Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A (possible) WWE Money In The Bank 2010 Live Blog

Tuesday, 20th July, 9.10pm: This show has been finished and completed for nearly two days, and I have managed to inadvertently find out who leaves the show with the world title belts. Damn you Twitter and my inability to not follow links even though I suspect they will spoil a surprise.

9.15pm: PLAY. I have a cup of tea (no milk or sugar). Just hardcore tea. My wife is drinking heavily in the corner and cursing at the Irish (this is a lie).

9.21pm: Smackdown Money In The Bank match. And Kofi is first out. Great news for fans of Kofi Kingston in ladder matches. Maybe he'll try that stilts spot again. Four guys I like in this (Dolph, Christian, Matt and Big Show), four guys I don't care four (others, look up names yourself)

9.27pm: Big Show was awesome at the beginning of this. I loved the look on his face as he breaks that first ladder under his weight.

9.59pm: Well, how about that? At first watch, I thought that was really good. Felt a lot more like a fight and a struggle compared to the usual spotfest with elaborate unrealistic setups. Having the two big guys in there gave it a different feel, with one story being about how the smaller guys could restrain them. Big Show's involvement was great - he made getting the huge ladder into a real performance for what could have been very dull - but they don't overplay his stuff and use credible stuff to keep him out. He took Kofi's DDT like a king. A little bit, I thought Dolph was the best guy in this. He's a good bumper, so there's plenty of opportunity for that (has he started doing Foley's apron bump regularly? Onto ladder was a cool spot), but his best moments came fighting with Kane on the ladder, scrambling over him then catching him with a sleeperhold. Kane does some stuff I don't like, but the booking of Drew Macintrye as the guy left at the end only for Kane to stop him was a great way of getting a face pop. Had it been Matt Hardy, for example, it would have been badly received.

10.15pm: Oh, and Kofi was inoffensive and that announce desk leg drop was nuts. Well played, WWE. Next match.

10.17pm: Next match soon. Errands have emerged.

11.25pm: Sheamus interview. I'd like to clarify that great white sharks do have souls. Some produce beautiful poetry (largely unwritten), about the loneliness of being a shark in a world that thinks you are soulless. Decent interview. Sheamus has got better at talking.

11.28pm: Eve Torres vs. Alicia Fox begins. It's the battle of the divas with surnames. This was what it was. Alicia Fox looks more able than the average diva. Is it futile to point out that if you can't do a suplex because of a bad back, you can't then do a moonsault?

11.36pm: Speaking of divas, my wife has just fired our cleaning lady for putting the shampoo in the conditioner's spot on the shelf (utter fiction).

11.39pm: That was not a realistic conversation between Jack Swagger and the (imaginary) Ma Swagger, unless Ma and Pa Swagger are divorced. Or, more probably, if they are still are married.

11.40pm: Haven't seen the Usos before.

11.50pm: That was a perfectly decent, if short tag match. Felt like they packed a lot in and I was surprised only about seven minutes passed. Usos look like competent heels, and that assisted samoan drop was very cool. I'm very into the Harts being top team now, after being jobbed out all of last year. They complement each other well - definitely a greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts deal

Wednesday, 21st July, 12.01pm: Tired. Going to put on the Segunda Caida radio hour and fall asleep to Eric and Phil's melodious banter and Dean's falsetto. Will finish this tomorrow, providing my wife doesn't insist we got out shooting dogs again (absolutely never happened before).

11.52pm: This is ridiculous. I've been procrastinating watching stand-up on Youtube. Onwards.

11.56pm: Man, I wish I'd watched more Smackdown this last month. Rey vs. Swagger is on my screen now. Rey appears to be wearing his tribute to the gimp from Pulp Fiction costume, one of the lesser superheroes.

Thursday, 21st July, 12.05am: I love Rey busting out the split-leg moonsault as he's going around on a bad leg. Commentators missed how clever that was.

12.11am: Just a really nice match. Swagger looks great beating up Rey, Rey plays to his strengths (great selling, nice comebacks, including a couple of really nice dodges which barely missed). Couple of minor annoyances (Rey's setup headscissors seems to get less and less believable, and the top rope DDT was telegraphed and looked overly co-operative.

