As I predicted, WWE finally got its act together and produced its best pay-per-view since SummerSlam. The fact that the card wasn’t just a bunch of rematches again, along with the successful build of many of the feuds, led to some very entertaining storytelling that meshed well with the top-notch in-ring action that was expected of the performers on this card. The four-way elimination Tag Team Championship match stole the show, but the card had several highly entertaining contests. I do question the decision to book the R-Truth vs. Brodus Clay and Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz matches back-to-back leading into the main event, as those matches sucked a considerable amount of energy out of the crowd. On the whole, a solid PPV; one that met my expectations and finally gave the WWE Universe a clean PPV finish for the first time in months.
Overall Grade: B
Randy Orton def. John Cena in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Championship
After some early grappling, Cena hit Orton with a shoulder tackle and went for a table on the outside. Orton blasted him into the barricade and tried to climb a ladder for the titles. Cena fought him off and hit him with the ladder, then leaned a table in the corner of the ring. Orton tried to put Cena through the table, but Cena blocked it before taking stiff chair shots from Orton both inside and outside the ring. Orton tried to hit Cena in the head with a chair as Cena was leaning up against the ring post, but Cena dodged it and hit Orton with several chair shots of his own before setting up a table outside the ring.
Cena tried to powerbomb Orton through the table, but Orton reversed the move and tossed Cena into the steps. Orton set up a ladder and managed to grab onto the World Title, but Cena dragged him down. Cena started to gather some momentum before a powerslam by Orton, who went outside and tossed a chair and a ladder into the ring. Cena hit Orton in the gut with the ladder, set it up, and climbed it, but was stopped by Orton, who pulled him down and hit him with a sideslam.
Orton hit Cena with more chair shots before wedging the chair between the ropes against the turnbuckle. Cena recovered with a shoulder tackle and tried for the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, but Orton countered and sent him flying into the chair wedged into the corner. With Cena incapacitated, Orton set up a ladder and climbed to the top, again reaching the titles before Cena smacked Orton’s face into the ladder, sending him to the floor. Cena hit Orton with a flying Five-Knuckle Shuffle from the top of the ladder (he easily could have grabbed the titles instead, but whatever). Cena hit Orton in the face with the ladder, sending Orton out of the ring and through the table on the outside that Cena had set up earlier.
Cena climbed the ladder and nearly claimed the titles, but Orton tipped over the ladder and delivered an RKO to Cena. Cena regained momentum with a clothesline that sent Orton over the top rope. Outside the ring, Cena hit Orton twice in the face with the steel steps, opening up gashes above Orton’s right eye and on his forehead. Cena leaned up a table in another corner of the ring, but Orton attacked Cena when he tried to get Orton back into the ring, hitting Cena in the head repeatedly with a microphone and stomping on Cena’s face while he was lying on the ring steps.
Orton dismantled the Spanish announce table and tried to punt Cena, but Cena dodged it and hit the AA, sending Orton crashing through the announce table. Cena crawled back into the ring and set up a ladder, climbing to the top and grabbing hold of the titles. Orton pulled the ladder out from under Cena, leaving Cena hanging onto the titles until Orton hit him with a chair, sending Cena crashing to the mat. Orton connected with several more chair shots and went for a head shot when Cena countered by tackling Orton through one of the two tables propped up in the ring.
Both men were incapacitated for a while, but Orton got up first and started pulling up the padding outside the ring. He retrieved a pair of handcuffs and locked Cena to the bottom rope, which I found to be a nice touch, referencing the history between the two, specifically their “I Quit” match at Breaking Point 2009. Orton toyed with Cena, throwing the key into the crowd. Cena tried desperately to free himself, but to no avail. Orton walked halfway down the entrance ramp to retrieve what Lawler referred to as “the biggest ladder in the arena.”
