Going into last night's PPV , many people predicted this match would be the main-event. With CM Punk being a strong candidate to escape the chamber with his WWE Championship intact, it would have made sense for this match to "send the crowd home happy". However, we should know WWE better by now. They gave away one of the most-anticipated matches on the card right off the bat. Considering how the later matches concluded, it probably wasn't a great idea to have this kick off the show, but that didn't take away from the quality of it.
I've already seen Hustle and The Doc rate this match a solid 4/5 stars and I agree 100% with that rating. While it wasn't the BEST Elimination Chamber match of all-time, it had solid action from start to almost-finish (I'll clarify that in a second). Having Punk and Kingston start the match was a surprising but good move, as they were able to get the crowd into the action in no-time. Ziggler came in and proved why he's one of the best workers on the roster, while Truth came in next and proved why he didn't belong with the other men in the chamber. Seriously, not to hate on Little Jimmy, but he was eliminated in no time, and it felt like the weakest link had been taken out. So it works.
I thought Jericho throwing Kingston out of the chamber was a really nice touch and before the "injury angle" took place, was ready to credit Jericho for again proving why he's the best in the world at what he does. What a great way to get heat - beat up a man who's already lost the match and add injury to insult. Amazing stuff.
My only complaint of the match was the closing moments between Punk and Miz. I don't know if it's because I was distracted by Jericho at ringside, or if because Punk was exhausted (which is understandable, considering he started off the match and took a bad suplex to the floor early on), but I felt the finish was very anti-climatic. Miz almost winning after hitting the SCF was exciting, but the closing sequence was not very dramatic. Still, a very fun match, and a great way to set up Punk vs. Jericho at Wrestlemania.
PRO: Women's Wrestling Isn't Dead
Nobody was expecting Beth Phoenix vs. Tamina Snuka to be a flashback to Trish vs. Lita. BUT, they were hoping for a much better match than the Beth vs. Eve/Kelly/Alicia that we've been seeing since for months and last night, both women delivered. It took them a minute or two to find their niche, but after that, it was smooth sailing. They wrestled a good match, and both women came out of it looking strong. Beth, for being able to avoid and kick out of the Supersplash, and Tamina, for making Beth look the most vulnerable she's been in a long time. Kudos to both women.
PRO: Big Johnny And His Posse
I know a lot of people weren't too thrilled with this in-ring segment, but I liked it. WWE had to find a way to kill time and rather than book more than one random match on the PPV, they found a way to put main-eventers on the show. Seriously, it was cool seeing Del Rio and Christian back on TV, and Mark Henry had me dying of laughter when he was forced to pose for a picture with everyone else. Seriously, Henry's been such a badass since his heel turn, that you don't want to piss him off, and I felt Henry was on the edge of snapping and beating everyone up in the ring. Anyways, it was a fun segment that spared us from a random match that would have killed the crowd more than anything else.
PRO: The Smackdown! Chamber Match
Unlike the first chamber match, I had low expectations going into this match. After all, how exciting can a match be when Santino Marella, The Great Khali, and The Big Show are half the participants? Add in the rest of the guys - Barrett, Bryan, Rhodes - who are all still relatively new to the main-event scene and you have yourselves a dangerous scenario. Clearly, this match would either sink or swim. The first ten minutes or so had me fearing then worst, as Barrett and Big Show have never had in-ring chemistry, and even Cody had a hard time picking up the pace.
That all changed once The Big Show forced himself into Daniel Bryan's pod. Not only was it something that was never done before, but the action picked up and never let down from that moment on. All the way from Barrett and Cody double-teaming The Big Show and eliminating him, to the nail-biting final moments of the match, I believe Smackdown! once again showed up their RAW counterparts. Therefore, I choose the Smackdown! Elimination Chamber as the Match of the Night, mainly because of one man.
There were very few people (myself included) who thought Santino stood a chance in the Elimination Chamber match. Most people expected Santino to either last a very short time, or to hit a Cobra only to be eliminated immediately afterwards, or for Santino to be replaced by someone else, not even getting a chance to compete (which seemed even more likely after the Rocky training videos that aired earlier in the night). Basically, no one expected Santino to add anything of value to the chamber match.
Boy, were we wrong. In one night, WWE created themselves a new top face. Not only did Santino eliminate Wade Barrett AND Cody Rhodes, Santino was the final superstar to be eliminated. And boy, did it take some effort from Daniel Bryan to eliminate The Italian Stallion. Santino just kept on fighting, and when he hit Bryan with The Cobra, the entire crowd were on their feet. Even I was freaking out, in denial that we were actually about to see the impossible become a reality. Of course, it was not meant to be, as Santino ended up tapping to The LeBell Lock, but Santino is coming out of the Chamber looking like a million bucks.
