Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dragon Gate USA Mercury Rising 2011 iPPV (4/2/11)

Dragon Gate USA Mercury Rising 2011 iPPV
April 2nd, 2011
The Presidential Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia
Attendance: 600+

Just when you thought there was no way to fit more wrestling into Wrestlemania weekend every year with the annual WWE/ROH/PWG events in town, here comes Dragon Gate USA hosting a pair of events as well somehow. Some of the big matches scheduled tonight include Akira Tozawa vs. PAC, the Blood Warriors (Naruki Doi/CIMA/Ricochet) vs. Ronin (Chuck Taylor, Johnny Gargano, Rich Swann) and Austin Aries battling YAMATO for the Open the Freedom Gate title and putting his Dragon Gate career on the line in the process.

Your hosts are Lenny Leonard and CHIKARA-san

Jon Moxley vs. Arik Cannon

This is Moxley's last match in Dragon Gate USA, as apparently I wasn't the only one who was impressed by his promo-work and the WWE came calling to sign him to a developmental deal. Unfortunately WWN (the iPPV provider) was having problems in the beginning of the show with the broadcast, so the first several minutes of this contest is cut off and thus I can't fairly judge this match in it's entirety. What I did see was fairly good though, if a bit slower-paced than anything else you're bound to see on tonight's card. Not exactly an epic farewell for Moxley, but he does pick up the win by rolling Cannon up and pulling the tights at 7:31, about.4:17 of which was shown. What I saw was about ** probably. [N/R]

After the match Reby Sky gets beaten up by pornstar Trina Michaels as apparently Moxley is through with her. Well that was certainly random, is this a one time appearance or are they actually going to try and use Trina as a valet? Apparently she's actually valeted before.

Backstage Austin Aries cuts a nice promo about his match against YAMATO tonight for the Freedom Gate title, a match in which he has put his Dragon Gate USA career on the line for.

Six Way Elimination Match
Brodie Lee vs. Jimmy Jacobs vs. AR Fox vs. Silas Young vs. Jon Davis vs. Stalker Ichikawa

Ichikawa if you've never seen him is quite the character, a comedy wrestler through and through from the Ultimo Dragon's dojo who's somehow become one of Dragon Gate's most beloved wrestlers, comparable to Santino Marella in the WWE. Lots of fun comedy stuff from Ichikawa to start as he lines up all six men and lectures them in broken English/Japanese, handing out weak slaps along the way. He botches half of the moves he attempts, which is his gimmick, before Jon Davis eliminates him quickly. Brodie Lee, I swear to God, hits a fucking spinning headscissors on Davis and then follows it with a tope suicida to the floor! Why is this the first time I'm seeing Lee's incredible agility?! No wonder Gabe is so high on him. AR Fox impresses next with an incredible running somersault plancha that wipes out everyone on the floor. Jimmy Jacobs brings Ichikawa back in the ring and Stalker tries a plancha of his own and completely misses everyone. Davis hits a nice spinning powerslam on Jacobs and then eats a bulldog from AR Fox. Fox hits a split-legged senton on Davis but then eats a huge superkick from Brodie Lee! Silas Young somehow gives Brodie Lee a German suplex, but only for two. Fox hits a crazy running moonsault off the apron on Lee and then follows it up with a lungblower on Young back in the ring. Jacobs hits a double Contra Code on Fox and Young and pins Fox, eliminating him next. He tries to pin Young too but he gets his hand on the rope. Jacobs locks in a guillotine choke on Brodie Lee but Young breaks it up only to be eliminated with the choke himself moments later. Davis is eliminated next by a crucifix from Jacobs and it's down to just Jimmy and Brodie. They fight out to the floor and Jacobs gives him a hurricanrana before delivering a Contra Code to Brodie right there on the concrete floor! Jacobs hits the Contra Code again back inside the ring, but Lee kicks out at two. Brodie hits a double-underhook superplex and then finishes Jacobs off with a big spinning sidewalk slam at 13:54 as I can't even remember the last time Jimmy Jacobs won a match in this company. This was a great choice for the PPV opener as you got some fun comedy from Ichikawa, some incredible aerial displays from AR Fox, and a hot finishing stretch with Jacobs and Lee that made everyone involved in this match look good. ***¼

Backstage after the match Arik Cannon cuts a scathing promo about being screwed over tonight by Jon Moxley.

Masato Yoshino vs. Sami Callihan

This is dubbed a "special attraction" match, and it's certainly an intriguing match-up. Yoshino is the Open the Dream Gate champion, but this is a non-title match. Both of these guys posses incredible speed and they show it off early with some lightning fast running of the ropes. Callahan is a guy who's just entertaining to watch for the sheer fact that he looks and acts batshit crazy most of the time. Sami dominates to start and hits a unique slingshot splash for a near fall. Yoshino uses his speed to keep escaping Callihan's advances however. Yoshino locks the Octopus stretch but Sami breaks it up quickly and counters with the face wash boot in the corner. Yoshino blocks the repeated lariat attempts from Callihan but eventually gets caught with one and nailed with a Michinoku driver for a close two count. Callihan runs right into the Lightning Spiral but Sami kicks out once again. Yoshino locks in the Sol Naciente and Callihan has no choice but to submit at 9:28. A nice little exhibition for both men's talents, but this ended right as it was about to get out of second gear. **¾

After the match Callihan gets on the mic and says he isn't "fucking around".

Backstage Jon Moxley claims to be a trendsetter and that Austin Aries is going to lose later tonight and be gone from Dragon Gate USA...FOREVER!

Open the Brave Gate Title Match
© vs. Akira Tozawa

Tozawa has been picking up a ton of steam in 2011 and appears to be the next breakout Dragon Gate star (which makes his soon to be ending stint in the US indies all the more saddening). PAC is of course the well known indy British high-flyer and the current Open the Brave Gate champion. Lots of basic hold exchanges to start, wristlock, drop toe hold, headlock, etc. Am I the only one who thinks referee Bryce Remsburg looks alot like a young George Carlin? Tozawa overpowers PAC early with a snap suplex and a standing back senton gets two. Tozawa tries (and misses) his springboard diving headbutt, a move I don't think he's ever actually successfully utilized. Ultra-fast snap suplex and a standing shooting star press get PAC his first near-fall. PAC is busted open slightly now (presumably the hard way) as he tries a leg vicegrip around Tozawa's neck, but Akira fights it off quickly. PAC starts talking some trash, which is a bit uncharacteristic of him, but the crowd is so hot for Tozawa that it makes sense. Tozawa hits two lightning fast consecutive tope suicidas on PAC out on the floor and follows it up with a somersault senton off the apron and the crowd begins chanting his name again. Back inside PAC gets nailed with a high-angle Saito suplex for two. He tries to roll through a German suplex attempt but Tozawa nails him with another Saito suplex anyways, yet somehow PAC gets the shoulder up again. PAC hits a pair of springboard missile dropkicks, but he doesn't hook the leg and Tozawa kicks out at two. Springboard 450 splash from PAC but Tozawa kicks out again, but he's clearly favoring the ribs now. Back on their feet both men trade forearms and spin-kicks. PAC rolls through a hurricanrana but eats a Shining Wizard in one fluid motion. That pretty much sums up this match in one word: fluidity. Everything between these two men is so smooth and crisp. PAC gets nailed with a pair of running bicycle kicks and collapses to his knees. He tries to fight back with a German suplex but Tozawa no-sells it and drops PAC back on his head with a German of his own. That segment right there will probably anger some people, and I'm never a fan of no-selling, but considering the adrenaline level of Tozawa and the intensity he brings to his matches, it's believable. He eats a superkick and both men are totally spent and wind up nearly counted out by the ref. PAC hesitates and misses a Phoenix splash attempt and Tozawa rolls him up in what appears to be a three count to everyone in attendance, but somehow is only two. Everest German suplex from Tozawa gets another very close two count. Tozawa again tries for a German but PAC sees it coming this time and counters with a bridging German of his own to get the somewhat anti-climactic win at 19:39. This was pretty much everything to love and hate about indy wrestling in one match, as this followed your most basic indy big match formula of each men trading an escalating series of big moves and stiff strike exchanges before the somewhat surprising finish. Luckily when you have two men as talented as PAC and Tozawa, the formula works and this certainly delivered the kind of high-risk fun that a bout between these two would entail. ***¾

After the match Tozawa and PAC shake hands and embrace in a sign of good sportsmanship. Tozawa leaves and Brodie Lee and other members of the Blood Warriors hit the ring to beat down PAC. CIMA grabs the mic and laughs maniacally like an old kung-fu movie villain before muttering something utterly indecipherable in broken English.

Backstage Ronin talk about...something. Something involving Rich Swann playing the guitar. Unfortunately the audio on my stream went out at this point, so we don't get to hear Swann's song.

Intermission time. When we return four kids nobody's ever heard of come out for a tryout match, but Sami Callihan hits the ring before they can get started and destroys two of them with ease. He grabs a microphone once again and starts cursing some more talking about how he doesn't care anymore and Arik Cannon hits the ring and says "Fuck You". Cannon destroys the other two jobbers and then brawls with Callihan all the way to the back. Kind of a strange segment.

