A lot has happened in the past month and a half, since my last post on this blog. Seriously, a LOT. Most relevant to the subject of this article is the fact that I attended a Raw show for the first time, back on January 6 when WWE came to Tampa. My family and I had a lot of fun, and it turned out to be a pretty good edition of the show on top of the unique experience of seeing the show live in the arena rather than on television. We got to see the end of the Punk-Ryback feud and the beginning of the build-up to Punk vs. Rock at Royal Rumble, which was absolutely amazing. I was really excited to see where things would go between the two of them.
Quick thoughts on TLC 2012 and the second half of December:
- It was nice to see one of the few divas with actual wrestling skills get to put them on display. I actually watched NXT season 3 for shits and giggles and Naomi easily had the best combination of athleticism and technique of all six competitors. Considering Eve quit the company a mere month after their championship match, though, this now seems like a waste of time in retrospect. Had WWE known for certain that Eve was leaving at the time, I'm sure they would have had her drop the title to Kaitlyn at TLC and it would've been a much bigger deal.
- The six-man TLC match was, as everyone else has noted, goddamn phenomenal, and it's flabbergasting that the Shield have lost so much momentum following the match as they have in the last forty days.
- The Big Show Chair is the dumbest thing.
- Correction: The Brooklyn Brawler being the mystery teammate of Miz and Alberto Del Rio is the dumbest thing.
- AJ's turn on John Cena to assist Dolph Ziggler was one of the most satisfying things I've seen in a while. Just when I was about to lose all hope for everyone involved in this feud, that swerve saved it in a big way. AJ is FAR more interesting as a heel woman scorned than she is as a face helpless damsel in distress, even if all the horrid sexism surrounding her character is equally as prevalent.
- Changing every single Slammy into a popularity contest with stupid. Most of the nominees were stupid, too.
- I'm sensing a recurring theme of developmental talents winning the NXT Championship as faces and debuting on WWE as heels.
But let's move on to more recent history, shall we?
Not On The Card
Most of the storylines running through WWE that are not directly mentioned on the match card will probably be addressed in the royal rumble match, so this section will be brief. Wade Barrett finally took the Intercontinental Championship from Kofi Kingston on the last Raw of 2012. Kingston has since been relegated back to jobber status, and Barrett is back in the awkward position of people wanting to push him to the world title picture but the timing being wrong. His next challenger won't be announced for another few weeks
Youtube Pre-Show United States Championship Match: Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz
This is such a weird match-up now that I think about it. On the one hand, since Miz turned fully face, he's been seemingly tripping over his own feet every few seconds, yet somehow people are cheering for him anyway. On the other hand, Cesaro does fantastic ring work and continues to evolve his character with A GIANT AMERICAN FLAG, yet he gets no reaction unless he's directly telling people that he hates them because he's foreign. Honestly, there are signs every now and then that Miz's shift from cocky douchebag villain to cocky douchebag hero could work out well. Some of his moves have started to get a good reaction from the crowd, like the backbreaker-neckbreaker sequence and the Awesome Clothesline. But he stutters during his promos, and he fucks up the Figure Four, and...god. He's just trying too hard, you know? Come on Miz, work smarter, not harder.
Anyway. I don't really care for this feud, and that's because I don't believe Miz offers anything as a counter to Cesaro's anti-American rants, nor do I care for Ric Flair all that much. These are the two pillars upon which this feud has been built, and on top of that, it hasn't been built especially well on them.
Divas Championship Match: Kaitlyn (c) vs. Tamina Snuka
Eve has quit the company, and so Kaitlyn is now the Divas Champion. This was the correct decision, as AJ's character is currently being utilized in a non-wrestling capacity - and for that matter so is just about every other woman with an on-screen presence to speak of. Tamina had only been teased as Kaitlyn's first challenger up until the sudden announcement of this match on WWE.com, and she's probably the best (read: only viable) choice for that role. Hell, is there any other competitor in the Divas division at all that can be classified as a heel? Aksana, maybe? Unfortunately this match was put together very quickly with almost no time for a build, but I almost wish Kaitlyn were fighting someone else, someone less believable as a true challenge, because this feels like a waste of their first match against each other. There almost certainly won't be a controversial finish, and once Kaitlyn defeats Tamina, she won't have a chance to believably establish herself as a threat again.
Tag Team Championship Match: Team Hell No (c) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars
The grand hugging segment of this past Monday's Raw was poorly received by some, but honestly, if it serves as the last grand hurrah of the odd alliance of Daniel Bryan and Kane, then I am quite happy with it. The two offered a lot of laughs and some surprising feel-good moments in their time together, and I think it's about time they went their separate ways. Prior to the graduation ceremony, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow were built up as a serious threat to the champions and also got in some great verbal attacks against the champions. Their feud has been building for months now and it feels like it's time for it to end with Kane and Bryan dropping the titles.
Last Man Standing Match For the World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Big Show.
Alberto Del Rio is the best face in WWE right now. There, I said it.
