Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Smarkass Reviews: WWE The Bash 2009

One of the two more recent WWE PPVs that I got at Wal-Mart for five dollars each, the Bash also has the distinction of being the first PPV I didn't see at the time after a long string of seeing all of them. I think I'd seen every PPV since missing Armageddon in 2007. My former roommate, Adam, and I (and others) would go to a local bar that showed the PPVs, a tradition I continued after Adam left town. That was until certain circumstances prevented the bar from showing PPVs anymore. The last one Michelle and I saw there was Backlash '09 and, then, we saw Extreme Rules '09 at a local movie theatre. But, for the cost, it didn't seem worth it except for specific PPVs that looked like they would be worth it. So, that meant missing the Bash that year and, now, I've finally seen it. Was it worth the wait?

Match #1: Championship Scramble for the ECW Title - Tommy Dreamer (C) vs. Christian vs. Jack Swagger vs. Finlay vs. Mark Henry
I actually like the Championship Scramble match concept: you start with two guys and, then, every five minutes, another wrestler enters the match until the fifth one comes in. After that, a five-minute countdown starts until the end of the match. At the end of the match, whoever scored the last pinfall or submission is the champion. Technically, after you've scored a pinfall or submission, you're considered the current champion (but it's not an official reign). It's a cool idea and leads to some interesting moments like the WWE Championship Scramble match where The Brian Kendrick was the champ for a few minutes. But, it's also a bit of an oddball concept, so I can see why they haven't used it since this match. Christian and Jack Swagger started things off, and that was good. It's weird to see how far Swagger's come since this point in time. Less than a year later, he'd be the World Heavyweight Champion and is definitely better in the ring now. But, a lot of that talent was already there. When Finlay entered, he came running to the ring and I lamented the lack of his old entrance theme that began with his voice proclaiming "My name is Finlay and I love to fight!" It would have been much more appropriate. The action in this match was good. Swagger got two pinfalls, Henry one, and Dreamer the last one. Dreamer leaving with the belt was so surprising that even he looked shocked that it happened. As far as an opening match goes, this was a smart choice. Granted, the crowd felt a little different. The silence during the Swagger/Christian part of the match was noticeable.
Winner and STILL ECW Champion: Tommy Dreamer [***]

Match #2: Intercontinental Championship vs. Mask Match - Chris Jericho (C) vs. Rey Mysterio
I always lamented never seeing this match, the third one in their trilogy of bouts in 2009 and, according to everyone, the best of the three. And they were right. What impressed me most about their second match, at Extreme Rules, was how it built on their first. Spots and moves weren't repeated with success, they were countered. Both men looked like professionals at the top of their game, able to learn from what happened before, and adapt on the spot. The fact that certain guys are able to do the same spots in the same order with success much of the time is something that I've never liked about wrestling. I'm sorry, but if you don't know the Attitude Adjustment is coming after the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, where have you been? COUNTER THAT MOTHERFUCKER, IDIOT! I know that the routine is integral to some, but I'd always prefer to see a match where it looks like both men have actually watched a wrestling match before. This match was one of those where it wasn't just move-countermove, it was move-countermove-countermove. It was one of the smartest in-ring work I've ever seen. Even the seemingly gimmicky finish of Rey Rey having a second mask on didn't come off that way -- it was another counter since Jericho won their last match by unmasking Mysterio and completely throwing him off his game. My favourite spot, though, was Jericho faking that the 619 landed near the end so he could lull Mysterio into doing a jump off the ropes and catch him, putting him into the Walls of Jericho. Definitely the high point of this PPV and, from what happens later, I know why they put it on second, but, really, they expected people to follow this match? After the Undertaker/Michaels at WrestleMania, it was the second-best WWE match of the year, easily.
Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Rey Mysterio [****3/4]

Match #3: No Disqualification Match - Dolph Ziggler vs. The Great Khali
Remember when Dolph Ziggler first showed up and did that "Hi, I'm Dolph Ziggler" gimmick? And now he's the #1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. Did anyone see that coming then? This was the culmination of Ziggler's feud with Khali where Ziggler continued to outsmart the giant and walk away with victories (or, at least, leave the giant beaten and bruised). This match was shit. For the record, I'm pretty sure that being seven feet tall doesn't make punching a ringpost hurt any less. This was really the beginning of a Kane/Khali feud with Ziggler winning after Kane came down and beat the shit out of Khali with a chair. Whatever.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler [*]

