I know it probably seems like I come up with a lot of excuses around here. I fell out of the blog for a long time for reasons I've already gone over here. One of my new year's resolutions was that I pick back up and get this thing going again, because I really love wrestling and I want to continue to share my excitement and near-undying optimism now that I've re-evaluated the way I interact with the IWC and the way I look at wrestling programming. And then, life turned upside-down and my father very suddenly passed away and I have to do a lot of coping with that. The bright side is, that I have some time off from work to have time to catch up. I just hope everyone bears with me while I try to re-discover my footing in life. But enough with bringing everyone down... here's the first post to get me towards catching up!
Monday Night Raw
1. Hey guys, shut up. Something is about to happen here. I think literally that's what I said at the end of this show when Punk came out to the ring and the first thing he did was take the logo off the microphone and toss it aside. It's a great signal to the audience: "You should listen to what I have to say because I'm not just reciting some lines off a script like everyone else does, and that makes what I say real and important." And that was the essence of the whole promo. That the fans are just sheep that will react however the company wants them to react because they're told this guy is the hero and that guy is the villain. That the talent will jump through hoops to achieve fame rather than greatness. That there are people on top who don't deserve to be there, and there are people who are completely ignored that deserve attention. It's easy to see when he comes out and says these things why he is held in such high esteem in the eyes of the IWC. And Paul Heyman is a great addition to this dynamic. Just his presence at Punk's side, holding the belt high over his head the entire five minutes Punk is speaking and occasionally affirming the testimony of "Best in the World" drills the point home that much more. It makes the crowds hate him more. It makes the smarks love him more. It makes my boyfriend squee like a little school girl, and that is something that is always fun to witness.
2. Honorable Mentions. Something has to be said for Dolph Ziggler's new faction with AJ and Big E Langston as well. I heard for a long time from a lot of people the opinion that he'd outgrown the need for Vickie, and he should just cut loose and be on his own. I agree that he's outgrown Vickie, but I like the fact that he's got some muscle behind him now. I think the muscle, oddly enough, improves Ziggler's performance. It doesn't make him look weak, because the fact is, he doesn't necessarily need Big E to do his dirty work. He's perfectly capable on his own, but the idea that he's got some backup means he can relax a little bit and improve by leaps and bounds, until, one day, he doesn't need them anymore and is perfectly capable of catapulting himself into the title picture without the aid of a Money in the Bank briefcase.
3. One Tough Call. It was hard to choose a Match of the Night from this show, as there were three very good contenders. One was the TLC match between Ryback and CM Punk, which really served the purpose of telling the story of their rivalry, including the ambush from the Shield mid-match. Then again, Hell No and Rhodes Scholars did a fantastic job emphasizing on ring psychology while also having a damn good match. Most of that was, I think, in favor of Rhodes Scholars. They work really well as a team, Cody has a great sense of trash talk, and Sandow is just fabulous when he plants a guy and then yells "YOU'RE WELCOME!" at the audience. However, I think, and maybe this will be unpopular, that the match of the night goes to Dolph Ziggler and John Cena. The match just flowed really well. The lack of commentary for the first half was a bit distracting (because I was busy trying to get a glimpse of the commentary table), but once I could get past that, these guys put on a pay-per-view quality match to kick off the first WWE televised show of 2013, and I found myself still exclaiming at a lot of the bumps and near-falls on second viewing. I knew John Cena was going to win, but the match was good enough that I didn't care, and a part of me even was still rooting for Dolph Ziggler just as much as I did when it first aired. Both guys put on their best performance, and that's what wins it for me.
1. That Escalated Quickly. The biggest development in a story on this episode was definitely the relationship between Brooke Hogan and Bully Ray. Brooke asked her father point-blank if he was going to re-instate her boyfriend. Hulk said no. And then at the end of the show, Bully Ray rescued Brooke from the clutches of Aces & Eights, and while Hulk knew he should be grateful, dammit he doesn't like the guy, so fuck him. So that led to Bully Ray showing Hulk good faith by proposing to Brooke in the middle of the ring. And as per tradition, the date & place is set right then and there. Where? In the Impact ring of course! When? Well, they are in love! They want to be married as soon as possible! Next week! Is that good for everybody? This wedding ought to be pretty amazing.