12.16am: This MitB angle is WELL played out by this point. Are they doing a split personality thing with Kane? That was the only thing that struck me as interesting here. That tombstone was a mistake, there was daylight and some of the following night between Rey's head and the mat.

12.20am: Layla vs. Kelly. SC's Eric says Layla is good, I have seen no singles matches of hers in 2010. Let us test this hypothesis. LayCool always strike me as two of the better developed characters on the show, and it's not just booking - they play them well.

12.27am: Fine for what it was. I liked Layla using Finlay's ring apron spot, but the slightly botch the dodgy finish. OK, it's late again. More sleep.

6.22pm: Right, I'm finishing this tonight. RAW ladder match now.

6.35pm: OK, a lot of this is really uninspiring and unimaginative multi-person ladder match fare. But Mark Henry pushing four guys off the ladder in two directions was a really cool visual. Bourne and Henry are the only people I care about so far, mostly for actually bringing something new to the table.

6.40pm: Morrison's obstacle course run to the ladder was nice - sort of thing that usually goes wrong. His unprotected bump inside the ladder looked really nasty.

6.43pm: Not a word of a lie: Henry bump off Edge's spear outside was the greatest bump ever taken by any man ever.

6.50pm: Fuck it. COME ON EVAN.

6.54pm: Nowhere near as good as the Smackdown match. Highspots weren't as good, loads of stuff that was overly contrived. The few nice moments featured Henry (his elimination was great, his bumping and selling off of that terrible offence was a sight to behold) and Bourne (I liked the shooting star out of nowhere). It felt like all the really good ideas were taken by the Smackdown match. All things in moderation, WWE.

7.02pm: Main event: Sheamus vs. Cena, in a cage.

7.30pm: A perfectly solid main event, with overbooked ending. Not particularly violent or hate-filled, nor did it feature anything standout-ish, but it was all put together well. I thought that they might actually give Sheamus a cleaner win at one stage, before Nexus came out. That said, this felt like a match where Sheamus seemed at home as heel champion and main-eventer, and I think that was Cena's doing.

7.33pm: I think it's time to move Cena away from the title belt for a bit, which this Nexus angle gives the opportunity for. Overall, a good show, with most things solid, and only the second ladder match disappointing my expectations. The opener was most surprising of all, and I recommend a watch.

7.35pm: My wife has just proof-read this post, and dislocated my arm as a punishment (a complete fabrication).

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Bunch of: Jerry Lawler's Memphis 2010

Jerry Lawler's Memphis promotion is back on TV, and as part of my Indie-cision 2010 project, I figured I'd watch the first four shows together. You too can do this at Lawler's website. The episodes run to around 35 minutes once the adverts and WWE clips are stripped out, and with two or three matches and interviews on each of them, I'm not expecting a classic. But quite a lot has been solid, and there's some fun to be had as well. Let's focus on the good stuff.

Derrick King is quite clearly the best guy on the show so far. He's had one short match with sort-of bland babyface Matt Boyce which was a really nice two and a half minutes of action. His main input so far has been this little feud with Koko B. Ware, which started with a really intense promo exchange, followed it up with a pull-apart brawl the following week, then had a four minute match in the last week. I loved King's selling off punches and his expressions after bump-taking, and he generally carries off the pace of his matches with significant presence.

I also liked the two Kid Nikels and Eric Wayne vs. Cody Melton and Stan Lee matches from what they appear to be calling their tag division - nothing complicated, but it felt really fluent and pacy and there's plenty of no-nonsense stiffness. The first was longer, and they do an abridged version of the longer formula with a false then a real face-in-peril section, whilst the second is almost entirely heat section, then a quick comeback victory. Both classic templates and all four guys do them well. Cody Melton and Stan Lee have a versatile heel act - it's much more obvious in the second match, when they slow things down more, cheat more and get cockier, whilst in the first one they pace is faster and they have to work together more and cheat less.

