WWE vs. TNA: Who's Been Better This Week? (Feb. 17-23, 2013)
This week the WWE had its last pay-per-view before WrestleMania (and one of my personal favourite concepts): the Elimination Chamber. Meanwhile, TNA Impact again came from my own United Kingdom.
This article marks a slight break with the usual format of this series, as I'll also be devoting a slide to covering a hot button issue raised in the comments of last week's edition.
Let's get underway.
WWE Elimination Chamber 2013
Why couldn't Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show have a clean finish? Does the WWE still have top tier plans for Show? Is face Del Rio meant to be a lovable rogue in the Eddie Guerrero vein?
I'll be a bit disappointed if that's the case.
The match was decent for what it was, but Del Rio's missed enziguri will be most remembered since Big Show had to have his back turned for even longer like an idiot.
There's a real lack of competition for the midcard titles at the moment. I ascribe this to there being too much World Champion-level talent combined with the effective end of brand extension.
What it means though is that, despite Antonio Cesaro having soundly defeated The Miz for the U.S. Championship before, we got to see it again.
And, no doubt, we'll see it at WrestleMania where The Miz really will win the title—much like how Kofi Kingston soundly defeated Wade Barrett, only to later drop the title to him for want of anyone else to compete for it.
Jack Swagger has a new theme to go with his new friend.
I preferred his old one; the military drumming when the new one comes on is too reminiscent of JR. Zeb Colter then gave another speech on what's wrong with America.
I said last week when this angle started that I'd have thought whether this was face or heel depends on individual viewpoints, but what do I know. I'm not a genius like WWE Creative.
I said a while ago that I couldn't picture The Rock in an elimination chamber match, because it's so bumpy. As matches go, it can be hard to watch—harder often than the overhyped Hell in a Cell.
It's almost entirely due the metal floor surrounding the ring, and also because of the chain link walls. In fact, also taking into account the theoretical unpredictability of the match, as a concept it might be my favourite that the WWE offers.
The first letdown of the match came when Randy Orton wasn't chokeslammed onto the metal.
He's been harder to hate recently and is no longer the WWE's second superman, having given away a few TV losses in recent months. He was still the one I least wanted to win in this chamber, though.
Mark Henry against Kane was a test of my competing markisms, though Kane wins out for me every time.
Henry's World's Strongest Slam on him was extremely impressive, but that might have even been eclipsed by Swagger and Jericho's double suplex to Henry. Henry's elimination was both brilliant and disappointing.
Kane may have been my favourite, but my realistic favourite to win was Henry.
I've always liked Swagger, no matter how unfashionable it was. Of course, ring work is informed by character, and his ring work here (the longest example since his return) was great. There's much to get behind with Swagger, and though I love Chris Jericho, I can't say I mind this result.
The only thing I really anticipated from John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback vs. The Shield was hopefully a bit of storyline progression.
In wrestling terms, it wasn't perfect—Dean Ambrose didn't sell a Brogue Kick like commentary expected and a Five Knuckle Shuffle clearly landed about two feet away from its supposed point of impact.
What we did learn was that all of The Shield can really go it some in the ring.
Of course, two of them are darlings of the internet wrestling community (whatever that means, but people say it), so you'd expect it.
But despite seeing them every week for months, you could easily forget. Why? Because we never see them wrestle!
We've got two indie favourites who smarks adore and they never actually wrestle. It's like buying the latest HD TV and having it sit in the middle of the room without ever switching it on.
I've toyed before with the idea of starting a list called, "What Has John Cena Kicked Out of This Week?" and there were some great examples here.
Dean Ambrose hit him with several excellent high power moves (though I've no idea what his actual finisher is), and as per usual Cena's shoulder shot up on the count of two like there was a big magnet on the ceiling.
I call it anti-wrestling and I hate it.
The quick sequence that led to the end of the match was absolutely fantastic.
Sheamus being speared through the barricade was a complete shocker; the way Lilian Garcia had to leap out of the way gave me cause to suspect that it wasn't planned. Midair catches always thrill me, and Ryback's catch of Seth Rollins was one of the best I've ever seen.
