Hello, grapple fans, and welcome to the latest edition in my WWE vs. TNA series, in which each week I have committed myself to reviewing and analyzing the main output of both promotions and picking a winner.
Both companies are still a ways away from their next pay-per-views. Keeping things exciting, though, Raw held the promise of John Cena vs. CM Punk. Meanwhile, Impact was back in the Impact Zone.
Let's see what happened.
"Is it him? Is it him?" Michael Cole yelled excitedly as Triple H's music blared in Raw's opening segment. What a stupid question, but deep down I really hoped it wasn't. Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H was a match I had no desire to see the first time around, and the quality of that match justified my feeling. Lesnar bled heavily in this segment, though, so it wasn't completely devoid of interest.
Cole then requested that fans send in Touts, short 15-second video status updates, about what had just transpired. I was tempted I admit, though I continue to exist un-lobotomized, so it's not as if mine would be shown anyway. Neither would the touts of all those who'd spotted that Triple H had apparently wet himself, though I hadn't noticed, instead learning later from the Internet. To think that in the days before the web, something like that might have been missed.
I'm not a Cole hater, but his third occasion of irritation came during the first match of Ryback vs. Dolph Ziggler, when he exclaimed as though Ryback was about to make a huge move when he was in fact receiving a DDT. Mistakes like that happen, but his attempt to salvage it was even worse.
I think he's been making this kind of mistake more frequently of late, though it could just be I'm noticing them more.
We don't see Ryback in singles action very often now, and as the man who took the pin in his Elimination Chamber match, he's been in danger of looking weak. This match dispelled that worry, at least for the time being. His drumming up of a "feed me more" chant looked really quite sad and agitated, though. I hope the brief "Goldberg" chants didn't get to him.
Zeb "controversial" Colter did all the talking for Jack Swagger's side against Alberto Del Rio on Miz TV. He made the point that illegal immigrants are illegally taking up jobs and are a bad thing. I mean, whoa! What will he come out with next?
Sheamus, possibly the most deadly combination of "un-funniness'' and ''un-likeability'' that the WWE has ever offered (well, OK, excluding The Rock), said absolutely nothing worth hearing as he mocked a still image of Wade Barrett. Wade bouncing along grinning to confront him saved the proceedings somewhat.
It's been a while since we've seen R-Truth's finisher, but we were treated to it as he defeated Cody Rhodes. It's really terrible—it looks like he might be the one getting hurt, and it's jarring when we see his opponent laid out and him getting the pin. I suppose it's a bit late for him to change it now, though.
Team Hell No defeated The Prime Time Players despite silly handicaps. The first time we see the PTP for quite a while, and they lose what should be a cakewalk for a serious team. It looks like the days of serious tag team competition are over.
Fan Touts were all the rage once with the WWE, but I think they realized how absolutely awful they are. This week, though, they unrealized it and unleashed again the rank cretinism of a particular wing of what they insist on calling the WWE Universe.
Much of the show passed me by, not bad enough to criticize but not good enough to praise. The main event, though, that was something else.
There was no doubt that John Cena will be facing The Rock at WrestleMania. The only question hanging over this match was whether it would be a straight win, or else some other ending circumstance to drag things out for a while longer.
The real shame is that this isn't the main event at WrestleMania, because no match featuring The Rock could ever compare to how well Cena and CM Punk work together. No doubt there are those who'll disagree, and they'll likely be the same people who can watch a match like this and still claim that Cena can't wrestle.
Cena's Powerbomb was beautifully executed, and his Hurricanrana was much better than the last time he attempted it. So far as I know, the Piledriver is still a banned move, so that was a pleasure to see.
The real pleasure, though, is the WWE giving away this match on TV. We probably won't see Punk vs. Cena again for a long time, so what better place for their final encounter.
Raw was irrelevant apart from the final match. I don't care about Triple H, I don't care about Brock Lesnar and I certainly don't care about fan Touts. I do care about fantastic wrestling, though, and that's what we got in the final match.
Curiously, The Undertaker was only mentioned briefly and did not appear. As to whom he'll face, CM Punk seems the obvious choice, though having to follow his losses with another job to The Undertaker might seem too much. The way things are shaping up, though, everyone else of sufficient standing is busy, or else has jobbed at him at Mania before.
