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IMPACT Wrestling Review 8.7.14, a.k.a. “Don’t Tease the Animals”

Remember folks, it's not fun to kick a person when they're down, and in 2014, corporations are people too. #BeAStar

Remember folks, it’s not fun to kick a person when they’re down, and in 2014, corporations are people too. #BeAStar

Well … what is there to be said about TNA Entertainment, LLC that hasn’t already been said …?

It was difficult reviewing this episode of IMPACT Wrestling because of … well … the obvious. Contrary to popular belief I do indeed make it a point to intentionally watch IMPACT each and every week, silently hoping each time I tune into Spike TV (HD channel 1145 with AT&T’s U-verse® service) I will find something strikingly awesome and energizing about the product. The problem is that rarely happens, and each disappointing viewing draws me one step closer to succumbing to the warm embrace of sheer insanity. Insanity, of course, is that invasive habit of repeating the same actions and expecting different results each time; what could possibly be more insane than watching a show weekly and expecting it to be different than what it is?

This is why it was difficult to review IMPACT given all that has (or hasn’t) occurred in the last week and a half. In order to enjoy the show for what it is, as opposed to watching it with an expectation that it’ll be more than that, I had to completely disregard everything I knew or thought I knew about the product and its stars. I had to ignore completely the fact that the show was taped some time ago and that I already knew what was going to happen because of the spoilers; I had to dismiss the hearsay about the promotion’s television deal with Spike. I had to pretend like I didn’t see the closing video package last week that prematurely promoted the end of Dixie Carter’s table dodging days, as well as overlook the angle’s astonishingly similarities to the storied Stone Cold Steve Austin/Vince McMahon rivalry that defined the Attitude Era. Simply put, in order to enjoy the show I had to literally approach it with my mind as clean and clear as a blank slate, reading and willing to absorb everything as it happened and fully appreciate the development of stories and characters as it happened in front of my eyes.

There within lies the problem; I can’t truthfully comment on whether or not the show was “good” based off of that criteria alone, specifically because this show – much like most episodes of IMPACT – featured “good” wrestling … and that’s something that TNA does more consistently than anything else. It is extremely rare when TNA will produce bad wrestling, and even rarer when they produce something that is smash-the-gas-pedal exciting from start to finish. So I apologize in advance for being the Negative Nancy that refuses to celebrate the mediocrity of an “okay” show highlighted by a man slamming his female boss through a table.

No one celebrates an “okay” show; if anything, people rush to their computers to tear apart shows that are simply okay, dismantling every single minute piece-by-piece, noting how certain stars are being further buried and how much more stale the product is becoming as time rushes forward. Every segment is heavily scrutinized, each minor slip up dissected with a fine-tooth comb, and minor inconsistencies magnified and palavered upon prominently on message boards, blogs, and Twitlonger tirades.

Pro wrestling fans long for non-stop action and excitement from beginning to end and it’s those types of shows that receive and should receive our praise, accolades, and adulation. Damn being drawn in for one or two segments here and there; we want the entire show to capture our attention and hold it for its duration. We want something that excites us, something that intrigues us profoundly, and an exhilarating exhibition of athleticism and logically engaging drama that forces us to literally stand up in our homes and scream along with the fans gathered in the arena.

Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling didn’t do any of that for me … at all. But that’s just my little ol’ opinion.

For ever sarcasm drenched comment made here there are at least ten proponents of the promotion who not only loved the show but can also provide you with the minute details on all the things that made the show awesome. Complimenting those thoughts are the legions of perspectives that can go on and on about how great and awesome the New York tapings have been for the company, the first of three sets of tapings scheduled to happen in the Hammerstein Ballroom of the Manhattan Center.

Perhaps the episodes feel fresh and great because they’ve moved away from the dull and lifeless tourists of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Maybe the brighter lights attract our attention a bit better than the dreary and dim lighting of the Impact Zone; perchance the simple and more focused storytelling captures our imagination differently than it has in episodes prior. It’s quite possible that the moral of the wrestlers has increased, comingling with the electricity of the live crowd and permeating through our television screens in an oddly positive Poltergeist-ish way. Who knows?

