag Team Titles, held by the poorly-named tandem Air Boom. It’s everything I’ve been saying about WWE’s tag team division, which, in short, means that it’s way better than it’s been since maybe the days of the SmackDown! Six. After losing, Ziggler went on to face internet favorite (and Internet Champion) Zack Ryder for Ziggler’s United States title. It was Ryder’s first pay per view match in some time, and a rather good one, to boot. While Ryder keeps making the case that there’s something more to him than just his internet presence and charmingly horrible sense of humor, Ziggler keeps making the case that he’s not tomorrow’s main event, but that he should be at the top of the card today.
Eve Torres vs. Beth Phoenix: The surprise of the night, and perhaps the best televised women’s match of the year. Eve was a total shock here, as, the last time the spotlight shone on her, she was your typical face Diva. Whatever training she’s done at the Gracie gym has finally translated to the ring, and I’m left wondering why the focus of the Diva’s division has been Kelly Kelly. Eve hits the ropes convincingly, hits her moves convincingly, and took Beth Phoenix’s offense convincingly. On ye olde wrestling blog (Blogamania, brother), I said that Eve was boring and flavorless. Time will bear it out, but I’m taking those comments back. Wouldn’t mind more Eve.
Sheamus vs. Christian: With some reservations. On the surface, this was just a very good match between a very good Christian and a still-improving Sheamus. Beyond that, I think I’m starting to take issue with how Christian is portrayed, which is odd, because I almost never care about this. In the match, Sheamus kicked out of a Christian spear at one, and the announcers made a big deal about it. Christian eventually lost to the Brogue Kick, which, I guess, is fine. Then I thought about it, and the Spear and the Brogue Kick essentially serve the same purpose for Christian and Sheamus: They’re high-impact, finishing strikes that tend to put away lesser opponents. Sheamus kicked out of Christian’s at one. Christian lost to Sheamus’. I don’t know if that’s indicative of Christian’s place, but it’s becoming obvious that Christian can’t win a match against a high profile opponent unless he finds a way to tilt the odds in his favor. Since that almost never happens, there’s hardly any suspense when he’s in the ring. That takes something away from even the most enjoyable matches.
Triple H and CM Punk vs. The Sharecroppers: Of the three matches Triple H has had this year, this one was the best. It wasn’t facing the pressure of living up to Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, and it wasn’t trying to keep CM Punk’s momentum going while also maintaining Triple H’s status as WWE’s resident demi-god. Instead, it was a straight-up tag team match, tightly contested, with no hint of pressure on any of the four men involved. Of course, a lot of Punk’s momentum has cooled, Triple H can waltz into an arena and have the audience in his pocket, and the Sharecroppers (that’s Miz and R-Truth, whose “Awesome Truth” moniker does them no favors), win, lose, or draw would still be one of the primary focuses of WWE programming. It was pretty obvious that the match was going to end in NASH-related shenanigans, but until it did, all four men put on a good show.
NASH-Related Shenanigans: I am the world’s only Kevin Nash fan. I get that. Last night, however, he looked more in-shape than at any point in time since WCW died, and the Jackknife Powerbomb Triple H took was the sickest since Nash legitimately injured The Big Show’s neck with the maneuver in 1998. Granted, a lot of that has to do with Triple H, but provided Nash is serious about what is likely his last chance to drink up the limelight, he has the potential to create some interesting television.
Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes: Same thing with Sheamus vs. Christian, only Rhodes is probably more in need of a win in a situation like this, seeing as Christian is pretty much established and Rhodes still needs one or two solid wins to really put him over as a top bad guy. It’s amazing to me that the same people who hate John Cena’s guts find Randy Orton and appealing guy, since his matches are often structured similarly, only Orton tends to bury his opponents a little deeper than Cena does. Orton has come a long way since the chinlock was his primary attack, but he may be the least interesting protagonist in wrestling history. It’d be nice to see something about him shaken up.
Mark Henry vs. The Big Show: Matches like this are very much the reason I still watch WWE, even though it has proven to be the biggest, most constant source of frustration in my life as a voracious consumer of pop culture. I follow indie promotions on Twitter, and after every WWE show they ask their followers (the choir, but they’ve got to tweet something) if they’re ready to stop spending money on the WWE yet. Ostensibly, the WWE is a blue-collar entertainment and, for a $15 dollar ticket, dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings, or, if you’re wild, $55 to either WWE.com or your local cable provider, you can enjoy their wares and, with luck, go home happy. The point of the question an indie fed asks is simple: For less money, you can go to a show and see lesser-known, harder-working talent put on better matches and know that your money is directly responsible not for the livelihood of the million-or-so suits working for the WWE, but the wrestlers in the ring. What the WWE offers that these indie shows cannot is specticle.
And that’s exactly what a match like Mark Henry vs. Big Show is, though I can’t remember the WWE delivering on their promise in quite the same way as they did here. Usually, when the WWE promotes a MONSTER VS. MONSTER match on the order of Show vs. Henry, things tank. They sag. They make me want to never turn on my TV again. This was the professional wrestling equivalent of Rampage: World Tour, and every second of it, from the opening bout of clubbering to the closing spot where the freaking ring collapsed beneath a Henry superplex, was exhilarating.
I’m well-aware that the superplex spot has already happened, and that the Big Show was involved (as was Brock Lesnar). But this was different. This involved Mark Henry, who is much larger than Brock Lesnar, and who has been a perennial screw-up when it comes to huge spots like this. Despite how good Mark Henry has been for the past several months, this was his true coming out party–the moment where he revealed himself not only as a spectacle, but as an excellent storyteller finally worth all the money and second chances he has been given. It was also a big moment for the Big Show, who, for many, has never quite lived up to the immense hype and expectations heaped onto him when he debuted all the way back in 1995. The focus of Mark Henry’s title reign is that it’s justified fifteen years of failure. Big Show has World Titles and the occasional stand-out match or moment on his resume, but his name isn’t exactly synonymous with success, either. Despite that, he and Henry have been the most compelling angle in wrestling for the past month, and they absolutely stole the show where, six months ago, a match between the two would have filled the audience with dread. Everybody involved deserves a ton of credit for this one.
Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena: Del Rio finally gets a long main event showcase, but must fight in a ruined ring, in a match where most of his offense is no longer in the field of play. Despite those long odds, he comes through with one of the best performances in his short WWE career, against the always underrated Cena. Essentially a better-paced WWF Hardcore Championship match from 1999, Del Rio got ragdolled by Cena quite a few times, getting hurled into a barricade at the match’s start and being dumped onto a table from a lighting rig near the end. Ricardo Rodriguez was great, as usual, as Del Rio’s meat shield, but this was very much his show, and he and Cena put together the match that the WWE must have had in mind when Del Rio first took the WWE Championship from CM Punk.
That being said…
Questionable Decision of the Week: As much as I’d like to put Eve’s new music here, the interference by the Sharecroppers at the end of the Cena/Del Rio match did absolutely nothing but serve to awkwardly shoehorn Cena into another feud he previously had no business in. Not only that, but it made sure that Cena, who somehow survived being buried under huge metal objects and being beaten around the arena, lost his first Last Man Standing match (he’s been in a ton) to the incredibly lame combo of a tandem beatdown and a shot from the WWE Championship, the design of which needed to be changed yesterday. If Cena is WWE’s Superman, as is often put forth, he went down last night to something decidedly less powerful than Kryptonite. A disappointing end to an otherwise unique, enjoyable match.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.