Cubed Circle Newsletter #69: One of the Best Matches of the Year, Bruno Sammartino to Hall of Fame, New Japan iPPV Preview, NOAH Show + So Much More!

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Cubed Circle Newsletter

 

We have a newsletter chock-full of variety for you this week including reviews of the NOAH show from January 27th,which is the show that KENTA won the title at, New Japan’s February 3rd show with one of the best matches of the year, RAW with no Rock, Bruno going into the Hall of Fame, a preview of New Japan’s ‘New Beginning’ internet-pay-per-view, RAW ratings for this week and Ben Carass covers SmackDown and NXT as always. Hopefully a fun time and newsletter that I hope you will enjoy!

 

-Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

News

 

All Set for Another Blow Away New Japan Internet-Pay-Per-View

 

After what has been described as the best show in many years, the Tokyo Dome show, it seemed as though New Japan’s “New Beginning” show was geared up to be a good show, but nothing completely out of the ordinary – well that was before the full card was released. It turns out that New Japan’s big show from Hiroshima could be the best show since…well…the Tokyo Dome show.

 

The show is headlined by Hiroshi Tanahashi defending his IWGP Heavyweight championship against Karl Anderson. The match was set up in what was traditional New Japan fashion with Anderson pinning Tanahashi in a G1 singles match all the way back in August of last year. It should be a great mainevent, but they are going to run into the same problem that they faced when Yujiro Takahashi challenged for the title, in that it will be difficult to get the crowd to believe that the title actually could change hands. Of course it can be done and if anyone is going to do it it would be Tanahashi.

 

Up until a week or so ago it looked like Tanahashi had run out of viable challengers following Anderson, but New Japan have set up a match for their next big show, and it came from a very unexpected source. On one of New Japan’s Road to New Beginning shows on the 7th Prince Devitt, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion, pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in a tag team match teaming up with Karl Anderson to face Tanahashi and Taguchi. This sets up a champion versus champion match (provided that Devitt retains his title here) for down the line, and with arguably two of the top five wrestlers in the world it will almost certainly be an outstanding match with some interesting possibilities.

 

Prince Devitt is set to defend his IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship against fellow Apollo 55 teammate, Ryusuke Taguchi, which like many other matches on the show has the possibility to be an outstanding match. The pair have been a team since 2009, and surprisingly have not had one high profile match since then, which makes the match all the more intriguing. Following Prince Devitt’s pin on Hiroshi Tanahashi him dropping the title here could signal a move up to heavyweight, at least temporarily.

 

The Time Splitters of Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA defend their IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championships, against Forever Hooligans in what should be a fun match, although like their other three matches I wouldn’t expect it to go all that long. The IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championships have been a hot potato of sorts over the past year or so, and therefore it would make the most sense for Shelley and KUSHIDA to retain here.

 

Cooler heads seemed to have prevailed, at least for the time being, with Katsuyori Shibata and Kazushi Sakuraba returning for this pay-per-view to take on Hirooki Goto and once again Wataru Inoue. The back story going into the match is that Shibata and Goto are friends and both went to the same school. This should be a match used to elevate Shibata and Sakuraba again, and I fully expect Inoue to take the brunt of Laughter 7’s offense. I am pleased that they haven’t placed Makabe in this match, as Goto helps to keep Shibata and Sakuraba fresh and interesting.

 

Makabe faces Yujiro Takahashi, in what should be a decent match, but at the end of the day it will probably just be a place holder for both men. The only other match that doesn’t have a direction going in is the customary multiman tag to start off the show, which naturally features guys like Yano, Iizuka. YOSHI-HASHI, Jado, Tama Tonga, Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask together with guys that aren’t really placed in a program at this point in Yuji Nagata and Tomohiro Ishii. If you are a New Japan fan you know what to expect, and it is really just a way to get everyone on the show – although Nagata and Ishii should have some awesome exchanges as they always do.

 

In what is by far the most rehashed match on on the card the Killer Elite Squad defend their IWGP tag team championships against Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima in a match that they have already done too many times. While there is a place for both teams in the company, and the Killer Elite Squad is probably in their correct role, they simply shouldn’t be facing TenKoji again. There is nothing else that they can do with the narrative and it isn’t like they are going to put the championships on TenKoji at this point, or at least I hope not.

 

Then in two matches that are both part of one of the more interesting programs that New Japan have conjured up over the past few months, Shinsuke Nakamura faces Kengo Mashimo in a non-title match and Kazuchika Okada goes up against Minoru Suzuki in what should be one of the best matches on the card. These two matches form part of the Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki’s stable) and CHAOS (The stable that Nakamura and Okada are both apart) feud, which should be one of the most interesting feuds of the year. It is a different type of heel versus heel feud in a sense, because CHAOS are not your traditional heels, especially in big matches.

 

If Okada and Suzuki are placed later on in the card and are given enough time I fully expect them to steal the show, and it will be very interesting to see how they gel considering the fact that we haven’t really seen them in singles matches. Nakamura and Mashimo should be fun, but Mashimo simply isn’t anywhere close to the level of Suzuki in the other match, although Nakamura is such a great work that they could pull something off.

 

As a whole this should be another very strong New Japan card, and as they have shown over the past few months they tend to exceed expectations on these shows, so expect a very good show. Depending on where you are reading this, you can either purchase the show and watch it live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/njpw1972 or purchase the replay.

 

Bruno Sammartino 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Inductee

 

After decades of conflict and hard feelings between the two sides Bruno Sammartino and the WWE have made piece, not only that, but Bruno Sammartino is going into the WWE Hall of Fame. The announcement that was made just before RAW went on the air this week is the culmination of a negotiation process that has been going on for months, with Triple H flying to Pittsburgh at times to discuss Bruno’s stance on being inducted.

 

Bruno Sammartino has been a staunch critic of the current product for years due to performance enhancers being used, as well as for the vulgarity that was seen on TV up until a few years ago. However, both of those big issues aren’t nearly as huge as they once were, in fact in terms of wellness WWE does have a policy that is probably more strict than most people were calling for in 2007. There are definitely some loopholes and there is a very large chance that there are people out there who get away with too much, but there is no comparison between the WWE of today and the one of more of years past.

 

Although there are certainly segments that would probably embarrass Bruno to a large extent on WWE pretty regularly there is no nudity, no vulgarity (for the most part) and blood has all but ceased as a major factor in the company from week to week. As far as other lingering issues go with Vince they could still be there, as it has been stated that almost all of the negotiations and promotion has been a Triple H incentive, but I strongly suspect that tensions aren’t as strong as they used to be.

 

Another thing to factor in is that Dr. Joesph Maroon, who has operated on Bruno’s neck in the past, is now the head of WWE wellness, and Bruno reportedly has great respect for him, so naturally that would elevate the wellness policy in his eyes.

 

There is also the fact that they were willing to pay Bruno the same amount as a WrestleMania maineventer, which speaks to how much they want him in the Hall of Fame. Those that don’t know much about Bruno would probably view that as a sellout move, but it is extremely obvious that it isn’t about the money for Bruno – after all the man is living in the same house now that he lived in before he won the championship for the first time. I think it was more about the fact that they were willing to fork out so much money in the first place that demonstrated their seriousness in regard to getting him into their Hall of Fame.

 

This changes the way that WWE portray history, because as we saw on Monday they are now speaking of Bruno as the greatest of all time, which means that he is going to be their pioneer figure going forward. Judging by the decisions that Triple H has been able to make based on the power that he has at this point, I feel that when the time comes for him and Stephanie to take control of the company, whenever that may be, there will be a higher emphasis on wrestling history as apposed to now.

 

The WWE Hall of Fame, while still not credible as a legitimate hall of fame at this point, will probably be viewed as slightly more legitimate now than it was a few months ago, as Sammartino is always one of the first names brought up as a person missing from the Hall of Fame. Realistically he should have been the first person inducted into the Hall of Fame, because he is one of the biggest and most important stars in company history, but obviously circumstances wouldn’t have permitted for that.

 

I am personally very happy for Bruno, as he is going to get a very big reaction at the Garden, and while the idea of “one last pop” doesn’t really apply to Bruno I think that he will at least enjoy the experience. There are also plans for a Bruno Sammartino DVD, which I am personally very excited for, and judging by the reaction that the video got in Atlanta it will probably sell very well too. In addition to a DVD themed around Sammartino himself they also want him to take part in the 50th Anniversary of WWE DVD, which should also be interesting.

