Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 6/8/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
June 8th, 2012
Colonial Center, Columbia, South Carolina
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's WWE SmackDown report with your resident recapper. We're inching closer to the No Way Out PPV and apparently Vince has gone into panic mode again and wants CM Punk and all sorts of other bigger name guys back on Smackdown now to help that show's ratings, so let's see what we have in store for us.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with Alberto Del Rio making his way out to gloat about his attack on Sheamus on last week's show. He says maybe two sentences before we hear Sheamus' music, but instead of the World champ it's Ricardo Rodriguez dressed up as Sheamus.. Ricardo falls on his ass and Del Rio mocks him a bit before the real Sheamus comes out to interrupt. Sheamus tosses Ricardo and he and Del Rio trade strikes before Del Rio tries to high tail it out of the arena. Sheamus catches him up the rampway though and tosses Del Rio into a stage structure. Ricardo comes and saves Del Rio long enough for him to attack the arm of Sheamus a bit before some refs come out to break things up. Teddy Long, who is apparently in charge again while John Laurinaitis gets ready for his job evaluation on RAW (that makes little to no sense) comes out to book Sheamus in a match against Kane later tonight as well as Del Rio against the Great Khali, and that match is up next.

Alberto Del Rio (12-10) vs. The Great Khali (9-8)

Khali should just become a modern day 911 and not actually wrestle, just come out and wreak havoc and then leave. Big chop from Khali at the bell but Del Rio quickly takes Khali's legs out from under him and targets Khali's knee like everyone does. Ricardo distracts Khali long enough for Del Rio to apply to the cross armbar and Khali taps at 3:23. Your usual "heel targets the Khali's limbs to beat him" match, which seems to be all Khali is capable of working anymore. Very dull. 1/2*

They replay the Big Show's pretaped heel promo from the last week. Afterwards we cut to Teddy Long backstage with Brodus Clay, who is informed by Teddy that he's off RAW and on SmackDown now apparently.

"The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay (5-4) vs. Derrick Bateman (0-2)

So after getting squashed by Big Show it's back to midcard jobber matches for Brodus. He's much more aggressive tonight though, taking Bateman into the timekeeper's area and brawling with him a bit before tossing him into the ring and finishing him off with a t-bone suplex and the running splash at 1:06. Your usual Clay squash and afterwards the kids hit the ring to dance with him as usual. You've seen this before. 1/4*

Sin Cara (20-5) vs. Drew McIntyre (6-18)
Glad to see Sin Cara back though I'm not sure McIntyre is the best choice of opponent for him. He does a bit of gymnastics before eating a kick to the face off the apron from Drew. Drew applies a chinlock then tries for a press slam but Cara counters with a 'rana into the corner. He takes Drew down with another headscissors and a springboard back elbow for a two count. Huge boot from Drew and he tries to catch Cara off the top rope into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but Cara counters it into a DDT for the win at 3:18. This could have used a lot more time to develop as Drew seemed game enough to have Cara bump off him like a pinball, but what we got was fairly good anyways. Abrupt finish though. *1/2

Ryback (8-0) vs. Tony Andriotis/Kevin Mahoney
Guess what happens here. Go on, guess. If you guessed anything other than "Ryback wrecks shit up", you do not pass go and you do not get to collect $200. Ryback finishes them at the same time with the double marching Samoan drop at 1:46. I guess Ryback only does the two on one Goldberg special now. 1/4*

Cody Rhodes comes out while the production crew are still trying to set up the Peep Show interview segment for Christian and he tries to explain that Christian is pandering to the fans agains but Christian's music hits and the Intercontinental champ himself comes out to interrupt. Christian explains that when he inducted Edge into the Hall of Fame, he had a sudden change of heart in realizing that performing in front of the fans is a privilege that could be taken away at any minute. He claims he doesn't want to be the guy asking for "one more match" but rather a proud champion like his best friend. Cody scoffs at all this, proclaiming himself a future Hall of Famer in the process and Christian interrupts him again by telling him to shut his mouth and threatening to fight him then and there. Dolph Ziggler decides to come out to interrupt so we he can get to his match with Christian up next.

Christian (18-13-1) vs. Dolph Ziggler (4-17)
Non-title affair here as Cody joins the commentary team and we're off. Christian sends Dolph out to the floor and nails him with a baseball slide dropkick, but he gets caught with a stiff knee on his way out to the floor as we take a commercial break. When we return Dolph is sending Christian chest first into the corner turnbuckle for the Bret Hart bump. Dolph spears Christian's torso in the corner a few times and then looks for the Fameasser, but Christian counters into a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Drop toe hold/right fist combo from Christian and he tries for the sunset flip but Dolph counters out right into the Fameasser for a close two count. Reverse DDT from Christian and he looks for the spear, but Ziggler nails him with the dropkick and looks for the MAIN EVENT SLEEPER HOLD (all rights reserved Scott Keith) but Christian avoids that hits the frog splash out of nowhere for the pin at 6:04 (shown). I really would have loved to have seen this get another five minutes, but maybe Christian isn't comfortable working a long match back yet? More likely they're just cramped for time on the show and booked it short, but what we got was really good and I'd actually love to see these two wrestle on a PPV sometime after the Cody feud ends. **3/4

Raw Rebound shows Cena triumphing over evil by single handedly defeating the entire Viet Cong army on horseback Braveheart style. Wait, wrong show. No this is just Cena beating Tensai and then that incredibly long, drawn out beatdown of Cole. Afterwards Cole gets on the mic but is interrupted by JR's theme music, which the crowd pops huge for. Unfortunately for them it just turns out to be Hornswoggle dressed up as JR and not the real deal. Oh die in a raging kerosene fire Vince.

Damien Sandow comes out to interrupt all of this nonsense, because wrestling is serious business damnit! I like this guy. As the avenging sword of taste and decency, Sandow will not allow this charade to go on. Sandow informs Hornswoggle he's welcome before Tyson Kidd runs in to make the save with a springboard dropkick. Kidd challenges him to a match on the spot and Sandow pretends to take off but returns to the ring to nail Kidd with his neckbreaker anyways and gloat a bit. I demand a Kidd/Sandow match on a show like Superstars where they'll get some time to work with.

Backstage Matt Striker wants to know how Kane feels about potentially defeating the WWE and World Heavyweight champions in the same week if he beats Sheamus tonight. Kane isn't concerned with it though, just with the title match at No Way Out. Striker asks about AJ's "look" at Kane on RAW but he won't answer that one and he takes off as we see AJ lurking behind in the shadows, watching all of this from afar. Creeeeper.

Antonio Cesaro (2-0) vs. Jimmy Uso (4-10)
Teddy has to introduce Cesaro with his "lover" Aksana still, even though he's in charge for the night with Johnny nowhere in sight. Jimmy gets some feisty babyface offense in on the former King of Wrestling at the bell but it's not long before Antonio nails him with the pop-up European uppercut and then finishes him with the inverted cradle piledriver at 1:00. These short squashes against guys who can get great air for the pop-up European uppercut spot just make Claudio (excuse me, Antonio) look great. I can't wait until they book him into an actual feud. 1/2*

Sheamus (35-16-1) vs. Kane (18-14)
Non-title match here for our main event as well. Kane dominates to start with some dull brawling in the corner. Sheamus tries fighting him off but gets booted off the ring apron as we take our last commercial break. When we return Kane is working over the champ with a chinlock. Sheamus breaks it up with a boot and then hits a diving shoulder block from the top rope. High knee and clothesline get him a two count. Bodyslam from Sheamus but Kane comes back with a dropkick. Sheamus hits the Irish Curse backbreaker but again Kane kicks out. Kane gets caught in the ropes and eats the ten big hammerfists but he blocks the follow up suplex attempt. Sheamus tries to superplex Kane but he gets knocked off. Kane tries for the clothesline from the top but misses and gets nailed with the White Noise from Sheamus. Kane blocks the Brogue Kick and tries for the chokeslam but Sheamus counters out of that and out runs Del Rio for the lame DQ at 9:13 (shown). Much better than I was expecting honestly, Kane may be incredibly stale and unhelpful in his current role in the main event between Punk and Bryan but he seems to have his working boots on most nights these days so I can't fault his effort, this was a solid match that would have been even better with a clean finish. **1/2

After the bell rings Kane chokeslams Sheamus anyways and AJ comes prancing out to smile and wave at Kane a bit. Sheamus gives Ricardo a Brogue Kick and we go off the air with Del Rio and Sheamus trading angry eyes.

