Retro Express – Unforgiven 2008

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Coming off their first PG PPV in the “PG era” of WWE, the WWE came up with a new concept for a championship match type. This would be a new match that the WWE, World and ECW titles would all be defended in at Unforgiven, promoting excitement and unpredictability as five men would scramble to try and win the championship. The Championship Scramble saw CM Punk’s World title, Triple H’s WWE title and Mark Henry’s ECW title all in jeopardy. How many titles would change hands? Who would capture the gold? And finally, who would win the unsanctioned showdown between Shawn Michaels and the man that punched his wife at Summerslam? Well, let’s get to it….

 

WWE Unforgiven

Date: September 7th 2008

Brand: RAW, SmackDown! and ECW

City: Cleveland, Ohio

Attendance: 8,700

 

Mark Henry (c) vs Matt Hardy vs The Miz vs Finlay vs Chavo Guerrero in the ECW Championship Scramble match

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Matt Hardy and The Miz were the first two entrants in the match. Both of them got surprisingly big reactions. I know that this pay-per-view took place in Cleveland, where The Miz is from, but it was not like Miz was extremely over at that time. This was when he was with John Morrison and was only just starting to make a name for himself. It’s still nice that he got the big reaction here though.

The first five minutes between Matt and Miz were actually pretty good with not much to report on. There were no falls in the first five minutes with Chavo Guerrero being the third entrant. Chavo immediately pinned Matt with the Frog Splash, to become the interim champion. Chavo was able to pull off a rolling heel kick which was done well. What was not well pulled off was the Miz’s double crossbody on Matt and Chavo, which barely got Chavo. I guess that one could be put on Chavo for not being in the right place but it still came off looking sloppy. Matt ran wild and pinned Chavo with the side effect to become the new champion.

The fourth entrant was Mark Henry with Tony Atlas as his manager. Matt, Miz and Chavo all ganged up on Mark Henry but he pushed them all away. He ran wild and pinned Chavo with the World’s Strongest Slam. He beat everyone up. There was one interesting thing to note as the interim champions tried to retain their titles. Matt Hardy did this earlier in the match but the interim champions wore down the other competitors with long submission holds. Mark got the pin fall on Chavo a minute after he got into the match so we had roughly three or four minutes of Mark Henry putting everyone in bearhugs before Finaly came out. It makes sense for Henry to do that but this completely drained the match of life for a long period of time.

As mentioned, Finlay was the last entrant. He kept hitting Henry with DDTs as he took it to the current champion. Hornswoggle’s distraction led to Finlay hitting Mark with the shillelagh. Finlay and Matt were able to dump Mark over the top rope and out of the equation. Finlay then quickly hit Matt with the Celtic Cross and pinned him to become the interim champion. That’s team work for you everybody!

Matt eventually became the champion again, pinning Miz after hitting the Twist of Fate. Then we got a pretty stupid couple of minutes as we were drawing to a close. Mark Henry is killing nearly everyone in the match with World’s Strongest Slams but Matt broke them up each time. It was the case where Mark hit the finisher, Matt broke it up, Mark moved Matt out of the way and then hit someone else with the finisher. As a fan, I had only one thought in my mind… why don’t you turn around and kill Matt Hardy, so he won’t be able to stop you from pinning these other guys? Mark Henry struck me as someone that was just not learning from his mistakes as Matt kept breaking up the pin! It was just amazing.

There was actually a moment where Mark hit the World’s Strongest Slam on Miz but Miz was up again after like 20-30 seconds! Thanks for the no-sell Miz!

There was a big scramble in the last few seconds of the match with everybody trying to get a pin fall on each other. Matt kept trying to break all of them until the clock expired and Matt was declared the winner. There was a big pop when Matt Hardy won the belt which really lifted the crowd after the last ten minutes of the match really took them out of the scramble. I thought this was an OK Scramble match which did not set too great a precedent for other Scramble matches to follow. It started off exciting and then Mark Henry showed up, which took me right out of the match. Then there was the Matt/Mark incident near the end of the match which made the match seem like a total mess at times. In the end, the crowd was happy so I can’t bash this too much.

Match Rating: **1/4

Jeff Hardy congratulated Matt on his big win and Matt wished Jeff luck in the WWE Championship Scramble match later on.

There was a quick shot of WWE Champion Triple H and World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk warming up backstage. They were the champions going into their respective Championship Scramble matches.

Cody Rhodes (c) and Ted DiBiase Jr (c) vs Shad Gaspard and JTG for the World Tag Team Championship

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The announcers mentioned that Shad was once a bodyguard for “Iron” Mike Tyson. Am I the only person in the world that questions why MIKE TYSON of all people would need a body guard? I watched something recently with him in and he still looked like a pretty mean guy. If I tried to jump Mike Tyson in the street, I highly doubt that he’d need Shad Gaspard watching his back!

This match was a nice little tag team match. Nothing too fancy but it was just your slightly-above-average tag team match which was not really messed up at all. There was a funny incident at the start of the match where JTG was pulled off from Cody by the referee and JTG yelled “What are you doing?” Cody went for the moonsault but JTG moved out of the way. Shad got the hot tag. Cody hit the DDT on Shad while the referee was distracted but Shad would kick out of DiBiase’s pin. JTG and Cody became the legal men in the match. JTG went for the small-package on Cody but Ted rolled it over so Cody had JTG covered. The referee made the pin and the champions retained the titles. The two tag teams got into a brawl. Manu, the son of Afa, made his debut by turning the tide in the favour of the champions. They left and were feeling triumphant.

Match Rating: **1/2

Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho in an unsanctioned match

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Shawn Michaels was shown to be taping up his arm for his big unsanctioned fight with Chris Jericho. They showed an awesome video package to recap the feud between Michaels and Jericho. The biggest thing that I took from this feud was that Jericho was justified in nearly all of his actions during this program. He made the point when he turned on Shawn about how the fans were booing an honest man (Jericho) and cheering a lair (Michaels). He did a tremendous job in making Michaels out to be a villain in nearly every scenario, even when he was supposed to retire at Summerslam 2008. Some of the lines thrown in this angle were awesome.

The WWE were actually just starting out in the “PG era” but there was one “we want blood” sign, which was surprisingly not confiscated by security. It is possible that WWE knew that there might be blood in Jericho/HBK anyway so maybe that’s why it wasn’t taken away. HBK attacked Jericho with punches early on. He took off his belt and smacked Jericho with it. They fought in the crowd. Michaels went for a chair shot on Jericho but he missed. Jericho did a DDT to Michaels on the outside, which looked effective. Jericho pulled out a table and hit Michaels with it. Jericho tried a powerbomb but he ended up launching Michaels into the apron.

Jericho beat up Michaels with a chair. Jericho wedged the chair in the corner. They teased Irish-whipping each other into it. Jericho tried to suplex Michaels through the table on the outside but Shawn got out of it. They then showed Michaels flat-out choking Jericho in the ring with a crazed look in his face. I thought that was a nice touch as it shows just how badly Michaels wanted to hurt Jericho. Shawn went for the Superkick but stopped and then just started punching Jericho in the face! The more I think about it, the more of a good spot this became in my mind. I think it’s changed my opinion because the match itself was a totally different type of match then you were used to from Michaels and Jericho. Therefore, these moments make a lot more sense than if Michaels were to have done it at WrestleMania 19 for example.

Michaels locked on the crossface but Jericho was able to hurdle Michaels face-first into the chair. This obviously added to what happened earlier in the storyline, with Jericho injuring Michaels’ eye. Jericho targeted the eye and with the vision of Michaels impaired a little, Jericho turned it into an amateur boxing match for a while! Jericho did the Irish Whip spot to Michaels, where Shawn did a flip in the corner. It was so great because the flip actually helped Michaels out, as it was done to the same corner where the chair was still wedged in!

Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho but Michaels got the ropes. However, Jericho didn’t have to let go as it was no disqualification. Shawn was able to get under the apron and pull out a fire extinguisher. He sprayed Jericho to get out of the Walls and he hit Jericho with the extinguisher. Michaels took Jericho up the ramp and did a nasty looking suplex on it. It honestly looked like it hurt Shawn more than it hurt Chris!

Lance Cade, who was Chris Jericho’s protege at the time, tried a run in but Michaels cut him off. Cade’s response was to TURN HIM INSIDE OUT with a clothesline! Jericho and Cade targeted Michaels’ taped up arm. Jericho slapped Michaels while Cade helped him. Cade brought in a chair and Jericho smacked Michaels in the arm with it. He planned to break Michaels’ arm by wrapping the chair around it and jumping off the top rope with some move. As he went up, Michaels got out of it and superkicked Cade. Michaels took the chair and hit Jericho with it, causing Jericho to crash into the table. I thought Cade’s involvement was really well done and it led to a great spot with Jericho falling into the table. I thought this was all great.

HBK then unleashed a barrage of one-handed chair shots to Jericho which I thought were great additions to the match. It made Michaels look so great while he was in this state-of-mind. He wanted to beat up Jericho with this chair so much that he decided to do it with one arm! Michaels put Cade and Jericho on the announce table and then hit an elbow drop off the top rope through the table.

HBK then whipped Jericho with the belt. In what was a great moment, HBK then started whipping Jericho in the eye! If you’ll recall, Michaels mentioned in a segment on RAW before this about an eye for an eye and Michaels was legitimately trying to take out Jericho’s. He then laid into Jericho with a number of bare-knuckle blows. Jericho was KO’d and the referee called for the bell. Some of the fans booed and a lot of the fans didn’t get the finish but it was still pulled off really well. In a way, they did contradict themselves with the rules by claiming that it could only end via pin fall or submission beforehand. Then again when thinking about the storyline, the referee probably thought that there was no way that Shawn was going to go for the cover and Jericho couldn’t submit as he was knocked out. When factoring all of those things, the referee calling for the bell does make sense.

HBK still continued to beat up Jericho and he even super-kicked one of the referees. More referees came out to stop Michaels and attend to Jericho. This was all splendid.

The match itself was pretty damn great. I know a lot of people didn’t get how the match was put together. To be honest, I was one of those people when I first watched this. There was parts of the matches which I never really understood until I watched it back recently. It wasn’t a match which everyone got but it was still masterfully put together. It’s unfair to compare this match to other Michaels vs Jericho matches as it was obviously not set out to be like those matches that we saw in the past. However, it was still pretty damn great. The match actually gets better and better the more I think about it. TWO HUGE THUMBS UP FOR THIS!

Match Rating: ****1/4

Legacy were backstage. Cody introduced Manu to Randy Orton and Ted asked if Orton was impressed. Orton said he wasn’t and proceeded to cut an amazing promo on Ted, Cody and Manu. He delivered a great speech about talent and ability, berating them for using tactics that people like Cryme Tyme would use on the street. He was not impressed.

Triple H (c) vs Jeff Hardy vs Shelton Benjamin vs The Brian Kendrick vs MVP in the WWE Championship Scramble match

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This was a championship scramble match mostly revolved around two men – Triple H and Jeff Hardy. At the end of the day, the winner of the match was going to be either one of those two. Therefore, this made everyone else in the match seem irrelevant (except for The Brian Kendrick, which we’ll get onto later). I don’t know if I were to have booked it like this, as the whole point of the match is surely to tease that anyone can win. If you were going to book it as they did, wouldn’t it make for sense for Jeff and Triple H to start off the match? That way, you can get the fans into the match early on and also give Jeff and Triple H experience in wrestling 20 minute title matches with each other, which is important as they would go on to fight each other for the title in the next few pay-per-views.

They went with Jeff Hardy  and Shelton Benjamin as the first and second entrants respectively. It was a decent first five minutes. There was one strange clothesline spot where Shelton went down and it appeared that he thought that they were going to do the double clothesline spot, where they both go down. The third entrant was The Brian Kendrick, who was with Ezekiel Jackson at this time. As he was coming down, Shelton was trying to hit Jeff with a  German Suplex off the apron. Kendrick cut him off. Kendrick was pinned soon after by Jeff Hardy with an alley oop.

This was the part of the show where I thought that the wrestlers themselves really didn’t understand the rules of the match. The Championship Scramble was actually a complicated concept but it was made worse by the fact that the interim-champion Jeff Hardy tried getting a pin fall on Shelton Benjamin. Why would Jeff need to bother getting another pin fall? Why didn’t he do what his brother did earlier on and just wear down his opponents? It wouldn’t have been too big of a deal had it not been for the finish, which we’ll get to later.

