Sorry this is so late, Wolf. Amazingly enough, in a drastic change to the rest of this year, Iíve actually had very little free time on my hands. Makes me feel very grown up to say it wasnít because of exams this time, but actual, real, honest to God work, if you can believe it. I read SNME the second (slight exaggeration) it was posted though, and have been meaning to give you some feedback on it ever since. So here it is. Iím not going to review the show in the usual way that people do: simply running down the card as though youíre reading it for the first time and recapping a ton of shit you already know Ö because you Ö uh Ö wrote it
Iím going to address different parts of the show in sections. Thereíll be the bit dealing with the 8-Man Tag Team Match and everything surrounding that (e.g. the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles), then Iíll touch on the JBL/íTaker segment, and, of course, the most important one of all, everything that happened in the King of the Ring tournament. I hope you get what I mean. I think you will, because thatís how a lot of your feedback has been presented in the past. Okay here we go thenÖ
Weíll start with the Eight-Man Tag Team Match first of allÖ
Kennedyís interview early on in the show has me excited for the future of the winner of this yearís KOTR. Yes, it might have taken KK rather a long time to get there, and no, thereís absolutely no chance of him actually winning the World Title any time soon, but he is a main eventer. Heís mixing it up with the likes of Christian, Cena and Angle, and you just canít beat getting a new main event player to work with. It freshens things up instantly, rather than reading the same shit group of guys over and over and over andÖ Well, you get my point. Itís why I enjoyed Macís push of Kennedy so much, despite what others said, because at least he tried to make his own star, rather than ramming Cena or ĎTaker or Trips or Orton or anyone else from that little group down our throats. He gets no marks for using The Rock though. Thatís the exact opposite of what he should be doing. But this yearís KOTR feels much more special than twelve months ago, as back then the final was a solitary match on a completely unrelated PPV, and it nowhere near the main event. No wonder KK didnít seem like a big deal when he came out of it, and it took him so long to recover. This time youíve built this tournament beautifully, making it as much of a big deal as the MITB and even the Royal Rumble. Whoever wins will be damn close to the main event already, and it should only take a little nudge to propel them to the top of the card.
Christianís meeting with Estrada later was very interesting. I donít think Iím entirely original or unique in believing Umaga to be the one who will take the World Title from Christian. I donít see ĎMags making the jump to SD, and I certainly donít see anyone else on Raw getting the belt off Captain Charisma. I hope Christian gets a nice, long run though. Much of his first reign was recapped, and it didnít even start at WrestleMania, which makes this one all the more special, and deserving of an epic run. In an ideal world, Iíd like to see a true great like Christian go a full year with the belt, putting on great match after great match with the likes of Cena, Kennedy, Angle, Trips, Umaga, HBK, Shelton, Hardy etc. But I canít see that happening. What I can see happening is Umaga cashing in the briefcase properly in a one-on-one match like RVD did to Cena, and beating Christian clean as a whistle, which could really go either way in terms of what it does to CCís status. Hopefully we get a good few more months of what has already been an extremely enjoyable title run.
The match itself was very exciting, but thatís to be expected with a huge Strange Bedfellows contest like this. Lesnar looked dominant as usual, but I have to say Iím getting a bit sick of him. I hope you begin phasing him out after he loses to Orton at GAB, but that seems unlikely with his feud with Trips still going. The ending was the kind of mess one would expect in this kind of environment, with everyone just turning on one another at every chance they get. Kennedy and Angle going after Christian again seems to be a prelude to the championship situation at SummerSlam, but I still think Angle is going to get the shot somehow, whilst Kennedy faces Cena possibly? Iím not sure on that one. Cena losing again continues this absolutely brilliant slide to the dark side. First we had the now famous submission at the hands of Kurt Angle at Vengeance, and every week we seem to be seeing the Cena of old being taken apart piece by piece. I still remember what Mr. McMahon said to him at his farewell, and it has me so excited. This turn is going to be right up there with Macho Manís epic degeneration between WrestleMania IV and V when he became jealous of Hogan. Long, subtle and brilliantly executed. By the time WM XXIV comes around, I fully expect Cena/Christian II, and this time I think weíll be seeing Cena as a heel, fresh off turning his back on the fans by attacking CC in some way. It should be absolutely phenomenal. Lesnar getting the pin and one over on Orton was always inevitable given his upcoming title shot. He needs a ton of momentum heading into that, where Orton will somehow escape with his belt, thanks possibly to Trips again? Edge and Batista isnít the most engaging of rivalries, but youíve built the feud really well, and I think the eventual blow off match the two have after GAB could be something special depending on which stipulation you choose to hide Big Daveís flaws. Iíd go with a Steel Cage personally. They never fail.