Between his natural charisma, the "Si!" chant, and everything that Ricardo Rodriguez does, Del Rio has caught fire since his sudden turn at last month's TLC. His success appears to have been a matter of being in the right place at the right time (reportedly WWE wanted a Hispanic face more dependable than Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, and Big Show lost the title because of a contract issue that has since been resolved), but he's certainly doing everything he can to deserve it. I grew sick of Del Rio during his extended feud with Sheamus, but he has become far more entertaining as a heroic character. He has caught on as well as the Miz hasn't, and I am loving it. Last month, there was a wonderful segment where Ricardo was preparing for a match with Big Show, and Del Rio called him his best friend, and lent him his scarf and car just so he could arrive to the ring in style. That sold me on Del Rio immediately - I specifically turned and said to my mom (we've watched Raw together for a few months now) "That's so awesome! This is totally going to work!" And so far, it totally has.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock
I was a bit optimistic about this feud after the show I attended live. Punk was absolutely magical on the mic then - and has remained so in the weeks since. But the Rock has brought nothing to this. He isn't addressing Punk, instead cutting promos around him and back to himself. He's been jokey and annoying and I'm sick of him already. And he's going to be around until April. And probably champion.
This could've been so much better. The quality of Punk's promos reflects the quality of his opponent, but Rock has not changed a single damn thing about what he did back when he was preparing to face Cena at Wrestlemania - and that had gotten old already by the time they went at it. Nothing about what Rock has said convinces me that he really knows what's going on with Punk's character. Nothing he says about him is relevant. He barely seems like he's understanding what comes out of Punk's mouth. Back when this feud was first teased, when Punk suddenly knocked Rock out cold back on Raw 1000, I was PUMPED to see this match. Now I hardly even think Rock remembers that Punk did that to him. He's just back for his stupid part-time bullshit, self-assured that he's going to win without trying. And he's not trying. The only indication he might possibly vulnerable - when The Shield attacked him - was immediately dashed when Vince McMahon (Damn It) indicated that interference by them would land Rock the title anyway.
Look - when Cena pulled this same thing on Punk during their feuds - that cocky, self-assured attitude that he was going to win - there was the sense that maybe he didn't really believe it. Maybe he was talking himself up because he wasn't sure he could do it. Because Punk has held this title for so goddamn long and even when he thinks he'll beat him, something swoops in and Punk retains instead. Like The Shield. Like Brad Maddox. Like Cena's own inability to bridge into a pin on a simple goddamn suplex. Maybe he was confident in himself, but not 100% sure. Because it wasn't a 100% thing. And that scared him - because he was used to these things being 100% sure. Like they are with The Rock, right now.
Yeah. It was easier to imagine Cena as being insecure, uncertain, and a more complex character than it is to imagine The Rock thinks he stands a chance of losing enough to give a shit.
The Rock is the greatest heel WWE has going for them. He's an uncaring asshole who insults people for being anything other than physically perfect and gets what he wants whenever he wants. He takes what he wants from whom he wants. And he does it all without even trying. He does it all without even caring. People's hopes and dreams and life's work are shattered before the almighty will of Dwayne Johnson, who will get his giant paycheck merely for showing up and making a bunch of fat jokes. Then he will take everything you have thought to be important and consume it, because nothing can be more important than him. He laughs at the mortals who hold their accomplishments to their chests with pride, and stomps on those accomplishments with such force that he bursts the hearts behind them. He sees the herd marching towards the future, away from his time of glory, and he yanks back on their yokes and forces them back to himself. And people cheer for him, because he holds their very souls in his hands. And his peers cry, for they know they amount to nothing next to him. And nobody can stop him. Because he will not be stopped. He will merely grow bored, and return from whence he came, his lust for adoration and money sated but temporarily.
The Royal Rumble Match
I give Cena something around an 85% chance of winning this match, purely because I don't see a reason for anyone else to really get it. Anyone else that WWE would want in their championship matches at Wrestlemania can get there easily enough without it, whereas a Cena win would give them a convenient reason for him to face The Rock, who will presumably have won the title. If Cena does win, I'll be irked - not because I dislike Cena, but because I dislike such a boring, predictable result to an event that is meant to be built up as unpredictable. Weirdly, there aren't a lot of feuds going on between the participants that have been built up in the last couple weeks. WWE writers seem to have been in love with their Over-the-Top-Rope-this-will-totally-be-just-like-the-Royal-Rumble-right?-okay-maybe-not Challenges recently, which have done nothing to hype me up for the match.
The beat-the-clock challenge on the go-home show was an interesting, but disappointing way to land Ziggler with the #1 (or #2 but why would he bother with that) spot in the Rumble. A whole big deal is made for several hours about winning this coveted prize, and then at the last minute HERP WELL I GUESS THEY WERE COMPETING FOR SOMETHING STUPID LA DA DEE. Anyway, Ziggler will probably stay in the match for long time (40 minutes plus) but not win the thing. WWE has done that the last couple years - give a heel the #1 spot and not let them win, but allow them to look good by sticking around for a while.
The inclusion of an NXT wrestler is a nice nod to WWE's developmental program. They've been bringing up quite a few guys from there recently, and it's nice to see some fresh blood. That said, the fact that Bo Dallas is the wrestler who won the spot doesn't get me very excited. For those of you who don't know who he is, he is the most stereotypically bland charisma-less wrestler you will ever see. So, look forward to not caring about him once he's brought up.
In a perfect world, Heath Slater would win the Royal Rumble match and go on to job on the grandest stage of them all. This is not a perfect world however. My prediction is Cena wins and I won't care about it.