 

I feel that Bruno approving on the current WWE product means a lot in terms of there current direction, not in regard to drawing money, but simply from an ethical standpoint. Is the WWE perfect? No. Are the top brass angels? Of course not. However, the fact that Bruno has endorsed the WWE in 2013 definitely says something.

 

Reports

 

Pro Wrestling NOAH January 27th 2013 Great Voyage

Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka, Japan

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This show was one of the better NOAH shows to come out over the past few months with two great matches and a very entertaining under-card. It obviously wasn’t a show that will instantly pick NOAH back up onto its feet, and nobody expected that. However, KENTA did win his first GHC Heavyweight championship on this show in a great match with Morishima, and who knows, maybe in a year or two we will look back at this show as a possible turning point for NOAH, obviously not as a major contender, but simply as a healthier product.

 

The majority of the matches on the show were at lease good with the GHC Junior Heavyweight and GHC Heavyweight championship matches being the obvious standouts. The match that Taiji Ishimori had with Shuji Kondo here was not as good as their match from All Japan’s January 2nd show, but was still a very entertaining outing and the mainevent told a great story with KENTA winning his first GHC Heavyweight title.

 

1. Genba Hirayanagi & Maybach Taniguchi Jr. vs. Takaku Fuke & Hayato Nanjo

They went straight at it. Nanjo and Fuke landed some offense on both Hiryanagi and Taniguchi, but Hirayanagi took Nanjo to the floor, which allowed Taniguchi to land a fisherman’s suplex for the win in 04:04. It really didn’t go that long and it was an opener featuring Taniguchi…well junior Taniguchi anyway and it was fine.

* 3/4

 

2. Harlem & Lancelot Bravado vs. Ross & Marshall Von Erich

 

Marshall wrestles barefoot as an homage to father, Kevin. The Von Erichs went for dual planchas, but the Bravados telegraphed it and Harlem landed a moonsault. The story of the match was that Ross would go for the claw, but Harlem would counter it into a roll-up. They did a bunch of those sequences towards the end of the match until Ross finally grabbed a claw into a pin for the win in 06:05.

** 1/2

 

3. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Satoshi Kajiwara vs. Colt Cabana & Jason Jones

 

Kajiwara landed a topé con giro onto Jones and Cabana. Cabana was toying around with Kajiwara, mocking him and blowing off all of his offense until Nakajima ran in with a kick. Cabana then busted out a middle rope lionsault on both men. Kajiwara went for a frankensteiner, but Cabana got him up in a fireman’s carry and dropped him right down with the Cabana special in 07:25.

** 1/2

 

 

4. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Atsushi Kotoge

 

This match was built as a New Japan versus Pro Wrestling NOAH. Ogawa and Liger started off with a face off, which got a big reaction, and that was to be expected since they were both stars (albeit on different levels) from a previous era. Kotoge landed a plancha on Tiger Mask and Liger teased doing a dive to the floor, but as usual declined. The match landed up breaking down into a surprisingly good match. The turning point was seemingly a spot where Kotoge was landing headbutts, and Tiger Mask knocked him down with a slap. Liger hit the Liger bomb, but Kotoge landed up kicking out. They exchanged some nearfalls, but Tiger Mask came in with a tombstone and Liger landed a brainbuster for the win in 09:08. Like in his match with SUSHI from a few months ago Liger busted out more than his usual here, and it paid off.

*** 1/4

 

5. Yuji Nagata & Takaaki Watanabe vs. Mohammed Yone & Ryuji Hijikata

 

Once again this was a match built as New Japan versus Pro Wrestling NOAH. Yone and Nagata started off with an elbow exchange into a battle of strength. Yone took Watanabe to the floor and threw him back in for Hijikata. In came Nagata following a dropkick and he ran wild with big kicks and an exploder. Nagata grabbed a crossface on Yone, Watanabe couldn’t hold Hijikata back and he broke it up. Watanabe wanted in due to Yone being a constant bully. They went back and forth, Nagata came in for some help, but Yone got the advantage. Watanabe made a comeback with fiery elbows, but was killed with a highkick for two – Yone then grabbed a muscle buster for the win in :. This was a really good showcase for Watanabe, they told the story that was expected, Yone bullied Watanabe, Watanabe made his fiery comeback, but was killed off by Yone in 13:10. Pretty much every time I see Watanabe he has improved to some extent and it is going to be interesting to see how he develops over the next few years – a fun little match.

***

 

6. GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match

Shuji Kondo vs. Taiji Ishimori

 

This match was a rematch from the January 2nd All Japan show where Kondo, as the All Japan Junior Heavyweight champion, won the GHC Junior Heavyweight title from Ishimori. However, unlike in that match this match was only for the GHC title so it would be possible to put the title back on Ishimori. Kondo was playing the bully in a very similar vein as in their first match. He repeatedly went for a count out victory, even landing a DDT on the stage, but Ishimori kept making it back in defiance. Ishimori burst out with some offense and landed a topé con giro over the post. Ishimori’s comeback was short lived however, as Kondo landed a neckbreaker over the knee from the top rope. Ishimori sprang up a few seconds later and landed some really impressive aerial moves, but it would have probably been better if he sold Kondo’s big move for a longer period. Kondo took Ishimori back up, but Ishimori landed two 450 splashes for two. They did a lot of the same nearfalls as on January 2nd with Ishimori kicking out of Kondo’s spear and crucifix bomb. It looked like Ishimori countered a brainbuster from the top into a sliced bread, but it was still sold as if Kondo hit a big move. Kondo landed his crucifix bomb, but couldn’t make it to the pin in time. Kondo killed Ishimori with a lariat, but he still kicked out. Kondo went for a top rope crucifix bomb, but Ishimori made it down. Ishimori went for a frankensteiner, Kondo went for a powerbomb, but he landed up hitting a tornado DDT from the very top. Kondo kicked out of a dragonrana and a Spicoli driver, but Kondo kicked out. Finally Ishimori countered a lariat and landed one of his own followed by the inverted cradle sideslam for the for the win in 13:10. This was a very good match, not as good as their January 2nd match, but very good none the less. Some of the selling, or lack there of on Ishimori’s part took it down for me a bit and I felt that the match on the 2nd was a match that was more well worked. However, this match was still a very good outing from both men.

*** 3/4

 

 

7 GHC Tag Championship Match

Naomichi Marufuji & Takashi Sugiura vs. Maybach Taniguchi & Yoshihiro Takayama

 

I have never been a big fan of Taniguchi neither as a wrestler nor as a character, but for one reason of another the position that he has been placed in now is at least intriguing to me. The introduction of a secondary character in Taniguchi Jr adds an heir of mystique in some ways. This match was pretty much all smoke and mirrors, with Takayama and Taniguchi mostly playing the brawling heels, much like Yano and Iizuka in New Japan. Honestly speaking that was what you had to expect going into this match, because Taniguchi is a limited worker and Takayama is seriously immobile at this point. They did what worked for them by doing lots of brawling and having Sugiura being put through a table and blade. There were ref bumps, chair shots, blade jobs, big slap battles and staff like objects, all of which I could have accepted if the match didn’t go so long. Sugiura pinned Taniguchi in 28:50 with an Olympic slam driver, which means that the match went 15 minutes longer than it should have realistically.

* 3/4

 

8. GHC Heavyweight Championship Match

Takeshi Morishima vs. KENTA

 

As everyone has noted so many times KENTA did in fact come out with Katsuyori Shibata, but it does look like he is staying with New Japan regardless. They started off with an exchange of strikes, Morishima went for his backdrop, but KENTA countered into a pin, which led to chants of “KENTA!”. After battling back and forth Morishima planted KENTA with a sideslam on the floor followed by a bodyslam on the exposed floor. Morishima continued to get the better of KENTA due to his size as Shibata looked on. KENTA managed to chop Morishima down and locked in an STF, but Morishima made it to the ropes. KENTA was knocked back out to the floor with a dropkick and lariat, Morishima went for a powerbomb on the floor, but KENTA countered into what was supposed to be a DDT, but didn’t really translate. KENTA then landed a double foot stomp from the top rope down onto Morishima who was well over five feet away. However, the move was kept safe with KENTA not really making direct contact with Morishima. KENTA proceeded to land his yakuza kick and diving dropkick followed by a double foot stomp, in the ring this time. Morishima grabbed a camel clutch and landed an exploder from the top rope! He then landed a big lariat, but KENTA still kicked out. KENTA landed a flurry of highkicks and landed the GTS for two. KENTA locked in the GAME OVER, but Morishima made it to the ropes. KENTA landed a second GTS, but Morishima still kicked out. Morishima landed two big lariats, KENTA kicked out, and Morishima decided to respond with not one, but two backdrops – he went for a third, but KENTA countered into the GAME OVER for the submission in 21:42. This was pretty much everything that you could have expected from a big NOAH main event in 2013, it was a phenomenal match, and probably could have been even better with a larger crowd. After the match Shibata hoisted KENTA onto his shoulders for a victory lap.

