Last night, I attended the WWE Smackdown/Main Event television taping at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Main Event will air this Wednesday on the Ion Television Network and Smackdown this Friday on SyFy. As usual for a live event, I will provide my thoughts and observations:
•I awoke yesterday morning to see Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee being interviewed on my local news station. They made all the media rounds promoting the event. My friend stated that they were likely running on Starbucks all day.
•I arrived to the arena around 6:40 p.m. Instead of parking in the coliseum lot, I parked in a neighborhood right across the street and saved ten bucks in the process! Upon walking to the main entrance, I came across the WWE production trucks. They looked very nice and even though I’ve attended shows for years, it was my first time noticing these trucks in the general parking lot.
•The building appeared to be packed. I even noticed some of the very upper level seats were made available, which I can’t recall for the last couple of shows.
•There was a TON of pyro. Even though I should come to expect it, the shock still gets me every time. Lol.
•It seemed to me that there was a big lack of Hispanics. Every show I’ve attended normally has a large percentage of Hispanics and for some reason they did not stick out at this event like they have in times past. Perhaps it was just the area I was in. Of course, with Rey Mysterio out of action and Sin Cara serving as a glorified jobber, it’s not like they have a major star to rally behind. Oh wait, I forgot about Alberto Del Rio.
•There was a very bizarre camera policy. For as long as I can remember the rule of thumb has been no video recording at live events, which is completely understandable. However, they took it to an entirely different level last night when they banned the use of any camera. As I walked into the main concourse I noticed a sign that read no cameras were allowed for this event. At first I assumed it meant video cameras. But during the Main Event taping, an attendant spotted a fan taking regular pictures and told them to put away their camera. My friend and I were stunned since we were only taking pictures a few moments before they were caught. For a few minutes we were hesitant about taking any pictures, but then we decided to go full force and do whatever we liked since we paid our hard earned money. Eventually, everyone in our section (and the entire building) was able to take their pictures in peace.
•Main Event featured Miz vs. Cody Rhodes, The Usos vs. Brodus Clay and Sweet T, and Damien Sandow vs. Sin Cara. Miz was very over with the audience and the crowd reacted huge when he beat Cody with the figure four leglock. The Usos won their match. I was kind of surprised they had two babyface teams against each other. Crowd was very much into the Usos. They have a real carefree and fun vibe about them. Sandow won his match and did a fantastic job of getting everyone riled up. Sandow is one of those guys with a complete grasp of his character.
•Smackdown opened with a Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Randy Orton segment. Even though Bryan has come across as one of the true big stars in the company over the last few weeks, the Greensboro crowd was kind of quiet to him. There were pockets of yes chants, but nothing overwhelming. However, they reacted huge for Orton. Every time I’ve seen Orton over the last two years, he becomes more over with the audience. This segment made it very evident why he has been the top guy on Smackdown for such a long time.
•Sheamus beat Antonio Cesaro in a well worked match that may come across better on television than it did live. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just didn’t appeal to me. Sandow attacked Sheamus afterwards.
•There was a funny backstage piece involving Team Ziggler interrupting Teddy Long from eating a Hardees super bacon thickburger. By the end Big E. Langston had ate the majority of his burger. The people around me seemed to like this. Langston has a ton of personality and is not bad in the ring either. Barring a very stupid decision on his part or creative, he should be around for a long time.
•It must also be mentioned that WWE was heavily pushing the Hardees super bacom thickburger throughout the show. That burger may be second most pushed entity in the company next to their app.
•I was surprised that Heath Slater beat Great Khali clean.
•Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio beat Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston. Match was real good and the fans were very into it because of all the star power involved. Ziggler and Jericho were particularly over. The finishing sequence was well done.
•People were excited when Paul Heyman appeared to interrupt Jericho’s post-match interview. I enjoy their chemistry on the mic.
•Kaitlyn destroyed Aksana, who I hadn’t seen in months. Then again it’s not like I watch Smackdown on a regular basis. The match was nothing more than a way to play off her angle with AJ from Raw. Crowd reacted big when she slugged the referee.
