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Monday, March 26, 2012

Wrestlemania Countdown: 24

(2012 Scott sez:  We’re getting close enough to the present to where much of these will likely be presented without much in the way of additional comments needed.)

The SmarK 24/7 Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 24

Oddly enough, I never did an actual rant on this show last year, so with it airing on WWE 24/7 it seems like a good enough time to revisit it.

- Live from Orlando, FL.

- Your hosts are JR, King, Cole, yada yada.

Belfast Brawl: JBL v. Finlay

I originally watched the show at the movie theater, and the first time that the open air stadium was shown, there was a gasp from the crowd. It's a tad less impressive on the small screen (and cropped to 4 x 3) but still an amazing sight. Quite the opposite of amazing is the video package that sets this up, highlighting 2 minutes of a retarded storyline involving a midget being the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon. JBL attacks to start and boots him down on the floor, but Finlay sends him into the stairs and they head into the ring. Finlay goes right for the plunder, but takes a garbage can in the head as a result. JBL brings the stairs in, but can't get a piledriver on them, as Finlay fires back with the dreaded COOKIE SHEET OF DEATH. That gets two. JBL boots him down again and fires away in the corner with his weak-ass shots, but Hornswoggle gets involved and distracts him. Finlay clubs JBL out of the ring and goes for a table, but can't whip JBL into it. JBL goes out and smacks the midget around, which draws Finlay out for some brawling on the floor, but he dives at JBL and hits a trashcan lid instead. Back in, JBL gets two. He stops to chuck the trashcan at Hornswoggle (and really, who doesn't want to?), but Finlay comes back with more lids. Finlay gets the fireman's carry roll and then sends JBL into the table, but that only gets two. JBL whacks him in the knee with the kendo stick and finishes with the lariat at 9:11, however. And from this we got an endless JBL push that endures to this day. (Thankfully it’s finally over along with JBL’s wrestling career.) Standard harmless family-friendly "hardcore" match. **1/2

Money In The Bank: John Morrison v. MVP v. CM Punk v. Chris Jericho v. Carlito v. Shelton Benjamin v. Mr. Kennedy

Everyone runs for the ladders to start and MVP steals one and fights off the rest with it. Smart guy. He has a jousting match with Jericho and loses that, but Morrison brings a ladder to the top and then moonsaults everyone else to the floor with it! You'd think physics would be working against you there, too. Kennedy makes the first climb and Jericho stops him and catapults him into the ladder, but that just allows him to climb up easier. Morrison heads up as well and they slug it out, leading to Benjamin joining them for a Tower of Doom spot off the ladder. Carlito tries dumping Shelton off the ladder, but he walks the ropes to block before toppling off anyway. Punk's turn next, but Shelton hauls him off, only to get caught with a GTS. Kennedy hits Punk with a fireman's carry roll onto a ladder to get rid of him, and then MVP kicks Kennedy out. Carlito takes out MVP with a ladder to the knee and climbs for it, but Shelton brings him down and spinkicks him. Shelton climbs, but Kennedy and Carlito tip over the ladder and Shelton takes a flat back bump out of the ring onto a ladder, which is a batshit crazy spot that I hate to see. Morrison clears the ring and climbs for it, but Jericho stops him with the Walls of Jericho on top of the ladder. Kennedy uses that moment to climb himself, but soon we've got four guys slugging it out on top, and they all go down. So everyone's dead and MVP goes for it…but Matt Hardy runs out of the crowd an takes him out with a Twist of Fate off the ladder. You'd think Matt would have climbed and taken the briefcase, but he ended up as ECW champion anyway so he did OK. (Not as OK as Batista.)  In retrospect, this was the start of a REALLY bad year for poor MVP. (Which never really got better for him.)  Jericho drops Carlito on a pair of crossed ladders in a weird, contrived spot, allowing Morrison to climb up before getting dumped out, as we whittle away the contenders. Jericho climbs and gets an apple in the face from Carlito, but Kennedy gets rid of Carlito. Punk takes him out with a mini-ladder, but Jericho gets a Codebreaker to get rid of Punk. But Punk isn't that easy to kill, as he climbs up and fights it out with Jericho on top of the ladder. Jericho hits Punk with the case, but gets hung up in the ladder and Punk wins Money in the Bank at 13:56. And obviously that worked out quite well for him. I wasn't really blown away by this, as it seemed to be spot-setup-spot-setup-spot without any real connecting thread, but then with 7 guys in there it's nearly impossible to do anything but a series of one-on-one vignettes. ***1/2

