Hello, wrestling fans, and welcome to the latest edition in my WWE vs. TNA series in which each week I watch, review and analyse the main output of both promotions and pick the best.
Both promotions are firmly between pay-per-views at the moment. Would this lead to some forgettable episodes of filler, or would there be any tricks up their proverbial sleeves? Let's find out.
"After being caught in his web of lies, the WWE Universe thought Paul Heyman would be wished the best in his future endeavors." No we didn't, Mr. Voice-Over Man. We're not stupid. Or at least, myself and anyone who reads my articles aren't.
CM Punk opened the show by coming out and insulting everyone in a way that makes me love him more, then Booker T came out to fluff his lines a bit and make people download a WWE app.
You know what would be funny? If Antonio Cesaro came out to "Real American." Less funny was his losing to Ryback, but it was surprisingly close in places, and I can't remember the last time we saw Ryback in straight singles action.
Jack Swagger exorcised the memory of his terrible early 2012 mistreatment by making short work of Santino Marella. You may recall Swagger lost the U.S. Championship to Santino, who then proceeded to hold it for a despicably long time until Antonio Cesaro finally gave the belt back some dignity.
Daniel Bryan, who has looked consistently weak of late, was afforded a great victory over Rey Mysterio. Following that, I completely marked out as Mark Henry, the greatest World Heavyweight champion of all time (now that Chris Benoit has ceased to exist), finally returned.
Sheamus vs. Kane was shaping up to be a bit of a thriller, but you'd have to be a fool to expect a result like that to be given away on TV. One of the reasons I rated Kane's chances of winning the Rumble as quite high (depending on the result of the earlier Tag Team Championship match) was that Kane hasn't cleanly lost a singles match since as far back as I can remember.
If we exclude no-disqualification-type stipulations such as his Extreme Rules match with Orton or the Ambulance match with Cena, I'm fairly sure we'd have to go back to him being bald and maskless. If you remember a time, let me know in the comments.
The WWE App Universe made the right choice and voted to have CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho. The match was brilliant and had a sense of uncertainty to it due to CM Punk being portrayed so weak recently and the fact that neither man could really afford the loss. As much as I don't like seeing Y2J lose, at least it gives some credibility back to CM Punk.
Raw ended with John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus attacking The Shield. How exciting this angle continues not to be.
Raw was a surprisingly decent show considering how monumentally awful it was last week. It wasn't up to the quality of the episodes that started the year, but it was good enough, at least.
Impact opened with what should have been an interesting promo featuring Garett Bischoff and Wes Brisco with the Aces and Eights, partially explaining their actions. I say should have been interesting because though it offered developments—and that's something I welcome in theory—the whole Aces and Eights angle feels very tired now.
An X-Division Championship match between Rob Van Dam, Zema Ion and Kenny King resulted in a fairly brisk victory for RVD. It was high-quality action, as you'd expect from the competitors involved, though not as long as I'd have liked—but then, that's a frequent complaint of mine regarding TV matches.
James Storm is a bit of a fan favourite with both the marks and the smarks, with the latter group often saying he ought to be in TNA Championship contention. Seeing him take as long as he did to put away Jesse (who I'm fairly sure we're still meant to think is a joke) seems to suggest it'll be a while yet before that happens.
As Bobby Roode walked out on his Tag Team Championship match with Austin Aries against Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez, it looked like we'd have a Team Hell No-style loss for the plainly better team, but to my surprise and joy, he came back and they won. It was a great match, with a lot of proper tag team wrestling such as long sequences and cooperation—something which the WWE tag team division still seems to lack most of the time.
Miss Tessmacher defeated Tara in a very good non-title match. I think its quality was helped by there being no inevitable Jesse interference to watch out for, but whatever the reason, it was an excellent contest.
Rockstar Spud, the TNA British Boot Camp winner who has a calamitously vapid and unlikable gimmick (he looks a right bloody pillock, as William Regal would say) every bit as bad as his stupid name, had a bizarre segment with Robbies T and E. There's really not much else to say; it was just very odd.
The main event of Bully Ray and Sting vs. Devon and Doc was a lot of fun, with Bully Ray's hulking up just about staying on the right side of silly. And it's nice to have a happy ending rather than the increasingly trite attacks and outnumbering by the Aces and Eights.
This was easily the best Impact for some time. They stuck to what works best: putting on several great matches unencumbered by the fear of giving too much away on TV while keeping things relatively light story-wise. That's the tried and tested formula for a great Impact, and this was a textbook example.
I'd not been so excited going into a SmackDown for some time, which was entirely down to the return of Mark Henry—and you wouldn't have found anyone saying that 10 years ago.
Cody "Cody's Mustache" Rhodes defeated Kofi Kingston in a great, pacy match that did a lot to establish the current midcard hierarchy.
There may not be much to compliment The Great Khali about, but he at least sold a look of shock and worry when Mark Henry came down the ramp. Khali, you may remember, was one of those who had his leg broken by Henry and his chair antics of 2011.
It's less remembered than Henry's attacks on Kane and The Big Show, though, because even then, Khali was far beyond the point of credibility.
The Big Show, sadly, defeated Kane cleanly and rather quickly with a single punch, rending everything I was saying on Raw's slide about Kane's current status completely irrelevant, or at least outdated by four days. Any seriousness The Big Show had built up was then wiped out by his wailing in the next stupid scene.
Jack Swagger threw Justin Gabriel around and defeated him with ease. Much as with Mark Henry, I'll be interested to see just how far his push takes him.
Antonio Cesaro defeated Sin Cara after some excellent athletic sequences by the latter. This match, for some reason, marked the return of Sin Cara's singles-match lighting. That bit wasn't welcome. It really just distracts from the action, and it's not as if they can build mystery for him at this point.
It's been about a year-and-a-third since Mark Henry's ascent to the World Heavyweight Championship, for which he defeated Randy Orton in a masterpiece of storytelling at Night of Champions 2011. This imbued their facing each other in SmackDown's main event with a lot of interest.
That Mark Henry won the match in five minutes seems to be a good indication of how serious his push is, and it also says a lot about Orton's current status.
SmackDown was a mixed bag overall, and actually, it was fairly slight when you add up how much of the show was given over to Raw Rebounds and the like. It certainly delivered Mark Henry-wise, though.
Show of the Week: TNA Impact
An easy call for this week's best show. Impact had three top-notch matches and its missteps were relatively brief. The WWE shows were far more mixed.
Match of the Week: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
A much closer call for the best match, with Impact's Tag Team Championship match coming close—and most other weeks, its Knockouts match would have been a contender, too. Raw's main event, though, was very special—a clean rematch of one of the WWE's very best matches last year.
Thanks for reading and all comments, thoughts, opinions and robust discourse are appreciated.