WWE vs. TNA: Who's Been Better This Week? (Sept. 23-29, 2012)
Hi there and welcome to the latest edition of WWE vs. TNA: Who's Been Better This Week?
We're firmly back in the inter-PPV period for both promotions, which can be the most difficult time for keeping things hyped and interesting. With that in mind, let's see how the two promotions shaped up this past week.
WWE Raw, Sept. 24
The show opened with Paul Heyman and CM Punk in the ring disputing the end of last week's main event tag match. Suddenly one of the hundreds of main event tag matches we've had on TV is being disputed. The segment continues with them asking the referee to resign and a joke about the NFL that I don't understand.
As expected, Raw skipper AJ came out, but it didn't ruin things this time because they weren't that good anyway. Actually, that's not true, the joke about the word "assume" that everyone's heard before definitely lowered the standard. Things picked up after that though. If Punk and Heyman end AJ, I'll be delighted.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston couldn't just be a match unfortunately, we had to have minutes of tedium with R-Truth throwing water over Vicki Guerrero first. Surely no one in the world could care, but it did leave no one at ringside—though if that was the main intention, they should just have had the two men come out alone.
The match itself was pretty good, aside from an early dropkick from Kofi clearly not touching Dolph. Ziggler won, as you'd surely hope, but it seemed to set Kofi up as a credible singles competitor again. Jim Ross accidentally referred to it as a main event.
The show's Kane and Daniel Bryan sketches were more off-the-wall than ever. I really wonder how they came up with these. The later When Harry Met Sally one might be the most incredible thing ever—incredible in its truest sense.
The Prime Time Players quickly saw off Santino Marella and Zack Ryder, which is a good move. It's a little bewildering how, but Santino and Ryder are credible singles performers, so having a proper tag team beat them keeps tag teaming as a particular skill and not something any two good performers can do together.
We may not have seen Mick Foley for a while, but we still see him often enough that it's not that special—much the same with Shawn Michaels. When he called out CM Punk, it crossed my mind that they may have got him back to do another Hell in a Cell (silly, I know). The promo between the two was fantastic.
Before Ryback vs. The Miz started, I predicted The Miz would get disqualified or (more likely) counted out. They wouldn't give away a clean result for Ryback's first proper opponent ever on Raw. I was pleased to be surprised. They're finally doing something with Ryback.
Before it started, JR described Sheamus, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. Alberto Del Rio, David Otunga and Ricardo Rodriguez as "unpredictable". Well, he was dead wrong. A shame really, as there were some good exchanges between Del Rio and Mysterio.
The WWE universe voted for Kane and Bryan's team to be called Team Hell No. I get it, but it's rubbish compared to Team Friendship. Why on earth they put such a big decision in the hands of people who think saying "hell" is edgy and cool, I don't know. Couldn't they have just had a vote for what colour Sin Cara wore that night or something? It's good to see Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow forming a tag team. The more teams chasing them, the more the belts mean.
A Divas tag team match was quicker than the entrances, though at least it did more to advance some story than most Divas tag matches in recent history. It's not as successful as efforts to improve the tag team division (not yet, anyway), but it's good that some effort is being put in.
Brodus Clay vs. Tensai is a "What would happen if?" kind of match, albeit one that would be quite low on the list if you were drawing one up. The answer to what would happen turns out to be that The Big Show would come out and bury the both of them.
To close, yet more terrific promo work between CM Punk and John Cena. It gave no answer as to whether they'd definitely have the match at Hell in a Cell—understandably with Cena's injury. But whether they do or not, at least it was a good segment. And it looks like they really will be doing something with Ryback.
It was a really great Raw overall, far more hit than miss. Raw's kept up a great run of quality overall since SummerSlam, after months of my worrying whether it could ever be any good again.
TNA Impact, Sept. 27
Impact opened with a Hulk Hogan promo. During his entrance I noticed some kids with Daniel Bryan "No No No" t-shirts. It's nothing that surprising I guess, but I noticed them.
Hogan's most surprising announcement was about the Television Title—mostly that there still is one and it hasn't just been brushed under the carpet. A new champion will be decided tonight. And he'll be going after Aces and Eights, because apparently he's known all along where they hang out.
And Sting's going too.
The opening match was a Triple Threat between Christopher Daniels, Kurt Angle and Chavo Guerrero. The match felt longer than it really was, and it's a shame it didn't have longer. Even in the time it did have we got some great action, and Daniels won which gives me joy whenever it happens.
Tara vs. ODB would of course be a match with a lot of potential if done as a proper match. As it was, it was entertaining enough.
One issue with TNA is that with one main show a week, there's not so much in the way of a defined midcard. They've got about ten wrestlers who could credibly be World Champion, and with all these men on the show there's little time even for the X-Division, let alone for a lower division for the TV Title. It could be argued they should do away with it altogether, but I do like the idea of a belt that's defended every week on TV (if there is any chance of it returning to that).
