Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2012
by Paul in Wrestling
As I believe we mentioned on the last podcast, Al’s off at Thought Bubble this weekend, so we’ll be back next week (possibly with some interviews, you never know).
X-Axis will… yeah, that’ll probably be Monday, the way things are going. Busy weekend.
But this article is a preview of something that airs tomorrow, so let’s run it down.
Historically, Survivor Series was the WWE’s fourth-biggest show of the year (behind Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble and Summerslam), but nowadays it’s just a monthly show with a particularly well-established gimmick, the ten-man elimination tag team match. The downside with ten-man tags is that they really do chew through a lot of wrestlers, so at a time like this, when roster depth is not at an all-time high, there’s a certain degree of lip service being paid to the concept. We do have one as the semi-main event, but it’s been painfully obvious that the company is making it up as they go along right now…
1. WWE Title – CM Punk v. John Cena v. Ryback. At last month’s Hell in a Cell show, Ryback was parachuted into the main event following an injury to John Cena, leaving everyone to wonder how on earth they were going to get out of the resulting booking corner without either derailing Punk’s storyline, or prematurely ending Ryback’s winning streak. The eventual solution was the time-honoured screwjob finish, with referee Brad Maddox turning on Ryback and helping to pin him. (Quite what the plan is with Maddox is not altogether clear. He was originally brought up from developmental with the idea that he’d be a referee feuding with Punk, but that was quietly dropped. This may have been simply a device to tie up the loose cannon referee angle and bring him back with something else in due course. For the moment, he’s been beaten to smithereens by Ryback and written out.)
Regardless, Punk is still the champion. Initially, the plan for this show was for Punk to lead one of the teams in the elimination match, with the other one being captained by Mick Foley. That’s apparently still maybe heading somewhere, but just one week after announcing it, the company changed its mind and decided to try and keep up Ryback’s momentum after all. So here’s Punk defending against both Cena and Ryback.
As with last month, a major consideration here is that in two months time, the Rock gets his shot at the title – which he presumably wins, so that he can have the return match at Wrestlemania. Depending on what the long term plan is this week, all three could win. If Cena wins, they’ve presumably changed plans, and he’s going to face Rock in January, with Punk getting the match at Wrestlemania. Could happen. If Punk retains, he’s almost certainly going on to face Rock in January as per the original storyline, with Cena getting the bigger match. That’s more likely. And if Ryback wins… well, chances are he’s losing it straight back next month in a screwjob, but they’ve decided they need to give him the token reign to keep up his momentum. I don’t think it’s a very good idea, and I don’t think it’s very likely, but it is a possibility.
The match last month was, um, not desperately good. I wasn’t as negative about it as some people, but it’s certainly true that they kept it extremely basic, probably too basic for a main event – and that Ryback’s whole unstoppable monster deal doesn’t work as well when he’s got to do extended competitive matches. Adding Cena probably makes for a better match and makes it easier to conceal Ryback’s limitations, and it also means that if Ryback’s not winning, he doesn’t have to be involved in the decision. I’m not expecting a classic, though.
On balance, I’d bet on Punk winning. He’s coming up for a year with the title, something nobody’s done in over twenty years, and I think it’d be silly to throw away that talking point unless there’s a compelling reason.
2. World Heavyweight Title: The Big Show v Sheamus. Big Show won the title last month, in what turned out to be an unexpectedly good match. This is, well, it’s the obligatory rematch. I’m racking my brains for something to say about it. It’ll probably be another good match, and I assume Big Show is retaining, since there’s no point just trading the title back and forth, and it puts Sheamus in position to chase for a title shot from here through to Wrestlemania.
3. Elimination Match: Team Foley (Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, Kane & The Miz) v. Team Ziggler (Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow & Wade Barrett). Oh lord. As already mentioned, the original idea here was to base it around a feud between retired 90s wrestler Mick Foley and heel champion CM Punk. But now Punk’s not in it any more so they’re… uh, they’re doing the match anyway with no real story. Yay?
Foley was always going to be a non-wrestling captain, but Ryback was going to be the fifth man on his team. When he was reassigned to the title match, he was replaced by the Miz. Miz has just turned babyface after years as a middle-to-top heel, and since his character has been unusually consistent, for a change it actually means something that he’s turned. This is the first match where he clearly aligns with the babyfaces, and as is traditional, the others don’t trust him yet.
On the heel side, Ziggler (still nursing that Money in the Bank title shot he won months ago) replaces CM Punk as team captain. Miz was originally announced for the heel team, before switching; his replacement is Wade Barrett, recently returned from injury and getting the usual string of wins that heralds a renewed push.