Shelton hit the Pay Dirt on Jeff and Kendrick followed it up with “The Kendrick” to pin Jeff Hardy. THE BRIAN KENDRICK became the interim WWE Champion. The Brian Kendrick was really the only one, other than Triple H and Jeff Hardy, that stood out like I mentioned earlier. Kendrick got the pin fall and the entire crowd was stunned as well as the commentators! He then served as the best interim champion in the history of the Championship Scramble! He looked like such a star for the next five minutes or so. MVP was the fourth entrant and ran wild. He went for the dive-by but Kendrick cut him off with one of the most beautiful leg lariats I’ve ever seen. Kendrick then started to do a tremendous job in making himself seem like a legitimate threat in this match. He was the best wrestler in the ring for the time that he was champion and was outclassing everyone! Then Triple H came in as the last entrant…

All of a sudden, things went downhill for Kendrick. Triple H ran wild and pinned Kendrick right away after a Pedigree to become the interim champion. All of a sudden it became the Triple H and Jeff Hardy show, with Kendrick playing the same role as everyone else. Shelton Irish-whipped Triple H into the steel steps. As this was going on, Jeff pinned MVP with the Twist of Fate. There were some boos as this happened, with the some of the crowd seeing where this was going.

In a terrible twenty seconds for Kendrick, Triple H pinned Kendrick again with the Pedigree. Triple H turned around to catch his breath, which apparently meant that Triple H had lost his hearing as well. The reason I say this is because as Triple H was turned around, Jeff hit the Swanton Bomb on Kendrick to a big pop. Jeff then pinned Kendrick to once again become the interim champion. There were only two men that were getting reactions at this point and they were Triple H and Jeff Hardy. If the crowd were going crazy, then Triple H surely should have figured out that Jeff was somehow back in the match and going for something big. Surely that should have forced Triple H to turn around and stop Jeff Hardy from getting the pin, which almost cost him the WWE Championship. But no. Hunter turned around with a shocked look in his face as he was no longer the interim champion.

There was an awesome tower of doom spot with Shelton Benjamin, MVP and The Brian Kendrick. All three men were down. In the closing seconds of this match, Jeff hit Shelton with the Swanton Bomb which was followed by Triple H giving MVP a pedigree. Triple H was going for the cover on MVP with Jeff Hardy stood right in front of him. Did Jeff Hardy try to break up the pin? No. He turned his attentions to Shelton and TRIED TO PIN HIM. Once again, YOU WERE ALREADY THE INTERIM CHAMPION! All Jeff Hardy had to do was make sure that Triple H didn’t pin MVP and he would have won the title right then and there. Instead, he allowed Triple H to get the pin fall and the announcers tried to play it up like Jeff was so close to winning the championship. They were right. He was so close but he failed out of his own stupidity. Jeff Hardy came off looking like the dumbest man alive in this match. He tried to pin other wrestlers while he was already the champion and had no clue of how the match worked in the slightest.

They also tried to go with the angle that Jeff was too hurt to recover and do anything. He was too hurt to break up the pin but he was OK enough to go try a pin on somebody else?

So Triple H got the pin fall at the end, which saw him retain the championship as the last man to get a pin or a submission. Other than the ending, this was a decent Championship Scramble. I would go as far as to call it the best scramble in the show but that is not saying much. It didn’t help the match when everyone involved had at least one moment where they did something stupid or was completely squashed. SmackDown! did not come off looking good following this pay-per-view.

Match Rating: **3/4

Shawn Michaels did an interview with Todd Grisham. Shawn said that he was content with what he had accomplished in his match with Jericho but he did not find closure. He said that if he could, he would deliver the same beating to Jericho every single day of his life. He warned Jericho that the worst is yet to come. For the fans, the best was yet to come as those two would go on to have an incredible match at No Mercy in the following month!

World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk was interviewed by Eve Torres, future Divas Champion. Randy Orton interrupted Punk’s interview. Orton called Punk a fluke champion. They had a back-and-forth until Cody, Ted and Manu all attacked Punk. Kofi Kingston tried to help Punk but he was beaten down too. Orton then ended the beating by punting CM Punk in the head. Orton would tell Legacy that this was impressive. They left.

Michelle McCool (c) vs Maryse for the Divas Championship

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This was not great. Maryse could barely run the ropes in this match. Michelle tried to do a flip arm drag off the top rope but was only just able to land on her feet. They fought on the outside, with Michelle giving Maryse a clothesline off the barricade. The match actually did include a good of bit old ring psychology, with Maryse working on Michelle’s leg. Michelle then worked on Maryse’s leg. The big difference was that Maryse was selling her leg injury while Michelle wasn’t! I then was reduced to uncontrollable laughter after Maryse and Michelle tried a sunset flip. Maryse tried this sunset flip but it ended up with Maryse’s momentum causing Michelle to crush her!

Michelle won with a suplex facebuster for the pin fall. You could tell that the announcers barely cared about this match as about ten seconds after the match, Tazz suddenly just went “ooooh” as if he just realised that the match was over! This was slightly worse then your average women’s match. The only major thing that they messed up was the sunset flip which still brought me a fair amount of entertainment!

Match Rating: *1/4

They then cut to a poll that the WWE were running throughout the night. It was whether the Big Show should have been allowed to be in the WWE Championship Scramble. 77% of the fans said that he should have been in the match. I guarantee that if they ran this poll again in 2016 for whether the Big Show should be in the Elimination Chamber for example, 77% would have voted against having him in!

RAW General Manager Mike Adamle cut a promo. He announced that it looked like CM Punk was not going to be able to make it to the World Title Championship Scramble. He said if CM Punk couldn’t compete, he would find someone else to take his place. He guaranteed that a FIVE MAN championship scramble will take place tonight.

You know what’s funny about Mike Adamle is that I wasn’t really watching wrestling at this time period, so I never watched it during the Age of Adamle. If I was, I totally would have loved him as the general manager of RAW and here’s why. The thing is that I really loved John Laurinaitis, when he was in charge with People Power. I’m a sucker for characters that are so bad that they’re good. Even though he messed up a lot of promos and came out with some unintentionally great moments, there was never a moment where I wanted to turn off the television when Big Johnny came out. Mike Adamle had that same effect where you’re just watching him and you’re waiting for him to come out with a beauty of a line!

He never really messed up anything with this promo but I loved the way that he raised his voice at the end of his promo. Apparently John Cena convinced Adamle that the more you raise your voice, the better your promo will be!

Segment with Vickie Guerrero, Big Show and The Undertaker

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Big Show came out. He was in his singlet. I was about to question why Big Show was coming out in his ring gear when he wasn’t scheduled to compete. As it turns out, he was lobbying himself to compete in the main event and take CM Punk’s place. Then again, Big Show didn’t know that there would be an open spot in the match until Adamle just announced it a minute or so earlier! So again… why was he in his gear?

He started his promo by just saying “Hi” which got some laughs. Big Show offered to be in the main event in Punk’s place as mentioned earlier. He said that at least Mike Adamle wouldn’t have left him out of a scramble match unlike SmackDown! General Manager Vickie Guerrero. This somehow led to Big Show encouraging people to vote in the 2008 elections. I have no idea how he was able to segway into this!

Vickie came out. Vickie told Big Show that she warned him not to cause a disruption or else. She had warned him that he’d either be suspended or fined. He then called him a big, dumb giant and told him to leave. When Big Show refused to leave, Vickie didn’t act on her threat. There were no fines or suspensions. She did not fire him. She basically told him to go away!

By the way, Vickie Guerrero does not fit into the category of “so bad that it’s good.” At this point in her career, she could still barely act. She was god awful with her delivery on this show. At least Big Johnny or Adamle had something to make you want to stay and watch. Vickie was just so bad that it made you think that WWE were actually daring you to turn off the show.

The Undertaker popped up on the titantron as druids made their way down to the ring with a casket. Big Show was just laughing in the ring. Taker said that he promised that he would be coming for Vickie at Unforgiven. He said that the coffin would be her final resting place. He asked her whether she wanted to go voluntarily or by force. Big Show kept her in the ring.

Undertaker got a big pop when he was coming out. Vickie tried to exit via the crowd but Big Show brought her back into the ring. This gave me strange deja vus of Over The Limit 2012, when Big Show brought Big Johnny back in the ring after he tried to escape from the crowd. Anyone that watched that pay-per-view will remember how that went down. As amazing as it is, I got deja vus from a segment that took place in 2012 while watching a pay-per-view from 2008 in 2016!

Taker opened the casket and got in the ring. Undertaker then started taking off his coat and hat. I didn’t realise that Undertaker needed to be in his ring gear in order to take Vickie Guerrero to hell! He grabbed her by the throat and then the Big Show punched Taker in the face. Big Show, did in fact, turn heel on this pay-per-view. It’s just amazing that they did this exact same storyline in 2012 but with Big Johnny replacing Vickie and John Cena replacing the Undertaker. Incredible.

So Big Show beat up the Undertaker in a shockingly agile manner. He then drove Taker into the ring post and threw him into the barricade. He knocked over the casket and then kept punching Taker in the face, knocking him out. Vickie then spit in Undertaker’s face, slapping him for good measure. ALL OF THIS TOOK TWENTY MINUTES OF PAY-PER-VIEW TIME!

Segment Rating: -**

They then recapped a RAW segment with Randy Orton and CM Punk, which led to the attack from earlier.

William Regal tried to convince Mike Adamle to put him in the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble match. Adamle said he’d take his request under advisement.

Batista vs Kane vs JBL vs Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho in the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble match

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Batista and JBL started out the match. I was rather shocked and disappointed by the WWE’s decision to have Batitsa and JBL kick off the match. They could have put in Kane or Rey Mysterio, with Mysterio having a history of pulling off good long match performances. However, they decided that it was best for Batista and JBL to work a 20 minute match. Batista looked blown up at around the half-way point.

They also decided to have Batista and JBL start the match by locking on submission holds. Because if there’s one thing I associate Batista and JBL with, it’s submissions! Batista locked on the Figure Four Leg Lock for about a minute. It was much better when these two were just going blow for blow as opposed to just going for submissions. That brought out the best of them. Batista Irish-whipped JBL into the corner. He got into the ring and waited for the third entrant, who turned out to be Kane.

There was a fine back-and-forth between Kane and Batista. They went for finishers on each other but they were countering each other’s stuff. Then there was a nice little sequence between all three men, which saw Kane pin JBL off a chokeslam. The fourth entrant was Rey Mysterio, who brought life into the match for about a few minutes. He and JBL picked up the pace as Mysterio ran wild. Rey went for the 619 on Kane but it was avoided and Kane turned Rey inside out with a clothesline.

Rey and Batista then teamed up to do an elevated splash, with Rey on Batista’s shoulders. They went for it again but Rey turned it into a victory roll pin attempt on Batista. It’s funny that Batista thought nothing of Rey’s betrayal in this match when a year later, he got so mad at Rey for breaking up a pin fall which caused Big Dave to turn heel at Bragging Rights 2009!

JBL then took advantage of the brief squabble that Rey and Batista had. JBL hit a fallaway slam on Rey, which saw him land right on Batista. The fifth entrant was revealed to be Chris Jericho, who came out selling his match from earlier on in the night. Everyone in the ring was shocked as Jericho came out, with Y2J looking wrecked. Batista then speared Rey and Jericho out of their boots.

In a repeat of earlier on, Kane tried to go for the pin even though HE WAS THE CHAMPION. Fortunately, he only did this once. In the last 45 seconds of the match, Batista hit Kane with the spinebuster and pinned him to become the interim champion. Rey then tried a springboard move on Batista but it was countered into a Batista Bomb. This was a sweet reversal actually. As this was happening though, Jericho sneaked back into the ring and pinned Kane. The clock ran out and Chris Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship!

I’ve got to say that the finish was really well executed. It was not done in such a way that it devalued the title as Jericho had already been beaten up before the match. Jericho was slaughtered by Michaels but still came back out, which put him over. Even if he didn’t do anything in the match, Jericho winning was the whole point of the match at the end of the day. The majority of the match was pretty boring but it did lead to a great finish. It was also not like the WWE Championship Scramble match ending, where Jeff could have done something to break up the pin. Jericho went for the pin as Batista was in mid-move. Batista could not stop what he was doing and go break up the pin. Really well executed finish with a match type which did have its fair share of problems. The finish gets a thumbs up from me!

