It’s been a year or so since I last contributed something of worth to Inside Pulse but I really don’t want to get on a soapbox and make a big deal about my return – the chances are that a lot of readers haven’t clapped their peepers on my name before and I’m not going to act like an egomaniac, desperate for the slightest shred of noteriety amongst the IWC. I’m going to quietly take my place beside Iain Burnside in the Anti-IWC and deliver a Ross Report for RAW, one for Smackdown and one for the PPVs that I catch. These reports will deliver commentary and views as to what went down, not a play-by-play, and will grade the matches and performers for their efforts and results. Last time around, I found myself writing articles because I felt obliged to do so, this time I’m doing it because I want to and I really don’t think I can say fairer than that.
Let’s get moving…
The Grading System:
A – Outstanding
B – Good
C – Adequate
D – Poor
E – Piss-poor
I’m not going to get too much into giving of “+” and “-” to grades unless it’s necessary to indicate something being slightly above the grade they’re attributed, mainly because otherwise we’ll end up with the onerous 3 and three-quarter star sort of ratings that, quite frankly, do my head in.
The Match: Carlito (IC Champ) vs Shelton Benjamin
Who we thought would win: Carlito
Who we wanted to win: Carlito
The Finish: Being a sneaky Caribbean sort, Carlito whipped the top turnbuckle cover off in one of the corners and, a few minutes later, managed to avoid a gambolling Shelton Splash. Benjy’s turnip smacked steel and Carlito got a very dodgy looking half-roll up, half-cover for the three count.
The Verdict: This one fell short of expectations, I’m afraid – and I don’t seem to think as much of Benjamin as most do. Here was a pretty good example as to why, because between his admittedly athletic spots, there is no personality, very little in the way of storytelling to link it all together and an inate inability to communicate with the audience. The latter point was made clear during this bout as a sizeable chunk of the audience turned on Sheltz and started backing the reasonably flavourless Carlito. Don’t get me wrong, the match wasn’t bad or anything but the “Shelton is f*cked up” storyline they threw in wasn’t conducive to either men’s best efforts, so they just sort of showed up, got on with it, finished it up and moved on.
Shelton Benjamin: C
The Match: C
The Match: Victoria vs Christy Hemme
Who we thought would win: Christy
Who we wanted to win: Victoria
The Finish: As Victoria charged at Christy, laid out in the corner, Christy did the nip up and over complete with a splits on the top rope for added minge, then into a sunset flip. Victoria, channelling the essence of the mighty Sid, didn’t bother selling it, sat on Hemme’s face, grabbed the ropes and pinned her.
The Verdict: This match was a pleasant surprise, because I expected it to be awful. Christy showed marginal improvement over her WrestleMania performance but Victoria worked very hard to get the match into adequate territory – and succeeded. Indeed, there was nothing really to moan about here, it wasn’t too long, told a decent story (the face wanting revenge, going all out early before realising that she wasn’t in the same physical league as her rival, so having to gut it out and keep trying to come back where she could), the crowd turned on Christy and sided with Victoria, which is always a good thing, and they went with a finish that didn’t neuter the only healthy and accomplished female wrestler they’ve got left on the roster. To my taste, it was just as palatable as the opener and probably helped a little by the fact that I was expecting a D out of this encounter and a B out of the opener. I can only hope that they’ll use Victoria a little more wisely now and do something, ANYTHING, about the godawful remix of her music which sounds like someone slipped the DJ some mogadon.
Christy Hemme: C
The Match: C
Whilst desperately trying to recreate the magic of Rock/Coach with Todd Grisham, John Cena helpfully recapped his last month – “I got drafted to RAW, some stuff happened”. Thanks for that, John.
The Match: Kane vs Edge
Who we thought would win: Kane
Who we wanted to win: Kane
The Finish: Following some hi-jinx with Lita’s throat and a chair (he didn’t get around to Pillmanizing her, thanks to a Snitsky run-in), Kane clamped his paw on Gene-o’s throat. Edge, still doing his homage to Irwin R. Shyster, went for Kane’s noggin with the briefcase but the Big Red Machine was savvy enough to dodge that bullet and our mate Snitsky ended up with a forehead full of Halliburton. One chokeslam later, Kane was the winner and Lita was beating a reasonably slow retreat.
