Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WWE Super SmackDown 8/30/11

WWE Super SmackDown 8/30/11
August 30th, 2011
Intrust Bank Arena, Wichita, Kansas
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Fresh from a weekend joust with Hurricane Irene here in my humble state of Rhode Island, I'm back to do the live report for a special live edition of SmackDown tonight. It was an interesting few days living in the dark ages again with absolutely no power in most parts of the state (including the entire island that I live on) from Saturday to Monday afternoon, but I'm more than glad to be back in the cool air-conditioned, lap-top chargin', HD Smackdown watchin' days of the present. We're in Wichita, Kansas tonight for a special live Tuesday edition of Smackdown and we've got several big-time match-ups advertised for the show, including two World Heavyweight title matches with one contested inside of a steel cage. WWE champion Alberto Del Rio was also scheduled to face Sin Cara (apparently being played exclusively by Hunico indefinitely from now on) but because of real-life work visa issues Del Rio had to return to Mexico and will miss the show tonight. Should be a great show regardless as Smackdown usually winds up being the best show every week without hesitation. So stay tuned to this page and remember to refresh during every commercial break for all of the live updates, semi play-by-play, and a healthy dose of smark analysis from yours truly.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open with a quick video package that immediately informs us about Triple H replacing Kevin Nash for the match against CM Punk at the Night of Champions PPV. I'm sure the match will be good, but I was hoping they'd go the slow-burn route on that match and build it up for a big show like Survivor Series of Wrestlemania next year. Nash apparently wasn't cleared to wrestle because of some minor injury. The jokes write themselves here, so I won't even bother.

John Cena's music hits and the former champ comes out to his usual mix of cheers and jeers to open the show. He hypes the show tonight and name-drops everything from the XFL to Smoky Mountain Wrestling to the Shockmaster and beyond. Fun references for the old-time fans but I'm not sure the younger people in the crowd even know what those things were. Cena calls out Albeto Del Rio, but instead we only get Ricardo Rodriguez. He informs Cena that he's going to have to wait until Night of Champions to get his hands on Del Rio. Ricardo goes all Stepford Wives on us and can't stop announcing Del Rio's name over and over again like a malfunctioning android until Cena tells him to shut his trap. He shoves Ricardo to the floor and suddenly Wade Barrett's music hits.

Barrett makes his way out with a mic of his own to chastise Cena for beating up announcers and trying to hijack Smackdown already in the opening minutes of the show. Barrett seems to think that Cena hasn't learned his lesson from their previous feud, so he's gotten a match signed for tonight between the two of them. Cena levels with Barrett, telling him that he's got a bright future in the company, but he's been on Cena's hitlist for a while and tonight he's more than happy to fight him for a bit of revenge. We take a commercial break before jumping right into the match.

John Cena vs. Wade Barrett

The bell sounds as we return from the commercial break and both men lock up. Cena takes to the offensive immediately, brawling with Barrett and planting him on the mat with a bulldog as a big Cena chant starts up. Cena gives Barrett a big powerslam and then tosses him into the ropes. Barrett bounces off of them and delivers a spinning sidewalk slam to Cena, building a bit of offensive momentum for himself for the first time in the match so far. Cena delivers a pair of shoulder-blocks and a fallaway slam before hitting the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He delivers the Attitude Adjustment to Barrett and pins him clean at 3:18. I can already hear the smark masses complaining about SuperCena dominating a young star in an almost squash-like fashion, but I think that may be a bit of an overreaction. The loss doesn't hurt Barrett very much since he's already lost to Cena many times, and while it would have been nice to have atleast made Barrett look like a moderate challenge for John, I for one don't really think Barrett is ready for that kind of main event push yet. Still, there was really no need to make Barrett look like such a tool here, it's not like Cena needs the heat. The match itself was fairly decent as these two have clearly become comfortable with one another in the ring. *1/2

Backstage Matt Striker asks Mark Henry who he prefers to face for the World Heavyweight title tonight, Christian or Randy Orton. He doesn't seem to care, that rebel. Striker asks a silly question about what a cage match is like and Henry explains the dangers before promising that he'll win the title tonight.

Daniel Bryan vs. Sin Cara

From now on, you're going to have to find out for yourself who's playing Sin Cara under the mask each week, because I've grown tired of having to find out each week. I'm pretty sure it's Hunico tonight though, again. Should be fun to see how this version of Cara works with Bryan, as the original Mistico worked a fun match with him a few months back on Smackdown. Cara takes it right to Bryan in the opening moments with a flurry of quick arm-drags. Bryan nails him with a running boot that sends Cara to the outside floor, and Bryan wipes him out moments later with a big tope suicida! Fireworks already. Back in the ring Bryan nails Cara in the corner with a big running dropkick. He stretches Cara out with the old Mexican surfboard (oh irony) and then transitions into a nasty combination surfboard/guillotine choke briefly. Bryan gets back-dropped out of the ring and Cara fakes him out on the first dive attempt before going through on the second one with a big Asai cross-body. He tosses Bryan back into the ring and covers him after a Guerrero-like tope con hilo for a two count. Bryan back-flips out of an Irish whip and both men collide in the middle of the ring with simultaneous cross-body attempts. Back on their feet they trade stiff precision kicks and Cara gives Bryan a big Olympic slam. He hits him with a springboard somersault senton followed by a lionsault moments later and that's enough to give Cara the win at an even 5:00. You know that old saying about how some workers are so good that you can give them five minutes and they'll almost always come out with a great little match? That's the sort of praise we used to save for guys like Benoit, Guerrero, and Malenko on Nitro, but nowadays the name is Daniel Bryan. Just a flat out fun five minute sprint. ***

After the match both men shake hands in a sign of respect....when suddenly Cara turns on Bryan and beats him down! The crowd is shocked, and frankly so am I. Sin Cara, a heel? I suppose this could be a way to set up an angle for the "real" Sin Cara to return and reveal this one as an imposter known as Hunico, but I'm not entirely certain that's the direction they're heading in.

Backstage Matt Striker is with the new tag team champions, Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne. He asks about how they feel and Bourne cuts a clean-cut Leave it to Beaver like little promo about how excited they are. Kofi talks about great tag teams in years past (Rockers, Demolition, Harlem Heat) before teaching Striker how to do the "Boom Drop" taunt that Kofi does. I'm all for a revitalized tag team division, but it's going to require more than just throwing two midcard singles wrestlers into a thrown-together team to accomplish that I think. We go to commercial and when we return we see a poll up on WWE.com currently asking who has the better advantage inside of the steel cage tonight between Randy Orton and Christian.

After a brief video package detailing the Orton/Christian rivalry, we join Matt Striker with Christian backstage. Christian says that he's resilient and a survivor, and that tonight he's going to fight for what's right whether the people like it or not. He says he doesn't need to be the World champion to validate his career, he just wants to be the champ for the sake of it.

Beth Phoenix/Natalya vs. Kelly Kelly/Alicia Fox

Aksana, complete with cheesy 80s saxophone "romantic" music in the background, does the announcing duties here. I'm not sure what they see in this girl. Kelly and Natalya start us off with Kelly playing the fiery spark-plug as usual. Beth knows her routine by now though and immediately plants Kelly on her face before tagging Beth in for a double-shoulderblock and a near fall. Beth beats up on Kelly for a bit with forearms until Alicia Fox gets the tag and hits a big cross-body off the top rope. Alicia lays in a forearm and then takes out Beth with a sweet reverse falling elbow off the second rope before knocking Natalya off the apron. She lays in a stiff kick on Beth, but Beth fights back with a pair of knife-edge chops and then delivers a huge Glam Slam on Fox for the win at 2:03. Is it just me, or is the Diva's division actually improving dramatically from a workrate perspective these days? Beth and Natalya looked great in the win, Kelly looked as fiery as ever, and even Alicia Fox looked great, bouncing all over the place and taking bumps. One of these days they're going to give these ladies some actual time to work a match and I think people are going to be surprised by how good it could be. *3/4

They're making a remake of Straw Dogs? Straw Dogs?! Is nothing sacred? I can't imagine there were people knocking down Screen Gems Production's doors demanding a modern take on a film as dark and deeply disturbing as Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece is.

When we return from the break, Teddy Long is in the ring for the contract signing between CM Punk and Triple H for their match at Night of Champions. He introduces our COO Triple H and he comes down to the ring with a mic of his own. He says that he canceled the match between Nash and Punk at a board of directors meeting last night in favor of booking Punk against himself. He says that the WWE board was kind enough to let him take off the suit for one night to take out CM Punk, and he calls Punk out for the signing.

The sounds of "Cult of Personality" ring out in the arena as Punk makes his entrance down to the ring with a pipe-bomb/microphone of his own. He sits down casually at the table in the middle of the ring, props his feet up and asks Triple H why he's even here to sign this contract and if there are any new stipulations in it that he should be aware of. Triple H tries to apologize for the abruptness of the match change, but Punk says it doesn't matter because nothing Hunter does surprises him. Triple H says that Punk has disrespected his family and Punk keeps trying to butt back into the conversation while Triple H tries to explain to Punk how he bent over backwards to try and make Punk happy. Triple H claims that he's the one that got Punk's theme change to Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" to go through and that he helped pay for it. He also claims that he was the one to approve of the new Best in the World CM Punk shirt that has been selling like hotcakes. Triple H says he's trying his best to juggle all of his responsibilites, but Punk disrespected him as a man and now Punk has to deal with Hunter like a man (in the ring). Good promo work from Hunter here. Punk says he doesn't want to face the new Triple H, he wants to face the old one---the cerebral assassin. Punk says Vince couldn't separate his personal and business issues, and now Triple H is falling into the same pattern.

