Hello wrestling fans, welcome to the latest thrilling edition of my WWE vs. TNA series, in which every week I dutifully watch and analyse the main output of both promotions and pick a winner.
This week had the final Impact before TNA's Final Resolution pay-per-view, while the WWE continued to build towards TLC. Let's take a look at how they did.
I received quite a lot of criticism in the comments of last week's article for saying I didn't know the names of The Shield.
This was meant to illustrate how uninteresting they are—and what uninteresting names they have—rather than pride in ignorance. Well I've learned them now: Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. I didn't even have to look them up either. However, I still couldn't tell you which one is which.
Raw got off to an immediately interesting start as Team Hell No came out (together and to Kane's music, because he's the main one) for a match with The Prime Time Players. The whole thing featured The Shield standing around in various places. How tense. Then, in the shocker of the century, they attacked Team Hell No after the match.
A.J. defeated Tamina Snuka with a roll-up pin in another black mark against the WWE. You'd think that, considering how often it happens, competitors would be a bit more prepared for roll-up pins.
That tag match I predicted in the SmackDown slide last week happened. You don't need to be a genius to see these things coming. Even more predictable than that was the result: Team Face won and Ziggler took the pin.
What's the point?
Damien Sandow did exactly the same promo as he did on the previous week's SmackDown. Santino Marella added his unique brand of cretinism to the proceedings, but was then defeated in their match.
Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara had a surprisingly close—and surprisingly good—match with quite a few good and interesting moves on Sin Cara's part. Botching bore Sin Cara is a distant memory now.
A cringe-worthy segment in the ring between Vince McMahon and Vickie Guerrero gave the stipulation that Dolph Ziggler's briefcase will be on the line against John Cena at TLC.
As much as I'm fairly confident Dolph will win and will look very strong going into his title reign, a part of me is terrified they really will give it to Cena. The ladder match stipulation means anyone can interfere, but unless The Shield decides to target Cena too, it's difficult to see who else would.
It's certainly not as if Cena will lose clean, which is a push only afforded to The Rock within the past five years. A real surprise would be Dolph cashing in beforehand.
Brad Maddox was defeated by Randy Orton in what seemed to be an unusually pointless match. The Shield then beat up Randy Orton, which I wholly approved of. I may yet learn to tell them apart.
The Raw Active Poll is a shoehorned necessity every week, and I don't see how it's a draw; anyone who'd tweet would be tweeting anyway. This week though, it delivered a great idea and a great match as Antonio Cesaro defended his U.S. title in a Fatal 4-Way against Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett and R-Truth.
Anything that makes Antonio Cesaro look as impressive as he deserves gets my approval, and there were some great sequences and late pin break-ups to keep the action tight and engaging.
The Miz TV lie detector test, which I was sure could only be a disastrously bad piece of television, was actually very good, with fun and slightly shooty discourse between CM Punk and The Miz.
Of course, The Shield came and interfered, but it was good while it lasted. Raw then ended the same way it has at least half a dozen times before: with Ryback beating up Punk.
Raw was pretty much dead on average. A few interesting bits, a particularly awful bit (the Vince and Vicki promo) and the rest inconsequential.
I'm not a longtime TNA viewer; rather, I've only watched it full-time since around last year's Bound for Glory. As such, I don't know Fortune from Immortal or the Main Event Mafia, and so the significance of the grouping in the ring at the start was a little lost on me.
What wasn't lost on me was it being said that Final Resolution will be the last time A.J. Styles faces Christopher Daniels. I don't believe that for a second.
The first match was Samoa Joe vs. Devon for the Television Championship, which was a reasonably big deal. I was surprised to see the belt change hands on TV, but it makes sense for the Aces and Eights to have some gold hostage.
A minor backstage segment had Al Snow explain that his disappearance the previous week was mysterious and he has a gap in his memory. Maybe Wes Brisco found out Al would vote no to his Gut Check and got the Aces and Eights to drug and mug him. That's my guess.
Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez defeated Robbie T and Robbie E only to then be attacked by Joey Ryan and Matt Morgan in a match and promo I completely forgot about just minutes after watching it.
As anyone would expect, Kurt Angle vs. Doc did not have a clean finish. Instead we were promised an eight-man tag match featuring four Aces and Eights against Angle, Joe, Brisco and "Jarrett Garett" Bischoff. Maybe the logic is that if you have enough members of the Aces and Eights in a match, none will be available to run in and interfere.
We were treated to the worst episode of Jeff Hardy's Thoughts yet. These segments and the concept really are abysmal and not even unintentionally funny.
