Hello, and welcome to the latest article in my WWE vs. TNA series, where each week, I watch and analyse Raw, Impact and Smackdown and pick a winner.
We're still some distance away from the next pay-per-view for both promotions, but despite this, all three shows put in a good effort last week. Let's find out if they could keep that momentum going.
As we're becoming accustomed to, Raw opened with a CM Punk and Paul Heyman promo in the ring. The ring ended up getting pretty crowded, but the center of things was AJ. They've introduced the mechanism for forcing her out; now they just have to hurry up and do it.
Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio defeated Primo and Epico. There's nothing unexpected about that, but some good action was blighted by typical silly falls onto the middle rope for the 619.
Antonio Cesaro went over Brodus Clay easily, which I think illustrates very well their relative directions in the company at present.
The World Championship debate was seemingly the stupidest idea ever, but I guess it's as good an idea as any to build heat between Sheamus and The Big Show in a fairly short space of time. It was still incredibly bad, of course—worse even than I expected—but I understand the reasoning behind it.
Ryback vs. Tensai was much worse than their first encounter. A powerslam was impressive, but Ryback won with a clothesline. I felt shortchanged. It seemed he couldn't get Tensai up for his usual finisher despite having done so on Smackdown. In fact, the only reason I can think of for having the match again on Raw is so more people could see the Shell Shocked on Tensai.
Damien Sandow put in a very impressive—albeit inevitably losing—effort against Sheamus. It's just a shame the Great White has his anti-pacing kick out at one gimmick, or Sandow could have seemed even more over. The stupidity of the ending (Sandow and Rhodes getting up in just such a way that they could both get booted in the head) sadly tarnished it somewhat, but for Sandow, it was his best and biggest match yet.
Often mentioned throughout the show was that it was JR Appreciation Night. Why he needed or deserved one (and especially now), I couldn't fathom. In fact, I say he shouldn't be on TV at all, being as he failed the Michael Cole Challenge. Nothing was actually done for it either until he got into the ring, so it was really more of a JR Appreciation Moment.
It was soon clear what the purpose was when CM Punk almost immediately interrupted proceedings. As we're used to (and we'll miss it if this heel run ends), Punk's mic work was top-notch—but to his credit, JR also held his own.
Punk stomped on JR's hat, which was good. I remember Ziggler stomping on it last year, and now he's Mr Money in the Bank. Ryback coming out was a big surprise and a genuinely exciting one.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Kofi Kingston, seemingly again geared towards making a singles performer out of Kofi again, featured Ricardo Rodriguez on commentary. He was quite entertaining. The match was over quickly in Del Rio's favour, which was a bit of a shame. The result I approve of, but I think with more time, we could have had a great match.
The main event of Team Hell No vs. CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler was good while it lasted, though I think there could have been enough unpredictability in there to give us a clean finish—and enough excitement without adding the AJ Lee Show, come to that.
For several weeks in a row now, Raw's ended, and I've thought "that was good," and I've written "Raw was good." It's an immediate reaction. But looking over what I've written, there's often quite a bit of criticism in there.
The big change for the positive in Raw I think is down to CM Punk's heel turn. His promos are consistently engaging, as are his current ongoing storylines. The WWE recognises this too, it seems, which is why he's on so much. Team Hell No's continuing entertainment value helps too. It can't sustain the show indefinitely, but it's still keeping me happy—for the moment, at least.
The opening backstage segment of this week's Impact set out the overarching conceit for this week's edition—Sting was looking for the best candidate to partner with him against two of Aces and Eights at Bound for Glory. It added a little additional interest to the show's matches and—as I often say I like to see—was something a little different.
Tara and Gail Kim defeated Miss Tessmacher and ODB. It wasn't a particularly special match (though much better than almost any given Divas bout), but I did notice ODB still wears her Knockouts tag belt. It's been mentioned before on commentary how the championships haven't been defended for about six months, but I'm a stickler for tying up loose ends and would either like to see them defended or retired.
An in-ring segment between Al Snow and Joey Ryan came next. This thing has been going on for a long time, and it's not very interesting (much like Gut Check itself). Joey Ryan got a match with Al Snow at Bound for Glory, which he had to pretend was a bad thing. At least the end's in sight for the feud.
Personally, I think Joey Ryan's a pretty effective heel—like Zema Ion, he's nearly impossible to like. Now that we know the Television Title is staying as a mid-card title, he could be a good fit for it.