**** 1/4

 

New Japan Pro Wrestling Road to New Beginning February 3rd 2013

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

As an even that was simply built as a part of the “Road to” series this was a great show. It wasn’t like your New Japan internet-pay-per-views where you get great matches from top to bottom, but the three matches at the top of the card ranged from very good to match of the year level. What is more is that the last three matches on the card all featured vastly different kinds of great storytelling, with the mainevent match being one of if not the best match of the year so far.

 

The undercard was certainly nothing to right home about with the majority of the matches satisfying your usual New Japan house show cliches, which I was fine with considering the standard of show that we were dealing with – plus that is what you come to expect from that level of multiman tag match anyway. However, the last two matches on the card were both filled with great importance as the one set up the next IWGP Heavyweight title match, and the other one made the NEVER title look like something worth fighting for. I am not the biggest fan of that style, but even I got something out of it.

 

I wouldn’t say that you should check out the entire card, but the last three matches were certainly something, especially the mainevent, which might just be the best match you see all year.

 

Match by Match:

 

1. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV & BUSHI vs. Tama Tonga, Hiromu Takahashi & Takaaki Watanabe

 

The young lions, Takahashi and Watanabe started out by pushing Tiger Mask and Liger before the bell. Takahashi and Watanabe tagged in and out roughing Liger up, but he fired back with a lariat knocking Takahashi to the mat. Takahashi was worked on for a few minutes by Liger, BUSHI and Tiger Mask until he landed a dropkick and made the tag to Tonga who ran wild. Tiger Mask landed a Tiger Driver and got the tag to BUSHI who went at it with Watanabe. Takahashi and Watanabe hit a flapjack/bulldog double team on BUSHI, but couldn’t put him away. BUSHI then hit the 450 splash on Watanabe for the win in 08:44. This was your average Juniors tag, the same formula has been executed a thousand times, but it still remains as a fun opening match.

** 3/4

 

2. Hirooki Goto, Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA & Wataru Inoue vs. Rocky Romero, Alex Koslov, Jado & YOSHI-HASHI

 

They followed their standard eight-man formula for the majority of the men in this match. They did their comedy spots with Jado at the start of the match, with him doing the Flair flop as always, and this time implementing the Garvin stomp in his ever growing arsenal of high-jacked moves. The face team was of course booted off the apron swiftly. They began to work on Inoue, but as expected Romero teed off with his lariats , which led to an argument and group hug between Forever Hooligans and Jado. It is a spot that they have been doing on the house shows for months, but the crowd still eats it up. The tag was made to KUSHIDA and he ran wild until Romero got the knees up off of a moonsault. The tag was made to Goto, all four men went after him, but Time Splitters and Inoue took Forever Hooligans and Jado to the floor. This allowed Goto to land the over the knee fireman’s carry backbreaker off of a missed swanton and the Shouten Kai for the win in 13:23.

** 3/4

 

3. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Captain New Japan vs. TAKA Michinoku, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.

 

Michinoku cut a promo before the match, I had no idea what he was saying, but it was awesome. He then shouted “let’s get crazy!” and they attacked before the bell. Killer Elite Squad singled out New Japan for the first few minutes of the match, the tag was made to Kojima, but he was soon overwhelmed by Smith. Kojima landed a cutter and made the tag back to New Japan as Tenzan had been knocked to the floor. They landed their guillotine back breaker and went for the Killer Bomb, but Kojima came in for the save. Kojima went for his lariat on Smith, but he was pulled to the floor and Archer ran in for the Killer Bomb on New Japan for the win in 11:23. The match was short, but served to build to their tag team title match at the next internet-pay-per-view for what it’s worth.

** 1/2

 

4. Yuji Nagata, Togi Makabe & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Toru Yano, Takashi Iizuka & Yujiro Takahashi

 

Naturally the match started off in a brawl, although they didn’t go as long as normal. A few minutes into the match Nakanishi landed a plancha onto Iizuka, which was brave on his part. Nagata knocked Iizuka and Takahashi off of the apron, which led Nagata being whipped into the ropes and being hit in the head with a perfectly safe chair shot. This led to the brawling that we did not get at the start of the match. Yes, complete with in-discriminant chair shots. Nagata and Yano had a quick exchange before the tags were made to Makabe and Takahashi as a quick sample of their match on Sunday. Nakanishi landed his wind up lariat on Iizuka for two, but Yano threw a chair from the floor, they went for a double suplex, but Nakanishi countered with one of his own. Nakanishi grabbed a torture rack, but Yano landed the low blow. Nagata ran in, but he was hit with the claw and this set up the claw slap for the DQ – because chairs are fine and metal gloves are not. I understand the entire relaxed rules concept, but it was really stupid to have this match go so long and have so many blatant cheap shots and then have the match end via DQ. There is only so much you can do with Yano and Iizuka as it is, and it seemed stupid to have the match end like this. After the match Takahashi laid Makabe out.

* 1/2

5. Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs. Minoru Suzuki, Kengo Mashimo & Hiro Tonai

 

Not only is this the most interesting feud in the company, but also the feud with the best combined theme music in wrestling – fact. They told a really interesting story here, that really made a lot of sense in the context of Sunday’s matches. They had Okada and Suzuki go at it at the start of the match and they then switched to Mashimo and Nakamura, but Suzuki-gun was able to get Gedo in there and they were able to work on him for the next ten minutes or so. This was really smart because out of the trio Gedo is the smallest and probably the easiest to get the heat on. Eventually he dropped Mashimo with a kick to the knee and made the tag to Okada who went at it with Suzuki and it got a big pop. He landed his neckbreaker and went for the rainmaker, but Suzuki locked in a sleeper. Okada landed a dropkick, but Gedo was tagged back in and Okada and Nakamura were taken to the floor. Suzuki then grabbed a sleeper on Gedo, Okada made it, but he was soon taken back out to the floor and this allowed Suzuki to land the piledriver for the win in 16:55. After the match Suzuki basically called Okada an idiot (that I understood) and walked off. However, Okada got on the mic and said some stuff that got the crowd chanting his name and it was all stuff that they popped big for. I was a big fan of this match, because it was so well laid out and made so much sense, but if you look at the men involved it should come as no surprise.

*** 3/4

 

6. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Prince Devitt & Karl Anderson

 

This match was clearly designed to make Devitt look like a mainevent star, from the way that a lot of the spots were centered around him to obviously him pinning Tanahashi with the Bloody Sunday. The match just like the tag that came before it was really well put together, and everyone in the match is just such a good worker that it would have been very hard for it to have not been great. One of the big spots of the match was where Taguchi accidentally hit Tanahashi with a dive, which allowed Devitt to land a topé con giro. After he landed it he was selling the back of the leg, I wasn’t sure if he actually hurt himself or not, but towards the end of the match Tanahashi went after the leg. If that was intentional it would have made even more sense given the fact that Anderson was working on Taguchi’s leg at the start of the match. Another one of the cool spots in the match was where Anderson landed a leg lariat and where he would normally do his machine gun taunt he did an air guitar. The finish came after Devitt got out of a cloverleaf, he got the knees up off of a high fly flow, landed a foot stomp on the back, Anderson came in with a gun stun and Devitt landed the Bloody Sunday for the win in 15:43.