Bottom Line: Ho-hum show this week, really paint-by-numbers stuff. There was some good stuff on here like the Christian/Cody promo segment and the subsequent match between Christian and Ziggler and our main event was once again solid (though once again with a lame finish) but everything else was just the usual parade of meaningless jobber matches and squashes. If they want people to start watching SmackDown more, here's an idea: cut down on the 15 minute RAW Rebounds and highlight packages and fill that time with more wrestling. Fans might be more inclined to watch if they know guys like Christian and Ziggler are going to get 10-15 minutes to work with instead of 5 every Friday night. Could go either way on tonight's show, not bad but not really good either, Thumbs in the Middle.

Score: 5.0/10

Sunday, June 10, 2012

TNA Slammiversary X 6.10.2012

TNA Slammiversary X
June 10th, 2012
College Park Center, Arlington, Texas
Attendance: Early Estimates-5,000-6,000 +/-

Welcome everyone to another edition of 411's live TNA PPV coverage. I'll be updating this page periodically through-out the show tonight with coverage and analysis of all the happenings on tonight's big tenth anniversary show for TNA. Our main event tonight pits Bobby Roode against Sting in a World title match but we've also got a huge tag team title match with Christopher Daniels and Kazarian taking on the team of AJ Styles and Kurt Angle in what's bound to be a good match. Also tonight we've got a battle of former ROH World champions in Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe as well as a triple threat match between Jeff Hardy, Mr. Anderson, and Rob Van Dam to determine the next in line to the World title. We've also got the official opening of the TNA Hall of Fame with an announced appearance by current WWE superstar Christian so it should be an interesting evening. All of this and more, so let's kick off the festivities.

Your hosts are Mike Tenay and Taz

We open the show with a highlights package of some of the big moments in the past ten years of TNA (the debuts of Kurt Angle, Sting, and Hulk Hogan among others) before doing the usual live open in the arena, which is legitimately packed in what has to be one of the biggest crowds in TNA history as the place looks to be just about legit sold out. Hulk Hogan makes his way out to kick off the show (of course). He talks about how excited he is with the current TNA product and then announces that we're going to open the show tonight old-school style with Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe and it's going to be for the X-Division title instead of a non-title affair.

X-Division Title Match
Austin Aries
© vs. Samoa Joe
Good to see Joe back in the X-Division as it's certainly better than him being routinely forgotten about. Big dueling chants from the crowd to start, and boy is it refreshing to hear a hot TNA crowd. Both men are cautious to start, gauging each other with quick kicks and stiff chops before Aries sends Joe to the floor with a hurricanrana. He attempts the tope but Joe meets him with a forearm at the apron. Back inside Joe hit the facewash boot on Austin in the corner. Joe catches Aries off the top rope and tries a back senton but Austin gets the knees up. Forearm from Joe sends the champ to the floor and Joe teases a tope but tumbles to the floor and eats a tope from Aries instead. Missile dropkick from Aries back in the ring but Joe catches his cross body attempt in the corner and plants him with a running powerslam for a two count. Aries tries another 'rana but Joe counters with a big powerbomb and of course transitions into the Boston crab afterwards before transitioning into an STF. And if that wasn't enough he transitions from THAT into an abdominal stretch. Joe looks motivated tonight. Vicious headbutts in the corner from Joe and he looks for the Muscle Buster but Aries blocks it with a Mongolian chop and then hits the 450 Splash...but Joe kicks out! Forearm exchange back on their feet and Joe loosely applies the Coquina Clutch, but Aries counters into a close pin attempt. STO in the corner from Joe and he looks for the Muscle Buster again, but Aries counters into a Crucifix Bomb! Roaring elbow from Aries in the corner and he finishes Joe off with the brainbuster to retain at 11:49. Hell of an opening match between two guys intimately familiar with each other, Joe continues to look newly motivated in 2012 and Aries excellent title reign rolls on with another great title defense. Perfect way to kick off the show and both men trade a fist-bump of respect afterwards. ***1/2

Kid Kash vs. Hernandez
Talk about random, when was this match even announced? Kash is a former X-Division champ from the early days of the company though, so it fits tonight's theme. Kash shows off the speed early with a leapfrog but Hernandez sends him flying out of the ring with a shoulder block and then brings Kash back in the hardway. Kash is able to target Hernandez's shoulder with a dropkick and works it over with a submission, which is a unique strategy against the big man. Hernandez gets his face planted directly into the mat in a nasty moment after taking a top rope flying headscissors and Kash follows up with a tornado DDT. Slingshot shoulder block from Hernandez cuts off Kash's spurt of offense. Another shoulder-block sends Kash out to the floor and Hernandez takes him out with a huge suicide dive over the top rope! There's that crazy agile Hernandez we all fell in love with years ago. Kash gets sent off the top rope back inside and Hernandez finishes him off with a top rope splash at 5:52. Kind of a random match up but both guys looked good and worked in a few nice spots in the short time they had to work with. I've said it a few times now but Kash would be a perfect veteran addition to the X-Division on a more long term basis. **1/2

We flashback to another historical TNA moment, this time AJ Styles being crowned the first ever X-Division champion.

Devon/Garrett Bischoff vs. Robbie E./Robbie T.
This match screams "pre-show" to me but they're quite keen of Devon and Garrett for some reason. Garrett starts off with Robbie E with some Erik Watts-like basic babyface offense. Hey, wasn't Watts in TNA for a cup of coffee? Shudder. Robbie T tags in now and Garrett can't get anywhere with him as Madison Rayne makes her way out to the ramp all dressed up, presumably to watch her "mystery love" in this match. How funny would it be if it wound up being Devon? E tags back in and hits a clothesline for a cover and the heels double team Garrett for a bit. E works a sleeper on Garrett for a bit until the younger man gets the hot tag to Devon, who's a HOUSE OF FIRE. Where did that cliche even originate from? Bischoff takes out T with a cross body outside the ring and Devon finishes off E with the spinebuster at 5:56. Just a quick formula tag match, not bad but not particularly exciting either. Devon and Garrett bust out some of the goofiest dance moves afterwards to celebrate. **

Backstage Jeremy Borash, whose been here since before the first show, is with the tag champs Christopher Daniels and Kazarian. Kaz brags about all of his past accolades in the company while Daniels hands a fruity looking drink in a martini glass to JB and raises a glass of his own to toast to the champs.

TNA World Title Number One Contender's Match
Jeff Hardy vs. Mr. Anderson vs. Rob Van Dam

Anderson does his usual pre-match promo before we start. Jeff gets a pretty lukewarm reaction surprisingly. Jeff attacks Rob at the bell and then nails Anderson (who has way more hair than I've ever seen him with) with a forearm. Hardy uses Anderson to launch himself into Rob in the corner with a leg lariat but gets caught with a swinging neckbreaker from Anderson. Anderson blocks the Rolling Thunder from RVD in the corner with a jack-knife cover attempt for two. All three men tease the Tower of Doom spot in the corner but Anderson sends Rob out to the floor and just superplexes Jeff instead., Rob tries for the Five Star Frog Splash directly afterwards but both men move out of the way. Neat spot. Rob tries a leg scissors cover on Jeff for two then hits a top rope thrust-kick for another near fall. Split-legged moonsault from Rob onto Anderson but Jeff breaks the cover up. Rob monkey-flips Anderson onto Jeff and gets another near fall. Really good timing and delivery so far from everyone. Hardy and Anderson both cover Rob at the same time in another inventive spot. Rolling senton from Anderson on Hardy and he clotheslines Rob out of the ring when he pops back up from the move. Anderson and RVD begin brawling outside the ring and Hardy wipes them both out with a big cross body off the top rope to the floor! Back inside Jeff hits the Whisper in the Wind on RVD and we've got our first "This is Awesome!" chant in awhile. Big time DDT from Jeff plants Rob and he follows up with the Swanton, but Anderson breaks up the count by pulling out the ref. Anderson tosses Hardy out of the ring into the guardrail but eats a boot from RVD. Rob tries the Rolling Thunder again but eats the Mic Check from Anderson and that's enough to give Anderson the win at 11:25. I wasn't sure this was going to work but boy was I wrong as these guys pulled out some really inventive spots and went all out for the duration of the match. They were able to avoid the cliche "knock one guy out of the ring and then do a bunch of spots with the remaining two guys, switch a guy, repeat" formula that triple threats can fall into sometimes too so extra points there. Fun stuff. ***1/2

Backstage Crimson informs JB that he doesn't care who accepts his open challenge. Heel Crimson is much more tolerable than bland babyface Crimson. He heads out to the ring to brag about his undefeated streak and talk down the crowd a bit and a "You suck!" chant starts up. Crimson waits for someone to come out and answer his open challenge...and out comes the former World champ James Storm!