I've been saying for weeks that WWE's heel roster is too thick and established, that they really need to start pushing more credible faces. Well, believe it or not, it looks like Santino may be on the cusp of something big this year. It would not surprise me to see Santino compete at MitB (and dare I say - win it?) or even face Cody for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania. Kudos to WWE for not going the easy route and replacing Santino with an established name. The Big Show/Bryan interaction and Santino being made into a star took the Smackdown! Elimination Chamber match to new heights.
CON: Jack Swagger vs. Justin Gabriel
To be fair, this a very small con. I hate random mid-card matches being added to a PPV as much as anybody, but this was quick and painless. WWE needed some time to kill so they put the U.S. Champion on the show. Since Swagger's been pretty much confined to Superstars since winning the belt, he didn't have anybody to logically defend against, so WWE gave Gabriel another opportunity. Not a bad choice, as Gabriel keeps on improving in the ring, and seems to be getting over with the crowds (adding Hornswoggle doesn't hurt).
The problem is, the match was way too short, and it never felt like the title was in any danger. It wasn't a squash match, but if WWE is serious about pushing Gabriel, they should have let him get in a lot more offense. This was not PPV-worthy, but at least it gave Gabriel some exposure, which is a good thing.
PRO: John Cena vs. Kane
Was I elated about this being the main-event? No, that honour should have went to either of the two chamber matches. But at least both men worked hard to justify their placement on the card. It was never going to be 4-stars or higher due to the absence of near falls and submissions, but the action was exciting enough. The use of the wheelchair was a nice touch, and Cena delivering the Attitude Adjustment to Kane off the top of the ambulance was pretty cool. Cena won, obviously, but his victory was booked correctly - it did not 'bury' Kane, it allowed Cena to end the feud and set his sights on The Rock for Wrestlemania 28.
Overall, it was a good match with a good ending - it just shouldn't have been the main-event.
YouTube Worthy: The RAW Chamber match...Mark Henry's reaction to John Laurinatis's 'Photo-Op'...The Smackdown! Chamber match
Grade: B+ - a really good show with two great matches, and all the right people won.
2. Day 2
I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed John Cena's promo directed towards The Rock last night on RAW. It was funny, it was serious, and it was passionate - all the ingredients needed for an epic promo. I know a lot of people are tired of Cena saying the same stuff about 'Dwayne'; that he's a quitter, that he only came back to WWE to promote his movie career, that he brings it exclusively 'via satellite', etc. Cena's jabs at The Rock may be redundant, but they're pretty accurate. The Rock got a taste of Hollywood and he left. Cena started making movies, but he stayed. No matter what anyone says, either judging by each man's success on the big screen or their dedication to professional wrestling, it's the truth.
However, one thing Cena said during his promo rang absolutely true, more than anything else. The Rock is going to be in the main-event of Wrestlemania 28 and will be receiving a bigger pay day than almost every other superstar who competes on April 1st. Cena said it best: what about the rest of the roster, who wrestles week-in and week-out? They should be the ones who get to wrestle on the biggest Pay-Per-View of the year, not a man who has wrestled one match since Wrestlemania 20, and was almost oblivious to the wrestling world during that time. Technically, The Rock is using his star power to cut in front of a long line of superstars, and that's not fair.
Before I continue, I'll admit there are some flaws in Cena's argument. For starters, even though most of the WWE roster wrestle way more often than they should, that doesn't make them huge stars or PPV draws. For example, let's say someone like Yoshi Tatsu or Trent Baretta wrestles at every single live event and television taping for a year straight. Does that dedication and hard work warrant one or both of them a match at Wrestlemania? No, it doesn't. Tatsu and Barretta are sparingly used on television at best, are not over with the crowd (although that's not really their fault), and you can't go to jobbing on NXT to competing at Wrestlemania instead of a huge name like The Rock because they were there and Rock wasn't. It doesn't work that way.
Another thing - it's Wrestlemania, damnit! It is the Super Bowl of professional wrestling, THE biggest show of the year. As a result, Mania should have only the top performers wrestling or appearing on the show. This is from a business and an entertainment aspect. Guys like Jinder Mahal and Ezekiel Jackson won't sell Wrestlemania, and even if by some miracle they were on the card, something tells me they wouldn't wrestle a five-star match, or anything worthy of being considered a Wrestlemania match. There is a reason Wrestlemania is often referred to as "The Showcase of the Immortals".