ImpactPoltergeist

What I witnessed and saw Thursday night was no different from the other IMPACT Wrestling broadcasts that were just as “good,” or “phenomenal.” It was an okay show that revolved around Dixie Carter going through a table, something that was revealed last week, discussed about this week (by Bully Ray and Dixie Carter), highly promoted Thursday night and executed at the end of the show. Fans are currently riding high on this singular moment, feeling that the Toss Your Boss moment will give the promotion enough momentum to convince Spike officials to renew their TV contract … but I’m not supposed to consider anything outside of the show, right?

Enough of that; here’s what stood out to me on the show:

  • #ItHappens

Let’s not kid each other and pretend that the episode was noteworthy for much else outside of Dixie Carter going through a table. There were other matches and the wrestlers did well in them, but the whole show – its feel and the execution of everything else in the show – all played third fiddle to highly publicized table spot. In terms of what happened tonight, Bully Ray made good on his promise and along with Dixie Carter provided a huge moment for fans that will go down in the promotion’s history books as one of those moments. The crowd literally erupted when Dixie went through the table, and Twitter was alive with tweets and excitement and the like as soon as “it” happened.

Okay, I’ll cheat just a bit.  #ItHappens did remind me of something I’ve seen before …


It cannot be denied that fans ate this moment up, but we have to wonder what’s next in regards to the Dixie Carter evil authority figure story. Where does she go from here, and where does Bully Ray go from here? There are tons of possibilities, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see exactly how the next chapter in the saga unfolds.  The major issue facing the promotion is that after such a major television moment, they’re going to have to top it with something as equally massive or ride the momentum of the moment until the next major pop comes along.

Well … there was a video package in the middle of the broadcast that talked about Team 3D facing The Hardyz in what was described as an epic match … but if it hasn’t happened, we can’t speculate on it.  With all that being said, however, Dixie Carter going through a table at the hands of Bully Ray during a time where men are being heavily scrutinized and sanctioned for promoting violence against women is one ballsy way to separate one’s company from its competition. *slow clap for TNA*

I’m sure that you’ve got far more interesting things to say about tonight’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling, so feel free to share those thoughts. But as for this particular blog and perspective, we can only look forward to next week’s episode to see just how earth-shattering the ramifications will be for Dixie Carter’s demise.  Feel free to leave your thoughts, because this is all I got.

 

*Honorable mention – Are we fine and dandy at the fact that Rycklon Stephens and Gene Snitsky were hired to work in the promotion for literally three weeks?  We’re cool with that?  Okie Doke.


RAW Review 5-26-14, a.k.a. “When Life Gives You Lemons…”

"Woo Woo Woo," said very few about Episode 1096 of WWE Monday Night RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Woo Woo Woo,” said very few about Episode 1096 of WWE Monday Night RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Episode 1096 of Monday Night RAW is in the bag and the stage has been set for Payback, this Sunday’s appropriately themed WWE “special event.”  Normally the go-home show for any wrestling sports entertainment pay per view “special event” would create intrigue and excitement among fans in a way that cajoles us to drop the necessary $60 to order the event from our local cable or satellite service provider.  Unfortunately times have changed since the 80s and much like Zack Ryder’s Last ReZort, interest has waned severely in “ordering” special events and in the WWE’s product.

It’s easy for us to place the blame solely on WWE for producing a lifeless, lackluster product that resembles a post-recognizable-name episode of Saturday Night Live than a pro wrestling broadcast.  Truth be told the promotion has seen better days; the problem is that a lot of us “fans” think of “better days” as being that Attitude Era-ish time period where pro wrestling was on fire for more than the sole reason that it was “great”  There were some great things that happened in that era that showcased the skill of some phenomenal superstars, but it was also during a time period where the concept of an iPod would’ve gotten you sentenced to death by firing squad.  In effect, the Attitude Era drastically altered our expectations as pro wrestling “fans,” and has transformed us into the insatiable brats we are today.

And yes, I used the word “WE” because WE are all “fans.”