*** 3/4

 

7. NEVER Openweight Championship Match

Masato Tanaka vs. Tomohiro Ishii

 

Tanaka chose to role to the floor following a stiff shoulder and elbow exchange. Tanaka came back in, but was caught with a huge elbow from Ishii, which knocked him down to the mat. A headbutt battle ensued. Tanaka got the better of it and then slapped Ishii back down to the mat. This time Ishii chose to roll out to the floor, he came up bleeding; it looked like he bladed. This led to both men going crazy on each other with elbows and chops. Tanaka kicked Ishii’s head, which simply made him madder, but he fell back down again. Ishii landed a release suplex and they both fell to the mat. Ishii then pulled off his delayed vertical superplex. Tanaka kicked out of a powerbomb and Ishii set up a table on the floor. Ishii went for a slam through it, but this fired Tanaka up and he landed a dive through the table. Tanaka landed a shot with a piece of table and followed it with a superplex for two. Both men teed off with lariats and Ishii got the better of the exchange, but then fell down to the mat. They started up another exchange, Ishii landed a big lariat and Tanaka landed a brainbuster, but couldn’t make it to the pin. Ishii then began to sell the shoulder like crazy, and Tanaka spiked him right on his head with a DDT. Tanaka landed a frogsplash, but still Ishii kicked out. Tanaka landed the sliding D, but still Ishii, now with a bleeding nose too, would not give in. Ishii avoided a second sliding D and landed a powerbomb for two. Tanaka was killed with a lariat, but kicked out at one! Tanaka landed a lariat, but this time Ishii kicked out at one! They did Junkyard dog headbutts, and worked up to their feet still fighting. Tanaka landed a sliding D to the back of the head, but Ishii ducked the second and landed one of his own! Tanaka kicked out of a brainbuster. Ishii got Tanaka up in a dead left vertical suplex, Tanaka hit a really hard elbow knocking Ishii on top of him. Ishii and Tanaka both took off their elbow pads and began with another elbow exchange – Ishii then busted out a jumping highkick! This allowed Tanaka to land two sliding Ds for the win in 23:27. This was a mainevent level performance by the two most unappreciated talents in the company. I would not only call this a star making level performance for Ishii, but also for the NEVER championship. I am really not the biggest fan of perpetual elbows and nearfalls, but the storytelling simply worked in this match. Tanaka hoisted Ishii up and lifted his hand after the match and then Ishii placed the title around Tanaka’s waste to cap off what had already been a seminal mainevent. This was match of the year level stuff.

**** 3/4

 

WWE Monday Night RAW February 4th 2012

Atlanta, Georgia

 

Overall Thoughts

 

For some reason they still managed to go well into the overrun during a three hour show, which really made the show feel even longer than it had to. There was a lot of good on this show, but also a lot of mediocre. The CM Punk/Chris Jericho mainevent was the best match on the show, and the best TV match that I have seen in a while. What followed was even greater, it was of course the video package for Bruno Sammartino’s Hall of Fame induction, where they pretty much put him over as the greatest wrestler ever.

 

The Paul Heyman/Vickie Guerrero/ Brock Lesnar/Miz/ segment was highly entertaining mainly due to Heyman’s reactions to everything and how well he played off of Vickie Guerrero…oh…and Lesnar was great too. For some reason throughout the show there were segments based on Big Show waiting for a rematch contract at his hotel, and they eventually led up to Del Rio attacking Big Show in his hotel room, which I found way too comical for this angle.

 

I liked some aspects of the John Cena/Shield segment, but I thought that having the Shield run off didn’t accomplish anything and it isn’t going to help anyone really; although they are building towards the Elimination Chamber. All in all there was no Rock on this show, but it was probably better quality than last week’s show as they did three really good segments, and two of, which with them being the Bruno package and Punk match are really worth going out of your way to see.

 

Segment by Segment:

 

The show opened up once again with Punk storming down to the ring. He dragged Justin Roberts into the ring and got him to announce Punk as the People’s champion. He said that he never overreacted last week, because he was screwed out of the championship. He claimed that Rock didn’t know what it was like to be champion, and because people had been asking him questions the entire week he went to a couple of plants in the crowd and asked if they saw him in Vince’s video last week. Cole also answered that Punk was not in the video. Punk even claimed that the video was CGI, because Vince was rich enough to paint whatever picture he wanted. Punk brought up Vince’s hip surgery, which as we mentioned last week is legitimate, although it isn’t a hip replacement as they are stating in storyline. Punk said that Vince got what he deserved and so did the people. Punk used the word strap, which I thought was a band term. Punk called it the 422nd day of his reign and out came Booker T. Booker called himself a “managing manager…” and then paused and carried on to reveal a RAW active poll for Punk’s opponent for the night – his past Mania opponents, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho were the candidates. Why was Booker T, the SmackDown general manager the one to make this announcement? It was never explained. They pushed the WWE app really hard saying that it was the only way to vote and Booker T walked off. The app pushing only got worse as the night wore on. They then revealed an in-depth tutorial on how to install the app – in 2013! They had call go through the entire processes on his iPhone; a complete waste of time. A WWE Active interview with Randy Orton aired with him talking about why he should face Punk; I guess they should have had him do a better promo as Jericho won the poll unexpectedly.

 

1. Antonio Cesaro vs. Ryback

 

Ryback has a new gimmick where he places his opponent in the tree of woe and stomps away chanting “feed me more”. Cesaro responded to this with stomps of his own. I don’t know if Cesaro has done something that has made him fall in the eyes of the WWE, but after practically keeping him undefeated for months they have beaten him two weeks in a row. However, they worked a really stiff match here and Cesaro kept trying to escape the ring and got the advantage on the way back in each time. Apart from the loss, which is actually a pretty big part of it, Cesaro looked really good.

 

There was a recap of the Cena/Shield segment from last week and they aired a Rey Mysterio WWE Active video. They aired a video package recapping the entire run of the Shield. Cena was shown watching the monitor with Vickie. Vickie mocked Cena for wanting to call out the Shield, Cena responded by saying that he would stop the Shield tonight. There was a Trish Stratus Hall of Fame video package; the same one from last week. There was another graphic for the epic announcement – and it was in fact epic. There was a Chris Jericho WWE active video with Chris Jericho mostly pushing the app.

 

2. Jack Swagger vs. Santino Marella

 

Booker was on commentary claiming that Rey Mysterio/CM Punk would equal a great buyrate and good ratings; Booker has all the scoops. I liked this match, I thought that Marella got a little too much offense in, but Swagger being the badass destroying Santino was what they needed to do with him. There was a “Coming Home” WrestleMania video package.

 

Well…the WWE Active app system crashed due to votes and it was announced that fans would be given another segment to get their votes in. Whether this was due to bad infrastructure or simply an unexpected volume of votes I have no idea.

 

3. Alberto Del Rio vs. Cody Rhodes

 

Del Rio tucked into Rhodes with a flurry of kicks and strikes, they rushed through the match with Rhodes getting the heat for such a short period of time that the comeback seemed like the same string of offense as the opening stretch. Rhodes landed a disaster kick and they went to the finish with Del Rio submitting Rhodes with the cross armbreaker. Del Rio cut a promo basically saying that he was fighting for everyone the downtrodden and working class basically, which was probably too far to go in the pandering department. Big Show appeared on the tron saying that he was there via satellite – funny how they can get around that whole delay thing and CNN can’t. Big Show claimed that Del Rio stole his title and he wanted a rematch at the Elimination Chamber. He issues a warning for Del Rio to send the contract and not come looking for him in the hotel. How on Earth would Del Rio find him in the hotel? At the time I thought that it was a strange threat, and thinks just got stranger throughout the night. They pushed the WWE app again, tonight was trending level bad. Jericho won the poll with 57%, Orton 30% and Mysterio 13%.

 

A graphic aired of Heyman on Miz TV and then of Cena’s Shield callout.

 

4. Daniel Bryan vs. Rey Mysterio

 

Booker T and Teddy Long were shown backstage, apparently debating whether or not Bryan deserved to be in the chamber – did they see his performance with Santino last year? Bryan was thrown into the post before the break, but came back after the break working on the arm of Mysterio. Mysterio blocked a topé with an elbow. Mysterio landed his usual comeback, the seated senton and high kick. Mysterio went for the 619, it was caught and Bryan locked in the no lock, but Mysterio grabbed a cradle. Mysterio landed the 619, but Bryan moved out of the way of the dive and grabbed the no lock for the submission. Who should come out after the match? Mark Henry. Bryan was thrown into the barricade and he then went after Mysterio. Sin Cara came out, but he was thrown to the wayside. Mysterio almost made a comeback, but was caught with the world’s strongest slam and splash from the top rope. This was a really fun little match and the Mark Henry return should presumably set up a program, which we have seen before, but it is better than whatever Mysterio is doing now. Of course this could have just been a squash for the sake of getting Henry over, which I would also be fine with.

