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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: No Mercy 2017 - The Performance Art Review
By Samuel 'Plan
Sep 28, 2017 - 7:39:35 PM

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Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store or Amazon today! Simply click here to find mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP, or on the icon to the left to be taken directly to Amazon!

Just Business: No Mercy 2017 - The Performance Art Review


It is on an unfortunately negative note I find myself starting this review. No Mercy 2017 was not a show that I enjoyed. Solid in-ring action in the first 90 minutes, capped by a magnificent tag team classic, was not quite enough to get me past the inevitably wasted opportunity of the main event or the ingratiatingly self-important, creatively vapid Roman Reigns vs. John Cena monstrosity.

It is easy to sit and gripe, however. I do not intend to do that. Instead, I will keep it short, sweet and positive – I’d rather write about what I did enjoy, than rant about what I didn’t. For though No Mercy 2017 was not a pay-per-view I will be in all that much of a hurry to revisit, it still had its bright spots.

My name is Samuel ‘Plan, and this is the Performance Art Review of No Mercy 2017.

Welcome to the Party, Nia

The women compiled an over-achiever for my liking. Though it didn’t quite hit the heights of what I felt was, and remains, a severely under-rated Fatal 4 Way at WrestleMania 33, it followed very much the same structural line. It was of the post-Brock Lesnar, “Beast Mode” multi-man match, with the entire affair structured around the central conceit of the unstoppable monster that was Nia Jax.

It worked to brilliant effect. It was, to my surprise, a hell of a performance for Nia Jax. She shone like a major star last Sunday night. She carried herself like a star, wrestled like a star and felt like a star. The key was not only in how she was presented as the primary threat to all the other competitors, but also in what could possibly be her best big match performance yet; one routed in the small touches of body language and expression that said much despite doing little.

I also found myself pleasantly surprised by the emergent if slight theme of friendship that underpinned the piece. The revisit of the Bayley / Banks relationship was sadly predictable – and even more sadly deployed to little reaction – but the Bliss / Jax relationship was more important, if anything, and certainly provided the more exhilarating sequences. Naturally, the theme extended to the unlikely moments of team up against the monstrous Jax too.

All of this meant that Emma still felt like something of a lost presence, an awkward addition to what was otherwise a match that neatly tied up several summer story threads with an ending justified by the narrative that preceded it; a necessity to good storytelling, but sadly a rarity in WWE these days.

I left as I never expected to: excited for a Jax / Bliss one on one confrontation in the near future and, perhaps more importantly, feeling like Nia Jax was finally coming into her own.

Man vs. Man

The ending of Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt was less of a positive, and a prime example of a storyline climax at odds with the narrative preceding it. If, in the end, Bálor could quite handily defeat Bray Wyatt without his augmented Demon state, why on earth did he need to be the Demon at Summerslam? Does this indicate Wyatt to be far from a threat to Bálor? Or does it indicate the Demon is a complete redundancy? Neither conclusion is a satisfying or beneficial one, just like their ongoing storyline.

Having said that, beyond the frustration of its conclusion and despite achieving relatively little, Wyatt vs. Bálor was a wonderful companion piece to their Summerslam encounter, that took the supernatural elements of their first clash and dragged them down into the underhanded nastiness of the human condition. Man vs. Man proved more than a tag line, as the two engaged in trickery and mind-games necessitated by the relative absence of otherworldly power. It proved to be a more compelling presentation of both characters, for my liking, helped further by another menacing and imposing performance from Bray Wyatt.

The continued mishandling of the Bray Wyatt character by WWE’s creative team remains a source of immense frustration. Since WrestleMania, Wyatt has put on performances pitched perfectly, revealing the Eater of Worlds to be physical, dangerous and downright mean. The sudden switch in his body language at the climax of his match last Sunday night was magnificent, as was the more straightforward psychological approach he adopted at the bout’s beginning. One wonders if these performances might be the result of tapping into what would be a justified source of frustration for the performer, if one existed; justified, because each of these sterling performances has been repeatedly let down by a continued reticence to commit to the character in any significant sense.

Rumours are abound this is not the end of their rivalry. It is difficult to see where it could go next, with Wyatt having now been defeated by both Demon and Man alike. With Bálor apparently next in line to challenge for the Universal Championship it is hard to envision a decisive, feud-ending victory for Wyatt; but wouldn’t that be refreshing all the same?

The Hounds vs. The Bar: An Outright Classic

It was the Monday Night Raw Tag Team Championship Match that was Sunday’s run-away success. Rightly called a Match of the Year contender by the announce team as the match was wrapped up, it possessed all the qualities that define a wrestling match as being my kind of wrestling match: imaginative content; story reference; characterful subtext; originality of thought; and even that unexpected x-factor, with Cesaro’s unfortunate injury nonetheless injecting all the more urgency into proceedings, not to mention cranking up the visual sense of fatigue too.

It was a shorter, leaner match than their Summerslam encounter, but if anything it proved all the better for that fact. So too was it a perfect sequel; one of the best I recall seeing, in fact. Their story owed much to the one they told at Summerslam, as The Bar sought to once again pick their opponents apart while, in doing so, hoping the resultant adversity would see old wounds flare back up. As before, they grossly misunderstood their opponents. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose still are no team; they’re brothers, and while that means that their title defences are rough around the edges, a little uncoordinated and generally not that pretty for them, it also means they’re successful. Seth and Dean have a bond stronger than a team, and know what the other is thinking before they know themselves.

I loved the continued embrace of both men’s individuality that writes that subtext. Rollins was the haphazard war machine, bursting explosively into action, while Ambrose remained the immovable object, capable of weathering a veritable storm of punishment and keep himself in the game long enough for Rollins to strike. That they aren’t as polished a unit with as precise a game plan as their opponents is what grants them their edge; and that makes perfect sense when you take into consideration the arc of their ongoing relationship.

The action was sensibly escalated in both content and tone, with even crazier spots than we saw at WrestleMania on one hand and a far more palpable sense of jeopardy underpinning them on the other, and the developing history between both teams was effectively manipulated, especially with that insane super-powerbomb spot. The result was an expertly told story, an outrageously effective accomplishment of a match and a classic amidst a sea of general mediocrity. I’ll be remembering it for a long time to come.

In Closing

Generally speaking, I was left feeling rather down about No Mercy 2017; or, more specifically, about the medium term future of the company. Overall, last Sunday was symptomatic of the worst parts of the company right now, and did little to inspire any hope in me for the next six months. Thank god for Seth and Dean, is all I can say!

Nonetheless, there were some saving graces, and moving forward there are one or two pockets of intrigue – and you can catch my thoughts on those, and the thoughts of some of my LOP compatriots, this Friday night on The Right Side of the Pond, only on LOP Radio. Maverick and I host this week, and get our grumbles off our chest as we look back in particular depth at the Reigns / Cena affair and what role roster positioning is currently playing in the woes of WWE. So be sure to check that out!

But until my next column, let me know down in the comments below or over on social media how you feel about No Mercy now that we are near a week removed and everything’s had a chance to settle in!

Thanks for reading.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store or Amazon today! Simply click here to find mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP, or on the icon to the left to be taken directly to Amazon!

For more of my thoughts on the rest of the show, and WWE in general, click here to add me on Facebook!

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