But here's where my issue lies - the rumored (and slowly becoming a reality) Wrestlemania 28 card. You see, if The Rock is not the only "part-time" performer scheduled to compete at this year's show. Take a look:
John Cena vs. The Rock*
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho*
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus (and possibly vs. Randy Orton)
Hell in a Cell: Triple H* vs. The Undertaker*
Money in the Bank Ladder Match
The Big Show vs. Shaq*
Beth Phoenix vs. Kharma*
I'm sure WWE will add at least another match or two, and will probably book some stupid divas tag team match rather than Kharma vs. Beth, but seriously, that's a bad-ass looking card. If everything goes according to plan, we could see up to FIVE matches go over the four-star level, which is unheard of at Wrestlemania. Now you know why people are saying WM28 has the potential to go down in history as one of the best Wrestlemanias of all-time.
But as always, there's a catch. Did you notice the * next to several names on the card? If you count them, you have six people with a * - Rock, Jericho, HHH, Taker, Shaq, and Kharma. In case you haven't already figured it out, that little * means every one of those names are part-time performers for the company. Think about it. The Rock has been making movies since Survivor Series; Jericho came back less than two months ago, and was M.I.A. since 2010; Triple H wrestled only a handful of matches in 2011; Undertaker has been off television since Wrestlemania 27; Shaq has no business being on the Wrestlemania card, but it looks like he will be (celebrity or not, it's the truth); and Kharma has only participated in the Royal Rumble match since she fell pregnant last year.
Not one, not two, not three, but SIX part-time competitors scheduled to compete at Wrestlemania? Doesn't seem fair, does it? I can deal with Rock vs. Cena because it's a dream match that's been waiting to happen for a long time, and Taker vs. HHH deserve one last match before both men hang up their boots for good, but I don't know about everyone else. As much as I love Jericho, he should have came back much sooner than he did (or never left at all), Kharma should have been more careful about getting pregnant considering the huge push she was receiving, and Shaq can go fuck himself.
Like I said, I know it's Wrestlemania, but a lot of guys who worked their asses of in 2011, including guys like Mark Henry, Alberto Del Rio, Christian, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, etc. appear to be on the backburner for Wrestlemania. I know they'll probably be crammed into Money in the bank or some Teddy Long vs. John Laurinatis tag team match, but I think they deserve a lot more at Mania.
Personally, I don't think that's very fair.
3. Day 3
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would one day dedicate an entire column to Jennifer Hudson's fiancee. And if I did, it surely wouldn't have been filled with positivity. However, I would be lying to myself, and to all of you, if I said David Otunga wasn't on the biggest roll of his career.
Quite frankly, David Otunga is on the cusp of something special.
I'll give you a moment to process that last sentence. In the meantime, here's a brief history of Otunga's WWE career:
-Was the runner-up on the first season of NXT
-Guest-hosted RAW and unsuccessfully teamed with John Cena to face Show-Miz for the tag team championship
-Invaded RAW in June 2010 as a member of the original Nexus
-Teamed with Cena at Bragging Rights 2010 to defeat Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre for the tag team championship, only to lose the titles to fellow Nexus members Heath Slater & Justin Gabriel the next night on RAW
-Main-evented SummerSlam 2011
-Created the "New Nexus" alongside CM Punk in January 2011
-Teamed with Michael McGillicutty to defeat Kane & The Big Show for the tag team championship in May 2011
-After a three-month reign as tag champs, Otunga went solo and became John Laurinaitis' legal adviser and right-hand man, a position he holds to this day.
It may not seem like it, but for a guy with very limited wrestling skills, Otunga has accomplished a lot during his two years with the WWE. Not only is he a two-time tag team champion, but Otunga can forever boast that he once won the titles with John Cena as his partner.
The reason I shared Otunga's career highlights? To show that despite spending the majority of his career as a jobber, Otunga has almost always been in the spotlight. He wasn't pushed as an unstoppable monster, or constantly feuding with the midcard champion of RAW or Smackdown!, but Otunga always seemed to be preoccupied with someone. It's also interesting to note that Otunga's current role is his first singles push. Before associating himself with John Laurinaitis, Otunga either had a mentor in R-Truth on NXT, was part of two different factions, and enjoyed a fairly long tag team title run. This has given Otunga the tools he needs to survive on his own.
But Otunga is not only surviving, he's thriving. No one thought much of him when he showed up wearing a bow-tie and sipping a coffee mug in backstage segments with Big Johnny, but thanks to a slow burn, Otunga has molded into an interesting character. For the first time in his career, Otunga is OVER. He's not receiving Vickie Guerrero-levels of heat, but the fans know who he is and they don't like him. Being good buddies with a heat magnet like Big Johnny is not hurting his cause, either. Whether people dislike him because of his braggart persona, his bow-tie, or because of his association with the RAW General Manager, the truth is, the fans are reacting to him.
Another reason Otunga is getting over is because of his entrance music. I'm sure you've heard countless wrestling fans tell you how crucial it is for a theme song to match a superstar or diva's character. Well, I think Otunga's music suits him very well. It has obnoxious lyrics and if you listen closely, it almost sounds as if Otunga is singing the song himself. I'm a big fan of the song and I feel it's been a major factor in getting Otunga over.