 

Bryan came running after Kane. He wanted to know where Kane was, Kane said that he was supposed to stay in the back, but Bryan wanted an apology. Kane then delivered a heartfelt message, Bryan asked if he meant it and Kane replied with a “Hell no”. There was a recap of last week’s Brock Lesnar run-in. Big Show was on the phone via satellite for some reason, he went to the door thinking that it was the contract, in came a guy with a meal tray and Big Show refused to tip.

 

5. Sheamus vs. Kane

 

Sheamus pinned Kane with a brogue kick following interference from Bryan to set up further tension between the two. Bryan jumped up onto the apron and asked where Kane was during his match, which led to Sheamus landing the brogue kick. After the match Bryan had a smirk on his face – I am assuming that this will be their WrestleMania program, with them losing the titles at the Elimination Chamber.

 

Miz was in the ring for MizTV. He was in the middle of his introduction when Heyman stopped him in the middle of his sentence. He wished Vince well, Miz interrupted, but Heyman said that he tried to persuade Lesnar to cease his actions. Miz called Heyman the most committed lair he had ever seen. Heyman asked questions like if Punk still deserved to be champion. They had a face off and Vickie Guerrero came out saying that she was responsible for the return of Brock Lesnar. She wanted Lesnar to sign a contract so that she would be promoted to permanent GM, Heyman gave a hearty smile and Vickie cried into Heyman’s shoulder. Heyman recommended a moment of silence, Vickie perked up offering something better and initiated a moment of prayer. Miz interrupted and said that he didn’t care what they said, because they would soon lose their jobs. Heyman made the most awesome facial expressions and just then Brock Lesnar came out. Heyman started hyperventilating calling for everyone to get out of the ring, but Miz wouldn’t leave. Miz tried to act tough, but it was frankly looking at a a baby seal and great white shark. Miz pushed Lesnar and Lesnar responded with a huge shove and started destroying the set, even throwing a chair that landed on the Miz. Miz came back in, but Lesnar landed the F5. I am normally not a big fan of MizTV, but this was a good segment. Heyman was tremendous as he always is and he and Vickie played off of each other really well. Also, Lesnar looked extremely intimidating destroying the Miz, which is what they need to do with him.

 

6. Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett

 

Orton pinned Barrett with the RKO after a fun exchange at the end of the match with both men exchanging counters. I guess this was Orton getting his win back from a few weeks ago in a sense and it seemed pretty pointless even if it is a lead in for the Chamber.

 

7. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho

 

The fans dual chanted “Y2J” and “CM Punk” pretty much 50/50. This was probably a match on the same level as the Angle/Anderson match from Impact – phenomenal work from both men. They exchanged tons of counters Jericho would go for the lionsault, Punk would counter, but Jericho would grab the walls. Punk pinned Jericho clean with the GTS, which was something that I didn’t expect, but the match deserved it, plus it didn’t hurt anybody. This match and the next segment were both something that you need to go out of your way to see.

 

There was then what was the best thing on the show – the Bruno Sammartino Hall of Fame video package. They pretty much put him over as the greatest of all time with interviews from Cena, JJ Dillon, Mean Gene, George Steele and others. It was just so well produced, and while some may be upset about the announcement, this was so classy and so well done – it makes me very happy for Bruno. CM Punk was walking backstage and was approached by Striker. Punk said that Rock was a thief and he he would prove just how good he was at the Chamber. There was a video package of the Rock’s title win and all of the publicity it got. Cena was backstage with Josh Matthews and basically said that this would be the night that he pushes back. They cut back to Big Show in the hotel; eating. He went to the door for the contract, the guy that brought the contract was trying to tell him something, but Big Show wouldn’t listen and gave him an autograph. Just then Del Rio was at the door, but Del Rio simply beat him down in the hallway. Del Rio finally made it up to his feet after using the fire extinguisher and hitting Show with it. Some guys came up in the elevator and they were told to keep walking. This was the culmination of a frankly bizarre set of segments that didn’t make anyone want to see Del Rio and Big Show again – so many plot holes come to mind that the fact that this made it on to TV was quite baffling.

 

Brad Maddox came out and he basically said that he was the victim of the Heyman situation, but also the hero, because he had given the footage to Vince. Maddox then called the Shield out. Out came the Shield, Ambrose said that Justice wasn’t free and Rollins said that justice was them giving Maddox the beating he deserved. They proceeded to kill Maddox and out came Cena, Ryback and Sheamus through the crowd, the Shield looked to retreat, but the other Shield victims blocked the ramp. This led to a brawl breaking out and the Shield slipping back into the crowd to close off the show.

 

RAW Ratings For February 4th 2013

 

RAW this week did a very impressive number, in actual fact they probably did a more impressive number than last week simply because there was no Rock on the show, and they were coming off of the Royal Rumble. It was the third highest rated RAW that they have done since moving to three hours with the first being RAW 1000 and the second being last week’s show. It did a 3.54 rating and 4.80 million viewers. It was number one for the night on cable.

 

The show opened up at a 3.79 quarter, which was up from last week’s show, which opened at 3.63. This week’s opening quarter was the best that they have done in a long time, which means that there was a lot of interest coming off of the Brock Lesnar segment from last week, and people were most likely interested to see what the Rock was going to do, and then found out that he wasn’t on the show. The CM Punk promo with Booker T lost 526,000 viewers, which also indicates that people tuned in for Lesnar/Rock.

 

The WWE Active Rey Mysterio promo, Shield video and Trish Stratus Hall of Fame video gained a combined 373,000 viewers. Jack Swagger and Santino in the next segment lost 302,000 viewers. Then at 21:00 the Alberto Del Rio/Cody Rhodes match with the Big Show segment after the match gained 243,000 viewers to a 3.64 quarter, which was stronger than last week’s gain, but then again they had a larger amount of viewers last week.

 

The 20:00 to 21:00 hour drew 4.86 million viewers (1,995,000 viewers and a 1.58 rating in the 18-49 demo, which was down by around 300,000 viewers from last week).

 

The Rey Mysterio/Daniel Bryan match in the post-21:00 slot lost 93,000 viewers, which is good for that timeslot. Bryan and Kane arguing backstage coupled with a Big Show segment in the hotel lost 87,000 viewers. Sheamus versus Kane lost 167,000 viewers, which was to be expected. Then in the 22:00 segment with Heyman, Vickie, Miz and Lesnar gained 600,000 viewers to a show high of 3.82. It was probably the Lesnar intrigue that led to such a large gain, as most the viewers gained were males 18-49.

 

The 21:00 to 22:00 hour drew 4.86 million viewers (2,129,000 viewers and a 1.68 rating in the 18-49 demo, so while overall viewership stayed nearly identical there was a spike in 18-49 viewership.)

 

Randy Orton versus Wade Barrett lost 683,000 viewers, which means that all of the people that came back for Lesnar, plus your usual people that drop-off left after 22:00. Chris Jericho versus CM Punk gained 137,000 viewers. It was followed by the Bruno Sammartino segment, which gained 34,000 viewers. The show went really long and so the Show/Del Rio in the hall way segment, Maddox getting killed by the Shield and the Cena, Ryback and Sheamus brawl gained 255,000 viewers to a 3.63 overrun. The show landed up going 13 minutes over.

 

The 22:00 to 23:00 hour drew 4.71 million viewers (2,146,000 viewers and a 1.70 rating in the 18-49 demo, so they were able to maintain the 18-49 audience going into the third hour.) The show was up with females 12-17 (10%) and males (4%), but it was down where it counts as the males 18-49 and females 18-49 were down by 13% and 15% respectively.

 

If I was WWE I would be very happy with this rating, as they were in the three hour time slot, without the Rock and they weren’t coming off the Rumble, yet they still did a better number than most RAWs during Mania season in 2012.

 

WWE –NXT

February 6th 2013 – Full Sail University, Florida.

Ben Carass.

 

 

Kassius Ohno and Leo Kruger were out for the opener, after a video hyping the semi-finals of the Tag Title tournament opened the show. Regal and Dawson did a nice job of putting over the importance of the titles then Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey made their entrance.

 

NXT Tag Team Championship Tournament – Semi Final: Adrian Neville & Oliver Grey vs. Kassius Ohno & Leo Kruger

 

They started out slow with Grey getting the better of Kruger during the opening exchange of holds; Neville and Grey shone with frequent tags while working over Ohno’s arm. The heels turned the tables when Kruger scored a cheap shot off a blind tag.