Punk says that although everyone thinks he hates the WWE, he in fact loves it. He wants change in the company and he wants things to be better for everyone in the company. Punk says he wants to be the catalyst for that change, but Triple H isn't buying into his rhetoric. Triple H says that Punk's real motive is to be on top as "the man", and that his whole humble man-of-the-people shtick is bullshit. Hunter says he thinks that Punk is alot like he used to be when he started out in his career, mercilessly crushing everyone in his path in order to make it to the top, but the difference in how Punk does this is that Punk backdoors and soft-talks his way to the top instead of being a man and taking action like Hunter used to. He accuses Punk of playing the role of a martyr, and Punk doesn't seem to completely disagree. Punk says that everyone should be able to tune into the WWE and enjoy the show, not just the half and half that Hunter just mentioned. Punk says he tested Triple H with a trial by fire, but he failed and is just another egotistical stooge like Vince McMahon, hiring his old buddies like Kevin Nash to come back and do his work for him. Punk says this match has been a long time coming and finally signs the contract. Triple H takes the Vince McMahon comparison as a compliment and Punk cuts him off again for another diatribe about wanting change in the company. Hunter says unlike Vince McMahon, he won't take a beating from Punk because it's good for business. He says this is personal, and he's going to kick Punk's skinny fat ass.

Suddenly the old NWO music hits and Kevin Nash comes roaring down the entrance way. He steps into the ring and tosses the table aside and Punk goes right to the attack on Nash. Nash gives him a big boot and Triple H shoves him, so Nash shoves Triple H right back and we cut to commercial. Glad they didn't forget about Nash in this whole equation, as it would have been a bit strange to not have him appear tonight. When we return we see a clip of Striker trying to interview Nash during the break, but he has nothing to say.

Sheamus vs. The Great Khali

Last week we saw big Zeke make Khali tap out, can Sheamus do the same tonight? Sheamus tries a side headlock to start but Khali slams him and then stomps a mudhole into him in the corner. He rips some of the bandaging off of Sheamus' ribs and lays in some huge open-palm chops. Khali tries the nerve hold, but Sheamus fights it off quickly. He brings it to Khali with big forearms and then takes Khali down with a dropkick to his knee. Sheamus ties Khali up in the ropes and lays in big hammer-fists, following it with a running knee to the jaw moments later. Sheamus takes Khali down with a flying shoulder-block off the top rope and sets up for a big move, but Jinder Mahal hops into the ring and nails Sheamus from behind to give him the DQ win at 2:49. Shockingly decent until the DQ finish, Khali seems to work well with these big guys like Zeke and Sheamus (who looked great again here). The beatdown continues on Sheamus after the match, but he regains the upper hand and winds up giving Mahal the Celtic Cross. *

The steel cage held high above the arena begins to come down as we prepare for our first World Heavyweight title match. We also take a look at the new Triple H film "Inside Out" as well as the upcoming Randy Orton three disc DVD set. Some good stuff on the horizon, call me crazy but I actually think Inside Out looks like it might be halfway decent, and a DVD set for Orton has been overdue for a long time.

World Heavyweight Title Steel Cage Match
Randy Orton
© vs. Christian

These two have had several outstanding matches this year, and if wasn't for the incredible John Cena/CM Punk rivalry, I think Orton and Christian would have had any "Feud of the Year" award in the bag. Christian immediately tries to escape the cage, first trying the door and then trying to scale the cage, but Orton reels him back in and nails him with a beautiful dropkick for a two count as we cut to commercial. When we return we see both men trading blows as Christian again tries to scale the cage. Orton pulls him down again and plants him with a huge back body drop. Christian fights off the second-rope DDT by launching Orton into the cage face-first. Randy counters with a great roll-through cradle for a near fall, but he turns around and walks right into a powerful spinebuster from Christian for a near fall of his own. Christian delivers a reverse neckbreaker, but again Orton kicks out, so Christian tries climbing the cage again. He makes it to the top turnbuckle where he jockeys for position with Orton for a bit until Orton takes him out with a huge superplex off the top rope as we take another commercial break. When we return we see Christian crawling on his knees towards the door to try and escape, but Orton pulls him back in by the legs again and stomps on him. Christian gets sent face-first into the steel cage and gives Orton a chance to catch his breath. Orton goes into his Viper/finishing sequence mode and looks for his usual snap powerslam, but Christian sees it coming (psychology!) and evades the move only to be bounced off the steel cage again and then given the same powerslam anyways for a two count. Christian counters out of another second-rope DDT attempt so Orton tries to launch him into the cage like a lawn dart, but Christian counters into a big reverse DDT for yet another split-second near fall. Christian tries to scale the cage and Orton tussles with him again only for Christian to knock him back down to the mat and then deliver a huge frog splash from the top rope for yet another heated near fall! This match has gone into overdrive baby. Christian tries for a spear and Orton leap-frogs over him. He tries to connect with the RKO but Christian has him scouted again and he evades him long enough to bounce off the ropes and plant Randy with the spear! Yet still Orton kicks out again. Christian sets up for the Orton-esque punt but misses it. Christian feints a leaping cross-body from the second rope as he sees that Orton has already set him up to counter that move into the RKO (which if you remember correctly, is exactly how he beat Christian in one of their previous encounters) and he scales the cage again. Orton grabs him though and delivers a sort of muscle-buster neckbreaker for yet another near fall. Orton counters the Killswitch and tosses Christian into the cage and then plants him with the second-rope DDT. He sets up for the RKO, but Christian counters it again and Randy slams to the mat. Christian scales the cage and climbs to the very top of the cage. Orton meets him on top as they both straddle the top of the cage, trading left and right hands. They struggle again on the top turnbuckle until finally Orton is able to deliver the RKO to Christian from the top rope and that's enough for Orton to retain at 12:15 (shown). Good God all mighty, I stand corrected, this IS the feud of the year because these guys yet again went out and delivered an absolutely unbelievable match with just an insane amount of counter-wrestling, psychology, fighting spirit and everything else you could ever want in a wrestling match. This was off the charts fantastic, and another home-run from these two that stands right up side-by-side with their Over the Limit and Summerslam matches in an incredible three-way tie for the best match in this feud yet. You owe it to yourself to watch this match people. ****1/4

After the match is over, Mark Henry's music hits and he lays down an epic beatdown on Orton as we go off the air.

Bottom Line: This was one hell of a show, simply put. Tons of great stuff to be seen here, from the fun Daniel Bryan/Sin Cara match, to the exciting war of words between Triple H and CM Punk in their contract signing right down to an absolutely incredible steel cage main event that's an easy contender for free TV match of the year, and you've got yourselves one of the best episodes of Smackdown I've seen in quite some time. Brilliant show all-around really, can't say enough positive things here and it's an enthusiastic Thumbs Up obviously.

Score: 10/10

Monday, August 29, 2011

No RAW Coverage Tonight

Due to Hurricane Irene knocking out the power for most of Rhode Island for the last few days, I won't be able to cover RAW tonight live. I may or may not still review it later this week when I get the power back (should be getting the power back tomorrow but I've got to cover the live Smackdown first for 411), but for tonight there won't be any RAW coverage due to that damned Irene. Thanks for understanding everyone and be safe.

--- X/Colin R.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2011 PPV 5/3/11

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku PPV
May 3rd, 2011
Fukuoka International Center, Fukuoka, Japan
Attendance: 6,500

New Japan rolls into Fukuoka tonight for their big annual May PPV event, Wrestling Dontaku. Tonight we've got some major match-ups on the card, including Hiroshi Tanahashi defending his IWGP Heavyweight title against longtime rival Shinsuke Nakamura as well as both a Heavyweight and Jr. Heavyweight tag team title match to go along with a CMLL Middleweight title match among other goodies tonight. This show is long as hell too, clocking in at a little over four hours. Really stacked card honestly and I can't wait to watch it, so let's jump right into it again.