Open the Freedom Gate Title vs. Career Match
YAMATO © vs. Austin Aries

Aries has promised that if he doesn't win the title tonight, he'll leave Dragon Gate USA forever. About as simple of a big-match stipulation as you can make, but it works and already you've given the fans a reason to care about and invest emotionally in this match rather than just have them sit there popping for your moveset. Before the match starts YAMATO tells stablemate Jon Moxley to go to the back, and he begrudgingly obliges. Lenny Leonard really puts over Aries desire to be the face of this company and the fans in Atlanta are clearly behind him. Austin nearly steals it early with a brainbuster/450 Splash combo, which he used to win his first World title against Samoa Joe back in 2004, but YAMATO manages to kick out. They fight to the floor and YAMATO gets back dropped over the guard rail into the crowd. Back inside Aries continues to dominate YAMATO early. He gets a little cocky though and YAMATO sends him flying to the concrete floor off the top rope. He follows him out and grabs a broomstick at ringside and starts hammering away on Aries with it. Back inside the ring he works on Austin's knee with a creative combination of a Texas clover-leaf and an ankle lock. He locks in the Figure Four and blows a kiss to the camera while a chorus of "Woo!"s ring in. It's small stuff like that which makes YAMATO so awesome. Aries is able to hit the powerdrive elbow but he can't capitalize on it. Both men trade German suplexes and Aries clotheslines YAMATO to the floor before following him out with the heat-seeking missile. Aries delivers a nasty slingshot suplex but YAMATO blocks his next brainbuster attempt as Austin can't put much weight on the knee YAMATO was working over minutes ago. Sunset flip gets YAMATO a two count and he transitions right into a half Boston crab as the fans chant "Please don't tap!". YAMATO hits quite possibly the nastiest half-sleeper suplex I've ever seen in my life, but somehow Aries kicks out and manages to connect with a roaring elbow back on his feet. YAMATO will have none of this though and just gives him an exploder suplex right over the top rope and out of the ring! YAMATO calls for a brainbuster on the ring apron, but Aries counters with a sickening Death Valley Driver on the apron! He takes too long to get him back into the ring though and only gets two. Aries tries for the 450 again but YAMATO scouts it this time and counters with a superplex as both men's shoulders are on the mat and the ref does a double-pin count near fall. Aries hits a shinbreaker and then just dumps him over his head with a belly-to-back release suplex that makes me seriously consider that he's broken his neck for a moment. Aries tries the brainbuster/450 combo again but YAMATO blocks it. Both men trade brainbusters and the crowd is going crazy at this point, erupting for every near fall Aries gets. Aries tries for the brainbuster one too many times though and YAMATO counters into the Galleria but Aries somehow kicks out to everyone's surprise. YAMATO isn't fucking around though, and he gives him one more Galleria with is enough to retain and seemingly expel Aries from the company at 25:23. This was simply fantastic, as mentioned before the stipulation here got the fans (and myself) a hell of a lot more invested into the match and these two nearly killed each other for twenty five minutes. Some of the bumps in this one were downright sickening as well. The fans give Aries a standing ovation after the match. ****¼

Backstage Jimmy Jacobs cuts a promo about facing Aries tomorrow in Austin's last match and how this is going to be his first step on the road to the Freedom Gate title. To be honest this is something like the 5th or 6th time we've heard this same exact promo from Jacobs, and he just keeps on losing anyways. Jacobs needs a win more than any other wrestler in the company right now.

Ronin (Chuck Taylor/Johnny Gargano/Rich Swann) vs. Blood Warriors (Naruki Doi/CIMA/Ricochet)

Nice way to cap off the show here with a traditional Dragon Gate six-man tag match, which has become something of a tradition for Gabe to book every year on Wrestlemania weekend . If you've seen one of these you've pretty much seen them all, but they almost never cease to be entertaining. The Blood Warriors attack during the entrances and it's total chaos to start as the Warriors triple team Rich Swann. Swann shows off his athleticism early with a dazzling dropkick and nip-up before tagging Gargano in. Gargano hits a few big moves on CIMA until Ricochet and Chuck Taylor hit the ring and Ricochet delivers a nifty satellite headscissors. Remember, you don't need to tag in these matches, so trying to call the action here is a bit hopeless as guys are going in and out of the ring at a rapid pace, hitting a few impressive moves and moving along like some kind of well conditioned wrestling machine. Ricochet, Swann, and Taylor are worth noting for their excellent performances here, and Swann in particular is really starting to make a name for himself thanks to his role in Ronin. They do an extended beatdown on Swann hitting various complex triple-team combinations on him as Swann sells the beating in great fashion and plays the babyface in peril to great results. They even give Swann a nasty curb-stomp onto a chair behind the referee's back, and at this point the Warriors are clearly more interested in just beating down Swann than they are with winning the match. Swann manages to hit a desperate hurricanrana off the top and eventually get the hot tag and things totally break down again as Taylor leaps out of the ring with a great somersault senton to take out Doi and Ricochet. All three members of Ronin hit their own aerial maneuvers on CIMA and the crowd goes wild. A big Rydien bomb gets Doi a near fall on Taylor but Swann breaks it up. He nails CIMA with a guillotine leg drop off of CIMA's own back for a near fall of his own. A shooting star press off of Doi's back gets Ricochet another near fall on Swann so he tries for a quebrada only to eat a dropkick from Gargano and a unique jumping, twisting neckbreaker. Credit to all six men here as this crowd has seen a LOT of wrestling already but they're still totally into this match just as much if not more than any other on the card. Taylor gets dumped right on his head from a nasty reverse hurricanrana by Ricochet, but manages to kick out somehow and all six men are all in the ring at this point, exhausted from the non-stop action. Swann eats a pair of stereo springboard missile dropkicks right to the face while Ricochet delivers the sloppiest Sasuke special I've ever seen and the Schwein, Meteora, and Muscular Bomb in consecutive order is enough to fiinally put away Swann and give the Blood Warriors the win at 25:51! Good lord, that match just kept escalating and escalating in total chaos (the good kind). It's worth noting that Rich Swann came off like an iron man by being able to take so much punishment in this match. Sure, we've seen this kind of match a million times from the Dragon Gate crew, but it's their biggest trademark for a reason, and that's because they always wind up delivering a ridiculously fun contest. ****

After the match PAC and Masato Yoshino, the Open the United Gate champions, hit the ring and clear out the Blood Warriors. PAC gets on the mic and thanks the fans and then Yoshino does his usual thank you speech he does at pretty much every event to wrap up the show polling the crowd on if they liked the show.

Bottom Line: DGUSA's "in-house" internet PPV debut was a memorable one with a card that delivered and exceeded my expectations several times. You've got a fun six man opener, a great Open the Brave Gate title match, and one of the best Open the Freedom Gate title matches in company history between YAMATO and Austin Aries capped off with another excellent Dragon Gate six-man to end the show. There's nary a wasted moment on the near three hour broadcast and this is a show well worth checking out. Thumbs Up.

Score: 8.5/10

Monday, April 25, 2011

ROH Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter Two iPPV (4/2/11)

ROH Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter Two iPPV 4/2/11
April 2nd, 2011
Center Stage Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia
Attendance: 800+

This is Day Two of ROH's annual pair of Wrestlemania weekend shows, both of which were offered on iPPV this year live from the historic Center Stage (site of many WCW TV tapings in the 90s) in Atlanta, Georgia. Both shows were drew good crowds and each show was said to have done roughly 1,750 buys apiece, which is damned good for a medium like internet PPV. Today's big matches include the newly crowned ROH tag team champions Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas taking on the American Wolves, the Briscoes and the All Night Express facing off in a grudge match, as well as former ROH champ Roderick Strong taking on El Generico and a whole lot more.

Your hosts are Kevin Kelly and Dave Prazak

Chris Hero/Claudio Castagnoli vs. Kyle O'Reilly/Adam Cole

The Kings just dropped the tag belts to Haas & Benjamin less than 24 hours ago, so they're in a bad mood which could spell trouble for the hot young babyfaces O'Reilly and Cole. Have I mentioned how great of a tag team O'Reilly and Cole are? The Kings are all business at the bell and open the match with an extended beatdown on their opponents, tossing the younger Cole and O'Reilly around the ring like ragdolls. Things settle down a bit as Claudio and O'Reilly trade strikes. O'Reilly eats a double powerbomb from the Kings and then a senton back splash from Hero for the first near fall of the match. Crowd is very hot to start us out tonight. O'Reilly plays the babyface in peril for awhile as Hero and Claudio just basically beat the shit out of him, but O'Reilly keeps fighting back. Eventually Cole gets the hot tag and takes out the kings with a big missile dropkick. Cole blocks everything the Kings try on him and hits a big leg lariat on Hero. Claudio is sent to the floor and Cole follows him out with a slingshot hurricanrana to the floor! O'Reilly follows it up with the badass running dropkick off the apron and Claudio is out of it while Cole cross-body blocks Hero for a close two count. Hero eats a superkick but comes back with a pair of Roaring Elbows for O'Reilly and Cole and manages to tag Claudio back in.O'Reilly hits a tornado DDT on Claudio though and transitions right into the guillotine choke! Hero tries to break it up with a trio of big kicks but O'Reilly is full of piss and vinegar as usual and refuses to let go of the choke hold. Hero tries for another Roaring Elbow to break up the choke but eats another superkick out of nowhere from Cole! Claudio eats a superkick as well while Hero bails to the floor for a breather, but Cole just follows him out with a big tope suicida! Claudio is very close to tapping but he somehow still has enough strength to launch O"Reilly 8 feet into the air and take his head off with a huge European uppercut! Hero and Claudio hit a pair of double bicycle kicks on O'Reilly and that's enough to put the younger man away at 9:17. This was absolutely stellar from bell to bell, and with another ten minutes could have been in nearly five star range if they continued at the pace they were going here. Red hot crowd, incredible action, O'Reilly and Cole look great again even in the loss and the Kings of Wrestling get a win to get some of their heat back after dropping the titles the night before. Terrific opener. ****

Dave Taylor vs. Colt Cabana

Prince Nana and his entourage come out to the ring before the match to introduce Taylor as the latest member of the Embassy. I wouldn't mind seeing him in the company on a somewhat regular basis. Kevin and Dave try to sell this as a pure wrestling match, which isn't exactly what you think of when you think of Cabana's in-ring work these days. They deliver on that promise though as this is a battle of holds and counter-holds from the start. Taylor stiffs Colt with a few European uppercuts and I cringe. Colt tries to do the flip flop and fly but Taylor just nails him again with another stiff European uppercut. He works a stepover toe hold on Colt for a bit. Very old-school style of match here obviously, which is a nice change of pace for ROH. Colt counters a few moves from Taylor and just rolls him up with a schoolboy for the win at 6:31. A nice display of holds and counter-holds, but not much more than that. **

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Homicide

Ciampa is another one of Nana's recent additions to the Embassy. He gets introduced by RD Evans, a member of Nana's entourage who plays the pencil-neck geek heel Harvey Whippleman role better than Harvey Whippleman did. Action in this one quickly spills out to the floor where and both men trade kicks. Ciampa gets dropped throat-first over the steel guard rail. Back inside Ciampa hits a variation on the Burning Hammer and Homicide kicks out. Thankfully it wasn't an actual Burning Hammer or I would have thrown up my hands in disgust at the kick-out. Crowd is behind Homicide but don't seem to be into it as much as the first two contests. Back out on the floor Homicide does a running tope con hilo off a part of the bleachers, which looks great. Homicide gets a near fall back in the ring and Ciampa tries to mount a comeback. Homicide attempts a double underhook but Ciampa counters with a nasty twisting neckbreaker for a two count. He tries for a powerbomb but Homicide escapes and nails him with the ace crusher. He tries for the Cop Killa but winds up getting distracted by Princess Mia at ringside long enough for Ciampa to deliver a bridging Northern Lights suplex for the upset win at 9:47. Pretty shocking to see Homicide do the somewhat clean job for Ciampa here, but it does a lot to improve Ciampa's credibility and the match itself was fairly decent. **½

After the match Homicide smashes a chair into RD Evans face who sells it like death. The war between the Embassy and Homicide clearly is not over.