Mostly, the rest of the teams have been assembled by pairing up people with existing feuds that aren’t going anywhere terribly urgently. Orton is feuding with Del Rio; Bryan & Kane, as tag champions, are feuding with Rhodes & Sandow. Incidentally, it’s been clear for a while that Bryan and Kane are meant to be babyfaces, given their regular opponents, but how does that fit with Bryan’s current audience-interaction schtick, which is entirely based on him getting into screaming matches with an audience that he perceives as mocking him? Is that really a babyface gimmick…?
Complicating matters still further, Rhodes was hurt on Tuesday’s tapings, when he suffered a concussion and some assorted other injuries. It seems very likely that he’ll be pulled from this match and swapped for a last minute replacement. Tensai has been mooted, which makes sense in terms of him being an upper midcard heel with nothing better to do (albeit one who is clearly not in favour right now, considering that he spent the last couple of weeks on the house shows getting pinned by Z-lister Michael McGillicutty).
For all that the story is a mess, there are a lot of talented wrestlers in here, and I think they’ll make it work. It frankly doesn’t matter who wins, but for what it’s worth, conventional wisdom would say that the guy who’s just turned babyface really ought to win in his first big match.
4. WWE United States Title: Antonio Cesaro v R-Truth. After a slightly shaky start with the dubious gimmick of “excessively violent Swiss rugby player”, Cesaro is starting to settle into a more comfortable role as the condescending European. (Somewhat against my better judgment, I rather like the French language rap that the in-house music guys came up with for his entrance music.) Like many WWE midcarders, though, he’s desperately in need of an actual storyline to go with his title reign, but instead he’s participating in this generic feud with equally underused babyface R-Truth. It’ll be a solid match, and Cesaro ought to win, since that title’s doing him some good.
5. WWE Divas Title: Eve Torres v Kaitlyn. The same match they backed out of doing a couple of months back, which is interesting. Supposedly the company is conscious of a lack of depth in the women’s division (gee, you think?) and looking at bringing up some more people from developmental. That’s probably good news for the likes of Paige, who have been having perfectly good matches down there and would be a useful addition to the main roster. And perhaps at some point they’ll finally remember that Naomi Knight, currently employed as one of Brodus Clay’s dancers, is a better wrestler than most of the women who are actually employed to wrestle.
Meanwhile… this will be terrible. Eve’s okay, but Kaitlyn’s dire, and there’s no way they’re giving her the title. They’ll be put out there as a filler match late in the show, and Eve will retain in five minutes max.
6. 3MB v Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel. This is the preview match airing on YouTube before the show, and not a bad choice, either. The company has finally been working to rebuild the tag division of late, and for the first time in years it’s looking pretty viable. (Having three hours to fill on Monday nights tends to focus attention on these things. Perhaps next they can work on writing some actual storylines for the midcarders?)
Kidd and Gabriel are a good babyface duo who really need a break from the writers, because they’ve been forgotten about for ages, despite being very strong performers. Recently there’s been some belated attempt to start reviving Gabriel with a few upset wins, and that’s welcome.
3MB are a newly formed and very odd stable which is an attempt to revive interest in three low-grade heels whose careers were previously going nowhere. The idea is that they’re a self proclaimed rock band (despite showing no interest in actually making music – but that’s the joke). This was originally Heath Slater’s gimmick, “the one man rock band”, so his inclusion actually makes sense. It’s the compatriots who seem to have been selected from the roster with a blindfold and a pin. Drew McIntyre was previously a vaguely sinister Scot who was on the verge of the main event for a while before a spectacular fall from grace to borderline unemployment, from which he is only now being rehabilitated. And Jinder Mahal… well, he was a generic evil foreigner, naturally. Now he’s an evil Indian who’s suddenly decided he’s also in a rock band. Which is an improvement, I guess. It’s such a ludicrously random grouping that it kind of works.
The WWE hasn’t actually announced which two members of 3MB will be in this match, but since McIntyre missed the last couple of tapings on compassionate leave for family reasons, you can be pretty sure it’ll be Slater and Mahal. Best hope Slater does most of the work, because Mahal’s nothing to write home about.
3MB are the new stable, and they’re getting a push, so chances are they win.
Worth getting? One of those odd shows where the storylines have nothing much behind them, but several of the matches look technically solid. Then again, with so many hours of regular programming, you don’t have to buy PPVs just to see solid matches without much context.