Hello there and welcome to another exciting edition of this WWE vs. TNA series, in which every week I watch, recap, review and analyse the main output of the two promotions and pick the best.
Regular readers of this usually weekly series will be aware of the lag that's set in since the holiday season. This weekend it will catch up once and for all, with one article Saturday and one Sunday.
Therefore, this article will be covering the week we entered the new year, in which Monday's Raw fell on New Year's Eve and Impact and SmackDown marked the first shows of 2013 for each company.
The show opened with John Cena on Miz TV, with interference following by The Rhodes Scholars. All four men are capable of being very entertaining on the mic, but Cena was on his most unbearable behavior.
In a positive change from the standard show progression, this led directly into a tag team match between the four men. I was expecting The Rhodes Scholars to win, making the No. 1 contenders to the tag team championships look pretty good (though pinning Miz, of course). But as usual, it was Cena with the pin.
That night's Raw was something a little different that was termed "Champion's Choice," in which champions could choose an opponent to defend their title against. In some logical booking, most champions chose to defend against opponents who had no chance of winning.
As such, Antonio Cesaro defeated Sgt. Slaughter, Team Hell No defeated 3MB and Eve Torres selected the usefully present Mae Young.
An overlong but still entertaining promo (entirely thanks to CM Punk) established that either Punk would defend his championship against Ryback next week in a tables, ladders and chairs match, or else Paul Heyman would face Ryback. Logically, Heyman would just not turn up in case.
Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler have had quite a few matches in recent times, but this week's was better than most, even if an inconclusive finish always disappoints me.
A fallaway slam from the second rope especially stood out. The Shield attacking Sheamus surprised me, mainly because I thought it had happened already—after all, they've attacked practically every other baby face.
Ricardo Rodriguez, unfortunately, did not defeat the Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship, and it all but confirmed Alberto Del Rio would be the next challenger for the Big Gold Belt—something I'm a little ambivalent about.
Kofi Kingston defied the evening's trend and put up his Intercontinental Championship against serious competition in the form of Wade Barrett, who somewhat shockingly won it. The match was terrific. It was very well-paced and close throughout. I'm pretty sure it's the best they've had this year.
Mae Young didn't ultimately face Eve, as a doctor diagnosed her as being pregnant, and she gave birth to Hornswoggle.
It was an absolutely astonishing segment. It's tempting to dismiss it as awful, but really it transcended good or bad. I can't fathom what the writers thought they were doing.
Ryback vs. The Shield lasted for about a minute until Sheamus ran in. Then Randy Orton made his surprise return after being put out of action by The Shield a while back, except we saw him wrestle at Tribute to the Troops, so that's a bit of a lapse in continuity.
Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee's New Year's toast was interesting. It started with Dolph employing the standard heel tactic of telling the truth by pointing out how the Superstar of the Year 2012 John Cena had had a pretty bad year, and then had some great promo work between the two men, with Cena much better than he had been during show's opening or in the previous week.
Cena then dropped what was purportedly excrement on Ziggler and AJ, as if it was a kids' show (which the cynical may claim it is). Classy.
Raw was an enjoyable show and, apart from the last few seconds, there wasn't too much wrong with it. Except Mae Young giving birth to Hornswoggle. We didn't need that.
Impact opened with the announcement of the wrestler that fans had voted as their star of 2012. This, then, was a real chance to show TNA has different fans from the children who watch the WWE and voted for John Cena as their equivalent.
Austin Aries would undoubtedly be my pick, but Bobby Roode would be a deserving winner, too. Let's see these smart fans award the best and not the marks' choice.
Jeff Hardy won. So much for that then.
After some predictable bickering, brave Jeffrey declared the most obvious match of all time as he said there would indeed be the championship Triple Threat at Genesis.
Christopher Daniels did a fantastic impression of James Storm backstage which, if you didn't see Impact, is worth looking up. I'd happily watch him and Kazarian for the whole two hours.