Christopher Daniels vs. Michael Elgin

Big jump down the card tonight for Daniels, but he's never had a problem with helping out the younger guys. Elgin is actually a pretty decent young powerhouse who has a good amount of potential. Strange to see Daniels working babyface here after refusing to shake Eddie Edwards hand last night. Daniels takes Elgin to the floor quickly and tosses him into the barricade. Back inside Elgin hits a huge vertical suplex but he gets sent to the floor again by a Daniels' kick. Elgin rams himself into the steel post inadvertently but hits a big shoulder block back in the ring that sends them yet again to the floor where Elgin rams Daniels into the steel barricade with a running start. Elgin delivers a nice delayed vertical suplex that delays just a bit too long, but Daniels gets the shoulder up at two. Elgin misses a shoulder-block off the top and Daniels starts his comeback. Crowd seems pretty dead here as Elgin hits a pumphandle driver for a two count. Tilt-a-whirl sideslam won't put away Daniels either so Elgin tries and misses a somersault senton off the top. He tries a lariat but Daniels nails him with the STO. Daniels nails Elgin with a low blow behind the refs back and picks up the win with the Best Moonsault Ever at 10:18. Another thoroughly decent match, but not much heat. The low-blow at the end would seem to back up my belief that Daniels will be turning heel soon. **½

After the match we go into the show's intermission, which lasts over 20 minutes. Intermissions are great for live shows, but they're rather annoying on a PPV show.

After the intermission ends, Jim Cornette makes his way out to the ring and grabs a mic. He cracks a joke on the Jeff Hardy-Sting match at TNA Victory Road 2011 and then polls the crowd on their thoughts on Ring of Honor. He introduces Davey Richards next for an interview, and he gets his usual good reaction from the ROH faithful. Davey puts over Eddie as the new champ and seems hesitant about the possibility of a title match between the two. Eddie Edwards heads out next and he puts over Davey as well, but not before saying that if it comes down to it, he'll fight Davey for the title. He even reminds Davey that he beat him last year in the finals of the TV Title tournament. As others have noted, this came off very similar to the current Jon Jones/Rashad Evans feud going on in the UFC. Both men are friends and partners and one man (Davey) didn't want to spoil that by fighting, while the other man (Eddie) seemed all too happy at the thought of a potential match down the line. Throw in Cornette as the shit-stirring promoter ala Dana White and this whole segment came off very similar to the Jones/Evans UFC feud. This had been planned for months though, so they weren't ripping the UFC off either. Good segment all around that lays down the seeds for the Edwards vs. Richards feud that we all know will be happening this summer.

SHIMMER Tag Team Title Match
Daizee Haze/Tomoka Nakagawa
© vs. Ayumi Kurihara/Hiroyo Matsumoto

This is the first time the SHIMMER Tag Team titles have been on the line at an ROH show I believe, and definitely the first time on iPPV. Both teams got into it yesterday after Kurihara and Matsumoto's match against Sara Del Rey and Serena Deeb. Kurihara and Matsumoto offer a handshake before the match but the heel champions won't have any of it. The great thing about matches like these in ROH? They actually have heat unlike most women's wrestling matches in other promotions. Matsumoto dominates Nakagawa to start for a bit until Haze comes in and they try the double-team, but Matsumoto hits them both with a cross-body block and gets the first near fall of the match. Kurihara tags in now and applies modified figure four until Haze runs in to break it up. Daizee tags in and Kurihara applies a nasty cross armbar over the top rope on her momentarily. Haze bails to the floor Kurihara climbs to the top rope to follow her out, but Nakagawa sprays water into her eyes and tosses her back inside. The heels team up on Kurihara some more but she won't stay down for three. Matsumoto tags in and cleans house on the champs, delivering a nasty back drop suplex to Nakagawa. They do a bizarre spot where Kurihara jumps on Matsumoto in a piggy back and both women hit tandem knee drops on Nakagawa while Haze is trying to choke Matsumoto out. Kurihara just absolutely destroys Nakagawa with stiff knees but she's still able to tag Daizee back in. Total chaos at this point with tag rules out the window. Haze gets dropped on her head with a pair of towering Saito suplexes but Nakagawa breaks it up at two. Daizee hits a heart punch (no, really) and a Yakuza kick on Matsumoto before her finishing her off with a Tiger Suplex at 7:40. Not quite as good as the previous night's women's tag match, but still a fun and fast paced exhibition for all four women. ***

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs. Kenny King/Rhett Titus

These two teams have been feuding for months now and things have totally gotten out of control so this is the big grudge match to settle the feud. It's downright strange to see the Briscoes working heel here while King and Titus work face, when the roles would have been the exact opposite only 6 months ago. The Briscoes attack from behind to start and immediately all four men begin brawling around the ring. They make their way back into the ring eventually for the match to officially start but all four men won't abide by the tag rules so a second ref hits the ring and forces both teams apart much to the crowds chagrin. Jay eats a big lariat from King for a two count and both members of the All Night Express start double-teaming Jay. Mark tags in and lays in some stiff Buzz Sawyer-like forearms on Titus. Jay shoots Titus head-first into the ring post and he's split open. Titus gets isolated for a bit by the Briscoes who trade frequent tags and seem to be genuinely enjoying beating Rhett's ass. Jay uncovers the time keeper's table at ringside while Mark hits a slingshot double-stomp on Rhett for another two count. Rhett's playing the babyface in peril very well here, and a few "Rhett!" chants even break out sporadically. No, seriously, they're chanting for Rhett Titus. That's an accomplishment in and of itself. Rhett slams his knees down on Mark from the top rope and gets the hot tag to King for a nice pop. King is all fired up, hitting kicks and clotheslines before delivering a cradle-leg suplex on Jay for a two count. They fight to the apron and Titus gives Jay a huge Sex Factor off the apron through the time keeper's table! King and Titus double team Mark for a bit until Jay recovers and nearly takes Rhett's head off with a lariat before spraying an entire mouth full of blood into the air like it was red mist. That's got to be one of the craziest and coolest things I've ever seen. Jay is just POURING blood at this point as you'd guess. Rhett drops Mark right on his head on the top turnbuckle and then turns his attention to Jay as both men have a stand-off with each of them completely covered in their own blood. Kevin Kelly compares the scene to a Quentin Tarantino movie and the fans are as hot as they've been at any point during this weekend of shows. Slingshot neckbreaker from King on Jay gets a close near fall but Jay gets right up and hits the Jay Driller on King for the win at 16:03! This was an all out war between these two teams and was everything you could ask for in a blow-off grudge match, and then some. King and Titus probably could have used the win more, but that's a minor gripe with a great match. ****

After the match Jay, who looks straight out of a horror movie, calls Titus a bitch and challenges Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas for a title shot.

El Generico vs. Roderick Strong

Nice to see Generico back on the upper part of the card again. It'll be interesting to see where they go with Roddy now that he's no longer the champ, and the same goes for Generico now that the Steen feud has been over for a few months. Both men trade holds to start off, taking their time and feeling each other out. The crowd is still trying to catch their breath from the last match, but they start getting into it after a few minutes, rallying behind Generico while Strong works a chinlock. The fight out to the floor and Strong uses Truth Martini as a battering ram on Generico. Back inside Generico hits a Blue Thunder bomb for a close two count. He tries a modified Michinoku driver next but Strong again gets the shoulder up. Roddy fires back with one of his many backbreaker variations. He nails Generico with a jumping knee to the temple which gets him two. They trade forearms and Generico spits right in Strong's face, so Roddy spits right back. You shouldn't play ookie mouth at a time like this guys. Generico hits a gigantic tornado DDT that sends Strong out to the floor, but Truth Martini sweeps Generico's legs out from under him before he can attempt a tope. Martini gets into the ring and mocks Generico but gets accidentally low-bridged by Roddy, who joins him a moment later as Generico gets a running start and delivers a huge somersault senton to the floor, wiping everyone out. An overhead half-nelson suplex gets Generico a close two back inside the ring. Generico tries for a superplex but Michael Elgin makes the run-in and breaks it up. Generico quickly disposes of Elgin though and nails Strong with the brainbuster to pick up the win at 16:12. A fun match that just flew by in no time, even with the attempted interference by the House of Truth. Good stuff. ***¼

After the match the House of Truth beat down Generico until Colt Cabana tries to intervene unsuccessfully. Christopher Daniels hits the ring next to seemingly make the save, but instead he nails El Generico with the Book of Truth! I knew I smelled a heel turn for Daniels soon, but I wasn't expecting it to happen so fast. The fans even chant "Fuck You Daniels" after having cheered for him earlier in the night. Daniels raises his arm with Strong, Truth, and Elgin, seemingly haven joined the House of Truth. Nicely done heel turn, but I have one problem with how it was executed: Daniels just wrestled Elgin earlier in the night, which doesn't make very much sense if they were in cahoots all along. Nevertheless, ROH needed another top-level heel and they just got one.