Match Rating: **1/4

Overall, this was a fine pay-per-view. The Championship Scramble was a complicated concept, as mentioned earlier. Especially with the wrestlers themselves getting somewhat confused by it, it was a very difficult match to get your head around. Despite this, all three matches were different in their layouts and they all provided something different. Matt brought the triumphant new babyface champion, Triple H and Jeff brought the back-and-forth pin falls which lead to an exciting last minute of the match and Jericho brought the shock factor. The best match of the night was Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels BY FAR, but this was not a pay-per-view that delivered a lot of bad matches or anything. With the exception of the women’s match and the god awful Vickie, Big Show and Undertaker segment, this was decent stuff. Thumbs up from me!

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Retro Express – Summerslam 2007

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Summerslam has been established as the WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view of the year, being the Summer equivalent of WrestleMania in the eyes of some. With it given the nickname of the “biggest party of the summer,” there’s clearly a lot of pressure on it to succeed. In the 2007 installment of the show, with likes of Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Edge all out of action as well as the show’s main event riding on the first ever title match between Randy Orton and John Cena, could it live up to the high standards set by previous editions of Summerslam?

 

WWE Summerslam

Date: August 26th 2007

Brand: RAW and SmackDown!

City: East Rutherford, New Jersey

Attendance: 17,000

 

Finlay vs Kane

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The first match was a SmackDown! grudge match between Kane and Finlay. Apparently this feud started when Finlay accidentally spilled coffee on Kane. Yes, THAT’S what instigated this feud. COFFEE. This was the Kane/Chris Jericho feud from 2000 all over again, which saw Kane go crazy.

Kane’s ribs were taped up after an attack by Finlay a few weeks beforehand, which leads me into an important point I’d like to make. If you’re going into a fight against a tactical fighter like Finlay, why would you make your injuries clear by taping up whatever wounds you have as you wrestle? I know this happens all the time in wrestling but a wise tactic to employ would be to try and make your opponent think that your ribs aren’t hurt so he might not target it. It always seems to me that Kane just put a huge bullseye on his ribs.

This proved to be true as Finlay targeted Kane’s ribs throughout the match. The match showcased some decent ring psychology as a result of the rib injury as Finlay used innovative but punishing methods in order to knock the wind out of Kane. I can tell you from personal experience that a punch in the gut is more punishing that it seems.

Kane was dominating early on though while continuing to sell his injury. Finlay’s offense include dropping Kane rib-first on the turnbuckle and doing a bonzai drop to Kane’s gut. As all this was going on, JBL on commentary turned his attentions to Batista vs The Great Khali for a solid minute. Finlay then went for a single leg boston crab. I was about to write in my notes about how this seemed out of place in terms of the psychology, until Finlay actually applied pressure to the ribs by standing on them while locking on this hold. That was a nice little touch.

Kane got back to his feet and delivered an enziguri. He is a big man, so seeing him pull that off is still cool. Kane started a comeback which led to WWE Cruiserweight Champion Hornswoggle coming out to a huge pop. Kane chased Hornswoggle and threw him into the ring. In one of the biggest hope spots of the show, Kane grabbed Hornswoggle for a double chokeslam alongside Finlay but both of them were able to evade it. We were SO CLOSE to seeing Kane chokeslam Hornswoggle! What a spot that would have been!

The finish saw Finlay undoing the turnbuckle. As the referee tried to fix this, Finlay got out his shillelagh but Kane blocked the attack. Kane tried to use it but the referee stopped him. As the referee threw the first shillelagh away, Finlay got another one and whacked Kane in the gut with it. Kane kicked out, hit the chokeslam and won.

A fine opener. I liked this, although I could have done without the comedy in the end with Hornswoggle. This is supposed to be a feud between two mean tough guys. Having Hornswoggle contribute to the finish off the match just took away some of the intensity of it all. Despite that, the crowd were into it for the finish which was good. A thumbs up for the opener.

Match Rating: **1/4

 

We had a Summerslam party going on, with Vince McMahon and the general managers for RAW, SmackDown! and ECW, as well as Jonathan Coachman. RAW was ran by William Regal, SmackDown! was ran by Teddy Long and ECW was ran by Armando Estrada. As sad as it is, this was Armando’s only appearance on the entire show. Vince talked about his illegitimate son (yeah, they were running with this angle at the time) when Santino Marella came in. He claimed to be Vince’s son and then left. United States Champion MVP walked in and buried Teddy Long’s efforts as the general manager of SmackDown!, as MVP was not booked. MVP asked to make an open challenge to Matt Hardy, who he was feuding with at the time. Vince gave it the OK. After Regal hinted at himself being Vince’s son, Vince and Coach began talking about being with women from the UK. All of this was very awkward stuff and none of this “party” was really entertaining at all, with the exception of a later segment involving Cryme Tyme which we’ll get to…

 

Umaga (c) vs Mr Kennedy vs Carlito for the Intercontinental Championship

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This was during the very brief face run of Umaga, as he took on the two heels in Mr Kennedy and Carlito. There was a fan in the crowd who wore a wig and a bag over his head with a sign saying “Carlito’s embarrassed brother!” One of the best gimmicks among the crowd during this show!

I also want you all to take into account that a big main-event run was initially being planned for Kennedy as part of the “illegitimate child” storyline involving Vince McMahon. This was prior to his suspension which ended his push but Kennedy was reportedly scheduled to be taking the WWE Championship from John Cena and going on to face Triple H at WrestleMania. Remember all of this as I discussed how the match went.

Kennedy and Carlito tried to from an alliance with Umaga to take out the other guy but Umaga responded by destroying them both. They tried double-teaming him which failed. Umaga went for his hip attack on Carlito when Kennedy distracted him, which led to Carlito dropkicking Umaga. A strange attack from Kennedy was when he did a running stomp onto Umaga, when the Samoan was laid on the steel steps. I don’t know why Kennedy needed to run to do the stomp when he could have just done it up close to have the same effect.

Carlito tried a roll-up on Kennedy but the referee stopped the count when Carlito’s hands were on the rope for leverage. Now, this is one of the great inconsistencies of WWE in terms of the triple threat. The triple threat match is supposed to be no disqualification right? Well if that was the case, then surely the referee was in the wrong the prevent Carlito from grabbing the ropes? I’ve seen this happen time after time but there appears to be no official stance on whether the referees should be stopping these pinfalls. It’s similar to grabbing the ropes when locked in a submission. It’s no disqualification but the wrestlers go for the ropes anyway. I know it’s a habit-thing but it’s just interesting to think about.

Kennedy hit Jeff Jarrett’s “stroke” finisher on Carlito but Umaga pulled him to the floor. Umaga did the diving headbutt onto Carlito and went for the splash, but Carlito was moved out of the way by Kennedy. Kennedy hit Umaga with the television monitor from the announce table. Carlito and Kennedy ganged up on Umaga and attempted to do a double suplex. However, they themselves were double-teamed by Umaga. The referee started to count the three of them as they were all laid out IN A TRIPLE THREAT MATCH! Jim Ross even stated on commentary: “Referee counting – I don’t know why!” At least Jim Ross didn’t try to cover up how stupid the referee was being. He’s acknowledging the match stipulation inconsistencies head on!

Umaga ran wild until Kennedy sent him to the outside by pulling down the ropes as Umaga hit them. Kennedy hit the rolling fireman’s carry on Carlito and went for the cover but Umaga simply stopped him, hit him with the Samoan Spike and pinned KENNEDY to retain the title.

If you have a triple threat match involving a big monster like Umaga, someone else that you’re looking to push as a main-eventer like Kennedy and another dude like Carlito, why would you beat Kennedy clean in the middle. What was the point in Carlito being there, if he wasn’t supposed to be the one eating the pin? It was not like Kennedy came so close to winning and Umaga stole the victory. Umaga destroyed these two men, hit Kennedy with the Samoan Spike and pinned him. Kennedy and Carlito came off as complete losers following this destruction from Umaga.

It is possible that the reason Carlito didn’t get pinned was because he was expected to feud with Triple H for Unforgiven following this. By that logic, then this would imply that WWE believed at the time that Triple H’s next opponent was more important than protecting a man scheduled for a title run. That’s some logic.

The match itself was not that great. I was not a fan of this match and I felt it was very slow and sloppy. While it is fun watching Umaga destroying people, I felt that this match should have been a lot more competitive than it ended up being.

Match Rating: *3/4

 

Rey Mysterio vs Chavo Guerrero

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This was Mysterio’s comeback match after ten months out of action. He was written off television when Chavo defeated him in an great I Quit match on SmackDown! Rey was back in action and you could tell that this was a completely different Rey Mysterio after ten months out with an injury. As surprising as this may sound, Rey looked way bigger than usual as he came out. He was painted all in silver for his entrance, which all completely disappeared as soon as the match was over.

After a few minutes of feeling each other out, Rey fired up and targeted Chavo’s knee. This was a call-back to the way Chavo had took out Rey in the I Quit match. Chavo quickly returned the favour and went after Rey’s leg. The key to the match was that Rey kept trying to go for his 619 finisher, but his leg kept giving out. Chavo Guerrero did a tremendous job in getting heat and wrestling as the heel. That’s one of Chavo’s greatest attributes as a wrestler. When he gets the heat on a babyface, he does it effectively.

Chavo went for a single leg boston crab and JBL immediately yelled “BALL GAME!” So for the record, JBL was constantly yelling out “ball game” as early as 2007. Chavo got caught up in the tree of woe and Rey started his comeback. In a spot which I’ll always love, Rey went for a moonsault but Chavo caught him. Rey then countered this into a DDT. I’ve seen Rey (and probably Chavo for that matter) perform this spot before and it almost always looks great.

Rey went for a splash but missed. Chavo hit the Gory Bomb but Rey kicked out. This was actually a great near fall and JBL was doing this hardest to try and sell the Gory Bomb, claiming that nobody had ever kicked out of it. Chavo went for the Three Amigos and he was about the deliver the third suplex, when Rey got out of it. I thought that Chavo’s knee “gave out” which would have worked into the story of the match, as Rey worked on Chavo’s knee throughout. Rey went for a 619 and finally hit it on his third try and pinned Chavo. A good match with basic ring psychology and a great story told. Rey was coming back from an injury and had to work through the injury in order to finally put away Chavo. This was solid professional wrestling.

Match Rating: ***

 

Todd Grisham interviewed King Booker. King Booker was set to face the returning Triple H. He congratulated Rey Mysterio on his victory but he still buried Rey’s comeback story. Booker told Triple H to take in his grand entrance as it would be the high point of his night. He vowed to make Triple H bow before him.

 

Beth Phoenix vs Maria vs Mickie James vs Melina vs Michelle McCool vs Jillian Hall vs Torrie Wilson vs Victoria vs Kristal vs Layla vs Kelly Kelly vs Brooke in a inter-promotional divas battle royal for a future Women’s Championship match

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Boy, was this ever something. I know there’s been several bad women’s battle royals over the years but this an ungodly mess. The thing is that I did a review of the fulfill your fantasy battle royal at Taboo Tuesday 2005, and that was actually a decent battle royal. That was a women’s battle royal done right and it had a structure to it. In this inter-promotional battle royal, it was quite the opposite.

Candice Michelle was the women’s champion going into this and her theme was remixed version of her original “What Love Is” theme. This was proof that the original is usually always the best as this remix was a dubstep nightmare. The song featured random air horns, sirens and a woman chanting “raise your hands up” in a song put together by someone that clearly had never done dubstep before. I’ve never been a major fan of dubstep and remixes like this but I promise you that all the great DJs in the music industry would be screaming if they ever heard this attempt at a “tune.”

Candice was sat on this movie set chair in front of the announcers, completely blocking their view. The way that Candice was watching this match seemed so unnatural that it almost seemed that she was acting while watching this match when she could have just… watched the match as if she were a fan to project much more interest from your character.

So the women all came out, the bell and thus began some of the scrappiest brawling I’ve ever seen. Kelly Kelly and Kristal spent a good several minutes in the middle of the ring, brawling in the typical cat-fight style. At times, it was almost as if these girls just froze in that position. As everyone else was doing “spots,” they were just… there. I understand that these two women weren’t the greatest workers in the world, but I expected more of a showing from them considering that this was for a WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH.

