July 17, 2011

This should be enough to silence the detractors who insist that CM Punk is overrated. Punk single handedly made one of the usual filler PPV shows into one of the most anticipated WWE PPVs in recent memory with nothing more than a couple of great interviews.

Daniel Bryan . . . climbs the ladder and achieves greatness by remembering that the second W in WWE is “Wrestling.”

Mark Henry . . . looks for all the world like the next big challenger to the World Heavyweight Title.

John Cena . . . does everything in his power to make the Chicago crowd drop head of a heart attack!


As far as these sorts of matches go, this isn’t a great match, although it’s lots of fun. There were tons of smart touches throughout the match, even if there wasn’t any storytelling on the level of the Smackdown match from the show from the year before. These sorts of matches typically seem to fall into a bit of rotation and start feeling formulaic. But that doesn’t happen all that much in this case. Instead of the usual sequence where Wrestler A tries to climb the ladder and gets hit with a big spot by Wrestler B, only for B to climb and get thwarted by Wrestler C, etc. they keep it interesting by changing up who gets taken out. Rhodes pushes both Slater and Gabriel off the ladder, but only Gabriel takes the big bump, but Rhodes hits his finisher on Slater to take him out anyway. Barrett tries to stop Rhodes, but Cody hits him with Cross Rhodes too. Sheamus finally stops Rhodes, but Bryan tries to intervene. Kane comes off the top with his big lariat, and Sheamus makes sure Bryan takes the bump instead of him. It makes the match seem more realistic (in a logical sense rather than in a UFC sense).

It’s actually the one real running theme throughout the whole match. The wrestlers are allowed to look dominant for longer periods of time. The only real exception being Sin Cara, who gets taken out rather early by a Sheamus powerbomb onto a ladder (with some awesome selling on his part, because if I hadn’t known better I’d have sworn it was a legit injury), but even Sin Cara gets to look dominating and fly all over the place before Sheamus takes him out. Sheamus also gets a taste of his own medicine when Kane chokeslams him onto a ladder to render him a non factor. The finishing sequence is also rather well done, with the big spots coming in droves, and being brutal enough to warrant taking people out permanently. Bryan finds himself on the ladder with Rhodes and Barrett behind him, and falls back on his wrestling skills. Bryan takes out Rhodes with the guillotine choke, and escapes Barrett’s attempt at a super Wasteland with his famous elbow flurry to stun him and then simply kicks him down. With nobody left to stop him, he grabs the briefcase (to quite the noticeable crowd pop). If you’re all about the crazy spots, then this is right up your alley. I’d rather see them jettison some of the crazy spots, and focus more on telling a story. But this is by no means a bad match at all. ***1/4


Considering neither of these two can work worth a damn, it’s remarkable that this is as watchable as it is. The best part comes when Brie escapes Kelly’s hanging choke and Kelly takes a belly flop on the floor. It’s smart (and surprising) to see Brie take advantage with holds like a seated body scissors and an abdominal stretch. Not that it matters any great deal, Kelly escapes the hold and is all fired up like she just hadn’t been getting worked over. Kelly gives Brie a facebuster and a bulldog (although it’s more accurate to say that Brie gave Brie a facebuster and bulldog), and Kelly eventually hits her rocker dropper to retain the title. Holy crow, when Brie (or maybe Nikki, who knows?) Bella is the better worker in a match, something isn’t right.


Like Show/Del Rio from the month before, this is rather short. But, unlike that match this doesn’t go longer than it should, just for the sake of going longer. It’s short, sweet, and effective. Show starts off by wanting to beat the piss out of Henry. Henry takes the opening and starts working over Show’s bad wheel to try to beat him that way. When that doesn’t work for him, Henry goes for the World’s Strongest Slam but Show kicks out. Henry doesn’t drop his jaw and act like he’s totally in shock, he just plants Show with a second one, and starts dropping splashes on him to make sure that he doesn’t get up again. Henry puts the finishing touches on Show with a chair afterwards to hopefully end this feud for good and to hopefully move on to bigger and better things.


