Well, on one hand I'm really excited about this PPV. We've got Guerrero vs. Benoit with a legitimate prize going to the winner. We've got a rematch of the Lesnar vs. Angle match from WrestleMania, with the Big Show thrown in for good measure. We've got what looks to be an excellent tag team title match waiting in the wings. On that same hand, both Guerrero and Benoit should be main event players right now, and fans aren't buying Eddy's heel turn. The tag title match hasn't been built at all, aside from a series of wins on the part of the challengers. Even Lesnar / Angle has been overshadowed by the two horrid McMahon main events. Yeah, there's plenty to get excited about, but there's also plenty to spoil that excitement.
Bradshaw, Ron Simmons, Sean O'Haire, Chris Kanyon, Rhyno, Brian "Spanky" Kendrick, Doink The Clown, Steve Lombardi, The Basham Brothers and The FBI
1ST-EVER ANNUAL APA BARROOM BRAWL
You know what this match reminds me of? That Hardcore battle royal they had, back in wCw's later days. Remember, the one where they threw a bunch of luchadores into a gimmicked "junkyard" set, and shot off fireworks and pyrotechnics, while the workers tried not to get themselves killed? It's funny, because that match featured a bunch of guys who could've given us some really great fights in the fed's lagging Cruiserweight division, yet they were instead thrown nonsensically into an environment that didn't suit them in the least. And the company was bought out just a few short years later. Let's hope WWE figures out this is the wrong way to go sometime soon, and tries giving Spanky, Kanyon and Nunzio a chance as something more than jobbers in worthless filler matches. But yeah, um, I still think it's cool that they've done away with the name "Farooq," and have started calling Ron Simmons by his real name again. Just looking for something nice to say.
Winner: Ron Simmons
Billy Gunn vs. Jamie Noble
God, I am just so lukewarm to most of the matches on this card. I don't care, one way or another, if Jamie Noble gets to sleep with Torrie Wilson. What I do care about is how we're missing the great matches Noble was putting on when he had the Cruiserweight title. Remember that matchup he had with Rey Mysterio, a few weeks after the masked one's debut in the big leagues? How does he go from a nice run like that, all the way down to this stupid storyline involving overnight fortune and "indecent proposals"? I mean, I guess I'd rather see him doing SOMETHING, rather than another couple matches with The A-Train or Nathan Jones, but come ON. Billy freaking Gunn? A guy who couldn't get the audience interested in him, despite a victory in the King of the Ring tournament and a clean win over the Rock? Gah... I guess, in not caring in the slightest, that means I actually really DO care. Am I making any sense? I'm with John, if they were just going to put Gunn over again, they wouldn't have taken this to PPV. Would they..?
Winner: Jamie Noble
Sable vs. Stephanie McMahon
Just when you thought nothing would TOUCH Flair vs. Steamboat, the writers come up with a matchup like this. Honestly, the number of directions they could take this feud are almost too great to list. This is one of those rare moments when great athletes combine with a great storyline, and tremendous execution makes the whole package absolutely unforgettable. This is a match you will tell your grandchildren about. You'll still feel the excitement of the incredible series of counters and reversals they're sure to pull off halfway through the match. You'll shiver as both Steph and Sable dazzle you with their amateur techniques. And you'll jump out of your seat for the big finish, as Stephanie lands an unbelievable shooting star press / 450 splash combination. I don't even know how something like that would be humanly possible, considering the two moves spin in opposite directions. Anyway, this will be a beauty. No question.
Winner: Stephanie McMahon
Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin ? vs. Rey Mysterio & Billy Kidman
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
OK, in all honesty, this should be a lot of fun to watch. These are four guys who have never really had the chance to define themselves as distinct characters. Rey is a little guy who does lots of flips, TAFKA Team Angle are arrogant tag partners, and Kidman is just... vanilla. Generally these guys tell a much greater story in the ring, with their physicality and body language, than they could ever hope to with a microphone and five minutes of TV time. I'm hoping they get that chance this Sunday night.
I've always been a big fan of Kidman and Rey, ever since Billy was a greasy part of Raven's Flock and Rey was dressing in all purple, like some sort of tripped-out Phantom rip off. Team Angle, I see definite potential in. They're both still trying to define their footing in the state of things, but I've got the impression they're right on the verge of turning into something special. And if anybody can get these guys completely over the hump, it's Rey and Kidman. I do agree, though, that the match is only serving as a stepping stone for Kidman and Mysterio's upcoming feud over the Cruiser title in the months ahead. As such, I completely understand the lack of real build for this one. On the other hand, I don't think anyone's expecting anything surprising in this match, which may be WWE's cue to surprise their audience with a Kidman / Mysterio victory. But my money's on the former.
Winner: Haas and Benjamin
Eddy Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE TOURNAMENT - FINALS
Awriiiight, now this is what I'm talking about. They used a tournament format, which is something I'm very fond of in the first place, involved largely the right guys, and let it come down to the two most qualified for the title. They didn't even try to meddle with things, by giving this an overly elaborate storyline prior to this past week's show. They just left it as two superb wrestlers, excelling at what they do best, and picking apart their opposition along the way. Personally, I would've put Eddy in the World Title picture back when he was one of the most over guys on RAW, following his aborted feud with Steve Austin. But what do I know?