But above all, Otunga's star is on the rise because he is playing his role perfectly. Some wrestlers get over with their wrestling skills - fans appreciate and adore a guy who can wrestle a broomstick to a good match (Dolph Ziggler, for example). Well, Otunga is doing the exact opposite. He's not stepping in the ring and wrestling ten-minute matches that are in contention for match of the night on a weekly basis. Instead, Otunga is making the most of the few minutes of action he gets, and not only is that a good thing, but it works. Why would John Laurinaitis associate himself with someone who barely wins matches, or has to kick out of three finishers to do so? Otunga squashed Ezekiel Jackson twice this week, and in doing so, showed that he's able to "take care of business" when needed.
The question is, what is this Otunga push leading to? First, you have to assume there will be some sort of "power struggle" match between Big Johnny and Teddy Long at Wrestlemania 28. Judging by the amount of superstars who have been showing their support for both men in recent weeks, it probably means we'll get a tag-team match at Wrestlemania (my guess is six-man). You have to figure Otunga will captain Johnny's team, even if his teammates are bigger names than he is. Win or lose, that's already a career boost for Otunga.
However, before the year is over, I can definitely see Otunga capturing championship gold. In fact, I'd be really surprised if he doesn't. Not only is he being pushed, but he's associated with the RAW GM (and possibly Smackdown! GM as well after Wrestlemania). You have to assume that will result in some title shots down the road for Mr. Hudson. Not world title shots, as Otunga has a LONG way to go before he's at that level, but I can definitely see Otunga as either the United States or Intercontinental Champion sometime in 2012. Believe that.
What do you think about Otunga? Is he on the path to success? Or will he never become more than Johnny Ace's lackey?
4. Day 4
Yesterday it was reported that WWE officials were discussing making several cuts to the main roster after this year's Wrestlemania. Now, this is anything but confirmed, but considering that we're weeks away from spring, there could be some truth to the story. Surprisingly, there weren't too many main roster departures in 2011, which means we could be seeing A LOT of names join the unemployment club in a few months' time.
I know you're used to seeing most columnists (including myself) simply list a bunch of names who they feel will be future endeavored, but this time, I'm doing things a bit differently. In addition to making some roster cut predictions, I will also list several people who I feel will NOT have their contracts terminated. Obviously, there's no point discussing someone like John Cena, but rather several talents who the internet feels is hanging on a thread, but I don't. Makes sense? Then let's get started.
SAFE: Drew McIntyre
For some reason, as soon as people saw the article about possible roster cuts in the near future, Drew McIntyre's name was mentioned in almost every post. I've seen countless people say McIntyre will either be the first talent released, or he'll be the "shocking big name" who loses his job. Folks, I'm telling you right now, that's a load of B.S. - McIntyre is going nowhere. Sure, he's been doing a lot of jobbing lately, and is on a lengthy losing streak, but I guess it never occurred to some people that maybe it's all part of a storyline? It's not as if McIntyre appears on Smackdown! once a month and loses in three seconds. Since being sent to Smackdown!, McIntyre has been on television almost every week and even had a match at the Royal Rumble. The last time I checked, that rarely happens when someone's job is in danger. I think WWE are going to pull a MVP and have McIntyre snap his losing streak by turning face and at the same time, revitalizing his career.
NOT-SO-SAFE: Trent Barreta
Poor trenty-locks. I, like many others, thought WWE had something planned for him when his former Dudebusters partner Caylen Croft got the axe but he didn't. Unfortunately, nothing happened. Then, spring 2011 came and past, and Barreta was still employed. Okay, maybe WWE does plan on doing something with the underrated superstar. Unfortunately, we're in February 2012, and I can count on one hand the number of TV appearances Barreta has made since last year (including Battle Royals). I know Barreta has been wrestling on NXT more often in recent weeks, but that's not enough to save him. Unfortunately, I think Barreta's time with WWE is almost over. What a waste of a talent.
SAFE: Jinder Mahal
I know, I know. There is probably no one on the current roster that I hate more than Jinder Mahal (except maybe Heath Slater), but sadly, I don't think Mahal's job is in jeopardy just yet. The Great Khali may be back, but his in-ring days are numbered, and WWE knows it. As a result, they're going to bank on Mahal being a breakout star to draw for the company when they tour in India. Hell, Khali is already a huge star in India, so when he inevitably calls it quits, WWE will need Mahal to fill the void. So as much I wish it wasn't true, we're going to have to put up with Mahal because he's not going anywhere.
