So, another PPV in the books. Another good one…
The first half of the opening video was excellent, it has to be said. Given how much I enjoyed the narration of it, I felt the second part of the video maybe let it down, and perhaps wasn’t even needed. Still, gets the table set for the big post-WM show.
Interesting choice for the opener, but given the back story it’s a match that has the fans invested from the get go. Early going played out as expected, and after a dominant opening period for Carlito, I expected the use of Torrie as a distraction would’ve opened up the door for Kenny to get on top. I liked the fact that Kenny was able to eventually turn the match in his favour by his own merits though. After solid work on the knee, it was a tad disappointing that CCC didn’t sell it for long once he started to mount his comeback, and at some point, you just knew Torrie would be a factor, saving Kenny from losing the title. One positive aspect of having Carlito work as a face is that you’re able to go all out on his flashy, high risk offence, and towards the closing stages of this one, you did just that. Honestly, the DQ was disappointing - but a necessary evil in order to keep the belt on Dykstra and not hurt Carlito.
The post match revenge for Carlito was nice, and that, coupled with the DQ itself, leads me to think there will be one more title shot in the offing for CCC before the two head in different directions. A feud for Cesaro right out of the gate with Carlito sounds good to me
, while Jeff Hardy could be a perfect opponent for Dykstra perhaps.
Linda showing up certainly throws a wrench into Vinces plans, and could be the perfect way to prevent them from ruining the main event later.
Not an earth shattering promo from Jeff by any means, but I liked the fire - excuse the pun - he showed in his interview.
I fully expected the tag match to be the opener, but no matter where this got placed on the card, I was looking forward to it. Good use of the athleticism of Benjamin early on in his mini battle with Punk, and it was a good idea to have the four men compete on an even keel, rather than have the faces dominate early on, before being worn down. While the competitive mano e mano nature was good to see, I noticed some nice subtle heel moves too, such as Benjamin pulling on Punks hair when bringing him to the corner which is a smart touch you sometimes wouldn’t see. There was a nice original spot (at least I think it was) in there too with Punk performing a sunset flip and Shelton tagging out before the move was performed. The heel domination lasted just long enough without getting boring before the hot tag to Dinsmore. Liked Dinsmores offence, and the offence in general in the closing stages, including Haas mainly being a pest, saving Shelton from the Cloverleaf (twice eventually) and preventing the Doomsday Dropkick. Interesting to see SES getting a visual win with Benjamin tapping out, but the heels stealing the win.
I certainly expected a close match up, but for whatever reason I had a feeling TWGTT would win cleanly here, just to impose themselves as ‘the best’ and give SES a chance to come back at a later date to push them closer, but from this, it certainly seems that Punk and Dinsmore have the champions number, with this feud bubbling nicely now as the so called best team had to cheat to retain the belts. All in all, it was an enjoyable match, but it did feel like something was being held back, which could be smart if this is just the beginning of what I assume will be a long running rivalry.
The Van Dam promo was pretty basic and by the numbers, just really setting the stage for later. Nothing wrong with that.
Nice change of pace for the second tag match, starting off with the two power wrestlers. I would normally be opposed to running two tag matches back to back on a PPV, but this worked, given the match was a very different affair from the previous match, using a blend of the power guys, the quicker, flashier guys and of course - the ladies too. Kidd was a good choice to play the ‘face in peril’, and Smith a perfect guy to be the one to take the hot tag. Good finishing sequence after that, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Masters having no qualms slapping the Masterlock on Natalya - but my only gripe is that she didn’t sell it for long after it was broken, almost immediately recovering to dropkick Masters out. Saying that, I just liked the fact that she had no problems mixing it up with the guys, and the outcome - while expected - was nicely written. A good win for the Harts on their PPV debut, and I see the imminent break up of MNM isn’t too far away…
Looking at the KOTR draw, and it has to be said that the SD half of the draw looks much stronger - at least in terms of match quality, especially the Kendrick vs. London showdown. There should be a few other nice side plots in the early stages at least, with King Booker looking to win the tournament twice, and it’d be nice to see Lawler get a run for a feel good story. Hard to pick a winner at this point imo - which is a good thing.
