Hello, wrestlemaniacs, and welcome to this latest edition of my WWE vs. TNA series, in which every week until I cease to function I am committed to watching, analysing and reviewing the output of both promotions and picking the best.
TNA last week received a much-needed shot in the arm in the form of Bully Ray's defection to the Aces and Eights with the TNA Championship. Would Impact keep up its potential? Meanwhile, the WWE continued creeping towards its biggest pay-per-view: WrestleMania. Let's see how they got on.
Raw opened with the big news that John Cena has a new ugly yellow t-shirt. I look forward to not buying it and adding it to my collection of ugly John Cena t-shirts that I don't have. I bet you there's many who do get them all, though.
What then followed was the strangest thing we've seen in wrestling for some time: absolutely bizarre antics from The Prime Time Players, which I don't think we'll fully comprehend for about 200 years. To give Darren Young credit, though, he lasted almost a whole two minutes against Cena.
The mind-numbingly boring and pointless matches continued as Ryback squashed David Otunga. From this opening 20 minutes, it looked like last week's high quality episode was an exception. At least the obvious thing followed, with Ryback being taken out of the match against The Shield at WrestleMania and being put against Mark Henry instead. Why did they pretend they'd do otherwise?
Fandango had a fairly expensive-looking entrance, only to not wrestle. He continued his massive sleaze thing, though. Despite the two useless matches that had preceded, he was the one who got a "You can't wrestle!" chant.
Damien Sandow walked out on his match with R-Truth and got counted out. What were they thinking with this rubbish?
Two weeks to go until WrestleMania and 45 minutes into the show, and the best thing to happen was that a previously announced match was unannounced in favour of a better and obvious one. But hey, we learnt on commentary that Michael Cole's a Democrat and Jerry Lawler might not be.
Things sharply improved as CM Punk gave a brilliantly irreverent promo playing with Paul Bearer's urn. It may just be the best thing to happen so far this year—that is, if you're not bothered that they're using the real death of someone in this way.
Team Hell No defeated Primo and Epico, though poor Daniel Bryan was dominated for quite a lot of it. An unwelcome flashback to an insufferable storyline was provided as AJ Lee came out during and skipped around the ring.
Why is it that Alberto Del Rio doesn't have cars in his entrance now that he's the World Heavyweight Champion? And why has his theme been remixed and made worse?
What followed was a big surprise, as Cody Rhodes—who's been little more than a jobber for ages—was given a close match against the champion. Jack Swagger's post-match beating of Del Rio attracted a "USA! USA!" chant, which is interesting. And Ricardo Rodriguez sold a broken ankle like a hot cake.
Normal service was resumed (normal this week being dire wastes of time) as Randy Orton and Sheamus defeated two of 3MB. There was one point where Sheamus seemed to take quite a lot of punishment. It was Sheamus, though, so of course he kicked out at one, lest anyone else actually have the chance to look good.
Meanwhile, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler demonstrated what contempt they hold the audience in as they speculated about whether Orton and Sheamus would be facing The Shield in a three-on-two match at WrestleMania. But wouldn't you know it, as The Shield came down for one of their un-surprise attacks, out came The Big Show. He even pointed at the WrestleMania sign, in case we hadn't quite got the idea.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston was announced as a WrestleMania match for the Tag Team Championships. It should be exciting, but Team Hell No have both lost to Ziggler recently.
Imagine how much more exciting it would be if they hadn't locked up recently—maybe if the challenge was just brought on through AJ. Wouldn't that have been better?
I'm not sure if I've managed to convey it, but Raw wasn't especially good up to this point. Thank goodness then that it was redeemed somewhat by the Intercontinental Championship Triple Threat. It may not have been a classic for the ages, but it was a good solid TV match, and the three man dynamic is always novel.
Raw's main event was the Triple H and Brock Lesnar contract signing. Or, as it was, Triple H and Paul Heyman. Heyman said he wanted to draw attention to a piece of footage, which was their brawl from Raw three weeks ago. Sadly, it wasn't to point out that Triple H appeared to have wet himself, but was for no reason apparently other than to show that the brawl had happened.
We then had the unedifying spectacle of one of the worst people in wrestling history beating up one of the best. All that just to find out the stipulation would be No Holds Barred with Triple H's career on the line.
The Raw before this was an exceptionally good show. Maybe following that made this seem even worse, but whatever the reason, it was very poor with just a couple of bright spots. Still, it's not as if there's the biggest event of the year in a fortnight's time to whet our appetites for or anything.
Impact opened with a fairly long and not massively interesting promo. Hulk Hogan called out Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy and Magnus and announced that they would be having a match later to decide who gets the first shot at Bully Ray's TNA Championship.
Which is all well and good, but what about James Storm and Christopher Daniels? By which I really mean, what about Christopher Daniels?
TNA's tag team division is brilliant. Every time its teams lock up, it's magic. The fact that there are only actually three teams is neither here nor there, because we're getting good wrestling, and that wins me over every time. The question of "What about Christopher Daniels?" was answered as it seems he'll be back to full-time tag team duty.