NOT-SO-SAFE: Heath Slater
On the bright side, my other favorite wrestler (please don't miss the sarcasm) should be shaking in his boots right now. From the start, Slater was the weak link of both The Nexus and The Corre. He has some decent in-ring ability, but an unlikable personality. Not the kind that gets you heat, but the kind that tempts people to seriously consider assassinating him at live events. Furthermore, he has absolutely zero mic skills. Just listening to him speak is enough to give you a headache thanks to that horrid voice of his. I know WWE have tried to push him in the past, but not even they can deny how un-over he is. He may be good at playing a jobber, but so are a lot of other people. See ya later, Mr. One Man Rock Band.
SAFE: The Usos
A few months ago, there were more than just a few people who were predicting a pink slip in The Usos' future. After all, they were barely on television, and when they were, they were losing matches. Well, fast-forward to the present day, and although not much has changed, I don't think they have anything to worry about. Their face turn has helped them get over with the fans, and more and more people are digging their pre-match ritual. Furthermore, WWE have very few legitimate tag teams on the roster, and The Usos are one of them. With Epico and Primo the current champions, I think it's only a matter of time before Jimmy & Jey get a real push and eventually win the titles. Let's just hope WWE doesn't split them up before - or after - that happens.
NOT-SO-SAFE: Curt Hawkins & Tyler Reks
I'm not a big fan of either man, or their on-and-off tag team, but I can understand why some people are. Both men are decent in the ring, and have shown flashes of brilliance in the past. However, look at how long each guy has been with the company. They both debuted in the later days of WWECW, and what have they accomplished since then? Very little. To be fair, it's not really their fault. They've been given only a handful of opportunities to prove their value to the company, but again, it feels like their new superstars, even though they debuted on the main roster many years ago. I honestly can't see WWE keeping them both employed, but I hope they both go to ROH or the indies and show WWE officials what they missed out on.
SAFE: Yoshi Tatsu
Yoshi Tatsu didn't have an impressive 2011. He didn't have a breakout year in 2010 either. Hell, he's only had one non-Battle Royal match on Smackdown! so far this year. Nevertheless, I don't see him joining the unemployment line anytime soon. Partly because he's a talented performer, but mainly because like Mahal, Yoshi's a big draw in other demographics. He may be sparingly used on television, but when WWE tours Japan, you can bet the fans are going to go ape-shit for their hometown boy. WWE makes big bucks whenever they tour overseas, so Yoshi has nothing to worry about. I just wish WWE used him on TV a lot more, as he's quite talented in-between the ropes.
Can someone please explain to me the point of keeping JTG employed? His Cryme Tyme shtick got old years ago, and when he turned heel in 2011, the turn flopped as well. He's not a great wrestler - as some would have you believe - he was just superior to Shad. Now, I don't hate JTG, I just don't see why he's taking up precious roster space that could be filled with more deserving talent. WWE clearly won't do anything with him, so they might as well release him, really.
Honourable Mentions: Alex Riley, Ezekiel Jackson, Hunico
Dis-Honourable Mentions: Johnny Curtis, Darren Young, Michael McGillicutty.
What do you think? Agree with my picks? Disagree? Did I forget to mention someone? Was I too harsh, or not honest enough?
5. Day 5
PRO: Bobby Roode On The Mic
What better way to kick off the show than with the TNA World Heavyweight Champion? I know some people aren't 100% sold on Bobby Roode as a main-eventer - let alone the company's top champion - but he finds a way to silence those critics every week. Last night, he cut a short but brilliant promo that really got me into his current feud with Sting. In fact, that's what was awesome about the promo - it was short and sweet, and didn't drag (take notice, Undertaker/Triple H). In fact, before we even went to commercial, it was already time for the first match of the evening...
PRO: Joe & Magnus vs. Crimson & Morgan
I've heard a lot about these two "make-shift" tag teams, but this was the first chance I got to see them compete against each other. For starters, I like what I saw. Crimson, despite his faults, continues to improve, and Morgan is one of the best "big man workers" on the planet. As for Magnus and Samoa Joe, I didn't see too much chemistry between them until the finish, as their double-team finisher is poetry in motion. Hopefully TNA will come up with some interesting teams for them to feud with.
The whole Morgan/Crimson miscue was anything but surprising, but I hope it leads to a blow-off match between the two at Victory Road, where Morgan finally ends Crimson's undefeated streak. If anyone deserves to break the streak, it's Morgan, who deserves to return to the main-event sooner rather than later.
CON: Bully Ray vs. Some Football Player
Bully Ray's fantastic promo work was almost enough to turn this into a pro, but when a non-wrestler gets way too much promo time, I can't forgive that. Look, I know the New York Giants won the SuperBowl and kudos to TNA for capitalizing on the momentum by having one of the winning team's players get involved in the storylines, but this segment was a big waste of time. It's not as if Bully Ray will be wrestling him at Victory Road. If he was, I could live with this segment. But, he's not. If TNA wanted to get Jacobs involved in the main-event a backstage segment could have accomplished that. For me, this in-ring segment added nothing to the show.