•The main event of Shield vs. Kane, Daniel Bryan, and Randy Orton was off the charts. The people in my section were amped before the match began since Shield walked by us on their way to the ring. I even got an up close picture of Seth Rollins (not a very good one). This match had great heat throughout and unlike the opening segment; the crowd was totally into Bryan. The fans, myself included, loudly chanted yes as he entered the ring and for his offensive flurries. The finishing sequence was among the very best I’ve seen and Shield officially suffered their first pinfall loss in a six-man tag. The arena exploded with jubilation as Lillian Garcia made the announcement. It really felt like we experienced history. After celebrating, Kane and Orton left the ring so Bryan could bask in the spotlight. The show concluded with him taking a bow on the entrance ramp and waving goodbye to everyone. Excellent ending.
My friend and I hung around after the show and got to watch the production crew take down a lot of stuff. In all the years I’ve attended live events I never hung around for that long. It was a neat sight to see. Overall, it was a great show. There was consistent action all throughout the evening along with two very good matches and an overall hot crowd (by Greensboro standards). The main event was truly spectacular and I cannot wait to watch it on Friday.
If there were ever a holiday which the wrestling business ought to use as a time to reflect, it is Thanksgiving. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to many of the most important stars in the industry.
I’m thankful for C.M. Punk. When Punk debuted in WWE six years ago, I never would have imagined him reigning as world champion for over a full year. Though Punk broke through the glass ceiling to become a main eventer last year, it seems that he really hit his career peak this year as a heel. His championship reign has bought a level of prestige back to the belt that was desperately lacking over the last few years.
I’m thankful for Paul Heyman. After the way he left WWE in the aftermath of the disastrous December to Dismember PPV in 2006, I never thought I’d see him working in WWE again (except as a talking head on video releases). Therefore, I was as shocked as anyone to see him return to television in the role of an advisor to Brock Lesnar. It was an even bigger shock when he began managing Punk. At first I was curious as to how he would enhance Punk’s character. After all, it’s not like Punk ever needed anyone to do the talking for him. However, within a few weeks of their alliance, it was obvious they were onto something big. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Heyman brings an entirely new element to Punk and their interaction reminds me of the very best wrestler/manager pairings in history. Heyman was always great, but this latest run has really cemented his legacy for me. He is among the best talkers, managers and creative minds the business has ever seen.
I’m thankful for John Cena. This year, I found myself more drawn to him as an overall performer than any other period I can recall. His feuds against Rock, Lesnar and Punk were captivating and produced some of the most memorable matches of the year. His tireless work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation makes him a class act in my view. Cena is already a living legend and we should all appreciate his contributions to the business as such.
I’m thankful for Hiroshi Tanahashi and the entire New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. A strong argument can be made that NJPW is the best promotion in the world today. Their top star, current IWGP heavyweight champion Tanahashi, is probably the best all around performer in the business. The guy has it all, the look, the charisma, the incredible working ability, and not just athletically, but his ability to understand when to do what is equal to anyone in wrestling. Other key guys such as Yugi Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Minoru Suzuki, Low Ki, Prince Devitt, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada are all excellent performers in their own right. Perhaps the biggest strength of the promotion is that everyone has their own distinct character and working style which makes for a consistently great product.
I’m thankful for Dolph Ziggler. This man is so close to touching the brass ring that I can almost taste it. He has been one of WWE’s most outstanding performers for quite some time and never fails to produce anything less than great television. Whether he’s taking bumps like the second coming of Shawn Michaels and Curt Hennig, or cutting cocky promos that remind us of the late Rick Rude, Ziggler is amazing.
I’m thankful for Kurt Angle. I don’t watch TNA regularly, but the one thing I can always expect to see whenever I tune in or read their latest PPV card coverage is that Angle will just about always be in the best match of any show he’s on. Though it’s debatable as to whether he should still be wrestling, there is no way you can deny his greatness. Only the very elite have been able to compete at such a high level past the age of 40. Of those select few, I don’t think any had the extensive list of injuries as Angle. I’m not sure how much longer his body will be able to hold out, but I’m going to enjoy him for as long as he’s here.
