WWE vs. TNA: Who's Been Better This Week? (March 10-16, 2013)
Hello, fellow wrestling fanatics, and welcome to this latest article in my long-running WWE vs. TNA series, in which each week I watch and review the main output of both promotions and pick the best.
This week was somewhat special, as it featured a TNA pay-per-view—a much rarer event since a change in the schedule was announced. Meanwhile, the WWE marked the passing of the much-loved Paul Bearer in a unique way. Let's take a look at what happened.
TNA Lockdown 2013
Lockdown kicked off in great style as Kenny King retained his X Division Championship against Christian York and Zema Ion. All three men put in a great performance with many unique moves, and it was perhaps Zema who gave the best showing.
I'm not so keen on seeing York challenge for the X Division title, though. I'd much rather see him go after the practically undefended Television Championship, leaving the X Division as the midcard title for the high fliers.
Joseph Park—who isn't going anywhere, but is fun doing it—defeated Joey Ryan, who worked a baby-oil gimmick throughout. It was unobjectionable fun.
The Tag Team Championship Triple Threat was as good a match of its kind as you'll ever see. Lots of spots, lots of back and forth and quick-paced action. Perfect wrestling.
Wes Brisco vs. Kurt Angle had some pretty good action, most notably the top rope German Suplex. A real shame, then, that it turned into complete by-the-numbers tedium as soon as the referee was knocked out. Wes tapped; Angle escaped; Angle was thrown back in. There must have been more interesting ways to achieve the same result.
Team TNA vs. Aces and Eights in the Lethal Lockdown match was fairly perfunctory until all the men were in. Sting bringing in all the weapons was great, but then the Aces and Eight made a comeback that was quite ridiculous. The five man superplex was absolutely incredible and covered the entire match's sins up to that point. Eric Young's diving elbow drop was pretty amazing too.
The undoubted pre-ending highlight of Jeff Hardy vs. Bully Ray was the huge powerbomb. The twist at the end wasn't so surprising but was still brilliant. It's just what this angle needed, as I said last week, and it was great to see it happen.
In hindsight now, it was the only way things could go down, considering how this match came about. Even Hulk and Brooke Hogan wailing outside the ring with the former on crutches didn't ruin the moment. At last, the Aces and Eights are interesting again, and it had me excited for the next Impact for the first time in a while.
Lockdown was a solid PPV. Wrestling-wise, the tag match delivered totally, and there were many great spots scattered among the other matches. Story-wise, it may just be enough to reinvigorate a rather stale main storyline. If that's the case, that's what Lockdown 2013 will be remembered for.
WWE Raw, Mar. 11
I loved Paul Bearer, but after the heartfelt video package and The Undertaker's usual Ben Hur-length entrance, CM Punk's interruption made me laugh out loud. This is the brilliant heel Punk that we were robbed of for far too much of his WWE Championship reign.
Opening Raw's action was the first singles match for a member of The Shield. That fact ought to be surprising, but considering how few matches they've competed in anyway, it's not. Unsurprisingly, it didn't last as a match, but the triple powerbomb to The Big Show was very impressive.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan was an exceptional match. Once Ziggler cashes in, I really hope we'll see it for the World Heavyweight Championship, because it was magic. Even Michael Cole calling a Famouser a Zig-Zag didn't ruin it. I mentioned recently that Cole's been making a lot more mistakes than usual, and this continues that irritating trend.
Fandango continued not to wrestle but instead expanded his character to being a seedy weirdo. I like Albert's new costume, though.
The Rhodes Scholars' imitation of The New Age Outlaws was quite brilliant. I still love Billy Gunn and Road Dogg that little bit more, though. I'm glad they're back for more than just last week. I'd love them to become the Tag Team Champions, though perhaps that's a bit optimistic. Brock Lesnar's interruption was completely unexpected, but all the better for it.
Mark Henry defeated Kofi Kingston after a brilliant mid-air catch. I'm a mark for Mark, and I love the idea of him facing Ryback. Their segment competitively beating up poor Drew McIntyre was great.
While Alberto Del Rio wrestled Antonio Cesaro, Michael Cole told us one of Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger's mad ideas: that immigrants should have to learn to speak English within a year. Those dangerous nutters. The match was good, anyway. Del Rio always wins these TV matches of course, but he does make them look close.
What should have been awful—a segment promoting some terrible-looking films starring The Miz and Wade Barrett in which they shoot guns—was made brilliant by Barrett's hammy, jolly acting the card. Brad Maddox entering the fray and Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler breaking down only added to the hilarity. It was all great fun, and Barrett continued to exhibit his hilarious character on commentary as The Miz took on Chris Jericho.