James Storm vs. Crimson
Nice surprise bringing Storm back here, didn't realize he was healthy enough to wrestle. Storm immediately sends Crimson to the floor with some big right hands and we're off. He suplexes Crimson back into the ring and when he tries to finally take his jacket off Crimson is able to get some offense in. Big forearm from Storm and he blasts Crimson with the Last Call superkick to end Crimson's streak finally at 2:11. This was as good of a way as any to end Crimson's streak as that angle had more than run it's course and at this point was more of a detriment than an attribute for Crimson. The crowd really went apeshit for this whole segment and match too so this worked. *

Backstage JB is with the X-Division champion Austin Aries and wants to know what's next for him. Aries says he wants to be the man that sets the bar and in the main event, and he'll do anything to get there. Damn right, this X-Division title reign for Aries has been the perfect way to establish him as a star in the company and at this point he's above the title and deserves the push into the main event, which if you can't tell from the involvement of Sting in our main event tonight, badly needs fresh talent. For once I'm extremely happy with how TNA has handled building up a talent, but alot of that credit goes to Aries for getting over so quickly and easily.

Resident Texan Dixie Carter comes out next and receives a very warm reception despite her recent tawdry affair angle with AJ Styles. Dixie announces that tonight's crowd is the largest in the United States in TNA history. Dixie thanks her parents, Jeff and Jerry Jarrett, Spike TV, and all of the fans for bringing them to this moment. Dixie says they aren't ashamed of being a "WRESTLING company" and then decides to bring out the whole damn roster to milk in the fan's appreciation a bit. Everyone from Angle and Styles to the Knockouts and the refs come out. Dixie Carter next decides to introduce the first introduction into the TNA Hall of Fame...Sting!

We get a nice video package with members of the roster praising Sting's historic career. Sting hits the ring to a big ovation and hugs Dixie. A "Thank You Sting!" chant starts up before it's quickly replaced by a monster "YES!" Daniel Bryan chant, much to my amusement. Dixie puts over how much Sting has meant to TNA's growth as a company (which is true, they never would have gotten the Spike TV deal without him) and then makes me laugh a bit by claiming he's doing his best work ever at the current moment. She says the official induction ceremony will happen at Bound For Glory however, not tonight. Sting, always humble, thanks Dixie, the roster, and of course the fans. He claims tonight will be SHOWTIME and that wraps up our segment. Hmm, no Christian? Maybe he's involved in something else tonight?

TNA Knockouts Title Match
Gail Kim
© vs. Miss Tessmacher
Nice pop for the native Texan Tessmacher. Kim nails her with a dropkick after the bell but Tessmacher delivers an armdrag and Gail bails to the floor. Tessmacher follows her out and gets her back sent into the ring apron. Back inside Brooke hits a clothesline from the second rope and fires off a decent hurricanrana. Gail drops her throat first over the top rope from the wheelbarrow position and feeds her forearms. Shoulderbreaker out of the corner gets Gail two and she works a neat headscissors submission on Tessmacher as the smarky crowd seems more into Gail then the hometown girl. Tessmacher fires off a neckbreaker and then hits a dropkick in the corner. Tessmacher botches a move and seems legit hurt and it doesn't help that Gail bumps her off the apron, sending her into the guard rail outside the ring. Tessmacher reverses a suplex attempt into a roll-up and gets the three count and the title at 6:44. Tessmacher is over so she's not a bad candidate to take the belt off Gail even if she's not a great worker, but I figured it would be later down the line. Match was decent enough but Tessmacher was sloppy and this probably should have been a bigger "moment" in front of her hometown crowd than it actually wound up being. *3/4

Bully Ray sneaks up behind JB backstage for some promo time. He says he's from Hell's Kitchen, "God's Country", which has to be the line of the night so far. Ray reminds Joseph Park that he's not going to be legally responsible if he plays dirty with Park because "anything goes" in their match.

"Anything Goes" Match
Bully Ray vs. Joseph Park

How dumb did I feel when I realized only about three weeks ago that Park is actually Abyss without the mask, but I guess that just speaks to how well he plays the Park character. He comes out in a jogging suit and a big "Yankees Suck!" chant starts up in reference to Ray's hat. Have I mentioned I love this crowd? Park takes off his glasses and Ray wants him to take a free shot. He does and misses of course. Bully spits in his face and Joseph slaps him in the face for a big pop. Ray nails him with a forearm and Park goes down. Bully grabs a chair but Park manages to grab it from him. He teases hitting him with it but turns his back stupidly and Ray nails him with another forearm before waffling him with two chairshots. The action spills to the floor where Ray blasts Park with a water bottle. Back inside Ray misses the back senton from the top and Park HULKS UP, feeding off the crowd enough to lay in some girlish fisticuffs on Ray in the corner before Ray kicks his face off. Ray pulls a table out and sets it up in the ring as an "E-C-Dub!" chant breaks out. He grabs a kendo stick as well but Park grabs a hold of it and nails Ray with the kendo stick for a near fall. Park slides out of the ring and underneath the ring....and then Abyss slides out the other side! Abyss chokeslams Ray through the table and then disappears back under the ring, and Park conveniently returns from under the ring and covers Ray for the win at 10:25. Park played his role as a non-wrestler very well here and while this wasn't as brutal or exciting of a match as I was hoping for they did work a good story and the finish was amusing. Park was way over too. **1/2

Backstage the World champion Bobby Roode shits on the party by claiming no one cares about Sting's Hall of Fame induction and that he'll be retaining his title later tonight.

Hulk Hogan comes out next and announces his next surprise for the fans...Christian Cage! It's pretty surreal to see the current WWE Intercontinental champion rolling up into a TNA ring in the middle of a PPV. Tenay puts over his time in the company and his former NWA World title reign. He gets some "Welcome back!" and "Please come back!" chants. Christian jokes that the last time he was here there were a few more corners to the ring but even though some of the faces and venues have changed the one thing that hasn't changed is the fans. Christian says everyone in attendance and watching at home should get up and give themselves a round of applause. Christian gets down to business now though, paying off the historical moments countdown by showing us the number one moment in TNA history, the debut of Sting. We go right into the video package for the next match afterwards but this was a neat and surreal little moment to see a current WWE champion in a TNA ring for a PPV. I doubt it will lead to anything but just the fact that the two companies are working together in some way gives me hope for the future that perhaps they could work out some sort of talent exchange.

TNA Tag Team Title Match
Christopher Daniels/Kazarian
© vs. AJ Styles/Kurt Angle
I have to admit I've been really looking forward to this one. AJ hits the ring as soon as his music starts and we're off. Kaz tries a rollup but AJ hits a pair of dropkicks. The action spills to the floor where AJ is nearly sent into the guardrail but he slides underneath the rail then launches himself off of it with a flying forearm on Kaz! Off-camera Angle apparently hits Daniels with a flying forearm of his own and AJ tags Angle in for a double team suplex. Angle backdrops Daniels and then tags AJ back in, who delivers a big backbreaker. Kaz tags in and nails AJ on the top rope with a big spin kick, leaving AJ hanging from the top rope by one knee in grotesque fashion. Daniels and Kaz trade quick tags in their corner, working AJ over as our babyface in peril. They hit a nice reverse 3-D of sorts on AJ and Kaz tries for a suplex, but AJ counters into a nasty neckbreaker. Daniels tags in but AJ gets the hot tag to Angle. Kurt hands out a belly to belly to Daniels before giving both of the tag champs a German suplex. Angle Slam on Daniels but Kaz breaks the cover up. Another pair of Germans on Kaz and when Kaz tries to grab the ropes to break up the third one he winds up grabbing a hold of Daniels so that Angle delivers a double German suplex to both men! Slightly contrived but a cool spot nevertheless. Angle blocks the Angel's Wings from Daniels and tags AJ in, who cleans house on the champs and then delivers a reverse/standard DDT combo to both of them for a thunderous pop. All four men take each other out with big moves and Styles nearly wins it with a wheelbarrow facebuster. Top rope belly to belly suplex on Kaz from Angle but he gets wiped out with an STO from Daniels when he tries celebrating. Daniels misses the Best Moonsault Ever but lands on his feet only to be planted with a German from Angle! Pele kick on Kaz and AJ makes the tag to Angle, who hits a top rope splash for a two count that nearly wins it but Daniels pulls the ref out. No worries, AJ wipes Daniels out with a springboard shooting star press! Insane. Angle applies the ankle lock to Kaz in the ring and he taps out despite being two inches away from the ropes to give Angle and Styles the titles at 14:25. I could have totally used another five minutes to really flesh this one out but what we got was flat out amazing as all four men went balls to the wall just as I expected and delivered all kinds of awesome sequences and spots. Styles and Angle as tag champs should lead to some interesting stuff down the line too. ***3/4