I’m thankful for AJ Lee. Over the past year, this little firecracker has become one of most interesting women to ever compete in WWE. While Trish Stratus was the best women’s wrestler in company history and the late Elizabeth Hulette was better known to a generation of fans, neither had anything on AJ when it came to being such a prominent part of the main event scene. She’s been in high profile angles with Daniel Bryan, Punk and Cena, not to mention her stint as general manager of Raw. AJ is a stark contrast to the silicone-induced blondes that have proliferated WWE over the last decade. More important, she has the geek chic charm that makes her seem like the girl next door.
Last but not least, I’m thankful for Chris Jericho. I’m not sure about the current status of his contract negotiations with WWE, but one thing I do know is that I was very glad to see him return after a year plus hiatus. Jericho’s career is an example I wish more veterans would take after. Having long since accomplished everything he set out to do in a successful 20 year career, he came back with the singular intent to help elevate young talent. He was in one of the better endings ever to a Royal Rumble against Sheamus and then went on to face Punk in two stellar PPV matches. His opener against Ziggler at Summerslam was the best match of the show and in true fashion he lost to him the following night on Raw. In fact, he lost just about every major match he was in. The business will always need people like Jericho. The 6x world champion, 2x winner of the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Wrestler of the Year award and 2008 Superstar of the Year will always put the needs of the business ahead of his ego. For that reason alone, he will always be one of my favorites.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a happy Turkey Day!
I know it’s late for a midyear report, but I don’t care. I’m doing it anyway! The following are my thoughts on a few things that have stood out to me so far this year in WWE.
Breakout Star of the Year- Tie between Daniel Bryan and AJ Lee
It’s only fitting that the top two performers in WWE are two people whose careers have been linked together for the better part of the year. It’s also fitting because both represent what the top brass in WWE has traditionally shied away from in terms of appearance.
Bryan is far from the being the most physically imposing specimen, but when he gets inside the ring and on the microphone, he brings level of intensity and psychology that few possess. His yes chants have become the most recognizable one word catchphrase in all of wrestling, even being mentioned in other promotions. He’s been in the some of the year’s best matches and angles and even stood toe-to-toe (and verbally held his own) with the Rock on last week’s 1,000th episode of Raw. It looks like the current direction is for him to engage in some kind of confrontation with Charlie Sheen at Summerslam. Though, I’d rather see Bryan compete for the WWE Championship, I have no doubt he will make his program with Sheen as entertaining as possible. In 2012, it seemed like WWE finally realized what many in the business had known for years: Bryan is great at everything he does.
AJ, without question, is one of the most important women in the history of WWE. Only three others come to mind that could compare with her. Elizabeth was the first major valet in WWE and was involved in storylines with the big stars of her day. The popularity of Sable changed the way WWE would market their women to the masses, while Trish Stratus became the best in-ring performer they ever had.
But AJ has done something that none of them ever did and that was to become a fixture of the main event scene. For the last several months, AJ has been all over WWE television. She started out the year as the bashful sidekick of Bryan before she became a star in her own right. She played major roles in WWE Championship matches at the No Way Out and Money in the Bank PPVs. One could argue that the buildup to those matches was more focused on her than the actual participants. There were weeks on Raw when she was featured in more segments than John Cena. That just doesn’t happen to anyone.
There have been so many memorable AJ moments that it would take me an entire post to write about. If I had to narrow it down to two, they would be the time she pushed C.M. Punk off the top rope into a table and last week’s wedding segment with Bryan where it was revealed by Vince McMahon that she would be taking over as the new general manger. Regardless of what she does next, I’m sure she will make it as entertaining as possible.
Most Boring Performer- Tensai
This guy just sucks the energy out of me, and fans in every arena, each time he steps into the ring. He joins a select list of guys who I actually ignore every time they’re on the television screen. Once I hear his theme music, I know it’s time for me to get up and grab a snack. If he doesn’t do something soon to improve upon his character or ringwork then WWE should really consider firing him.