There's been some good booking and some less good decisions. It's at its best when sticking to simplicity - fight one weeks leads to match next week. There's main storylines so far have: Koko vs. King, which has progressed nicely with both guys doing good work inside and outside the ring, and the Southern title tournament which has been used for two additional purposes - the building up of heel Brian Christopher, and to establish Matt Boyce as the second top babyface (below Lawler). Christopher's turn sort of came out of nowhere (tagged with Lawler one week, cut a heel promo the next), but he's pretty dislikable and suits the role. His in-ring work hasn't been particularly notable yet, but the booking of his character is covering it up. Boyce, as mentioned above, is a little bland, but he's being booked well - he can bump, and he keeps sneaking quick pinfall victories. Aside form his match with Derrick King, the formula worked well against the physically imposing Tommy Mercer.

Lawler needs to establish a program for himself, because the show is missing a top babyface at present. They started to set up a program with Kevin White last show, which will hopefully go somewhere. In the meantime, there seems to be about thirty colour commentators/managers who want to retire Lawler or stop him winning the title or other unspecific threats. A re-run of Lawler vs. Jimmy Hart is no bad idea, but they need to pick a direction. On a related point, Brandon Baxter, as commentator, has been excellent, talking up the matches and the workers, but not in an annoying, paid-by-the-superlative way. Ring announcer and occassional commentator Lauren Jenkins is keen (and very pretty, has this been noticed by anyone yet?) but she is right at the bottom of the learning curve of doing good commentary - Baxter, however, is really good at working all her observations into something more insightful.

I will be watching more of this.

Big Japan: 28th September 2009

The show really gets started with Yoshihito Sasaki & Shinya Ishikawa vs. Takashi Sasaki & Kankuro Hoshino. Where on Earth did this come from? It's a pretty odd combination of guys - the deathmatch guy and the perennial whipping boy against the non-deathmatch heavyweight and the rookie. But everyone is completed fired up and super motivated here. The first few exchanges were scrappy, in the good sense, as it set up the intensity of the next ten minutes. Winning seemed important here, which is an impressive achievement for such a throwaway tag. No-one was content standing on the apron, given any opportunity they'd come in, break up a submission, double team an opponent or charge the partner in the opposite corner. I liked Yoshihito giving a viscious low larait to Takashi to break up a submission, only for Hoshino to come in a do the same once the roles were reversed.

In fact, the whole match showed a different side to Hoshino, who got way more offence that he would normally be allowed against other higher ranked guys. Ishikawa survives a lot of offence, Yoshihito lariats Hoshino and takes Takashi out, allowing Ishikawa the big comeback with a flurry of nasty forearms for a really satisfying finish. Hoshino's anguish at losing completed the deeply competitive feel to the match. This would have made my Japan 2009 ballot had I watched it in time. I don't like it when people talk about a match having a lot of hatred, and I've heard that word used to describe this. That seems like something that really should only apply to actual feuds. In that case, you expect rules to be broken because the importance of a well-contested wrestling match go away when there's an emotional issue at stake. This match really got over the importance of victory but was contested, broadly speaking, within the rules of a wrestling match - not hatred, but an intense competitive feel. Really great under-the-radar match.

Have you ever wanted to see Bugs Bunny doing a Pearl Harbour Splash? Then the Street Fight Dress Up deathmatch is for you. A bunch of comedy spots revolving around the fact that Numazawa and Kasai came out in a panda suit and a Bugs costume. Also expect headlocks on giant masks, mask swapping, masks being spun around so the guy can't see and other stuff (involving masks). Not actually a wrestling match, however. The tag titles match with Sekimoto and Okabayashi against Shinobu and Madoka, set up by the really good six-man on the previous, was much more predicable than the aforementioned trios. Madoka again impressed as a kicker and Shinobu is still a good face-in-peril, but the finish wasn't as dramatic because you never really got the sense that the challengers might win.

