Hello and welcome once again to another edition of my weekly WWE and TNA comparisons, in which I assess Raw, Impact and SmackDown, and endeavour to pick the best of the week.
While the WWE is a fortnight away from its Night of Champions pay-per-view, this is the last Impact before TNA's No Surrender. With this in mind, let's see how the promotions did.
Raw opened with the news that CM Punk and Jerry Lawler got into a brawl backstage earlier. Backstage brawls always look silly to me, because the fakeness of the punches (and that's all we get, certainly with PG) stand out.
This meant Michael Cole commentated alone to begin with, and it's hard to see how Lawler could credibly commentate a Punk match for some time after how personal things got between them. A little into the show The Miz came onto commentary, and he was better than Lawler has been for years, possibly even ever. His highlight was arguing with Layla, improving a boring Divas match exponentially.
Sheamus came out to the ring to talk about Alberto Del Rio. Helping to cement my love for Punk's character as it is now, he interrupted almost immediately. He also received a strong chant, meaning his hometown loves him too. They even booed Sheamus.
Ruining the atmosphere, AJ came out to make the inevitable champion versus champion match, as well as a match between the two No. 1 contenders. I thought to myself I'd be a fool to expect any clean results, but then the WWE has been a little less predictable lately. Sadly, AJ proceeded to skip around the ring, so that's one blight on a pretty good opening.
Keeping the interest and pace going, a Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler rematch immediately followed. If anything shows how good Ziggler is, it's that he even makes rest holds interesting. Ziggler stole the pin by holding onto the tights, which logically or not has always seemed like the most minor cheat to me.
I was very much in the minority in not particularly enjoying last week's anger management sketches. Did I enjoy this week's instalments any more? Well, it was all very silly and a bit obvious, but Kane's "I am?" got a smile out of me. It's light, inoffensive stuff and it's doing something new. So I give it a thumbs up.
The promised CM Punk vs. Sheamus bout looked to have come earlier than I'd have expected, at the start of the second hour. But then CM Punk still had his street clothes on and insisted he wouldn't be wrestling. As a way of turning his hometown against him it was pretty clever, but I was quite looking forward to the match.
Instead we were treated to a short Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger match followed by a bit of a brawl with Del Rio. It's like Groundhog Day watching WWE sometimes. Seeing Del Rio crouched over and worrying for poor Ricardo Rodriguez made him seem quite a sympathetic character. He's still a heel, isn't he?
Ryback defeated Jinder Mahal again, but the real news was that he got the Chicago crowd to chant "feed me more" instead of "Goldberg." He's come a long way. Except, he hasn't really, not at all. He's still fighting the same lower midcarders and going nowhere.
The WWE Twitterers voted for Kane and Daniel Bryan to hug, in by far the best Raw active poll yet. The segment went on for over five minutes of them just standing there, which killed it a bit, but the commentary and crowd reaction kept it alive, just about. A satisfactory end to a very silly, but—yes I admit—entertaining angle.
We got Santino Marella's United States Championship rematch and redefeat this week rather than at Night of Champions, and quickly too. I hope this means we get a new opponent for Antonio Cesaro at the pay-per-view, rather than Santino again.
John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio closed the show. I enjoyed their matches this time last year (moreso than most, it seemed), so I was happy to get this match. My head told me there'd be no clean finish, but it's a brave new WWE Universe since Randy Orton tapped out a fortnight ago. What we did get may not have been a clean finish, but it was the best Raw main event for a very long time.
Michael Cole asked at one point, "What on earth does John Cena have in mind here?" when a blind man could see what he was doing in rearranging the steps and table, being as it also happened in their Last Man Standing match last year. (This was actually the second Cole silly of the show, having earlier said Ricardo Rodriguez, "...literally took a bullet," whereas he in fact meant "metaphorically").
Raw was really good, its strengths more than making up for its flaws. A high-quality show with a top drawer final match. As a sidenote, I've heard Vince McMahon insists on CM Punk always just having trunks and t-shirt, and never street clothes as he doesn't look like CM Punk with them. So in hindsight, Punk's wearing jeans was a giveaway that something would be going on.
The show kicked off (after the requisite recaps and promos, of course) with a Bound for Glory series match between Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe. I've mentioned before how the nature of the Impact Zone audience means they may often be too quiet at the start, but they were very much into this.