Manabu Nakanishi/Tomoaki Honma/Hiromu Takahashi vs. Jado/Gedo/Killer Rabbit

I see we only have one of the Killer Rabbits on the show tonight instead of the two man crew they threw out a few weeks back. Typical throwaway NJPW PPV opener here in which Honma does a bit of his offense before letting young Takahashi in to show some fire. Finally old man Nakanishi hops in and does a nifty double suplex spot with Jado & Gedo before he makes Rabbit submit almost instantly when he locks him into the Argentine backbreaker at 4:36. I don't really get the logic of even booking matches like these on PPVs as usually you'd want something fast-paced and fun that goes atleast 10 minutes to open a show, but then again I'm not booking New Japan now am I? 1/2*

TAKA Michinoku/Taichi vs. Tiger Mask IV/KUSHIDA

Well this is an interesting little match up of both experienced and young juniors here. Imagine if Taichi had been around ten years ago for Kaentai? He would have been like a wrestling version of Ken Jeong. KUSHIDA immediately botches a leap to the top turnbuckle just as the match begins unfortunately, and we're off with a whimper. Always fun to watch TAKA and Taichi work together, but KUSHIDA is sloppy again and TMIV is showing no interest (so basically he's just doing his normal thing). Taichi winds up winning the match after giving the Black Mephisto to KUSHIDA at 6:43. Another throwaway filler match, but it had a few fun moments atleast. *1/2

Takashi Iizuka/Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Wataru Inoue/King Fale

Another filler match here, but atleast it's the last one before we start heading into the good stuff on this card. Not much structure to this match at all, as it's mostly just listless brawling around the ring mixed in with a few random tags and double-team maneuver attempts. Tenzan beats down on Iizuka for a bit to start before we go into quick and random tags again. Iizuka nails Fale with his metal glove (and the announcer screams as if he just shot him in the face) and then Yano finishes him off with the Oni Koroshi powerbomb at 7:57. Another filler match but atleast this one had somewhat of a point to it (getting more heat for Iizuka/Yano/Ishii with the heel tactics finish). Still completely skippable. *

CMLL World Middleweight Title Match
Jushin Liger
© vs. Mascara Dorada

Liger actually won this belt one year ago to the date after defeating Negro Casas on last year's Dontaku show. Dorada has shown some promise from the work I've seen of him both in Japan and Mexico, and Liger is practically incapable of having a bad match. Liger's rocking the all white hair look tonight and Dorada wants to play mind games early, threatening to walk out on the match. He hops back into the ring in stylish fashion and we're off. They do some nice mat and foot work for the opening minutes until Dorada tries to get fancy and Liger wrenches him into a Mexican surfboard. He transitions into a camel clutch briefly, but Dorada counters into a hybrid Indian deathlock/bow and arrow stretch submission. He follows up with some flashy springboarding work before sending Liger to the outside floor with a 'rana. He teases a dive at first and then turns around and takes out Liger on the second somersault plancha attempt. Wow, we even get a replay! I can't remember the last time I saw a replay in the middle of a match on a puro show. Dorada scrambles to another corner but Liger then wipes Dorada out with a plancha of his own. They briefly re-enter the ring but of course Liger is sent out immediately again and this time Dorada takes him out with somersualt plancha (and he even lands on his feet). Unsatisfied, Dorada delivers a moonsault from the turnbuckle to the floor on Liger and then waits for him to be counted out. Liger makes it back in at 19 though. Dorada hits a spectacular corkscrew senton on Liger, but doesn't even try to pin him. You should have struck while the iron was hot my dear Dorada. He delivers an old fashioned moonsault but that doesn't satisfy him so he goes up for another one, but Liger gets his knees up this time. Liger gives him a Liger Bomb and the brainbuster to retain at 10:04. This one started off shaky, as Liger looked a bit frail and sloppy tonight for once and caused some confusion in the early going, but once Dorada decided he was just going to dazzle this crowd until they forgot about it, everything came together. Tons of awesome and innovative stuff from Dorada, and the story of the match was perfect with Dorada continuously trying to one-up Liger with more and more flashier aerial moves until he took one chance too many and Liger pounced on him. The sheer willpower to make this match work by Dorada elevated this above what could have been standard fare. ***

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi)
© vs. No Remorse Corps (Davey Richards/Rocky Romero)

Well now, this looks like it could be a barrel of fun. I believe this is Davey's first match in New Japan since last winter. Taguchi and Richards start us off with some nice wristlock exchanges. For those American ROH fans who aren't fans of Davey Richards style, this match might turn you around on him because he plays the arrogant and rambunctious foreign heel perfectly here, flipping off the crowd and jawing with them at ringside with a shit eating grin on his face all the while. Apollo 55 dominate early and tease simultaneous dives, but instead they just throw them into the crowd. Taguchi launches himself off of a guard rail to give Davey an axe handle in a nifty spot. Tag rules go out the window as NRC dropkick their opponents onto the floor on the other side of the ring before taking them out with perfect simultaneous tope suicidas. Devitt starts getting worked over in the corner by the heels, but the crowd just sits on their hands. This is why Fukuoka crowds often times suck. Nevertheless both teams provide an excellent tag team contest here. Heel Davey Richards is so much better than babyface Davey Richards. Taguchi tries for the three amigos suplex but Davey counters out of the last one. Taguchi and Davey trade some great counters and a German suplex from Davey gets a two count. They try a doomsday device leaping knee but that doesn't work either. Taguchi is working his ass off and making himself look like the star of his team instead of Devitt. Davey eats a sickeningly stiff kick and both men tag out to their partners. Rocky gets sent to the floor and Devitt goes for the tope, but Davey trips him up for some massive heat. My god, is Fukuoka coming alive? Devitt wipes everyone out with his usual swan-dive plancha and then heads back to the ring. Davey hits a sick springboard DDT on Devitt, but the Irishman kicks out at two. Taguchi breaks up another doomsday device and then both Davey and Rocky wind up inadvertently kicking each other's leg as Taguchi scrambles in another creative spot. Devitt hits a nasty double-stomp off the top on Rocky, but Davey breaks the pin up briefly only for Taguchi to wipe him out with a plancha. Finally Devitt ends it with the Bloody Sunday on Romero to retain at 17:41. This was downright spectacular, like a crazy fireworks show with four guys launching themselves all over the place with no regard for their own safety and mixing and matching all kinds of incredibly innovative double-team spots and sequences. Easily one of the best straight-up two on two tag team matches I've seen this year. ****

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard/Karl Anderson)
© vs. CHAOS/NO LIMIT (Tetsuya Naito/Yujiro Takahashi)

Naito and Takahashi defeated Tenzan and Inoue a few weeks back to earn this title shot, and these four are very familiar with each other. They start off with each team trading frequent tags, trying to get some serious offense in. Bernard overpowers Naito with ease despite his speed. He nearly kills Naito with a sick powerbomb out of the ring right onto the edge of the ring apron (AKA the hardest part of the ring. Not much in the way of heat in this match unfortunately though, as the crowd seems bored by the extended beatdown that Naito is taking, which lasts nearly ten minutes. Finally Takahashi tags in and gets a bit of life out of the crowd as he does his best to fight off both Bernard and Anderson. Takahashi gives Bernard a German suplex and a rejuvenated Naito hops back into the mix to take it to Anderson. Naito delivers a great top rope frankensteiner to Anderson, but he kicks out at two. Anderson and Naito trade near falls while Takahashi and Bernard brawl on the floor. Back inside Bad Intentions takes firm control of the rest of the match and then finishes Naito off with the Bernard Driver to retain at 19:49. This was a bit underwhelming honestly, I expected more out of these four guys who are all very familiar with each others work. There was some solid action in this one down the finishing stretch, but they lost the crowd halfway through during the Naito beatdown and the match never really regained it's footing after that. **1/2

We take a short intermission at this point to see some ads for the upcoming G1 Climax tournament among other things. When we return, it's time for an inter-promotional tag team match.

Special Tag Team Match
Hirooki Goto/Tama Tonga vs. Takashi Sugiura/Makoto Hashi

Odd to see Sugiura (the GHC Champion for NOAH at the time this was filmed) show up on an NJPW show just for a random filler tag match like this. Hashi and Tonga start us off and it's not long before Tonga nearly kills himself with a crazy plancha on Hashi out of the ring onto the concrete floor. Sugs and Hashi team up on Tonga for a bit in their corner. Sugiura doesn't seem to be very motivated tonight, but atleast Goto and Tonga are their usual fun selves. Goto delivers the Shouten Kai to Hashi and that's enough to give him the win at 9:43. Decent little tag match, Goto and Tonga both looked good, but there wasn't really anything to this match other than four guys just kind of going through the motions for ten minutes. **

Yuji Nagata vs. Masato Tanaka

Gee, this match up seems strangely familiar. Oh, right, it's because they've wrestled each other 12 billion times over the last five years. Good thing they have such outstanding chemistry and it never gets boring though. They start off with some trademark strike exchanges, each man getting in some stiff blows. Nagata sends Tanaka to the floor with a flurry of stiff high kicks and then tosses him into the guard-rail. Tanaka fires back with a lariat and then sets up half of a table's legs from underneath the ring, which he promptly knee-drops Nagata onto without breaking it. Tanaka continues to target Nagata's leg with nasty steel chairshots, once while he's prone on the floor and a second time against the steel ring post. Back in the ring the legwork continues and the crowd comes alive, chanting Nagata's name while Tanaka works a figure four leglock on him. Nagata teases reversing the figure four so the pressure would be on Tanaka and the crowd bites like fish catching bait, but when Nagata finally does roll over and reverse the hold, they show almost nothing. Fuck this crowd with a rusty spoon, these two are working some simple and brilliant mat and submission wrestling and this crowd only comes alive sporadically at all the wrong times. Finally the leglock is broken and Tanaka nails Nagata in the corner with a running forearm before steadfastly going right back to work on the leg. Nagata responds with a huge release German suplex. He counters a tornado DDT attempt by Tanaka into a beautiful dragonscrew suplex and then throws in a brainbuster for good measure. Nagata starts his comeback and tries for a top rope exploder, but Tanaka counters into a sunset flip powerbomb followed by the Sliding D for a two count. Tanaka delivers a superplex to Nagata and when they hit the mat, Nagata maintains the hold, rolls through, and delivers a brainbuster of his own to Tanaka before collapsing under the pressure. Outstanding ring psychology in that sequence. They fight to the top turnbuckle, where Nagata delivers an overhead belly-to-belly superplex for another near fall. Back on their feet Tanaka lays in as many forearms as he can, but it only incenses Nagata further to attack him. Tanaka takes out Nagata's leg with a chop-block and then piles on another Sliding D to his face and this is simply brilliant stuff here, like watching Tanaka pick apart a body piece-by-piece. Tanaka attempts another Sliding D, but Nagata counters right into a nasty reverse armbar. Tanaka is on his last legs and Nagata just keeps giving him one back-drop suplex after another until finally the third or fourth one is enough to put Tanaka away at 14:53. This was another outstanding match-up in a long running series between these two men, and they worked about as good of a mat, submission, and psychology ground war match that anyone could ask for. The only problem was that the crowd sucked and they sat on their hands often through-out this match despite the impeccable limb and counter wrestling magic they had performed right before their very eyes. Fuck you Fukuoka, this match was brilliant.