Umaga v. Batista

The Battle for Brand Supremacy! Which is funny considering that Batista switched brands right after this. Batista powers Umaga out of the ring, but walks into a leg lariat back in the ring. A big boot puts Batista on the floor. Back in, big splash gets two. Umaga whips him into the corner and yells a lot, as samoans are wont to do, and they do a lazy slugfest to set up the NERVE PINCH OF DEATH from Umaga. C'mon, this is the BATTLE FOR BRAND SUPREMACY, put some effort into it. Umaga goes up and misses a headbutt by a mile, but Batista can't slam him. Too bad, because if he had, well, I don't need to tell you how that might have affected the supremacy of the brands. So it's back to the neck massage as Batista will if nothing else be thoroughly relaxed by the end of the match, and Umaga gets a samoan drop for two. Batista, and by extension ALL OF SMACKDOWN, makes the comeback as fans sarcastically do the "boo/yay" thing, actually cheering Umaga because Batista sucks so much here. Batista comes back with a spinebuster and thank god, finishes with the demon bomb at 7:07, even managing to fuck that up. SMACKDOWN REIGNS SUPREME. Well now I can sleep at night knowing that. 1/2*  (Notice how they always put Smackdown over RAW in these showdowns, like they’re taking pity on little kid who never gets picked for baseball?) 

ECW World title: Chavo Guerrero v. Kane

Chavo gets the ignominious honor of breaking SD Jones' 9 second loss record, as he mouths off to Kane and gets chokeslammed and pinned to give Kane the ECW World title at 0:03.

Ric Flair v. Shawn Michaels

Shawn puts him down off a headlock and teases a strut, but thinks better of it. Flair tries a hammerlock and Shawn reverses, but Flair takes him down with a drop toehold. They continue with the hammerlock until Flair hiptosses out of it. Shoving match in the corner and Shawn gives him a slap for his troubles, so Ric fires back with the chops. They exchange those until Shawn puts his head down and gets booted, and Flair follows with the back elbow and drops the knee. Flair charges and gets elbowed down, but Shawn goes up and gets slammed off. Flair goes up as well and gets a high cross for two, then follows with a kneecrusher, but Shawn boots him out of the ring. He follows with a baseball slide and tries a moonsault press off the apron, but misses and takes out the announce table instead. Back in, Flair takes over and whips him into the corner and gets a backdrop suplex for two. Butterfly suplex gets two. Delayed vertical suplex gets two. Shawn fights back with chops and a neckbreaker, and he backdrops Flair onto the floor. He follows with a moonsault to the floor that misses by a foot, and back in Flair takes over.

They trade chops with the crowd clearly booing Shawn now, and Shawn gets the flying forearm and kips up. Flying elbow and Shawn sets up for the superkick, but hesitates and gets put in the figure-four as a result. Shawn reverses to escape and they try one last pinfall reversal sequence, but Flair just can't do it anymore. To me, that was the saddest part. Shawn with a sunset flip for two. Flair whips him into the corner and clips the knee, but Shawn cradles off the figure-four attempt for two. Flair gets another one and pulls Shawn into the middle of the ring, but he fights and makes the ropes. Flair stops to style and profile, and walks into the superkick as a result. Shawn gets two off that. Shawn sets up again, but this time Flair goes low and gets two. Shawn comes back with an inverted figure-four, but Flair makes the ropes and thumbs him in the eye. Rollup gets two. Flair chops him again, but Shawn fires back with a superkick on instinct and Flair is done. But he sets up one more time and we get the now-famous "I'm sorry and I love you", and the superkick ends Flair's career at 20:23.