 

Commercial Break.

 

The heels got the heat on Grey and made quick tags of their own; Grey got in a nice hope spot by fighting off both heels in their corner, but was cut off just before he could make the tag.

 

Kruger continued with the heat, until Grey offered more hope with a quick inside cradle and a backslide; Leo cut off the face with a clothesline, but missed a Stingersplash to set up the hot tag.

 

Neville ran wild on Ohno then dropped Kruger off the apron with a dropkick; Kassius changed the momentum with a big boot to the face which sent Neville to the floor. Ohno badmouthed Regal on the outside; this allowed Neville to hit a twisting plancha. Back in the ring, Neville scored with the British Airways to get the three count; Grey prevented Kruger from saving his partner.

 

Adrian Neville & Oliver Grey defeated Kassius Ohno & Leo Kruger via pinfall, at 17:09.

 

A hell of a match; the pacing was terrific with the big highspot plancha leading to the finish and every one played their roles nicely. This was one of the lengthier matches we’ve seen on NXT, but it is defiantly one of the best and at no point did the match drag for me.

 

Footage of Summer Rae laying out Paige from last week rolled; Rene Young was backstage and asked Summer about her actions. Summer played the jealous heel and stated Paige didn’t deserve the fans admiration because she was “hideous to look at” then Rae claimed she was the “hottest diva in the WWE” before regurgitating a poorly scripted line about summer school always being in session.

 

Conor O’Brian and Mike Dalton were already in the ring for a one-on-one contest.

 

Mike Dalton vs. Conor O’Brian

 

O’Brian showed off his power, while completely squashing poor Dalton and the one-man Ascension picked up the victory with a Hogan legdrop.

 

Conor O’Brian defeated Mike Dalton via pinfall, at 1:05.

 

After the match, O’Brian screamed “Five” then counted Dalton’s shoulder’s down; Big E. Langston was displeased at his gimmick being stolen and came down to the ring. Big E. buried Dalton some more by planting him with his inverted front powerslam, but curiously left the ring without covering him for the count of five.

 

The match was nothing; O’Brian looked strong (obviously), however he is seriously lacking in the intensity department. His gimmick certainly didn’t come across as well without the entrance.

 

Paige was fired up in Dusty’s office; she told The Dream she would take matters into her own hands if the GM didn’t do anything about Summer Rae’s attack. Paige made a strange threat and claimed “there would be no NXT next week” if she didn’t get a match with Summer; as she stormed out, Paige bumped into Sasha Banks and yelled, “get out of my way”. For some reason, Dusty had another card from Sasha’s secret admirer; Sasha read the note and fawned over the possibility of “PDA” next week.

 

I had to Google PDA and apparently it stands for Public Display of Affection; this secret admirer angle is simple awful. Paige didn’t act very face-like; I get she was displaying her anger, but she came off as a little irritating; there’s a fine line between fired up babyface, bent on revenge and a whining heel.

 

Commercial Break.

 

A recap of the Royal Rumble Fan Fest aired with highlights from the NXT tournament; Dawson gave a narration of each match and its’ story. Adrian Neville apparently used his, “quickness, agility and unpredictability” to go over Corey Graves. A, “missed opportunity” from Xavier Woods supposedly led to him going under to Leo Kruger; laughably, Bo Dallas used, “support from the WWE Universe” to defeat Luke Harper and according to Dawson, Conor O’Brian’s “intimidation” was “too much” for Oliver Grey to handle. A, “game changer” from Neville (which was missing the British Airways) put Kruger into the finals, while Dallas went over O’Brian, despite having “no opportunity to regain his composure”. In the finals, Kruger “tried everything to be victorious”, including “punches, kicks and vicious blows to the head”; Bo pinned Leo with his belly-to-belly then announced, “I’m going to the Royal Rumble; Wooo!”

 

I might paten my reports in a Tony Dawson style voice from now on….

 

Bray Wyatt approach Bo backstage and facetiously congratulated him on entering the Rumble then told Dallas his fifteen minutes were up; Bo replied that he would beat Luke Harper again and stated time might be up for The Wyatt Family.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Dallas and Michael McGillicutty hit the ring and The Wyatt Family showed up for the main event.

 

NXT Tag Team Championship Tournament – Semi Final: Bo Dallas & Michael McGillicutty vs. The Wyatt Family w/ Bray Wyatt

 

The faces controlled early, until a transitional spot that saw Harper counter Bo’s tornado bulldog gave The Family control.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Harper and Rowan got some short lived heat with power moves and kept Dallas in their corner; Bo escaped from a front powerslam to make the hot tag. McGillicutty fired up with shots to both heels then took Rowan over with a Saitosuplex.

 

Wyatt tripped McGillicutty from the outside and the referee tried to eject the deranged preacher; inside the ring, McGillicutty had Rowan beat with an O’Connor roll, but Harper came in and took his head off with a discuss lariat. Rowan made the cover for the three count.

 

The Wyatt Family defeated Bo Dallas & Michael McGillicutty via pinfall, at 4:08.

After the match, Bray Wyatt entered the ring and extended his hand to Dallas; Bo rejected the handshake and Wyatt sent his family back down to ringside. Wyatt took advantage of the distraction and laid Bo out with a swinging reverse STO.

I have no idea why they didn’t put the opener on last, as this match couldn’t touch what the four guys did in the first Semi. I have a feeling some of this may have been cut to make time for the Rumble tournament video; Xavier Woods vs. El Local was taped for this show, however that was left on the editing room floor also. I liked the interaction between Dallas and Wyatt; a brief feud between the two would be a great way to send Bo off to the main roster and I’m sure the two brothers would relish working together. However, the two had no interaction at the last set of tapings, so that looks improbable.

The show is worth checking out just for the opening tag match; the build to Big E. vs. O’Brian continued, but was far from engrossing and the main event was a dud.

 

TNA Impact February 7th 2013

Manchester Arena, Manchester, England

 

Overall Thoughts

 

This was another fun show from Manchester, but apart from the Tag Team title change I can’t say that anything on the show was all that productive. They beat the Aces & Eights again in the mainevent, which would have been fine if they didn’t constantly beat them and they actually had time to build some heat. It isn’t like anything angle wise is going to change off of the Aces & Eights losing here, so why do it? The entire angle is simply a detriment to the product at this point.

 

I liked the Tag Team championship match, and thought that the finish where Roode and Aries butted heads and Roode walked off, only to come back with a cheap shot on Hernandez, was really well done. It is also good to see that although they started off as a bickering heel team, TNA aren’t going down the Bryan and Kane road, because you can only take that kind of team so far.

 

Everything else on the show was not really noteworthy at all. The X Division title match was simply Van Dam beating two of the other guys in the division for the umpteenth time, but at this point nobody cares. This was an acceptable pro wrestling TV show, but really nothing to write home about.

 

Segment by Segment:

 

Out came the Aces & Eights complete with Garett Bischoff and Wes Briscoe. Devon talked about how they were dominating TNA Impact, over “What” chants. A video package aired of the history between Wes Briscoe, Garett Bischoff and Kurt Angle. The mic was passed to Bischoff and he said that they were his family now. Briscoe said that his reason was that “Hawk” Hogan wouldn’t send him straight to the top. Devon said that they would always have back up. Briscoe is terrible on the mic, but he is so much better as a heel, as their is something about him that people just don’t like.

 

Jesse was backstage with Tara and they went into Brooke Hogan’s office complaining about flying coach. She then proceeded to ban Jesse from Tara’s match later on.

 

1. X Division Championship Match

Rob Van Dam vs. Kenny King vs. Zema Ion

 

It was completely apparent here that Van Dam is over on a completely level than either of the other two men in this match. I am getting quite tired of these X division match-ups between King, Ion and Van Dam in some combination, but this was a fun match. Once again Van Dam managed to defeat these two men, which really doesn’t make them look all that great. King landed a Northern lights suplex, but Van Dam landed a frogsplash onto the bridge for the pin on Ion.