The Verdict: This is a prime example of a match being booked around the performers and the sum being greater than that of the parts. Nothing Kane or Edge did here was particularly noteworthy and the interference could have totally spoiled any flow of other matches, but it all worked out here. Kane looked like a guy who wants to smack some people around and isn’t going to play the sap any more, Edge looked like a jerk who has come to rely on cheap ways out but turned out to be his own worst enemy by being so reliant on backdoor shenanigans. Nothing special, but certainly a slight cut above the previous two matches and a step in the right direction. A lot of people will no doubt think that this result is a travesty and that the company is blowing their chance to solidify Edge as main eventer. I tend to think that if Kane had lost this match, he would have looked like a pussy. The man does enough jobs as it is for a guy with his character, this was a win that he *needed* so I’ve got no problem with him rolling over Edge. As for Copeland – firstly, I don’t think the guy has any main event potential anyway and, secondly, the loss here could have been very easily rectified with his inclusion in the main event and a booking move that would have actually made pretty good sense. More later…
The Match: C+
At this point, I should like to observe that JR actually said during the match, and I quote: “Kane just exposed himself on the top turnbuckle”.
The Match: Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels
Who we thought would win: Shawn Michaels
Who we wanted to win: Kurt Angle
The Finish: Angle slaps the anklelock on. HBK fights it for 20 seconds or so before reversing it. Repeat ad nauseum. Eventually, Kurt hooks it on good and we have the full minute “will he/won’t he tap” spot, culminating in Kurt being spun out of the hold and shoulder-first into the corner post. Angle then eats a superkick and a very delayed count gets a two. Improbably, Kurt gets up and wanders to the top rope, leaping directly into another superkick. Shawn covers and picks up the win.
The Verdict: After everyone and their donkey jumping up and down and proclaiming that this was going to be an absolute classic, it turned out to be a disappointment. The build-up to their ‘Mania match was fantastic and full of tension, whereas the build up to this was comparable to the playground “I beat you”, “You can’t do it again”, “wanna bet?” pre-scuffle. The match itself was full of tension at Mania and mainly devoid of it here. Why? Because most people surely MUST have known that Shawn was going over. Aside from the smooth exchanges at Mania and the general “special” feel of the match, we didn’t have a clue who was going over and that gives you a chance to get behind the guy you want to win and get sucked in to the story as it unfurls. There was a brief moment in this match where Angle nearly got me to believe he had a chance but the result was far too telegraphed for me to get as involved as I did with the Mania match. On top of this, it seemed to me that, in the middle portion of the match, Angle and Michaels both started to meander and looked a little disappointed with how it was going. Still the best match of the night at this point and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, it smacked of WrestleMania XI where Michaels told the world that he was going to go out and put on the best show ever and then failed to do so. So – ultimately – good, at points very very good – but not great.
Shawn Michaels: B
Kurt Angle: B
The Match: B+
Following this, there was a cringe-worthy segment involving Lillian Garcia singing. Moments later, it got even worse when she actually proposed to Big Vis – and then the world was put right by the return of The Godfather, who was used absolutely perfectly. Yeah, it was 10 minutes of my life I won’t get back but, once the Godfather showed up, all was well and surely this has got to lead to a tag team of Vis and the Godfather? Neither of them can wrestle a lick but they’re entertaining enough to carry it and the thought of Viscera doing the Ho Train Avalanche in the corner makes me think this is a definite go-er for the tragic tag scene on RAW.
The Match: John Cena (WWE Champ) vs Christian vs Chris Jericho
Who we thought would win: John Cena
Who we wanted to win: Christian
The Finish: This match enters the history books as the bout with the most roll-up pin attempts ever. Once they were out of the way, all that remained was for Christian to end up on Cena’s shoulders, Jericho to get twatted by Cena with Christian’s feet, F-U to Christian, one two three and that’s your lot.