The final pin was unexpected and terrific too. A quick, kinetic, exhilarating series. That short time, not more than a couple of minutes, was wrestling at its best. That Cena was seemingly in a position to easily break up the pin is neither here nor there.
I didn't watch the pre-show, but it was revealed that Brodus Clay and Tensai defeated the Rhodes Scholars. It's probably a good thing that I didn't watch it.
Kaitlin's promo before her match with Tamina Snuka made Tamina sound like a real threat. Then Kaitlin won it with one move. Still, at least we got to hear plenty about whose daughter Tamina is.
Now for CM Punk vs.The Rock.
What really stood out was that the match was full of rest holds. Is The Rock so bad that he needs them, or was it just horrible storytelling?
The Royal Rumble match was the same. Rock vs. Cena I can't remember so well, but I'm fairly sure I can recall an awful lot of STFs.
Again, is The Rock really so bad that he has to spend two thirds of a match lying down?
It was another absolute catastrophe of a match, very much the sequel to their first encounter. CM Punk wrestled himself for 20 minutes, then some referee silliness.
Just a disaster.
What's a shocker to me is that people will still defend The Rock—but more on that a little later.
As I did before, here is my list of moves The Rock—who many will say with a straight face is one of the all time greats—used: right hand strike, clothesline, Samoan drop (The Rock's first real move, which Punk sold like a Tombstone), DDT, Rock Bottom and elbow drop.
The Elimination Chamber was better than the Royal Rumble. Both suffered from embarrassments of main events, but the Elimination Chamber match was fantastic with an interesting result.
I'm dreading the next seven weeks of WrestleMania build up with The Rock as WWE Champion, though.
WWE Raw, Feb. 18
Raw opened with a lie as Michael Cole said that the previous night's WWE Championship match had been back and forth.
By my count it went back once with no forth.
As CM Punk talked to John Cena, he pointed out something I'd fleetingly thought during the match: The Rock knocked out the referee (yes I know, accidentally) and he should have been disqualified and forfeited the title.
Regular readers will know that The Rock barely had a welcome to outstay for me, but Cena vs. CM Punk I can get behind.
They had the best match of 2011, one of the best of 2012 (top five, certainly), and they're magic every time.
Perhaps I'm a fool to look forward to the match on Raw—if they wouldn't give us the same contest conclusively on the thousandth episode of Raw, why would they next week—but I'm thrilled enough to get behind it.
Mark Henry squashed Sin Cara, then was interrupted by The Great Khali. The Khali who Henry's already beaten quickly.
Henry walked away yelling, "If I wanted to dance, I'd get a date!" That put me in mind of the time he once had a comedy date with Chyna. Does anyone else remember that? Let me know in the comments, I'm sure I'm not making it up.
Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter stepped things up a gear with a promo against the deleterious economic effects of unfettered immigration.
Call me cynical, but I think the WWE are trying to satirise certain viewpoints.
Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler in an encounter not as good as their SmackDown classic of about a month ago, but good by any other standard.
Ziggler had his first failed cash-in for a few months, but like a sucker, I did genuinely think it might just happen this time.
A Wade Barrett promo advertising some rubbish film he's in was interrupted by Sheamus in a weird and not at all funny fashion. It's like they'd forgotten to write something for the segment and it had to be improvised.
Swagger and Colter made another showing, with their own State of the Union address. I can see what they're doing now. They're set up as the anti-immigrants against the Mexican Alberto Del Rio.
It's all profoundly awkward.
Then Swagger beat Daniel Bryan, which wasn't awkward.
The Shield defeated Ryback, Sheamus and Chris Jericho in their first TV match. They are exponentially more interesting when they actually wrestle.
Why did it have to get to the point where I was sick of them before we were rewarded with seeing them wrestle?
Randy Orton vs. Kane was an interesting prospect. The current statuses of both have been in uncertain flux recently, both seeming very protected until fairly recent clean TV losses.
Sadly there would be no conclusive answer as to who's better placed, as Kane lost due to distraction by Daniel Bryan. This is getting extremely boring, each of Team Hell No losing singles matches due to distraction by the other. I'd quite like the situation to end now.
The Rock unveiled a new WWE Championship belt.