 

Aries and Roode were backstage going on about how they were on a different level than anyone else, and they were ready to start raking in the championships. Some clips from British Bootcamp aired. They got to meet Angle, Sting and Hogan and Rockstar Spud was shown as the winner. Bruce Prichard was talking to D’lo Brown backstage about how ridiculous it was that Garett and Wes were part of the Aces & Eights. Jesse was in the ring and got a huge amount of heat with the fans chanting “quite”. Jesse gave them a photo opportunity as he was not able to accompany Tara to the ring and out came Storm. Storm went through the beating that he was going to give Jesse step by step and out came a referee – if people can just start matches whenever they want then what is the point of Open Fight Night?

 

2. James Storm vs. Jesse

 

Storm somehow got a bloody noes in the less than three minutes that it took him to squash Jesse.

 

3. Tag Team Championship Match

Chavo Guerrero & Hernandez vs. Austin Aries & Bobby Roode

 

Bobby Roode and Austin Aries won the TNA tag team championships in what was the biggest thing coming out of the show. The finish worked really well as they had Roode and Aries keep it together even after colliding a few times, but then Chavo pushed Aries into Roode, which led to Roode walking off. Hernandez went for the border toss and Chavo was up on the top rope, but in came Roode with a low blow on Hernandez behind the referee’s back. Roode then landed a spinebuster on Chavo and Aries landed the 450 splash for the win.

 

Sting and Ray were backstage hyped up for their tables match. In came Hulk Hogan and he called it the end. He wanted Ray to prove that he was a good guy, but Ray responded by saying that he wasn’t a good guy. He didn’t forget what happened to Sting, Hogan or Brooke at the hands of the Aces & Eights. He said that he was Bully Ray and he wasn’t a good guy, they then did a fist bump. Ray called him dad and Hogan whispered “perfect” as Ray walked off. There was a video package of AJ Styles’ year.

 

4. Tara vs. Brooke Tessmacher

 

Tara was really playing up the fact that Jesse wasn’t there looking around before the match, Tessmacher looked to take advantage, but Tara aggressively rammed Tessmacher’s face into the mat. They went back and forth until the point where Tara leaned onto the ropes with her hand extended, as if she was pining for Jesse. This led to Tessmacher landing her facebuster for the win, in what was a perfectly fine Knockouts match.

 

The winner of British Bootcamp, Rockstar Spud was brought. Spud cut a short promo before Robbie E and T came out to interrupt. T was so awesome as he acted as though E was simply dragging him out there and he didn’t want to go. E called the fact that Spud won a contract a travesty. He called Spud a midget, E hid behind T and E freaked out saying how he does what E tells him to do. This led to T picking something up off of the ground allowing Spud to land a shot on E and T did his fist bump around the ring. I really liked this segment, as they have teased a breakup between E and T for a while and T as a hometown hero was really what the fans wanted to see. Ray and Sting were talking backstage and Brooke came by, Sting wanted Ray to put his game-face on, and Ray turned his hat backwards; I know this is news, but Brooke Hogan can not act everyone. A video was shown of the Aces & Eights laying Hardy out.

 

5. Tables Match

Bully Ray & Sting vs. Devon & DOC

 

Ray had his face paint on – strange how they can get that done in three minutes. Ray and Sting went straight after DOC and Devon cleaning house. Ray landed the headbutt to the groin and Ray did his “get the tables” shtick, which the fans popped for. While Ray and Sting were setting up a table DOC and Devon attacked from behind. Ray took Devon out on the floor and Sting went for a superplex through the table but Mike Knox came in to move the table. Devon hit Knox and Sting landed the deathdrop. Devon and Ray were the only ones in the ring, but Ray literally hulked up, landed the boot and then an yuranagi through the table. Out came Hogan and Brooke and they celebrated to close off the show.

 

WWE SmackDown – February 8th 2013.

Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena: Jacksonville, FL.

Ben Carass.

 

 

The customary intro video this week included our narrator speculating on which three guys would join Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton in the Elimination Chamber and a recap of the wacky Del Rio/Big Show hotel brawl segment.

A plush tour bus pulled up outside the arena; The Big Show appeared from within and tentatively made his way into the building. Some new titles rolled with the theme they have been using for a while; despite the song not being my thing, it is a vast improvement on the old drudging Green Day number we had to endure for far too long.

 

Show came out for the opening segment promo; JBL stated that Del Rio had been suspended by Booker T for the fiasco in the hotel. Big Show said he knew he was unpopular, but that was not justification for having to defend the World title in a Last Man Standing match last month; a match the giant stated he had no time to prepare for. Show called Del Rio a “Latin maniac” and a “criminal” then heeled on the people for labelling him a “bully” when he fought Alberto and Ricardo “like a man”, but when Show tried to “conduct his business from a hotel room” he was dubbed a “coward”.

 

Big Show claimed that he would regain the World title at Elimination Chamber then blamed Booker T for the “double standards” and his mistreatment; Show alleged that the GM was jealous because he is no longer an active competitor like the giant and was just a “sad man behind a desk pushing a pencil”.

Booker came down and Show speculated that Book gave Del Rio his hotel room number in order to “stay relevant” by taking down, “one of the greatest Superstars in SmackDown history”. The Booker man said he treated all the talent equally and offered the one night suspension of Del Rio as proof to his impartiality. Show demanded once more that the GM reveal who gave away his room number, however Booker informed him to be concerned with his opponent for the night. Show called Book “incompetent” for booking a match on such short notice; the GM said he would “take that under advisement” then booked Show vs. Kane. Big Show complained and Booker got in his catchphrase.

 

I hate to sound repetitive, but this opening segment felt like it would never end; in fact it only went about 10 minutes. On a positive note, Show was very good; he seems to have developed an effortless arrogance in his promos, which I think may have started around the time of his feud with Cena last year. I could be off on the timeframe, but regardless I’ve become a big fan of the angry, yet smug Big Show.

Commercial Break.

 

Kofi Kingston was introduced by Lilian then Cody Rhodes appeared as his opponent; an inset promo from Cody aired. He said everybody wanted to see him at the top of the WWE and Kofi would not stand in his way.

 

Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes.

Kofi shone early with some quick offence, until the transition came when Rhodes avoided the mounted punches in the corner; JBL talked about Josh and “rats”… seriously.

 

Cody didn’t really get any heat; Kofi just sold for a brief moment then caught Rhodes coming off the second rope and went into his comeback. Rhodes took the boom drop, but avoided trouble in paradise, however Kofi came off the top with a crossbody for a two count. Rhodes countered the SOS then went for CrossRhodes; Kofi fought out and attempted another trouble in paradise. Rhodes held on to the top rope then sent Kofi to the outside; as Kofi jumped back on the apron, Cody landed the disaster kick and followed up with the CrossRhodes for the three count.

 

Cody Rhodes defeated Kofi Kingston via pinfall, at 3:31.

Not much of a story to the match, but it was fine and the finish sequence was executed nicely. Kofi looked good despite losing and since Cody used the tights to send him through the ropes, he didn’t get outsmarted by the heel. I was sad to see the Rhodes Scholars breakup, as I thought both guys helped elevate the other; Cody had the experience and Sandow had the mouth. I believe Cody will be fine on his own, however I’m a little concerned over how Sandow will be handled.

 

Kane and Daniel Bryan were in the locker room; Bryan apologised for costing Kane his match on Raw and said he forgave his partner for returning the favour on Main Event. Bryan offered to second Kane in his match later, because his mere presence would throw Big Show off his game and it would help Kane’s image to be seen with someone that was already in the Chamber match. Kane told Bryan to shut up and claimed the next words out of his mouth would be “congratulations” when he defeated Show.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Footage of Brock Lesnar killing Mr. McMahon with the F5 aired then they showed Brock doing the same to Miz on Monday; much to my enjoyment, they kept in the part where Miz ate one of the chairs that Lesnar tossed from the ring. The totally engrossing Bruno Sammartino Hall of Fame package followed.

 

The Great Khali made his entrance with Natalya and Hornswoggle; Josh ludicrously stated: “here comes a future Hall of Famer”. JBL rightfully buried his colleague for uttering such garbage after the Sammartino video.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Titus O’Neil was in the ring, ready to face Khali.

 

The Great Khali w/ Natalya & Hornswoggle vs. Titus O’Neil

 

Khali did his normal routine of overhand chops in the corner; Booker and Teddy were watching on a monitor in the back. Titus took over after taking out the giant’s knee, but Khali quickly came back and hit a big chop to the head for the victory.

 

The Great Khali defeated Titus O’Neil via pinfall, at 1:32.