TNA World Title Match
Robert Roode
© vs. Sting
I love Sting and am glad he's the first induction into the TNA Hall of Fame, but I really hope that doesn't mean we're in line for another Sting title run. Roode stalls for quite a bit to start but finally hits the ring and Sting nearly gets him in the Scorpion Death Lock, which sends Roode bailing out of the ring for a breather. Sting follows him out and throws him into the guardrail. Why does every modern Sting match wind up outside the ring within 20 seconds of the bell? Roode teases walking off on the match but Sting grabs him and sends him into the steel steps. Back in the ring Roode takes back the momentum with some big chops in the corner. Roode works a sleeper on Sting but Sting breaks it up and delivers a superplex. Sting locks him into the Scorpion Death Lock but Roode is able to escape the hold barely. The action spills outside once again and Sting hits a Stinger Splash on Roode on the guard-rails. Sting locks Roode into the Scorpion Death Lock on top of the announcer's table and Roode taps out, but you can't win by submission outside the ring! Roode grabs a beer bottle left over from James Storm's return and smashes Sting over the head with it behind the ref's back to get the cheap win to retain at 10:55. A fun brawl and much better than some of Sting's recent efforts, this made both guys look good (Roode winning in the cowardly heel way works perfectly with his character) and was a fine way to cap off a surprisingly fun show. ***

After the match Sting is pissed, so he suplexes Roode on the ramp. Sting winds up giving Roode a Stinger Death Drop off the ramp through a bit of staging for a big bump to close off the PPV.

Bottom Line: This show was far better than I was expecting as the card looked solid but unspectacular going in. Every match I was looking forward to delivered here though and even some of the matches I wasn't anticipating wound up being pretty good. Throw in some really cool moments like Christian showing up, the Hall of Fame announcement, and the final bump to end the show and this wound up being a pretty damn good show tonight. Easy Thumbs Up.

Score: 8.0/10

Monday, June 4, 2012

EVOLVE 8: Style Battle iPPV (5/20/11)

EVOLVE 8: Style Battle
May 20th, 2011
ACE Arena, Union City, New Jersey
Attendance: 100

So after nearly a year  of letting indy shows pile up I've decided to work my way back into the pile again, and one of the promotions I promised myself I'd keep a tab on is Gabe Sapolsky's EVOLVE. It's becoming less and less relevant with Dragon Gate USA getting more attention but I still like the roster and the wins/losses system, so let's do this thing. Tonight's show is a live iPPV mini-tournament being dubbed a "style battle" as every competitor has been chosen for their unique style and set of skills in the ring. The Win/Loss records will not be affected by the results of tonight's tournament however, it's a one-off deal.

Your hosts are Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
A.R. Fox vs. Rich Swann

These two guys would be great additions to the X-Division if TNA ever actually got serious about getting fresh young talent for it. Quick moonsault from Fox and we're off. Swann eats a leaping ace crusher from Fox but sweeps his legs out from under him and hits a standing SSP. Step up enziguri from Fox and he follows up with a guillotine leg drop over the apron. Swanton from Fox gets him a two count. Package piledriver of sorts from Swann and he follows with the standing 450 splash for a near fall of his own. Swann eats a Codebreaker from the top rope and that's enough to give Fox the win at 5:23. Pretty standard stuff from these two, which means it was highly athletic and certainly fun but they kept it short and sweet so as not to blow their loads early in the event, and I can appreciate that with the tournament format of the show. After the match Fox says he's glad to be moving onto the next round and Swann refuses to shake his hand. **1/4

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
Jon Davis vs. Tony Nese

Nese was recently in TNA for a cup of coffee and is a pretty well-rounded worker in the ring with a good look. Davis is an underrated powerhouse himself. Davis shrugs off some early kicks from Nese but Tony hits a springboard lionsault for a quick pin attempt. Davis delivers a big powerslam out of the corner and then cuts off a comeback attempt by Nese with an elbow. Delayed suplex gets Davis two. Back suplex out of the corner gets him the same results. Davis catches Nese off the top in a bear hug and starts squeezing the life out of him like a rag doll. Spinning heel kick from Nese and both men briefly jockey for position on the top rope before Nese fires off a top rope frankensteiner for another near fall. Davis takes his head off with a lariat but Nese fights off a second one with a bridging German suplex. Nese gets caught off the top rope with a spinebuster then gets buckle-bombed in the corner before Davis finishes him off with the 3 Seconds Around the World at 10:02. Power vs. Speed always works when you've got two guys who can go like these two, and this was a lot of fun as Nese did a good job of putting doubt into my mind about what the finish would be. After the match Davis tells AR Fox he's next. ***

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
Brodie Lee vs. Sami Callihan

Now this should be some rough and tough fun. Lee finally got a WWE developmental deal and is now Luke Harper in FCW, but this was when he was still rippin' up the indies and impressing people with his agilit. Brodie uppercuts Sami in and out of the ring and then cuts off a missile dropkick attempt on the apron with a fist. Delayed suplex from Lee and he follows it by tossing Sami up and over his head with a belly to belly suplex like a ragdoll.Sami is able to apply a sleeper briefly to Brodie but the big man breaks it up soon enough and delivers a huge pumphandle slam for a two count. They trade stiff shops and Brodie boots his head off. Brodie falls out to the floor and Sami takes advantage of the circumstances with a big tope against the guardrail. Brodie recovers and slams Sami on the ring apron with a series of back suplexes before tossing him into the front row and hitting the ring before the ref's count. Sami barely makes it back into the ring before 20 but gets caught with a pair of swinging sidewalk slams. Sami takes all this punishment and manages to muster up a lariat in defense. Brodie blocks a springboard attempt and plants Sami with a Liger Bomb, but he kicks out. Sami manages to lift the big man up for a Death Valley Driver but Lee responds with a big chokeslam. Callihan grabs him anyways and puts him into the Stretch Muffler, kicking his head while applying the move until Brodie taps out at 12:36. In front of a bigger crowd this could have been something special but as it remains it was still a hard fought, stiff, manly and brutal match that woke the crowd up. Clobberiffic. ***1/4

After the match Sami gloats about making the biggest, baddest dude in the company tap out.

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
Bobby Fish vs. Austin Aries

Fish has become a NOAH regular in Japan while Aries finally managed to cash in on his buckets of talent and charisma in TNA with a bonafide push as the central point of their X-Division. Lots of amateur takedown attempts to start with the feeling out process. Aries works Fish out with some nice armdrag exchanges off the ropes. Aries tries for a backslide but Fish counters into a submission attempt that Aries quickly breaks up. Aries hits a dropkick on Fish in the corner and then begins some upper leg work on Bobby. They trade stiff chops and Fish hits a tope con hilo for a near fall. Fish drives Aries chest first into the turnbuckle Bret Hart style then refocuses back on the knee. Northern Lights suplex by Aries but Fish catches him in the old abdominal stretch. Fish gets sent out to the floor and Aries delivers a very Macho Man-esque double-axe handle off the top to Fish on the floor (I believe this event aired on or around the day Savage passed away).Both men tease a suplex on the ring apron until Aries snaps Fish's neck over the top rope and then puts him in the Last Chancery. Fish gets the rope break though and they're trading forearms back on their feet. Aries teases the powerdrive elbow but goes for a Macho Man elbow drop instead for a two count (prompting a Macho Man! chant). Fish misses a moonsault attempt and lands on his head. Aries misses a frog splash but makes up for it by sending Fish to the floor and hitting another tope that knocks down the guard rail completely in a neat bump. Aries misses the missile dropkick back in the ring though and Fish targets that same leg he was working early in the match with a dragon-screw and some kicks. He hits an exploder suplex out of the corner and a diving headbutt off the top rope. Aries responds with a back suplex but gets caught in a gutbuster and Fish is pissed now, all fired up and delivering stiff roundhouse kicks straight to Austin's head. Aries hits the patented dropkick/brainbuster combination but only gets a two count from it. He misses the 450 splash and tries a second brainbuster but that won't do it either so he transitions into the Last Chancery. but Fish escapes it and grabs a hold of Aries in a nasty heel hook submission that he doesn't let go of until Aries taps out at 22:35. I watched the first few minutes of this and thought it was going to play out to a familiar formula but instead these guys totally superseded my expectations and delivered a match that was chock full of psychology, sick bumps and passion. The only thing missing was a bigger crowd, but a minor gripe for a great match. ***3/4

After the match Bobby says that was the biggest win of his career, and explains that he learned that variation of the heel hook from one Mr. Bryan Danielson himself. He doesn't seem to connect with the fans as well as he should, but that's probably just because the crowds are usually so small and quiet at these shows. Fish definitely has all the tools necessary to be a helpful part of the roster.