Togi Makabe vs. Satoshi Kojima

These two have had continuing problems throughout the last year, so this could be seen as a grudge match of sorts. As you'd expect the action quickly spills to the floor where they trade whips into the steel guard rail before brawling up to the entrance ramp. Kojima lariats Makabe on the ramp and they make their way back to the ring. Kojima works him over with a top rope elbow for a near fall. Kojima keeps firing away but Makabe starts doing his trademark drunken Japanese version of the Hulk Up routine, throwing in a Randy Orton-like snap powerslam and a Samoan drop on top of that as well. Kojima blocks an exploder suplex and Makabe nails him with a bridging northern lights suplex for a two count. Makabe no-sells a DDT, but apparently an Ace Crusher is enough to put him down momentarily. Kojima delivers a top rope ace crusher on Makabe for good measure, but instead of pinning his man he taunts the crowd and takes off his elbow pad to set up for a lariat. Makabe lariats him instead (karma!). They trade right hands and go into a stiff exchange of repeated lariat attempts that Kojima keeps blocking before blasting Makabe over the back of the head with another forearm. Makabe decides it's puro Hogan time though and the power Makabe-mania starts running wild, brother. Makabe German suplexes Kojima off the top rope and then finishes him off with the King Kong knee drop at 11:51. Well that was a rather anti-climactic ending to a very solid match. This desperately could have used a few additional minutes to establish some kind of story for the match, but as it stands it's still a decent effort by both men. **3/4

After the match Taichi and TAKA, members of the Kojima's Army stable, hit the ring to talk to him, but instead they betray and attack Kojima. Suddenly, Minoru FUCKING Suzuki comes out to the ring and locks a headlock onto Kojima. Makabe decides to come back and save the man he just defeated. Minoru walks off like a badass, blowing him a nice little kiss before Makabe reseonds with a nice "Fuck you" and pair of middle fingers. Makabe helps Kojima back up and they embrace with a firm handshake, seemingly turning Kojima face here. This is why New Japan is far and away the best company in Japan right now, because they actually put some effort into establishing angles and alliances, babyfaces and heels. They mix the strong style with sports entertainment perfectly.

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi
© vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

This is like the Red Sox vs. Yankees or Celtics vs. Lakers here in the sense that Tanahashi and Nakamura are eternal rivals bound to one another. I still can't decide who's the better air guitarist between the two either. Just as you'd expect, this winds up being another fantastic chapter in their rivalry. Both men begin cautiously, testing the waters with basic hold and counter exchanges. They're very evenly matched on the mat, but Tanahashi gets the better of Nakamura with a flying cross-body from the second rope. Being the cocky son of a bitch he is, Tanahashi celebrates a bit too early and Nakamura makes him pay for it with nasty precision kicks and knee strikes. Tanahashi targets Nakamura's leg with a dropkick and sends him out to the floor before wiping out Nakamura outside of the ring with a tope con hilo off the apron. Back in the ring Tana goes back to work on Sexy Naka's leg, but this only awakens the angry drunken beast inside of Nakamura and he comes alive with a flurry of brashly stiff knees to the gut. Nakamura coils himself around Tanahashi like a snake with a sleeper hold briedly before coming alive with some forearm shots. Somersault senton from the second rope gets Tana a two count. Tana tries a Boston crab for a bit, but Nakamura fights it off and nails him with an enziguri. Nakamura misses the Boma Ye knee in the corner, but delivers a beautiful back drop suplex instead and the crowd comes alive. Tana blocks another Boma Ye knee attempt with the Sling Blade. Nakamura fights off a waistlock briefly before eating a German for another near fall. Falcon Arrow from Tanahashi but he misses the High Fly Flow frog splash. Nakamura just destroys Tanahashi in the back of the head with a sickeningly stiff Boma Ye knee strike and the crowd continues to go nuts. Nakamura lays in even more Boma Ye knees to a downed Tanahashi, but he misses the last one. Nakamura tries an armbar but Tanahashi continues to fight him off until he gets the rope break. Nakamura again goes for the flying armbar, but this time Tanahashi counters right out of it into a sickening Dragon suplex! That was a counter sequence of Gods my readers, and it nearly gets the three count on Nakamura. Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow frog splash off the top once, then goes for a second High Fly Flow but Nakamura stands up and just punches him square in the face! Next they go into a Matrix-like sequence of kung-fu strikes that keep missing until finally Nakamura nails Tanahashi with a spinning high kick. Nakamura leas off the second rope only to eat a dropkick from Tanahashi, who then climbs to the top and delivers a High Fly Flow-like cross-body before delivering yet another damned frog splash to finally finish Nakamura off and retain his title at 20:17. I may have gone overboard in some of the move-by-move analysis here, but it's simply a testament to how utterly captivated I was by this match, just like most any other time these two meet in the ring. This is another easy contender for New Japan match of the year thus far and I wouldn't be shocked to see people award it that honor by the end of year's time even. Simply outstanding work from everyone involved. ****1/4

After the match Tanahashi is awarded a few trophies and awards, probably for having the best hair in all of Japan, before he's handed his title back to celebrate the victory further. Lots of little kids in the crowd who love Tanahashi are sitting in the front rows chanting and cheering for an exhausted Hiroshi Tanahashi, who continues to dance and play air-guitar like a badass anyways. Is there anything this wonderful man can't do? This is like the feel-good babyface moment of the year, when suddenly who should show up but a returning Hirooki Goto, fresh off a stint with CMLL in Mexico. Goto departed for Mexico way after he and Tanahashi had a falling out during a tag team match at the New Japan Cup finals PPV back in March, and something tells me he's not here to apologize for that. No, in fact he's here to give Tanahashi the sickest head-butt I've ever seen in my life, which nearly knocks Tanahashi unconscious. Goto storms off afterwards. Someone's moody.

Bottom Line: As you can very clearly see, this show was down right amazing. There were fantastic matches all over the card (three different ****+ matches), as well as a few solid midcard matches and plenty of major angle advancements, as well as two brilliantly executed face and heel turns. This is just about everything you could want out of a show really, and this ranks right up there with Money in the Bank so far as the one of the very best shows of 2011. Thumbs way up.

Score: 9.5/10

Friday, August 26, 2011

WWE Friday Night SmackDown 8/26/11

WWE Friday Night SmackDown 8/26/11
August 26th, 2011
Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Attendance: Unknown at this time

With the hot summer nights winding down as we approach the fall season, the WWE takes a pit-stop in the Hitman's old stomping grounds in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for tonight's edition of Friday Night SmackDown. On last week's show we saw Mark Henry win a battle royal to become the new number one contender for Randy Orton's title, but we still don't know when exactly that match will take place. Hopefully we can get some answers tonight and maybe even a good show to boot. Let's do this thing.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with an announcement for a Summerslam rematch later tonight between Sheamus and Mark Henry before suddenly Bret Hart's music hits! The Hitman himself is in the building tonight and he comes out to a thundering roar of cheers for the old hometown hero. He makes his way to the ring and grabs a microphone to tell the fans that Teddy Long won't be able to make it to the show tonight, so under the orders of the new COO Triple H, he has been appointed the General Manager of Smackdown for one night only, tonight! He plugs the big live Tuesday Smackdown special next week and announces that the main event will pit Mark Henry against Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Title.

Suddenly, Christian's music hits and the former champ comes out to a steady mix of jeers and cheers. He comes out to the entrance ramp and says that he wants to make it perfectly clear that it wasn't his fault for losing at Summerslam, but rather Edge's fault for getting into his head before the match. Christian mentions he's entitled to one more rematch, and he wants it to happen on the Tuesday super show. Bret says that Edge gave Christian the best advice he could, and that Christian is starting to become an embarrassment to everyone in the WWE and Canada itself. Christian says what's "really embarrassing" is that when guys like Bret and Edge come out and can't let go of their careers now that they're retired. Christian says maybe he and Edge just can't stand the fact that he's the only Canadian that's still relevant in the WWE. Christian pulls out a piece of paper from Teddy Long and hands it to Bret. It's a legal document stating that no WWE superstar will receive a World Heavyweight title match before Christian gets his shot first. Bret begrudgingly agrees to the rematch and then decides that the match will be contested inside of a steel cage! That way, there won't be any more excuses when Christian loses.

