Saturday, October 18, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE No Mercy 2003 Preview

Well, here we are again. All sleek and smiley, ready to wax philosophical on perhaps the least philosophical event in the world, professional wrestling's World Wrestling Entertainment. Honestly, what do you think Socrates would say if he knew his teachings would eventually have something to do with three guys chatting on the internet about an athletic event that seems to focus more on poop, titties and child abuse than actual competition? Then again, what do you think he'd say if he knew the only reason most of this generation knows his name is because of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"? Man, our generation is screwed...

But oh yeah, I'm going off on a tangent. World Wrestling Entertainment has crafted another Pay-Per-View event this weekend, in the form of Smackdown's "No Mercy" broadcast Sunday Night. With a couple very notable exceptions, this is a card of polar opposites. The bookers have taken their most talented performers and paired them off with their worst. Benoit gets A-Train. Eddy's with the Big Show. Brock's chased once again by the Undertaker. On one hand, this is a good thing. I very much doubt the A-Train will ever get a better match than the one we'll see this Sunday night. On the other, this is a bad thing. They've taken a painfully smelly shit, and instead of flushing it, have smeared it all over the walls. The stink is no longer contained to one stall, it's now visibly filled the entire bathroom. Instead of one bad, throwaway match, they've got four. They've diluted their most talented performers, and in so doing have killed any anticipation for the card itself.

Tajiri (c) vs. Rey Mysterio
Cruiserweight Championship

This is an absolute dream match. Mysterio and Tajiri wrestle two distinctly different styles, yet still appear to have plenty in common. They're both small guys who move around the ring with blinding speed, yet Rey Rey uses the ropes and the air as his weapons, while Tajiri's claim to fame is his realistic martial-arts offense and his propensity for mists of various colors. This is a match that's played out within the confines of my imagination for years, since Tajiri was challenging Taz for the ECW title and Mysterio was still the highlight of WCW's Cruiserweight division. And, for finally delivering on this one, I'll applaud the WWE booking team. So long as they don't force their hand with an overbooked finish or an extremely short time restriction, this match will be a success. I love that they're building Tajiri as a ruthless, unpredictable psychopath in the ring, and Rey's about as close to the perfect foil for that as you're ever gonna find. My money's on Tajiri here, with the feud carrying on to next month's Survivor Series and beyond.
Winner: Tajiri

Matt Hardy vs. Zach Gowen

Most of the wind is gone from poor Zach's sails by this point. All he's done is land a moonsault on the Big Show and play whipping boy for most of Smackdown's regular cast and crew on an ongoing basis. If they're going to use him as more than the next "S.D. Jones", they're going to have to give him a credible win or two along the way, and fortunately or not his best bet is right here with Matt Hardy. Bad news, then, that the same thing can be said for "Version 1.0" himself right now. Basically, this is a glorified "loser jobs for the rest of his WWE career" match, because it's going to be a long, difficult road back from a loss here and I don't think the bookers have any intentions of putting in that kind of effort on a Matt Hardy or Zach Gowen. I'm picking Matt here, because his value to the company a year from now is much, much higher than Zach's. Could easily go the other way, though.
Winner: Matt Hardy

Chris Benoit vs. A-Train

I'm getting sick of asking when Chris Benoit's big break is going to finally come around. It seems like every pay per view he's here, wrestling in a meaningless match halfway up the card that's meant to busy him until one of the main eventers frees up. It's assumed the WWE is biding their time with him, but the guy's been treading water since his return to the federation a full year ago. Tell me why the Undertaker deserved a second shot at Brock Lesnar's World Title in a year and not Benoit, who seems custom-built for this kind of situation. Tell me why Vince has consistently failed to get the message, whether it's the live audience giving Benoit a standing ovation after his Royal Rumble match or the live audience turning ferociously on Thursday's Stephanie McMahon heart-to-heart. Tell me why proven failures like the A-Train are wrestling on this card at all, while guys like Rhyno, Chavo Guerrero and the Ultimo Dragon are left sitting in the locker room. It's just another example that the boys in charge have no idea what they're doing, and in their frustration they've just started shoveling the biggest guys on the show into high profile feuds. Used effectively, these are all wrestlers who can serve a great purpose... but they aren't being used effectively. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I'm sick as hell of seeing Benoit in the middle of the card with a thumb up his ass. Give us something to get excited about for a change.
Winner: Chris Benoit