Next up Larry Dallas and Reby Sky make their way to the ring for some promo time. Lenny Leonard brings up their actions at the last show, throwing in the towel for one of their wrestlers and that a new rule has been enacted that from now on only licensed trainers and managers can be at ringside during a match. They talk a bit about their newest acquisition participating in the FRAY match later tonight and then take off before they get fired for being out here without a reason.

Style Battle Semi-Finals Match
AR Fox vs. Jon Davis

Now we're onto the semi-finals of the tournament here. Fox fires off a quick 'rana to start but gets caught in a Blue Thunder Bomb from Davis. Stiff knee from Davis and he delivers a pair of scoop slams before hitting a running powerslam out of the corner. Davis muscles Fox up in a big vertical suplex then goes to work on his mid-section in the corner. Davis falls out to the floor and Fox nearly kills himself on a moonsault off the apron. Back in the ring he hits a springboard 450 splash for two but Davis hits him with a huge football tackle. Codebreaker off the top from Fox gets him the pin at 7:16. This match never got a chance to build any kind of momentum or story and it was clear this was just a filler spot in the tournament, but the action flew by atleast. Finish came out of nowhere. After the match Jon Davis wishes AR Fox luck. **

Style Battle Semi-Finals Match
Sami Callihan vs. Bobby Fish

Winner faces Fox in the finals. Both men shake hands to start then trade kicks.Fish goes for the heel hook he won with earlier but Sami quickly escapes it. Falcon Arrow from Fish and he follows with an exploder suplex out of the corner, followed by a diving headbutt for two. Sami lays in some stiff forears on Fish then takes him to the mat and begins reigning down big elbow smashes on Fish's head when the ref calls for the bell to stop the match at 4:10. Well that was a lame finish, if you're going to do the "ref stop the match because the opponent can't protect himself" finish you need to make sure you put over how much punishment the guy has taken that night and in that match. This just felt like Fish was on top one second and being knocked out with a few forearms seconds later, which was especially strange after they put Fish over so strong against Aries earlier in the night. Weird match. *1/2

After the match Fish congratulates Callihan, whose ready to take on AR Fox in the finals.

The S.A.T. (Joel Maximo/Wil Maximo) vs. The New Havana Pitbulls (Ricky Reyes/Alex Colon)
Both of these teams have a long history with Gabe and the old ROH but each team here features a new member with cousin Wil replacing brother Jose in the SAT and Alex Colon replacing Rocky Romero whose graduated onto bigger and better things in Japan as the fourth incarnation of the famous Black Tiger character that Eddie Guerrero once played. Joel is quickly sent to the floor by Colon but he sends Alex into the guardrail as Wil 'ranas Reyes out after him. Reyes cuts off a tope attempt and elbows Wil back inside. Colon tags in and lays in big kicks on Wil, who counters with a German suplex. Reyes tags in and applies a chinlock but Wil fights it off with a jumping DDT and tags Joel in. Powerslam from Joel but Reyes catches him with a kick and a neckbreaker. Pitbulls take control with a double team double-stomp manuever and tag rules went out the window in this one about twenty seconds in. The SAT finish Alex off with the Spanish Fly at 5:29. While it's nice to see the SAT getting some work again, this felt like filler and the fans just didn't care about any of it. It didn't help that they basically threw the tag rules out the window within a minute of the match. It's one thing to throw them out late in a match when the action is hot and heavy but what's the point of even having tag rules if you can just come in and do whatever you want within 60 seconds anyways? *1/2

FRAY! Match
Scott Reed vs. Cheech Hernandez vs. Brian XL vs. Blain Rage vs. Kory Chavis vs. Pinkie Sanchez vs. Derek Ryze vs. Ahtu

The rules here are that two guys start out and every 90 seconds a new guy enters the match and there are eliminations until there's only one man left. Winner gets booked on the next slew of Dragon Gate USA shows. Reed and Cheech start us off and you just can't help but hate Reed's guts because of his goofy Mortal Kombat-esque ponytail haircut. STO from Reed and the next man out is Brian XL, who old school indy fans will remember from the very early days of ROH and CZW (there's a reason he was gone as as soon as both companies could employ better talent) but he hits a nice headscissors on Reed before totally botching a springboard DDT on Cheech. And just to make sure to get over how bad XL still is he immediately botches the suicide dive out of the ring onto Cheech moments later, nearly breaking his own neck in the process. Reed hits a back suplex and someone named Blain Rage is out next. I watch the most obscure of indies and even I haven't heard of this guy. He and Cheech fire off stereo hurricanranas on Reed and XL and the next man out is Kory Chavis, the tag team partner of Jon Davis in the Dark City Fight Club. He hits an inside out suplex on XL and quickly eliminates him at 5:45. Kory lariats Rage and then plants him with a pendulum slam at 6:30. Well atleast we got the scrubs out now. Next man out is Pinkie Sanchez, still freshly canned from CHIKARA around this point. Pinkie hits a German on Kory out of the ring and then takes him out with a somersault senton over the top rope. Reed eliminates Cheech in the ring with the Roll of the Dice neckbreaker at 8:13. Derek Ryze is in next, another kid I've never heard of just as Reed gets his head booted off by Chavis, who eliminates Reed at 9:03. Pinkie stomps Derek's head into the mat but Ryze hits a blockbuster on Chavis off the top. He tries for a cross body but Chavis catches him, tosses him aside like a ragdoll, and eliminates him at 10:19. The final man out is Ahtu, the mystery man in Larry Dallas' stable. He spears Chavis in the ring and eliminates him immediately at 10:52. Ahtu is ripped and huge and looks like he would do well in the big leagues but he sloppily tosses Pinkie out of the ring and a few fans chant "You can't wrestle!" at him. Pinkie barely makes it back inside before the 20 count and it's surreal seeing a crowd rally behind Pinkie as the underdog babyface here as I'm so used to him a slimy heel. Rob Naylor makes a Devo reference, earning cool points in my book while Pinkie launches off the top and hits Ahtu with a DDT out of nowhere for the win at 14:56. This was a total mess for the most part as you had guys nobody knew in there, a guy nobody has seen in several years botching things left and right, and no flow whatsoever to this match. Even the spots were lame. The finish was decent as the crowd actually got invested and behind Pinkie against the meathead heel Ahtu, but everything before that was a waste of time. After the match Pinkie promises to see everyone in Dragon Gate. *3/4

Style Battle Finals Match
AR Fox vs. Sami Callihan

And we arrive at the finals tonight with Fox representing the high-flying style and Sami the hard-hitting. Fox calls for the Lo Mein Pein (a top rope reverse STO of sorts) early but Sami blocks it and wipes out Fox on the floor with a tope. Fox slides right back into the ring though and wipes out Sami with a springboard 450 splash on the floor. But Fox is fired up and that's not enough for him, so he goes back in the ring and hits a huge somersault senton out of the ring as well just for good measure. Back in the ring Sami retorts with a STIFF jumping clothesline on the apron. Fox drops a leg over Sami's neck on the ring apron and looks for another moonsault but Sami catches him with an exploder suplex on the floor. Back in the ring Sami hits a back suplex and slaps on a tight chinlock. Fans seem split, chanting for Sami one minute and then getting behind Fox as the underdog the next. Bicicyle kick/death valley driver combo from Sami followed by a slingshot body press gets him two. Sami gloats a bit while beating down Fox with chops but AR hits a chinbreaker and then a leaping ace crusher for a two count. Swanton bomb from Fox and he tries for a follow up moonsault but Sami gets the knees up and lariats him for two. Fox hits the Codebreaker off the top (the move he won his first two matches with), but Sami kicks out this time. Fox goes to the top but Sami takes him off with a super Saito suplex, then follows with another Saito and a lariat but still Fox kicks out. Fox hits a boot on Sami up top in the corner and then hits him with the Lo Mein Pain that he teased earlier to pick up the pin and win the tournament at 10:13. This was a great little finals match for the short time they had to work with, even if the roles were a bit confusing at points. They went right to high gear pretty much from the bell and didn't let up for ten minutes so it's hard to fault their effort here, even if the whole thing felt slightly underwhelming for a main event. These two were definitely the right choices for the finals though. ***

After the match Fox thanks the fans for attending and he basks a bit in their chats for a minute as the winner of the inaugural Style Battle tournament tonight.

Bottom Line: This wasn't one of the stronger EVOLVE shows and a lot of that can be accredited to the tournament concept. While the whole style battle tournament idea is a good one in theory, they didn't really showcase any differing styles in the ring other than your standard indie head-drop high-spot formula. Some of that can be blamed on the short time restraints a few matches had in order to fit under the 2 hour broadcast, but they could have cut the Fray or tag team match easily I thought to accommodate them there. All that said though, there were some enjoyable matches on this show, particularly Sami/Brodie and Aries/Fish, so I can't call it an outright bad show by any means, but just a rather boring and average one. Some solid stuff on here for sure but as a whole you don't have to go out of your way to see this one, so we'll go with a Thumbs in the Middle sort of deal as half of this is quite good and half of it is boring and amateurish.