I still don't think it's that great of a match, although the storyline argument is an entirely different one. Outside of the obvious missed spots, the thing that really bugs about the match is that I didn't ENJOY it. The best matches for me are joyous ones, with two guys beating each other up for a grudge or the joy of combat or a title. This was a sad occasion, the greatest wrestler in history being forced to go out on someone else's terms long after he should have made that decision himself, and it brought me no joy. Yeah, it was good for the most part, but would 1989 Flair have watched this and wanted to go out in a match where he couldn't even bridge up on the pinfall reversal spot? ***1/4  (Wonder what Flair’s doing now in retirement?) 

Playboy Bunny Lumberjack match: Ashley Massaro & Maria v. Beth Phoenix & Melina

Ashley and Maria both look ridiculous here, especially Ashley who looks like 60 pounds of human being and 20 pounds of silicon. Beth slugs it out with Ashley to start and Ashley can't even bump into the corner properly. Maria comes in and tosses Melina, and back in for a broncobuster for two. Ashley comes in with a headscissor takedown and they do a messy collision in the corner, which gives Melina two. Ashley goes out and gets beat up by the other women, and back in for a bearhug from Phoenix. Melina moonsaults off Beth's shoulders for two. Maria comes back in as the lights go out, thus boosting this match * instantly because we can't watch it. I bet Vince was blowing a gasket backstage. Beth with the double-arm chickening on Maria, but Maria reverses to a bulldog for two. Beth and Melina collide in the dark to get rid of Melina, and Maria bulldogs Beth for two. Santino breaks it up, so Jerry Lawler punches him out for an angle that didn't go anywhere, but Beth finishes Maria with the fisherman's suplex at 5:58. Thus begins the glorious tale of GLAMARELLA! 1/4* Snoop Dogg clotheslines Santino, however, on behalf of the honor of bitches and ho's the world over.

RAW World title: Randy Orton v. John Cena v. HHH

John Cena's drumline entrance is pretty cool. See, the excitement over Orton challenging for HHH's title at WM25 is tempered somewhat by the fact that he was defending that very title here already, so it's not like it's any new thing for him. Three-way slugfest to start and HHH clears the ring, then brawls with Orton over to the tables. Back in, HHH grabs the MAIN EVENT SLEEPER, but Cena breaks it up with an FU attempt. HHH stops that with a low blow, allowing Orton to hit him with the neckbreaker and pound away on the mat. We get an epic DOUBLE GARVIN STOMP as Orton shows the charisma and talent that have given him a push for so goddamned long that we all just want to claw our own eyes out. Orton goes up and Cena follows, but HHH assists with a Doomsday Device on Cena. Cena rolls through on Orton with an FU attempt, but Orton cradles for two and HHH takes them both out. Orton recovers first and gets the DDT on both guys. He's coiled like a snake! Or a huge shit, whatever. Cena comes back with the necksnap and goes up with the fameasser, but Orton heads out of the ring to escape. He suckers Cena into a chase and sends him into the ringpost, but HHH attacks Orton on the way back in. HHH goes for the knee, but stops to go after Cena again and walks into an RKO. Cena takes Orton down for the STFU, but even yelling "TAP!" doesn't entice him to do so, and he makes the rope. Possibly like a snake, I'm not sure. HHH gets rid of Cena again and continues on Orton with an Indian deathlock, but Cena quickly breaks that up. Back to the STFU, which looks really lame thanks to a closeup of how gently Cena is holding it, and HHH breaks it up and puts Cena into a crossface instead. Cena makes the ropes, however, as the crowd has now moved to openly booing him. They do the boo/yay bit as per contractual obligation, but Cena makes the comeback with a shoulderblock and powerbomb. Five knuckle shuffle and FU, but HHH reverses out and clotheslines him. Spinebuster and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two, but Orton kicks HHH in the head and pins Cena to retain at 14:08. What an anticlimactic finish. The Cena v. HHH portions felt epic and WM-like and Orton just sucked the fun out of it. ***1/4 It was pretty forgettable overall and HHH winning the belt a month later rendered it all pretty pointless anyway.