Mark Henry's music hits next though and the world's strongest man makes his way down to the ring. He complains about having his earned title opportunity pushed aside and then says that he wants to face the winner of the cage match between Orton and Christian. Henry tries to intimidate Bret a bit when Sheamus' music hits and the Celtic Warrior comes out to a nice pop with a mic of his own. He tells a humorous little story about a mean black bull that his uncle had to castrate, warning Henry that he might have to do the same to him. He hits the ring and both men begin brawling. Henry takes off and we wrap up our opening segment as Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase is announced for later tonight.

Christian (16-7) vs. Daniel Bryan

When we return from the break, Christian is already in the ring and set to take on the Money in the Bank winner Daniel Bryan (complete with a nifty little hype video package putting over Bryan's ability in the ring). They lock up to start and leap-frog over one another before Bryan escapes an Irish whip and delivers a dragon-screw legwhip to Christian. Bryan knocks Christian out of the ring and then wipes him out with a big tope suicida on the floor. Back in the ring Bryan works a textbook Mexican surfboard until Christian fights it off with a boot to the face. Bryan goes to work with big precision kicks to Christian's chest, but he grabs a hold of Bryan and back-drops him out of the ring as we cut to commercial. When we return Christian is working a loose chinlock on Bryan. They trade blows and Bryan hits a top rope missile dropkick on Christian for a two count. He lays in some more stiff kicks and Christian tries his trademark ring-assisted kick to the face, but Bryan blocks him up with more kicks and then hits a knee drop on him from the top rope for another near fall. Christian delivers a flying back elbow from the top rope and sets up for the spear, but Bryan blocks it. He flips behind Christian, who then tries a sunset-flip from the second rope, but Bryan counters that for another near fall. Some excellent counter wrestling going on right here. Bryan misses a top rope frankensteiner attempt and eats a Tornado DDT, but he manages to still kick out. Bryan counters the Killswitch attempt into the LeBell Lock, but Christian quickly gets the rope break. Bryan misses a running dropkick in the corner and Christian capitalizes on it by delivering the Killswitch to pick up the win at 8:08 (shown). Excellent way to kick off the show with two guys who have honed their craft into a lean, mean wrestling machine over the years. Lots of great counter-wrestling, a fast pace, just about everything you'd want out of a quality opening match for television here. ***

You may or may not have gotten a short clip of a great old Mysterio/Jericho match from Smackdown in 2009 here depending on whether or not your local cable affiliate features the WWE "From the Vault" featurettes.

Wade Barrett is in the ring with a microphone when we return from the commercial break. He's set to face some nameless jobber aparently. He talks about how he has shaken the WWE down to it's very foundation during his short time in the company already and about how facing this random jobber is beneath him before he exits the ring and leaves before the match ever officially starts. Later it's announced that Alberto Del Rio will face Sin Cara on the big live Smackdown next week.

Sin Cara (12-2) vs. Heath Slater (4-17)

Reportedly this match was such a mess the first time around that they had to film the entire match over again later that night, which I assume is the version we're getting here. Cara is once again being played by Hunico and not the original Mistico, who apparently was sent home after the tapings, perhaps permanently. Slater has some new absolutely godawful country song as his theme, to complete the total package of suck that is Heath Slater. The match itself winds up being so heavily edited that it's over before you know it. Cara dropkicks Slater into the corner and gives him a cannonball senton before getting right back to his feet and following up with a springboard forearm/headbutt combo for a two count. 20 points to Booker T for using the word "mollywop" several times during this match too. Cara sends Slater to the floor and then wipes him out with a big cross-body off the top rope before tossing him back into the ring. He hits a springboard somersault senton followed by a lionsault, which is enough to put Slater away at a whopping 1:43. This was edited and clipped to hell in order to make up for the disaster that this match apparently was live, but atleast the parts that they left in made Cara look like a total star, flying all over the place like a freakin' pinball and totally dominating Slater. For a clipped 2 minute jobber match, this was fun. **

We get a clip of Orton RKOing Ted DiBiase last week on the show right in front of Cody Rhodes followed by Randy Orton walking backstage before we head to the commercial break.

Randy Orton (14-6) vs. Ted DiBiase (3-9)

Cody is with Ted again, along with the usual squadron of Matrix agents carrying around Cody's twisted paper bag masks. He has a mic and cuts a brief promo on Orton on the way to the ring as he claims to be a miracle worker, resurrecting both the Intercontinental title and his friend Ted DiBiase's career. Ted immediately takes Orton down at the bell with a legscissors before trying to work a side headlock that Orton shakes off briefly before Ted goes right back at it. They trade leap-frog sequences and Orton delivers his picture perfect standing dropkick for just a one count. Orton switches between a wristlock and a side-headlock on DiBiase followed by a lariat. Ted fires back with a lariat of his own and lays in some closed fists. Orton catches Ted in a dropkick attempt and then catapults him into the turnbuckle. He gives him a pair of lariats and an Austin-like Lou Thesz press before setting Ted up for the second-rope DDT. Cody hops on the apron but Randy knocks him right back off it and slams Ted back into the ring. Orton sets up for an RKO on Cody, but Ted hits him with a baseball slide dropkick to break it up as we take a commercial break. When we return Ted actually looks impressive for once with a sweet backbreaker/dropkick combo for a near fall. Orton responds with a thunderous superplex, but DiBiase kicks out as well. Orton has a small cut on his forehead dribbling blood as he starts to go into his trademark "Viper" sequence of moves (I'd use the term "five moves of doom" but that's so 90s). Ted actually counters one of Orton's backbreakers into a roll-up and then delivers a nice Rydeen Bomb on Orton for another near fall. This is a damned good match so far. DiBiase blocks an RKO attempt, but he eats the second-rope DDT instead. DiBiase counters another RKO attempt right into the Dream Street cobra clutch, but Orton escapes that as well and they criss-cross the ropes a bit before Orton manages to finally deliver the RKO on Ted for the hard earned pin at 8:41 (shown). This started off casually enough before rocketing right into an impressive exchange of one counter after another after the commercial break. Ted actually looked outstanding here for once with his workrate and Orton is always game for a good TV match, so this wound up being another excellent television match that exceeded my expectations. ***

After the match Cody offers his hand to stand Ted up, but then delivers the Cross Rhodes to him for failing him yet again against Randy Orton. To add insult to injury he tosses one of his paper bag masks onto Ted's face. Rhodes character is seriously brilliant, it's just the kind of thing that every rabid internet smark (myself included) has always dreamed about, it's like they plucked him straight out of a Jeph Loeb Batman comic book or something.
Lookout Calender Man, we have a Paper Bag Man!

Kelly Kelly (6-4) vs. Tamina (4-2)

Intriguing match-up here. We get the old Superstars-lite split-screen promo from Natalya while Kelly makes her way to the ring, talking about how Kelly is a barbie doll come alive and that she doesn't like to play with dolls. I might be getting ahead of myself here, but could this vague angle they've been working with Beth and Natalya kicking ass in the Diva's division be a stalwart tactic until Kharma returns from her pregnancy to wreak real havoc? Nevertheless, they lock up at the bell. Kelly delivers a few forearms and a body press. She delivers a flurry of flying headscissors on Tamina until Tamina breaks it up and they devolve into a loose hair-pulling, bitch-slappin' catfight. Kelly delivers the handspring back elbow followed by the stinkface. She leaps off the second turnbuckle right into Tamina's arms, but Kelly escapes out of that and hits the old Rocker Dropper to put Tamina away at 2:48. Another spirited and athletic effort from Kelly Kelly and Tamina...well she sort of just stood there for Kelly to bounce off of. Which is just fine by me. **

Backstage Matt Striker is with Jinder Mahal and The Great Khali to ask them about their failure to win the battle royal last week. Jinder says Khali has been "re-educated" and his only mission is to serve him. Damn when did Smackdown's writing staff jump into poli-sci? Mahal says Khali will dominate Ezekiel Jackson tonight.

Ezekiel Jackson (12-10) vs. The Great Khali (1-3)

So this isn't exactly a scientific match-up on paper now is it? No, instead this is just the stiff and uneven brawl you'd expect it to be. Khali slaps Zeke around a bit and big Zeke gets npissed off enough to mount a decent comeback before Khali just levels him with a boot. He puts the vicegrip that he's been using to dispatch of jobbers for months now onto Zeke and Zeke actually manages to hold strong through-out the fingers of Khali and actually fight it off briefly to get a rope break. A distinct "Both of you suck!" chant starts up among the Calgary front row natives as Jinder Mahal tries to beat up on Zeke behind the ref's back. Khali winds up clubbing Mahal inadvertently and Zeke actually manages to lift the Great Khali onto his shoulders in the torture rack and Khali actually taps out to give Zeke the clean (and massive) win at 2:55. That is one gargantuan win for Big Zeke to get his heat back after dropping the title to Cody. This was actually probably the best damned Great Khali match I have seen in years, as they used simple psychology and worked their submission holds perfectly here. Again, my expectations have been exceeded. **

Sheamus (6-9-1) vs. Mark Henry (6-6)

And to cap off the night we have this battle of the bulls. Henry overpowers Sheamus quickly in the early going and it's obvious what strategy Sheamus must utilize here as he starts to pick apart Henry's limbs with all kinds of different strikes in order to "chop him down to size" as they say. Henry boots Sheamus in the face and follows it with a body splash and a backbreaker for a two count. Henry works Sheamus over a bit some more and then tries to deliver a press slam to him off the top rope, but Sheamus counters into a sick DDT. Sheamus follows up with a flying forearm and then starts laying in punches to Henry's chest in-between the ropes. He rocks him with a few stiff knees and a flying shoulder-block off the top rope for a two count. The action spills out to the floor where Henry tosses Sheamus into the padded guardrail before clearing the announcer's table of all of it's monitors. Henry tries a press slam, but Sheamus counters with the Brogue Kick right over the table and the referee counts Henry out giving Sheamus the win at 7:36. Call me crazy, but this was the best damned match I've seen Mark Henry work in YEARS. Simple and effective psychology, a great power battle and a creative ending pushes this match from "regular same old usual TV match" territory into "Well I'll be damned, they had a great match all things considered" territory. ***

After the match Mark Henry and Sheamus continue to brawl at ringside, where Henry gives Sheamus the World's Strongest Slam onto the steel steeps as we go off the air.