Hardy starting strong seemed the right way to go, but it’s good to see his reckless abandon working against him with Ortons dropkick turning the tables in a really well worked spot. While a fairly simple, effective match, the main story - for me - through the match was Orton doing just about everything he could to avoid the big moves from Jeff (Twist of Fate, Swanton) and though he eventually succumbed to the Twist of Fate, Jeff just couldn’t nail the big Swanton, and is beaten in a big match yet again - cleanly. The clean win, and Orton not following up after with an attack (although that’s probably due to not being allowed to use the case) suggests this issue is probably over and done with. Off the top of my head though, I cant see a natural feud for Orton right now on Raw after this, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take off to Smackdown in the draft and perhaps cash in on Batista over there, as I don’t see RVD being knocked off any time soon.
Good to see there will be no excuses from Cena should he lose tonight.
Must say - I LOVED the lead in package for HBK & HHH. Superbly put together, worthy of an epic feud such as this.
I don’t think there was any other option you had but to go straight for it in this match. It just wouldn’t have been natural for Triple H and Michaels in this environment to build toward the brawl aspect - it had to be from the opening bell. In general, I’m not a fan of crowd brawls, they just seem like a way to kill time usually, but credit where it’s due here - the fight up to the technical area was well written. Surprised you had Trips go for an early cover. It just seems off, given the hatred between the two. I mean, I get he wouldn’t expect the three at this time, and ordinarily would do it as part of a match, but given this isn’t any old match, I wouldn’t have expected a pin fall in the early going to cross his mind. After reading Trips getting clocked with the monitor I assumed that would be him busted open, but I guess we’ll have to wait for that. While the crowd brawls are a pet peeve, a personal favourite of mine is the use of those television cables to choke people with. IMO, it just provides a great visual to use in a blood feud like this one. The addition of lines from commentary only added to it, with the inclusion of the lines from J.R especially a highlight - really helping to get the reader into the match.
Felt like a very ECW-esque spot when Michaels tied up Trips on the ropes, and went to work on him with the cane - and that’s no bad thing. As you noted with Styles commentary, the biblical symbolism of the way HHH was tied up certainly wasn’t lost on me, and only added to the match, Michaels character and the angle on the whole. Targeting the legs - knowing Trips history with his quad just goes to show how far HBK has fallen, with no mercy - actively going for his former best friends notoriously bad leg. The only way Trips was getting out of that horrible situation was with a low blow - it had to be done. Didn’t quite get how he managed to free himself, and thought it might’ve been a bit easier to just have the referee help untie him while Michaels was done - but I digress, it’s a minor critique. Triple H getting his payback with the cane was expected, and helped turn things back in his favour. Loved the dramatic nature of how the Pedigree through the table came to pass, with the tease, then it looking like things would swing toward HBK, but The Game finally hitting it. Ordinarily, that one might’ve been enough to end it - but Trips doesn’t want to end it yet. A Pedigree on the steps would’ve been SICK, but honestly, I never truly expected it to happen - it would’ve ended the match for sure.
Michaels targeting the leg again goes to show how much intent he’ll have to finish the Game for good here … and the Savage Elbow onto the chair and ankle is brutal - merciless even. Michaels character is simply golden at this point, applying a figure four, but telling the ref he DOESN’T want HHH to quit. “You evil bastard”; again, great use of lines from commentary. Generally I wouldn’t have thought a Figure Four would work in a match like this, when neither man is overly ‘known’ for using it, but boy, you made it something here, and Trips turning it over just went to show how defiant The Game is - going on to kick out of SCM too. The missed Pedigree followed by Sweet Chin Music spot & the countered SCM into a spine buster on the steps followed by a Pedigree series of spots were great to read too, and helped break up the physical nature with a few nice counters (all the while keeping it physical - if any of that makes sense … I think I just confused myself there
). In keeping with the personal nature of the match too it made sense for Trips to use the sledgehammer to the back, rather than going for the skull - payback for HBK trying to take out the legs - going for Michaels well documented bad back. The finish?? Epic. A Sweet Chin Music wouldn’t have fit in this scenario to end the match - it had to be something sick and twisted … and this didn’t disappoint. The hammer to the skull, telling HHH “It didn’t have to be this way” just sums up Michaels character. Superb.