Samoa Joe vs. Mr. Anderson had a finish you almost never see any more with Anderson passing out to Joe's rear choke. I always like to see something different and that was it.
Backstage, Sting and Hulk Hogan fell for the oldest trick in the book (Hogan should have left his shades on) and got abducted by the Aces and Eights. Exciting stuff.
The judges segment of the latest Gut Check guy came next. He was born in 1994, which makes even me feel old. And I'm not old. His promo to convince Al Snow was practically an application for the Job Squad. The only reason given for rejecting him was that he's too young—so why get him on in the first place? And we didn't even see Joey Ryan.
The Aces and Eights had Sting and Hogan tied up and they could see they've also still got Joseph Park. So he's been held for a whole week? It looks from close up like he's still been able to shave. If Sting and Hogan knew where the clubhouse was, then they ought to have given its location to the police. I know, I'm overthinking it. The important thing is a match was made between Hogan and Sting and two of the Aces and Eights at Bound for Glory.
While the WWE will use their champions in TV tag team matches every week, it's rarer for TNA to do it, which made things a little more interesting. TNA doesn't have the same hyper-protection of faces and champions, so that made Austin Aries and Jeff Hardy vs. Bully Ray and Bobby Roode genuinely unpredictable. The match told a good story.
This was Impact's best show for a while. Though it's not been bad as such, it has noticeably flagged a bit—but it was certainly on strong form this week.
WWE SmackDown, Sept. 28
SmackDown opened with last week's recap for a change rather than Raw, hinting that we might be in for another edition dominated by Team Hell No (as we now have to call them). It also missed out the end of the previous week's show, which was by far the best bit.
The Big Show came to the ring to say he wanted to be World Heavyweight Champion. I'd take even him over Sheamus at this point. Randy Orton interrupted, informing us that their match that night was to decide the Number One Contender—and then said nothing else of interest. Alberto Del Rio walked in to get RKO'ed like an idiot.
To my surprise, a United States Championship match was announced next as Antonio Cesaro defended against Santino Marella. Again. It's getting worse than Sheamus and Del Rio. Cesaro thankfully retained, and the match was surprisingly good, keeping the "comedy" schtick to a minimum.
Raw's Team Hell No skits were repeated throughout the show. They had to go to the bother of filming in a diner, so they may as well get their money's worth out of it.
Beth Phoenix and Natalya had a match, opening nicely with a handshake. Remember Pin Up Strong? The WWE was almost onto something interesting there, until it just went away. It was the best Divas match in a very long time, certainly for over a year. Then Eve suspended Beth. You know what would be a good twist? If Eve wasn't behind Kaitlin's attack.
Wade Barrett went over Zack Ryder quite easily. Remember when we thought he was practically guaranteed to be in line for the World Heavyweight Title once Del Rio was out of the way? At this rate his rise back up the card will be slower than Ryback's.
Miz TV made its SmackDown debut this week! No, I wasn't that interested either. And is that really (really, really) the best name for it that they could come up with? Sheamus was the guest. It's nice to see two good-looking title belts in the ring at once, but that's all that was good about it. How interesting can an Irishman saying "I'll/Let's be honest" twice a sentence be?
Dolph Ziggler's coming out to get beaten up (if at least not kicked in the head, for once) wasn't much better. If I was doing things, I'd have had him duck the Brogue Kick and shove Sheamus out of the ring. It would have been a surprise and would have made Ziggler look a little better than he has done recently.
A tournament was announced to decide the Number One Contenders for the Tag Team Championships. A great idea, what gives the belts more credibility than having eight teams chasing them?
It was clear the Usos would be losing their match though, not just because they were up against a pretty happening pair in Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow—nor because they were in the less attention-worthy corner—but because they didn't do their entrance dance. And that's a shame too, because I really like it.
Ryback vs. Tensai did even more to make Ryback look credible than his victory over The Miz and stare at CM Punk. And really just for the final move alone. Amazing strength, and the crowd gave him the biggest reaction he's had yet.
Del Rio attacked Randy Orton before his match, making a Big Show victory look guaranteed. When the WWE needs a winner without the loser looking weak, they do something like this.
The match did feature a fantastic DDT though. In fact, the match was genuinely pretty decent. There was still the lingering idea that Orton might win despite his injury (making him look very strong) and the longer it went on, the more uncertainty it created. The final chokeslam was particularly good.
A really good SmackDown then, which has been a rarity in recent times. The blue brand for quite some time has been perfunctory at best and downright awful at worst, but a great showing ended an excellent week for the WWE.
Show of the week: WWE Raw
This is the first week since starting this series that all three shows have been great. I'm giving the nod to Raw, but really they've all done well. It'd be nice if they could stay this good. And who knows, maybe they will.
Match of the week: Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston
There's been several good matches this week, including Impact's Triple Threat and tag match, The Big Show vs. Randy Orton (to my surprise) and even Ryback's matches have at least been genuinely interesting. Ziggler vs. Kingston gets my pick as the most compelling.
Thank you for reading and all comments are appreciated.