Jeff won by a submission that stretched credibility a little (considering their relative strengths, I find it a little hard to believe Joe couldn't force Jeff off), but it was a very good match while it lasted, with more high flying moves per minute than most.
Tara defeated Gail Kim in a great little match. It's almost so well known that it doesn't need me to repeat, but the difference in quality between the Knockouts and Divas really is night and day. At the risk of spoiling the next slide, this was better than all but one match of this week's SmackDown, and it's not as if it was unusually good for a Knockouts contest.
Another decent Bound for Glory series match ended with a very good spot as Bully Ray went over Rob Van Dam to knock him out of the Bound for Glory series and in doing so, decide the final four.
Backstage throughout the show, Hulk Hogan and Austin Aries tried to extract information from the member of the crew who was involved in the Aces and Eights stuff at the end of last week—even threatening to torture him. It's another thing that doesn't really need saying, but you certainly don't get that in the WWE.
An especially great tag team match saw Christopher Daniels and Kazarian retain their tag titles against Hernandez and Chavo Guerrero. Hogan came out to inform the champions that they'll be defending against AJ Styles and Kurt Angle at No Surrender. Considering how good the Slammiversary match between the two teams was, I've no objection to seeing it again.
To close the show, Aries demanded the man who broke his arm come out in exchange for the current hostage, the most accurate word I can think of, and to agree to a fight at No Surrender. As the show went off the air, Aries and the "Armbreaker" brawled in the ring.
Impact was good, if not as good as its best recent efforts. Two significant matches decided the final four of the Bound for Glory series, and it also delivered a couple of decent matches besides. As the final build for No Surrender it did its job, as well as being a good show in its own right.
The show opened with Alberto Del Rio and David Otunga helping Ricardo Rodriguez get to the ring. And very slowly at that. At least we got to hear quite a lot of Del Rio's theme. Del Rio's promo was about how the Brogue Kick should be banned, which is the kind of banned move stupid rubbish I hoped we'd seen the back of.
You may recall in the past we've had storylines of moves being banned in the case of The Undertaker's Hell's Gate and Edge's Spear. It's been used to justify title changes, which is a bad sign for those of us who want to see the back of the Sheamus and Del Rio feud. A pretty poor pantomime to open the show with then.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. The Miz and Cody Rhodes was a surprisingly good little match, perhaps just because they were given more time than usual. I certainly wouldn't mind Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio being in tag title contention. They do work well as a team and it would give them something to do—and we see a lot more of them wrestling together on TV than we do of R-Truth and Kofi Kingston.
Daniel Bryan defeated Zack Ryder via Ryder's stupidity. Then the referee reversed his decision because Bryan wouldn't break his hold. Imagine if referees did that every time something along those lines happened. Very silly.
Damien Sandow maintained his unpinned streak by getting counted out against Randy Orton. It's good to see Sandow rubbing shoulders with the top of the card, but it's hard to see where they can go with him based on this.
The Prime Time Players won a match to once again be named the No. 1 contenders to the tag team titles. It's bad enough with the Del Rio and Sheamus repetition, but this would be just as bad if the tag belts meant anything.
Wade Barrett finally returned in a fairly low-key way, squashing Yoshi Tatsu. I remember when put in a match with some jobber once, he refused to fight on the grounds it was beneath him. He invoked the same kind of attitude on the mic following the match, and I'd be confident enough to put money on his challenging Sheamus after Night of Champions.
David Otunga in the TV main event against a top face was a callback to the John Laurinaitis era—in a bad way. He faced John Cena like this more than once in some insultingly boring matches. At least here it had a little more purpose, as Booker T came out midway to ban the Brogue Kick. Sheamus just won with his new Texas Cloverleaf instead. Whatever happened to the Celtic Cross? That was more interesting to look at than the kick.
SmackDown was bad, and made bad by the sheer perfunctory and unimaginative nature of it. Very little effort seemed to go into it, as though after a great Raw the show was just an afterthought.
Show of the week: WWE Raw
Easily the closest competition for the week's best show since I started this series, Raw just slightly gets the nod over Impact. It's a shame SmackDown was so poor and insipid, or it would have been the best overall week of wrestling in a very long time.
Match of the week: Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena
A much easier choice for picking the week's best match, nothing really came close to the Raw main event. Honorable mentions go to Dolph Ziggler vs. Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian vs. Hernandez and Chavo Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. The Miz and Cody Rhodes.
Thanks for reading and all comments are appreciated.