Let’s just be real with one another: yes, RAW for the last few weeks has been slightly underwhelming, something that most diehard fans wouldn’t rush home to see.  Then again with the invention of DVR-ing, is there really ever a need to “rush home” to watch anything nowadays?  For yours truly, however, RAW has remained a staple on Monday nights since the very first episode in January 1994.  YES, I am one of those guys who will watch RAW regardless of how the supposed masses review the “quality” of the show.  Some would say fans like myself are mindless and dumb, which seems absolutely ridiculous seeing as the average reading ability of folks living in the United States is at the fourth grade level and strong segment of the population has at least made it to the tenth grade … but I digress.

So yes, RAW has been underwhelming for some time but it is a far cry from being bad or terrible as some have claimed it to be.  The problem is that our expectations of what the show should be don’t necessarily match what’s actually produced on the show.  We still want Attitude Era-ish shenanigans and when we don’t get them, we immediately pan everything they throw at us and label the product as something horrible.  It’s really the equivalent of a temper tantrum from a small league of grown ass fans.

I contend that our expectations are all over the place, relying on our desire to see what we like instead of being specific about what we want, which are two very different things in and of themselves.  We want to see more attention given to the Divas Division and its superstars, but we like seeing scantily clad Divas with big boobs parading around the area.  We want to see compelling and action-packed storylines with drama, twists and turns, but we like seeing simplified conflicts with certain superstars dominating the main event and three hour broadcasts. We want to see new wrestlers and characters, but we like seeing the same old guys doing the same old stuff.  The gray area for pleasing all fans is quite small and tumultuous, and I do not envy those tasked with making RAW or Smackdown or NXT or Main Event or Superstars happen each and every week from a creative direction, because they have to put on a show whether or not we fickle fans like it.

The cool thing about WWE in particular and all promotions in general is that they always provide us with entertainment even as we pick apart the most miniscule of details in the product, and a lot of times they provide us fans with the very thing we want andlike, and we willingly choose to ignore it just to focus on highlighting our opinions and point of views.  We can’t truly enjoy the product because we’re too busy enjoying picking it apart; I’ll be the first to admit here that I’ve been guilty of that often and even wrote to defend such a perspective.  However, it’s one thing to be a “fan” that turns a blind eye to haphazard writing and terrible booking and it’s a completely different thing to trade in one’s perspective as a “fan” for the false glamor that comes with the emptiness of complaining about a lack of substance without offering an alternative solution.

With these things in mind, here’s what stood out to me during Episode 1096 of Monday Night RAW:

  • Wyatt vs. Cena: Missing the Picture
  • Adam Rose and Alicia Fox: Missing the Picture
  • Payback “special event;” Missing the Picture
After months of taunting and battles, Bray Wyatt FINALLY gets the chance to show John Cena how to properly stretch his leg muscles. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

After months of taunting and battles, Bray Wyatt FINALLY gets the chance to show John Cena how to properly stretch his leg muscles. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The ideological feud between Bray Wyatt and John Cena is one of the three top feuds in the promotion at the moment.  I would bet stone cold cash on the fact that most fans have completely missed the fact that John Cena has taken a less prominent roll in the promotion for some time now and has used his energy and charisma to build up younger stars.  In this case, his protege Bray Wyatt has benefited greatly from the rub.

Here’s a tweet that I put out earlier which expresses a part of the confusion surrounding the Wyatt/Cena feud:

5-27-14Tweet_RAWIt wasn’t that long ago when Vince McMahon shocked the pro wrestling world by reportedly stating that there were no more “faces or heels” in his promotion’s product, effectively saying what Vince Russo had been saying all along: there are no good guys or bad guys, just characters who will fluctuate between the moral and immoral depending on the circumstances they are in.  The Wyatt/Cena feud showcases that blurred line of logic to a tee, but its approach seems to be somewhat more cerebral than most can handle.