Orton set up the ladder as Cena began unscrewing the bottom rope from the turnbuckle. Still handcuffed to the now-loose bottom rope, Cena climbed the ladder opposite Orton and hit him in the head with the turnbuckle at the top of the ladder, knocking Orton off the ladder. Cena grabbed the titles, but Orton recovered and started pulling on the bottom rope, wrenching Cena’s handcuffed wrist.
Cena slipped and fell off the ladder, falling face-first into the edge of the remaining table. Orton set the ladder back up, climbed to the top, soaked in the moment and finally unhooked the belts to become the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Orton posed in the middle of the ring with both title belts. Mr. McMahon’s theme music hit and Vince, Stephanie and Triple H entered the arena, applauding Orton as they approached the ring. The trio entered the ring and congratulated Orton as Cena looked on, disappointed. Orton held up the belts and posed with Vince, Stephanie and Triple H to end the show.
I thought this was a very good, but not quite great, match that was made slightly anti-climactic by the botched finish; it was clear that Cena was meant to propel himself off the ladder and go through the table, but he slipped and simply fell off of it instead, making what would have been a really cool moment a bit of a letdown. All in all, I was satisfied by this main event and appreciated the clean finish.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust (c) def. Rey Mysterio & Big Show, The Real Americans, and Ryback & Curtis Axel in a four-way elimination tag match to retain the Tag Team Championship
WWE apparently decided last-minute to change this match from the originally announced Fatal Four-Way format to an elimination match, which ended up being a great choice. The Rhodes brothers and RybAxel started things off, trading tags and offense before Goldust tagged in Big Show, who worked over Axel with huge chest slaps while the crowd chanted “One more time!” with each slap. The crowd was hot for this match from the very early-going.
RybAxel isolated Mysterio in their corner, wearing him down before he was able to tag in Goldust, who picked up the pace on Ryback with clotheslines and a spinebuster. Ryback tried for a powerbomb, but Goldust countered it into a rollup for the pin. Ryback and Curtis Axel eliminated by Goldust.
The Real Americans finally entered the match, isolating Goldust in their corner, as JBL praised Zeb Colter’s strategic play to keep his team out of the match until one team was eliminated. Swagger demolished Goldust with a running clothesline outside the ring and Cesaro hit a fall-away slam back in the ring for a near-fall. Like Ryback, Swagger tried for a powerbomb but Goldust reversed it for a near-fall. Cesaro prevented Goldust from reaching Cody and put him in the Cesaro Swing.
A belly-to-belly suplex from Swagger forced Cody to make the save, but a Swagger Bomb and a double-team gut-stomp from the Real Americans got another two-count on Goldust, who finally gained the advantage with a very cool sunset double-flip on Cesaro. Goldust tossed Swagger out of the ring and tried for the hot tag to Cody, but Swagger pulled Rhodes off the apron. Goldust showed off his new-found agility with a second-rope hurricanrana on Cesaro, while Big Show tossed Swagger into the barricade. Goldust hit Cesaro with a powerslam, which gave Goldust time to finally make the hot tag to Show.
Big Show mounted a furious attack with shoulder tackles and running clotheslines. He set up for a chokeslam on Cesaro, but Swagger entered the ring and got a WMD from Show for his trouble. Cesaro climbed to the second rope and attempted a flying crossbody, but Show hit him with a WMD in mid-air and covered him for the pin. The Real Americans eliminated by Big Show.
In a show of sportsmanship, Big Show waited for Goldust to get back to his feet to re-start the match. Show manhandled an exhausted Goldust until Goldust recovered for a reverse crossbody from the top rope for a near-fall. Big Show tried for a chokeslam, but Goldust countered with a DDT for a near-fall and tagged in Cody. Goldust and Cody double-team suplexed Show for another two-count. Rhodes tried for a Disaster Kick, but Show swatted him out of the air and made the hot tag to Mysterio.
Rey came in on fire, hitting Cody with a hurricanrana and a top-rope seated senton. Rhodes tried a sunset flip, but Rey fought his way out and kicked Rhodes in the face. Cody recovered with a Disaster Kick for a near-fall. Cody attempted Cross-Rhodes, but Mysterio countered with a drop-toehold to set up the 619. Goldust tried to make the save, but Mysterio hit him with another drop-toehold and nailed the 619. Goldust rolled out of the ring and Show threw him into the barricade.