There's two Miyamoto death matches on this disc. The first is from the same show as all the previous matches, and is against Isami Kodaka. Apparently this went sixteen minutes, but it's pretty much a sprint. During the early portion, I felt like Miyamoto was much more comfortable in the role of champion, confidently taking and maintaining control, tossing Isami around, even stealing a spot or two from his former tag partner. Isami's comeback made use of the cage, which is a smart way to use your big gimmick in a match between an underdog and the champion. From there one, it's a lot of finisher and highspots using the cage and the remaining tubes (and a ladder and some chairs). These two don't no-sell anything (apart from anything, all the spots would actually hurt) but I never got the sense of an epic struggle and fatigue that you might expect - it's more fighting spirit and a final knockout blow. Isami takes more risks - his double knee with tubes (missed) and the same move with a chair off the cage are two of the highlights - whilst Miyamoto has a much more credible moveset in between high spots. Overall, there's probably about five false finishes too many, and other niggles, but an entertaining deathmatch nonetheless. I liked this more than the terribly overblown Takeda-Miyamoto match.

The second Miyamoto match is from two days later against Abby Jr. There are, allegedely, 445 lighttubes forming a solid wall around the ring and lying across the mat. This is a total gory spectacle, much less than a match - with so much plunder, there's no build to big spots, they pretty much start bleeding immediately. You know that image of Shawn Michael's face in the first Hell in the Cell - completely covered in blood. Imagine that, but extend it to the entire body of a fat Japanese man. Thinking about it now, there's probably a decent monster vs. underdog champion match in there somewhere, but it is well and truly hidden behind both the gruesomeness and, at times, Abby's slightly dodgy execution. His somersault senton spots onto tubes do not work out well (watch out for the second one, where he land headfirst but barely breaks the glass) and he quite obviously punches through the rope tubes early on after the first bump failed to break them.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Big Japan: August 28th 2009

Shinya Ishikawa vs. Ryuichi Kawakami was a completely non-offensive opener. It has solid matwork and both guys will throw a forearm with some force. Ishikawa now seems to be using the dropkick as a finisher, and it's pretty much his strong suit.

The MEN'S World match was skippable, as was Jun Kasai and Jaki Numazawa vs. Hoshino and Shimizu, which had loads of the former teams schtick (which I'm bored of). Shimizu does't really impose himself on the match, the focus seems to always been on Hoshino, who seems to be permanently matched up with these two. He does take a suplex from the top to a bunch of chairs outside, which was absolutely crazy perhaps unnecessary in an undercard match like this. It's lot like he made a glorious comeback and got over because of it. It's a Kasai and Numazawa match, and the crowd are apparently only interested in Kasa and Numazawa, not matter how much Hoshino risks death.

Shuji Ishikawa & Shinobu & Madoka vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yoshihito Sasaki & Yuji Okabayashi was the six-man tag match on this card I had low expectations going in, which turned out to be completely unjustified. Madoka and Shinobu are the two Men's Club juniors who seem comfortable in their with the heavyweights. I thought there offence looked credible, Madoka's kicks are more than equal to Sekimoto's chops, and don't do anything overly contrived. Speed of Sounds would have been dreadful in the same position. Shinobu is good in the face-in-peril, and the heavyweights don't go over the top with offence, almost toying with him with a series of stretches. Ishikawa makes the match-up seem even enough, and he's a fun hot tag - I liked him cutting off Sekimoto during his big lariat corner charge with a well placed knee. Still, it seemed like Sekimoto's team were taking the win, until Okabayashi fights for a german with Shinobu leading to the three man german spot - however, his team mates hold on, meaning that Sekimoto just suplexes his partner. Sekimoto even shows some rare theatrics when he realises what he's done. What I liked most about this was the sense that each of the teams were moving as one. You got the feeling that the underdogs got the win through their combined efforts. How pleasing.

Ryuji Ito & Takashi Sasaki & Abdullah Kobayashi vs. Yuko Miyamoto & Masashi Takeda & Isami Kodaka was the six-man tag on this show that I was looking forward to. And, well, it's kind of a bit rubbish. It had none of the intensity that some of the matches in the tag league had. Sasaki is a guy who spent much of that tournament becoming grumpy and surly at all these kids, so I have no idea who this was that showed up. Instead, it felt like an episode of Dirty Sanchez, with each team taking it in turns to do increasingly silly bumps on the tacks or the kenzans. By the end, I felt completely desensitized to it all, which is completely pointless in a deathmatch, which needs the anticipation of the big spots. For a match in 2009 which was all about taking dumb bumps, I liked that barefoot Kasai vs. Abby match way more, which at least had plenty of personality.