January 28, 2007
What’s this? I’m reviewing something that’s actually somewhat recent. Believe it or not, just because my reviewing is often months/years behind, I do try to actually stay current every now and then. Of course, this review coming so soon is also because I just happened to come across the DVD at Blockbuster while renting movies.
Test . . . not only proves himself to be almost void of talent, but he’s evidently not that bright either.
Batista . . . is as useless as the guy with the tassels and face paint, I wonder if he’ll get his own DVD in ten years?
Umaga . . . actually outworks the WWE Champion, proving that there was a reason he held the AJPW Tag Titles.
JOHNNY NITRO/JOEY MERCURY vs. MATT HARDY/JEFF HARDY
There are some fun moments and decent storytelling going on here, even though neither team is exactly the Midnight Express when it comes to actual teamwork. The punch-kick style they work for most of this is more bearable than usual, because it serves the purpose of working over Matt’s jaw (injured by MNM with a Snapshot on the exposed floor) and Jeff’s midsection (singled out when Nitro got the knees up on Jeff’s attempted splash). Also, Jeff and Nitro had been feuding since September over the Intercontinental Title, so the brawling makes a bit of sense there as well. The problem that occurs is that Matt’s injury ceases to be a factor after he hot tags Jeff, and Jeff’s midsection ceases to be a factor after Matt tags back in, yet the punch and kick style still dominates the match.
Beyond the body part psychology, there are also some fun spots and teases added to the mix. Matt’s method of getting the hot tag was relatively unique, just tossing Nitro over his back instead of dodging him, but the ref didn’t see it anyway. Nitro’s counter to the Hardys’ patented ‘Poetry in Motion’ was funny for the obviousness of it (he just rolled up Jeff for a near fall, and let Matt crash into the corner). And Jeff’s blind tag so he could hit the Swanton on Nitro for the eventual win (after Matt had hit the Twist of Fate), as Matt was being hurled to the floor was a nice touch as well. There isn’t anything overtly bad here, but considering how long they’d both been teaming for, you’d expect them to bring more to the table than the occasional fun spots.
BOBBY LASHLEY © vs. TEST (ECW Heavyweight Title)
Wow. Until the stupid ending and the post match shenanigans with Lashley forgetting about his shoulder being hurt so he could give Test his big powerslam, this actually wasn’t terrible. Lashley was doing a decent job selling his shoulder after Test sent him into the post, and Test was pretty good about working it over including a nice armbar. Lashley even remembered to sell it when he went back on offense, making sure to use his good shoulder to do his tackles into the corner, and his arm is the reason that he can’t get Test up in the Military press. Test is enough of a dick to really put everything he’s got into the big boot and catch him flush in the shoulder with it. The finish it beyond stupid though, Test was mad he couldn’t put Lashley away, so he walks out? Well okay then. Nothing says “smart” like booking the one finish where nobody looks good at the end.
BATISTA © vs. KEN KENNEDY (World Heavyweight Title)
When your match makes Test/Lashley look psychologically sound, then you’re in big trouble. Despite the fact that Kennedy has beaten six World Heavyweight Champions (Undertaker, Kane, Batista, Mysterio, King Booker, and Benoit), he’s made to look pretty much worthless by the end of this. The match isn’t terribly long in the first place, which is something that’s always plagued the undercard matches of Royal Rumbles, and by the end of this Kennedy pretty much has zero credibility left.
The only real avenue that Kennedy has any real advantage is going after Batista’s knee, which he rams into the steps on the floor, and Batista wins the next punch exchange and throws Kennedy into the ring, this is after his knee has already been sent into the steps. To his credit, Kennedy is rather tenacious when he goes after it, even if it’s not perfect. There are several instances of Kennedy going after the wrong leg, and some of Kennedy’s stomps are directed at Batista’s hip rather than his knee. But Batista’s selling of the knee is horrid, and he’s seemingly got zero clue as to how to put it over. Batista sells the reverse figure four by laying on the mat like a slug, with his face buried in his hands. And when Kennedy puts on the half crab, Batista lays there for a few moments and then rolls over and kicks Kennedy off. The only time he really puts the knee over to any great degree is after he hits his big spine buster, when he rolls on the mat holding his knee, with a look of agony on his face. Batista’s failure to do his powerslam isn’t even due to his knee, but rather due to Kennedy escaping out the back door. Not to mention that Batista gives Kennedy his own finisher, The Green Bay Plunge (Finlay roll), without any problem at all.
The ref bump was only there for Kennedy to supposedly have Batista beat after his neckbreaker, but if Kennedy viciously going after Batista’s knee barely had any impact, then why should a simple neckbreaker be any different? It’s one of the few cases where the more conventional method of doing things in the WWE a.k.a. plastering him with a chair would actually have been a better idea. But just like Hogan, Batista recovers, and finishes with the usual (lariat, thumbs down, and powerbomb) to send the fans home happy. Actually forget the Hogan comparison, Hogan had the sense to make his opponent look good when he was getting worked over. This is more akin to The Ultimate Warrior.