Cody threw Show into the ring post and attempted a top-rope seated senton on Rey, but Mysterio caught him with a rollup for a very close near-fall. Mysterio climbed to the second rope as the crowd started a well-deserved “This is awesome!” chant. Rey tried for a second-rope dropkick, but Cody caught him in mid-air and set up the Cross-Rhodes.
Rey countered with a head-scissor toss onto the middle rope and tried the 619, but Cody caught his legs just before Mysterio connected, countering with a powerbomb attempt. Mysterio reversed it into another rollup for a near-fall, then tried for a hurricanrana, which Rhodes countered with Cross-Rhodes for the pin. After the match, Cody, Goldust, Big Show and Mysterio exchanged handshakes in the ring, which prompted JBL to say, “If you want to see handshakes, go watch ‘Dr. Phil.'” Rey Mysterio & Big Show eliminated by Cody Rhodes.
I expected this match to come down to Cody & Goldust against The Real Americans, but the Mysterio/Rhodes finale was one of the most thrilling sequences in WWE this year. After seeing this, I think I could watch Mysterio and Rhodes wrestle singles matches on every PPV, Raw, Smackdown, Main Event and Superstars for the next six months and never get tired of it.
CM Punk def. The Shield by pinfall in a 3-on-1 handicap match
The match opened with lots of ring psychology, with Ambrose and Punk using various tactics to try to trap the other in his corner. The action picked up when Rollins tagged in and Punk isolated him in his corner before landing three consecutive neckbreakers. Rollins managed to reach Reigns, who threw Punk into The Shield’s corner, where the trio exchanged tags and beat down Punk for several minutes.
Punk managed to turn the tide when Reigns tried to spear Punk on the outside, but Punk dodged it and Reigns went flying over the announce table, landing face-first on the arm of JBL’s chair and making his eye swell up pretty badly. Punk immediately went to work on the injured eye and Reigns seemed to be in legitimate pain, at one point making WWE very thankful for the five-second delay on live events that gave them enough time to censor Reigns when he clearly said “Oh, s***” while writhing around in agony.
Back in the ring, Punk tried for a GTS on Rollins, but Ambrose made the distraction and allowed Rollins to hit a dropkick on Punk. Rollins tried for a GTS of his own, but Punk wriggled out and pushed him away. Rollins crashed into Ambrose, knocking him off the apron, and Punk hit a superkick for a near-fall. Furious offense from Punk, including another superkick, a running high knee, a swinging neckbreaker, clotheslines and a top-rope crossbody for a near-fall.
Punk locked in the Anaconda Vice, but Ambrose made the save and tagged in. Ambrose carried Punk up to the top rope, but Punk headbutted him twice and hit a top-rope elbow drop for a two-count. Punk set up the GTS on Ambrose, but dropped him when Rollins made the distraction and hit the GTS on Rollins instead. He set up Ambrose for the GTS again, but Ambrose slipped out of it. Reigns tried to spear Punk, but Punk dodged it again, leading to Reigns accidentally spearing Ambrose. Punk threw Reigns out of the ring and covered Ambrose for the win.
This match was very exciting and the in-ring storytelling was fantastic. There’s no way Reigns could have been scripted to suffer a legitimate eye injury; my assumption is that he was supposed to suffer some sort of kayfabe injury on the announce table spot, and when he actually did injure himself, he and Punk decided to run with it. All told, a great showcase for all four men that planted another seed for The Shield’s possible demise.
The Wyatt Family def. Daniel Bryan by pinfall in a 3-on-1 handicap match
Harper and Rowan traded tags early, wearing down Bryan as Wyatt sat ringside in his rocking chair. Bryan tried to pick up the pace, but Harper caught him with a sitout slam for a near-fall. Wyatt entered the match, telling Bryan it didn’t have to be this way and that he could have helped Bryan before unloading on him with furious offense, throwing him from one corner of the ring to the other with a huge suplex and stalking Bryan with his spider-walk, which earned a “That was creepy” chant from the crowd.