Davey Richards/Eddie Edwards vs. Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas

This is being billed as one of if not the last time Richards and Edwards will team up together, but somehow I doubt that. Crowd is split even in fan support here. Davey and Charlie start us off with some feeling out stuff until Davey tags Eddie and Charlie tags Shelton in. Kind of slow start here as all four men trade holds for a bit. Davey locks in the Muta lock on Haas briefly but he gets the rope break. The Wolves begin targeting Charlie's arm, trading quick tags and attempting to isolate him from Shelton. Eventually he gets the tag to Benjamin though and Shelton rams Davey chest-first into the turnbuckle Bret Hart style. A delayed gourdbuster gets Shelton a two count and he tags Haas back in rather quickly. Strange, Haas wasn't on the apron for very long after taking that extended beating. Shelton locks in a half Boston crab on Davey but Eddie breaks it up. Haas tags in and Davey hits a neat handspring spin kick on him that sends him out to the floor. Shelton gets tossed out as well and both of the Wolves hit tandem tope suicidas on the tag champs! Back inside Eddie gets a two count off a snap suplex on Haas. They both trade shots on the ground until Charlie gets the tag to Shelton. He nails Eddie with a spin kick but Edwards gets the shoulder up at two. Eddie hits a lung blower on Haas though and gets the hot tag to Davey. Richards cleans house quickly and then superplexes Haas for a near fall. Davey rolls through a cradle attempt into the ankle lock on Haas, but Charlie quickly fights it off. Davey reverses a Samoan drop attempt from Shelton into a crucifix for another near fall and then begins laying in kicks on Benjamin in the corner. The Wolves hit a pair of tandem enziguris on Haas and Shelton. Shelton tries to fight both of the Wolves off but to no avail. Haas and Benjamin hit a pair of tandem double German suplexes, but then the Wolves counter and hit a pair of tandem double Germans of their own as well! They do the exact same sequence again, trading more German suplexes than I've ever seen in such a short span of time before all four men wipe each other out with big simultaneous lariats and get a standing ovation from the crowd for the crazy sequence they just saw. Davey eats a nasty superkick from Shelton and just crumbles like a wet paper bag. The Wolves hit a powerbomb-lungblower combo but somehow Shelton kicks out, only to have the ankle lock applied by Davey while Eddie slaps the Achilles lock on Haas! Shelton kicks Davey right into Eddie though and Edwards flies out of the ring, allowing Shelton to give Davey the Pay Dirt for the pin at 32:00! Yet another great tag match on this weekend of shows, this started out pretty slow but the last ten minutes or so was great and the finish was booked perfectly, planting more seeds for dissension between Davey and Eddie in preparation of their eventual feud. ***¾

After the match Haas and Benjamin shake hands with the Wolves and take their leave. Davey offers his hand to Eddie, but Eddie refuses to shake his hand and just walks off, leaving Davey alone in the ring to close out the show.

Bottom Line: Another winner from Ring of Honor on Wrestlemania weekend, the fact that this was such a great show and still wasn't as good as the show the night before speaks volumes about how hard everyone worked for these two iPPVs. Even more crazy tag team goodness on this show, a blow-off grudge match turned bloodbath, and the seeds have officially been planted for the Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards feud that everyone knows is coming. Another easy Thumbs Up.

Score: 8.5/10

WWE RAW 4/25/11 --- The Draft

WWE RAW 4/25/11
April 25th, 2011
RBC Center, Raleigh, North Carolina
Attendance: ???

So we're only six days away from the Extreme Rules PPV but tonight is big in it's own right as it's the annual WWE Draft. It was originally supposed to take place sometime in June, but for reasons unknown they decided to bump it up all the way to now. This is usually always an interesting episode of RAW, so let's see what surprises they might Tehave in store for us here tonight.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Josh Matthews

We open the show by joining an inter-brand Battle Royal already in progress...

20 Man Battle Royal Raw vs. Smackdown Match
(Featuring Kane, Great Khali, Vladimir Kozlov, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater, Wade Barrett, Chris Masters, Ted DiBiase, Mark Henry, Brodus Clay, Yoshi Tatsu, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Santino Marella, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, Big Show, Kofi Kingston, Mason Ryan, and Evan Bourne)

Pure chaos to start the show tonight with the usual Draft night battle royal. Winning team gets the first pick in the draft tonight. Kane is the first one eliminated. Khali is wearing huge red fleece pants which is absolutely bizarre looking. A bunch of Smackdown guys team up and eliminate Khali. Vladimir Kozlov is eliminated off-camera next. Battle Royals are great for the live crowd, but they always wind up being pretty boring for the viewers at home. Mark Henry eliminates big Ezekiel Jackson next. Heath Slater gets tossed out and is followed shortly by Chris Masters. Wade Barrett gets tossed while Cole yaps about how great he is on commentary. Ted DiBiase is tossed next before Mark Henry and Brodus Clay eliminate each other at the same time. Yoshi Tatsu is gone next. Sheamus blocks the Future Shock DDT from Drew McIntyre only to be eliminated by Drew moments later as we take a commercial break. When we return Daniel Bryan is getting squashed by the Big Show, literally. Drew is out next. Santino tries The Cobra on Big Show but is easily eliminated instead. Daniel Bryan goes after Show again, showing a lot of heart. Cody Rhodes is tossed out next by Mason Ryan, and is then followed shortly by Bryan. Final four is Big Show, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, and Mason Ryan. Bourne is nearly eliminated by a backdrop off the apron from Kofi but he hangs on showing great athleticism and balance. Big Show just tosses Bourne out next with ease. Big Show eliminates Mason Ryan and the winners are Kofi and Big Show, giving Smackdown the first pick in the draft at 10:15 (shown). Just your typical Battle Royal, but the stuff with Bourne and Kofi at the end was fun.

The Draft-o-matic 3000 fires up on the screen and Smackdown's first pick in the 2011 Draft is...John Cena! Smackdown celebrates backstage while the RAW superstars look crushed. This move definitely makes sense for John as he's done just about everything he can on RAW and needs some material to work with while he's waiting for the big Rock match next March. Cena's music hits and he makes his way out to the stage where he puts on a Smackdown t-shirt as we cut to commercial. When we return Todd Grisham gets a few words with Cena about how he feels about moving to Smackdown. The Miz walks up moments later and says so-long.

Recap of R-Truth's heel turn last week before he comes out to the stage, without his music. He acts like he's going to do the "What's Up" bit but instead tells the crowd to "Shut Up". He talks about how both John Morrison and the fans turned their backs on him last week and it's like it's 2001 all over again as the entire crowd shouts "WHAT?" after everything Truth says. He blames the fans for his loss last week and laments about spending his entire career trying to please the fans and how it's gotten him nowhere. He mocks the children in the crowd who would sing along to his theme music next. Truth says he's going to leave RAW tonight and says that for the first time in his life the "Truth" has set him free. Out of nowhere John Morrison jumps him from behind on the stage and gets a few shots in before WWE officials are able to separate both men.

Another Awesome Kong promo. This time we actually get to see her face and they debut her new name, Kharma.

Eve Torres vs. Layla

Another Raw vs. Smackdown match with the winner's brand getting the next pick. We recap Michelle attacking Layla during their "couples therapy" session on Smackdown last week, and yet here comes Michelle behind Layla, watching from ringside. Just break them up already guys. Layla is fired up to start with big punches, but it's not long before this thing turns ugly as Eve totally botches a reverse STO in ugly fashion. Suddenly Michael Cole gets on the mic and this distracts Layla long enough for Eve to roll her up for the win at 0:38. That's thirty eight seconds of my life I'll never be getting back. They attempted one wrestling move in this match, and completely botched it. Big, fat DUD

After the match Cole is still on the mic, talking about how he's a real athlete unlike the divas in the ring. He walks backstage to do an "extensive pre-match warm-up" before his match with Jim Ross later tonight. They bury their own Divas while still finding a way to humiliate JR on national TV, What exactly the point is here, no one knows. Layla attacks Michelle at ringside after the match as well. She tosses her into the commentary table while crying at the same time, making this the most awkward segment in quite some time. For the love of God, let's move on.

The Draft-o-Matic 3000 fires up again and RAW's first pick in the 2011 Draft is...Rey Mysterio! Rey comes out onto the stage and throws on a RAW t-shirt. Kind of strange to see Rey moved off of the brand he's been synonymous with since his debut, but hopefully it will give him some fresh faces to feud with. Backstage we see Jim Ross warming up for his match with Michael Cole later tonight.

Backstage Todd Grisham asks Cody Rhodes for his thoughts on Rey being drafted to RAW. Cody says he's going to give Rey a going-away present after their match at Extreme Rules...a new mask. I vote for Jason's hockey mask. The original one from Part 3, not the Zombie Jason mask.

Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus

I'm guessing this is another match for a draft pick. I think we're supposed to just assume every match tonight is. Sheamus is all over Kofi to start with hammer fists. Slingshot shoulder-block from Sheamus only gets him a one count. Kofi hits a cross-body block off the top for a near fall of his own. He fires away at Sheamus in the corner but eats a lariat. Sheamus tries for the Celtic Cross but Kofi slips out, so he tries for the Brogue Kick but Kofi avoids it again and then nails Sheamus with the Trouble in Paradise as he turns around. He doesn't get all of it though so he nails him with another one and that's enough for the clean pin on Sheamus at 2:22. Short and inoffensive, but having either guy job clean so quickly doesn't help either man's credibility. *

The Draft-o-Matic 3000 fires up once again as Smackdown gets it's second pick in the 2011 Draft, which is none other than...Randy Orton! Well that's rather shocking to see both of the WWE's biggest babyfaces drafted to Smackdown. Orton comes out on stage and throws on his new Smackdown t-shirt. It'll be nice to see Orton on a different show for once, and so far it seems like Smackdown for once is actually getting the better end of the draft this year, we'll have to wait and see the remaining picks.

Booker T comes out to join us on commentary for the next match.

Michael Cole vs. Jim Ross

They're still referring to Cole as "Sir" Michael Cole. I flat out do not understand what Vince has against Jim Ross sometimes, apparently he's too old to be a regular commentator but he's not too old to be wrestle on RAW every other week? Someone will have to explain the warped logic of that one to me. JR gets his usual nice pop and is rocking an Oklahoma Sooners jersey. King leaves the commentary table to be in his corner. Cole walks around for a bit mocking JR's weight. Cole's not one to talk as his gut seems to get bigger every time we see him in his amateur wrestling gear. Cole grabs JR's cowboy hat from ringside and puts it on. Wow, great use of television time here guys. Finally after about four minutes of walking around Ross grabs Cole and tosses him down. Cole tries to call time out and Swagger freshens him up in his corner like he's a pro boxer or something. The referee for some bizarre reason has no problem with any of this. Cole tries for a body slam on JR but he's too big and collapses under the Hall of Famer's weight. JR gets some nice shots in and Cole bails from the ring only for the King to toss him right back in. Swagger tosses the King into the steel post and barricade and then hops in the ring to attack JR for the DQ at 4:34. So glad we gave that five minutes for that finish. I'm skeptical of even calling this a "wrestling" match considering 99% of it was stalling. Awful and way too long for what they were trying to accomplish here. Another DUD

After the match Swagger takes of JR's belt and applies the ankle lock on him while Cole whips his back with his own belt. This goes on until the Anonymous RAW GM sends an e-mail making the JR/King vs. Cole/Swagger tag match at Extreme Rules a "Country Whipping Match", whatever the hell that is. I pray this feud mercifully comes to an end this Sunday.