While it has become slightly inorganic for Wyatt to include his youth-friendly gospel song into each promo or talking segment, his verbal sparring with Cena centers around the notion of one cult of personality battling another.  Bray Wyatt is forthright in saying that the Cult of HLR is filled with empty promises and false hope, while John Cena spends more time defaming the Wyatt Family’s system of belief while once again ignoring anyone who supports or opposes his own tried and true beliefs.  Both men believe in their own ideals, and yet Wyatt is the one saying “join me” while Cena says “eff all y’all, I’m a bawse!”  And somehow, somewhere … we’re being told to believe that Wyatt is the bad guy … at least he has some interest in people believing in him.

All this is to say that the crux of this feud is lost in translation, mired down by the weight of cryptic promos and lofty dialogue.  But this is what we fans wanted, right?  We want those deep, introspective storylines that push the boundaries of what we’re use to seeing, right?  This whole storyline is much more than being about Guy A hating Guy B and wanting to fight; the Wyatt Family has lost a good number of matches against Cena and yet they don’t seem to be bothered with that inasmuch as they are with the fact that they haven’t completely decimated the Cult of HLR …

Look for their match this Sunday to be “bowling shoe ugly” as Jim Ross has said.  After years of listening to John Cena’s spiel and praying feverishly to the wrestling gods for his demise, I can only be baffled as to why someone would not want to purchase the special even to see how this turns out.  If that isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always Matt Hardy and his ICONIC Championship.

Come come now, people! Don't be a lemon ... #BeAStar | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Come come now, people! Don’t be a lemon … #BeAStar | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pro wresting is based on characters, point blank.  Characters dominate sports entertainment and sports so much that you’d be hard-pressed nowadays to find athletes in the public square that are just as well-rounded and normal as you or I.  Think about it: Tim Tebow made waves not just because he was a standout college athlete but also because his deeply rooted Christian beliefs made him a target of mockery by football fans in our supposed “Christian” nation.  All these behind the scenes shows were created for boxers which show the personality of these “characters” outside of two dudes who are punching the hell out of each other for money and a championship.  Each UFC fighter is a “character,” NASCAR drivers are “characters;” it just is what it is.

When it comes to pro wrestling, however, there is a need for characters that aren’t necessarily your straight forward, “I’m going to wrestle you to death” types of superstars.  This is where Adam Rose comes in to play, a wrestler with a colorful entrance and a wacky entourage that makes you pay attention.  The issue is, however, that this campy gimmick doesn’t sit well with those stoic, emotionless fans who watch Frank Gotch matches all day long.  The same thing applies to Alicia Fox’s character direction, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

For those of you that don’t know, Ray Leppan South African wrestler that portrays Adam Rose, and prior to receiving this Aldous Snow reminiscent gimmick he successfully brought life and meaning to Leo Kruger, his FCW and NXT persona that went from simply boring (along with Damien Sandow, point of fact) to simply intense and intriguing.  The Leo Kruger of NXT is the Kruger I preferred, a creepy South African poacher/big game hunter with a seriously bitchin’ theme song:

When I first heard that Kruger was getting a makeover, the only thing I knew very little about Russell Brand other than the notion that I despised the idea of Kruger being neutered just when he was getting over (with me) as a character.  After seeing Adam Rose debut on NXT, my mind was changed when I realized why this character development happened.  Leppan began his stint in WWE’s FCW developmental promotion in 2010 and stayed during the promotion’s shift to NXT and Full Sail University.  Between 2010 and 2014, the Kruger character was the primary character portrayed by Ray Leppan, which implies that despite development and growth, Leppan had only portrayed one type of character  in four years while signed with WWE.  The Adam Rose experiment, in my mind, was a way to see if Leppan could do more and be more than just an multifaceted yet one dimensional character.

Lo and behold, Adam Rose makes it to the main roster (after 4 years in developmental when tons of stars are lucky to make it to or past two years) after his gimmick does well on house shows and at Full Sail University (*cough cough Hi Emma cough cough*).  With barely a full month in on the main roster, why have fans panned the character as “not working” when he hasn’t even seen a real strong feud yet?  Worst of all, are you seriously telling me we’d opt to see the wrestling poacher than this quirky character and his cast of crazy cohorts?  Seriously, where in the twenty-first century wrestling world is it “okay” for wrestling carnies and not for Adam Rose?

