Sorry this is so late, Wolf. Amazingly enough, in a drastic change to the rest of this year, I’ve actually had very little free time on my hands. Makes me feel very grown up to say it wasn’t 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. I’m not going to review the show in the usual way that people do: simply running down the card as though you’re reading it for the first time and recapping a ton of shit you already know … because you … uh … wrote it
I’m going to address different parts of the show in sections. There’ll be the bit dealing with the 8-Man Tag Team Match and everything surrounding that (e.g. the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles), then I’ll touch on the JBL/’Taker 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 that’s how a lot of your feedback has been presented in the past. Okay here we go then…
We’ll start with the Eight-Man Tag Team Match first of all…
Kennedy’s interview early on in the show has me excited for the future of the winner of this year’s KOTR. Yes, it might have taken KK rather a long time to get there, and no, there’s absolutely no chance of him actually winning the World Title any time soon, but he is a main eventer. He’s mixing it up with the likes of Christian, Cena and Angle, and you just can’t 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 and… Well, you get my point. It’s why I enjoyed Mac’s push of Kennedy so much, despite what others said, because at least he tried to make his own star, rather than ramming Cena or ‘Taker or Trips or Orton or anyone else from that little group down our throats. He gets no marks for using The Rock though. That’s the exact opposite of what he should be doing. But this year’s 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 didn’t seem like a big deal when he came out of it, and it took him so long to recover. This time you’ve 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.
Christian’s meeting with Estrada later was very interesting. I don’t think I’m entirely original or unique in believing Umaga to be the one who will take the World Title from Christian. I don’t see ‘Mags making the jump to SD, and I certainly don’t 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 didn’t even start at WrestleMania, which makes this one all the more special, and deserving of an epic run. In an ideal world, I’d 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 can’t 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 CC’s 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 that’s to be expected with a huge Strange Bedfellows contest like this. Lesnar looked dominant as usual, but I have to say I’m 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? I’m 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 Man’s 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 we’ll 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 isn’t the most engaging of rivalries, but you’ve 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 Dave’s flaws. I’d go with a Steel Cage personally. They never fail.
The JBL/’Taker stuff…
Well, it was just kind of … there, wasn’t it? I have no real love for either guy to be honest, and I’m sure you’ll 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. ‘Taker comes back and buries said heel, thus taking all his heat. Repeat endlessly. I know ‘Taker’s 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? He’s 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 you’ve chosen wisely in JBL. The guy can’t wrestle and his career is virtually over, but he can sure talk the talk, what’s the harm in having him carry this feud on his back until ‘Taker comes back, literally buries him, and takes all his heat? None, that’s what. Bradshaw will likely take some time off, and become a manager or (hopefully, I’ll elaborate later) a commentator to replace Michael Cole. No idea what lies ahead for ‘Taker. Probably more of the same. He’ll leave/be taken out for a bit, before coming back a few months later and squashing whoever’s talking smack this time. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and…
The Commentary situation…
This business with Michael Cole needs to end. Now. It’s awful. You’re obviously a fan of the current product, or I guess you wouldn’t be running with this, but it’s one of the reasons I haven’t watched a WWE show for a very, very, very long time. Cole is a bad commentator. He’s 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 he’s 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 Tournament…
I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong about a card and yet couldn’t 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 KOTR’s 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. I’m 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 I’m okay with it. At least he lost to someone with talent eh?
Here’s 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 it’s 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 Albright’s 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 can’t beat Hardy in a fair one-on-one match without T-Lo at ringside, which is what the fans think anyway. It’s 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 you’re 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. Regal’s veteran intelligence would have beaten anyone else here, going for a count out, hitting his finisher, and then decking ‘Mags 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 Regal’s own ‘Do Whatever It Takes’ attitude that ended up backfiring on him. Plus, ‘Maga still came out of it looking like a beast, and that’s 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 London’s 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 clichéd 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. It’s almost reminiscent of how good Angle looked after making Michaels tap at WM 21. Both men looked great, but to win like that … wow. It’s 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 can’t wait for that to happen. It’s 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 contender’s match a few weeks back was such a welcome introduction. But it looks like he’s in for the long haul with Spanky, especially since Kendrick is running low on challengers for his own belt. I hope you don’t forget about the plethora of guys you’ve 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 Hardy’s 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 that’s 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 Haas’ subsequent attack. I could possibly see this leading to Primo’s 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. Hardy’s 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 “Fuck it, I ain’t beating this guy in a mat wrestling match” 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 it’s an Air Raid Crash (Celtic Cross)? You’ll have to give us an example, unless you’ve just made it up, ha ha.
But what a win for Brent Albright. I honestly didn’t 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 doesn’t make you look good I don’t 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 you’re saying stuff like this, who cares what your voice sounds like. It’s almost as though you wrote this thing for me, Wolfy. He spits in the face of all the ridiculous ‘Sports Entertainment’ garbage that the WWE is known for and the cartoonish stars who’ve been its most prominent stars, and completely puts over the sport of professional wrestling. And absolutely everything he said was true. You don’t need a stupid gimmick out of a children’s cartoon to be a good, if you’re 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. I’m so excited for this I’m not sure what to write. This is the most excited I’ve 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 don’t know who he is and can’t be bothered looking him up because he’s not in the WWE anymore. They only do what Vince tells them. They only like who Vince tells them. It’s pretty sickening to be honest, but who gives a toss about those ‘Sports Entertainment’ 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 I’m concerned. I don’t care it isn’t in full. It was genius, Wolfy. Genius