The JBL/íTaker stuffÖ
Well, it was just kind of Ö there, wasnít it? I have no real love for either guy to be honest, and Iím sure youíll be the first to agree that things start to get very repetitive when The Undertaker is involved. He goes away. Random Heel A starts talking shit about and carrying the feud. ĎTaker comes back and buries said heel, thus taking all his heat. Repeat endlessly. I know ĎTakerís over as hell and has a great gimmick, but it gets kind of boring to watch and read after a while. But what is there to do with him really? Heís like a novelty act you just have to roll out every now and then, before rolling him back because of his dodgy knees. The best you can do is not have him bury a young and upcoming wrestler like he did CM Punk , and youíve chosen wisely in JBL. The guy canít wrestle and his career is virtually over, but he can sure talk the talk, whatís the harm in having him carry this feud on his back until ĎTaker comes back, literally buries him, and takes all his heat? None, thatís what. Bradshaw will likely take some time off, and become a manager or (hopefully, Iíll elaborate later) a commentator to replace Michael Cole. No idea what lies ahead for ĎTaker. Probably more of the same. Heíll leave/be taken out for a bit, before coming back a few months later and squashing whoeverís talking smack this time. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse andÖ
The Commentary situationÖ
This business with Michael Cole needs to end. Now. Itís awful. Youíre obviously a fan of the current product, or I guess you wouldnít be running with this, but itís one of the reasons I havenít watched a WWE show for a very, very, very long time. Cole is a bad commentator. Heís a bad actor (even by wrestling standards). And it all comes together to make him a truly terrible heel. I know lots of people would say I only hate him because heís a heel. No, a good heel is someone you want to watch because you hate them so much. Cole is just unwatchable and bad. Stick with Coach on these occasions, or bring in JBL if you want a heel on SD so much. Just cut it out.
And onto the important stuff - the King of the Ring TournamentÖ
I donít think Iíve ever been more wrong about a card and yet couldnít care less because it turned out better than I could have ever hoped. If I was worried in the run up to this show that the KOTR would turn out like most KOTRís have in the past, where we get one maybe two good matches, with the rest getting barely enough time to rank at all, I was dead, dead, DEAD wrong. You clearly understood that you had some tremendous workers in this tournament and you made the most of that, putting on a series of matches all around the 10-15 minute mark that were fast-paced and unbelievably exciting. Look at your opener - Paul London and Charlie Haas. Unbelievable. Two of the best wrestlers on your roster and they tore shit up to give us a hot opening with the babyface win. Iím a big fan of his, but I never had any hopes for Haas to win this thing, and I think you have other plans for him that will continue to showcase his talents, so Iím okay with it. At least he lost to someone with talent eh?
Hereís where you started to surprise me. I thought your love affair with Brent Albright had well and truly ended after he lost the United States Title and that he would go the way of a lot of younger guys you have tried to push in the past, such as Garrison Cade, Nick Dinsmore, Mark Jindrak, Luther Reigns, Ken Doane etc., and disappear into obscurity. On the same note, with his latest victory over MVP, it seemed as though you were falling in love with Carlito all over again, which is why he was my pick to win the whole thing. Good call eh? I pretty much like everyone in this tournament, so itís hard for me to say I like this guy or that guy going over, but I was very pleased to see you completely prove me wrong and have Albright go over, clean too nonetheless. The stuff between the two men afterwards is obviously setting up something for later on too, and I like the fact that it is solely based on respect and Albrightís lack of it.
Next we got what I thought was going to be the opening contest and also the match of the night. It came close, but amazingly enough you managed to top it later on. I really liked the edict before the tournament that no managers or other personnel would be allowed at ringside, mainly because it furthers this Hardy/Benjamin angle even more. With Matt going over here, it kind of looks as though Shelton canít beat Hardy in a fair one-on-one match without T-Lo at ringside, which is what the fans think anyway. Itís a classic way to set up their next encounter, which the fans will be just certain that Matt will win, only for Benjamin to prove them all wrong. I love it. The attack after the match works both for their own feud and for the tournament as a whole, so once again, very savvy booking, Wolfy. This is why youíre the man around here, and the rest of us are just young pretenders feeding on your tobacco.
Another surprise came in the next match. I thought Umaga would destroy Regal and then get disqualified in the next round. Well, I was right about the destroy thing I guess. Regalís veteran intelligence would have beaten anyone else here, going for a count out, hitting his finisher, and then decking ĎMags with the brass knucks, but all it did was piss the monster off, which made the DQ actually work in the end. Sometimes the DQs or count outs that protect an undefeated streak feel a bit forced (see my World Tag Team Title Match at Vengeance for an example of how not to do it), but yours worked rather well, as it was Regalís own ĎDo Whatever It Takesí attitude that ended up backfiring on him. Plus, ĎMaga still came out of it looking like a beast, and thatís the most important thing right? You needed him out of the way so that someone else could get the rub, and you did just that. Bravo, sir. Bravo.