PRO: Shelley vs. Ion
For those of you who don't know, The Motor City Machine Guns are one of my favorite tag teams of all-time. It sucks that Chris Sabin is sidelined with an injury, but at least TNA are doing something with Shelley instead of letting him rot at home, waiting for his partner to heal up.
Anyways, this was a short, but entertaining match. Shelley and Ion are great X-Division wrestlers, and although the division lacks in quantity, they make up for it in quality. Ion got the win, which made sense since he's facing Austin Aries at Victory Road for the X-Division title. Speaking of Aries, he was ringside for the match, pretending to cheer for both men, all the while eating some popcorn. It's little things like that which make Aries such a treat to watch. Good match, but way too short.
PRO: The Knockouts Continue To Impress
If you ask me to name my favorite female wrestlers in the world, Gail Kim and ODB would be probably be near the bottom of the list. I didn't really notice Gail until she returned to TNA last year, and ODB has always been the epitome of trailer-trash. Despite all that, they put on an entertaining match last night. The IWC can hate on Gail all they want, but she's no slouch in-between the ropes, and truth be told, she may be one of the hottest Asian women in the world. As for ODB, she held her own as well.
Even though Madison Rayne - Gail's "friend" and her opponent at Victory Road - accidentally distracting the Knockouts Champion, Gail continued her winning ways and put ODB way. They may both be heels, but at least we have a reason to care about their upcoming title match at Victory Road. Hey, WWE, why can't you do the same thing with your divas? If TNA can do it, so can you.
CON: Aj Styles vs. The World
Unlike some people, I've been enjoying the Aj Styles vs. Daniels and Kazarian storyline. I know it's been going on for months (Styles and Daniels have been feuding since Bound For Glory in October, even longer, I believe), but it makes sense for the feud to drag out this long. Fortune (Styles, Daniels, Kazarian, Roode, James Storm) were a faction for such a long time. Rather than taking the easy way out and just letting each member go his separate way, TNA is making the group's split come across as a big deal. This has turned Daniels into a star, and it might do something for Kaz's career as well.
But I'm getting off track. I listed Styles vs. Robbie E as a con because not only did the two not seem to click in the ring, but the finish was over-booked for a TV title match. The champion, Robbie E, needed the help of three men - Robbie T, Daniels, and Kaz - to retain his title via disqualification. Not a great way to make your second-biggest title-holder look credible.
PRO: Storm/Hardy vs. Ray/Angle
I know some viewers will complain we've seen this match a hundred times already, or some variation of it in recent months, but I list it as a pro because less than a year ago, two of the participants (Storm and Ray) weren't in the main-event. Now, they're constantly at the top of the card. Good for both of them.
The in-ring action was smooth and exciting, but with the No Disqualification stipulation in play, you knew it was a matter of time until Jacobs got involved. I marked at Ray and Angle going for the tables, but of course, Ray got a taste of his own medicine when Jacobs laid him through the table with a chokeslam. A fun main-event that saw Jacobs get his revenge on Ray after last week's events, but unfortunately didn't do much to hype Victory Road. Who is feuding with who again?
PRO: Sting's "Announcement"
Okay, who was gullible enough to believe that Sting tweeting "I'm done" meant he's retiring? I sure wasn't, and lo and behold, Sting revealed that he had no plans of ending his career, and challenged Bobby Roode to a match at Victory Road (non-title, I believe). We saw "Joker Sting" make his return, and despite the persona being ill-received by most critics, I kind of dig it. For a guy in his fifties, Sting can do some terrific acting. Besides, I'd rather see a crazy Sting focused on hurting Roode than a vanilla Sting trying to win the TNA world title.
Maybe not the best in-ring segment I've ever seen, but it's always cool to see the world champion both kick off and conclude the show.
YouTube worthy: The second half of Joe/Magnus vs. Morgan/Crimson...Alex Shelley vs. Zema Ion...Anything involving Madison Rayne...Sting and Roode's confrontation
Grade: B- (Overall, a pretty good show. A lot of hype for Victory Road, few backstage segments, and very little Garrett Bischoff. I would have given it a B+ or even an A- had there been at least one great match, but pretty much all we got was mediocre action Shelley vs. Ion would have been fantastic if given an extra three-five minutes).
6. Day 6
Writer's Note: Yup, another edition of "What If...". Hopefully you've been having as much fun reading these fantasy columns as I've had typing them out. Today's question comes from Michael Jay Smith via Facebook (www.facebook.com/SuperChrisss) and it's about the only Olympic Gold Medalist in sports entertainment, Kurt Angle.