2. Better Dysfunctional Tag Team. I love Hell No as much as the next girl, but the chemistry between Roode and Aries as bitter rivals brought together through the common interest of getting the TNA Heavyweight Championship off of Jeff Hardy is, to me, even more entertaining. The major difference here, of course, is that Roode and Aries are both very intense intimidating wrestlers. Daniel Bryan is plenty intense, but there's much more of a silly factor in Team Hell No than there is between these two. They're both loud, egotistical, and they will both knock the shit out of you without a second thought or an ounce of remorse. Who needs anger management, when you can use your dislike of your partner to fuel your energy in the ring? Speaking of which:
3. A Tale of Two Heels. This episode's Match of the Night goes to the arrogant and cocky Austin Aries, and the arrogant and self-centered Bobby Roode as they battled against two of the most popular stars in TNA, James Storm and Jeff Hardy. Their match told an entire, beautiful story from each man wanting to monopolize the match, to showing off for each other, to the end where you almost expected the belt to tear in half from them playing tug-of-war with it. They have the same goal, so they hate each other. But at the same time, they enjoy putting on a show for one another that basically says, "Look what I can do. You can't do better than that." And the beauty of it all is that every time one man does something that he thinks will top every other move in the match, the other comes back with something just as awesome, or more so. And in the process, they're keeping themselves fresh without even really meaning to, and isolating Hardy from Storm. The problem came, of course, when they became too focused on showing each other up, and forgot there was actually a match going on, but even then, it didn't stop them from kicking ass. The match ended in DQ when Aries hit Hardy from behind with the championship belt. Because really, this match wasn't about winning or losing. This match was about making a statement for the upcoming pay-per-view match. And both Roode and Aries made one hell of a statement in that regard.
Friday Night Smackdown!
1. Zero progress. Since this was the last televised show before a pay-per-view event, there was literally no movement on any stories this week. This was a promo-heavy and exhibition-heavy show, which is to be expected. Out of five matches, three were squashes involving major characters that really served no purpose. The only match that really even mattered was the World Heavyweight Championship match, but I'll talk about that in the final paragraph. Since the show was so filled with promos, let's move on to that now.
2. Let's talk about the People's Dreams. The most major talkers of the night were, of course, your reigning, defending WWE Champion CM Punk, and his challenger at the Royal Rumble, The Rock. Both men put on a really good show to hype this match. As I was watching the first CM Punk promo again, I remembered having watched this episode the first time around. I remember being very impressed with the Rock. I think CM Punk brought out his A-game. Or maybe the second half of his year-long rivalry with John Cena did that (you know, when Dwayne finally remembered he was supposed to be playing his pro wrestling alter ego). Either way, he was at his Rockiest Best, especially against Damien Sandow. And CM Punk, well, he was just as smarmy a heel as you would expect him to be. But the best promo of the night didn't belong to either of them. It was during Punk's second promo from Sun Life Stadium, when Paul Heyman took over talking, and the two of them walked forward slowly, and CM Punk just stared dead into the camera with that look of cockiness and confidence that just screams that he believes every single word of his own hype. And Paul was, as Paul always is, magnificent as he taunted the Rock and told him things he already knew (such as the fact that Punk is more talented that Rocky)... he tore the People's Champ down one side and back up the other and never stopped to look back. It absolutely took my breath away.
3. Last Man Sanding. Finally, we come to the match of the night. It's somewhat appropriate that this match is also the match of the week, because it's the final match that led us into the Royal Rumble. Booker T came out bragging that in 2013, he wasn't going to take a back seat to Raw, and the Last Man Standing title match he gave us between Big Show and Alberto Del Rio was a good start to that. I've been really tired of having nothing to watch the final week before a pay-per-view, and it's especially bad on Fridays because in many cases Smackdown can turn into "What You Missed On Raw". But THIS... this is the kind of thing I enjoy seeing to send me into a paid event. This is the kind of thing that I think makes people really want to buy the pay-per-view. And I think, Rock notwithstanding, it probably helped the company in that aspect. The match itself was pretty slow-paced, but the competitors made each and every impact count, and they made each one look devastating and painful. And the ingenious way that Del Rio kept Big Show down by pushing the announce table over on top of him was (especially as punctuated by JBL) a thing of pure beauty.
Edit: So it turns out that this week was NOT the week before a PPV. The author mistakenly thought that was the case due to the slow nature of Smackdown. I should have realized that it was just Smackdown being Smackdown... What can I say? I guess Booker T's initial campaign of "Anything Raw can do, we can do better!" went straight to the naive mark that still lives innocently inside my heart.