And then we got to Kane. If you want Kane to be taken seriously, what should you not do? Maybe airing a comedy sketch with him phoning Halle Berry right before his angry revenge match on CM Punk is one to avoid.
The match itself was pretty good fare and acted to character in a way that helped us quickly forget the preceding sketch. Using the real life death of someone in a kayfabe angle could be tricky, but the WWE have dived right into it.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of it though, seeing The Undertaker and Kane together with the urn gave me a nostalgic feeling that's made me a million times more invested in this than I was just seeing The Undertaker and Triple H staring at the WrestleMania sign.
This was the best episode of Raw of the year so far. It didn't really make any significant misstep, and each segment flowed nicely into the next. An excellent show.
TNA Impact, Mar. 14
A 10-minute promo by the Aces and Eights starting with a pre-match interference is something that would have filled me with bored dread at any point within the past few months. Bully Ray, though, is just what was needed, and he's an exceptional heel. Rather than being dread-filled, I'm fascinated to see what happens next.
The first genuine match gave a better Knockouts display than we were allowed at Lockdown, as Velvet Sky and Mickie James defeated Gail Kim and Tara. Really, it just existed to further the animosity between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell, but it gave us good wrestling at the same time, and that's my preferred way to advance a storyline.
I probably mention most weeks how much I love Christopher Daniels. On the PPV before last, he defeated James Storm and subsequently wrestled Jeff Hardy to a close match for the TNA Championship.
These are exciting times for a Daniels mark. Except, he lost to James Storm here. AJ Styles then came back and unsurprisingly attacked Storm as well as Bad Influence. He's all deep and angry now, our AJ.
The already lovable Joseph Park was interrupted by the increasingly lovable Matt Morgan. There was a time I used to call him Matt "midcard" Morgan, but he's now so endearing that he's impossible not to love. We'll have this battle of the adorables to look forward to next week.
The main event was Sting vs. Austin Aries. The cynic in me wants to say that this was a vain old has-been looking good at the expense of one of the best wrestlers in the world, but the crowd loved it, and I can't say I didn't enjoy it.
A major difference with the closing Aces and Eights vs. TNA Locker Room brawl compared to the dozens of previous occasions that it's happened is that the show didn't go off the air with the brawl continuing. Nor were the Aces and Eights chased out like weaklings, as so often has been the case. They repelled the attack, and it was fantastic.
Impact felt like a reboot. The Aces and Eights storyline is thrilling again, and that really shows the value of Bully Ray for any doubters. Looking back, not a great deal really happened on Impact, but what there was was extremely enjoyable, and the Chicago crowd made a big difference as well.
WWE SmackDown, Mar. 15
Forgoing the usual "Tonight on SmackDown" promo, the show dived straight into the action with Randy Orton and Sheamus vs. The Rhodes Scholars.
SmackDown was better for this pacy start, and also for the credibility afforded to The Rhodes Scholars. The time a match is given is something I'm perhaps guilty of banging on about too much, but this showed that a little more time for these contests goes a long way.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Kane in a moderate disappointment for me. It wasn't exactly clean, but I'm a long-standing Kane mark and never like to see him lose. On the other hand, it's about time Mr. Money in the Bank scored regular wins.
So, you remember how funny the Fandango thing with his name is? Well, imagine how extra funny it would be with The Great Khali. That's right, as funny as that. And it sure was (or wasn't, depending on how you answered).
Perhaps it was a bit naive to expect the promise of Mark Henry vs. Ryback to be carried through, but I still felt a bit cheated. I do like The Shield now, but seeing them carry out the same attacks every show is getting irritating again.
The show closed with an interesting match between Jack Swagger and Chris Jericho. Swagger won, of course, but it didn't necessarily seem that certain an outcome during the bout.
SmackDown was a fairly average show. Beyond the sheer predictability of Shield incursions, there's not too much to criticise—but when you consider how much is given over to Raw recaps, there's quite a lot of show written off.
Show of the Week: WWE Raw
Regular readers will know that Show of the Week excludes PPVs. In something of a reversal of recent trends, Raw and Impact were great while SmackDown was the weak link. Raw was easily the best show, though; it really didn't put a foot wrong. It's hard to believe it's the same show sometimes.
Match of the Week: Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan
Again excluding the PPV, this match was really rather special. I hope we see them face off again in the near future.
Thanks for reading. All comments, views and opinions are appreciated. I usually respond to them all too, so there's a small incentive to share your thoughts on the past week's wrestling.