Beth was dominant from the get go, eliminating Brooke (who was in fact Miss Tessmacher/Brooke while in TNA) by throwing her to the outside. Looked like it sucked for Brooke. Layla and Maria were both eliminated, with Maria being eliminated by Jillian Hall. After brawling with Kelly Kelly for what seemed like an eternity, Kristal eliminated Victoria. Pretty shocking was the treatment of Victoria in this match. It would have been great if it came down to Victoria and Beth Phoenix in the final two.

Kristal was accidentally eliminated by Michelle McCool, after McCool tried to attack Mickie James. Wasn’t exactly the smoothest of accidental elimination spots. Beth and Torrie Wilson eliminated Kelly Kelly. Mickie’s hurricanrana elimination of Jillian Hall was messed up as Jillian was hung up on the top rope, so Torrie had to intervene to eliminate Jillian. At least at this point in her career, Torrie had the experience and in-ring awareness in order to improvise when things went wrong.

Melina eliminated Mickie James. Michelle was supposed to clothesline Melina over the top rope in order to eliminate but that got botched as well, so Torrie had to intervene again. Beth then eliminated Torrie which led to the final two of Beth Phoenix and Michelle McCool. Michelle was very green at this point in her career but they were still trying to push this woman as the top diva on SmackDown! Unfortunately, she was not really up to scratch at this point. Some very sloppy stuff here in the final two. Beth dumped her out of the ring to win the battle royal.

This was very sloppy stuff, with a lot of these women being very inexperienced at this point in their career. Unfortunately, these women were given a lot of time and spots to do which really hurt their image. Michelle, in particular, was not able to work to a great level. At least there was a good winner in Beth and she really did standout from the crowd, so at least she seemed like a credible threat to the Women’s Championship.

Match Rating: 1/2*

 

MVP vs Matt Hardy in an open challenge

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To show you just how much WWE cared about the women’s match, MVP’s music hit 30 seconds after Beth won the whole thing! MVP, in fact, reminded us that no matter how many women you brought out, nobody paid to see them! MVP was an awesome promo-cutter at this time and he was great with his feud/future tag team with Matt Hardy. MVP talked about drinking drinks that were suitable for a MVP like himself. He challenged Matt to a beer-drinking contest. Matt Hardy came out and Michael Cole mentioned that Matt and MVP were scheduled to challenge for the tag team titles on SmackDown! a few days later. Spoiler alert… Matt and MVP won the belts that night.

As soon as MVP said “beer drinking contest,” the fans started to figure out where this was going and chanted “We Want Austin.” Matt mentioned that MVP brought in a substitute, Evander Holyfield, to replace him in a boxing match with Matt at Saturday Night’s Main Event. Matt said he was going to do the same thing and that his substitute would be a beer drinking champion. The Austin chants grew louder and louder which is funny, because The Sandman was still employed with WWE I believe so it could have very well been him and it would have made sense! Austin was the man that came out though to a HUGE reaction.

This segment was so great as what you expected to happen ACTUALLY happened and it was still great. Matt Hardy even had a look in his face as if to say, “this is going to be great.” Steve Austin got in the ring and prepared for this beer drinking content by warming up! He was running the ropes, doing press-ups and doing star jumps as part of his warm-up! Austin then got out the beers… and then simply hit MVP with a stunner! It was all great, with MVP selling the stunner really well! Austin drank some beer and the people were happy!

Segment Rating: ***

 

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They showed a quick advertisement for WrestleMania 24, which was one the best WrestleManias of all time in my opinion. It’s funny because the logo they used in this advert (the one above) was not the one they ended up going with for the actual show. Interesting how plans change, even with the logos!

 

Next up came a legendary segment, as Cryme Tyme interrupted the general manager party backstage. Shad called Vince McMahon “Vinny Mac,” which disgusted the chairman! The tag team talked about Vince’s illegitimate son and that it could be one of them because Vince and Cryme Tyme both love money. This led to Cryme Tyme singing and dancing to their catchphrase “money, money, yeah, yeah.” Jonathan Coachman and Teddy Long both joined in as Cryme Tyme, Coach and Teddy began a circle of dance around the disgusted Vince and William Regal. JTG then put his hat on William Regal, which was apparently the hat of dance. I say this because after a few seconds of being bewildered by this hat, Regal started dancing with the others! This was not just like a reluctant dance from Regal. He went ALL OUT with his dancing and had such joy on his face! He gave us the jazz hands, he gave us a goofy smile and he gave us the rhythm. He went nuts! After Regal went into his own solo dance, the room went silent. Regal turned around to be confronted by Ron Simmons. Ron said “DAMN” and Regal was left gloomy, having realised what he just did.

This was a FIVE STAR wrestling comedy segment if I ever saw one. This is right up there with the segment on RAW, where Ric Flair played musical chairs. The whole ordeal backstage with all the general managers having a party was hard to sit through but when Regal went through with his dance, it was almost like all went right with the world. Regal has an incredible sense of comedy, coming from his own love of old British comedy. They should have just put the WWE title on Regal for that segment alone. What a great man William Regal is!

 

John Morrison (c) vs CM Punk for the ECW Championship

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This was the only ECW-exclusive match on the night. In a way I felt kind of bad for these two, as this crowd was just dead for this match. With the crowd coming off Steve Austin’s appearance and THAT segment with William Regal, and going into Triple H’s return as well as the two other world title matches, this was really was put in the death spot for the show.

Funnily enough, we got a “15 minutes of lame” sign from the crowd! For those of you that don’t know, John Morrison was running a weekly segment on ECW called the “15 minutes of fame,” where his opponent had to beat him in 15 minutes. In a way, this was like John Cena’s US Championship Open Challenge and gave a lot of ECW talent time. A very productive means to get talent over.

Despite the crowd not really being into the match, CM Punk got a big reaction as he was coming down. Scott Armstrong was the referee for this one, although I don’t remember seeing any of his signature dramatic two counts in this match! CM Punk pulled off a springboard dropkick, which was very cool. John Morrison did a very impactful neckbreaker on the ring apron. John took over with a series of uppercuts. There was a decent spot where Punk did a sunset flip on Morrison, with Morrison catapulting Punk into the turnbuckle. Punk was able to land on the top rope though and deliver a crossbody to Morrison. Good stuff!

Punk delivered a sweet looking enziguri. Morrison followed that with a slick reversal of the Pepsi Plunge, which he turned into a backbreaker. Morrison went for the Moonlight Drive, with Punk countering it to finally hit the Pepsi Plunge. Punk did a moonsault. Punk clotheslined Morrison off the ropes, which I’m always worried will wind up going badly wrong for the one taking the bump. Punk missed a hurricanrana and Morrison rolled him up, barely putting his feet on the ropes for the pin. This was a very lame ending to a decent match but there was a little bit of sloppiness to it from both men. I do remember the ECW title match where Punk won the belt being good though, so at least the chemistry between these two improved over time.

Match Rating: **3/4

 

They showed us a side-by-side shot of The Great Khali and Batista warming up for their World Heavyweight Championship match later on. It was funny as this was NOT the next match on the card!

 

Triple H vs King Booker w/Queen Sharmell

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Being the child that I am, I did snigger at a sign in the crowd which had “King Booger” on it! Triple H had an astonishingly grand entrance for his return match against King Booker, with a video being played which claimed that Triple H had been re-built. Triple H, has in fact, lived out his dream of being the Terminator several times in the WWE over the years. For all the Terminator references WWE has done over the years, you’d think they would have done Triple H vs Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger by now!

Triple H came out to the “King of Kings” intro before going into his normal theme song. Triple H fired up and then beat him up on the outside. Booker took over when Sharmell distracted Triple H. Hunter was distracted, which allowed Booker to do a dropkick to his knee. This played into his quadricep injury which forced Triple H out of action. This was then followed by Triple H delivering a chop block to Booker! Apparently, Triple H is immune to normal ring psychology!

Triple H locked on the Figure Four Leg Lock but Sharmell raked Triple H’s eyes to get Booker out of it. Triple H did the comeback and tried a pedigree, but Booker got out of it. There was a cool spot where Booker tried the scissors kicks which was dodged by Hunter and eventually led to the Book End for a near fall. Triple H quickly followed that up with the pedigree after ducking Booker’s side kick, to pick up the win. An alright match which served nothing more than to get Triple H his big comeback victory as King Booker would soon leave the company after this match. Triple H got a standing ovation from the announcers.

Match Rating: **

 

The Great Khali (c) w/Ranjin Singh vs Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship

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When you consider how much of a draw and how much a success a Brock Lesnar match can be, it’s a constant reminder that there’s no real certain way to book a great match. Of course there are elements featured in a number of matches that make them good matches but you don’t have to be a match that flows in a similar pattern to those matches to be a success. If Brock Lesnar proves anything, it’s that him simply hitting German suplexes on wrestlers throughout a match can still give you one of the most memorable matches of the year. He had two of the best matches of 2012 and 2015 with John Cena and Roman Reigns respectively, and they were both essential squash matches up until the finish.

This Batista/The Great Khali match was also essentially a squash match up until the finish. The difference is that Brock Lesnar beating up or “getting heat” on a wrestler for several minutes can still  be entertaining and draw you into the match as there’s an ever-constant fear that Brock could hurt his opponent. The Great Khali’s offense was NOTHING like Brock Lesnar’s. This attack by The Great Khali did not look painful. It did not look exciting. It did not look coordinated. It was not fun to sit through and it just kept going and going.

Khali beat up Batista and applied the nerve hold. Batista would try to attack Khali but get dropped, which led to Khali going back to the nerve hold. This just kept going on and it was like this as soon as the match started. Batista’s selling was also not too great at this point. I will mention this on future Retro Express reviews but throughout history, Batista working as a babyface and having to sell for a long period of time was very hard to watch. God bless Batista but his selling included getting hit, putting his hands up in the air and doing a Flair flop to the mat. Khali’s attack combined with big Dave’s selling was just a recipe for disaster… and it wasn’t like Khali’s selling was that good either.

Batista got out of Khali’s vice grip and hit the spinebuster out of nowhere. Khali then powered out of the Batista Bomb attempt. Batista tried something off the top rope but Khali caught him and hit a double-handed chokeslam for a near fall. The finish saw Ranjin Singh grab a chair for Khali to use. Khali picked up the chair… and used it. This caused a disqualification for a World Heavyweight Championship match AT SUMMERSLAM. It was not like they built up the disqualification either. Khali picked up the chair and used it successfully in his first attempt to get himself disqualified. A match completely void of entertainment which received a horrible finish for it’s trouble.

Batista took over in the post-match by hitting Khali with a spear. He just kept beating him and beating him with a chair to, at least, try to send the SmackDown! fans home happy.

When I reviewed the Teddy Long vs Eric Bischoff match from Survivor Series 2005, I was so appalled at the thought of that match having made it on a pay-per-view. I initially gave that match a rating of minus one and a half stars but after watching this Khali/Batista match, I was so wrong about that match. At least that match was booked with the knowledge that Teddy and Eric weren’t active professional wrestlers. I am actually going to change that rating for Long/Bischoff to a 1/4*, because at least Teddy was doing his best to entertain the audience by dancing. This Khali/Batista did NOTHING to entertain me and this was supposed to be a World Heavyweight Championship match featuring two of the best wrestlers that SmackDown! has to offer.

Match Rating: -*

 

Vince McMahon, Jonathan Coachman and William Regal were backstage for what was the final backstage segment from this Summerslam party. Apparently the storyline going in was that Vince expected to meet the woman that had given birth to his illegitimate son. As it turned out, the women that wanted to see him was Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young. Coach revealed that Mae Young wanted to have baby with McMahon and Mae leaped onto Vince, who was sitting on a sofa. This got no reaction from the crowd, as William Regal tried to wrestle Mae Young away – and this was quite the struggle for poor Regal.

Coach got Vince up and Vince complained about the taste that was left in his mouth. After a few seconds of licking the inside of his own mouth, Vince admitted that he kind of liked the taste after all. Coach said that this was disgusting to which Vince replied: “Old chicken makes good soup.”

Old chicken makes good soup huh?

 

John Cena (c) vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship 

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I was not going into this match with a lot of hope. This was the first ever pay-per-view match between John Cena and Randy Orton and it would be the first of many, with their last pay-per-view encounter being in October 2014. Having been subjected to many Cena/Orton matches over the years, there was a severe lack of desire from me to see them battle again. That’s probably not fair to do, as I really should be going into this match as I was when I first saw it in 2007. This was the first time that these two wrestled in a big match situation and I should have treated this as if I was a watching it for the very first time. However, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to those matches.