I suppose it's not too late for Taker to defeat The Shield single-handedly.
We're back in the Impact Zone now on TNA, so we had the tremendously unexciting return of Jeff Hardy. I'm not convinced that Bully Ray really will be challenging for the TNA Championship—in fact, I'd bet against it. If I had to guess who it will be, I'd say Christopher Daniels or Magnus.
Last week regular readers will recall that, for the first time, a Knockouts match was my Match of the Week. This week saw the obligatory rematch, which was a major letdown. Tara's a great wrestler, so it's a shame to see her rematch against Velvet Sky quickly wasted like that.
Another match of great potential gone to waste was Austin Aries vs. Hernandez. Aries clocked him with something, but we never really found out what. It just looked like his elbow to me.
Kenny King had what was explicitly named as his last shot at Rob Van Dam's X-Division Championship—and he actually won! It's a shame that the match wasn't given longer than five minutes.
The members of Team TNA who would face Team Aces and Eights were revealed for Lockdown. I really don't care, but the most interesting part is James "should be world champion according to everyone" Storm's inclusion. We know it definitely won't be him facing Hardy then.
Gut Check returned this week after what seems like quite a long time. It was two women, and they wrestled a surprisingly interesting match. I still don't much like Gut Check as a concept, though.
Robbie E and Robbie T finally broke up this week. I don't particularly care about that either, except that it's finally happened after so long hinting at it.
My thoughts (and, indeed, hopes) that Daniels might challenge for the TNA Championship were seemingly dashed as he took the pin in the quick and perfunctory Hardy and Bully Ray vs. Bad Influence. Maybe it will be Bully Ray challenging at Lockdown after all. And that's a bad decision.
The show ended with Kurt Angle storming the Aces and Eights' clubhouse and unmasking one of them, though his face was, of course, offscreen. It could be Bruno Sammartino or Bret Hart for all I care. I've no interest left in this once promising angle.
A poor outing from Impact. None of the matches was given enough time to stand out, and there's nothing very interesting going on. TNA's really in a slump.
Damien Sandow is the go-to guy for matches that look close with upper card talent. The problem is, unlike when he was new, at this point there's no belief that he can really win. It does establish him high up the midcard at least, available to be moved higher should the necessity arise.
We always get a good promo out of him, too. He proved a good foil for Alberto Del Rio to display a more expanded move-set, something which wasn't possible against The Big Show.
We were treated to a Two-out-of-Three-Falls match for the U.S. Championship between Antonio Cesaro and The Miz. I say treated, it was done a disservice somewhat by a fall occurring during the advertisement break. Despite that, though, it was good.
JR conducted an interview with Zeb "straw man" Colter and Jack "weed the people" Swagger. Sadly, Swagger didn't show JR what they do to sympathizers as Del Rio came out and called him a minor insult.
Team Hell No switched handicaps for a more entertaining version of their match against the Prime Time Players on Raw. I enjoyed it, though I didn't find it as hilarious as commentary intimated it was.
Fandango, for whom we've seen absurd vignettes every week for what feels like a year, made his debut finally. His gimmick appears to be that of an ex-ballroom dancer who's obsessed with saying his own name like a weirdo. It could fly, I suppose.
The Big Show vs. Randy Orton was the match that decided the No. 1 contender to then-champion Sheamus' World Heavyweight Championship. That time, of course, Big Show won. This match would, in theory, do a lot to show us the relative current standings of both. Only in theory, though, because, of course, The Shield interfered.
That is a shame, because there was some very interesting action between the two men before that. I enjoyed the ending of The Big Show clocking Roman Reigns, demonstrating he's not on anyone's side. It was a good finish.
A very enjoyable SmackDown again this week. Several great matches and good promos. SmackDown's become the real quality show in the WWE of late. But where was JBL?
Show of the Week: WWE SmackDown
Another win for SmackDown, which continues to deliver. Raw was forgettable with one exceptionally good match, and Impact wasn't far above appalling. Where SmackDown has really excelled is in what used to be Impact's advantage over the WWE: delivering long matches with clean results on TV.
Match of the Week: John Cena vs. CM Punk
If we get a better TV match this year, I'll be amazed. You have to go back a very long time to find anything that compares. A real treat.
Thank you for reading. All comments are very welcome and appreciated.