WWE vs. TNA: Who's Been Better This Week? (Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2013)
Hello there wrestling fans and welcome to this latest edition of the whimsical trek through the week's wrestling that is my WWE vs. TNA series.
This week the WWE had what, to me, is the pay-per-view with the most potential: the Royal Rumble. Would it live up to the exciting promise of its premise? Meanwhile, TNA Impact came from my own country of the United Kingdom. Would that play in its favour? Let's take a look.
WWE Royal Rumble 2013
Antonio Cesaro defeated The Miz on the pre-show, and reassuringly so considering how much I love Cesaro. As Booker T would say, he's in my fave five.
Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show had some great action, though I am a bit old-fashioned in liking clean finishes, especially when it's the face. I'd have been happy whoever won though, as I really like Del Rio as a face and Big Show as a heel. The choke slam (or perhaps, choke throw) spot off the set through the table stood out.
Dolph Ziggler gave a promo where he outright stated he'd win and unify the world titles, which is the first time I think I've heard the idea mentioned on WWE. It's probably nothing.
Team Hell No defied one of my Rumble predictions by retaining the tag team title against Team Rhodes Scholars. You may recall if you read last week's edition of this series that I thought the anger management graduation could mark the end of Kane and Daniel Bryan's partnership, so they might drop the titles and perhaps Kane would win the Rumble. Failing that, I predicted either a surprise returner (perhaps Christian or Mark Henry), or else John Cena would win.
When Dolph Ziggler arrogantly entered first, saying he was ready for whoever would be second, I was so convinced in that moment that we were about to hear "Feed me..." that I'd have staked money on it. "Break the walls down..." though, that was a complete surprise, and I actually got goose bumps. Starting with Ziggler and Jericho reigniting their feud was about as good as it gets.
As with any Rumble, there were some stand-out moments.The first four surrounding and eliminating Santino Marella was fun. Goldust's return was another great surprise and it's a real shame he didn't win. Kofi "John Morrison" Kingston's spot this year substituted the athleticism of last year's for downright absurdity. The Godfather—the Attitude Era's Brodus Clay—was quite brilliantly eliminated.
John Cena fought off five people at once on entry, then immediately eliminated two in a row, which wasn't a good sign. The final five marked the point at which there was no one I'd want to win, with Jericho eliminated. With the final three, it was clear who'd win, and my Rumble excitement turned to Rumble despair. Even though I knew deep down who'd win, and even though I've no desire to see Ryback main event WrestleMania, I was still enthralled by the exchanges between the final two. It's impossible not to be.
The Royal Rumble is the single biggest push of the year, and to waste it on Cena is disgraceful. If they want Cena to main event Mania, it doesn't have to be via the Royal Rumble. It's a terrible waste.
The Rock's pre-match promo invoked his previously cancer-stricken mother, as if someone had dared him to say something more tasteless than his invocation of Martin Luther King Jr on the previous Raw. Personally, I think he's understating his own importance, and that of the match—it was reticent of him not to say he was the reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi, and his victory over CM Punk would be a victory for anyone who's ever had a leg amputated.
My criticism of The Rock's wrestling skills over the past couple of weeks hasn't drawn the rebukes I expected, but for those who doubt my point, here is my record of all the moves The Rock used: right hand strike, clothesline, kick, Russian leg sweep, DDT, Sharpshooter, Rock Bottom, Spinebuster and elbow drop.
When has The Rock ever gone to the top rope? When has he done a suicide dive? When has he fallen off the top of a ladder and through a table? I watch wrestling to see people doing amazing feats of athleticism and risk. I'm not saying anyone could do what The Rock does, but any professional wrestler could.
The match was a dire paceless mess of rest holds, but after CM Punk won it was clear that wouldn't be the end—there was too much time left. The faces of distraught fans gave me a good laugh. What then transpired was an absolute travesty. Beaten throughout the whole match, The Rock won with an elbow drop. The longest reign in 29 years ended by a spinebuster and an elbow drop by a man's third match in eight years, and one who was dominated for most of it.
The Royal Rumble was a dreadful event. Ever since Raw 1000 people were guessing The Rock would win the title, Cena would win the Rumble, and then they'd have a second match at WrestleMania. I, ever the optimist, had more faith in the WWE than that.
WWE Raw, Jan. 28
CM Punk opened the show, and it was horrible to see him without the WWE Championship. It's not that I wanted him as eternal champion, it's who he lost it to.
At the end of Antonio Cesaro vs. Randy Orton, who wouldn't have known Randy Orton would deliver an RKO as soon as Antonio turned around? No one who has seen wrestling before, that's for sure. Same old schtick from Randy, and the same old boring booking that crushes the momentum of a really great performer.
Bo Dallas defeated Wade Barrett in a genuine upset. It's got to be akin to the time Heath Slater defeated Chris Jericho, and considering Wade Barrett defeated Randy Orton on a previous recent Raw, it's a big "de-push" for Wade.
John Cena applied his textbook act to Cody Rhodes, and it was horrible. It was nice that a quiet "Cena sucks" chant started up during his following promo. I'm often a defender of Cena depending on circumstance, but I'd have been chanting my heart out with the crowd this time.