Most Underutilized Performer- Wow. The vast majority of the roster fits into this category. If I had to choose one then I would say Drew McIntyre. The man has a perfect look and the ability to back it up. It’s as simple as that.
Best Moment- Tie between Rock beating John Cena at Wrestlemania and Dolph Ziggler winning the Smackdown Money in the Bank ladder match.
In my 20 years as a fan of this great business, there are only a handful of moments that gave me the feeling of sheer elation of Rock beating Cena. I watched the show in a sports bar and the place went absolutely nuts when the referee counted to three. Words could not adequately describe the atmosphere that night. For many older fans, it was as if his win was vindication that the Attitude Era was better than the current Cena-dominated era of WWE.
On the other hand, Ziggler’s win was a moment fans desperately craved. Ziggler has been great for such a long time, but after losing so many key matches to Sheamus, I was worried he would end up losing MITB too. Much to my surprise (anytime something good happens in wrestling today, I consider it a surprise), Ziggler won a tremendous match and will likely win the world title down the road. His win was the just an outward symbol of what everyone knew he was capable of. I have no doubt he will be a major player in the WWE for years to come.
Top Five Matches of the Midyear
Rock vs. John Cena, Wrestlemania 28- It was a clash of two of the biggest stars in wrestling history in Rock’s hometown. The yearlong build to this match paid off, as it had the atmosphere of a big time sporting event. Rock winning was the cherry on top, but make no mistake about it, both guys worked hard to make it into a memorable encounter.
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules- This was a match unlike any I’ve seen. It was more of a real fight than a regular match and Lesnar dominated Cena in a manner no one ever has. Cena took an insane amount of punishment (being willingly busted open at the beginning and taking numerous stiff blows) to make Lesnar appear like a monster. It worked because there was a level of suspension of disbelief that seldom occurs in wrestling. Despite the outcome, it was still one of the best matches presented anywhere this year.
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, 2/3 falls, Extreme Rules- This was the type of match they were robbed of having at Wrestlemania. It was the first time Bryan was really allowed to showcase his talents in a main-event level capacity on PPV and the match told a tremendous story. Sheamus deserved equal credit for holding up his end as well.
Undertaker vs. HHH, Hell in the Cell, Wrestlemania 28- This match was far superior to their encounter from last year. The beauty of any Undertaker match at Mania (particularly the past six) is that everyone knows, deep down, he will always come out on top, but the real fun comes in getting to the conclusion. This was a story-driven match as you had Shawn Michaels as the guest referee. You had two best friends, one whose career ended as a result of Undertaker, teaming up to bring an end to the streak. It was a brutal confrontation with more chair shots than any match I could recall in years. The picturesque ending of all three men embracing on the stage was a classic moment for three standard bearers of the company. When it was over, Undertaker extended his legendary streak to 20-0 and most important, he and HHH brought some much needed prestige back to the Hell in the Cell concept.
C.M. Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, Over the Limit- Who would’ve imagined these two former Ring of Honor standouts would ever compete for the WWE Championship on PPV. Even though it didn’t go on last, this match was considered by wrestling purists as the real main event that evening. They went nearly 30 minutes in one of the more technical matches I’ve seen in quite some time. A fantastic match.
There are plenty of other categories I could write about, but I think this is a good place to stop. I will do a comprehensive year-end review of multiple categories in early January. Hope you enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts.
Writer’s Update: It just occurred to me that I forgot to mention the return of Brock Lesnar as one of the big moments of this year. The ovation he received from the Miami crowd the night after Wrestlemania was one of the loudest pops of the last decade in wrestling. It was comparable to Hulk Hogan, Rock or Steve Austin during their peak of popularity.
It’s no secret that Dolph Ziggler is among the top performers in WWE. This Sunday, live on pay-per-view, the former Spirit Squad member will get a shot at the WWE World Championship when he faces Sheamus at No Way Out. Like most great things in wrestling, this match was not planned in advance.