Speaking of the Television Title, Samoa Joe defended against Rob Van Dam—which doesn't sound like a mid-card bout. The benefit of the strap being defended on TV is that you really could be in for a title change on TV (which you'd never believe is likely for any of the other titles). But with so many credible main eventers, it feels like a depush for them to be competing for the brown belt.
Chavo Guerrero defeated Kurt Angle after a distraction, which was a decent way of building heat between the challenging teams for the tag championships—though it sadly truncated what could have been an excellent match given more time.
Having written earlier about titles not changing on TV, we had an unexpected X-Division title match—and sure enough, it didn't change hands. It again confirmed Zema Ion as a great heel, however.
Hyped throughout the night was the fact King Mo will be the special enforcer for James Storm vs. Bobby Roode at Bound for Glory. I've no interest in King Mo—and neither had I even heard of him—because I'm a pro-wrestling fan and not an MMA fan. But if it's going to help TNA via cross-promotion, I'll tolerate it.
In a pantomime of a segment (Mo appearing straight after Roode said "...and if you were here, I'd say it right to your face!"), King Mo seemed to pick James Storm's side. It seems a bit like Mike Tyson/Shawn Michaels/Stone Cold, only I'd heard of Mike Tyson.
The Aces and Eights continued to torture poor Joseph Park. I suppose it really hits home how bad they are that they'll torture a man no one could possibly dislike, but I much prefer it when he's being funny and talking about "kayfab." Let's hope he goes back to that soon.
Impact's main event match was a pretty big one: a Triple Threat between Austin Aries, Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray. For TNA, it's about equivalent of a Raw match between CM Punk, John Cena and Ryback. Surprisingly, Bully Ray won it, and fairly quickly too.
Closing the show was Sting's pick for his partner. It was going to be Mr Anderson (who'd earlier defeated Gunner in quick time), but as bad luck had it, he got beaten up backstage by the Aces and Eights. How they knew Sting would pick him I don't know, unless they singled Anderson out for attack by coincidence. Instead, Bully Ray was chosen.
Impact was a pretty good and pacy show, though in a reversal of its commonly-held reputation, its story development was stronger than its wrestling. If any of the matches had had more time, the show would have been much stronger for it.
Smackdown opened with a Big Show and Sheamus in-ring promo. Big Show refused to shake Sheamus' hand, and then Sheamus refused to shake Show's. It was as uninspired a segment as it sounds and about as heated as if Big Show was offended that Sheamus had forgotten his birthday.
Bigger news followed as the Prime Time Players finally defeated R-Truth and Kofi Kingston. Never mind millions of dollars, it took about a million tries.
Ryback defeated Primo. I'd have thought they'd have him go over someone higher up the card by now, being as he's not only sort of feuding with CM Punk, but also went over Intercontinental Champion The Miz fairly recently. As unfortunate as it sounds for him, Cody Rhodes fits the bill of a heel high enough up the card who could take the loss at the present time—and he's not being used for much else.
Following this, Smackdown went into unimaginative autopilot. Layla defeated Alicia Fox (with a bonus vapid promo), Wade Barrett defeated A Jobber, The Big Show got Sheamus disqualified against The Miz. Only CM Punk's surprise appearance backstage and the promise of a match with Dolph Ziggler delivered any interest.
Of all the people to break the monotony, Alberto Del Rio pretending to be Randy Orton did it. It was quite funny. Anyone could have seen the defeat to Team Hell No coming though, and Sheamus' in-kind disruption of Big Show's match against Tensai wasn't a big surprise either.
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler was an interesting idea to me before it started—not because the result was in any doubt of course, but because both are heels who still often receive cheers and supportive chants nonetheless, so it would be interesting to see what the crowd reaction was.
Neither man got any chants or big support so far as I could tell, but also interesting was the way the match was directed. It could be one of those things that I've just never noticed before, but it seemed to me that there was a real effort to use the standard position camera as little as possible. I found it quite distracting. The match itself was pretty good, though the two have had better encounters. It was certainly the best part of the show.
Smackdown was OK overall. If not all out bad at any point, it was just very uninspired—though the unexpected presence of CM Punk for a match certainly helped the overall quality.
Show of the Week: WWE Raw
Had Impact had just one really good match (as it usually has a couple most weeks), it would have got the nod, but as it stands, Raw gets my vote. On the whole, the week's been a step down from last week, but at least none of the shows were actually bad.
Match of the Week: Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
This match did a lot to put Sandow over to the next level, and I hope the WWE capitalises on the great work this bout did and they make sure they keep him relevant. The only other competition was CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler, in an otherwise low-key week for TV matches.
Thank you for reading and all comments are appreciated.