Floyd Mayweather v. Big Show

Even after the video packages and a year of perspective, I STILL don't get what the point of this match even was or who I was supposed to be cheering for. The buildup makes Show look like a bullying heel and Mayweather like a plucky athlete, but at the actual show you've suddenly got Mayweather as a preening heel and Show as a serious babyface. Show chases Mayweather around and they do some boxing, which Mayweather gets the best of. Floyd stops for a drink from his Holy Grail, so Show beats up one of his posse to make a point. Show finally gets his hands on Mayweather, but Floyd jumps on for an attempt at a sleeper. Show goes down, which is so ridiculous that the crowd has to boo it, so Show takes him down and stomps the hand. He steps on Mayweather in the corner while the cornerman is all "He can't be doing that! He can't be stepping on him!" You tell him! Show with a sideslam and headbutt. That's enough for Mayweather and he bails out, but Show fights off the handlers and drags him back to the ring for the chokeslam, but one of the nameless horde breaks it up with a chair. Mayweather beats Show down with the chair, hits him low, and knocks him out with brass knuckles at 11:32. Total freakshow, and Mayweather was never seen in WWE again. **

Smackdown World title: Edge v. Undertaker

Edge slugs away in the corner to start, but walks into a clothesline and ends up on the floor. He necksnaps Edge on the way back in and pounds him with elbows in the corner, but runs into a boot. He comes back with a clothesline for two and starts working on the arm, but Edge counters Old School. Taker chokes him out in the corner and hits a running knee, but hurts himself in the process and bumps to the floor. Edge spears him off the apron and into the railing, which is pretty impressive considering how far that railing is from the ring. Edge follows with a baseball slide and pounds away on the floor. Back in, he gets a shoulderblock in the corner and stomps UT down, but Taker tosses him and follows with the tope con hilo. Back in, the legdrop on the apron gets two. Taker goes for the powerbomb, but the back gives way and Edge boots him down for two. They fight to the floor and Edge dumps Taker into the front row, and then back in for a half-crab. Taker counters for two, but Edge turns it back into a leglock. Taker fights up and they slug it out to wake up the crowd, and Taker wins that and gets a pair of corner clotheslines and Snake Eyes. Edge comes back with a dropkick, however, and gets two. They fight over a chokeslam and Edge turns it into the Impaler for two. Another series of counters and Taker gets the chokeslam for two. He goes up and Edge blocks, then brings him down with a superplex for two. He stupidly slugs away in the corner and Taker tries the Last Ride off that, but Edge counters out with a neckbreaker for two. Taker tries again and gets it this time, but only gets two. So it's Tombstone time, but Edge reverses to the Edge-O-Matic for two. They collide and Taker goes Old School, but the ref gets bumped and Edge gets an inverted DDT. Edge lays the badmouth on him and Taker tries a chokeslam, so Edge kicks him in the nuts and grabs his trusty handheld camera. Sadly, even with an awesome finisher like that, the ref is still out, so Edge tries a Tombstone instead and UT reverses to his own. Charles Robinson streaks out at record speed to count two, winning Wrestlemania MVP for the night. Edge's goons follow him out and promptly get destroyed by Undertaker, but that allows Edge to get the spear for two. Another one hits, but Taker wraps him up in the Google Platypus and Edge taps away the belt at 23:51. Started slow but turned into a heapin' helpin' of hot near-falls and reversal drama, making for a worthy close to the show. ****1/4

The Pulse

Sorry, kids, but this one just didn't hold up for me. It may have worked well in the moment as a Big Event, but there's just no substance here or truly memorable stuff outside of the retirement of Flair, and the matches weren't that great. I'd have to rank this one a lot lower than it looked like it was going to be right afterwards. Plus Flair v. Michaels is available on the Flair DVD and Edge had a bunch of better matches with Undertaker later in the year anyway.

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