With that said, this was actually a pretty good match and actually one of the better Cena/Orton matches I’ve seen.

Randy Orton was coming out with his “Burn in my light” theme song, which is in my top ten list of favourite theme songs of all time. I absolutely lovely this song. Jim Ross mentioned that John Cena was WWE Champion for 24 of the last 27 months leading into this match. That is an insane amount of time for one to be champion for, and it wasn’t until Jim Ross said that did I realise just HOW MUCH Cena was in the main-event title scene from the five years since he first won the WWE Championship in 2005. That is WAY TOO LONG – even if it is John Cena.

John Cena won the starting lock-up and took Orton over with a headlock, to THUNDEROUS boos. I would say that this crowd was 70% for Orton and 30% for Cena. Cena tried a STFU early on, but Randy got out of it. Momentum shifted back and forth until  Cena missed his signature shoulder block, which led to Orton locking on one of his vintage Randy Orton sleeper holds.

There were moves in the middle but for at least ten minutes, the match was just dominated by Orton leaned on Cena and applying this sleeper hold. Orton did some stomps and locked on the sleeper hold. Orton did a powerslam and went right back to the sleeper hold. Orton did a dropkick and went right back to the sleeper hold. It just kept GOING AND GOING until Cena eventually powered out. If you’re a fan of sleeper holds, than this was the match for you.

Cena did the comeback, hit the five knuckle shuffle but Orton got out of the FU attempt by elbowing Cena twice in the face and then dropping him with the backbreaker. Orton delivered the hangman DDT for a near fall. Orton tried an RKO but Cena got out of it, with this leading to Orton Irish-whipping Cena into the steel steps. A superplex struggle led to Cena delivering a leg drop to the neck of Orton. Cena went for the FU but Orton got out of it. Orton went for the punt kick but Cena countered it into the STFU. Orton got to the ropes and then delivered a RKO OUT OF NOWHERE! This got the nearest of all near falls and at the time, I remember buying this as the finish.

Cena then hit the FU and pinned Orton for the victory. A good match when all set and done. The constant sleeper holds by Orton did drain me but at least it got Cena the big pop for his comeback. They also did their very best to preserve the finishers of both men. Cena did kick out of the RKO but that was literally the only finisher, other than the STFU, that was executed. A change from future Orton/Cena matches, where they would do nothing BUT hit each other with finishers. It was a very slow burn but the finish made it seem that it all paid off. I was happy with this match when all said and done.

Match Rating: ***

 

This was not a strong Summerslam. For what it was supposed to be, it did not live up to the standards set by past and future Summerslams. There was nothing exceptional about this pay-per-view that made it seem like this event was anything other than all the other pay-per-views you saw throughout 2007. Maybe if Randy Orton won the belt in the main event, I might have thought differently. At least if you have that big moment that everyone remembers this show for, it’d at least go down as a memorable event. Steve Austin’s return, while great, didn’t seem that memorable to me as Austin did that with everyone back in the day. Triple H’s return and his match didn’t seem that memorable to me. The World Title match was something that I’ll go out of my way to forget. The WWE Title match will go down as the first of many Orton/Cena matches and as one of the better Orton/Cena matches for that matter, which isn’t saying much. There were two good, solid matches during this show, with the other matches ranging from decent to god awful. For a Summerslam, I expected more….

 

 

… at least we got William Regal dancing.

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Retro Express – WWE Unforgiven 2006

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Unforgiven 2006 was a pay-per-view which I thought way too highly of when looking back in hindsight. It was not like this was a pay-per-view which was bad or anything. If anything, it was just as good as any other average pay-per-view around the time. However, there was a lot of buzz about this particular pay-per-view which I don’t think WWE were able to live up to at the end of the day. This was a show with a lot of memorable moments but the matches that stood out never really stood out as greatly as it probably should have.

WWE Unforgiven

Date: September 17th 2006

Brand: RAW

City: Toronto, Ontario

Attendance: 16,105

Johnny Nitro (c) vs Jeff Hardy for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
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I honestly couldn’t remember who won this match when I watched this pay-per-view at the time. I remember that Jeff did beat Nitro for the title not long after he returned to the company. However, I couldn’t remember if it was on RAW or if it was at Unforigven. I knew that he was the champion going into RAW’s next pay-per-view Cyber Sunday so he must have won it shortly after this.
This was Jeff’s first pay-per-view match back with WWE and he got a huge pop. Nitro wasn’t particularly bad during this time period but this was around the period where Nitro was only just starting to break out on his own. I don’t want to say that wrestling a tag match is easy but in a tag team situation with MNM, Johnny had the help from Mercury and other tag teams to help break up the matches a little. In this situation, Nitro was on his own and he had to be able to work a long match with Jeff. And this was a LONG match. They gave Jeff and Johnny 17 minutes but it honest to god felt like half an hour.
The match wasn’t particular bad but it was unfit for the styles of Jeff and Johnny. They had Nitro get the heat on Hardy for about 75% of the match which was done in the most dragged out way possible. Johnny was given way too much time to get the heat on Jeff. This was proven to be true, as the match actually started out with the fans getting into it with Jeff taking over with arm drags (by the way, Nitro got some serious air-time on these arm drags!). However, by the end of the match as Jeff was making his “comeback”, the fans in Toronto had been taken completely out of the match and there was little reaction until Jeff went for the Swanton Bomb.
Jeff did a lot of wild selling as usually. Nitro drop-kicked Jeff, while Jeff was on the turnbuckle, which resulted in Jeff landing side first on the ropes. That could have ended really badly. Nitro worked over Jeff’s leg for a really long time. Jeff was leaning on the ropes and Nitro kicked in the leg, which resulted in Jeff doing a huge flip and landing on the mat. The next time I watch UFC, I’ll have to see if any of the kicks to the leg will cause one of the fighters to do a flip. What a moment that would be!
Nitro went for the Corkscrew off the top but Jeff moved out of the way. Ironically, Nitro landed on his leg which looked pretty awkward. Jeff started his comeback but as mentioned earlier, the crowd were never really able to get into it until he went for the Swanton. It seemed like a very awkward comeback, with both wrestlers working at very different speeds it seems. Jeff hit the Swanton but Nitro got his feet on the rope. Nitro was kicked into Melina and Jeff went for the roll-up, which was kicked out of by Nitro. Melina then hit Jeff with her boot and Nitro got the pin to retain the title.
I hated this finish for a number of reasons but the biggest issue is the fact that Nitro simply pinned him off the smack with Melina’s boot. Maybe if Melina were to have hit her with the sole of the boot, it would have been enough to put Jeff away. However, at least Nitro should have been able to put his finishing move over. The commentators did try to put Nitro over on commentary and Nitro was able to stay in the match after the Swanton. However, it’s not like anything Nitro ever did led to him winning the match. It’s not like the ten minutes of Nitro working on the leg of Hardy led to the finish. They could have easily done a finish where Melina hit Jeff in the leg with a shoe and then Nitro hit Jeff with his finisher (which I think was the Super Kick) and won. At least the heat Nitro got on Jeff would have been enough to lead to the finish. However, this finish just struggled to get anyone over greatly.
It’s funny because I actually remember hating the finish of a match between Rusev and Dolph Ziggler last year, because Summer Rae had accidentally hit Rusev with her shoe. At least in that finish, Ziggler hit the Zig Zag after the shoe toss in order to win the match. Nitro wasn’t given any of that which hurt his cause.
It was an alright match but it was just a boring match. The ring psychology was there with Nitro working the leg but it just took me out of the match. He just got a bit too much heat on Jeff before the finish. This match should have been a lot shorter. That’s probably the biggest thing that was wrong with this. Putting this on for 17 minutes was just not the way to go.
Match Rating: **1/4
SmackDown! general manager Teddy Long was in the crowd. He was sat in one of the expensive seats all by himself! He was in attendance as if Cena had lost in the main event, Teddy would have Cena signed to his show.
Jeff Hardy was met in the back by Matt Hardy, who was on SmackDown! at the time. I was going to ask why Matt would have been on the RAW PPV but I guess it does make sense with Matt wanting to cheer his brother on. Lita walked in which resulted in the most awkward stable reunion of all time. If you’ll recall, this took place just over a year after the Matt, Edge and Lita incident happened. However, that was not the main reason about why this angle was awkward. You could tell this was an segment that Lita really didn’t want to do, as she felt so uncomfortable when calling Jeff a “screw-up.” She vowed to beat Trish Stratus and said that Edge would beat John Cena to send him packing to SmackDown!, just like he sent Matt packing when he beat him in a Loser Leaves RAW match. Very uncomfortable segment to sit through.
Umaga vs Kane
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The match wasn’t really that bad until the finish, we’ll get onto later. Armando Estrada cut a great promo before the match started. I truly believe that if Armando was brought back by WWE to manage Braun Strowman tomorrow and Armando was given the same gimmick he was given in 2006, Braun would get so over. Armando’s greatest attribute was that he was able to get the fans invested in his client like a good manager should. He didn’t need to cut greatest promo of all time or anything. The best part of his arsenal was his introduction, which everybody at this pay-per-view joined in with. He was so awesome.
The match started off strangely when these two big monsters decided to start the match by engaging in an angry lock-up. I don’t want to bash this match for actually showcasing some traditional wrestling but this really didn’t fit the styles of Umaga and Kane. These two should be starting off the match by just clobbering each other, going blow for blow. That would have helped portray the intensity of these two big men rather than just doing a simple lock-up.
Umaga got the heat on Kane. Umaga even did the Shining Wizard at one point. Kane made the comeback and the fans got really into his comeback. To add to the point I made earlier, Kane just punching away at Umaga in the turnbuckle really got Kane over as these were some impactful looking hits. Now granted, Umaga was usually a great seller back then. However, the point is that it added a lot more to the match more than if these two were to have a standard match. I also liked how Kane’s comeback was effective that it caused Armando’s hat to come off! I repeat, Armando Estrada was so awesome!
Kane hit a dangerous looking belly-to-belly on Umaga which sent him flying over the top rope. Kane and Umaga went into the crowd which caused both men to get counted out. Count out finishes do suck when you put them on pay-per-views but if you follow them up with either an interesting spot or some new development in the feud, you can get away with doing it. However, WWE didn’t give us any of that. Kane and Umaga simply brawled to the back. You expected something big to happen but nothing did. Up until the finish, this was a fine match though.
Match Rating: **1/4
Mr McMahon and Shane McMahon were hanging out backstage, watching a clip from RAW where Vince beat Triple H. He talked about wanting to be “kicking ass and taking names” in their Hell in a Cell match later. He said he was going to play an active role in the match. He buried Canada and basically vowed to decimate DX.
They plugged the theme song of the show, which was “Run” by Days of Fire. I actually liked this song a lot but I was put off a little when Jerry referred to Days of Fire as his new favourite band. Yes, Jerry Lawler was suddenly transformed into a metal rock fan with this new track by Days of Fire. I don’t think Jerry was telling the truth here!
The Spirit Squad (c) vs The Highlanders for the World Tag Team Championship
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This was the closest the Highlanders ever came to winning the tag titles. It’s a shame because I actually liked the Highlanders in this match! It’s just their mannerisms in the ring. When they kept yelling at each other during the match, at least you could tell that they were actually invested in their own gimmick. At least they would go out of there to have fun with their characters, which a lot of wrestlers these days in WWE don’t. They were so into their character that their tag-ins came in the form of slapping each other in the face!
Rory McAllister was the bald one in the Highlanders, with Robbie being the one with long hair. In fact, Jim Ross actually made this clear as soon as they came out! It’s funny as Jim Ross cleared up which Highlander was which for me right away even though they’ve got two different looks, yet Michael Cole never addresses which Uso is which on RAW until one of them gets tagged in during the match.
Mitch and Kenny were the Spirit Squad members involved in this match. They all held the belt at the same time as part of the freebird rule. Even though he came out with the belt on, Nicky (a.k.a. Dolph Ziggler) wasn’t involved in the match. Nothing really exciting about this one. There was on spot where Robbie tried to do a suicide dive to the outside but he hit the floor. The finish was Johnny doing a jump kick on the apron which was followed up by a facebuster by Mikey for the win.
There was really nothing to this match. There was nothing really about this match that really screamed “pay-per-view quality.” It was just a regular tag team match that you would have seen on RAW every week at the time. I will say that the Highlanders sort of seemed like a Scottish version of the Ascension! It’s like if they took Viktor and Konnor from the Ascension and gave the Highlanders gimmick. The chances are, they would have probably had the same result!
Match Rating: *1/2
 