The Verdict: Cena got a cracking pop when he came out. Shame about that incredibly lame “the champ is here” T-shirt that someone obviously thought was hilarious but is, in fact, about as funny as being punted repeatedly in the crotch whilst being made to watch the Warlord’s greatest interviews. The crowd tried to get into this one, bless ’em, but they found it very hard to pop for Christian and Jericho’s near falls because WWE has, predictably, done very little to solidify either as credible threats for a slot at the top. As much as Jim Ross seemed to verbally fellate Christain during his entry to the ring, the silence of the crowd when Christian got a breathtakingly near fall said far more than the tubby talker ever could. That said, there were enough inventive spots during the match, especially the powerbomb/superplex and the double five knuckle (ten knuckle?) shuffle spot, to keep things engaging and the crowd did like the result, thus avoiding another potentially embarrassing moment a la WrestleMania. Praise be that Cena has learned to *not* give his title belt to a frankly baffled fan who just wants to give it back and get off camera…
John Cena: B
Chris Jericho: B
The Match: B
The Match: DAVE (World Champ) vs Triple H
Who we thought would win: Edge
Who we wanted to win: DAVE
The Finish: With Triple H covered in crimson and DAVE having brought the steel steps into the ring, Hunter went for the Pedigree on the “Animal” – onto the aforementioned steps. Batista had other plans and was fairly physical about them, to the extent of spinebustering the “Game” onto the steel apparatus. Batista then hoisted Hunter up for the DAVEbomb just as Tripper hoisted his sledgehammer with him. Just as we were all groaning and thinking “here comes the sledge shot that’ll bag him his 11th World Title”, DAVE dashed him down to the canvass and pinned him for a spotlessly clean victory.
The Verdict: Yeah, that’s the stuff! I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was very worried going in that it was going to be a disaster. Hunter has been known to get a little stroppy when putting people over and his physique seemed to indicate that he’s been spending less time in the gym than usual but more time down the local Spud ‘u’ Like. Also, concerns were harboured that good ol’ DAVE, as much as I love the big galoot, just wasn’t good enough in the ring to hang and bang with Tripper in a 20 minute + match like this, especially given the generally mediocre efforts put forth at Mania and Backlash. I was delighted to see that Batista did exactly what was needed here and he showed a lot more ring presence than I’ve seen from him since he won the strap – could the guy actually be *gasp* growing into his role? I think it just might be happening and that’s a bloody good bit of news given the fact that the pop he got upon his appearance was the biggest he’s got as World Champ thus far and the reaction to his win was superb. All of that said about DAVE, Tripper held his end of the bargain up admirably and was the man who paced this, held it together and juiced like a trooper. Thumbs up to both guys, I was held and the drama of the match kept me on the edge of my seat for the final 10 minutes.
As to the Edge situation, I was fully convinced for the weeks preceeding and then during the show that, following a hard-fought Batista victory, Edge was going to saunter down the aisle, waffle Batista with a foreign object and collect a very easy pin to claim his first World Title. If Edge is *ever* going to win the big one, they may have missed the best opportunity. It markets Edge as a complete chickenshit who just couldn’t get it done by himself and has to pick the remains of Hunter’s dinner BUT at the least gets him into the top bracket and ready for a rematch with DAVE at SummerSlam. At the least, you end up with a sturdy upper mid-card heel who can become the Jericho for the late 2000s (and, frankly, I think that’s really all that Edge warrants and probably more than he deserves) and, in the meanwhile, you get the belt off DAVE and allow him to have a chase against someone who isn’t Triple H, you’ve also got a potential Tripper vs Edge feud to build up to further down the line.
Personally, I think sticking the belt on Edge and then drafting him to Smackdown this week might be a decent move. Have The Big Show get drafted to RAW (along with Charlie Haas, which MUST happen!) tonight, thusly creating a vacancy in the proposed 6 man on Smackdown. Stick Edge in there and the match can be for the World Title. Booker gets taken out by Hassan, Hassan gets taken out by Benoit, JBL and The Taker go to a double DQ or something shite and then Edge ekes out a sneaky one over Benoit to keep the strap – THEN we can introduce the final draft lottery pick – Batista. Cue a build up to SummerSlam with JBL vs DAVE and Benoit vs Edge along the way at the Great American Bash and I think you’ve got a winner.
Hey, they could always put this in motion tonight…
Triple H: A
The Match: A
Overall: A slow starter, but by the end, I felt I’d got my money’s worth, mainly due to the dramatic and very enjoyable Hell in a Cell outing. Heck, any time DAVE goes over that conclusively, it’s a solid thumbs up and flashes of brilliance during the WWE Title Three Way, along with the enjoyable if slightly disappointing Angle/Michaels rematch made this a generally diverting three hours.
Final Grade: B