For the second straight year, Smackdown puts on a better MITB match than RAW. This is just far too concerned with being flashy and not nearly enough with smart work or storytelling. Like Sin Cara, Miz’s selling of his knee is terrific, and Miz running back to try to steal the win is a great moment, as is Rey taking him out by going after the leg. There’s another smart spot from Swagger when he halts Kofi’s attempt to climb the ladder by grabbing his leg for the ankle lock. But moments like those are the exception instead of the rule. They’re all much more often to be found doing flashy and contrived spots rather than doing anything to try to give the idea that they want to win the match. I don’t know if it’s ironic or predictable that Del Rio is the one who pulls out the win, given that he takes some of the biggest bumps of the whole match. But he’s exactly the jerk he needs to be when he unmasks Rey to stop him from winning, even if the ladder tipping over exposes the fact that it’s supposed to be the finish.

RANDY ORTON © vs. CHRISTIAN (World Heavyweight Title)

It’s easy to see that this is a good match, and it should be considering this is their third PPV match in three months (not to mention TV matches and house show matches). Orton and Christian are more than familiar enough with one another and they have a good enough sense of what works and what doesn’t to make this a good match. The work itself is fine, the exchanges and sequences are smooth, nothing is blown, and there’s nothing overtly stupid. That’s enough to make this good. But they’re able to make this more than just good with how they make the stipulation of Orton losing the title on a DQ or bad call (which is totally justified after the finish the month before) and how Christian’s frustration boils over.

Christian himself summed it up with his TV promo before the show. Nobody else thinks he can beat Orton, but he thinks he can. After the initial bit with the chair, which seems mandatory more than anything else, he tries to do exactly that. But, Christian discovers that there’s a huge difference between being able to beat Orton, and being able to prevent Orton from beating him. Christian never gets the big offensive run where it looks like he’s absolutely got Orton beat. The best that it gets is when he surprises Orton with the Killswitch, but Orton kicks out. Christian doesn’t get to show that same fire and perseverance. He only shows he’s learned from prior matches. When Orton escapes the Killswitch and back drops him over (which had let Orton RKO him in a previous match), Christian drops down and rolls to the floor. There’s another spot where he does a cross body press, but makes sure he can’t get RKO’d on the way down, so Orton settles for a dropkick. Desperation eventually takes over when it appears that Christian *can’t* actually beat Orton and he goads Orton into punting him the junk to give Christian the title. Some will hate that finish, but it’s great use of the stipulation, and it pushes the feud forward for another month and gives it a fresh twist. ***1/4

JOHN CENA vs. CM PUNK (WWE Heavyweight Title)

From a strictly wrestling standpoint, this isn’t really anything great, although there is some good stuff to be found. But this is about as far away from being about wrestling as it gets. It’s clear that Punk and Cena went out there with one thing in mind: to potentially give one of Punk’s hometown Chicago fans a heart attack by making them alternate between being excited and deflated by constantly swinging the pendulum back and forth. It’s a lot of fun to watch, although I think that thirty-three minutes is a bit long for it.

Again, there is some good work to be found, as well as smart spots to keep the crowd hot. One of their better exchanges has Punk doing a flying body press off the top that Cena rolls through and picks him up for the AA, only for Punk to escape and try for the GTS, only for Cena to counter THAT into the STF. There’s another fun exchange like that when Cena sets up Punk for the AA from the top and Punk elbows out of it (not how Daniel Bryan wore down Barrett in the Smackdown ladder match), and then rana him down. Punk follows up with the GTS and Cena falls the floor, and Punks’ facial expression is great. There’s more fun with them on the mat, with Cena’s attempts to use the STF, including a spot where Punk almost makes the ropes and Cena pulls him back, which makes the crowd go crazy, and Punk counters the STF again to his old finish, the Anaconda Vice. Not all of their work is that good though, specifically the early matwork where Cena outwrestles Punk and double legs him down and controls him. Cena hasn’t exactly proven to be a mat wizard, whereas Punk has shown to be able to hold his own, so that isn’t exactly believable.

The finish is also a bit suspect. Not because Punk wins, that’s what everyone wanted to see, but were all in doubt as to whether or not it’d happen. Not that Punk takes advantage of Cena being distracted on the floor and hits the GTS to take the gold. Punk is supposed to be the heel. It’s something perfectly natural for him to do. This was supposed to Punk vs. The World so to speak, but Punk is helped (inadvertently as it may be) by Vince. The crowd reaction is tremendous and the post match shenanigans are fun too. For all that this lacks in the straight up wrestling department, it more than makes up for with the fun booking and for Cena and Punk working the crowd into a frenzy. ****1/4

Conclusion: Yet another good offering from the ‘E. We got a couple of fun ladder matches, a couple of good World Title matches (for different reasons) and nothing bad at all, get this yesterday!