Mr McMahon, Shane McMahon and Big Show vs Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a handicap Hell in a Cell match
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I’ve seen a lot of people online call this the worst Hell in a Cell match of all time which I totally disagree with. I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent here. The whole point of a Hell in a Cell match is for people to use the cell as an offensive ally. The match usually acts as the finale to an intense rivalry, which was the purpose of this cell match. This feud has gotten to a point where all the McMahons, Big Show and DX wanted to do was beat the hell out of each other. If they were to have just had a regular match in that cell, it would have come off so badly. Also if they were to have a simple match, what would be the point of the cell?
This is a huge reason why I do not think highly of the Undertaker/Triple H Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania 28. Those two hardly ever used the cell in their match which took away from the intensity of it. Triple H and Undertaker had built their careers around the Cell so them not using it seemed to ignore the significance of the stipulation. They needed to batter each other just like the McMahons, Show and DX all battered each other.
To summarise this in the best way possible, this was the best you could have done with people like Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and Big Show having to work a 20 minute Hell in a Cell match. There were some things that did take me out the match which I’ll get to later.
The highlight of the introductions though was Jim Ross calling Vince “Satan’s role model.” DX low-blowed Big Show which does actually tie in to one of the issues of the match. A lot of DX’s attacks on the McMahons and Big Show were very comedic, which took away from the intensity of the storyline. After Vince had beaten DX with a pipe on RAW a few weeks beforehand and everything Vince had done to them in this storyline, Triple H and Shawn Michaels should want cold-blooded revenge. Instead, they would have moments like Vince McMahon kissing Big Show’s backside which was absurd when considering that this was in fact a Hell in a Cell match.
Shawn and Vince both got “You Screwed Bret” chants. DX low-blowed Big Show a second time. I did like some of the ways DX were beating on the McMahons though. Shawn used the ropes to launch Shane into the cell wall. Vince and Shane bled early. Triple H used a screwdriver on Mr McMahon. This was a case of deja vu for me as one of the last old WWE pay-per-views I watched before this was Survivor Series 2005, where Triple H did the exact same thing to Ric Flair!
Big Show got back into the mix and the heels took over. Shane hit Triple H with the coast to coast which involved a trashcan. DX tried a comeback but the heels cut them off. Shane looked like he was trying either an Angle Slam or a backbreaker but he was struggling to keep Triple H up for the move. I don’t know if Triple H was sand-bagging him (which seems very unlikely) or if Shane was just struggling to get him up.
Vince tried to induct DX into the “Kiss My Ass” club but DX avoided it. Big Show tried to do a big splash to Shawn but Shawn pulled Vince in the way. DX did the comeback. Shane was taken out after Shawn did an elbow to him, with a chair wrapped around Shane’s neck. They took out Big Show and left him hanging on the ropes. They then proceeded to shove Vince’s face in Big Show’s backside. DX won with a Super Kick by Shawn and then a sledgehammer shot by Triple H which actually broke the hammer.
This was an OK match. This was not the worst Hell in a Cell match I ever saw but I did feel that the heel heat was a bit too long in this match as well. Big Show, Vince and Shane getting the heat on DX was quite boring a lot of the time. However, the match accomplished what it was supposed to. The good guys got their revenge on the heels and finished them once and for all, which was a fine way to end the rivalry. This was probably the highlight of the DX/McMahons rivalry as a whole.
Match Rating: ***1/2
Lita (c) vs Trish Stratus for the WWE Women’s Championship
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This match was very much a treat at the time considering the state of the women’s division for the next decade. Unfortunately, this was also Trish’s retirement match. This was a very fitting end to her career, being able to go out in style by winning the Women’s title in Montreal. This crowd loved Trish and this was all fine to watch.
I cannot say that this was the greatest match between Trish and Lita, as I remember them having a fantastic match on RAW in 2004. However, these two worked very hard. Trish worked a  lot harder than she probably should have, considering this was supposed to be her last match. This was evident as she would take bad bumps to the apron and onto the floor.
The finish was great. Throughout the match, Trish kept going for the Stratusfaction, but Lita kept countering it. In her third attempt, Trish reversed into a sunset flip. This was an awesome spot as from a storytelling perspective, it was clear that Trish knew that Lita was just going to keep countering the bulldog. Trish had to think of something new and she did. There’s so many matches nowadays where the babyfaces would try to do the same move over and over again until it worked. Good improvisation.
Lita countered it into a pin but the ref saw Lita’s hands on the rope. Trish countered that into a sharpshooter, which got an incredible pop from the crowd. Lita tapped out and Trish won the belt on her way out. Lillian Garcia was actually in tears when Trish celebrated.
This was a great women’s match and the two women worked very hard. The crowd was really into it so thumbs up from me.
Match Rating: ***
Randy Orton was being interview by Todd Grisham. A little off-topic but does anyone remember the interview Todd did with John Cena around this time where he turned heel and hoped that Cena would lose the title? That was fantastic stuff!
The promo Orton cut seemed a bit odd. Orton claimed that nobody cared about Trish except Canadians. He called Trish a bitch and said that he would make Carlito his in their match later. Orton did a good job in gaining the heel heat but something just felt off about the whole promo.
Randy Orton vs Carlito
 
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This was a decent match between Orton and Carlito. I was not expecting much from this but I did remember the finish of the match which was incredibly executed. The thing about Carlito is that I’ve listened to a number of old Bryan and Vinny Shows as of late going as far back as 2005. The common trend I noticed when listening back to 2005-2006 editions of the show is that Bryan Alvarez was hugely critical of Carlito. It’s funny because I’ve done a few Retro Express reviews from within that period. In the matches Carlito wrestled in, Carlito was fine.
He was not the greatest worker of the night or anything but there was not a lot of things he messed up. He did mess up one of his springboard moonsaults, where he landed with his elbow slamming into Orton’s face. Orton was actually busted open from the mouth with that botch, with Orton seemingly very annoyed at Carlito.
They continued on for a while. Carlito was still busting out all of these springboards to very little reaction. The finish saw Carlito going for another springboard move with Randy catching him with an RKO in mid-air. Orton made the cover to get the win.
This gets a thumbs up for me. It didn’t blow my mind but these two men worked hard. You have to give them credit for that as Carlito was often flacked for not trying hard enough in the ring. The finish was also tremendously pulled off by both men and it really did add to the match as the finish was be the big thing that a lot of fans remember.
Match Rating: **3/4
Edge (c) vs John Cena in a TLC match for the WWE Championship
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I mentioned that Teddy Long was in attendance earlier. He was there because if Cena lost, Cena would be signed to SmackDown! I actually want to break down the logic of this. Teddy was ecstatic because he may be about to get John Cena from RAW as long as Cena LOST his match. From a storyline perspective, wouldn’t it hurt the SmackDown! brand if Cena had lost before coming into the roster?
This TLC match was a great thing to end the pay-per-view with. After months of this feud between Edge and John Cena, Cena finally defied all the odds to win the WWE title in Edge’s hometown and in Edge’s signature match. This was great and simple storytelling, with an appropriate finish to the feud.
John Cena was heavily booed by this Montreal crowd. Both men took some hard bumps. What’s funny after watching this match is the balancing act from WWE to protect John Cena from getting badly hurt but also having him take big bumps himself. If John Cena were to have taken little to no bumps during the match, it would have not gotten Cena over that greatly by the end of the match. However, they did have Cena take some huge spots including getting pushed off a big ladder by Lita and going through the table on the outside. That’s important as the crowd was never going to get behind a babyface that never “paid their dues” by taking a lot of punishment. The fact that Cena did though just made Cena look like a proper badass. Those fans in Montreal ended the night thinking “I hate Cena but he took a hell of a beating.” That’s what gets babyfaces over in modern day professional wrestling. That’s how Roman Reigns eventually got over when he won the WWE World title on RAW. Sadly that period of overness didn’t last long for poor old Roman.
Both men took some nasty hits during this. Edge hit the reverse DDT on Cena onto the chair, which I believe is a lot more painfully than it looks. Edge was innovative as usually in this TLC match, coming off the barricade and dropkicking the ladder in John Cena’s face. There was one bad botch where Edge was going for the sunset flip powerbomb on Cena but Cena held onto the ropes for too long. It was not as bad as the sunset flip spot that Kurt Angle and Scott Steiner once tried in TNA, which ended up being the finish off that match! That was actually followed up by “that was weak” chants from the Impact Zone! The TLC botch was followed up by Edge powerslamming Cena through the table!
Edge ran up the ladder to jump at Cena which seemed like a bit too much effort, when he could have just gotten on the apron or the turnbuckle which would have had the same effect as him running up the ladder. Cena hit the Throwback on the chair. Cena did a ladder guillotine on Edge which also looks way more painful than it seems. Cena followed it up with the STFU with Edge wedged in the ladder.
There was one really stupid looking spot which did take away from the seriousness and intensity of the match. Cena decided that he should give the ladder a FU onto Edge, which was one of the daftest looking things I’ve seen in a TLC match. Why did Cena have to do a move on the ladder when he could have just hit Edge with the ladder? It was more done for comedic purposes, which didn’t fit the intensity of the match and the storyline for that matter. Cena shouldn’t be messing around by giving Edge this move.
Edge responded with a hard, and I mean HARD, chair shot onto Cena. If you guys ever wondered why they banned chair shots to the head, this is why! I commend Cena for taking such a hard chair shot as it looked proper nasty. Edge hit the spear from one ladder to Cena on another ladder which was a much milder version of the Edge/Jeff Hardy spot from Wrestlemania 17. Cena powerbombed Edge onto the ladder. Cena looked like he was going to win when Lita showed up, who pushed Cena off the big ladder which saw him go through the table. That was the spot mentioned earlier.
Cena got back into the ring and Lita hit Cena with the chair. The only problem was that Lita’s chair shot caused Cena to stumble into a ladder that Edge was climbing, and Cena pushed Edge off it and through another table. Cena FUd Lita to take her out of the equation. It was down to a spot where two tables were stacked on top of each other. Edge and Cena battled on the top of a ladder and Cena hit the FU off the ladder and through the two tables. Cena took down the title and won the match.
This was a home run for WWE in terms of ending the feud on a high. There was a lot of issues with this match like the botch mentioned earlier. However, it was as good of a TLC match as you would have gotten out of Edge and Cena at the time. It actually exceeded my expectations at the time and it really did just work so well.
Match Rating: ****1/4
Overall, the pay-per-view was saved by a very eventful second half. The first few matches were very forgettable but it really did pick up with the Hell in a Cell match. There were very memorable aspects about the final four matches, even with Randy hitting the RKO counter on Carlito. This will go down as the show where Vince McMahon competed in a Hell in a Cell match and got his arse kicked. This will go down as the show where Trish Stratus retired after one of her greatest matches ever. This will go down as the show where John Cena hit the FU on Edge and put him through two tables. As a memorable show, this was successful as the most important matches were memorable. It’s not such a tragedy that the Highlanders vs the Spirit Squad wasn’t.
I will not be as bold as to say that this was the best pay-per-view of 2006. There were a number of pay-per-views that surpassed it. However, it’s very plausible to suggest that this was possibly one of the best RAW exclusive shows of the year. RAW came off looking really strong following this pay-per-view, which was really important going into new storylines. Now granted, not all of the storylines that followed were too great. However, fans in 2006 would have been filled with buzz knowing that there would be new storylines to dig into. If you can get your fans excited like that with a pay-per-view, you did a damn good job.
THUMBS UP FROM ME!

Retro Express – Survivor Series 2005

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with a look back at Survivor Series 2005. I bought the DVD for this recently and I decided to give it a review. For me, this was an exciting time for the WWE because I was hugely invested into the SmackDown! vs RAW storylinem which was a big part of this pay-per-view. At the same time, the WWE was still saddened by the recent death of beloved wrestler Eddie Guerrero. Eddie was scheduled to be in the main event but was replaced by Randy Orton. The Survivor Series match was the main focus but there were other things to look out for as well. There was the Last Man Standing match between Triple H and Ric Flair and there was also a WWE Championship match between John Cena and Kurt Angle, with Angle’s new manager Davari as the special referee. I watched it in full and here’s my FULL review of how good I thought the show was.