Eddy Guerrero (c) vs. Big Show
United States Championship

They were so close to getting the formula right here, you could almost taste it. Then they rolled right in with the racial stereotypes and the literal shit-spewing. I've said it dozens of times in the past, but the Big Show has a specific purpose in this federation. He's here to act like a behemoth, to squash undercarders, to add a big spot or two to a main event and to job convincingly to up-and-comers. His sole purpose is to gain momentum, and then deliver said momentum to someone who needs it. This is a role he's filled to perfection over the last few months, main eventing with Angle and Lesnar, alternately, and putting them both over in the end. This is a role he could have carried on with to Eddy Guerrero, the next in line for main event stardom. And, assuming this past week's Smackdown was an indicator, this is something they eventually did deliver. The way the Big Show destroyed Guerrero's truck and his body were picture perfect. It lent sudden, incredibly important momentum to the feud, and it will make Eddy's win on PPV mean that much more. I just wish it hadn't been overshadowed by the skits of a few weeks back.
Winner: Eddy Guerrero

Vince McMahon w/Sable vs. Stephanie McMahon w/Linda
I Quit Match

I'll give Vince credit where it's due; he's always managed to take the least enticing matches and turned them into successes. Nearly every PPV battle he's taken part in has been much more entertaining than could have ever been predicted. His fights with Hogan, Shane, Triple H, Flair and Austin are each strong examples of Vince's character and mannerisms transforming a boring, unenthusiastic brawl into an exciting, peaks-and-valleys drama. And I wish I could say the same thing is possible this month.

Unfortunately Stephanie has no such track record.

Where Vince has had the top names in the history of the business to fall back on during his various bloody battles, Stephanie hasn't. Her "matches" have been the worst kind of drek, the kind of shit you'd have to be the victim of a lobotomy to enjoy. She exposes the business with every successful slap or throw. Her involvement in anything more than talent relations and the booking of a big match or two is completely unnecessary and stupid. And now she's been booked in one of the main events of a show they expect us to pay $40 to witness on pay per view. Fuck the McMahons for even entertaining the idea of this match, let alone going through with it. The only good thing about this thing is the stipulations, which claim that the loser of the match forfeits their seat of power in WWE. Which might mean something if BOTH THESE FUCKERS HADN'T ALREADY BEEN FIRED AND THEN MYSTERIOUSLY COME BACK MERE MONTHS LATER. The world has too many McMahons.
Winner: Stephanie McMahon

Kurt Angle vs. John Cena

This is, without question, the toughest match on the card to pick. On one hand you've got Angle, who could really use a win here to pick himself up from losing the World Title in that infamous Iron Man Match. A former champion, a future hall of famer, and undeniable legend. On the other, John Cena could use this win to finally start to live up to the reputation that seems to precede him. He's been billed as the next next big thing, the future of the main event, Smackdown's ace in the hole. But his resume is surprisingly lacking in clean, credible victories in clutch situations. He's talked a great game, but he's yet to give us any substance to back up the hype. It's tough not to get excited about the prospects of this match, as both guys could conceivably take it and use the victory as fuel to go on a tear throughout the upper midcard. The match itself should be the best of Cena's young career, even better than his near-win against Angle just weeks after debuting on Smackdown. It should be a hell of a match, and I can't wait to see, hear and experience those last five minutes. My money's on JC, just because he's hungrier for this big win, not to take anything away from Angle.
Winner: John Cena

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. The Undertaker
WWE Championship - Biker Chain Match

Not a match I'm especially interested in. The Undertaker doesn't have any reason to be main eventing this late in his career, let alone three times in the last thirteen months. I'm sick of seeing him lose a big match, take some time off, come back with the entire hype machine behind him, go right to the front of the line, lose again and start the whole process over. He's getting older, his body doesn't move as well as it used to (which is saying something, since he was never the most limber guy on the roster) and his brain isn't as sharp as it once was. His promos have drug, his matches have drug and his interest level has dropped. I think there were half a dozen better choices for opponents to a heel Brock Lesnar than the Undertaker, and it's a crime that they were overlooked for the length of his service to the promotion. Loyalty is one thing. Crippling a main event for the sake of seniority is something else entirely. Maybe if Brock and the Undertaker hadn't written such a definitive final chapter in their relationship last year I wouldn't be so peeved about this match taking place. Maybe if Chris Benoit was involved in a useful, lengthy, character-building feud of his own at this point in time it wouldn't bother me so much. I could go on for hours, but the only point I'd be reinforcing is how stupid and sloppy this main event really looks. Brock wins, and hopefully moves on the better things next month. I have no interest in a rematch.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

In Closing...

Not a good showing for Smackdown, especially considering the great free show they gave away a month ago. There continue to be a couple flickers of light amidst the stupid booking, the McMahon loving and the septic spraying, so it's much too soon to say Smackdown is a lost cause. John Cena, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero and Yoshihiro Tajiri are all in great positions to make a mark for themselves with this card, and that's a list of names that I can't fault in a single place. It's criminal to see Benoit wasted with the A-Train and the Undertaker reused in a meaningless main event, but that's a point I've run into the ground over the last few minutes. The point is, this could be far worse. Bad as it looks, that's the cold hard truth. As the number one wrestling promotion in the US, it's WWE's job to keep us from saying things like that, but the fact remains. I've seen much worse.
until next time, i remain

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