Rowan hit a huge fallaway slam on Bryan before teaming up with Harper, who nailed Bryan with a big boot to the face and tagged in Wyatt. Bray extended his hand and offered Bryan “one last chance to make this all go away” as the crowd started a No! chant. Bryan kicked Bray’s hand and tried to pick up the pace, but ran into an elbow from Wyatt, who tagged in Harper and said “Finish it. I’m done with him.”
Harper powerbombed Bryan for a near-fall, but Bryan was able to sidestep Harper when he tried to attack him in the corner. Bryan took Harper up to the top rope and brought him down to the mat with a side-slam for a two-count. The crowd erupted into a Yes! chant as Bryan landed his trademark series of kicks before climbing up top. Bryan launched himself more than halfway across the ring on a flying elbow drop for another near-fall, broken up by Rowan.
Bryan trapped Rowan in the ropes and kicked him repeatedly. Harper tagged in Wyatt, but Bryan noticed and hit him with a running knee before clearing both Rowan and Harper out of the ring. Wyatt attempted a running clothesline, but Bryan countered with a rollup for a two-count. Bryan flew out of the ring and sent Harper crashing over the announce table before a drop-toehold to Rowan, sending Rowan face-first into the steps.
Bryan climbed to the top rope and hit a flying dropkick on Wyatt and tried to secure the Yes! lock, but Wyatt reversed it into Sister Abigail’s Kiss for the pin. The match started slowly, but the pace picked up considerably as soon as Wyatt got physically involved and ended up being highly entertaining. After the match, Wyatt cradled Bryan’s head in his arms and creepily rocked him back and forth like a sleeping child. Wyatt may not be the most athletic guy on the roster, but he has the ability to produce frenzied bursts of energy that make him a highly threatening presence in the ring.
Big E Langston (c) def. Damien Sandow by pinfall to retain the Intercontinental Championship
A fast pace from the start in this one, as the two traded reversals in an enjoyable opening sequence. Sandow tossed Langston face-first into the ring post on the outside and threw him back into the ring for a two-count. Sandow hit two elbow drops and locked in a headlock. Big E fought his way out of it, but got a running clothesline and the Elbow of Disdain from Sandow for another near-fall.
Big E tried to pick up momentum, but ran into a dropkick for yet another two-count. Langston finally got Sandow up on his shoulders and hit a fall-away slam followed by two running clotheslines and a belly-to-belly suplex. A big splash earned Langston a near-fall, but Sandow countered two attempts at the Big Ending and gained the upper hand again. Langston recovered with a running clothesline and finally hit the Big Ending for the victory. A well-worked match, but one without any drama. There was no doubt who was walking out with the title.
AJ Lee (c) (w/Tamina Snuka) def. Natalya by submission to retain the Divas Championship
Natalya dominated the early action, working over AJ with a variety of submission holds. AJ rolled out of the ring and tried to take advantage of a Tamina distraction, but Natalya caught her and threw her into the barricade. AJ took the upper hand, kicking Natalya off the apron before throwing her back into the ring for a near-fall. AJ connected with a superkick off an irish whip rebound for another two-count.
The two women traded offense until Natalya took advantage with two clotheslines, consecutive suplexes, and a huge slam before locking in the Sharpshooter. AJ tried to crawl to the ropes, but Natalya dragged her back to the middle of the ring, where AJ managed to wiggle her way out of the hold. Tamina climbed up on the apron and Natalya sent her flying with an elbow, but AJ took advantage of the distraction to nail an incredible head-scissor transition into the Black Widow, nearly causing Natalya to tap out before she worked her way out of it.