Match #4: Unified Tag Team Championship Match - The Colons (C) vs. Priceless vs. Edge & Chris Jericho
This match became a triple threat match with Edge and Jericho added because of a story involving Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long being put on probation for not being innovative enough for Mr. McMahon's tastes. So, he threw in Edge and Jericho, which just pissed off the other four guys. So, the story of this match became the Colons and Priceless trying to have their match without ever allowing Edge and Jericho to enter (since tag matches with more than two teams still only have two men in the ring, leaving the extra teams on the apron, possibly never able to legally win the match). The couple of times where they managed to get in, they'd make the mistake of getting too close to one of the other corners and immediately tagged out. In the end, they managed to win after the match became a bit of a clusterfuck. Sadly, the Edge and Jericho team didn't last long once Edge suffered a torn Achilles heel. Still, a decent match with a cool story.
Winners and NEW Unified Tag Team Champions: Edge and Chris Jericho [**]

Match #5: Women's Championship Match - Melina (C) vs. Michelle McCool
We fast-forwarded through this.
Winner and NEW Women's Champion: Michelle McCool [N/A]

Match #6: World Heavyweight Championship Match - CM Punk (C) vs. Jeff Hardy
The beginning of Punk's heel turn after cashing in Money in the Bank on Hardy. This match wasn't as good as you'd expect given the two guys involved. Some nice spots, but not conhesive really. Neither guy seemed on the same page entirely. Maybe it was both men trying to wrestle as faces. Sometimes that dynamic doesn't work -- and Punk hadn't turned heel yet. I loved the false finish where Hardy thought he'd won, but the ref noticed Punk's leg was under the ropes after he'd counted the pin. It worked with the feud: Punk was technically in the right when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and, technically, Hardy didn't win here. Of course, I did enjoy the idea of Hardy, seemingly a face with lots of tenacity, being portrayed as a whiner for this entire storyline. The actual finish where Hardy went nuts on Punk, injuring his eye, so Punk kicked the ref was... meh. It was meant to be Punk couldn't see, so he didn't know who he was kicking -- but we see the small smile he gets as he walks away. The only thing is that the excuse that Punk couldn't see who he was kicking was just lame. It wasn't staged well. But, this is the beginnings of Punk turning heel, which was awesome. Also, the end of Hardy in the WWE.
Winner but NOT new World Heavyweight Champion: Jeff Hardy [**3/4]

Match #7: John Cena vs. the Miz
Like Ziggler and Swagger, the Miz has come a long way since this PPV. He's also become a lot more polished. What I noticed most from the recap video package was how calmer he is on the mic. The personality is the same, but he's slowed it down a little and is much more at ease. He's not trying so hard (or, more accurately, it doesn't look like he's trying so hard). This match was a squash. The Miz barely got in any offence and Cena just beat the shit out of him. Ah well.
Winner: John Cena [*1/2]

Match #8: Three Stages of Hell Match for the WWE Championship - Randy Orton (C) vs. Triple H
And we end things with an odd match. This is a two-out-of-three falls match where the first fall is a regular match, the second is a Falls Count Anywhere match, and the third is a Stretcher match. Now, I've only ever seen one Stretcher match that I'd want to see again and that was the one from Extreme Rules 2008 between Batista and Shawn Michaels -- and that's because of Chris Jericho's involvement, which was done in a way that only worked with a Stretcher match. Here, the Stretcher match doesn't follow any progression. A good progression for this sort of match: No DQ fall, Falls Count Anywhere fall, and, then, Last Man Standing to finish it off. See how that works? Here, it's disjointed. But, that was this storyline all over. It built to Orton winning the belt at WrestleMania... except Triple H retained and Orton won it at Backlash the following month. They just couldn't get things right here. I did like the way the first two falls ended: the first one had Triple H get disqualified when he attacked Orton with a chair, viciously beating him and, then, hitting a Pedigree on the floor to win the second fall. It was a good strategy, especially since Orton seemed so dead that rolling him past the line on a stretcher wouldn't be too difficult. From there, it was your standard hardcore match with a stretcher. Nothing too special. Rhodes and DiBiase helped Orton retain the belt. This would lead to Triple H finding Shawn Michaels to reunite DX since Trips couldn't handle the numbers game of fighting all of Legacy. A mediocre finish to a mediocre PPV.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: Randy Orton [**1/2]

Overall Show Rating: 5.0 (out of 10)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Smarkass Reviews: WWE New Year's Revolution 2007