I’ve always believed in the expression that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. That was the exact predicament Ziggler found himself in after Alberto Del Rio, the original challenger to Sheamus, was recently diagnosed with a concussion. It was widely speculated throughout the weekend that Ziggler would likely get the shot, but WWE has a tendency to not give fans what they want for fear of being predictable. Not only did he become the #1 contender, but he did so in grand style by winning a spectacular elimination match (minus Great Khali’s brief participation). Even better, the fans were solidly behind Ziggler as the match progressed. The final minutes with him and Christian were as hot as any match on Monday Night Raw in a long time.
Ziggler and Sheamus are certain to have a great match. Ziggler has the mentality of going all out in every performance and Sheamus is no slouch in the ring either.
Do I expect Ziggler to win the belt on Sunday? I am not sure. It seems that the company is focused on giving Sheamus a lengthy run on top and I’m all for giving stability to the major championships. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of current WWE champion C.M. Punk, I do look at him in a different light since he has held the belt for nearly eight months. A reign for that long is a rarity in the current era of frequent title switches.
The company is also intent on getting Del Rio into the main event spotlight and it may very well be possible that Sheamus will move directly back into a feud with him. However, it would not totally surprise me if Ziggler were to win. If anything, he deserves it based on traditional wrestling booking. He has lost to Sheamus approximately 100 times in their matches this year on Raw and Smackdown. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but you get the drift. Sheamus will not gain anything in beating Ziggler once again, even in a fantastic match.
Regardless of the outcome Ziggler needs to come out of the match with a consistent push near the top of the card. With various wrestlers being suspended for an assortment of reasons along with injuries that frequently plague the roster, WWE should reward a talent like Ziggler for his consistent hard work and dedication to his craft.
This article was also featured on Wrestling Observer/ Figure Four Weekly Online at http://www.f4wonline.com/more/more-top-stories/118-daily-updates/26100-jeuron-dove-talks-ziggler-in-main-events
This past Monday on Raw, a new chapter took place in what has the potential to be one of the best WWE feuds in many years. Of course I’m talking about the C.M. Punk-Chris Jericho program.
For several reasons this feud has captivated the minds of several within the IWC (internet wrestling community aka “smart fans”) and the reasons are quite obvious. Both are two of the top performers of this era. They are among the elite few in the WWE that can do it all. When it comes to working an exciting match, making their opponents look good and cutting consistently excellent promos (interviews), it doesn’t get much better than them.
They are also similar because they were both guys who many thought would never make it as far in the business as they did. They are both small guys by typical WWE standards (Jericho certainly was when he debuted in 1999 and Punk was, but the stigma of big men kind of changed by the time he came) and overcame their fair share of backstage politics to make it to the top. Anyone that has read Jericho’s second book, Undisputed, knows about the intense heat he had amongst the wrestlers and management when he broke into the company. And any real insider knows that C.M. Punk’s road to superstardom was filled with many potholes along the way. Plus Punk’s tattooed body and non-muscular physique is a far cry from the clean cut appearance of John Cena. I believe fans genuinely respect the two for all the obstacles they overcame.
Another striking similarity which sets both apart in the current WWE scene is their incorporation of “non-WWE style” moves into their repertoire. Before both arrived in WWE, they made a name for themselves in other promotions and have extensive international experience. Therefore, they are able integrate a variety of unique holds into their matches that are rarely seen from other performers.
I believe their similarities are the prime reason why this feud has been so hotly anticipated. In a sense, you could say that Punk is the next generation version of Jericho. From the storyline on Monday, it appears that Jericho is playing the role of the guy who has returned only to discover that all the top guys in the company have stolen all the concepts and gimmicks he popularized. That is a point well worth mentioning since, before he left in 2010, Jericho’s motto was “I’m the best in the world at what I do” and Punk currently refers to himself as the “best in the world.” His promo was excellent and it was the perfect twist of irony that Punk interrupted his promo only to stand in silence while Jericho blasted into him for having the audacity to not say anything.