Natalya tried for another Sharpshooter, but AJ grabbed her hair without the ref noticing and rolled up Natalya for the pinfall victory. I don’t know what’s going on with the Divas right now, because this was the second consecutive high-quality Divas match on WWE TV, following Smackdown’s solid tag match. I’m not used to this. A good outing for Natalya, but AJ’s insane head-scissor Black Widow stole the show.
Kofi Kingston def. The Miz by pinfall in a No Disqualification match
This match was set up when Kingston attacked Miz during the pre-show. Not really sure why this was a no-DQ match, as hardly anything illegal happened. Miz entered wearing the trenchcoat he wore during his heel run, rather than the t-shirt he wore as a face, which I thought was a nice touch. The two started with a very fast pace, trading offense until Kingston began unloading on Miz.
Outside the ring, Kofi speared Miz into the barricade and tried to hit Trouble in Paradise, but Miz dodged it and Kofi kicked the ring post, injuring his right leg. Miz immediately went to work on the injured leg and taunted him with slaps to the face. Outside the ring, Miz dropped Kofi crotch-first onto the barricade and then kicked him in the shoulder, tossing him back into the ring for a near-fall.
Miz exposed the top turnbuckle and set up the Skull-Crushing Finale, but Kofi countered, catching him around the waist from the side and flipping him for a two-count. Miz recovered with a clothesline, climbed up top and tried for a flying double axe-hammer, but Kofi caught him mid-air with a dropkick. Kofi failed with attempts at the SOS and Trouble in Paradise, and Miz went for the figure-four. Kofi kicked out and sent Miz flying face-first into the exposed turnbuckle. Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise for the win.
The crowd couldn’t care less about this match, keeping a loud “Boring” chant going for a solid minute at one point, but it was far better than the Truth/Clay match that preceded it. I think poor booking is to blame; no one really cares about Miz or Kofi right now, and their feud doesn’t seem to be helping much.
R-Truth (w/Xavier Woods) def. Brodus Clay (w/Tensai, Naomi & Cameron) by pinfall
R-Truth dominated the early action, scoring near-falls with a top-rope dropkick and a head-scissor kick. Clay rolled out of the ring, but Truth hit him with a splash on the outside. Back in the ring, shades of Yokozuna from Clay as he hit a Bonsai Drop on Truth for a two-count. Clay threw Truth halfway across the ring with a suplex and heelishly mocked his dance moves. Truth rolled out of the ring and Clay set up to throw him into the steel steps, but Tensai told Clay to get Truth back into the ring and pin him.
Clay lashed out at Tensai while Woods helped Truth back into the ring. Clay started unloading on Truth in the ring, but Tensai climbed up on the apron and again questioned why Clay didn’t just pin Truth and pick up the win. Tensai finally got fed up and walked out on Clay, as did the Funkadactyls. Truth recovered for a superkick and a rollup for the pin.
This match only existed to complete the Clay heel turn, which I’m not particularly interested in. I don’t find Clay to be threatening physically because he’s pretty much just a fat guy in a singlet. I do like R-Truth’s new role as Woods’ mentor; he’s playing a hybrid manager/tag partner role that suits both men very well. At any rate, while Truth is a solid in-ring worker, he’s not good enough to carry a singles match with Clay (who is?), and this segment probably should have been saved for Raw.
Fandango (w/Summer Rae) def. Dolph Ziggler by pinfall
The pre-show match started slowly, until Ziggler took control with a flurry of punches in the corner, a neckbreaker and flying clothesline for a near-fall. Ziggler tried for a Famouser, which Fandango countered into a roll-up for a two-count before Ziggler hit the Famouser on his second try for a very close near-fall. Fandango hit a suplex and climbed to the top rope, but Ziggler recovered and climbed to the second rope. As Dolph tried to set up a superplex off the top rope, Summer Rae distracted him by climbing up on the ring apron, giving Fandango time to recover for a headbutt and a top-rope leg drop for the pin. A nice win for Fandango that didn’t really hurt Ziggler, seeing as Fandango earned the victory thanks to Summer’s shenanigans.