We watched this on New Year's Eve. It seemed fitting. While out that day at Wal-Mart, I came across a few more five dollar WWE pay-per-view DVDs and how am I to resist such a deal? The other two are from 2009 surprisingly. Quicker and quicker to the discount bin? I'll take it. I was curious to see New Year's Revolution because I have The New and Improved DX DVD set, which showed us pretty much every moment of the 2006 reunion of Degeneration X... concluding with the Survivor Series from that year. Except, DX didn't break up there, they continued as a unit for another month or so, right up through New Year's Revolution where Triple H tore his quad, ending the duo's reunion. I can understand wanting to end the DVD on the high note of the Suvivor Series where DX, the Hardys, and CM Punk won their match without a single elimination. It's a much better ending than 'and then it all stopped because Triple H tore his quad doing a spinebuster.' That doesn't mean I don't want to see it, though. So, Michelle and I killed two and a half hours on New Year's Eve watching this.

Match #1: Steel Cage Match for the Intercontinental Championship -- Jeff Hardy (C) vs. Johnny Nitro
A great choice to open the show. The story going into this is that Nitro (now John Morrison for those who don't know) had been IC champ twice in the past, both reigns ended by Jeff Hardy. So, Nitro wants the belt, Hardy has it, and we get a steel cage match. Michelle said that this is the best steel cage match she's seen, but she hasn't seen a lot. It wasn't bad, it was energetic and had some cool spots. It also had some laboured parts where the match should have ended if you thought about it for more than few seconds. Oddly, none of the usual 'Jeff Hardy could win but decides to jump off the top of the cage instead' moments. Nitro was more mat-based than he is now and I couldn't help but wonder how much better this match would be now. Not a fair judgement, I know, but it's what I was thinking. Some of the parts I liked were Melina using her belt to whip Hardy's hands when he tried to climb the cage and a spot where Hardy tried to pull Nitro down, but Nitro hooked his feet in at the top of the cage and Hardy just fell hard to the mat. The finish was the best part of the match with Nitro trying to escape over the top and use his foot to keep the door shut after Melina failed until Hardy kicked it open and crotched Nitro in the process. It was different.
Winner and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Jeff Hardy [***]

Match #2: Tag-Team Turmoil -- The Highlanders vs. the World's Greatest Tag Team / The World's Greatest Tag Team vs. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan & Super Crazy / The World's Greatest Tag Team vs. Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch / Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch vs. Cryme Tyme
This is a gauntlet-style match where two teams begin and every time a team is defeated, another comes out until there are no more, and the final winning team would get a future title shot. This whole thing was fine and was billed as a 'bonus' match (aka added to the card to fill time the night of the show). It felt a little long in spots. The initial match between the Highlanders (remember them?) and the World's Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas) just kind of kept going. It made the Highlanders look stronger than they should have, but sold the idea of the WGTT being weaker as things went on since... come on, son, look at them and then look at the other teams here. There's a reason they had that name. Only Cade and Murdoch seemed to be in their league. The stuff with the WGTT followed a pattern: first match it was both, second match it was Haas, third match it was Benjamin. They also won the first two matches by cheating the same way, so losing when that didn't work/was countered made sense. It coming down to Cade & Murdoch and Cryme Tyme had me thinking Cade and Murdoch would win, but no. It was your typical Cryme Tyme match that they never outgrew or changed up aside from the result: JTG gets beat down, Shad makes hot tag and clears house. I would have rather saw the World's Greatest Tag Team go through everyone until Cade & Murdoch, and had that finish things. But, whatever. Nothing was too bad and I won't complain about seeing Benjamin, Haas, Cade, and Murdoch in the same ring... even if it's only for a part of a larger match.
Winners: Cryme Tyme [**]

Match #3: Ric Flair vs. Kenny Dykstra
When the Spirit Squad broke up, Kenny was the guy they decided to push and that made sense to a degree. He was athletic and could do some big jumps off the top rope. Why not him? This match was part of trying to get him over by having him feud with Ric Flair. Flair had done the same for a few other guys before this, so, again, why not? It didn't work and this match shows why. They had Dykstra try to gain heat by imitating Flair. He came out in a robe, he did the strut, he tried to use the Figure Four... except Dykstra had no charisma. Or, to be less nasty, he didn't have the 'Slick Ric' charisma. That wasn't him. It just looked kind of sad. To put things in perspective: AJ Styles was better at doing Ric Flair than Dykstra is. He wasn't suited to the role and the match suffered as a result. If they let Dykstra be himself a bit more, the storytelling could have been better. When he got to do his thing, the match was at its best. Seeing him jump to the top rope effortlessly is pretty cool. The finish where he nailed Flair with a ball shot was a play on Flair's own use of the move and just sort of ended the match out of nowhere. That would be a recurring theme.
Winner: Kenny Dykstra [*3/4]