It got better in the main event later that evening as Punk was about to make a pin attempt on Dolph Ziggler only to have Jericho take him off and score the win. To add insult to injury, Jericho grabbed Punk’s championship belt from ringside and then sat with it in the center of the ring in the same Indian-style pose that Punk has made into his own signature over the last few months. I’m sure every member of the IWC was rejoicing at that point!
It’s a given that these two will be competing against each other in one of the premiere matches at Wrestlemania. Both will be apart of the Raw Elimination Chamber match in a few weeks and its been heavily rumored that Jericho could win the belt and then go on to defend it against Punk at Wrestlemania. If given the right amount of time, I believe these two could possibly steal the show on the biggest stage of the year. However, I hope their Wrestlemania encounter will be the first of many more matches to come between the two.
The following are some notes I took from last night’s edition of WWE Friday Night Smackdown:
- The show opened with a very hot segment involving Mark Henry, Big Show and Daniel Bryan. Henry was on crutches complaining about the injury he suffered in his match with Show at last Sunday’s Survivor Series. This brought out Show who eventually laid out Henry with a knockout punch. While he was laid out, Bryan ran down to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. He pinned Henry to apparently become the new champion and the crowd went nuts. Of course it was just a tease. Smackdown GM Teddy Long came down and reversed the decision due to Henry being unable to compete. He then gave Bryan back his briefcase and put him into a fatal four-way main event for the #1 contender shot at Henry on a special holiday edition of Smackdown, that will air this Tuesday.
- This segment was tremendous and everyone played their roles to perfection. It reminded me a lot of a similar angle between HHH/Chris Jericho from 2000. In that match, Jericho apparently won the belt and the crowd exploded, only for the decision to later be reversed. That match was a key moment in Jericho’s career because it showed that the fans were actually ready to see him on top. I felt this segment did the same for Bryan.
- On a side note, I was thinking to myself why in the heck is WWE having a holiday edition of Smackdown on 11/29. Shouldn’t they wait to have it in a few more weeks so that it will be closer to Christmas??? On the bright side, Foley will be hosting the show, so it should be very entertaining.
- There was a womens tag match involving Natayla/Beth Pheonix vs. AJ Lee/Kaitlyn, which lasted all of maybe one minute. I don’t see the need in having matches that short. For some reason, I’m really into AJ and hope that she develops in to a better character in the upcoming year. She’s not too bad in the ring and she has this great underdog quality about her, especially when she faces monsters like Beth and Natayla. Plus she’s naturally pretty without the artificial look (blonde hair and huge implants) that 90% of the women in WWE seem to have.
- I know it’s a broken record, but Michael Cole’s commentary was more unbearable than usual. It was as if he went in with the mentality of talking about nothing but the Booker T/Cody Rhodes incident from Raw for the entire telecast. There were actually points throughout the evening where Josh Mathews had to remind Cole do actually call the matches. Besides, that is what the WWE pays Cole to do!
- Zack Ryder and Sheamus squared off against Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger in an excellent tag team match. Watching this match really made it clear that Ziggler is the most underrated wrestler in the entire business. The man can talk, has the look, and can have a great match with anyone. If any one wrestler in WWE channels the spirit of Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, then it’s him. Any aspiring wrestler, or fan, who wants to see ring psychology at its finest should definitely go out of their way to find this match on YouTube. You will not be disappointed.
- Also, this match once again illustrated that Ryder is the third most popular guy in the company behind Punk and John Cena. The crowd treats him like a genuine superstar and he was even put over by the Rock at Survivor Series last week. Throughout the entire evening at Survivor Series, the crowd vociferously chanted “We Want Ryder!” I’m not trying to make early comparisons, but I’m definitely sensing a 1996 Steve Austin and 1998 Rock vibe from Ryder. Those were the years when those guys really started to break out from the pack to become all-time legends. I’m not saying Ryder will be the next Austin or Rock, or even the next Cena, but he has a connection with the fans that very few guys in this era have. And management would be foolish not to take him all the way to the top.
- The main event was another fantastic match. It was Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett in a fatal four-way to determine the #1 contender. It was nonstop action with some pretty good spots. Orton, Cody and Bryan are great in the ring and Barrett is improving each week (and is a solid performer in his own right). The ending came when Bryan made Cody submit to his LeBelle Lock submission. So he will face Henry this Tuesday in a steel cage match for the world title.