Obviously, the majority of today's fans know Angle from his time spent in WWE, as that's where he made his name and earned the moniker of "greatest technical wrestler in the world". However, Angle has been a member of the TNA roster since 2006, and that six-year anniversary is quickly approaching. Believe it or not, Angle has spent almost the same amount of time in both WWE and TNA (he joined WWE in 1998, two years after his debut in the original ECW). In addition, Angle has also won five world titles during his time with each company. Even at the tender age of 44, Angle has shown no signs of retiring and has already begun training in hopes of competing in the 2012 Olympic Games.
But the question on everyone's mind is this: what if Kurt Angle never left WWE and signed with TNA?
I could give you a standard, tongue-in-cheek response along the lines of "Oh, WWE would have been a much better place", or "TNA would have gone out of business by now", but there's not much to talk about that hasn't already been discussed by countless other 'experts'. Instead, I'm going to share with you what I believe is the cold-hard truth:
Had Kurt Angle not asked for his WWE release, he would have died
That's right, I truly believe that had Angle continued to work the grueling WWE schedule, he would not be breathing today. Let me explain.
WWE never wanted to fire Kurt Angle. In fact, back in 2006, the WWE roster was depleted (injuries, deaths, suspensions), and the company was still reeling from the loss of many top names just two years earlier (The Rock, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar). As a result, Kurt Angle was viewed as one of the biggest stars in the WWE in 2006, both by the fans, and company officials. In fact, WWE decided to send Angle to the newly relaunched ECW to help the show succeed as a brand - keep in mind this was before ECW and Smackdown! began touring together. Anyways, Angle suffered an injury in mid-2006, and when he asked for some time off to heal, WWE declined, not wanting to take Angle off the road. That was the straw which broke the camel's back - Angle had enough, and asked for his release. He signed with TNA, rested his body, and debuted for 'the competition' in October 2006. The rest, as they say, is history.
You're probably still wondering how any of this would have led to Kurt Angle meeting an untimely demise between 2006 and 2012. Well, if you've ever watched Angle wrestle - either in WWE, TNA, or anywhere else - you know that Angle does whatever he can to steal the show every night he competes. It doesn't matter if it's Wrestlemania or a TNA live event - when Angle wrestles, he gives 101%, and nearly kills himself out there. He takes unnecessary risks more often than not, but not to win a title or impress the critics backstage. Angle just wants to prove he's the best wrestler in the world.
You see, Kurt Angle has an addiction, and that addiction is none other than professional wrestling. Angle has wrestled countless times while injured, and not just five-minute squashes, but long, competitive matches. Hell, Angle was injured going into last year's Bound For Glory Pay-Per-View, but did he forfeit the match? Yeah, right. Angle and Bobby Roode wrestled for nearly twenty minutes, and had arguably the best match of the night. How many wrestlers are willing to risk aggravating an injury just to please the fans? Surprisingly (or not surprisingly), not that many. Angle doesn't have an itch to compete - he HAS to compete, and at full-speed.
That's why if Vince McMahon got his way and talked Angle out of quitting WWE six years ago, Angle would no longer be walking this earth. Don't forget that WWE and TNA's travel schedules are very different. While TNA tapes only three-four episodes of Impact Wrestling a month (plus a PPV), WWE holds three-four live events/TV tapings per week (plus a PPV) PER BRAND. Technically, WWE is holding a house show or TV taping every single day, but just four shows a week, every week, is four times the amount of work that TNA workers go through every month. As a result, Angle would have been forced to compete at every one of these shows, either by McMahon or his personal pride, and sooner or later, those injuries would have caught up to him.
Professional wrestling is a dangerous spot. If we learned anything from the Jesse Sorensen/Zema Ion match from a few weeks ago, even two young, perfectly healthy athletes can slip up and seriously harm themselves. Imagine Kurt Angle, a damn good wrestler, but a guy in his forties, wrestling with an injury four nights a week? It would have been simply a matter of time until Angle either seriously injured himself, or even worse, his opponent. Angle's already suffered a broken neck - it's a miracle his years in the business haven't resulted in another. Of course, wrestling a light schedule like TNA's probably helps.
So yes, I have no doubt that injuries and 'too much wrestling' would have eventually caught up with Kurt Angle and he would have killed himself - literally - inside the ring had he stayed with WWE. Being a member of the TNA roster the past six years has allowed Angle to maintain his intensity between the ropes, and give him the time required to rest, rather than non-stop travel and competition. I would love to see Angle one day return to WWE and work a part-time schedule similar to someone like Triple H or Mick Foley, but I think Angle is content where he is, and I believe him.
As for the question of "what if Kurt Angle's Twitter never got hacked?" - well, that's another story for another day.