No we move on to the Match of the Night. I love the placement of the Kendrick/London face off too, right before Londonís big match with one of his greatest rivals. Whilst Albright was utterly focused in his interview, London was experiencing more mind games from his former friend - who has been a lot more interesting lately, if still a little clichťd on the heel front. But yes, this was an awesome match. They stole the show at Judgment Day, and have arguably had your best feud post-WrestleMania so far, so this was to be expected. It is also a tremendous way for Albright to get his win back over London whilst keeping the title on the Texan. Albright comes out of this thing looking like an absolute star, making your popular babyface tap out in such a classic. Itís almost reminiscent of how good Angle looked after making Michaels tap at WM 21. Both men looked great, but to win like that Ö wow. Itís really nice to see you invest so much time in these two as well. I might moan about you de-pushing certain guys, but your treatment of London and Albright has been consistently excellent, and it will just take one more shove like it did with Kennedy to put them in the main event. Given how stale your SD main event scene is right now, I canít wait for that to happen. Itís a shame London is feuding with Kendrick right now, as proven by the post-match attack (what is this? A Legend show
, as his mere presence in the number one contenderís match a few weeks back was such a welcome introduction. But it looks like heís in for the long haul with Spanky, especially since Kendrick is running low on challengers for his own belt. I hope you donít forget about the plethora of guys youíve got lined up for a U.S Title shot though.
I guess it was inevitable that we would get one bad match on the card right? But it still adds to the overall story of the night. The toll of the first round is felt, as neither Regal nor Hardy can muster much of an offence, with Hardy slightly the better off and able to advance. It slightly takes away from Hardyís run to the final doing it in such a way, but he still has that clean win over Shelton Benjamin under his belt, so I guess thatís the important thing right?
We almost got the reverse of the semis here, as Albright was more distracted going into the final following his confrontation with Carlito and Haasí subsequent attack. I could possibly see this leading to Primoís introduction to team with his partner against the Master Craftsmen, as a short feud before Albright goes on to the main event, and I have to say I like the idea of the matches. The stats you put up showed just how hard this one was to call. Hardyís in worse condition certainly, but Albright has had the longer matches throughout the tournament. And what a fitting end to a such a great tournament. Injured, Hardy just thinks ďFuck it, I ainít beating this guy in a mat wrestling matchĒ and goes for absolute broke from the offset. It kind of reminded me of a boxing match where the two guys just forget about defence and just go at it from the bell. It might not have been his original game plan, but what else could Albright do but go with it and fight it out. He did manage to ground Hardy a few times, and really went after his arm with the Crowbar. After London tapped earlier, Matt looked like a million dollars refusing to quit here. This is a prime example of how someone can lose and still look great. He could have won the match via count out, but wants to do it the honourable way. Great heel/babyface dichotomy that throws shades of doubt over the heels ultimate victory, but not enough to hurt him, only to keep the face strong. And the finish, after all the suplexes and the numerous Crowbars, it is a move I have never heard of that finally gets the win. What on earth is a Samoan Drop Driver? I assume itís an Air Raid Crash (Celtic Cross)? Youíll have to give us an example, unless youíve just made it up, ha ha.
But what a win for Brent Albright. I honestly didnít give him a chance coming into this night, as I stated earlier I thought you were done with him. Far from it, it seems. As the commentators pointed out, Albright just won the most competitive KOTR EVER, wrestling for about 45 minutes on one night in some fantastic matches, and winning them all as clean as a whistle. If that doesnít make you look good I donít know what does. His victory speech was FUCKING AMAZING! I know Albright received a lot of flack in the past for not being the best talker, but I always thought he was decent, and when youíre saying stuff like this, who cares what your voice sounds like. Itís almost as though you wrote this thing for me, Wolfy. He spits in the face of all the ridiculous ĎSports Entertainmentí garbage that the WWE is known for and the cartoonish stars whoíve been its most prominent stars, and completely puts over the sport of professional wrestling. And absolutely everything he said was true. You donít need a stupid gimmick out of a childrenís cartoon to be a good, if youíre a talented professional wrestler. Flair proved it. Bret proved it. Owen proved it. Angle proved it. Eddie proved it. Benoit proved it. Jericho proved it. And now Haas and Albright are going to bring that back. Iím so excited for this Iím not sure what to write. This is the most excited Iíve been for an angle in a LONG time, Wolfy. Just when I though SD was becoming stale, you reach out from my screen and punch me in the face with this work of art.
People will probably shit on you for putting Albright over because they donít know who he is and canít be bothered looking him up because heís not in the WWE anymore. They only do what Vince tells them. They only like who Vince tells them. Itís pretty sickening to be honest, but who gives a toss about those ĎSports Entertainmentí loving monkeys? I love professional wrestling, and you just made an angle entirely for me.
This is required reading, and already a frontrunner for show of the year as far as Iím concerned. I donít care it isnít in full. It was genius, Wolfy. Genius