Good morrow, manifold wrestlemaniacs, and welcome to the latest thrilling edition of this WWE vs. TNA series, in which each week I review and analyze the main output of the two promotions and select the best.
Tonight is the final pay-per-view stop before WrestleMania for the WWE: the Elimination Chamber. We'll be seeing how well they built towards it over the past week and whether Impact could compete.
The first 15 minutes of Raw were given over to Paul Heyman and CM Punk. And, for the first time since their coming together, it was a complete dud. Heyman resigned, then unresigned, and it just wasn't interesting.
Mark Henry defeated Randy Orton quickly on the preceding SmackDown. Do we really need to see him face The Great Khali? Is there such a dearth of credible faces for him to go over that instead we have our time wasted by this? That said, I'm still impressed by seeing people lift Khali, and got great joy out of Henry giving Hornswoggle the same treatment. I love Mark Henry.
There wasn't too much doubt about the result of Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan, though Bryan's standing has improved recently. The action was terrific, and it's nice to see two great wrestlers have a good TV match like this. Also, I'm a real sucker for spots where submissions are reversed into other submissions.
"The roof literally just came off this arena," said Jerry Lawler as John Cena entered. The inaccurate insertion of "literally" into statements always winds me up, so I just had to share my pain. Pointless matches also wind me up, and Cena, Sheamus and Ryback vs. 3MB was more pointless than most. It's not as though The Shield will defeat them either, they have the next WWE Champion in the team after all.
Carrying on the theme of things I don't like, The Big Show held a microphone and said nothing for a couple of minutes. He was so angry, he couldn't bring himself to speak. Unfortunately, dramatically effective as it's supposed to be, watching someone look angry and not say anything expands beyond its point of being interesting after about 30 seconds. As such, I disapproved of the segment.
Jack Swagger defeated Zack Ryder and then someone called Zeb Colter delivered a speech against unfettered immigration. I think Swagger's still a heel, so I'm assuming this is meant to get a negative response, but opinions vary I'd have thought. It all just seemed very odd.
The Shield spoke for a bit, then John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback chased them away. I really hope this concludes on Sunday, because I'm bored rigid with The Shield. Every single time it's them attacking someone and getting chased away, or else just getting chased away. It's pathetically unimaginative.
Alberto Del Rio defeated the once credible Damien Sandow in a disappointingly short amount of time. Disappointing not just because I like Sandow and would like to see him pushed, but because I could picture the two playing very well off each other in a match with proper time.
Wade Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston in only the second match to really amount to anything worth watching. Its finish was unique, which I approve of.
I said quite a lot last week about the current status of Kane, but a win in a good match with Dolph Ziggler would seem to keep him pretty high still. The match was decent too. I'm wondering if there's any plan for Ziggler's briefcase. He's still not winning much and there's about five months left.
The Rock, the worst pro wrestler in history, granted us an appearance with his WWE Championship. That particular belt suits him, being all flash and no substance. The Rock told the most pointless story I've ever heard, and then CM Punk ran in and delivered the Go to Sleep to him. Does this bode well for their coming match? Considering CM Punk dominated their entire previous encounter before losing to an elbow drop, I wouldn't say so.
I love wrestling matches, and Raw wasn't short on them. What it was short on was matches that were any good, at least in proportion to how many there were. But what stood out about Raw was that, beyond the boring opening and boring ending, there wasn't too much given over to promos. Of the matches though, we got three that were decent at least, and Y2J vs. Daniel Bryan was a real gem. Raw as a whole though was an average at best.
Impact again came from my own United Kingdom, and from perhaps the biggest venue it can offer: Wembley Arena. In the UK now, probably owing to being on a basic subscription channel, TNA gets more viewers than the WWE. And cor blimey guv, the crowd didn't 'alf put the typical Impact Zoners in the shade.
Magnus vs. Christopher Daniels ought to be fairly conflicting for me. On the one hand Magnus is my fellow countryman, but conversely, Christopher Daniels is my favourite wrestler in TNA. Christopher Daniels won out for my support, but sadly not in the match. Considering how close he came to defeating Jeff Hardy for the TNA Championship a few weeks ago, this is a disappointing depush for the Fallen Angel.
Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe wrestled a great match, all the way up to the inevitable and disappointing moment when Brisco and Bischoff ran in. Why would they bother? Surely it would be better for the Aces and Eights to see Kurt and Joe wrestle each other to exhaustion and get a proper jump on them after the match.
The three British Boot Camp competitors who weren't the winner gave great account of themselves against Gail Kim, Tara and Jesse. Party Marty (what an embarrassingly poor name) took a shocking dive into the barricade on the outside.
James Storm defeated Rob Van Dam in a close contest. With Storm seeming to be a level or two below the TNA Championship of late, and with RVD seemingly undefeatable as X-Division Champion, it kept me guessing.
Bobby Roode vs. Austin Aries was the most successful fusion of wrestling and storyline that I can recall for a long time. Usually the former always suffers at the expense of the latter in match equations where angles are factored in, and personally I'd take quality wrestling over story every time. This match, however, was just a lot of fun.
The show ended on a bit of a letdown as Hulk Hogan's promised naming of the number one contender to the TNA Championship didn't happen.
Impact was similar to Raw in that it had a lot of matches. It differed though in that they were all at least good. They all had a decent amount of time, were all fairly unpredictable and all (apart from Joe vs. Angle) concluded satisfyingly. This is what I like a wrestling show to be.
The Big Show opened SmackDown with a promo far superior to his one on Raw. He even spoke and used words, but more than that he got an audible laugh out of me by saying he'd turn Alberto Del Rio's fiesta into a siesta. That is a top joke.
Chris Jericho interrupted without much cause, and Booker Long made a match between them, causing JBL to exclaim "We fight on Friday nights!"—something I'd pay good money to never hear again, because not only is it irritating, but we all know SmackDown's recorded on Tuesdays.
That Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton didn't finish conclusively isn't too surprising—Henry seems almost guaranteed to win tonight's match in my estimation, but having one competitor in the elimination chamber defeat another for two weeks in a row might not only be too much of a burial for young Randal, but it would kill off a bit of suspense for the chamber match. Henry catching the chair strike and reversing into a World's Strongest Slam after the match was good to the point of making me mark a little.
I like Tamina Snuka a lot. She seems fairly skilled in ring, though that's not too hard compared to the rest of the Divas division. Really though, I just wish commentary would stop mentioning her father. Taking the "Snuka" back out of her name would help too.
The Shield marked their one millionth boring interruption by attacking Brodus Clay. Seeing Clay powerbombed was impressive, but in terms of relevance they may as well have given the treatment to Hornswoggle and at least given us a laugh with it.
Jack Swagger performed another squash on Zack Ryder, and Zeb Colter followed it with another speech of patriotic importance. I'd have thought its reception would depend on where the show's being filmed, but apparently appeals to patriotism are heel now, so what do I know.
Also considering his recent loss to CM Punk on Raw, you could start to believe Chris Jericho's returned just to be a top level jobber. His match with The Big Show was very good though, and he does have an ability to keep me guessing to the end. A fantastic chokeslam really stood out.
A reasonable outing from SmackDown overall, helped greatly by the closing match. Did it hype me for the Elimination Chamber? Well, not really. The winners (Henry, Rock and Del Rio) seem so certain that any other result will be a swerve. But I'd be happy to be proved wrong.
Show of the Week: TNA Impact
It wasn't hard to choose the best show this week. TNA Impact was consistent throughout, whereas the WWE shows were patchier. The space between Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania is immense by WWE pay-per-view standards, so what happens tonight will have a big impact on what we'll be seeing from the WWE over the next seven weeks—and the build up to The Rock vs. John Cena wasn't much fun the first time around.
Match of the Week: Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan
As with last week, it's a Chris Jericho match that's the wrestling highlight of the week. We weren't short of decent matches this week, but this was easily the standout.
Thanks for reading and all comments are welcome. This series will return next weekend and will include a review of tonight's Elimination Chamber PPV.