7. Day 7
The Road to Wrestlemania is in full-swing and the card has already begun to take shape. John Cena and The Rock are finally facing off, Triple H and The Undertaker will do battle inside Hell in a Cell, Chris Jericho shall challenge CM Punk for the WWE Championship in a dream-come-true match for the IWC, and Sheamus, the winner of the 2012 Battle Royal, has selected Daniel Bryan as his Wrestlemania opponent.
Even without announcing any other matches, WWE already have themselves a hell of a Wrestlemania card on their hands. Any one of those matches could end up being the best of the night and it would not shock me at all. With a Battle of the GMs and/or Money in the Bank all but guaranteed to take place as well, including one or two other midcard matches, WWE can almost not go wrong this year.
But if you look a little bit deeper, you'll notice someone missing from the equation. Someone who had a phenomenal 2011, and is considered by many to be the second or third biggest superstar on WWE's current roster. That man? Randy Orton.
Since Wrestlemania 20, Orton has competed in some pretty high-profile matches at the biggest Pay-Per-View of the year. Whether it was challenging The Undertaker's undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 21, defending the WWE Championship against both Triple H and John Cena at WM24, or wrestling what many critics consider the best match of the night against CM Punk at last year's show, Orton's Wrestlemania resume speaks for itself. However, we already know the four main-events scheduled for Wrestlemania 28, and because of a "concussion", Orton isn't involved with any of them.
I know many people expected we'd be getting Orton vs. Daniel Bryan for the world heavyweight title at this year's Mania (myself included). It made sense, considering Bryan was the heel champion, Orton was a top contender to win both the Royal Rumble and the Elimination Chamber matches, and Orton vs. Bryan has never been done before. Well, Sheamus winning the Rumble threw a wrench in those plans, and Orton being removed from the Smackdown! chamber match pretty much threw that idea out the window. With less than five weeks to go until April 1, the chances of Orton being inserted into the Sheamus vs. Bryan match grow smaller and smaller.
If Orton does get snubbed from a world title match at Mania for the third year in a row, what does he end up doing? I know Hustle mentioned the possibility of Orton captaining Teddy Long's team at Wrestlemania, but I don't see why Orton would want to defend Teddy, considering Smackdown!'s general manager is the same man who removed Orton from the chamber and had him escorted out of the arena a few weeks ago. Combine that with Orton's "anger issues", and I doubt Orton will be playing a part in the Battle of the GMs.
Another strong possibility is Orton competing in the Money in the Bank ladder match (if it happens). Orton is no stranger to the gimmick, having competed in MitB several times in the past. While putting Orton in the match would certainly raise MitB's profile among a stacked card, I don't see The Viper participating in MitB either. The match is best used to either help a rising midcarder break through the main-event ceiling (see: Edge, The Miz) or give a veteran a run at the top (see: Rob van Dam, Kane). Call me crazy, but it's hard to place Orton in either of those categories, so scratch him from Money in the Bank.
I know a lot of people were sick of their feud long before it ended, but Orton and Barrett could have faced each other at Wrestlemania one last time. WWE had the two men square off on television a tad too much, but their last string of matches were quite entertaining. They may have already competed in tables, no disqualification, and no count-out matches, but I'm sure one final gimmick match at Wrestlemania wouldn't have hurt. Last Man Standing would have worked, even an "I Quit" match between Barrett and Orton would have been fun. But sadly, Barrett's elbow injury may result in him missing Wrestlemania ths year, so Orton vs. Barrett has virtually no chance of taking place.
That would leave WWE's Apex Predator with one logical opponent for Wrestlemania - Cody Rhodes. For those who already forgot, Orton and Rhodes had a short, but great feud last fall, that even saw Rhodes pull out a victory more than once. While many people loved the blow-off to the feud, which resulted in Rhodes losing his mask once and for all, I feel they never had that one great match I know they're capable of having. While WWE seems to be leaning towards a Rhodes vs. Big Show match at Mania (since they can't decide whether to let Shaq wrestle or not), I think an Orton vs. Rhodes match would make the WM28 card even better than it already is. It doesn't have to be contested for the Intercontinental Championship; just let them renew their not-too-recent rivalry and give them ten-fifteen minutes to put a show. I guarantee you they would tear the house down on April 1.
While I would love to see Orton vs. Rhodes at Wrestlemania, I have no idea what WWE is planning on to do with The Viper. Therefore, I ask you: what would you rather see Orton do at Wrestlemania?
*Compete for the world heavyweight title alongside Sheamus and Daniel Bryan
*Captain Teddy Long's team
*Compete in Money in the Bank
Well, we did it. Seven consecutive columns (nine if you count last weekend's) officially posted. I have to admit, it was fun, and a great way to kill time during my spring break. Thanks go out to everyone who left feedback, as there's no point writing columns if it doesn't result in some sort of discussion. This might sound corny, but I have some of the best readers in the world, no joke.