TNA's The Menagerie: (from L to R) The Freak, Knux, Rebel, and Crazzy Steve.

TNA’s The Menagerie: (from L to R) The Freak, Knux, Rebel, and Crazzy Steve.

Also of concern is the direction for Alicia Fox, who has taken to post-match fits of confusion to express her happiness or frustration with a win or loss.  From Diet Coke soda baths to giving members of the ring crew wedgies, fans have voiced their displeasure with Ms. Foxy’s development as a character because it … well I don’t know exactly why they don’t like the direction she’s headed in.

As one wrestling pundit put it online, it does make you pay attention to the Divas and their division.  For years fans have clamored for the division to be paid attention to, and even with the success of the E Network’s Total Divas show, fans still screamed for the division to be more than just a reason to acquire B-Roll for the WWE’s reality show.  Alicia Fox gives you just that with the newly crowned and very young Divas Champion Paige … and that’s a bad thing?

Pro wrestling has always had characters; from Ric Flair to the Macho King, Mr. Perfect to Roddy Piper, Sting to Kerry Von Erich, there’s no escaping the necessity of a persona to add flavor to a fight between two individuals.  There’s a place for the Daniel Bryans and Gail Kims just as there is a place for the Bad Influences and RD Evans.  Everybody can’t be straight forward like Lance Storm and Dean Malenko, and the more we try to pigeonhole our stars into being the next iterations of Stone Cold and Trish Stratus, the more of a disservice we do the superstars who bust their butts to be the first versions of themselves.  Just think about it: everybody is nuts about the way Dolph Ziggler is being treated currently, but how many of those same fans talked down about the name “Dolph Ziggler” when he disappeared from The Spirit Squad as Nicky and as Kerwin White’s caddy, Nick Nemeth?  Exactly.

The Shield vs. Evolution in a No DQ Match at this Sunday's special event, Payback. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Shield vs. Evolution in a No DQ Match at this Sunday’s special event, Payback. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I wouldn’t rate the build up to this year’s Payback as something spectacular and worth writing home about, but we must acknowledge that by its name this special event is directly related to the special event that preceded it … in this case, WrestleMania XXX.  If it seems like a lot of the matches are simply rematches from the last special event, then hey … maybe that’s by design.

We can’t neglect to consider that most promotions seemed hell bent on pushing their television deals, which is something that even TNA really began doing four years ago when Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan joined the company.  If this is true by any stretch of the imagination, it then makes sense for these special events to look and feel like special television broadcasts.  Fans and pundits hate this because we’re accustomed to pay per views being climaxes or blow offs to feuds, or at least explosive continuations of on-going storylines and creative directions.  From that perspective, the TV shows should drive viewers to order the pay per views, and the pay per views should segue in some form back to the television shows.  Such is rarely the case nowadays, as the pay per views (or special events) usually drive people back to the television shows, while the television shows do almost little to hype or push the pay per views (or special events).

The question remains: what is pro wrestling pay per view supposed to be?  Four years ago the suits at TNA tried to convince us that the twelve pay per view per year model was asinine and that promoting four major shows while having seven monthly “special events” (because that’s really what the One Night Only pay per views are if you want to be technical about it) was the wave of the future.  Hell, they even went as far as to promote pay per view themed episodes of Impact.  Other wrestling promotions went the iPPV route, and others are just now walking into the pay per view fray just as WWE settles into its special event format on the WWE Network.  With all of these options and changes to the way pro wrestling is presented, what do we expect a pay per view or special even to be?

If you’re paying $9.99 per month for the WWE Network, what should a special event be to be worth your $9.99 that month?  If you’re paying $60 a month to watch a special event, what should that special event be to be worth your money?  If you’re pirating the special event, what should it be to be worth your time and pirating efforts?  If you’re attending a live show and you paid in advance for your tickets, purchased tons of merchandise at the tables and waited in the special VIP lines to get a picture with your favorite superstar or Diva, what would that special event be to be worth all of your efforts?