Quick comment on the post match shenanigans - again, great writing. Teasing more pain for Trips, but simply blessing him was a disgusting, maniacal thing for Michaels to do, and along with his reaction to the slap from Stephanie, just goes to show how far off the edge HBK has gone. Following up, Triple H leaving on a stretcher gives a perfect excuse to get rid of Linda - and at the same time goes to show where Vinces priorities lie, not going, even after his daughter pleaded with him.
It might’ve been smarter to switch the six person tag with this one in terms of placement, as this womens match never had a chance to follow the No Holds Barred epic. The six person match would’ve been perfect to bring the fans ‘down’ again, whereas even as a reader, I had a hard time getting into this, and because of that, the title change didn’t come off as important as perhaps it should have. That aside, you told a surprising enough story, as I expected this to play out with Victoria and Beth eventually breaking down, but that never really came to pass - despite a few accidental blows. That’s a good thing, as you can build that dissention for another while before breaking the pair up. Didn’t see the title switch coming though, having assumed you’d save Beth winning the belt for a one on one match.
Given the fairly weak state of the mid card - especially the heels - I expect Cesaro to make an almost immediate impact upon arrival. He should help freshen up the mid card scene.
Main event time, and the initial feeling out process certainly didn’t outstay it’s welcome. I assumed we’d have a long, slow opening segment of the match, so it was a nice surprise to have things open up a little early on, and didn’t waste time to make it a physical match with spots like Cena catapulting RVD into the post and the suplex on the outside. On that note, it seemed a bit off that Van Dam would need to put his foot on the ropes after that. The Five Knuckle Shuffle should ALWAYS be countered at least once a match - such a silly move. Got a kick out of seeing the (chairless) Van Terminator - that could easily be a finishing move for RVD imo (against mid card guys at least), and I hope you continue to have him use it regularly in this manner. The spot where Cena avoided the Five Star then slapped on the STFU was a well written, exciting sequence, but I didn’t get the feeling the end was near for RVD at that point, but was still a nice near ending spot, which got to show the will to win of the champion. You built up to the superplex spot well too, with Cena going out of his comfort zone and the step up enziguri stopping Cena. Following that near fall, the next three paragraphs of action was some superb action, culminating in the Five Star … BUT CENA KICKED OUT!!??
Clearly, despite being unlikely to win, you want to keep Cena strong, and kicking out of the Five Star will certainly do it. Part of me really thought it was over at that point, but with the threat of Vince and Lashley hanging over the match, I didn’t expect it to end without some kind of run in from them. The kickout also accomplishes adding another wrinkle to Van Dams doubt about being able to beat Cena, being unable to finish him with his own finishing move. Much like the DQ in the opening match, I didn’t really want to see Vince & Lashley (and Shane) show up … but it’s a necessary evil. Still, it’s hard to doubt the impact they had on the match; busting RVD open and putting Cena through a table. A great comeback though for Van Dam, fighting off Lashley and the McMahons, even busting out the Van Daminator. Still, it would’ve been funny for Shane to hit Van Dam with his Coast to Coast rip off of the Van Terminator. While I didn’t believe Cena could win this - I’ll admit, you had me for a second when he caught RVD with the FU. As false finishes go, that was a pretty damn good one. BOO-YAY is a must for Cena matches, so couldn’t blame you for including that, especially when it’s against another popular face - it just fits better in that environment. You put together a great finishing sequence from here, bringing the match home to cap off a superb main event, even if the outcome was to be expected, which in the end wasn’t ruined by the run ins. Great job, and a nice touch with Cena ‘putting over’ RVD with a salute.
Overall, you’ve hit another home run with this PPV, solid matches from top to bottom - including two incredible main event matches. Clearly the two main matches dominated, and while Raw has really just been moving along, I fully expect the show to kick on now that WrestleMania - and it’s hangover period - is done and dusted. I envisage RVD & Cena forging together in the run up to ‘War Games’ to take on the McMahons faction, which may end up including Michaels for that event, as he’ll need to be involved with the two top faces coming out of this PPV - no one else would suffice at this point if Trips is to be on the shelf for the foreseeable future.