- The ending of the match was very unique. Bryan was celebrating the victory while Cody stalked him from behind. Orton delivered an RKO to him before he could attack Bryan. Instead, of the company booking Orton to overshadow Bryan, he instead gave Bryan a smile, left the ring, and let him bask in the limelight. I felt this was a strong match that told many stories. Apparently, they are continuing the Orton-Barrett storyline and may incorporate Cody into it and make it into a three-way program. Second, this was my first time ever seeing Orton and Bryan in a match together. Hopefully, this is a sign of what’s to come next year. An Orton-Bryan feud would produce some wild matches! Most important, the match culminated in a show-long focus on Bryan. From the opening segment all the way to the main event, he was presented as a legitimate threat to Henry’s world title. The fans have always been behind Bryan. Now it appears that the company is too. Overall, this was another strong show that once again proved why Smackdown is the best wrestling show on cable television today.
Last night’s Raw was another in a long string of really good shows as of late. The main focus was to continue pushing the importance of the Royal Rumble, the company’s no. 2 show of the year behind Wrestlemania. Here are just a few brief thoughts of what I took away from the show:
- For the first time in its over 20 year history, the Royal Rumble match will have 40 participants instead of the usual 30. Regardless of whether anyone thinks this will make the match better or worse, it’s certainly a noteworthy experiment.
- CM Punk and John Cena had a PPV-quality main event last night. The match was given lots of time and had some very dramatic near fall and escape sequences towards the end. These two defintely have great chemistry in the ring.
- The ending of the match was another chapter in the very intriguing “Rebirth of Nexus” storyline. Last week’s initiations of Husky Harris, Michael McGuillicutty, and David Otunga were great and now you have this new guy who looks like the second coming of Batista that has pledged his loyalty to Punk. Punk’s performances on Raw have been some of the best WWE television in a while. For some reason, Punk really shines in these “cult leader” roles (Staright Edge Society). He is one of th best overall talents in the business and it’s refreshing to see him at the top of the cards where he belongs.
- It appears as if the company is really getting behind John Morrsion. He beat Sheamus in a good match at the Survivor Series, lost to him in a good match in the King of the Ring finals and finished last year by beating him again in an excellent ladder match at the Tables, Laddes and Chairs PPV. He lost to the Miz in one of the best Raw matches in months and then followed it up with another win against Sheamus last week. Last night on Raw, he beat Daniel Bryan and before the match began, a great highlight video of him was shown. It seems that the top brass in the company are starting to realize how important he is.
- It’s not exactly a surprise, but it really is shocking how over Jerry Lawler has been with the audience on every Raw since his TLC match with Miz last year. Anytime his name is mentioned or he gets involved in an angle, it’s as if the fans automatically realize that they are about to see some real entertainment. He has put on some tremendous performances for a 60- year old man and I defintely don’t think his issues with Miz and Alex Riley are over. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in the ring alot more as the year progresses.
- In another thing that is not a surpise, it’s really astounding how much of a consistently good response Santino Marella and Vladimir Koslov get every week. While the may be the fun-loving goofballs of the tag team division, they are consistently doing something that only the elite few can do in the business: connecting with their audience.
- Didn’t Melina look awfully strange not saying anything while at ringside for the Natayla-Maryse match. Weird!
- Dolph Ziggler continues to prove why he is among the top young talents in the WWE. This guy can have great matches with anyone. I really think the series of matches he had with John Cena really opened up alot of eyes to the fact he has what it takes to be a top guy. He has a natural presence, is not a bad talker and is absolutely great in the ring. Not to mention, he’s perhaps the best bump taker in the business today.
- The Miz-Orton feud continues to progress at a good pace. Miz really shines when he’s put in serious situations and he passed last night’s test with flying colors as he and Riley gave Orton a sick beatdown. He gets extra points for exactly doing what he said he was going to do in his opening promo (keyword: awesome).