The best and only answer is … entertaining.  How that special event is entertaining will depend on the person you’re talking to, but we all have our own reasons for wanting to watch the show even as we move heaven and earth to try to convince other people not to watch it.  If we really thought and believed the special event wasn’t worth our time and money, would I be sitting here writing this post and would you be reading it?  Absolutely not.

Get over it; watch the special event and enjoy the spectacle as it directs our attention back to next Monday night and the road to July’s Money In the Bank special event.

But those are just my thoughts; what do YOU think?

 


Gauntlet of the Predator | Part 2

It is anybody’s guess as to what will happen next for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton.  Although he successfully survived the series of matches over the last three weeks imposed upon him by The Authority, the Apex Predator did not escape their machinations without succumbing in some way to the toll inflicted on his psyche by the gauntlet.

Orton only won one of the five matches in the gauntlet, which surely will fuel the ever growing sense of insecurity festering within him.  This type of momentum or negative energy surging within Orton could be extremely bad for him as he prepares to defend his title during this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view.  With it being difficult for Orton to gain even one victory in singles matches against his Elimination Chamber opponents, one can only imagine how much more difficult it will be for the champion to survive in a match pitting him against all five opponents at once.

The prospect of a far more dangerous and vicious Randy Orton makes us eagerly anticipate his actions during the bout; the odds are seemingly stacked against him, placing Orton with his back against the wall and desperate to hold on to the only thing bringing him significance and relevance in this age dominated by “Yes!” chants and speculation on Roman Reigns’ future in the company.  A cornered Randy Orton could potentially unleash a violent and vicious skull-punting Randy Orton, one who’s fire and passion stand to cause havoc and chaos for the five men locked in the chamber structure with him.

Only time will tell whether or not this will be the Randy Orton we’ll see, as it would be slightly disappointing to see any other iteration of Randy Orton traverse the remaining peaks and valleys on the “Road to WrestleManiaassuming he retains his title this Sunday.

The following synopses covers the final matches in Orton’s gauntlet:

Match #4
Cesaro versus Randy Orton
February 14, 2014 | Smackdown
| Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA
Result: Cesaro defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Neutralizer

The newly renamed WWE Superstar Cesaro employs a gutwrench suplex (or Russian Neck Drop) on WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Valentine's Day episode of Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The newly renamed WWE Superstar Cesaro employs a gutwrench suplex (or *Russian Neck Drop) on WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Valentine’s Day episode of Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

*Note: Click HERE for video of the Russian Neck Drop, and HERE for the Gutwrench Suplex.

WWE Superstar Cesaro has done nothing but impress fans since his arrival in the promotion.  Cesaro, who is also occasionally referred to as “The Swiss Superman,” has consistently wowed audiences with his incredible feats of strength and has introduced several different maneuvers from his arsenal throughout his brief tenure thus far in WWE.  Cesaro took fans by surprise when he gained his coveted spot in the Elimination Chamber match, and although many consider him to be a dark horse in the match, he could very well be the biggest threat facing Randy Orton this Sunday.  It’s very hard to make a solid argument against his bright future in the promotion, as his entry into the main event of the last pay per view prior to WrestleMania XXX has led to speculation that a face turn is in his near future.  All speculation, however, should be taken with a grain of salt even though all signs point towards to the great possibility of a face turn for him:

C-Section fans cheering Cesaro during the Feb. 14 episode of Smackdown.  On a side note, you see what I did there? | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

C-Section fans cheering Cesaro during the Feb. 14 episode of Smackdown. On a side note, you see what I did there? | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Orton definitely approached the match with his two defeats firmly planted in the forefront of his mind; nevertheless, Orton did not seem phased or intimidated about facing Cesaro and assuredly underestimated his opponent before even stepping in the ring with him.  This misguided perception of Cesaro would return to bite Orton on the backside by the end of their match.