Kenny King defended his X-Division title in a Triple Threat against Zema Ion and Sonjay Dutt. There's some kind of tournament that was ill-explained and which means that Dutt—who, despite being pinned, gave great account of himself and is a big favourite of mine—was eliminated from title contention. Even though it was a title match anyway. I didn't really get it.
A long video promo featuring Bully Ray explained in fairly meticulous detail how his plan worked stretching all the way back to before Bound for Glory. It all felt a bit Scooby-Doo villain, and I personally was happy to go with the Bully Ray storyline, but judging by some comments on last week's edition of this series, not everyone was.
A later video explained when and why all the other TNA converts to the Aces and Eights defected. I have to give them credit regarding D-Lo—it's clear that was definitely planned way in advance, though we needed this reminder of the evidence.
Taryn Terrell was fired as a referee and hired as a Knockout. Fair enough, but who's going to referee Knockouts matches now? Or is Earl "lothario" Hebner safe now that Madison Rayne's not been in action for a while?
The Unstoppable Adorable met the Immovable Adorable as Matt Morgan faced Joseph Park. They're both so lovable that it's a shame one had to lose. But of course, Morgan won.
The final match was the previously announced four way, and it was good. The crowd were behind it, and there was some exhilarating action. Of course, Jeff Hardy won, but never mind.
A solid outing from Impact. There wasn't a slow moment, and there was good wrestling. It wasn't the most flashy or eventful edition, but TNA seems to have its buzz back.
If you thought The Big Show teaming with Sheamus and Randy Orton against The Shield went without saying and we wouldn't be subjected to seven tedious minutes of Miz TV with them painstakingly pointing out that they don't get on but they'll team up anyway, you were wrong.
Sheamus said, "We've literally beaten the life out of each other in this ring". Using the word "literally" to mean its opposite—in cases such as these, "metaphorically"—is a particular bete noire of mine, and another reason (were it needed) to hate Sheamus. Also on display was his inability to go a whole promo without saying "urse."
The WWE's premier wordsmith, Booker T, made an additional contribution to the segment, announcing that they would take part in a six-man tag team match. Who they would face wasn't announced, and had me wondering. It needed to be a reasonable challenge to establish that they could get along, so surely it wouldn't just be 3MB.
Mark Henry defeated Zack Ryder in one minute. Is there anything quite so pointless as a match like this? Why not at least add Yoshi Tatsu in for a handicap?
As Ryback came out to confront Henry, Michael Cole said, "Finally some sanity in this situation." I've flagged up silly things Cole's said in the past and qualified it with "I'm not a Michael Cole hater," but I think that's the straw that's broken the back of my tolerance for him. That he in quick succession then said, "A meat hook to Ryback" when he meant "from Ryback" merely confirmed my feelings. I now detest him.
How many times have we seen Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston recently? The problem really is that there aren't too many people Ziggler can safely go over at the moment. The even bigger problem is that it's just getting boring.
Jack Swagger and Chris Jericho had another match, and I'm sorry to say Swagger was a bit of a letdown. Quite stiff and samey, no great pacing. Fandango made a surprise entrance, which is extremely stupid because during the match his entrance apparatus would have been put up, and that's impossible to miss.
Continuing the repeats, Antonio Cesaro faced The Miz. Because nothing's going on for the previously very credible Cesaro, The Miz made him submit within three minutes. Absolutely shoddy booking, and boring to boot.
I could not believe it when 3MB came out as Show, Sheamus and Orton's opponents. This is their test, the comedy jobbers. The one match of the show that isn't a repeat of a match we've already had recently (though we had seen Sheamus and Orton against two of them on this week's Raw), and it was this. The Shield made a break with tradition and came out after the match rather than during, and then nothing happened.
What a pathetic episode of SmackDown. A waste of time and an insult to people who go out of their way to watch the WWE.
Show of the Week: TNA Impact
There are people who defend WWE programming no matter what, usually qualifying it with the supposed axiom that TNA sucks. I defy anyone to justify this week's WWE output to me, especially given just where we are in the PPV calendar.
Every single member of WWE Creative should be sacked and possibly sued on top of that. Impact, on the other hand, was pretty good.
Match of the Week: Jeff Hardy vs. Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe vs. Magnus
Looking back on the week's matches, it's tricky to say which was the best. Nothing from SmackDown—a show whose matches and probably also promos could have been cobbled together from clips of previous shows without anyone noticing—was anything other than embarrassing.
From memory, Impact's four way match stands out the most, with Raw's Intercontinental Championship match, Del Rio vs. Rhodes, Impact's tag team match and the X-Division match too tough to choose between for second place.
Last week in the comments, a few people suggested that I start a Superstar of the Week selection, in addition to the two current measures of who's been best. Being me, I'd name it Wrestler of the Week, but I'd like to know more people's thoughts on whether to start including this.
If it seems to be a popular idea, I'll start doing it from the week after WrestleMania. Let me know your thoughts on this and anything else about this article in the comments, and I'll most likely reply as well.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.