Bottom Line: This was an outstanding show by all accounts here. We had THREE different matches that cracked into *** territory, all of which showcased the burgeoning young and old talent together into a fantastic mix. SmackDown continues to be the gold standard of weekly television shows, and we roll onto another week. Obviously an enthusiastic Thumbs Up.

Score: 8.5/10

Monday, August 22, 2011

WWE RAW 8/22/11

WWE RAW rolls into Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (hey wasn't some wrestler guy once billed from here?) tonight a little bit more than a week removed from Summerslam. We still have tons of questions surrounding the controversial finish to the John Cena/CM Punk match at Summerslam as well as the usual questions about where the company is headed creatively heading into the fall quarter, so kick back, watch the show (or don't, I won't tell you how to live your life!) and keep refreshing the page for all the latest updates and analysis from yours truly after each commercial break. Let's get RAW, as they say in the school of bad puns that aren't funny.

WWE RAW 8/22/11
August 22nd, 2011
Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Your hosts are Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole

We open the show with the WWE champion Alberto Del Rio making his way out to the ring as Michael Cole makes the announcement that Rey Mysterio is out of action indefinitely due to injuries (kayfabe) sustained during his match with Del Rio last week. Before Del Rio can get into his usual destiny shtick though, John Cena's music hits and the former champ makes his way down to the ring quickly for a nice pop. He grabs a mic and tries to reintroduce himself to Del Rio as "the guy who's going to take that WWE championship off your waist". Yes, I'm sure that's just what everyone has been waiting patiently for John, to see you dispatch of generic heel number 9005. Cena says there's only one man in the company that can go toe to toe with him, and that's CM Punk. He says when he faces Del Rio for the WWE title he's going to whip his ass when the opening chords of Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" ring out and our straight edge savior, CM Punk comes out to a nice pop of his own. He makes his way down to the ring and has a mic of his own.

Punk says he feels like he's stepped into a re-run of RAW tonight, seeing John Cena ask for yet another title shot. Punk says if anyone's getting a title shot, it's going to be him. He says he has a problem with Del Rio, Triple H, Kevin Nash, and maybe even former "WWF President" Jack Tunney getting involved in his business and conspiring to take the title from him. Punk points out that Nash probably would have beaten down Cena had he won the title match on Sunday instead of Punk, simply because a certain someone wants Del Rio to be champion. Punk says that he's officially going to cash in his rematch clause for the WWE title, but then Cena steps in and claims that he's going to get his rematch tonight, but Punk tells him he doesn't have a rematch clause. Del Rio takes a shot at the Canadian fans but before he can finish his diatribe, Corporate Triple H's music hits and our noble Chief Operating Officer makes his way down to the ring to take charge of the situation.Triple H has a microphone and says that Del Rio will be wrestling next, but it won't be against Punk or Cena. He says Del Rio will defend the WWE title in four weeks at the Night of Champions PPV against whoever wins tonight's main event, which will pit CM Punk against John Cena in a number one contender's match! Punk/Cena III on RAW? I'm never one to complain about quality matches being given away on free TV, but it seems odd that they would give away a match that brought them so much attention on their last two PPVs for free on RAW.

Alberto Del Rio vs. John Morrison

When we return from commercial break, John Morrison is announced as Del Rio's opponent. Ross puts over the importance of Cena/Punk III, reminding us yet again what a competent play-by-play man sounds like. Del Rio targets Morrison's throat in the early going with a chop and a quick kick before starting to go to work on Morrison's arm, already setting up for his finisher perhaps. JoMo gets a near fall off a dropkick and then grinds Del Rio against the mat with a side headlock. JoMo sends Del Rio out to the floor and then tries for a picture perfect Asai moonsault, but Del Rio moves and JoMo lands on his feet like a cat before being shoved into the guard barrier as we take a commercial break. When we return Del Rio is working over JoMo back in the ring and delivers a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a quick two count. Del Rio shoots into the corner but Morrison backdrops him over the top to the outside floor. Back in the ring Morrison meets him with a flurry of forearms and a Russian leg-sweep for a near fall of his own. Beautiful bridging German suplex from Del Rio, but JoMo kicks out again. JoMo blocks the armbar attempt with a cradle for a near fall and then delivers a sloppy tornado DDT for another one. Morrison snaps off a 'rana for another hot near fall and the pace seems to have picked up a bit. JoMo nails a springboard kick and sets up for Starship Pain, but lands on his feet safely, seeing that Del Rio has moved. Del Rio launches him into the ring post however and then applies the flying armbar for the submission victory at 8:54 (shown). They seemed to not quite be on the same page as the match began, but they got over the opening butterflies pretty quickly and this turned into a damn fine little TV match before it ended. These are just the kind of upper-midcard clean wins that Del Rio needs, so no complaints here even if they probably could have put together something better with a little bit more time. **1/2

Eve vs. Nikki Bella

We get a video package before the match from Natalya and Beth Phoenix talking about how they don't want to be like Kelly and Eve, but they aren't going to tell us what they do want. Typical women as King puts it. Nikki lays in a few weak forearms into Eve but it's not long before she's out on the floor getting beaten up by Brie behind the ref's back. Back in the ring Eve delivers a decent side suplex and for a moment I stare in awe at the TV screen with my ears perked up as I hear the first "We want puppies!" chant from a WWE crowd that I can remember in years. Eve does some of that "booty-poppin" as the kids call it and then delivers a sloppy reverse STO. Nikki trips her up when she tries for the moonsault for a near fall. Eve finishes her off with a strange neckbreaker at 2:34. I'll give credit to Eve, she appears to be actively trying to mix new moves into her repertoire. The only problem is she's delivering them rather sloppily, and someone might get hurt that way. Not much of a match obviously. Kelly drops a leg on one of the Bellas after the match as Natalya and Beth Phoenix look on from the stage. 3/4*

We see a shot of Kevin Nash walking backstage as we cut to commercial.

Jack Swagger vs. Alex Riley

Vickie Guerrero makes her way out and introduces Swagger as her newest client. Riley gets the jobber non-entrance strangely enough. They lock up and Swagger quickly takes Riley down with a waistlock. Riley responds with a big spinebuster when suddenly Dolph Ziggler makes his way down to ringside to argue with Vickie. Swagger tries for the gut-wrench powerbomb on Riley but settles for a lariat instead. Ziggler accidentally elbows Vickie down and Swagger comes out to check on her. He shoves Ziggler and goes back into the ring, where he's promptly rolled up by Riley and pinned clean at 2:03. Well if it isn't Scott Keith's favorite-ist finish in the whole wide world. Again, not much of a match here, just an angle. 1/4*

Backstage we see Triple H talking quietly on a cell phone as we go to commercial break. Must be the mistress. When we return from break Triple H has made his way out to the ring with a mic. He talks about the controversy over the WWE title match at Summerslam and then calls Kevin Nash out in order to be completely transparent to the WWE universe. Nash makes his way out to the ring sans cheesy Diesel music and shakes Hunter's hand as he gets into the ring. Triple H again denies ever sending a text message to Nash to jump Punk. Nash says that he respects Hunter's word but he doesn't respect Punk. Triple H says that Nash doesn't work here, so he can't have him out here challenging Punk. Nash says the security last week wasn't for his safety, but rather for Punk's safety. Triple H says Nash can fight him at the local Tim Horton's, but he can't fight him in the WWE and then asks Nash to please leave. CM Punk's music hits right here of course though, and our straight edge savior makes his way out to play a game of detective. He ponders whether it was Nash, Hunter, or Steph who sent the text. Punk claims to be an habitual line-crosser and that Nash should know a thing or two about that (subtle TNA reference perhaps?). Punk says he's done talking and that he's going to kick Nash's ass, but Triple H plays the role of buffer. Punk says that Hunter has always had a problem with him holding the WWE title and wants to know who's really pulling the strings here. Hunter says that if Punk crosses the line with him, he'll attack him. He talks about Hunter keeping his balls in Steph's purse and Nash jumps Punk from behind with a forearm. Nash and Hunter angrily storm off as the crowd loudly chants for Punk.

When we return from commercial we see Triple H backstage telling Nash that he can't put his hands on a WWE employee like he just did with Punk. Nash says that Hunter has changed since donning the suit and takes off.