The story of the bout was all about Cesaro’s sheer power and strength versus Orton’s underhanded and tactical prowess.  Having underestimated his opponent early own, Orton was effectively blindsided by Cesaro’s offense and unique skill set.  Cesaro’s offense was similar to that of John Cena, an arsenal consisting mostly of upper body blows and maneuvers that worked at Orton’s torso and his core.  Unlike Cena’s offense, however, Cesaro’s body blows flow naturally from his technically charged and deliberate offense; Cena is more of a brawler while Cesaro wails on his opponent’s body with intention and not reckless abandon.  It must also be mentioned that Cesaro’s offense was so effective that Orton looked visibly exhausted halfway through their match (major kudos to Orton if he was selling Cesaro’s offense and if he was truly tired halfway through and fought to finish the match).

In response to Cesaro’s attacks, Orton took his assault outside of the ring and used every tactic he could to wear down his opponent using everything he could outside of the ring without getting disqualified.  To be honest, Orton’s offense looked a lot like something a fan would do in the “Defeat the Streak” story mode on WWE 2K14.

When Orton finally tossed Cesaro back into the ring, there was a bit of back and forth action before the two.  One notable moment in the match was Cesaro’s reversal of the RKO into an European uppercut to the back of Orton’s head.  The finish of the match came when Cesaro reversed an attempted superplex from Orton into a sunset flip powerbomb, followed up by a discus European uppercut.  Without wasting a moment, Cesaro applied and executed the Neutralizer, giving him the pinfall victory over the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

Randy Orton applying yet another chin lock to an opponent during the gauntlet. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Randy Orton applying yet another chin lock to an opponent during the gauntlet. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It would be in Orton’s best interest to avoid Cesaro altogether during the Elimination Chamber match if possible.  Survival is a key factor in winning the match, and if Orton cannot be labeled or characterized by his stamina and resiliency, any interaction with Cesaro would essentially shorten the amount of time he would be able to avoid elimination at someone’s hands.

Orton’s best offense against Cesaro would be to not only let superstars like Sheamus and John Cena work him over, but to also utilize as much of the steel structure as he can to weaken Cesaro up for elimination by either of the two other aforementioned superstars.

Cesaro, on the other hand, will set out to prove Sunday that he can hang with the big dogs in the WWE’s main event scene.  We shouldn’t expect Cesaro to win the match, but we can expect him to put on one hell of an impressive show as he literally stands toe to toe with four former WWE and World Heavyweight Champions and the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  Cesaro typically has great matches in WWE, but we should especially look forward to him exchanging blows with Sheamus and Daniel Bryan.

Match #5
Sheamus versus Randy Orton
February 17, 2014 | Monday Night RAW
| Pepsi Center in Denver, CO
Result: Sheamus defeats Randy Orton via disqualification after The Shield attacked Sheamus

WWE Superstar Sheamus leaps through the air with his Battering Ram maneuver against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Feb. 17, 2014 episode of RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE Superstar Sheamus leaps through the air with his Battering Ram maneuver against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Feb. 17, 2014 episode of RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Facing quite the opponent in the final match of the gauntlet, Randy Orton seemed more focused to assert himself as the “Face of the WWE” heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view.  The WWE World Heavyweight Champion made it crystal clear that he relied on The Authority to continue supporting him despite his inability to dominate his opponents throughout the gauntlet.  Sheamus, on the other hand, simply wanted to fight.

The match between Sheamus and Orton started off slowly as the champ slithered out of the ring a few times to get his bearings against another powerhouse of an opponent.  The Celtic Warrior’s offense differs from that of Cesaro and John Cena in that it’s more of “beat you silly” approach than anything else.  Sheamus is a powerhouse who simply fights, looking to score his victory by using a debilitating kick to his opponent’s head; he enjoys beating up his opponents as he honestly only needs to kick his opponent’s head off.  Simply put, Sheamus is a sadist.