James Storm defeated Kazarian in a very good, but sadly quick match. My only other criticism of which is that it featured something similar to what we'd see whenever Randy Orton faced Alberto Del Rio. When Del Rio would dive off the top rope to get drop-kicked by Orton, there was no other move he could be going for. That was the case here as well on the Last Call Superkick to Kazarian.
Doc out of the Aces and Eights gave a promo that made him look like a weak-minded fool, in which he called out Sting and started getting nervous and worried when Sting wasn't forthcoming.
Christian York and Kid Kash put on a good display as York won and came a step closer to challenging for Rob Van Dam's X-Division title. I've enunciated several times my issue with RVD as champion, and the criticism applies even more so to Christian York; the X-Division ideally ought to be about high-flying, and with York it wouldn't be.
Mickie James and Miss Tessmacher defeated Tara and Gail Kim in a very good tag match, the highlight of which was a top rope-diving cross-body to the outside by Miss Tessmacher.
A backstage segment revealed that the TNA Championship three-way at Genesis would be an elimination match. I like that and have always wanted more Triple Threat matches to be that way.
Old friends Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe were set to take on Devon and a masked member in a steel cage match until Doc attacked Kurt and locked him out. Eventually, though, Angle got in and won, having also given himself a pretty deep blading.
As all the other Aces and Eighters swarmed in, Sting made his unanticipated return, beating them one by one with a baseball bat. He was able to do that because rather than the six or so of them rushing him, they did it one at a time.
Something often promised but rarely delivered happened as a member was unmasked. It was Mike Knox, whoever he is.
Impact was a good show, but it's had the issue for a while of nothing actually happening or changing. The impact (no pun intended) of Sting's return was undoubtedly lessened by the fact that nothing's actually really changed since he went away. We did have Bully Ray being suspended and an Aces and Eights member unmasked, though, so maybe progress will start coming. Just as a show though, it was good.
SmackDown got off to what I consider a slightly old-fashioned (in a good way) start in which several people who aren't necessarily all that connected interrupt each other's promos. In this case, it was Randy Orton, Sheamus, The Big Show and Antonio Cesaro, in that order.
The Miz defeated Heath Slater in a rare kind of match, in which Slater fought hard and came agonizingly close to victory, despite being the heel. It was a bit like last year's Christian vs. Randy Orton series in which the supposed heel came so close that you couldn't help cheering for him.
Wade Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston to retain his title in another great match. This feud has been something else quite rare; it's unusual to see wins gets traded back and forth cleanly, and it'd add more unpredictability if it happened more often.
The closing tag match of Sheamus and Randy Orton vs. The Big Show and Antonio Cesaro had terrific action, mainly between Sheamus and The Big Show who work brilliantly together whenever it happens (and that's not something I'd could have imagined saying a few months ago). Sadly, Antonio Cesaro was used as the fall guy instead of having a big chance to shine. But it's good to see him in there with the big hitters. What the match did illustrate is that we're firmly in the build-up to the Royal Rumble now.
SmackDown was a fun show without many flaws. There were a few irrelevant bits I didn't cover for want of anything to say, but I'd be quite happy if it maintained this quality. Being the nitpicking pessimist I am, if I can't find much to say, then either it was numbingly dull or good without deep flaws.
Happily in this case, it was the latter.
Show of the Week: WWE SmackDown
I marginally preferred SmackDown over Impact this week. Considering how rare a SmackDown win has been since I started this series, to win two weeks in a row is a promising trend.
Match of the Week: Kofi Kingston vs. Wade Barrett (Raw)
The Knockouts match and The Miz vs. Heath Slater both stand out, but this was undoubtedly the winner. The result being unusual (owing to the rareness of clean wins being traded) and managing to be exciting despite having been done multiple times in recent weeks are all the more to its credit.
Thanks for reading and, as ever, all comments are appreciated. Expect the review of last week's action around the same time Sunday.