Score: 5.5/10

Friday, June 1, 2012

WWE Over the Limit 2012

WWE Over the Limit 2012
May 20th, 2012
PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
Attendance: 8,000

Well we've arrived at what many are predicting to be one of the least bought WWE PPVs in recent years with a main event of John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis, but to be honest I've seen worse cards and atleast we've got a WWE title match between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, something I couldn't have imagined typing seven years ago when they were both in ROH. Rest of the card is so-so, but let's do this thing anyways.

Your hosts are Matt Striker and Josh Matthews

YouTube Pre-Show Match
Kane vs. Zack Ryder

The viewership numbers for last month's YouTube pre-show match were so good they decided to make it a regular thing, which I have no problem with, I always liked the idea of a pre-show match. Ryder lures Kane out of the ring in a chase and then sends the big man face-first into the steps before wiping him out with a nice pescado. Back inside Kane regains the upper hand with a backbreaker and a dropkick. Ryder hits a lucky neckbreaker and then tries for the Rough Ryder, but Kane counters into a side slam. Ryder blocks the top rope lariat attempt and hits Kane with the Broski Boot in the corner, but only gets a one count out of it. Ryder again looks for the Rough Ryder, but gets caught with the chokeslam instead for the pin at 6:52. Not nearly as lopsided as I was expecting, they actually let Ryder hit a few of his spots and it made this far more entertaining than the squash I was expecting. Still, hopefully Ryder gets some kind of win in this feud at some point to regain any of the heat he's rapidly been losing since becoming a punchline on RAW with Cena, Eve, and Kane. **

Backstage during the preshow Santino Marella and Cody Rhodes argue over whether the Intercontinental or US title are more prestigious. Eve tells them that to decide the matter we'll have a "People Power" battle royal up next to kick off the PPV with the winner of the match getting a title shot against either the IC or US champ (whoever they choose) later tonight on the show. Well, why not.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T

"People Power" Battle Royal
(Featuring The Great Khali, The Miz, JTG, Ezekiel Jackson, Curt Hawkins, Tyler Reks, Michael McGillicutty, Yoshi Tatsu, Tyson Kidd, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater, Darren Young, Titus O'Neill, Alex Riley, David Otunga, William F'N Regal, and Christian)

I was excited enough just to see William Regal getting in this thing, but a returning Christian makes this much more interesting. We kick off the PPV live with the match just under way and both US and IC champs sitting at ringside watching on. Heath Slater is our first man gone, and he's followed quickly by McGiillicutty. JTG is eliminated by a sweet pair of stereo superkicks from the Uso's and Tatsu joins him moments later after being suplexed out of the ring by McIntyre. Big Zeke nearly eliminates Hawkins, but Reks saves him and the two eliminated Jackson instead. Jey Uso is gone next after a low bridge from D-Young. McIntyre is gone next from Hawkins and Reks, but both men are eliminated themselves moments later by the Great Khali, who tosses Jinder Mahal out to join them as well. Khali gets tossed by Miz, Young, and O'Neill not long after. Titus misses a kick though and gets eliminated by Jimmy Uso. Regal is really stiffing Christian with some nice European uppercuts in the corner while Darren Young clotheslines Jimmy Uso out of the ring, nearly eliminating himself in the process. Regal is tossed next by Christian to some minor boos. Sadface. Riley eliminated D-Young with a dropkick and then lays out his former mentor Miz with a big spinebuster. Miz knees Riley out of the ring moments later and we're down to our final four, Christian, Miz, Kidd, and Otunga. Kidd lays in some stiff kicks on Miz then takes out both Miz and Otunga with a sweet springboard dropkick for a nice pop. Look at Kidd getting over as a babyface. Too bad he's eliminated moments later by Otunga and Miz. Otunga and Miz team up on Christian, so I guess he's a face again after that brief heel turn to join Team Johnny. The crowd gets behind him while the heels do the usual beatdown. Christian fights back with that feisty Canadian offense and eliminates Otunga. Miz and Christian tease their finishers on another but neither connect. Christian is nearly eliminated, hanging on the apron until he manages to toss Miz onto the apron with him and spear him to the floor, giving Christian the win at 12:24. Pretty good stuff for a battle royal actually, they got rid of alot of the jobbers quickly and managed to let a few guys hit a nice spot or two to showcase them (Kidd in particular popped the crowd big with his dropkick spot). The final four was worked well too and though I think Christian is above the IC/US title level at this point, it's better than him being a sidebar on the GM feud. **1/4

WWE Tag Team Title Match
Kofi Kingston/R-Truth
© vs. Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger
All four of these guys are just lost in the midcard right now, but on paper this still looks solid. Kofi starts off with Swagger, fighting off his larger foe's power game with the usual flashy high-flying antics before tagging Truth in for his dancing legdrop. Swagger tags out and Truth cranks on Ziggler's arm a bit and tags Kofi back in for a flying cross-body and two count. Inside-out suplex from Ziggler and the heels take firm control here, suplexing Kofi around and trading tags. Truth gets the tag in though and hits the corkscrew elbow and a sitout gourdbuster. Swagger Bomb out of the corner gets two and the heels do an extended heat segment on Truth in their corner for several minutes. Nifty double-team move from the heels with Ziggler driving Truth's head into the mat as Swagger holds him in a wheelbarrow position and Ziggler applies a chinlock. Truth breaks it up as Swagger tags in and fires off a huge tornado DDT on the All American out of the corner, finally allowing him to get the hot tag to Kingston. Kofi takes out Ziggler with cross-bodies and dropkicks before hitting the Boom Drop. Kofi misses the Trouble in Paradise and the SOS, but he hits a huge cross-body for a pin that Swagger only barely is able to break up. Jack unsuccessfully tries to suplex Kofi out of the ring and falls out himself, but it gives Ziggler enough time to nail Kofi with the Fameasser back in the ring. Truth breaks up the pin before wiping out Swagger on the floor with a pescado just as Kofi hits the Trouble in Paradise on Ziggler in the ring to retain the titles at 12:17. Standard formula stuff for the most part but great talent will always find ways to spice up that formula and all four men did here. Lots of fun and this probably should have been the opener. ***

Backstage Eve hires Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks to go out into the audience and remove any disrespectful signs about Johnny Ace.

WWE Diva's Title Match
© vs. Beth Phoenix
Where the hell is Kharma? I thought she was all healed up. Sloppy lock up and some hair pulling to start. Layla hits a cross-body and the crowd is so bored already some fans randomly chant for Colt Cabana. Que? Beth wraps Layla's surgically reconstructed knee around the post and works the limb over back inside. Layla misses a spinkick and Beth tries for a press slam, but Layla counters into a DDT. Both ladies trade roll up attempts and Layla hits a nice neckbreaker for the win at 7:10. Fans just did not care at all about this and you can't blame them either. Boring match that only slightly picked up a bit of steam towards the end. *1/2

Backstage Chris Jericho and Randy Orton get in each-others faces before the fatal four way match

World Heavyweight Title Fatal Fourway Match
© vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Alberto Del Rio
Thank God they changed this from Sheamus/Del Rio to the four-way because I'm not sure anyone cared at all about seeing that title match on PPV. All four men immediately brawl out of the ring to start where Sheamus and Orton dispatch of the heels and return to the ring for a stand-off. They trade punches until Jericho low bridges the champ out of the ring, allowing the heels to team up on Orton with a double suplex. Outside the ring Del Rio hits a running knee to Sheamus' repeatedly injured shoulder and now the heels team up on the champ, tossing him into the announcer's table. They try to the same act on Orton back in the ring but the Viper fights them off, suplexing Jericho. Del Rio tries a cover and Jericho breaks it up, ending their temporary alliance. Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker from Del Rio on Jericho, but Alberto turns around into a lariat from Orton, sending him out of the ring. Jericho, Orton, and Del Rio all battle into the same corner back in the ring where they tease the Tower of Doom spot, but Sheamus breaks it up and nails Alberto with a flying shoulderblock from the top rope. Rolling senton from Sheamus but he lets Ricardo distract him from outside the ring, allowing Del Rio to recover and nail a huge spin kick on the champ for a near fall. Sheamus comes back with a big knee and sideslam but Del Rio counters when he signals for the Celtic Cross. Sheamus lays in the hammerfists on Del Rio in the corner but Jericho breaks it up with a springboard dropkick. Orton hits the ring and hands out powerslams to Jericho and Sheamus before hitting the champ with the second-rope DDT. Del Rio puts Orton into the cross armbar as he goes into his Viper pre-RKO sequence but Jericho breaks up the hold. Del Rio blocks a Lionsault attempt from Jericho and Orton gives him the over-the-shoulder backbreaker. Not to be outdone Sheamus gives Del Rio the Irish Curse backbreaker. Sheamus and Orton tease their finishers until Sheamus is sent out again. Orton gives both Del Rio and Ricardo the second rope DDT for a nice pop and a near fall. Codebreaker on Orton out of nowhere, but Jericho turns around into the cross armbar from Alberto. No problem, he just counters into the Walls of Jericho. Sheamus tries to break it up but eats a Codebreaker of his own for another near fall. Jericho counters a rolling senton from the champ into the Walls as well but Orton breaks it up with a RKO on Jericho. Del Rio breaks up the pin but eats his own RKO. Randy turns around into the Brogue Kick from the champ, who then finishes Jericho with Finlay's old Celtic Cross (now dubbed "White Noise") at 15:53. Phew, that was just going a mile a minute and was hard to just keep up with let alone recap, but it was chaotic in a very good kind of way. Not much flow to begin with but by the time we got to the finish everyone was firing on all cylinders. ***1/4