Orton seemingly learned his lesson from his defeat against Cesaro and once again took the fight to outside of the ring.  The champ was most effective in stalling Sheamus’ momentum while confining his onslaught to the ringside area.  Orton’s most devastating offensive maneuver was undoubtedly suplexing Sheamus through the announcer’s table:

Sheamus lays devastated in a crumpled heap outside of the ring during his match with Randy Orton on the Feb. 17 episode of RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sheamus lays devastated in a crumpled heap outside of the ring during his match with Randy Orton on the Feb. 17 episode of RAW.  |  Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Once the fighting returned to the ring, Orton failed to capitalize off of putting Sheamus through the announcer’s table, giving Sheamus the precious opportunity to get back into the match.  The action went back and forth from that point as Orton attempted to counter Sheamus’ attempts to wail on him.  Sheamus eventually gained the upper hand and after landing two Irish Curse backbreakers, the Celtic Warrior mustered up enough gumption to set Orton up for his Brogue Kick finishing maneuver.  As Sheamus rallied the crowd behind him, the Shield stormed the ring and the match was immediately thrown out by the referee, giving Sheamus the win and Orton his final defeat in the gauntlet.

Does Randy Orton have a solid game plan heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday? | | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Does Randy Orton have a solid game plan heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday? | | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The prospect of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is important to Sheamus, but it cannot be ignored or denied that the Celtic Warrior would leave the chamber just as happy in defeat if he’s only able to unmercifully throttle an opponent into submission or defeat.  This perhaps makes Sheamus the second dangerous man in the Chamber match next to Randy Orton; armed only with the desire to beat a man senseless, Sheamus will be relentless in his attacks against his opponents.

This pits three men seeking championship gold (Bryan, Christian and Cesaro), one man seeking to retain his position (Orton), and one man seeking to make a point to the rising class of WWE Superstars (Cena) against a man who just wants to kick people’s heads clean off of their shoulders.

All things considered, one could easily see that by the time he was ready to face Sheamus, Orton had all but completely dismissed his embarrassing performance throughout the gauntlet.  By the time the main event rolled around on RAW, Orton cared very little about his wins and losses heading into the pay per view and relied more on the hope that The Authority would continue to protect him and his position within the promotion.  Midway through the gauntlet series Orton switched tactics and his approach on his matches; he transformed from a whiny and insatiable brat into an overly appreciative brown nosing yes man, opting to weasel his way back into the good graces of The Authority instead of actually putting forth an effort to prove to his opponents that he’s not a champion to be reckoned with.

The subtle change in Orton’s demeanor leads me to believe that he will retain his title at Elimination Chamber.  For the duration of the gauntlet fans have been led to believe that Orton doesn’t stand a chance at retaining his title.  Even the way the gauntlet was constructed, including how Orton fared as far as wins and losses are concerned, suggests that Orton will have one difficult time retaining his title.

What we mustn’t forget is that the Elimination Chamber match operates much like the Royal Rumble, where superstars join the fracas at timed intervals until all the participants have entered the steel structure or have been eliminated from it.  Because of his schmoozing and brown nosing, Orton may very well be the last participant to enter the match, which means that at least one of his opponents could very well be eliminated before he even steps into the ring.

The other concept to remember is that out of all the participants in the match, Orton has the most to lose and the luxury of having to offer the least amount of offense in the match.  The Elimination Chamber match participants will claw tooth and nail at each other, and as long as Randy can survive until he is one of the final two participants in the match, the only offense he’ll need to offer will be to keep from being eliminated.

The gauntlet then becomes important because it tells this exact story; if Orton had trouble beating his opponents in singles matches, he also stands very little chance of defeating anyone of them at Elimination Chamber.  However, if Orton’s opponents defeat each other, if he manages to get The Authority to make sure he’s the last man to enter the match (or conveniently place him in a Chamber pod that “malfunctions”), he will have the opportunity to plan his attack accordingly to pick off his opponents one-by-one after they’ve brutalized each other.

With his back against the wall and his conniving ways as a primary weapon, Orton looks to be in a prime position to maintain his spot in a main event (as opposed to “the” main event) at WrestleMania XXX.  Orton survived the gauntlet, and the Viper will survive the Elimination Chamber match.

The only question left is what will happen to the champ during this week’s episode of Smackdown?  We look forward to the show in eager anticipation, with just as much zeal and enthusiasm as we have for the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday.

 

Your WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. | | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Your WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

To read the first part of the Gauntlet of the Predator, click here!


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