Hello and welcome to this latest article in my WWE vs. TNA series, in which each and every week I review the main output of both promotions and pick the best.
We're very near to WrestleMania now, with this covering the second to last week. Unfortunately for the WWE, the week before this was appallingly bad. Would the WWE pick up its game before its biggest pay-per-view? And could TNA compete? Let's find out.
CM Punk is the best talker in the WWE, and many a Raw has been saved by one of his promos. As if by way of apology for the WWE's catastrophic performance last week, he was up first. While he didn't say much new, his skill is that he keeps you hooked on his words anyway.
I highly approved of the sequence leading up to the first match: Fandango entered for a match, Chris Jericho attacked him and then Dolph Ziggler came out as we were informed they were meant to face each other earlier and it was being brought forward.
It was a bigger surprise to me that Jericho won, and so quickly despite Big E Langston. It's been hinted that another Intercontinental Championship reign could be on the cards, and Mr. Money in the Bank should theoretically be above that. That the obvious victory of Ziggler with interference from Langston didn't result is a surprise all the more appreciated after the horribly vapid and predictable action of last week.
Speaking disdainfully in last week's article of being given a tedious repeat of Mark Henry squashing Zack Ryder, I said WWE should at least have Henry go through a handicap match Ryback-style to give him a bit more build and something different. Well by jingo, if that's not exactly what happened as he put away The Usos. Maybe they read my articles over at Titan Tower. Or, more likely, someone finally caught on to the obvious way of how WWE should be doing this.
Triple H's promos are usually intolerable, and his whole presence near the top of the card is self-indulgent. At least his promo here was short; indeed, it wasn't much longer than his entrance. Mind you, his entrance—while not an Undertaker-length horror—is exasperatingly long.
Just to be sure that there's no chance of me liking him, Triple H kicked Wade Barrett in an illegal area as they passed each other while Wade walked to the ring.
Unexpectedly, Barrett and The Miz then had a very good match. It looks like our next Intercontinental title match is confirmed; however, with Miz being the champion before last, it really shows how sparse the midcard is.
The Shield defeated The Great Khali, Justin Gabriel and Zack Ryder, a pretty pointless assortment if ever there was one. WWE could at least have had Kofi Kingston, R-Truth and one other to make for a more credible win. That of course still leaves room for Khali, if it really was so desperate to impress us with the big powerbomb yet again.
Ryback defeated 3MB, though it was good to see 3MB work together for an extended time. Drew McIntyre came out of it looking especially good—not that I think much is likely to come of it, though.
Raw closed on an interminably long segment among The Rock, John Cena and four "legends". It didn't sound interesting going into it, and dear me did I overestimate it. Had it been a normal-length segment, I'd have been happy to write it off as a misstep. However, it went on for 25 minutes, and that's a soporifically long time.
Raw was all right. It seemed all the better for coming after one of the worst weeks in the WWE's recent history. Even so, I can't honestly say it was very far above average.
I will add that the final segment was the longest we've seen The Rock on his feet for years. He's relatively unimpaired when it comes to standing there talking. Then, it's just five minutes into an actual wrestling match that he'll need a rest hold.
Still, if a rubbish segment like that is the toll we have to pay before we see Dwayne wrestle his very last match, then I say we're getting off lightly.
Impact's opening segment was a bit slow, but Bully Ray's presence improved it tenfold from how it would otherwise have been. So too was it helped no end by being on the road with an energetic crowd rather than in the Impact Zone.
The segment's result was that we'd be seeing Jeff Hardy vs. Mr. Anderson later. They most recently faced each other a couple of times on PPV last year, and they were both good matches so I was happy to be seeing it again.
TNA's tag team division is the single most reliable provider of good wrestling today. It always manages to find unique spots and it's a world away from the WWE's typical fresh face running in and clotheslining everyone by-the-numbers fare. That it only actually has three teams isn't a bother yet, though it would be good to have more. Maybe two of the top faces who aren't doing anything and a team from the Aces and Eights could be added.
Despite having seen it before several times, including for the championships, Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez vs. Bad Influence was as gripping as ever. It's just a shame that Christopher Daniels, the greatest professional wrestler in the world, was the one pinned.
Sting and Hulk Hogan had a great big shout at each other, but sadly it didn't turn into a match. I hope it does at some point, though. Sting had his own face on his t-shirt, which looked weird.
Wes Brisco, Garett Bischoff and DOC defeated Kurt Angle, James Storm and Eric Young. It went on for long enough that I thought the Aces and Eights might get a clean win, but it seems things haven't quite moved that far along yet.
Jeff Hardy vs. Mr Anderson was a pretty close contest throughout, which made me happy. I like Anderson, but in recent times he's been a bit of a jobber. After getting disqualified with Anderson's hammer, Hardy announced that his TNA Championship match with Bully Ray would be Full Metal Mayhem, which is TNA-speak for tables, ladders and chairs. I can get behind that, though I dearly hope TNA doesn't fritter it away with Bully winning due to legal interference.
Impact was a good show. Some great wrestling and very pacy throughout.
SmackDown opened with The Rock doing one of his promos. It was fairly inoffensive stuff and didn't bother me. But that's utterly irrelevant, because then my all-time favourite man in the world interrupted him: John Laurinaitis. I absolutely adore him; he is the single most likable and brilliant thing in all of wrestling.
Unfortunately, the WWE Universe—yobs who Laurinaitis is too good for—booed him and he received a People's Elbow. Or rather, a Philistines' Elbow.
Chris Jericho defeated Wade Barrett in a match featuring a distraction. It may have been a little bit run of the mill, but there were a few good spots. Afterwards, Jericho mentioned the obviousness of Fandango's entrance apparatus being present. As I said last week, it was stupid for him to be taken by surprise during his match when it would have been unmissable while being put up. Again, maybe WWE writers are reading me, or maybe they're just growing some common sense.
Ryback and Mark Henry had a silly weightlifting contest. To the credit of all involved though, they managed to make it reasonably dramatic. But it was still silly.
Is Hornswoggle called Sportswoggle now? When did that happen? If it never happened, what was Lilian Garcia playing at? That's all I can find to say about the transpiring segment. It was essentially just more of the same with Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio.
Commentary, including the usually reliable JBL, said that CM Punk was the first person to play mind games with The Undertaker. You don't even have to remember DDP to know that's wrong, you just need to think how unlikely it is given Taker's longevity.
As Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes and Antonio Cesaro came out, Sandow said that they were the quintessential six-man team. "Not only do we possess superior intelligence..." he continued. And indeed they might, if Randy Orton, Sheamus and The Big Show are also unable to tell three from six.
The rest unfolded predictably, even down to The Shield coming in at the end. Except, things differed slightly as they fought on the steps and arena platforms. Far out.
A perfunctory SmackDown. That may not sound like a huge compliment, but that puts it light-years ahead of last week's offering at least.
Show of the Week: TNA Impact
Good beats all right, and so TNA beats both of the WWE's offerings this week. Did I mention, though, that it was still better than last week?
Match of the Week: Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez vs. Bad Influence
There are a few contenders for runner-up, but nothing was close to how good this match was.
It is starting to wear a little considering there's only three teams in the tag division, and I'm not sure we've even seen the two heel teams face each other without the third involved.
Once again, though, it'll be Chavo and Hernandez vs. Bobby Roode and Austin Aries for the TNA Tag Team Championships, and the quality of the wrestling gives me enough goodwill to not grow tired of it yet.
Thanks for reading and I welcome all comments. This next week is, of course, the final week before WrestleMania. I aim to bring you next week's edition on the weekend, unspoilt by perceptions of the Shows of Shows, so keep your eyes out for that.