Backstage Cody Rhodes wants to wish Christian luck on challenging the US champion tonight, but Christian isn't buying it and tells him he's changed his mind and wants to wrestle Cody for the IC belt instead tonight.

"The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay vs. The Miz

From World champion to jobber for Brodus freaking Clay, my how Miz has fallen. Miz does his usual mic shtick before the match and mocks Clay's dancing a bit. Miz gets a few minor bits of offense in but it's not long before Brodus takes him off the top rope with a huge pumphandle slam and then finishes him with the splash at 4:12. Who's coffee did Miz piss in to become such a joke these days? 3/4*

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Cody Rhodes
© vs. Christian
Cody takes it right to Christian with a gourdbuster to start but Christian sends him out to the floor quickly and then nails him with a running dropkick. Back inside Cody hits a dropkick and then delivers a big superplex to Christian. He gives Christian the Cactus clothesline then launches a kick off the steps on his challenger. Missile dropkick from Christian but he misses a top rope cross body. Cody blocks a tornado DDT out of the corner and hits a nice moonsault for a near fall. Christian counters a whip into the corner into the Killswitch to pick up the win and the title at 7:25. The work here was fine and even good at points but there wasn't much heat or spark to anything here, just felt a bit like going through the motions for most of the way through. Not sure if I approve of a demotion to the midcard for Christian either. **1/4

Backstage CM Punk does a terrible impression of Vince McMahon while reflecting on the fact that he and Daniel Bryan are actually one of the main events of a WWE PPV, fighting for the WWE tite. It is a rather surreal moment for a longtime fan of both men like myself. AJ interrupts to wish Punk luck tonight.

WWE Title Match
CM Punk
© vs. Daniel Bryan
This match almost made me buy this PPV. Almost. Long and LOUD dueling chants from the fans for both men to start as the two men trade your basic opening exchange of holds and strikes. Stiff kicks from Bryan in the corner and back-flips out of the corner and almost right into an early GTS. Punk just curb-stomps Bryan's face into the mat for a two count and then back suplexes him right out of the ring. Punk follows him out but gets tossed into the time-keeper's section. Back in the ring Bryan hits a missile dropkick and tries applying a neck crank but Punk breaks it up and tries for the figure four, which Bryan counters into a cradle for two. Bryan stretches Punk out in one of the more vicious Mexican Surfboards I can ever remember seeing, chanting "YES!" the whole way through. Punk was being stretched like a pretzel and/or 90 pound Joshi wrestler right there. Punk is finally able to break through with some stiff elbows and fires off a fisherman's suplex. Bryan responds with a diving headbutt off the top rope and both men wind up colliding in mid-air as they simultaneously attempt cross-bodies off the ropes. Punk picks up some momentum with a swinging neckbreaker and a huge powerslam for a near fall. Bryan gets backdropped out of the ring and Punk takes him out moments later with a tope. Back inside Punk tries coming off the top but Bryan catches him with a dropkick. Bryan lays in more stiff kicks but Punk counters with a dragonscrew legwhip and then slaps on the figure four. Both men begin trading stiff slaps while in the hold in a flashback to some of their ROH matches. Punk tries La Magistral for a near fall and likes the idea so much he goes for the same move a second time, but Bryan counters into a Magistral attempt of his own, which Punk escapes only to be met with a sickening kick to the temple from Bryan. That whole sequence was smoother than silk, but it only gets Bryan a two count. Cole actually does a good job on commentary for once, bringing up some of the nasty injuries both men have suffered in the past and fought through. Bryan tries setting Punk up in the corner for a frankensteiner but gets crotched on the top rope, and Punk follows it up with a sick springboard clothesline just for good measure. Both men are drained by now but still trade tired forearms on their knees before each man misses a wild spin-kick attempt. Bryan counters a GTS attempt into a cradle and then tries for the YES! Lock but Punk counters that by launching Bryan over the top rope. Bryan catches the ropes though and skins the cat back into the ring only to be met with a knock-out kick to the temple from Punk. Another fantastic sequence there. Macho Man elbow drop from Punk, but he hurts his ribs again and can't get the cover quick enough. Bryan targets in on the ribs with huge knees but misses a running dropkick in the corner. Punk hits the Muay Thai knee in the corner and goes for the requisite running bulldog to follow up but Bryan counters into the YES! Lock! Bryan cranks away on it but Punk manages to shift into a cover on Bryan as the ref counts the three count just as Punk begins tapping out to the move as soon as the ref calls for the bell at 23:56. This was everything we were expecting it to be, and that's the kind of stellar affair that can only be provided by two guys who are very familiar with one another in and out of the ring. Some incredible sequences and counters in this one and the crowd was with them the whole way through too in a way rarely seen in title matches anymore. Potential Match of the Year candidate. ****1/2

Backstage Teddy Long threatens to have Eve and Otunga fired if Johnny loses tonight.

Ryback vs. Camacho

I hate squash matches on PPV, save that shit for TV. Goldberg chants for Ryback and we've got our typical squash of his. Hunico tries to interfere behind the ref's back to give Camacho an advantage but soon enough Ryback is tossing him around like a scrub and finishing him off with the marching Samoan drop at 1:54. As I like to say, your typical Ryback squash. 1/4*

John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis
SMELL THE BUYRATE! Always a good idea to base a PPV around a comedy match main event guys, really. Cena gives Johnny an airplane spin and then grabs the ring bell and hammer and rings it right next to Ace's head. Cena slams him into the commentary table and sets Johnny up in Booker's seat before taking Cole's seat, putting headsets on both of them. Cena does a mildly amusing Cole impersonation and Laurinaitis is so out of it he even musters up a "Five time...five time" to parody Booker. Cute spot. Back in the ring Cena gives Johnny the STF for ten full seconds and Johnny manages to not tap out, so Cena applies it again. Cena grabs a fire extinguisher from under the ring and blows it in his face a bit. Johnny tries to run off again so Cena dumps a garbage can full of popcorn and empty drinks on top of his head. Ace finally gets some offense in, targeting Cena's arm and grabbing a steel chair to hit Cena with it a few times. Cena grabs the chair from him though and gives him the Five Knuckle Shuffle with it. Ace hits a low blow and tries to leave again, and gets all the way backstage before the Big Show comes out to drag him back to the ring. Gee, I wonder what could happen next? And in a turn so un-shocking it reminds me of half of the NWO turns in WCW, Show hits Cena with the WMD fist, allowing Johnny to get the pin and keep his job at 17:04. Good God that was one long and tedious comedy match with a finish that absolutely everyone and their mother knew was going to happen and saw coming a mile away. I have no idea who the hell thought this was a good idea for a PPV main event, but they should be canned. Don't be surprised if this PPV's buyrate bombs and then they go and blame Punk and Bryan or something. Horrible, piece of shit match. DUD

We go off the air with Big Show and John Laurinaitis celebrating over a fallen John Cena. As Michael Cole would say, this is truly the darkest day in the history of our sport.

Bottom Line: I was all set to give this show the surprise thumbs up because of the absolutely killer Bryan/Punk match and a really fun tag title match, but then the rest of the show had to go and happen, including one of the worst PPV main events I can remember in a long, long time. There's some stuff worth seeking out here (mainly the two previously mentioned matches) but just as we all thought going in this turned out to be a total filler show with a terrible main event, so feel free to skip this one as a whole. Slight Thumbs Down.