Match #4: Women's Championship Match -- Mickie James (C) vs. Victoria
Prior to this, Victoria had been taking out Divas and checking their names off a list she was carrying. Before the match, she tried to get Melina to help her by promising her the first title shot if she made sure Victoria walked away champion. Weird to see this match given that this feud just happened again at TNA. Is TNA four years behind the times? Oh ho ho. This was a pretty decent women's match. James was more energetic here than I can remember seeing anytime recently. Not as polished, but more energetic. Melina did try to help, but, then, all of the face Divas came down and beat her up, siding with James. Mickie won and it was fine.
Winner and STILL Women's Champion: Mickie James [*1/2]

Match #5: World Tag Team Championship Match -- Rated RKO (C) vs. Degeneration X
Ah, the match I was waiting for. This one became a brutal, bloody mess by the end, and it's a really big shame that Trips got hurt, because I would have loved to see this followed up on immediately. The match was your standard tag match with a few bits of blood until it took a nasty turn. First, Trips tore his quad doing a spinebuster... and continued the match. It took a slightly downturn after the injury because no one knew what to do. Some people give guys props for continuing on when hurt like this. I tend to take the longview approach that continuing to work when injured is just stupid. End the match in a timely fashion and don't risk making things worse. I will give Triple H credit in that he noticeably did things to avoid doing further damage to his leg like basically twisting while doing the Pedigree so he landed on his other side. But, this match just sort of devolved by the end with Shawn Michaels taking out the ref and Edge and Orton both horribly bloodied. Orton especially. He was COVERED and openly spurting blood from his head. Nasty blade job. The whole thing ended with Triple H pedigreeing Edge on the announce desk, while Michaels delivered an elbow drop off the top rope onto the Spanish announce desk where Orton was. There was no bell, but it was clear that DX took the DQ. An odd match that is both impressive and a little hard to watch when you look at it in the larger context of its time.
Winners and STILL World Tag Team Champions (vis disqualification): Rated RKO [***]

Match #6: Chris Masters vs. Carlito
A little nothing feud and nothing match. Masters is better now, but Carlito didn't seem to care too much. He did do the two-rope springboard that always looks awesome, but otherwise? This was just a filler between the two big matches on the card. It suffered from a surprising out of nowhere win that just stopped the match and didn't feel organic in any way.
Winner: Chris Masters [*1/2]

Match #7: WWE Championship Match -- John Cena (C) vs. Umaga
Going into this, Umaga was basically unstoppable and had never been pinned or made to submit (not sure if he was undefeated entirely -- he may have suffered DQ losses). This match was John Cena getting the shit kicked out of him for 15 minutes with every attempt at offence either failing or doing almost nothing. Umaga would get knocked down and before Cena was up after hitting the move, Umaga was on his feet and charging. During the match, Jim Ross made a comparison between Umaga and Yokozuna that made my eyes roll, because Umaga was so quick and agile. I still hate that he was saddled with this gimmick -- if he had a more 'normal' character, he could have been a consistent main eventer. He had power and speed. I don't know... he was always a guy who really impressed me in the ring for his ability to do almost anything and do it well. You don't see many big guys with his speed and agility and it seemed wasted on a one-note monster sort of character. This match was pretty good. It was a long squash match in many ways with Cena barely holding on and, eventually, picking up the win by a quick roll-up that happened to work. He didn't so much win as get lucky that he survived. Apparently, their rematch at the Royal Rumble was even better. Since I knew that match happened, I expected Umaga to lose via disqualification here. The squeaker of a win was a better choice, because Cena got to walk away with some pride... but that empty kind where everyone (including him) knows that he didn't earn the win really. He got lucky.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: John Cena [**3/4]

This PPV shows off why the brand extension isn't taken too seriously by the WWE anymore. You think cards now are empty and mostly filler? Take a look at this one! It's nice to see midcarders get to work PPVs, but this was a two, maybe three, match show. The other matches were good for the most part, but, aside from the opener, the DX/Rated RKO, and WWE Championship matches, does anyone care? And no one in those other matches made us care here. A middling, mediocre show. But, hey, at five bucks, I'm not complaining.

Show Rating: 5.0 (out of 10)