WWE Tag Team Title Match
David Otunga/Michael McGillicutty
© vs. Kofi Kingston/Evan Bourne

With Beer Money recently dropping the TNA tag titles, that makes Otunga and McGillicutty our current longest-reigning champions in the WWE or TNA. That's a frightening thought. McGillicutty seems to be wearing doo rags now in an attempt to look tough. It's not working. Kofi and McGillicutty start us off with some basic feeling out stuff before Kofi hits a huge cross-body and sets up for the Boom Drop. McGillicutty bails and Kofi stupidly gives chase, getting jumped from behind in the process. Back in the ring Otunga body-slams Kofi for a two count. This crowd could not care less about Otunga and McGillicutty's bland heel shtick here and it's kind of sad to watch. Not even their love for Kofi can drag much of any heat out of them. Kofi snaps off a headscissors and tags out to Bourne and finally the crowd shows some life as Bourne hits a flurry of spinkicks and knee-strikes. Kofi nails Otunga with a kick on the side of the apron and Bourne hits the Air Bourne on Otunga to win the tag straps at 5:05. King tries to claim the fans are giving them a standing ovation, but they seem slightly bemused at best. The action here was solid enough but totally heatless. Atleast the tag straps are off of the heat vacuum that is Otunga and McGillicutty though. *1/2

After a quick commercial break we cut to backstage where Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne are celebrating with Zack Ryder and a bottle of champagne over their tag title win. Elsewhere we see Johnny Ace running up to Triple H to inform him that Kevin Nash has apparently been in a car accident and has been taken to a local hospital. Hunter takes off to make sure his friend is okay while Laurinaitis stands around like a goof. That man is no Funkhouser when it comes to the acting department, I'll tell you what.

Santino Marella's music hits and he begins walking down to the ring when suddenly The Miz and R-Truth jump him from behind and put the beat down on him inside the ring to a chorus of boos. Truth grabs a mic and starts ranting about Little Jimmy again before getting into a "WHAT!"-off with the fans. Truth goes all Alex Jones on us, talking about the big conspiracy to keep he and Miz down again. This crowd is giving off great heat to Truth, regardless of the absurdity of his new found "gimmick". The Miz agrees with Truth and then flips out on the crowd for shouting "What" again. Can you imagine if Austin walked into the building right now? The what's would be deafening. Miz and Truth are playing this crowd perfectly and this has actually been one of the better non-CM Punk promo segments I've seen on RAW in quite some time, as this crowd is giving both men nuclear heat. Miz and Truth say that they're no longer waiting for an opportunity; they're just going to take it. Good segment.

WWE Title #1 Contender's Match
John Cena vs. CM Punk

Alberto Del Rio and Johnny Ace both are at ringside for this match, so I expect we'll get some sort of shenanigans. Cena does his usual pre-match attempt to throw his t-shirt into the crowd, but tonight the crowd decides to throw it back at him like they were the Hammerstein Ballroom. They go right into trading headlocks and legscissors in the early going and while obviously not as electric as Chicago last month, the crowd tonight is still extremely hot. They do a nice leapfrog/shoulder-block trading sequence and Cena looks for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Punk rolls him for a two count. Punk knees him in the corner and follows with the running bulldog, but gets knocked off the ring apron after being briefly distracted by Del Rio and we take a quick commercial break. When we return Punk is fighting out of a side headlock. Cena tries for the Attitude Adjustment out of the corner, but Punk blocks it and nails a springboard forearm for a two count. Punk tries for the GTS and Cena counters into the STF, but Punk wriggles out of it only to miss a spinkick and get taken down in a nasty crossface by Cena. Say, didn't some guy from Edmonton used to use that move? Punk nails Cena with the GTS, but Cena kicks out at two! Kind of early for kicking out of finishers guys, isn't it? Punk misses a top rope elbow drop, so Cena goes to the top and hits his top rope legdrop for another near fall. Punk blocks another AA attempt with brutal elbow strikes to Cena's face before blasting him with a stiff knee to the face, but again Cena kicks out. These guys know each other quite well by now, and you can tell how comfrotable they've become together. Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment, but now it's Punk's turn to play the finisher kick out game. Punk hits a cross-body off the top rope, but Cena rolls right through and lifts Punk up, only to be cradled himself for another near fall before Punk wipes him out with a stiff boot to the face. Punk calls for the GTS when suddenly Kevin Nash comes out to the stage with a mic and calls out Punk's name. He makes his way down to the ring and that distracts Punk long enough to turn around and walk right into the Attitude Adjustment from Cena, giving John the win at 10:56 (shown)! Obviously this wasn't on par with their last two PPV matches, but they managed to fit a lot of really good stuff into the short time they did have and as a result the brisk pace made for another excellent encounter between these two. The finish hurts it slightly since it was rather predictable, but otherwise this was another damn fine match from these two men. ***1/4

After the match Del Rio hits the ring and jumps Cena for a bit until Johnny Ace comes into the ring to pull him off. We go off the air with a deranged Del Rio grinning like a madman as Cena lays in the ring injured.

Bottom Line: Well, it certainly wasn't a bad show tonight, I'll give them that. The main event was another great match in a series of them between Cena and Punk and the opening match was another solid win for Del Rio, but everything in between didn't exactly thrill me. The Punk/Kliq angle seems to be starting to forge a pathway for the next PPV, but in the mean time we saw Cena win yet another title shot. I'm not a detractor of Cena's, in fact I'd consider myself a fan of the man's, but to say his babyface shtick has grown stale at this point in time would be a gross understatement. I'm not sure if I agree with where they're heading booking-wise here, but that's really all up to your personal preference here. As a show though, this certainly wasn't bad and the main event was good enough to push this into "good" territory in my book and is enough for me to go ahead and give tonight's show the Thumbs Up.

Score: 7.0/10

Saturday, August 20, 2011

NJPW New Japan Brave 2011 4/19/11

NJPW New Japan Brave 2011
April 19th, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 1,800

Hot off the heels of a great event in the "New Dimension" show a few weeks prior to this, New Japan comes back to Korakuen for a three hour Battle Station special. No titles on the line tonight, but there is a match to determine the next contenders for Bad Intention's IWGP Tag Team titles and there's a stacked super junior six man tag match on here, so let's jump right into it.

TAKA Michinoku/Taichi vs. Kyosuke Mikami/Hiromu Takahashi

I feel like I've just seen this match recently. Taichi, how I long for thy badass cape. This is just a gimme match for TAKA and Taichi here against two of the young recent students of the New Japan dojo, so they don't take their opponents very seriously. It's just a delight to watch TAKA and Taichi disrespect the young kids and take them to school while they do their best to try and mount some offense of their own, they have their roles as slimy heels down pat. Takahashi sends the heels to the floor momentarily and tries for a pescado but botches it horribly and winds up tumbling to the floor as the crowd quietly dies. Ouch. The heels continue to work over Takahashi in their corner, trading tags. Takahashi tags out to Mikami eventually and he suplexes Taka for a two count before tagging Takahashi back in. TAKA pokes him in the eye and tags out to Taichi, who then applies a deep Boston crab to Hiromu. Takahashi gets the rope break but winds up falling right back into the Boston crab again. Taichi transitions it into an old school Jericho-like Liontamer and Takahashi has no choice but to tap out at 9:26. Decent squash-ish match for Taichi and TAKA, but the botch hurt it obviously. Taichi looked great again though. *3/4

Jado/Gedo vs. Tiger Mask IV/King Fale

Though this looks like a decent match-up on paper, it winds up being one of those matches where you can just tell everyone is kind of half-assing it just to hurry up and get it over with. Hey, if you're not going to put much effort into the match guys, I won't put much effort into reviewing it. Lots of headlocks and not much fire from anyone really. Tiger does a half-assed dive towards the end and Jado locks in the crossface onto Fale, forcing him to tap out at 7:44. Poor effort all around honestly, the less said about this match the better. 1/2*

Manabu Nakanishi/Jushin Liger vs. Mascara Dorada/Tama Tonga

Hm, another random pairing but an intriguing one. This winds up being more fun then you'd expect with Dorada zipping all over the place and Tonga hooting and hollering like a coked up James Brown (in other words his normal behavior). Liger, god bless him, still has a way with his feet. Nakanishi has fun ripping into Tonga for a bit and then tags Liger back in to stretch the kid out with a surfboard. Do not upset Grandpa Liger! Dorada hops in and he and Liger do some fun lucha stuff with Dorada taking him out with a nice tope. Liger responds with a big cross body off the top to the floor. It's miraculous Liger can still bump like that after all these years of working so hard. Tonga hits a corkscrew moonsault for a near fall, but Nakanishi gives him a towering German suplex right on his neck. Dorada takes out Liger on the floor with a moonsault while Nakanishi finishes Tonga off with the Argentine backbreaker (torture rack) at 9:43. Fun little match here, they kept it light and fast-paced and that was the right choice. Dorada and Liger worked well together, Tonga did his usual fun antics, and this was just an entertaining if forgettable little tag match. **1/2

Giant Bernard/Karl Anderson/Tomoaki Honma vs. Takashi Iizuka/Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii

Interesting match-up of a trio from the CHAOS stable taking on the tag champs and hanger-on Honma. This one is wild from the start with everyone brawling around ringside and into the crowd, choking each other with anything they can get their hands on. Honma is great at crowd-brawling thanks to his many years in Big Japan in this same building among others, but CHAOS ain't half bad either. Eventually they make their way back to the ring where Honma takes it to Ishii with great crowd support. They go off into a big strike exchange and then trade nasty headbutts like butting rams. Honma gets taken out of the ring again and has a chair smashed over his back by the heels. They do the same thing to Bernard while tossing Honma into the rails. Back in the ring they keep the focus on Honma, Iizuka choking him out with his wrist-tape behind the ref's back. Bernard hops in and gives Iizuka a taste of his own medicine by choking him with his own wrist-tape in a cool moment. Honma fires off a brainbuster with the last of his energy and gets the hot tag to Anderson, who's fresh as a daisy and hasn't been in the entire match. He and Yano trade uppercuts and Anderson gets a two count off of a leg lariat. Bad Intentions teams up on Ishii now, double-teaming him behind his partner's back and they wind up finishing Ishii off with the Magic Killer to win at 9:49. Pretty fun little brawl and the finish was good as well, so this wound up being better than expected. ***

After the match Iizuka drags an announcer out from backstage to beat on to vent his frustrations. Dude, get a stress ball or something!