Score: 5.0/10

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 6/1/12

WWE Friday Night Smackdown
June 1st, 2012
Riverside Centroplex, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Attendance: Unknown at this time

You know the drill by now, another Friday, another edition of WWE Smackdown. While the brand has been relegated to B-show status for quite some time now there are rumors that McMahon and company want to try and bolster the show a bit with bigger matches and names, starting with a WWE title match tonight between CM Punk and Kane so tonight's show look's a bit more interesting than usual.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with the World Heavyweight champion Sheamus making his way out to the ring for a bit of promo time. He cuts right to the chase, talking about how rich and arrogant his opponent at the PPV Alberto Del Rio is. He says you can't buy the title when suddenly David Otunga decides to come out to interrupt. Otunga shows the clip of Sheamus mowing down Johnny Ace on RAW two weeks ago again and orders him to apologize yet again. Sheamus refuses of course and now out comes Del Rio to call Sheamus a peasant and a hooligan before promising to win the title. Otunga says that Del Rio can pick an opponent for Sheamus later tonight when Sheamus gives Otunga a Brogue Kick out of nowhere. Del Rio bails unscathed though and takes off up the ramp as Sheamus tells him to "never trust a hooligan." Sound advice.

Sin Cara (19-5) vs. Heath Slater (4-31)
This is (finally) Sin Cara's return match after a 7 month layover due to a knee injury. He's decked out in new red gear and immediately takes Slater out of the ring with a lucha libre wristlock before taking him out on the floor with a cross body. Slater catches him coming back in the ring and applies a chinlock. Cara hits a springboard cross body then a variation on his old La Mistica finisher for the quick win at 2:25. Just a total squash to welcome Cara back, as I guess they're going to try using the La Mistica-like finisher again instead of the C4 suplex, which sure makes him a lot less exciting. *

Damien Sandow (1-0) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (14-17)
Sandow of course calls Zeke an ignoramus before the match and tries to walk off, but Zeke tosses him back into the ring and clubs him in the corner. He tries for the torture rack but Sandow slips out and hits a series of knees followed by a Russian leg sweep. The cross-armed neckbreaker finishes it for Sandow at 1:37. Sandow props his head on his hands over Zeke's chest while laying on him afterwards, looking delightfully evil in the process. I can't get enough of the old school heel swagger of Sandow, keep this man on my TV please. 1/2*

Backstage Dolph Ziggler approaches Del Rio and volunteers to wrestle Sheamus for him tonight, and Del Rio obliges him, setting our match for later.

Ryback (7-0) vs. Ryan Shelton/Chris Lyons
This week's jobbers try to get some cheap heel heat by doing the University of Alabama "Roll tide" chant before the match. Booker tries to say these two guys are huge on the independent circuit---no sir, they are not. The usual dissection via power moves from Ryback here and he finishes them off with the double marching Samoan Drop at 2:02. Your usual marginally entertaining Ryback squash. 1/4*

Sheamus (34-16-1) vs. Dolph Ziggler (4-16)
Lock up and a side headlock takeover from Sheamus to start. Dropkick from Ziggler but the Irishman responds with a clothesline. Ziggler leaps off the top rope but Sheamus catches him and flips him onto his shoulders for the rolling senton. Ziggler gets tossed to the floor and we take a break. When we return Sheamus hits a knee and wants to go for the Celtic Cross but Ziggler grabs the ring apron and ropes to separate himself from the champ (subtle but cool touch) before dropping Sheamus throat-first over the top rope and dropkicking him off the apron and right into the Spanish commentary table. Subtle but awesome psychology. Back in the ring Dolph hits a neckbreaker for a two count. DDT gets him another near fall and he applies his patented sleeper-hold. Sheamus flips him off his back into the ropes though and lays in the clubbing hammerfists before suplexing Dolph back into the ring. Dolph tries desperately to block the Irish Curse backbreaker but the champ hits it anyways. Sheamus goes to the top but Dolph crotches him and then hits a top-rope X-Factor on him! That was sick and unexpected. Sheamus fights off the Zig-Zag attempt and then hits the White Noise (Finlay's old Celtic Cross) on Ziggler. Jack Swagger hits the apron for the distraction, but Sheamus just boots him off quickly before taking Ziggler's head off with the Brogue Kick for the win at 10:01. Now that was a hell of a TV match right there, Dolph as always was awesome here bumping like a madman and pulling out moves you never see anymore like a top-rope X-Factor. Sheamus looked dominant and powerful in the win as well, just a great match. ***1/4

Backstage CM Punk explains to Matt Striker that John Laurinaitis represents everything he can't stand in the world before promising to make Kane go to sleep later tonight.

Zack Ryder/Santino Marella vs. Titus O'Neill/Darren Young

D-Young and Santino start off but Titus quickly tags in and suplexes his own partner onto Marella. Young tags back in and Santino rolls him up...for the pin? Match is over at a whopping 1:16. The match is so short though because the Big Show comes out as Santino and Ryder are celebrating on the ramp to destroy them with steel steps on the stage. And I mean DESTROY. It's not like one of them is our US champ or anything and Big Show so clearly needed to squash those two guys, right? DUD

Backstage Daniel Bryan asks AJ if she thinks CM Punk actually cares about her. AJ says it sounds like he's jealous and Bryan scoffs, saying atleast he cared about her once upon a time unlike CM Punk.

Cody Rhodes (21-25) vs. Tyson Kidd (0-12)
Christian joins the commentary team for this match involving his next IC title contender Cody Rhodes. This isn't NXT or Superstars so Kidd is in jobber mode here, eating a quick suplex from Cody. He does some nice rope flipping but gets caught with the Cross Rhodes almost immediately for the pin at 1:20. Another quick squash match, but atleast they actually gave the IC title angle some TV time. Hopefully they give Cody and Christian some time to work on the PPV. 1/4*

WWE Title Match
CM Punk
© (2-3-1) vs. Kane (18-14)
This is the first WWE title match on Smackdown in four years, showing you just how much of a B-show it truly has become. Both men lock up and Kane is quickly sent to the floor by a dropkick from Punk, who follows up with a double axe handle from the top rope. Punk wraps Kane's arm around the steel post and goes to work on it with kicks and elbow smashes. Punk works a wristlock briefly until Kane powers out and clotheslines him to the floor as we take a commercial break. When we return Punk is back to working over Kane's arm but waits too long on the top rope and Kane lariats him off to the floor in nasty fashion. AJ decides to run down to the ring to cheer on Punk now as Kane launches the champ into the guard barrier. Back inside Kane works a chinlock and then tries for the chokeslam, but Punk counters into a DDT. Muay Thai knees in the corner from Punk. Punk counters a suplex attempt and hits a swinging neckbreaker. Spinkick to Kane's arm but he responds with a huge big boot. Punk blocks a charge into the corner and hits a leaping bulldog from the top for a two count. He tries for the GTS but collapses under Kane's weight, allowing the monster to hit a running dropkick for a near fall. Kane goes for the top rope clothesline but Punk dropkicks the arm again. Punk goes to the top when suddenly Daniel Bryan runs down to the ringside area, so Punk leaps off and wipes out Bryan outside the ring. The champ hits the Macho Man elbow on Kane moments later and nearly wins it but Kane somehow kicks out and this crowd is hot now. Kane clotheslines Punk and sets up for the chokeslam when Daniel Bryan returns and delivers a missile dropkick off the top rope to both men for the DQ finish at 11:52 (shown). Started off pretty slow but picked up very nicely after the commercial break, the armwork was the recurring theme through-out the match and while it would have been nice to see it play into the finish, Bryan interrupting things makes sense from a storyline perspective, even if it cheats us out of a clean finish to an otherwise good little TV match. **3/4

After the match Punk tries to give Bryan the GTS but Kane chokeslams both men instead. Johnny Ace comes out moments later to announce that the WWE Title match at No Way Out is now a Triple Threat match involving Kane. I know I'm not the only one who saw that awesome classic encounter between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan and thought "You know what this classic scientific wrestling feud needs? KANE!", right? Oh, wait, no one has thought that ever in the history of anything ever. Goddamnit WWE, why ruin a perfectly awesome thing (just about the only good thing you've got going these days) by injecting Kane into the mix? That's like throwing molasses into the gears of a well-oiled machine. That's our show for the week though folks.

Bottom Line: Apart from the ending of injecting Kane into the Bryan/Punk title match leaving a sour taste in my mouth, this was a really solid show this week. There was a bit more star power than usual with Punk defending his title on the show in a rather solid match against Kane but we also got a great TV match in the middle of the show between Sheamus and Ziggler and Dolph continues to bust his ass on a nightly basis in the apparent hope that maybe someday they'll actually reward his constant hard-work with something besides being a jobber to the stars. Everything else was rather perfunctory but it did the trick and I certainly enjoyed this more than last week's show. Thumbs Up.

Score: 7.0/10