Backstage Scott Stanford (who should be the number one Play-by-Play commentator in the company right now if we can't have JR) catches up with The Miz about his thoughts on the Draft and next week's RAW where The Rock will celebrate his birthday. He promises to defeat Cena and Morrison this Sunday at Extreme Rules to retain his title and says that if he gets drafted off of RAW, the show will wind up cancelled in a month.

Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler

Apparently the winner's brand here gets TWO Draft picks. Dolph doesn't even get his own entrance anymore. Coupled with his new ultra-generic look, it seems like they're doing everything to bury this guy after spending the last 4 months trying to make him a main eventer. That's WWE logic for you. Neckbreaker from Ziggler gets an early near fall. He applies a half-Chicken Wing submission as the crowd rallies behind Randy. Ziggler gets sent to the floor and he delivers a nice dropkick to Orton, sending him over the barricade into the front row as the referee applies his count. Orton gets back into the ring just before the ten count and starts his go-home sequence; clotheslines, snap powerslam, and an Angle Slam for a two count. Orton gets distracted briefly by Vickie Guerrero on the outside and gets rolled up for a two count, but he recovers quickly and nails Ziggler with the RKO for the pin at 3:25. Just like with Jack Swagger last year, the WWE seems to have done a complete 180 on their booking of Ziggler. From World title contender to jobber fodder in less than three months, sad to see. Pretty good stuff for a three minute match though. **

So with Orton's win Smackdown gets the next two picks in the Draft. The Draft-O-Matic 3000 fires up but before it can pick the next wrestler, CM Punk interrupts and walks out with a mic in hand. He says he has no doubt that this Sunday he and Orton will get "extreme" on each other, but there won't be many rules being applied. He says he's going to defeat Orton this Sunday and Orton basically says the same back to him as we cut to commercial.

When we return we see that the latest picks for Smackdown are none other than... Sin Cara and Mark Henry! Bringing Cara to Smackdown makes perfect sense since he's being pegged to fill Rey Mysterio's role in the future, but Mark Henry is a total waste of a draft pick. Nobody has cared about Henry in a very long time, and that pick could have actually been used on someone who needs a brand change, like Daniel Bryan. The 15 year love affair between the WWE and Mark Henry continues, much to everyone's utter apathy.

Rey Mysterio vs. Wade Barrett

This match is also for two draft picks apparently. Barrett delivers a big Bossman slam early on for a quick two count and then hammers away on Rey with closed fists and chokes him in the corner with the heel of his boot. Rey hits a springboard cross-body block for a near fall of his own but then gets rammed into the corner by Barrett. Wade tries for a superplex but gets knocked off and Rey hits a flying headscissors off the top that sets Wade up for the 619, which Rey hits. He finishes him off with a splash off the top at 2:31. Another criminally short match as I guess they're in a real hurry to fit in everything on the show tonight. Decent while it lasted.

Rey's win gives RAW the next two Draft picks. The Draft-O-Matic 3000 fires up and selects the next star drafted to RAW...the Big Show! Another guy who didn't need to be drafted, but atleast this should finally end his painful Smackdown babyface run. The Draft-O-Matic 3000 fires up again though and the next selection for RAW is none other than...Alberto Del Rio! We cut backstage to where Del Rio throws away his Smackdown shirt and talks to Ricardo Rodriguez in Spanish about something as we cut to commercial. Moving Del Rio was something everyone was expecting, and it's the right move for the guy. Hopefully this confirms my suspicions that they'll finally pull the trigger on Christian this Sunday and have him win the title, something that's been long overdue.

Michael Cole returns to his Cole Mine with a mouth full of cotton balls. And just when you thought he couldn't get any worse on commentary, now we have to listen to him with a mouth full of cotton. Wonderful. Teddy Long comes out next for some reason and says our main event tonight will be a six man tag team match, with the winning team getting the final Draft pick tonight.

Trailer for the latest WWE film "That's What I Am", which appears to be quite possibly the worst piece of trash the WWE has produced yet. I have no idea how they got Ed Harris to do that movie for them.

John Cena/Christian/Mark Henry vs. The Miz/CM Punk/Alberto Del Rio

One of these six is not like the others. We've got nearly 15 minutes before the top of the hour, but by the time all of the entrances are done it's almost 10:55. Christian and The Miz start us out with with a nice running-the-ropes sequence. Christian tags Cena in but The Miz bails immediately as we take a commercial break. When we return Cena hits a suplex on The Miz. Punk tags in and eats a dropkick from Cena, who then tags Mark Henry in. Henry beats down Punk for a bit and tags Christian in, who hits a sweet back elbow off the top on Punk. Punk nails him with a boot though and tags Del Rio in. Rio hammers away on Christian and tags The Miz back in as the heels work away on Christian in their corner. Christian tries to fight Miz off but Punk is tagged back in and the isolation continues. Miz clotheslines Christian and gets a near fall as this crowd is red-hot for this match and Christian is playing the babyface-in-peril perfectly. Del Rio tags back in and goes to work on Christian's arm, setting him up for his armbar finisher. Both men fight to the top rope and Christian knocks Alberto off, nailing him with a huge tornado DDT. Strange to listen to King cheer on Del Rio, a heel, as he's a member of the RAW team. Miz tags in as Christian gets the hot tag to Cena, who cleans house on Miz with ease. He goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle...but Mark Henry nails him with a clothesline? Swerve! Henry tosses Christian into the steel steps as well and then walks off. That's exactly what this show needed, the 9000th Mark Henry heel turn. Miz hits Cena with the Skull Crushing Finale back in the ring and gets the win for RAW at 8:25 (shown). Pretty fun six man tag here to cap off the show, but another Mark Henry heel turn seems completely pointless at this stage in his career. If it didn't work the first twenty times, it's not going to work now. **½

The Draft-O-Matic 3000 fires up again and in the last pick of the Draft Raw gets...John Cena! Again, making his first selection a total waste of a draft pick and TV time. Sure, why not. We close out the show with Cena beating up on the heels.

Bottom Line: I really wanted to like this show, I did. The Draft is usually always a very entertaining show each year for the WWE, but that wasn't the case this year. We saw some big moves in the Draft and for once Smackdown got the better end of the deal. The main event was decent fun as well, but everything else here ranged from average to downright atrocious in the case of the Cole/Ross and Eve/Layla matches, both of which could be contenders for the worst WWE match of the year so far. Talented guys like Orton and Ziggler get two minutes, but Cole and Jim Ross get nearly five? Hard to understand the logic there. Throw in the 9000th Mark Henry heel turn and the whole show came off flat. Average stuff really, worth looking into if you're a fan of The Draft, but otherwise this simply wasn't a very good show. Thumbs Down.

Score: 4.5/10

Sunday, April 24, 2011

ROH Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter One iPPV (4/1/11)

ROH Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter One iPPV 4/1/11
April 1st, 2011
Center Stage Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia
Attendance: 800+

First of all, sorry this is so late everyone. I had originally meant to review both of the ROH iPPVs from this weekend weeks ago, but I got wrapped up with other things (mainly the UFC 100 Greatest Fights eight disc set) and I ended up being lazy, so here we are 3 weeks later with the review.

This is the first of two shows for ROH taking place Wrestlemania weekend at the famous Center Stage Theatre (which used to host WCW TV tapings back in the 90s) in Atlanta, and even with several other shows running against them they still got a decent turnout here with a little over eight hundred, which is more than enough to make the Center Stage feel like a bigger place. The big matches tonight include Eddie Edwards making his first ROH World title defense against the television champion Christopher Daniels, as well as a tag team title match between the Kings of Wrestling and the World's Greatest Tag Team. We've also got Roderick Strong vs. Davey Richards in a grudge match, so let's dive right in. Fun fact of the night: both CM Punk and Bryan Danielson were in attendance for this show, even though the WWE doesn't officially approve of their employees going to these shows on Wrestlemania weekend. Danielson apparently tried to stay incognito with a large hoodie but Punk apparently just strolled right in and sat down like everyone else.

Your hosts are Kevin Kelly and Dave Prazak

Kevin Kelly and Dave Prazak open the show hyping some of the big matches tonight at ringside while the fans chant "ROH!" and wait for the "official" countdown to the iPPV, which is a minor but cool thing ROH does that I've always liked.

El Generico vs. Michael Elgin

Elgin is one of the better young "rookies" that ROH has introduced this year, he's an average powerhouse with a decent look, but not much more really. No idea why Generico is being wasted in the opener here with this kid. Elgin tries to overpower Generico early, but he's fired up and responds with a flurry of chops and right hands in the corner. Elgin counters a tornado DDT attempt into a spinning tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for an impressive visual, but it only gets a two count. Crowd is hot for Generico as always and Elgin actually gets some decent heat out of them. Elgin works away on Generico's back for a bit but Generico tries to fight back with a series of running clotheslines. Huge hurricanrana off the top from Generico and a Blue Thunder bomb gets him a close two count. Elgin runs right into an exploder suplex that sends him upside down into the corner, but again Elgin gets the shoulder up at two. Elgin blocks a Yakuza kick attempt and then tries for a powerbomb, but Generico backdrops him. He runs right into a Bossman slam from Elgin though for another near fall. Elgin gets sent to the outside floor and Generico tries a cross-body block off the apron, but Elgin catches him only to be run into the barricade anyways by the Generic luchador. Generico slides from one side of the ring to the next into a nifty tornado DDT to the floor and the crowd goes crazy for that one. Innovative stuff from Generico. He sets up for the Yakuza kick again back in the ring but a masked man appears in the corner to grab Generico's foot and hang him up on the top rope while the ref is distracted, giving Elgin the chance to hit a sitout powerbomb for the cheap win at 9:13. Elgin's best match in ROH yet, this was a very good power vs. speed match-up that kept picking up steam until the screwjob finish. The booking does make sense though as you give Elgin a win and set up Generico's next program in one outing. Hot opener. ***

After the match we get some shaky hand-cam footage of Eddie Edwards shocking ROH World title win at the Manhattan Center a few weeks before this show. Great surprise moment that sends out the message that big things still happen on the non i-PPV cards, likely in an attempt to boost attendance ever so slightly.