Bad Intentions cut a promo back stage promising that 2011 is their year, and that they don't care what team steps up to face them at Fukuoka for the titles shot, they don't give a shit. Great promo.

Super Jr. Special Six Man Tag Match
Kota Ibushi/Kenny Omega/Daisuke Sasaki vs. Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi/KUSHIDA

Interesting to see Devitt team up with KUSHIDA after defending the title against him last month, but what's even more interesting is the inclusion of young Daisuke Sasaki, one of the best young juniors on the indies on loan from the DDT promotion. Gotta love New Japan recognizing these indy talents and bringing them up, it's how they discovered guys like Ibushi and Omega here ironically enough. Omega and Devitt start us off with some swank basic hold exchanges before Taguchi and Ibushi hop in to do their own acrobatic rendition of the same exchange, with the added bonus of dueling missing dropkicks. Sasaki and KUSHIDA tag in and we've got ourselves a fresh little match up of hot young talents here. KUSHIDA gets sent to the floor with a hurricanrana but the Golden Lovers and Apollo 55 tag teams both hop in to do some trademark counter spots. Omega, Ibushi, and Sasaki do a slightly over-choreographed triple dive spot on their opponents that makes for a great visual. The "other" faces start working over KUSHIDA in their corner, with Sasaki in particular taking it to him with a pesky sleeper. KUSHIDA blocks a rana attempt and doesn't quite hit a sloppy superkick before both men tag out and let the Golden Lovers and Apollo 55 teams do their thing again. No complaints here, these two teams know each other well and always put on excellent work, and KUSHIDA and Sasaki bring a fun added element to the mix. Apollo 55 and KUSHIDA get their chance to hit their own triple dive spot on their opponents outside before this thing breaks down into utter madness in the ring with guys trading huge strikes back and forth and then getting out of the way so the next two guys can work a great spot. Taguchi and Omega have a badass segment, trading suplex attempts before Omega snaps off a rana and tags out to Sasaki. Sasaki dropkicks Taguchi while he's hanging on the top rope for a near fall so Taguchi responds with a big release German suplex before they both tag out to Ibushi and KUSHIDA. Ibushi catches KUSHIDA in mid-air in the middle of a back handspring attempt and German suplexes him for another close near fall. Ibushi has quasi-Nagata like look on his face now of anger, and he delivers a crazy roll-through bridging German suplex for another near fall. He hits a phoenix splash and that's enough to pin KUSHIDA at 14:55. Give this another ten minutes and it could have been a classic, but instead they just worked a really fun quick little 15 minute sprint that had several fun triple and double exchanges thrown in with the usual great juniors spots from these six talents. Very fun stuff. ***1/2

IWGP Tag Team Title #1 Contenders Match
Tetsuya Niato/Yujiro Takahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Wataru Inoue

The winner gets a shot at Bad Intentions titles at the Dontaku PPV in May. Speaking of Bad Intentions, they're watching in the front row. Tenzan probably shouldn't be competing for the tag titles at this stage, but I suppose there are worse candidates. Takahashi continues to develop as a nasty CHAOS heel underling, but he spends most of the match bumping for Tenzan. After a bit of this Inoue tags in and the pace thankfully picks up a bit as he and Takahashi do some nice spots. Of course Tenzan just tags right back in though and we're back to our snail's pace. Naito and Inoue hop back in and things pick up again for the finishing stretch as Naito rips off his shirt to show he means business and then delivers the Stardust Press to put Inoue away at 14:53. Pretty dull match here, there wasn't much structure or flow to the thing and Tenzan seemed even slower than usual. Doesn't exactly get me all excited to see them wrestle Bad Intentions for the title. **

Special Tag Match
Shinsuke Nakamura/Masato Tanaka vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi/Yuji Nagata

Now this looks like a fun match-up on paper. Longtime rivals Tanahashi and Nakamura are set to square off for Tanahashi's IWGP Heavyweight title roughly two or three weeks after this show here on the big Dontaku PPV in May, so this is obviously a teaser for that, and a very good one at that. Throw in longtime rivals Tanaka and Nagata and you've got yourself a main-event level tag team match here. Nakamura and Tanahashi of course steal the show during their segments like they always do. Nakamura seems nonplussed about the whole thing until Tanahashi slaps him in the face and he awakens with a fiery flurry of sickening kicks and knee strikes. Tanaka and Nagata hop in and immediately start shooting for submissions on one another, with Nagata focusing on Tanaka's leg and then tagging out to Tanahashi again. They both get sent to the floor moments later and sent into the rails while Tanaka chokes Nagata with a kendo stick. Where does he get that damned thing every time? Someone needs to stop bringing all of these canes to these shows! Nagata and Tanaka do some rock-solid matwork back inside before Nakamura and Tanaka start trading quick tags and working Nagata over in their corner. Tanahashi says fuck that though and jumps in to brawl with Nakamura, hitting a nice somersault senton off the top for a two count. They go into a stiff slap and kick exchange before Tana hits the sling blade for another near fall while Nagata and Tanaka brawl to the floor. Tana gets caught up on the top rope and Nakamura gives him the old Boma Ye knee in the chest before putting him into a deep flying armbar. Tana manages to fight both him and Tanaka off though and tag out to old man Nagata, who by now has got his wind back and is pissed. Yakuza kick/exploder suplex combo from Nagata, but Tanaka kicks out. They trade brainbusters before Nagata locks Tanaka into the crossface. Nakamura breaks it up with a Boma Ye knee though. Nagata hits a sick step up enziguri followed by a towering Saito suplex, but Nakamura again breaks it up and then cold-clocks him with a knee to the jaw. He does the same thing to Tana on the ground while Tanaka hits Nagata with the Sliding D for a two count. He hits another one to Nagata's back and then another one to his front and pins him at 16:42. One hell of a tag team match here as well as this was almost like two singles matches at the same time, pairing Nakamura/Tanahashi and Nagata/Tanaka, two pairings that have wrestled each other a hundred times and know each other so well at this point that the only thing they're capable of doing is producing a hard-hitting, fast paced effort every time out. This was no exception to that rule. ***1/2

Special Singles Match
Togi Makabe vs. Satoshi Kojima

This is being labelled almost like a grudge match, and these two do have bad blood as of the last few shows. Crowd doesn't seem as hot as they usually would for a match like this, but that doesn't stop these guys from putting on a good show. Kojima dominates early with several suplexes and a DDT on the ring apron before choking Makabe against the second rope for a bit, grinding him down with a sleeper as well. The beatdown continues outside the ring where he just blasts Makabe with a steel chair that falls to pieces from the contact. Korakuen doesn't seem quite as alive and heated as usual tonight unfortunately, but they still give Makabe some support during the segment and they get louder once Makabe starts making his comeback, lariating Kojima out of his boots. He doesn't get much offense in before Kojima cuts him off with an ace crusher though. He delivers another ace crusher to him, this time off of the top rope and follows it with a suplex, but Makabe kicks out at two and starts his real comeback with a crazy German suplex off the top rope. He tries for the King Kong kneedrop but Kojima moves out of the way. They trade a waistlock and Kojima nails him with a lariat as the ref accidentally gets bumped as well. So of course out of the crowd with a steel chair comes the dastardly Taichi. Makabe blocks his chair shot but winds up getting a lariat to the back of the head from Kojima anyways. He responds with a judo chop and then waffles Kojima with the chair in a sort of reprisal for the chairshot Kojima gave him earlier in the match before hitting the King Kong knee-drop off the top rope to pick up the win at 17:17. This one could have used a bit more heat from the unusually quiet Korakuen crowd, but otherwise this was a fine main event and a fun match between the two rivals here with some karmic payback thrown in for good measure. It's impossible not to root for Makabe when he's getting beaten down by someone as conniving as Kojima, it's like watching your favorite childhood teddy bear get beat up or something. Anyways, a very good main event that could have been great with a bit more planning and heat. ***1/4

We close out the show with several different music video packages for some of the major main event wrestlers in the company, including Togi Makabe, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the NO LIMIT faction.

Bottom Line: This was actually a pretty enjoyable show that snuck up on me. I wasn't expecting much, but we got several really fun tag matches sprinkled through out the card along with a fun main event, and it sets things up a bit more for the Dontaku PPV in a few weeks, so if you've got the time to kill it's probably worth checking out before jumping into the PPV. We'll go with a mild recommendation and a Thumbs Up.

Score: 7.0/10