There was a disappointingly short match for the No. 1 contendership to the X-Division Championship featuring contenders we see roughly as often as we see Tyson Kidd on Raw and SmackDown. Maybe I'm a wrestling idealist, but I'd have given this match at least 10 minutes.
Whereas the WWE will do it on every TV show, Impact having a main-event level tag match is much rarer.
Jeff Hardy, James Storm and A.J. Styles vs. Bobby Roode, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian was OK, though it suffered from not having Daniels pin Hardy. The Aces and Eights attacking Hardy added absolutely nothing, and half a dozen men being scared away by James Storm with a chair looked stupid.
Impact was so inconsequential it was hardly even there. I wouldn't call it bad, mainly because it didn't really have enough going on to be bad with. Unfortunately, this was the final show before Final Resolution; so, by not building much anticipation it failed further.
SmackDown opened with the news that CM Punk had been injured by Ryback at the end of Raw and wouldn't be defending his title at TLC—instead Ryback and Team Hell No would be facing The Shield in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match.
One that would be decided by pinfall or submission. Which means it's not a TLC match at all, really. Can't they just hang a piece of card with "WINNER" written on it above the ring?
Booker T then announced a contract signing between The Big Show and Sheamus and that there'd be an utterly pointless "no contact" rule between them until the match. It's not going to be the Stone Cold vs. Triple H Three Stages of Hell match, and nor does anyone expect it to be.
We've seen them brawl, but I just don't get the impression that these are two men who hate each other so deeply that they can't keep their hands off each other. The stipulation just seems silly and unnecessary.
Big Show's manic laughter, dancing and provocation were quite brilliant though.
Daniel Bryan had a fairly close-seeming match with the Big Show in at least the second match between them in recent times (and I'm fairly sure it's the third). Bryan, shockingly, got distracted by The Shield and lost.
The Shield have been distracting matches and giving people powerbombs multiple times per episode over the past fortnight, and not once has it been interesting (excepting perhaps the joy of seeing it happen to Orton).
Damien Sandow again did exactly the same segment as the previous week's SmackDown, and this time it was The Miz rather than Santino who came out. The Miz is a natural heel, and I personally don't think it'll be easy or desirable to turn him face, but we'll see how things pan out.
3MB defeated The Usos and Brodus Clay in very quick time. It wasn't so long ago that a squash involving Brodus Clay and Heath Slater would work the opposite way around.
Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett was awful on multiple levels.
They must have had over a dozen matches since Wade Barrett led The Nexus, and they're incapable of putting on an entertaining contest. Compounding that was Kofi Kingston on commentary, who has no aptitude for it whatsoever. But the finish was the worst part, in which Wade Barrett supposedly was surprised by the RKO despite having his eyes fixed on Randy for about five seconds beforehand.
R-Truth and Antonio Cesaro had a weird and very awkward promo on the nature of the American citizenry. Insulting the locals is the oldest trick in the heel's book, but having a lunatic with an imaginary friend talking about hard-working people in tough times was slightly surreal.
There's a simple way of doing a feud like this: having serious Cesaro irritated by Truth's clowning and cheerful psychopathy. Or better yet, let's not carry on a feud that's already had a clean title match.
Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio was the World Heavyweight Championship match for three straight pay-per-views, so it ought to be a pretty big deal.
Except, that was the worst and most painfully extended feud in recent memory, and—much as with Orton and Barrett—I could happily go the rest of my life without seeing them share a ring again. Shockingly, Sheamus won, though Del Rio briefly made it worth watching with a moonsault and roll.
As with Raw, SmackDown was very average, and perhaps even a little worse. Last week the WWE's output was great, simply because it had quite a few great matches. This week, SmackDown had none.
Show of the Week: WWE Raw
This week's shows were practically the opposite of last week's. The previous week's had more good matches than I could name, whereas this week only one really stood out at all.
A good wrestling show seems remarkably simple in that regard then; even if the storylines are poor (and that's hardly unheard of), a few good matches given enough time can save it.
What's odd is that both WWE and TNA had good matches last week and then didn't this week. A disappointing coincidence. Nevertheless, Raw gets the nod almost entirely for the U.S. Championship match and the CM Punk lie detector test.
Match of the Week: Antonio Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Wade Barrett vs. R-Truth
There was, if you'll excuse a wrestling pun, no contest for the best match of the week. The only other one even on the radar was Alberto Del Rio vs. Sin Cara.
Thanks for reading and all comments, thoughts and opinions are appreciated.