But, ah... yeah. The match. Both these guys are in serious need of a popular direction right now, with Benoit the more needy of the two. Guerrero's recent heel turn hasn't gone over with the audience, who still wants to cheer him, but at least they're starting to try something with him. Benoit's been floating directionlessly, almost since returning from neck surgery a year ago. They've thrown him from one needless feud to another, with his only real direction coming in a the form of a series of matches against Kurt Angle. The quality of his matches has remained very high, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to get into his work, when you know it's not really getting him anywhere.
Basically, if they elongate this match into a strong series over the reintroduced belt, with clearly cut face / heel roles for both men, it could go a long way towards elevating their combined stock. Everybody knows the matches themselves will be absolutely incredible, so the only real variable is how well the bookers promote and invest interest into them. It's a tough call here, as I think Benoit is regarded as the more established of the two, but Guerrero's got more steam behind him at the moment.
Winner: Chris Benoit
The Undertaker vs. John Cena
I'm not so crazy about this one. Maybe if I had any faith in the Undertaker's ability and willingness to sell for smaller guys, I'd get excited about his upcoming match with Cena. As is, though, even if Jizzohn pulls out a victory, it won't be convincing. Even if he picks up the deadman, plants him with the DVD, and pins him clean in the center of the ring, he won't have looked as good as he could have. The Taker's been horrible, lately, with his unwillingness to make anybody look like a legitimate threat, and as such his character's just looked like an ass. Wow, look, you took out all three members of the FBI all by yourself. They were hitting you, but you mysteriously didn't feel their assault. I didn't buy that when Hulk Hogan was doing it, during the height of his popularity, and I was a little eight year old Hulkamaniac. I sure as hell don't buy it today, and it's embarrassing to watch. It makes him look like a relic, left over from an old guard, a guard three or four generations in the past. And, like I said, it kills my interest in this match, interesting young opponent or no.
Winner: The Undertaker
Vince McMahon vs. Zach Gowen
Poor Zach. In his only major league matchups, he's been in there opposite the Road Dogg, the Big Show and now Vince McMahon. I'd like to see what he could do with somebody like Eddy Guerrero, Rey Mysterio or Lance Storm, somebody who could turn his handicap into an important, interesting part of the match's story. But that's not what we're dealing with here. To his credit, every one of Vince McMahon's singles matches has been much, much better than it ever had a right to be. His cage match with Austin, his junk brawl with Shane, his WrestleMania collision with Hulk Hogan, they've all been much more entertaining matches than I could've ever imagined. But, as John stated in his preview, the vast majority of these fights have been on the other side of the ring from well established athletes, guys who knew their way around the squared circle with their eyes shut. Zach isn't in the same league as Triple H, Ric Flair, Steve Austin or even Hulk Hogan. His weaknesses are in tremendous danger of being exposed here, and I hope for his sake that things go just as well as the rest of ol' Vinnie's brawls. Regardless of the outcome, I can't understand how WWE has justified the amount of hype they've given this match. Honestly, I've seen five Gowen / McMahon promotional spots for every Angle / Lesnar / Show segment. Stupid.
Winner: Vince McMahon
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle
I like this one, which is something you don't usually hear from me when we're talking about a match involving the Big Show. In the past six months, though, the Smackdown! brand has really surprised me by handling the former Giant in an almost perfect manner. OK, he won the World Title. It was a necessary evil to shake the aura that was surrounding him after his arrival from RAW. Since dropping the belt less than a month later, he's been kept strong as a main event player, basically there to further boost the value of Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. His weaknesses have been kept very well covered, and his strengths have been showcased. He hasn't been used this well since they put him up against Chris Benoit a couple years ago, and gave Benoit permission to slowly, deliberately chop him down to size and eventually put the match away with a brutal Crossface.
And, on the other side of the ring, you've got Angle and Lesnar. Two guys who have already shown us they can carry an entire show on their shoulders, under the right circumstances. From where I sit, Angle has the edge in terms of crowd support, which leads me to believe Lesnar will be turning sooner or later. I doubt that'll happen in this match, but I wouldn't completely rule it out, either. I'm not counting on a title change, but something needs to be done to drive a wedge between Angle and Lesnar without weakening one or the other. Like John, I don't think there's any question who's taking the fall here, but I disagree with his prediction of who the man making the cover will be. Should be a good one, worthy of a main event.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Eh, this is a card that could really go one way or the other, depending on how a couple key matches turn out. If the tag team title match just doesn't click, Benoit / Guerrero is marred by an injury or a horribly overbooked finish, and McMahon / Gowen is as ugly as it has the potential to be, this card will be horrible. On the other hand, if the big boss, Mr. McMahon gives us yet another astonishingly good match, Sable / Stephanie is cut from the card and the US title match gets half an hour of solid action, this could be very, very good. I won't be watching this one, as Sunday is my twenty fourth birthday, and I'll likely be in the process of getting completely bombed when the first bell rings. So, while you're watching Stephanie / Sable and trying to find something else to occupy your mind, think of me. Sitting in a Sarasota, Florida bar, getting completely pissed and loving every minute of it.
until next time, i remain