One issue with Cena's promo was his stating that only either The Rock or CM Punk would be WWE Champion at WrestleMania. From that it seemed either there wouldn't be a WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, or else if there was, it'd be the same waste of time water-tread that last year's same PPV was. The Shield's following attack on Cena was a welcome relief.
Tensai and Brodus Clay's match was changed from a lingerie pillow fight to a dance-off—but no one told Tensai! How incredibly funny, if you're a child or have the sense of humour of one anyway.
A segment involving The Big Show taping Alberto Del Rio to a ring rope and beating up Ricardo Rodriguez seemed to go on forever. It was six minutes, but six minutes of nothing interesting whatsoever happening.
The Rock's promo with CM Punk confirmed that there would indeed be no WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, but also CM Punk implied that The Rock wouldn't be appearing on Raw until then. If that's true, then the case against The Rock builds itself. It also confirms something else I've said in the past couple of weeks: The metal elimination chamber is far too bumpy for Dwayne "precious" Johnson.
Sheamus defeated Damien Sandow in a reasonable tables match. At a couple of points I thought Sandow might have it, with Sheamus' earlier injury at the hands of The Shield possibly affording him a justifiable loss. Furthering that thought was that Cody and Damien were appearing separately, seemingly ending their tag team partnership and possibly resulting in a singles push for The Voice of Reason. But alas, it wasn't to be this time.
Chris Jericho, whose return the previous night was the highlight of an absolute horror of a PPV, gave a brief but engaging promo, followed by a renewal of hostilities with Dolph Ziggler. I'd love for them to have a match at WrestleMania, whether for the World Heavyweight Championship or not.
Paul Heyman was revealed as being behind Brad Maddox and The Shield because he was too stupid to check whether a camera pointing directly at him was definitely switched off. Paul Heyman is amazingly entertaining though, so he kept this absolute farce believable right up until Brock Lesnar entered, which was an extremely welcome twist. I just hope to goodness that this doesn't culminate in a Lesnar vs. Triple H rematch at WrestleMania.
Raw was appalling. Only Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow and Lesnar at the end approached acceptability. A very sharp decline after a month of great television from Raw.
TNA Impact, Jan. 31
Cor blimey guv'na, this week's Impact came from the land of market traders, shopkeepers and chimney sweeps, the home of the Queen (gawd luv 'er): Blighty!
More accurately, it came from England, leading to an inspired idea to draw heat by Bad Influence: coming out dressed as Mel Gibson's William Wallace.
This led into the surprise return (a surprise to me anyway) of Magnus, who therefore must be a face again. He called out Devon (being as it was also Open Fight Night), and then threw out the Aces and Eights that tried to interfere.
Austin Aries defeated Chavo Guerrero to earn himself and Bobby Roode a shot at the tag team titles, though worryingly for us Aries fans, he wasn't allowed a clean win.
The main event steel cage match of Kurt Angle vs. Mr Anderson was pretty great, even though it took a while to get going. The twist of Garett Bischoff and Wes Brisco being in the Aces and Eights is something I can vaguely remember predicting months ago, but it had certainly got beyond the point that I was expecting it.
A fairly solid show from Impact this week, though a little less filler and one more great match would have given it full marks. You can tell how much filler there was by how slight this review is. Much of it may have been inconsequential, but at least it wasn't bad—if it was you can bet I'd have found something to say.
WWE SmackDown, Feb. 1
SmackDown's opening featured Booker T addressing the question of who would compete in the World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber. Among the select few gathered was, with no hint of comedy, The Great Khali. The segment also featured the return of Jack Swagger, which I'm happy about even though I know no one else will be.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara defeated Team Hell No in a great tag team match, though seeing Rey Mysterio hit moves on Kane stretches my disbelief a bit.
Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow didn't get very far before The Shield attacked Sheamus. It was incredibly uninteresting, and I can scarcely believe they still offer us this with no further development.
Yet again we were subjected to Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett, without the mitigation of Orton losing. It is good to see Wade Barrett adding head kicks to his move set though, it needed livening up.
Jack Swagger defeated Kofi Kingston in a match given a decent amount of time, and it's good to see the man last seen losing to Tyson Kidd with a bit of momentum.
There was a surprisingly violent exchange outside in the car park between Alberto Del Rio and The Big Show. As Del Rio told Ricardo Rodriguez to stay in the back during his match with Dolph Ziggler, it seemed obvious what would happen: Big Show would appear on screen attacking Ricardo, Del Rio would have to run out on the match and Ziggler would be spared a loss. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that we got a brilliant, clean match and The Big Show's capers on the screen were saved for after the match.
SmackDown had a lot of good dragged down by some bad, but it was certainly an enjoyable show overall with the final match being a real gem.
Show of the Week: TNA Impact
There was very little to choose between Impact and SmackDown this week, but for the sake of SmackDown's poor moments I think Impact hit a slightly higher average. The big story this week though was how execrably bad Raw was. I don't relish the run-up to WrestleMania if the show's going to continue in this vein. As I point out every week that it's relevant, this excludes the pay-per-view (PPV), but I'm not sure it would have won even if it was included.
Match of the Week: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
There's no doubt about the best match this week. A fantastic professional wrestling match, and again, even if the PPV matches were included I think the result would likely have been the same.
Thanks for reading and all comments and thoughts are very much appreciated.