Mark Henry marched down the ramp and tossed Titus into the barricade before entering the ring. Khali went after Henry and the two monsters traded blows; Henry got the better of the encounter and planted Khali with the World’s strongest slam.

 

Every Khali match you’ve ever seen; Henry hitting his slam was an impressive visual. Luckily for Khali he doesn’t have to take many bumps like this; I don’t think his body

would last very long at all if he did.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Mark Henry was still in the ring; he declared the Hall of Pain officially open then showed footage of his return on Raw. Henry said Booker T was to blame for his path of destruction, because the Booker Man assembled an “elite group of former World Champions” and didn’t call the World’s Strongest Man. Henry called out the GM for an explanation and Booker appeared on the stage; Book stated that attacking people from behind wouldn’t impress anyone. Henry told the GM to open a spot for him in the Elimination Chamber or he would injure everyone in the match and be the only one left. Booker wanted to know if Henry could still go after a nine month layoff, so he booked him in a match with Randy Orton. Book stated Henry would be added to the Chamber if he could defeat Orton.

 

Nice promo from Henry, who like Big Show, seems most comfortable in the ferocious monster heel role.

 

Outside, Big Show was chastising his bus driver for not keeping the temperature at the right level and for cooking Show’s steak incorrectly. Show walked off muttering, “you can’t get good help these days” and Del Rio appeared from behind another tour bus. Alberto smiled, as Josh made it clear that he was not breaking his suspension, because he was outside.

Kane set off his pyro in the ring then Show headed out for the match.

 

Kane vs. Big Show

 

The two started out with a surprisingly quick pace, which swiftly came to an end when Show sent Kane into the steel steps and began to work over the knee. Kane hit a boot to the face, but Show kept the heat on with a spear.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Show hit a Vaderbomb for a two count then went for it a second time; Kane rolled out of the way, which set up a trade-off of right hands and the double chokeslam attempt spot. Kane scored with a DDT and followed up with a clothesline off the top, but began to sell his knee; Show recovered and hit the KO punch for the three count.

 

Big Show defeated Kane via pinfall, at 6:45.

 

Del Rio appeared on the tron and said he made a “new friend” in Big Show’s bus driver; Alberto told Big Show he had made some changes to his bus, because the driver told Del Rio that Show was unhappy with it. Del Rio invited Show to take a look at the changes and Show stormed to the back.

 

The match was nothing special; Glen Jacobs and Paul Wight seemingly defy the laws of nature with their ability to still move the way they do and their longevity never ceases to amaze me. However, when the two are in the ring together, more often than not we get a mediocre lumbering match. At least Show looked strong as the number one contender.

 

JBL ranted at ringside about having Del Rio arrested then Show was shown stomping through the back. He arrived at his tour bus to discover that two of the back wheels had been removed and had been replaced with cinderblocks. While Show lamented the loss of the wheels, Alberto dumped a bucket of orange paint all over the giant. Del Rio made his getaway on the back of roadside assistance vehicle, which was driven by Ricardo Rodriguez. Show wailed with dismay at the indignity of what just befell him.

 

Steve Austin destroying the DX express, this was not.

 

Jack Swagger came out for a match; Josh said he intended to impress Booker T and earn a spot in the Elimination Chamber. An inset promo from Swag aired; he stated Booker T would see that the Chamber needed a real American. Justin Gabriel was already in the ring, waiting to do the job.

 

Justin Gabriel vs. Jack Swagger

 

Swagger looked strong from the bell and rushed Gabriel to take him down with a big single-leg; Gabriel tried to get some offence going, but Swagger turned him inside out with a clothesline. Gabriel showed some hope when he hit a springboard dropkick, however Swagger prevented another springboard attack and cut Gabriel off on the apron. The finish saw Swagger deliver a vicious chop block then hit gutwrench powerbomb and lock in the ankle lock for the tap out.

 

Jack Swagger defeated Justin Gabriel via submission, at 2:32.

This is the match Swagger should have had last week in his return; he looked dominant and got the victory relatively easily. I still think it will take time to get Swagger over in this shooter role thanks to the damage they did to him last year and WrestleMania season may not be the right time to do it, but for me this is how Swagger should have booked since day one.

 

Commercial Break.

 

A Fandango vignette aired then 3MB entered the ring; Josh said McIntyre would take on Tensai and footage of the flesh-crawlingly bad dance off with Brodus Clay from two weeks ago aired.

 

Tensai vs. Drew McIntyre w/3MB

 

Drew got the jump on Tensai after a distraction from Slater and hit a big boot to the face. Tensai came back with a flurry of strikes then tried to get the crowd fired up before hitting the treeslam; Slater and Mahal jumped in to cause the DQ.

 

Tensai defeated Drew McIntyre via disqualification, at 1:11.

 

Brodus Clay made a run in to make the save; Clay and Tensai cleared the ring of the geeks then the two fatties began to dance with the Funkadactyls.

 

So it’s official, Tensai is now Brodus Clay’s comedy dancing partner; I’m not in the habit of quoting Tony Schiavone, but: “that should put some butts in seats”. Seriously though, this is a team custom made for the 10:15pm slot on Raw; I can see nothing but poor skits and bad matches coming from these two.

Commercial Break.

 

Sin Cara had entered the ring; Antonio Cesaro brought his giant US flag out to face the hoodie.

 

Non-Title Match: Sin Cara vs. Antonio Cesaro (US Champion).

 

The frivolous gimmick lighting was back; Sin Cara attempted some lucha-style moves, but Cesaro countered and took control after a gutwrench suplex. Sin Cara fought up from a chinlock and came back with a rolling sunset flip then scored with a topé. The finish came when Cesaro countered a springboard with his European uppercut and followed up with the neutraliser for the pin.

 

Antonio Cesaro defeated Sin Cara via pinfall, at 2:21.

Another match of not much merit; at least the US Champion was back to winning here…well for now at least.

 

Matt Striker was with Randy Orton backstage; Orton stated Mark Henry would have to be the World’s luckiest man to get through him then claimed he would send Henry back to the shelf he had comeback from.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Elsewhere in the back, Striker was with The Miz; Miz professed to have been in the ring with the baddest the WWE had to offer, but saw something completely different from the beast Brock Lesnar. Antonio Cesaro crashed the proceedings and called Miz a typical whining American; Miz began to brawl with Cesaro and the skirmish was interrupted by the wandering group of referees that roam around backstage looking for fights to break up.

The Raw Rebound aired then “exclusive” footage of Cena cutting a money promo on The Shield after Raw went off the air followed: genius booking. A graphic hyped Cena, Sheamus & Ryback vs. The Shield at Elimination Chamber.

 

Commercial Break.

 

Randy Orton was out first for the main event; Mark Henry came down to face Orton.

 

Randy Orton vs. Mark Henry

They made it clear from the start that Orton’s best chance of victory was by utilising his speed advantage; Henry took over with his power, but Orton sent him into the post on the outside.

Back inside, Orton tried to get some offence going, but Henry sent him back to the floor with a clothesline. Henry began with the heat and Orton fought up from a double nervehold to begin his comeback. Orton hit the hangman’s DDT then set up for an RKO; Henry countered and planted Randy with the World’s strongest slam for the clean pinfall victory.

 

Mark Henry defeated Randy Orton via pinfall, at 4:37.

The show closed with Josh putting over Henry and hyping the Elimination Chamber.

The main event fit right in with the rest of the matches on this show, as it was an average affair; the clean pin for Henry is big and should help in establishing him again, however I thought the same when Del Rio tapped out Orton clean and Alberto was beaten mercilessly for weeks after that. It appears that the two options for Mania are Del Rio vs. Mark Henry or Del Rio vs. a heel Randy Orton; I’m fine with either option, but I feel that Henry would provide a fresh dimension to the World title picture. Of course, Ziggler could cash in before then and change all that.

 

Astonishingly, for a show with 7 matches, I was not particularly enthralled by this episode. The Show/Del Rio feud has become far too goofy and cartoony for my liking, plus Alberto’s overstated pandering is taking away all of his credibility; he might as well come out riding one of the Mexicool’s lawn mowers. The Elimination Chamber is shaping up to be a decent PPV, although it is a little disconcerting that there are still two places to be filled in the actual Chamber match and only a week of build left to get there.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

We have a big newsletter coming up next week, as we cover New Japan ‘New Beginning’, all three of the Fantastica Mania shows, the go-home RAW for Elimination Chamber, RAW ratings, the news and so much more!

 

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