Homicide vs. Colt Cabana vs. Tommoso Ciampa vs. Caleb Konley

Before the match Truth Martini tells Caleb Konley that this is his one shot at becoming a member of the House of Truth. This is how guys like Cabana should be used these days, to help put over the younger talent. Two men in a ring at a time and tag rules apply here, one fall to a finish. Homicide and Konley start us off with some basic feeling out stuff; lockup, armdrag, headlock, etc. Colt tags in and does some of his trademark European-influenced footwork before hitting the flying ass on Konley for two. Homicide tags in and hits a sloppy overhead belly to belly on Konley. Ciampa, the newest member of the Embassy, tags in next and eats some right hands in the corner from Homicide. He knocks Homicide to the floor, where Prince Nana and one of his lovely ladies attack him behind the refs back. The heels isolate Homicide in their corner for awhile, trading quick tags. Cabana gets the hot tag eventually and hits the old flip flop and fly Dusty Rhodes routine to clean house. Quebrada from Colt gets a near fall on Konley, but Ciampa gets a blind tag and hits Cabana with a neckbreaker. Konley gets a sick backbreaker off the top rope from Ciampa who then sets his eyes on Homicide, who flies out of the ring with the tope con hilo to take out Colt Cabana on the outside! Ciampa misses a slingshot splash so Homicide gets a running start and hits another tope con hilo, this time on Ciampa. Might as well make it three, so he tosses Konley out to the floor and pops the crowd with a third tope con hilo, wiping out all three of his opponents. He rolls Konley back into the ring and finishes him off with the Cop Killa for the win at 9:23. Slightly above average four-corner survival match here, Cabana and Homicide carried most of the load so Konley and Ciampa wouldn't be exposed and the crowd was hot for both men, so the result was an entertaining if forgettable contest. **¾

After the match Truth Martini gives Caleb Konley the thumbs up to seemingly induct him into the House of Truth, but a moment later Truth reminds us it's also April Fool's day and Michael Elgin jumps him from behind and plants him with a big spinning powerbomb. The crowd seems to be confused as to who they should cheer for here as they chant for Elgin to hit his finisher on Konley one more time, and then promptly boo him and Truth when they don't.

Sara Del Rey/Serena Deeb vs. Ayumi Kurihara/Hiroyo Matsumoto

It's SHIMMER showcase time, so Dave Prazak immediately perks up on commentary. Deeb's hair is starting to grow back from her Straight Edge Society days with CM Punk. Kurihara and Matsumoto are rising young talents from the joshi scene in Japan, which continues to thrive through a series of small independent promotions like NEO, Ice Ribbon, and Oz Academy. Deeb and Del Rey are perfectly content to work the Japanese joshi style with the girls, but not before some friendly ribbing that Del Rey doesn't take kindly to. Kuriharia and Matsumoto double team Del Rey in the corner with running knees. Kurihara tries a bridging northern lights suplex but Del Rey quickly kicks out before the two count and hits her with a back heel kick. Deeb tags in and gets stretched in a modified Octopus stretch from Kurihara, the look on her face is priceless. Deeb misses a spear and the action spills out to the floor where Kurihara flies off the top rope with a big cross-body that wipes out both Del Rey and Deeb! The crowd comes alive for the Japanese women. Back inside Kurihara applies a nasty cross-armbar on Deeb, stretching her arm over the top rope until Del Rey breaks it up. Del Rey hits a facebuster for a near fall and tags Deeb back in while the SHIMMER tag team champions Daizee Haze and Tomoka Nakagawa come to ringside to get a closer look at the action. Del Rey eats a lung-blower from Kurihara and she gets the hot tag to Matusumoto, who cleans house on the American women with a double cross-body block. Matsumoto lifts Del Rey up in the torture rack position and then transitions into a nasty gutbuster, but Deeb breaks the pin attempt up. Tag rules go out the window for the finish as all four women start flying around with dropkicks until Kurihara hits one of the nastiest German suplexes I've ever seen on Deeb and Matsumoto follows it up with a nasty German of her own. Deeb literally looks dead and thankfully that's enough to pick up the win for the Japanese women at 9:01. This was nearly ten minutes of off-the-chart action from all four women with a sickening finish to cap it all off. Great little tag match. ***¼

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs. Kyle O'Reilly/Adam Cole

Cole and O'Reilly have easily been the best new additions to the ROH roster over the last six months, with O'Reilly in particular quickly becoming a huge fan favorite. Both men seem destined for great things in ROH, but this is one of their stiffest challenges to date with the veteran Briscoe brothers tonight. Mark and Cole start us off with some dueling armdrags until Jay and O'Reilly tag in. They trade front chanceries and O'Reilly tries for the cross armbar early but Jay fights it off. Lots of frequent tagging early here with the Briscoes outwrestling Cole and O'Reilly to start. Cole sends Jay out to the floor and then hits a tope suicida on him, but back inside the ring he eats a spinebuster and can't capitalize. The Briscoes try isolating Cole now, working him over in their corner with double team moves. Cole hits a leg lariat and gets the lukewarm tag to O'Reilly who cleans house on both of the Briscoes with stiff kicks and knee strikes. He catches both legs of the Briscoes and gives them a DOUBLE Dragon-Screw legwhip and a double missile dropkick for a near-fall. You always see something new with O'Reilly these days. He hits a pair of rolling butterfly suplexes on Mark and then feeds him to Cole who hits a sick bridging wheelbarrow suplex on him that Jay Briscoe somehow breaks up. Crowd chants "This is awesome!" as Cole hits a big jumping headkick to Mark and sends Jay into the corner on the outside. O'Reilly hits his awesome missile dropkick into the corner off the apron while Cole hits a splash back inside the ring for a near fall as this is just too-fast paced to even call at this point. A small "Let's go Briscoes" chant starts up and by god it gets booed out of the building by the rest of the crowd, who are hotly behind the young babyfaces O'Reilly and Cole. Falcon Arrow on Cole but O'Reilly breaks up the pin attempt and trades kicks with Mark. He eats a huge superkick from Jay and a German suplex from Mark that sends him inside out before the Briscoes finish Cole off with the springboard Doomsday Device at 13:23. O'Reilly and Cole lose clean but still come off like a million bucks for nearly defeating the ROH veterans. The in-ring work here was phenomenal and the crowd was red-hot throughout the whole thing and totally bought into the Briscoes as heels for the first time in quite some time. Another great outing from the O'Reilly and Cole tag team. ***½

After the match the All Night Express, who were thrown out of the building earlier for fighting with the Briscoes, come out of the crowd and attack the Briscoe Brothers again, brawling with them around ringside for several minutes until ROH officials can finally break them up. Nice little segment to remind everyone about the big grudge match between these two teams tomorrow afternoon.

Intermission time. When we return it's time for our big grudge match.

Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong

These two have had some great matches over the last year, including an absolutely brutal match at the Final Battle iPPV that saw Davey come within inches of winning the ROH World title from Strong. Strong just dropped the belt about a week ago to none other than Davey's longtime tag partner Eddie Edwards, so this should be a telling match about where both men are headed in the company in 2011. Davey gets his usual great pop from the ROH faithful while Strong, like him or hate him, continues to get pretty decent heat (atleast by ROH standards). Davey offers a handshake to Roddy before the match but Strong just licks his palm like a weirdo before Davey backs away. Lock-up to start and Roddy bails quickly for a breather on the outside. Back inside they trade a standing wristlock until Davey hits him with a big boot and a snap suplex for the first two count of the match. Davey applies a nasty Texas cloverleaf and transitions it right into another near fall as the crowd is very clearly and obviously behind Davey here. Davey continues the leg work until Roddy gets the rope break. Davey goes to the top rope but Truth Martini grabs his leg, giving Roddy enough time to knock him to the floor with a big jumping head-kick. Roddy takes the upper hand from here after Truth's distraction, working a nasty modified abdominal stretch and laying in forearms, busting open Davey's lip. The action spills out to the floor again and Strong just launches Davey throat-first onto the steel barricade. Strong slams Richards' back into the edge of the apron and starts taunting the crowd, drawing some boos. Give Roderick Strong credit, he's made a noticeable effort to switch up his in-ring style since becoming a heel, cutting back on some of his more flashy moves in favor of working heat out of the crowd. Roddy continues to taunt the crowd while the beatdown of Davey continues, teasing them with mocking rounds of applause in between working on Richards. Davey hits a big running kick to Strong off the apron and then gains an incredible amount of speed, flying through the ropes like a missile, wiping Strong out completely! I've never seen so much velocity on a tope suicida in my entire life. After both men recover Davey hits a nice handspring back elbow on Strong for a close near fall. Bridging German suplex gets another close two count, but again Strong kicks out. Davey applies the ankle lock, but Strong reverses into the La Belle Lock! That gains some boos from the crowd, seeing it as a jab at Bryan Danielson's WWE finisher. Both men fight to the top rope and Strong gives Davey a backbreaker right across the top turnbuckle! Roddy applies the Strong Hold briefly, but Richards is quick to get the ropebreak. Both men begin trading stiff kicks, with Davey practically knocking Strong's head off while Strong knees him so hard in the face you can hear the smack of bone against bone! They fight to the top turnbuckle again and yet again Davey get's a huge backbreaker onto the edge of the ring apron (the infamous "hardest part of the ring"). Another stiff exchange of forearms, and Roddy hits the Sick Kick! 1-2--NOO! Davey kicks out at two and Strong is pissed off now, hitting a rapid-fire pair of backbreakers and gutbusters, but AGAIN Richards kicks out before the three count. Davey kicks Roderick right in the side of the head nit Strong just spits a huge loogie in his face in a sign of (disgusting) defiance. Another pair of stiff kicks to the head still won't do it for Davey, so he goes back to the ankle lock. Creative suplex into a backbreaker from Roddy in retaliation, and the crowd totally buys it as a near fall as they are absolutely loving what they're seeing. Gibson Driver from Roddy and he transitions right into the Strong Hold again, but Richards counters right back into the ankle lock! Truth Martini tries to interfere at this point but Davey feeds him a big boot for his troubles and then sweeps Roddy's legs out from under him, once again going right back into the ankle lock. Superplex off the top from Davey, and he maintains the hold, rolling right into a Falcon Arrow and then transitioning back again into (what else?) the ankle lock in an incredible display of transition wrestling, finally forcing Roderick to tap out at 27:06! Both men get a well deserved standing ovation after the match. Roderick had won their last few encounters so this was Davey's big revenge match, and both men went above and beyond to deliver a match deserving of that big epic "blow-off" feeling. Strong worked great as a heel, Davey ditched the no-selling, and this match blew everybody away live. Probably the best ROH match I've seen since the Steen-Generico Street Fight at Final Battle back in December. ****¼