 

WWE Survivor Series

Date: November 27th 2005

Brand: RAW and SmackDown!

City: Detroit, Michigan

Attendance: 15,000

Pay-Per-View buys: 400,000

 

Booker T vs Chris Benoit in Match One of the Best Of Seven Series for the Undisputed United States Championship

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This match was basically your average Booker T/Benoit match and it really was nothing special. Maybe that’s a bit harsh as this was not a bad match but Benoit and Booker were wrestling each other OVER AND OVER again at this time. Hell the two wrestled on the SmackDown! before this, to set up this match. The announcers even plugged Match Two, which would take place two days later!

Because of that and the fact that this was the first of seven matches, it really wasn’t supposed to be that big of a match. The matches would intensify as they’d go further into the series. This was kind of treated like your average TV match. There was not a lot of heat from the crowd, which is understandable as there wasn’t a lot on the line as this point in the series.

It was slow-paced which I was fine with, as it fit the purpose of the match. This match featured a lot of submissions which makes sense with the story of the series. They spent ages working on parts of the body in order to weaken their opponent for the next match in the series, which is fine.

It’s amazing how differently the matches are put together in WWE nowadays, when you watch this match back. It’s the small things like Chris Benoit fighting to avoid a simple move like a neckbreaker which added to the match. Another aspect of the match that I liked was the use of continuity, when it comes to the storyline. This series was put together after Benoit and Booker pinned each other at the same time with a roll-up. This match featured a lot of roll-ups and small packages, and even had one in the finish.

Benoit went for the three German suplexes but Booker countered after the first one. Benoit went for it again and was able to hit three, which got the crowd buzzing. Sharmell got involved to initially stop Benoit from hitting the diving headbutt. Booker won with a Oklahoma roll-up, with Sharmell holding his feet on the ropes. It was an OK match with little crowd reaction until the finish. Out of everything they could have went with as the opener, this one made the most sense.

Match Rating: **3/4

Eric Bischoff was throwing punches backstage, ahead of his match against Teddy Long. Vince McMahon showed up to wish him luck. Eric vowed that he would beat Teddy Long, RAW would beat SmackDown! in the Survivor Series match and Kurt Angle would beat John Cena to win the WWE Title. Eric said that he was going to screw Cena, which lead to John Cena showing up to make a joke about Eric screwing guys. Vince then proceeded to ask Cena the following question… “What’s good in the hood?” Amazingly, that WASN’T Vince McMahon’s most shocking line from this segment. I won’t repeat what he said next but I will say that it’s astonishing what Vince McMahon can get away with saying on pay-per-view. All I’ll say is that after Vince said this, Booker T appeared saying “Tell me he didn’t just say that.”

Trish Stratus (c) vs Melina for the Women’s Championship

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This was RAW’s Trish against SmackDown!’s Melina. SmackDown!’s Tazz and RAW’s Joey Styles were doing commentary. It was so great to see a shot of Tazz and Joey on commentary with both of them laughing. It’s funny because they had so much fun burying each other and their shows on commentary!

This storyline started after MNM abducted Trish and Melina challenged her to a match. In the match, Trish did a big dive to all of MNM and it looked like she hit her head on the barricade. Trish went for the hurricanrana but Melina forgot to catch her for it. Melina did a kick where it looked like she kicked her arm. MNM went for the Snapshot on Trish but the referee saw it and threw them out. Melina hit an awful spear on Trish. Melina was supposed to go for the clothesline while Trish arched her back but Melina was too late to do it. There was a botchy finish where Trish went for the top rope bulldog and got the pin. Either Trish jumped too far or Melina was just in the wrong position. It could have been both their faults but it did not come off well.

This was a below average women’s match, to put it nicely. Melina wasn’t really that good around this time as she was just starting up as a wrestler. With SmackDown! not having a women’s division, Melina didn’t have a lot of experience under her belt going into this. Trish tried her hardest to get a good match out of her. I can’t criticise this match too much as Trish did try hard and there wasn’t a lot you were going to be able to do with this. The match itself was an interesting concept, as SmackDown! didn’t have a women’s division and this was an inter-promotional title match. However, in execution, it wasn’t too great.

Match Rating: *1/2

 

Triple H vs Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing match

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Triple H attacked Flair during his entrance. It’s weird seeing Flair get beat up while he was still in his robe! Always styling and profiling!

Flair turned things around with a kendo stick. They went into the crowd. Flair took a lot of bumps on the floor which looked pretty nasty. This also included a spinebuster onto the floor which Flair should not have been taking on the outside!

Triple H used the screwdriver on Flair’s head as Flair was bleeding like crazy. Whatever you think about Triple H, he was a tremendous heel. They showed a shot of Triple H with a sinister smile on his face and it just suited his role in the match. Triple H got on the mic and told Flair to stay down before he put him down. Flair responded by grabbing Triple H in the “family jewels.” Triple H went for a pedigree but Flair countered and put Triple H through the Spanish announce table.

Flair bit Triple H in the face and on the leg. There was a bit of clever in-ring psychology where Flair worked on Triple H’s legs which would obviously prevent Triple H for being able to stand on his feet. This may seem very small but there’s so many last man standing matches nowadays where the men involved would just hit big move after another big move until someone wins. This match saw Ric cleverly working on one of Triple H’s weak points, which meant something with regards to the stipulation of the match. Not to mention that it plays into the storyline of Triple H and Flair, as Flair obviously knew about Triple H’s quadriceps injury from before and how badly it effected “The Game.”

Flair locked on the figure four leg lock and grabbed the ropes. My feeling during this was that the referee should have started the count as Triple H’s shoulders were on the mat. Triple H made a comeback and hit THREE PEDIGREES but Flair got up each time. This infuriated Triple H who hit Flair with the sledgehammer to win the match. This gets a thumbs up. A really good last man standing match which was different in its layout. There was a genuine feeling that Triple H was going to really hurt Flair with a lot of the stuff that he did, which added to the match. I liked it. I’ve seen better Last Man Standing matches but this was great in its own way.

Match Rating: ***3/4

 

Randy Orton tried to do a team meeting with Team SmackDown!, with Batista not there. Batista had been chokeslammed through the announce table by Kane and the Big Show. Batista interrupted and there was a whole deal about who should be a leader. JBL was very loud and very awesome during this segment when coming to the support of both these men!

Edge and Lita came out. They were not booked for the show. Edge was the Money In The Bank briefcase holder at this time. Edge announced that he would be introducing the “Cutting Edge” talk show. Edge said he was going to ask the questions that nobody else would. Interestingly, there was a sign in the crowd which said “CM Punk is the next Shawn Michaels.” I actually think Punk had just been signed to the company at the time as part of its developmental territory. It’s interesting when looking back in hindsight, because Punk actually teamed with Michaels at the next year’s Survivor Series. As noted by Punk, Punk got much bigger reactions than Shawn or Triple H at that Survivor Series!

Edge ripped Detroit and ripped the Detroit Lions. Dmitri Young was in the crowd, who was playing baseball for the Detroit Tigers I believe. Edge ripped on Young. He called him fat and NFL players “over-paid” and “steroid-users.” He made me laugh when he called him “Young Mark Henry.” Also funny in hindsight as Mark Henry soon returned on SmackDown! shortly after this. Dmitri responded by calling out Edge on never winning the WWE title. Another ironic moment as shortly after this, Edge won the WWE title at New Years Revolution.

 

John Cena (c) vs Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship with Davari as the special guest referee

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The fans’ “You Suck” chants were censored. This came after a segment on RAW where Kurt got annoyed at the fans for the chant. It was an incredible segment where Kurt just completely snapped over these chants he had endured for years.

The match saw Davari constantly fast-counting John Cena. At least this made it very clear early on that Davari was attempting to screw John Cena. Motivation established right off the bat. Perfect.

Kurt worked on the legs. Davari kept Cena off of Angle. This was a very split crowd, with the fans being 50/50. This was probably not great to hear considering that Cena was the one that had the disadvantage. The crowds were approving of Davari attempting to screw Cena! This proved to be true when Cena went for a suplex and the cover, but Davari didn’t make the count and he was mostly cheered!

Angle locked on the Ankle lock and Cena got the ropes. Davari kicked Cena off the ropes to more cheers. Cena slapped Davari to try and get Davari to disqualify him but Kurt stopped him from doing so as Kurt wouldn’t have won the title if he DQd him. Davari was knocked to the outside.

A new referee came out but Angle’s cover on Cena was kicked out. There were some big “Cena Sucks” chants at this point. Cena’s comeback at this time was a shoulder barge, two clotheslines THEN a sit-out powerbomb. Cena hit the five knuckle shuffle which Coach referred to as the “Five Knuckle Waffle.”

The new referee was taken out. Angle hit the low blow and the Angle Slam but Cena kicked out. My question at this point was why didn’t the referee DQ Angle as he was coming down to the ring? I see this all the time but the new referees that come out during these matches always seem to ignore everything else that previously happened in the match. It was amazing.

Angle missed the moonsault which saw Cena roll towards the turnbuckle, so Angle wouldn’t hit him. Angle took out another referee. Angle tried to revive Davari but SmackDown! referee Charles Robinson came out. Cena took out Davari and then hit the FU on Angle for the win. This was a very TNA-like main event finish which got to the finish in an incredibly complicating way. Did we need to see Kurt taking out all those referees during this match? I was not a fan of the finish. The match was fine but the wrong man won this one. I always thought that Kurt should have won the title during this period as he was tremendous.

Match Rating: **3/4

 

Eric Bischoff vs Teddy Long

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When Jonathan Coachman and Michael Cole on commentary were one of the better aspects of the match, you knew you were in for something special!

There was two referees, one from RAW and one from SmackDown! This was a repeat from Taboo Tuesday, where there was RAW and SmackDown! referees for the tag team match that started the show.

I’m truly amazed that this match made it on a pay-per-view. This match was so bad. This wasn’t even a match. I guarantee you that if I went up to two people on the street and told them to re-enact what happened this match, they would have been able to do it much better than Eric and Teddy Long. The match got “boring” chants. Eric kept trying to attack Teddy but Teddy got out of the way of these attacks and started dancing. This went on for about a few minutes. Eric then got the advantage and did one of the worst looking sleeperholds I’ve ever seen. Teddy took his shoe out and hit Eric. The Boogeyman came out and attacked Eric with the pump-handle slam. Teddy Long pinned Bischoff.

This was SO awful that it’s not even funny. The funny thing is that Eric was supposed to be the heel in this match but to me, he came off as the babyface. Teddy kept trying to run away from Eric. Teddy had somebody in his corner that did distractions. Teddy used a weapon. Someone interfered on behalf of Teddy. What logic is this for a wrestling match?

Someone looked at Teddy Long and Eric Bischoff and thought that they needed to be in a pay-per-view match for SURVIVOR SERIES!

Match Rating: 1/4*

 

By the way, the man in Teddy’s corner was in fact Palmer Cannon. He was the representative of the “network” for SmackDown! that introduced the minis division. I did a bit of research and it turns out that Palmer was trained by Killer Kowalski! He got his first “big break” with Chaotic Wrestling, where he was called “Big League” Brian Black! He in fact won a 28-man royal rumble to win the New England Championship. He won the world title before vacating the championship when he signed with WWE.

It actually gets better as he debuted a German character for “All-Star Wrestling Association” called Otto Von Schwartz. Apparently, this was his idea. He actually had some kind of German heritage and used this for his character. With this character, he feuded with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine!

He was with WWE for about a year or so until he asked for his release. He was actually supposed to feud with the debuting Miz! He never wrestled a match while on SmackDown! He actually went into MMA a few years later and also wrestled Larry Zbyskzo in 2010!

An eventful career for Palmer Cannon. The man trained by Killer Kowalski that never wrestled on SmackDown! but wrestled Greg Valentine and Larry Zbyskzo on the independent scene and even took part in MMA. Quite a career!

 

Batista, Bobby Lashley, Rey Mysterio, JBL and Randy Orton vs Shawn Michaels, Chris Masters, Carlito, Big Show and Kane in a SmackDown! vs RAW Survivor Series elimination match

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This was a pretty great Survivor Series match. In an article for SLTD Wrestling, I actually put this as #3 in my top five Survivor Series matches of all time. I rate this one highly as I really loved the SmackDown! vs RAW storyline. When watching it back, I don’t think it was as great as I thought it was when I last watched it. However, it was still a great match which was definitely a worthy main event.

Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels started off the match. I forgot how well Michaels and Orton used to work together. There was great chemistry between the two of them. The first elimination came when Carlito ran in to get dominated by Bobby Lashley. I couldn’t help but smirk when writing that last sentence! The referee attended to Carlito when Kane chokeslammed Lashley. Shawn Michaels made the cover and got the pin. I remember listening to Michael Cole on the next few episodes of SmackDown! raving about how great a performance Lashley put on during this match! HE WAS THE FIRST MAN ELIMINATED!

Kane and Rey Mysterio had a strange exchange afterwards. Batista got the hot tag and ran wild. Batista pinned Kane with the Spinebuster. Big Show hit the chokeslam but Batista kicked out. It took a double chokeslam from Big Show and Kane to eliminate Batista. Big Show was then put over to an insane degree when he was eliminated. It took two Clotheslines from Hell, a 619, a RKO and a senton to pin the Big Show. They made it so that each move barely effected the big man!

Michaels took a hard fallaway slam on the outside which took him out of the match for a while. There was a cool spot where Rey tried a springboard moonsault but Carlito caught him. JBL made a blind tag to Mysterio and after Carlito dropped Rey for his finisher, JBL blasted Carlito with the Clothesline From Hell for the pin. That was very well executed. Thumbs up for that one.

Rey Mysterio pinned Chris Masters with the 619 which lead to a three-on-one advantage for SmackDown! It was Mysterio, JBL and Orton against Michaels, who had just been taken out with a fallaway slam. There was an awesome spot where Rey hit the 619 on Shawn. Rey went to “drop the dime” when Shawn super-kicked Rey in mid-air! It was not as great as when Shawn did it to Shelton Benjamin on RAW in 2005 but this was a great spot!

Michaels then eliminated JBL which resulted in the final two being Michaels and Orton, which is exactly how the match started. JBL went to hit Michaels with the chair but Shawn took him out with the Sweet Chin Music. Randy took advantage and hit the RKO to win the match for SmackDown!

The SmackDown! roster came out to celebrate with Randy. Undertaker’s gong went off and we saw a flaming casket on the stage. Undertaker came out of it and headed to the ring. Undertaker took out all of the roster and Randy headed to the back.

This was a really good main event to the show. I thought there was a great dynamic between RAW and SmackDown! When it was down to Shawn on his own against three members of SmackDown!, you wanted to root for Shawn. It was funny because RAW was led by a heel general manager which made RAW seem like the heels!

Match Rating: ***1/2

 

Overall, I think it was an OK show that was mostly saved by the main event and the Last Man Standing match. There was Benoit/Booker and Cena/Angle, which were both fine I guess. There was a number of questionable booking decisions like having Eric Bischoff vs Teddy Long on the show at all. However, there was a satisfying end to the biggest storyline in the company which did help. Even though there wasn’t much to the PPV other than the Survivor Series match and Triple H vs Ric Flair, I don’t really think it mattered at the end of the day. This gets a thumbs up.

Do Triple H And Stephanie McMahon As Heels Make Sense?

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I love a good old heel dictatorship being in charge. It gives the heroes an authority to rebel against. For every ying, there’s a yang. For every hero, there’s a villain. Stacking the deck against the good guys is supposed to help the careers of those put against the bad guys. Every win for the good guy is meaningful and every win is a win for the fans. However, does the Authority truly make sense as a heel faction and have they actually hindered the rise of babyfaces more than it’s helped?

The whole dynamic of Triple H and Stephanie as heels is very confusing in itself. Sometimes, this leads to the Authority being more balanced in it’s decisions therefore damaging the image of them as a evil dictatorship. When Randy Orton and Seth Rollins were both the hand-picked champions of the Authority, little was done to actually help them remain champion. The only time Triple H ever got physically involved to try and help Randy was at Wrestlemania 30 and he failed. Triple H and Stephanie never did anything to help Seth Rollins, even when he was against Sting who they clearly didn’t want as champion… or did they?

That’s the whole issue. On the night after Summerslam when Sting returned to WWE to challenge Rollins, Triple H was very angry over it. He was so mad that he gave Sting a WWE World title shot. As amazing as it sounds, that’s not the big thing as this could be passed off as Triple H making the decision in the heat of the moment. However, Hunter and Steph don’t seem to lift a finger to help Seth in his fight against Sting. In fact, they actually helped the good guy Sting at Night of Champions by putting their chosen champion Seth in a second match that night with somebody else!

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The Seth Rollins stuff is sort of passable if you want to go with the storyline that Triple H was just testing Seth the whole time. However, look at Seth’s opponents when he was champion. Randy Orton betrayed the Authority’s trust and attacked their golden child Seth several times. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have been constant enemies of the Authority since they attacked Triple H on the night after Wrestlemania 30. Brock Lesnar defied the Authority several times and violated Stephanie’s orders when he attacked EVERYONE on the night after Wrestlemania 31. John Cena helped to get the Authority out of power! Sting played a pivotal role in getting the Authority out of power as well and has feuded with Triple H. Kane was trying to work the Authority and Seth Rollins with the split personality deal. Everyone of these men would give the Authority reasons to help Seth, but neither Triple H or Stephanie made any effort to do so. It just creates a lot of plot-holes as the Authority shouldn’t want any of these men to be champion.

The reason for that is Triple H and Stephanie are trying to portray a two-faced authority figure that plays a corporate good guy but are heels deep down. That balancing act is detrimental to their character and the product itself. For example, on RAW the Authority teased a WWE World title match. They swerved the paying crowd by saying they’re going to get that match, but not that night. Lance Storm made a great point on Wrestling Observer when he pointed out that when the Authority teases the crowd for not getting more than they paid for, they go home disappointed. It’s almost like a giant middle finger to the paying audience that made the effort to come to your television show and it’s telling them to save up their money and go to bigger shows in the future where they might get more then they paid for. That’s detrimental to your live television show ticket sales as it turns a live audience off from ever coming back.

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A lot of you might be thinking “But Tom, they only say that to get some heat from the audience.” However, Triple H and Stephanie are both very active in making public appearances. They have to go to schools, conferences and sporting events and these promotional events are important in keeping up the image of the company. They are on the RAW segments talking about Susan G. Komen and talking about inspirational fans which is also confusing. Alright, I understand that there are certain times when the fans are supposed to tell the difference between kayfabe and reality. However, if these fans that you’ve told no to in kayfabe are the same people you have to encourage to donate to charity, it’s just going to send off the wrong message.

In the public eye, Triple H and Stephanie are well received and have a good reputation. On RAW, they are both going out of their way in segments to convince wrestling fans that they are assholes. However, in order to portray the two-faced gimmick mentioned earlier they still stack the deck against the heels. All of this makes their characters very difficult to understand. One week, they are mocking the fans and their favourites like Daniel Bryan. The next week, they are putting heels like Seth Rollins in tough situations. It’s almost like a guessing game every week over whether they’re faces or heels, which is not what they should be doing.

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That’s not even the worst part of Triple H and Stephanie acting as “heel” authority figures. The reason Vince McMahon worked so well as the foil for Stone Cold Steve Austin is because in the end, you knew Stone Cold was going to win. He was the ultimate hero that rebelled against the tyrant Vince McMahon and Austin would always win. The fans knew that either Austin was going to get his hands on or outsmart the evil boss that everyone hates.

On the other hand, the Authority doesn’t work as strongly as Vince did because they rarely actually lose. When the Authority has been in a feud, how many times have they won the war? Who has actually flat out won a feud with the Authority? Daniel Bryan? Sure, he beat the Authority at Wrestlemania 30 to win the WWE World title. However at the end of the day, Daniel got hurt and the Authority got what they wanted. Dolph Ziggler and the rest of Team Cena at Survivor Series? Nope. A month later, the Authority was brought back into power making those victories seem meaningless. He who laughs last laugh the loudest.

It’s detrimental as you’ll struggle to make stars out of these babyfaces because you’re sending the message out to the fans that these good guys will never beat the Authority. You wonder why the WWE’s top three babyfaces right now are Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Kane? You wonder why the top three babyfaces are two men that have never won a world championship and a 20 year veteran? You wonder why it’s three babyfaces that have already lost feuds with the Authority? Because the good guys hardly ever win against the bad guys. Good promoters shouldn’t be beating the good guys that are making money for them through merchandise.

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What’s weird about all of this is that this whole issue could be easily dealt with if they were babyfaces. That way, Triple H and Stephanie can be promoted as strong as they are and it wouldn’t hurt the product as they are making the popular decisions for the fans. It’d make it easier for Triple H and Stephanie to cut these promos on how great Be A Star and Susan G. Koeman are as they’re the good guys. They can give fans more than they bargained for and it’d make sense. They can stack the deck against the heel champions and it’d make sense. I’d prefer Triple H and Stephanie McMahon as heels I believe they are better in that role, but it’d make a lot more sense if they are babyfaces considering how obsessive WWE are at maintaining their image. It’s just interesting when you look at it.

Team CesarKO – Could This Be What Cesaro and Randy Orton Need?

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The ideas that men with the physiques, characters and natural wrestling abilities of Cesaro and Randy Orton are floundering around the mid-card position of WWE television is pretty astounding. Randy Orton is a 12-time former World Champion. Cesaro has had an insane amount of popularity and has put in a lot of tremendous performances this year. However, these two great athletes have somehow found themselves in the position where a lot of mid-card talent have been in for years. The Miz, Wade Barrett, even Big E and Kofi Kingtson before they took off with the New Day gimmick. All of these men had been in the mid-card spot for years with no direction and have been the victims of undivided attention by the WWE writers. Somehow, Cesaro is still in this position after all of these years. Somehow, Randy Orton is now in that position as he was even supposed to be on the Hell in a Cell pre-show until he pulled out this week.

It’s hard to believe that these two are in this position. However, I do have a solution which I think will revitalise the careers of both Cesaro and Randy Orton and it actually relates to a past Wrestling Flashback I’ve done in the past. Anyone that is familiar with the SmackDown! six will know that putting individuals together in a tag team scenario will do a great job at getting both those individuals over AS individuals. Even though these individuals are in a tag team, at the end of the day they are individuals. During the SmackDown! six, you had six individuals elevated as singles stars with that tag team scenario. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were singles stars that got over as a tag team. Rey Mysterio and Edge were the same. Eddie and Chavo were probably more close to being a legitimate tag team than the two other two teams but it still elevated both men to World title status eventually.

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The point is that it never hurt any of those men going into the tag team division as it would help them out as individuals at the end of the day. Considering all six of the men in that “SmackDown! Six” became world champions, I think it helped tremendously. With the two of them currently in that mid-card purgatory just waiting for a direction, it wouldn’t hurt Cesaro or Randy Orton to enter that tag team scenario themselves in order to further their singles careers.

I know what you’re thinking. Of all the wrestlers you could team up, why Cesaro and Randy Orton? You’re right. Due to their different personalities, a tag team with these two does seem a little out of place. However, their wrestling styles surprisingly compensate each other nicely. Cesaro and Randy Orton have both been shown to be innovative in the ring. Cesaro is a genius in terms of his wrestling while Randy Orton is always coming up with inventive ways to hit the RKO out of nowhere. In fact, Cesaro and Randy once teamed up before to deliver probably one of the best RKOs of the year with this beauty on RAW.

As soon as I saw that finisher one the first things I thought was “these two should be a tag team.” There’s something about these two which I think could sublimely in that tag team scenario. The two of them are in the middle of nowhere anyway so why not at least give these team a shot? These two as a tag team against the New Day could result in some incredible matches on PPV. It could be a short be sweet partnership that could help elevate the Swiss Superman and the Apex Predator once again.

WWE 2K16: Curb Stomp Into RKO Confirmed – Video

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here once again with WWE 2K16. The release of this game is almost here. What I have for you today is a video uploaded by WWE Games YouTuber TonyPizzaGuy, one of my favourites in the WWE Games community. It’s a video showing off one of the new OMG moments introduced in WWE 2K16. It’s the Curb Stomp into the RKO counter that we saw at Wrestlemania 31, where Randy Orton hit this incredible RKO for the win over Seth Rollins. I heard that this was going to be in the game a few days ago and today I’ve seen the video. It looks very well done by 2K and a nice little edition to the game. More and more ways to hit a glorious RKO outta nowhere!