It's even worse than the one before. It looks like a biscuit tin.
And why does it have bulls on it? Are they replaceable or are we stuck with his mark on it forevermore?
The logo is stupidly big now, and the black makes it look smoke damaged. An embarrassment of a title belt.
The worst part is that, as The Rock talked about previous champions such as Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin, it seemed to me to hint that maybe he'd unveil a return to the old winged eagle design, which is still the best. And it didn't have a massive logo on it either.
Raw had its good moments and its dull moments. It's been a mixed bag for a while now, though next week's holds a lot of promise.
TNA Impact, Feb. 21
Impact opened with Hulk Hogan announcing the No. 1 contender to the TNA Championship.
Disappointingly, this turned out to be Bully Ray.
Disappointing not because I dislike Ray, but because face nepotism is very unappealing.
That said, I'm not sure who my pick would be. The clamour among TNA fans seems to be for James Storm, and he seems best placed. Either way, I seriously doubt it really will be Ray.
A match was then set for later: Ray, Sting and Hogan vs. some Aces and Eights.
Would Hogan perform better than The Rock at Elimination Chamber was what I was wondering.
The first match was an eight-man tag team match: Chavo Guerrero, Hernandez, James Storm and Joseph Park vs. Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode.
The action was so inconsequential that it was barely worth typing all their names out, but what stood out to me is how you can really tell how much smaller the TNA ring is when there's eight men crowded around it.
The unintentionally ludicrous Rockstar Spud defeated the intentionally ludicrous Robbie E.
I'd hoped my fellow countrymen would have had more sense than to cheer such a heinous gimmick just because he's from the UK, but alas.
Velvet Sky defeated Tara, Miss Tessmacher and Gail Kim to win the Knockouts Championship in a fantastic four way. It was an elimination four way too, which is my favourite kind of multi-competitor match.
Samoa Joe vs. Garett Bischoff ended in a waste of time as Wes Brisco interfered. Then Kurt Angle promoed that he'd be facing Wes Brisco in a steel cage at Lockdown, which isn't interesting either.
Kenny King again failed to overcome Rob Van Dam in his thousandth attempt to win RVD's X-Division Championship.
Despite being a pointless exercise though and illustrating a lack of depth in the current X-Division, the match was still great.
We were ultimately robbed of the opportunity to see Hogan wrestle as Ray and Sting wrestled a handicap against Devon, Mr. Anderson and Doc.
Of course, the Aces and Eights are portrayed as weak wrestlers who are only really dangerous in a group with hammers, so Ray and Sting still dominated—even with Ray working an injury.
Things ended with Hogan attacked and a swarm of Aces and Eights, and it was the most boring thing imaginable. The Aces and Eights angle either has to take a quantum leap forward or be ended entirely, because this is becoming intolerably tedious.
A very disappointing Impact.
We got two great matches, but the rest was either completely forgettable or insultingly hackneyed.
WWE SmackDown, Feb. 22
SmackDown's openings must write themselves.
It opens with one person making a promo, then n interruptions where n is equal to the number of wrestlers tangentially involved with the first, and then Booker T. comes out to announce matches accordingly.
Just plug the necessary names in. This week, Alberto Del Rio told us that immigrants are great and Randy Orton told us that he doesn't like Jack Swagger.
Damien Sandow's standing has been at the lowest since his debut, so what better way to bump it up a few notches than a match with the man he has a history of working well with: Sheamus.
As usual with their matches, Sandow didn't win, as usual this disappointed me, but as usual it was close enough at points to make me wonder.
Zeb Colter and Swagger's recent antics spilled over into xenophobia backstage with Wade Barrett.
So long as we're clear at least, though I find the whole thing a bit distasteful and just downright awkward.
Swagger vs. Orton went on for a decent amount of time, though it felt a bit workmanlike in places. The result wasn't in any doubt, and it's not often that we can say that with the result being Orton losing.
Cody Rhodes has the ongoing problem of lacking a gimmick.
He was most interesting when he wore a mask and went around putting paper bags on people's heads, which is something I'd gladly see him go back to.
For now though, his gimmick is his moustache and he's doing what he can with it. It's not enough to see him go over The Miz, though.