ROH Tag Team Title Match
Chris Hero/Claudio Castagnoli
© vs. Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas

This is a rematch people have been waiting for since their great match at Glory by Honor IX last September. Hero and Castagnoli have held the belts for nearly an entire calender year at this point, having defeated the Briscoes for the belts at the Big Bang iPPV back in April of 2010. Kevin Kelly talks a bit about how much this match means tonight for Haas, briefly recanting an incident where he, Charlie, and Charlie's late brother and tag team partner Russ Haas were on the floor of the Astro Dome at Wrestlemania in 2001. Anyways, Shelton and Hero start us off and seem determined to try and out-wrestle each other in the early going to prove their dominance. Kind of sloppy sequence of near falls and countering from both men, as they seem to have some early match jitters. Haas tags in and tosses Hero with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex for a near fall. Haas goes to work on Hero's arm with some deep armdrags and a hammerlock. Claudio tags in and Haas and Benjamin begin to target his left leg, isolating him in their corner and trading quick tags. All four men are in the ring now and the Kings eat a pair of stereo German suplexes from Benjamin and Haas for a pair of near falls, sending the Kings to the floor to try and regain their composure with Shane Hagadorn and Sara Del Rey. Back inside the Kings regain some of the momentum thanks to some distraction by Sara Del Rey (she'd distract me too), and Shelton eats a huge boot from Hero. Chokeslam from Claudio gets a two count on Shelton and Hero tags back in as the tables have turned and Shelton is the one being isolated now. Prazak and Kelly put over how dominant the KOW have been with Prazak trying to claim they've been hugely successful in Japan when to my knowledge they did jobbing duties on every NOAH tour they worked. Shelton continues to play the babyface in peril as Claudio chokes him behind the refs back. Lots of old school heel tag team tactics from the Kings here, instigating Charlie to get in the ring and tie up the referee while they beat down Shelton behind his back. Shelton starts the comeback though, avoiding a quebrada moonsault and hitting a big spinkick on Hero. Shelton gets the hot tag to Haas finally who cleans house on the Kings with a flying headscissors and side suplex. Another headscissors off the top from Haas and Hero eats a superkick from Shelton. Both men get held up against the ropes as Shelton hits their trademark leapfrog top-rope choke spot. Roaring elbow drills Haas and the Kings hit a pair of tandem bicycle kicks on Charlie for another two count. The Kings hit the big swing-dropkick combo on Charlie but Shelton breaks it up. Shelton hits the Pay Dirt on Hero and drills Claudio with a DDT. Claudio tries the Ricola Bomb on Charlie but he counters with the Angle Slam and locks on the Haas of Pain (and the crowd is actually CHANTING for it!). Del Rey distracts the ref while Hero prepares to use the Loaded Elbow Pad of Doom for the nine thousandth time, but Shelton gives him a belly to belly of the top rope and Claudio taps out to the Haas of Pain and we have NEW Tag Team champions at 23:00! The Kings year-long title reign is finally put to rest as the hottest team ROH has gets the big title win here on the big stage, avenging their loss to the Kings months ago. The match was a bit awkward in the opening stages, but once we got to the middle heat section it was great stuff and the ending played on the finish of their previous match, tying the whole thing up neatly in a pretty little package. ***¾

ROH World Title Match
Eddie Edwards
© vs. Christopher Daniels

This was originally meant to be Daniels getting a title shot against Roderick Strong, but with Edwards' World title victory things were changed so that this is now Edwards first title defense, and who better to defend the belt against than the man he's been feuding with for months and who he's yet to defeat, the ROH legend Christopher Daniels? These two went to a 30 minute time limit draw at the last i-PPV in a great match. Crowd is kind of drained by this point, so lets see if these two can get them into it regardless. Long feeling out process to start with both men trading holds and establishing how evenly matched they are. Edwards hits a headscissors early and tries for another one minutes later but Daniels counters into a half Boston crab. The action spills to the floor and Daniels gets hip-tossed into the steel barricade. Edwards lays in some chops on Daniels and the facial reaction of Daniels is gold, looking as though he was just struck with a hot iron. Daniels gets tied up in the tree of woe back inside and eats a dropkick for a two count. Blue Thunder bomb from Daniels and he follows it up with an STO. Edwards counters with a Codebreaker a gourdbuster though for a two count. Daniels avoids the back-pack chinbreaker from Edwards and instead gives him a massive Yuranagi off the apron right through the ring announcer's table! Great looking spot. Daniels isn't done though as he sets up a pair of chairs and bodyslams Edwards right through them! A big "Fuck TNA!" chant breaks out as Daniels proudly lifts up the ROH World title and points at it, prompting them to chant for ROH instead. Back inside a spinebuster gets him another near fall. Edwards blocks a superplex attempt and hits a big missile dropkick. They do a nice sequence of trading backslides and cradle attempts until Daniels is sent to the floor where Edwards follows him out with the tope suicida. Back inside a cross-body block only gets Edwards two, so he tries a Tiger Suplex but again Daniels kicks out at two. Daniels manages to apply the Koji clutch momentarily, but Edwards gets the rope break. Sideslam off the top gets Daniels another near fall as the crowd calls for the BME. Edwards puts Daniels into the half Boston crab briefly but Daniels counters right back into the Koji clutch again! Big Lariat and a 2K1 Bomb from Edwards again only gets him two. Daniels tries for the Angel's Wings off the top rope but Eddie backdrops him and hits a double-stomp. He tries for a double-underhook but Daniels counter right into the Angel's Wings! 1-2---NOO! Eddie kicks out just barely and the fans thought they had a new champion for a moment there. Daniels hits the Best Moonsault Ever but again Eddie kicks out to the crowd's shock! Kicking out of both of Daniels finishers there puts over Edwards greatly as a legit champ. Daniels tries a second BME but Eddie gets the knees up this time and slaps on the half Boston crab again. Daniels slaps him off though and sets up for a Yuranagi off the top rope but Edwards counters with a 2K1 Bomb off the top rope! He hits another one on Daniels just for good measure, and picks up the clean pin to retain at 30:12! It seems like every time these two guys wrestle, it's better than their last encounter. This did a lot in the way of making Edwards appear worthy of the World title, and Daniels does exactly what he should be doing at this point in his career: putting over the younger guys like a million bucks. An excellent main event and their best match yet. ****¼

After the match Eddie Edwards offers a handshake to Christopher Daniels, who declines and walks off in a stern, deflated manner. Good chance this is setting up a Daniels heel turn. Edwards gets on the mic and puts over the fans and the company as we close out the show

Bottom Line: Every year it seems you can count on ROH to deliver some incredible wrestling on Wrestlemania weekend, and they delivered again here tonight with one of their best events in many months. There isn't a single bad match on the entire card. Generico and Elgin had a hot opener, the midcard is chock full of tag team goodness, and we got not one but two potential Match of the Year Candidates for ROH to cap it all off. There isn't a better value for your wrestling dollar than this, well worth the measly $15 dollars and a giant Thumbs Up.

Score: 9.5/10

Saturday, April 23, 2011

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 4/22/11

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 4/22/11
April 22nd, 2011
O2 Arena, London, England
Attendance: 15,000 +/-?

We're only nine days away from the big Extreme Rules PPV as Friday Night Smackdown rolls into the O2 Arena in London, England. Tonight Alberto Del Rio has promised to throw a "retirement party" for Edge, while Rey Mysterio and Cody Rhodes face off in a Wrestlemania rematch, the Big Show and Kane get another shot at the WWE Tag Team titles, and Kofi Kingston gets his rematch with Wade Barrett for the IC title. Let's get right to it.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We start the show off with "Sir" Michael Cole being introduced to his usual chorus of boos as he takes his seat in the Cole Mine, which is now adorned with "royal" decorations. The vacant World Heavyweight Championship is hanging high above the ring.

Cody Rhodes comes out next and is followed to the ring by a group of men wheeling out a cart with them. Rhodes grabs a mic and says he wears a mask to protect himself, while Mysterio wears a mask to hide something and because he's ashamed of himself. He says that everyone in attendance tonight wears a mask as well, but he can see through their masks and see their envy for himself and the misery they're in. Rhodes offers a remedy however and pulls out a brown paper bag with eye and mouth holes. The men who came to the ring with him begin handing out the brown paper bags to members of the audience, and like a bunch of goofs they all put them on to drive Cody's point home. He says that he wants the fans to cover their faces until he's drafted from this show or at the very least until he beats Rey in a few minutes, leading us right into our first match of the night. Excellent promo here from Cody, who seems to improve on the mic every single week.

Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio

Cody's aggressive to start, hammering away at Rey, but he's overzealous and gets tossed out of the ring. Rey follows him out with a running seated senton off the apron as we take a quick commercial break. When we return Rey tries for a moonsault but Rhodes takes his legs out from under him and begins choking Rey on the mat with his knee. Rhodes tries for a powerbomb but Rey counters into a pin attempt for a quick two count. Rhodes picks Rey up around his shoulders in a torture rack and then falls to his knees with a devastating back-breaker that gets a near fall. Enziguri from Rey sets up the 619, but Rhodes counters with a backdrop to the apron. Rey lands on his feet but eats a boot from Cody that sends him crashing into the steel post as we take another commercial break. What the hell, we just took a break less than 2 freaking minutes ago, this must be to give the "retirement ceremony" more time later tonight. When we return Rhodes is working a reverse chinlock on Rey. Snap powerslam from Rhodes gets him another near fall. Cole and Booker bicker on commentary while Rhodes drops a knee and then sends him flying chest-first into the turnbuckle. Rey hits a big seated senton off the top and follows it up with a springboard cross-body block as they trade quick pin attempts. Rey comes off the top again but eats a dropkick from Cody. Rhodes tries for a powerbomb but Rey counters into a rollup and gets the pin and the victory at 7:13 (shown). Fairly good match ruined by an excessive amount of commercial breaks. This was just about giving Rey a win to even the series up, but this "you win one, I win one" booking never gets anyone over and Rey doesn't need the win honestly. **¼

After the match Cody continues to attack Rey, hitting him with his mask and hitting the Cross Rhodes before putting one of the paper bags over Rey's head.

Backstage Justin Gabriel tells Wade Barrett that eliminating him last week in the battle royal was just business and nothing personal. Wade claims he wouldn't have done the same to him. Heath Slater and Ezekiel Jackson both approach them and say tonight needs to be about unity. Big Zeke facetiously calls himself the Corre's "leader", but Wade doesn't seem to think the joke is very funny. The sooner this joke of a stable breaks up, the better.

We get some highlights of LayCool's match and couples therapy session from last week before we start the latest therapy session. McCool whines about Layla losing again and says she rode her coattails their entire career. McCool says she's not sure Layla is flawless which sends Layla into tears and McCool apologizes and they hug...until Michelle shoves Layla down and slaps her a few times. So, are they officially broken up now? Are we done with these time-wasting segments?

After a quick commercial break we return to see Michael Cole in the ring. Cole plays the clip from RAW where JR was forced to kiss Cole's feet (so glad we brought back Jim Ross just to humiliate him some more on national TV) and the bogus "Knighting" ceremony he had. He introduces Jack Swagger and that leads us into our next match.

Jack Swagger vs. Trent Bareta

It's Friday, so that means it's time for our weekly Trent Bareta squash. Cole yaks away on commentary while Swagger tosses Trent around the ring like a ragdoll. He hits the big Swagger Bomb and taunts the crowd a bit afterwards. Trent tries for a tornado DDT but Swagger evades, so he hits an enziguri on him instead. What the hell, Trent's actually getting some offense in? He hits a running elbow on Jack in the corner and then springboards right into a huge powerbomb from Swagger, who then locks on the ankle lock and forces Trent to tap at 1:14. Just your weekly Bareta squash match, but it was fast paced for that one minute. ½*

After the match we get some clips of the Big Show doing a segment for the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards last week, followed by a trailer for the new WWE film "That's What I Am", which quite literally looks like the biggest piece of garbage they've ever released, and that's seriously saying something. We also get another Awesome Kong (or as she'll be known in the WWE, "Kharma") promo.

WWE Tag Team Title Match
Justin Gabriel/Heath Slater
© vs. Big Show/Kane

Quite the difference in size in this one. Kane and Slater start us off with Kane dominating early and getting a quick near fall. He tags Show in who uses the power of his ass to slam it into Slater in the corner. Kane tags back in and hits a big uppercut. He tries a body slam but Slater evades and tags Gabriel in, who just runs right into Kane's right hand. Kane goes to the top rope but the ref is distracted and Big Zeke tosses him off at ringside. Slater slaps on a chinlock and Gabriel gets the blind tag as they attempt to isolate the Big Red Machine in their corner. Gabriel hits a nifty tilt-a-whirl DDT and tags Slater back in, who comes off the top rope only to eat another big right hand from Kane. Big Show tags in and cleans house on Slater easily. Gabriel tries to interfere but gets thrown to the floor while Kane tosses Big Zeke off the apron. Big Show hits the choke slam and that's enough for the pin and the titles at 4:04. And the joke of a title reign that Gabriel and Slater had is over, without so much as a single meaningful or clean victory throughout the entire reign. Way to build new stars guys. Putting the tag belts on Show and Kane I'm guessing is just a way to do something with those two, but they really don't need the titles at all. Average, short match. *¼

After the commercial break we cut to The Corre backstage, where Slater and Gabriel blame Big Zeke for their loss. Zeke tells them to look in the mirror to see who to blame for the loss, and Slater shoves Gabriel down afterwards for no particular reason. The WWE always does this, they tease a stable break up for weeks and weeks and weeks until even the most uneducated and casual fan can see the break up from a mile away, so by the time the break-up actually DOES happen, nobody cares. Example: the Legacy break-up last year.

Drew McIntyre vs. Chris Masters

Cole shifts back into analyst mode and puts over Masters. Listening to Cole on commentary is like listening to someone with multiple personality disorder these days. Lock-up to start and Masters goes for the Master Lock early, but Drew counters out. Big clothesline from Drew but he wastes too much time to make the cover and only gets a two count. Masters tries a rollup for a two count and then hits a sloppy sitout spinebuster for another near fall. Masters hits a flying shoulderblock off the top rope and goes for the Master Lock again, but Drew climbs up the ropes and flips out of it. He hits the Future Shock DDT and that's enough for the win at 3:37. Just an extended squash for Drew, but Masters got a surprising amount of offense in. Short and inoffensive. *½

The Raw Rebound recaps the R-Truth heel turn on John Morrison from RAW this week.

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Wade Barrett
© vs. Kofi Kingston

These two have had a decent feud going over the IC strap, and it's nice to see Wade Barrett paying his dues in the midcard after his mediocre main event run late last year. Big Zeke accompanies Barrett to the ring. Kofi's fired up to start, hitting shots in the corner on Wade and laying in quick kicks. Barrett elbows him though and stomps away on Kofi. Kofi knocks Barrett out to the floor and flies off the top with a beautiful cross-body block to the floor as we take a commercial break. When we return Wade is working his knee into Kofi's back, wrenching away on his arms in a submission hold. Kofi fights him off and sends Barrett crashing to the floor. Big Zeke runs to try and interfere but Kofi moves and he winds up clotheslining Barrett instead. Shouldn't that be a DQ? Wade argues with Zeke and tells him to leave back in the ring while Kofi rolls him up for a close two count. Big dropkick and a jumping lariat from Kingston as he's all fired up now. He hits the Boom Drop and sets up for the Trouble in Paradise, but Barrett ducks and tries to give Kofi the Waste Land, but he loses his balance and Kofi winds up on the top turnbuckle. Big right hand from Barrett and he rolls up Kofi, grabbing the rope for extra leverage to get the cheap win at 4:25 (shown). Another short title match, but this was fast-paced and exciting while it lasted. Finish kind of came out of nowhere and was a bit sloppy, but points for effort.

After a commercial break we return and it's time for Alberto Del Rio's retirement party for Edge. He drives out in a brand new Bentley while Ricardo Rodriguez does the usual epic lucha ring introduction for him. He's accompanied by big Brodus Clay. In the ring are some balloons and various objects covered in black sheets. WWE editing has spliced in some cheesy flamenco guitar music in the background for this promo, kind of like how they used to edit in generic ominous music for Kane's heel promos last year. Not a fan of the background music in promos, it makes the whole promo seem overly-scripted and fake. Anyways, Del Rio says no one throws a fiesta like him and pulls off a black sheet off of one of the "presents" for Edge, which is a grandfather clock. He says Edge can use the clock to tick away the remaining hours in his life. Next he reveals a pack of Depends adult diapers and a bedpan because when you get to be Edge's age, apparently making it to the bathroom becomes too difficult. Next Del Rio introduces one of Edge's "old friends", and to the shock of the crowd and myself Lita's music hits! Big pop from the crowd. Man I loved her theme music, good stuff. Of course it's not really Lita, it's a fat woman with a red wig on. Del Rio says she's never looked better. He says if she and Edge ever want to go for a romantic stroll, they can use a walker that he unveils next. This brings us to his last present for Edge, and Ricardo Rodriguez comes riding out on a power scooter while Frank Sinatra plays in the background. Ricardo even does the Edge pyro entrance, which is just downright hilarious because of Ricardo's great facial expressions. The scooter even comes with a handicap parking pass, how nice of Del Rio. Alberto calls himself the Essence of Excellence and promises to win the world title at Extreme Rules. Suddenly Edge's music hits and the Rated R superstar is in the building! Crowd is pretty shocked by this and so am I, I was not expecting Edge to be back on TV so soon, what happened to him taking some time off? Edge says he went on Facebook and told Del Rio he was going to be here tonight, and then does the old Mick Foley cheap pop by saying they're in beautiful London tonight. Edge says we all know two things about Del Rio, 1) He sucks, and 2) He can't throw a party. He calls Del Rio's group in the ring a "flaming bag of poop". Wow, what a burn Edge. Brodus Clay starts to walk up the ramp to approach Edge but suddenly Christian appears out of nowhere with a ladder and slams it into Clay. He slams the ladder into Del Rio as well and then slides the ladder into the ring, sets it up, and takes down the World Heavyweight title that's been hanging from the ceiling all night long. We close out the show with Christian celebrating on top of the ladder with the World title. You know, this was a pretty good segment all around, it served a purpose and was humorous at times. But the focus was entirely still on Edge and Del Rio, and not Christian, the guy who's actually facing Del Rio for the title at Extreme Rules. I'm all for keeping Edge around on the roster, but the focus here really should have been on building up Del Rio vs. Christian and not continuing the Del Rio-Edge feud, especially since Edge is retired now. Minor gripe though.

Bottom Line: About the only thing I can say about this show tonight was that it was average, but enjoyable. Kind of like a bad action movie in the summer time, there isn't much substance to it but you still enjoy the ride regardless. Cody Rhodes and Rey Mysterio had a decent match to continue their feud, while elsewhere we continued the Wade Barrett-Kofi Kingston feud and crowned new tag team champions. It's clear The Corre are on their last legs as a stable, and it'll be interesting to see where it's individual members wind up once the split officially happens and the Draft takes place on RAW. There's nothing here you need to go out of your way to take a look at, but certainly not a bad show either. Just average really, so we'll go with a Thumbs in the Middle for tonight's Smackdown.

Score: 5/10