JOHN CENA © vs. UMAGA (WWE Heavyweight Title - Last Man Standing Match)
At first this looked like it might be something special, but by the end, it wasn’t much different from the Cena/JBL I Quit match from Judgment Day 2005. This good enough to stand out amongst the rest of the card, but that’s about as far as praise can really stretch. The really nice thing the LMS rules allow for is more exaggerated selling, so they can milk the count, and that’s something that both Cena and Umaga do well. There’s a good number of things that would normally just amount to being filler that are effectively used to milk the count. The most prominent is the use of the stairs. Using the ringside steps is hardly original, but Cena and Umaga both go the extra mile to make it seem like they’re in danger of not getting up. And what winds up being the big key to Cena’s win isn’t that he’s able to take Umaga’s best shots and keep coming, it’s that’s he’s smart enough to *avoid* Umaga’s best shots.
The big failing of the match is in Cena’s selling of his ribs, which Umaga had injured on RAW, Cena is simply way too inconsistent. When Umaga is dishing out the punishment, he does a great job at getting the point across. But as soon as it’s time to take over, he’s throwing punches, and chucking the stairs at Umaga without any problem with his ribs. Both times Cena lifts the stairs and clocks Umaga with them, the only problem he has lifting them is due to their weight, instead of him being hurt. After his Blue Thunder driver on the stairs, it looked like he was going to sell them, but he instead opted to inform Umaga that he couldn’t see him, and rattle off the 5 Knuckle Shuffle. Cena’s failed attempt at the FU is because of Umaga’s weight instead of his injury. And his successful FU is pulled off without a hitch.
Aside from the story concerning Cena’s ribs, the match is basically a late 90's All Japan ‘Top This’ sort of affair with what Cena and Umaga can do with the various weapons that they employ. In the form of Cena bashing Umaga with the monitor, or Umaga running across the RAW and Smackdown! announce tables and trying to splash Cena through the ECW one. They’ve got an original ending with Cena choking out Umaga with the STFU with the aid of the top rope (which Estrada had loosened), but it lacks any real personality on Cena’s part. With HHH/Cactus and Foley/Orton we saw just how far they were willing to go to get victory, and it was further than even they thought they could go, but we don’t get any of that emotion from Cena. On some level, it’s remarkable that Umaga was able to perform this well, given how he’s always been booked in the WWE, but it’s still a rather disappointing performance from Cena. ***
THE 2007 ROYAL RUMBLE
After a fun but unspectacular undercard, this is pretty disappointing, even for a Royal Rumble. It’s lacking a real MVP performance from anyone. Kane, Edge, Khali, and Michaels are all houses of fire early on and then commence to getting rid of some dead weight, but neither accomplishes a whole lot other than that. Finlay and Edge are both in for the longest periods of time, but again, don’t do much to really stick out. If I had to name one real standout from the match, it’d have to be Edge. He quickly commences to getting rid of Flair when he hits the ring, and then just as quickly sends Kenny packing. When Orton hits the ring a while later, Rated RKO makes a decent sized impact, getting rid of both Hardys, as well as making sure that despite coming in at #30, Undertaker isn’t getting a cakewalk en route to winning. And they even get in a quick tease of dissension with Edge’s attempted (?) spear on Orton, before eventually getting dispatched by Michaels. And while it was quite a lot by the standards of this match, it wasn’t anywhere close to Flair in ‘92, or Benoit in ‘04 in terms of accomplishing a lot during the match.
The match itself is actually on the boring side, because there’s so much downtime. There’s really quick eliminations like Sandman and Miz. But more often than not there’s an absurd amount of time where everybody is paired off and working a segment where one guy is trying to pitch someone else out. There’s precious little in the way really memorable eliminations, such as Nunzio’s in the 2004 Rumble and Paul London’s in the 2005 Rumble. The closest that this match comes is Sabu getting choke slammed off the apron and through the table by Kane. And there’s also an absurd number of times someone will almost be eliminated, but will grab the ropes and slide back in. The only one that’s really impressive is Shelton Benjamin being literally inches away from the ground and pulling himself back up. And it’s even made more disappointing by the constant harping of this being “The most star studded Royal Rumble in history.”
The one thing it has to really stand out is that the final segment between Michaels and UT actually gets a bit of time to develop instead of rushing. UT had taken some damage from Rated RKO, and before he got into the ring to eliminate them, Shawn had been down and out from the RKO, so the playing field was somewhat level. Shawn trying to superkick UT out, the same way he’d done to Diesel in 1996, was a good idea in theory, but where it’s flawed is that Shawn had already hit him with it and put him down. When he used it to win in ‘96, it was basically out of nowhere. So on that level, UT’s block and tossing of Shawn works rather well. It’s fun to see Taker win a historic Royal Rumble (the 20th one), and it’s fitting seeing as he’s got his historic WrestleMania win streak. It’s just too bad that the match is mostly Dullsville.
Conclusion: Despite an at-times fun undercard, there’s nothing really standout here. The closest is Cena/Umaga, and that’s even pretty disappointing. Recommendation to avoid the 2007 Royal Rumble.