The show closed with Del Rio vs. Barrett, again with the expected result.
The expected result, even with a distracted Del Rio.
It's a world away from when he was a heel (therefore weak) and couldn't win without cheating. Now he doesn't even lose when distracted.
SmackDown felt fairly slight on the whole, which wasn't helped by so much of it being given over to recapping Raw. Nevertheless, what original material we had was pretty good, and there were several decent matches.
And Now, a Word About the Rock...
"Jus Brii It"—Latin for "The Worst Professional Wrestler of All Time" (image: wwe.com)
Last week I referred to The Rock as the worst professional wrestler of all time.
It was a throwaway bit of jocular hyperbole, referencing for regular readers my dislike of him and exaggerating it for comic effect.
Unexpectedly, many people in the comments failed to recognise that I wasn't being altogether serious.
For the record, I don't genuinely think The Rock is the worst professional wrestler of all time. He's probably in about the lowest 20 or so, but I don't think I can justify his placement at rock bottom.
What this really reflected though is that people are unwilling to countenance any criticism of The Rock at all.
The reason for this is clear: He was at the heart of the universally exalted Attitude Era, and so he therefore must be brilliant.
His current wrestling ability I addressed back on the Elimination Chamber slide, and I think his current in-ring uselessness is indisputable—but if you'd like to have a go at defending it in the comments, I'd love to see someone try.
In his two matches this year, he's rivaled The Great Khali for incompetence in the squared circle.
It's true that he was a better wrestler in his prime, but that still doesn't mean he was any good. Then as now, he had a moveset you could list on the fingers of one hand, rarely took a proper bump, and was an embarrassingly theatric overseller.
When has The Rock ever fallen off of the top of a ladder through a table?
Rarely did he ever go to the top rope—though, in his very first appearance, that's practically all he did, taking out a whole survivor series team with diving crossbodies.
The few moves he does have are basic and unimpressive, and for his finishers he has an elbow drop with adding hopping around like a fool, and the least special slam I've ever seen passed off as a finisher.
I'm not saying anyone could do what he does, but any professional wrestler worth his pay could do it as a basic minimum.
When I pointed out in a previous article that he was a terrible overseller, some people thought it would cut straight through my argument to point out that I'm a fan of Dolph Ziggler and his selling ability.
They are night and day when it comes to the art of selling.
When Ziggler sells a big move, it looks like it could be genuine. He sandbags and collapses. More than once I've wondered if he was genuinely hurt.
If you were in a bar and swung a pretend punch at The Rock, he'd flail around the place sweeping every glass off the bar onto the floor in the process before finally hitting the ground about three minutes later.
This kind of thing in wrestling shatters the suspension of disbelief, and has no place outside of a school nativity play.
As for The Rock's much ballyhooed mic skills, this is more subjective.
In my view, he refers to himself in the third person like an idiot and all of his supposed zingers involve genitals and are the kind of joke any eight year old would be proud of. Included is an arsenal of stupid nonsensical catchphrases that belong on a child's lunchbox and nowhere else.
But that's just my view.
So that's my take on The Rock.
He's the worst there is, the worst there was and the worst there ever will be.
But you're welcome to disagree, and I'd be interested to see some reasoned counters. Really though, if you like The Rock then you've won in a sense. There are enough people who agree with you to make him a huge draw for the WWE, no matter how monumentally bad his schtick and his wrestling actually are.
But just because there are millions (and millions) that like him, that doesn't make them right.
Show of the Week: WWE SmackDown
As with every time the situation arises, the par-per-view is exempted as this is a direct comparison of the TV shows. None of them were particularly great this week, but SmackDown was the best.
Match of the Week: Velvet Sky vs. Tara vs. Gail Kim vs. Miss Tessmacher
This again excludes the pay-per-view action. There were a lot of good matches this week, but at the end of the week this is the one that sticks out in my mind. Perhaps a title changing hands has something to do with it, but it was a terrific match. This is the first time that a Knockouts (or Divas) match has ever won, for what it's worth.
Thank you for reading and all comments, thoughts, opinions and rash unqualified judgements are welcome.