(I’ve been told this was another book-exclusive rant. It’s in my archives and I can’t find it on any previous posting, so I guess it must have been. I have trouble keeping track sometimes, too. This would have been written sometime in 2006, but I have no idea when. Anyway, here you go!)
The SmarK Rant for WWE No Way Out 2005
– Live from Pittsburgh, PA, drawing 9500 and a 0.28 buyrate (aka a MAJOR stinkeroo of TNA proportions, one of the lowest of the modern era in fact.)
– Your hosts are Michael Cole and Tazz
Smackdown tag team titles: The Basham Brothers v. Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio.
This is one of those backwards-booking deals, where they knew they wanted Eddie v. Rey at Wrestlemania and needed a way to get there, so the natural first step was to have them team up and challenge the tag champions. Kind of sad that Eddie would go from main-eventing the previous year’s version of this show and winning the World title, to opening the show. This was set up, storyline-wise, by Rob Van Dam suffering an injury (a real one) and thus not being able to wrestle here in a rematch for the titles. The Bashams, desperately needing any kind of career boost to give them personality, had just recently joined JBL’s “Cabinet” as Secretaries of Defense, to go along with the prestigious appointment of Buckwheat lookalike jobber Orlando Jordan. Eddie starts out with Danny and they do some trash-talking, but Eddie grabs a headlock right away and takes him down by the leg. Rey comes in and nails him in the corner, and follows with a legdrop for two. Rey gets caught in the heel corner and double-teamed briefly, but comes back with an armdrag on Doug and it’s back to the challengers again. Eddie works him over in the corner and snaps off a rana, but it’s more double-teaming from the Bashams. Danny uses a straitjacket choke on Eddie to slow him down, but gets caught with a backdrop suplex to break that up. Doug cuts off any potential tag and elbows him down for two, but walks into a boot. Doug comes back with a powerslam for two, but Eddie tags Rey back in, and he’s the proverbial house of fire. Crossbody gets two on Doug, and the Rube Goldberg bulldog (called a DDT by Michael Cole) gets two. However, the Bashams do the old switcheroo and take over, as Rey is YOUR face-in-peril. I always thought that the Bashams should do the switching gimmick with S&M masks, ala the Killer Bees, but sadly that gimmick was dropped early in 2004. Danny puts Rey in a full-nelson for the big sympathy spot and beats on him in the corner, and it’s more heel shenanigans as Eddie gets involved with the referee. The Bashams drop Rey on the top rope for two. The match really grinds to a halt as Danny chokes away and cuts off a tag, allowing Doug to come back in and follow up with a backdrop superplex attempt. Rey fights out of it and comes down with a moonsault press for two. Then it’s back to the restholds, as Danny clamps on a chinlock to prevent Rey from tagging again. Yeah, it’s old school babyface heat stuff, but I like a more energetic approach to beating on a babyface for sympathy. The Bashams hit Rey with a double inverted powerbomb, but Eddie breaks up the count at two. Rey keeps fighting, dodging the Bashams and making the hot tag to Eddie, and he’s all over them. Backdrops for everyone and he dropkicks Doug, then takes them both down with a flying headscissors that gets two on Danny. The Bashams hit Eddie with a sloppy double chokeslam and that gets two for Danny. Another double-team backfires, as they try a double-suplex and Rey spears Danny into a cradle from Eddie for two. Eddie stops and grabs one of the tag belts, hoping to cheat and thus win, but the Bashams do a switch while Rey tries to argue some morality into him. Back in, Eddie misses the frog splash and recovers, but then plays dead to trick Doug into thinking he splatted. That bit of chicanery gets two off a rollup. Danny tosses the belt into the ring and the ref takes it away, but Rey tosses the other belt to Eddie and he hits Doug with it for the pin and the titles at 14:47. That ending looked all kinds of messed up, as the timing was way off, and Rey using the belt after yelling at Eddie about breaking the rules earlier in the match didn’t make sense. **1/2
Next up, the “Rookie Diva Talent Competition”, aka “Time to fast-forward”. They all ended up fired by the middle of year, if you care, including color commentator Dawn Marie.
John Heidenreich v. Booker T.
This was the ugly period for Heidenreich in between his endless feud with the Undertaker and his idiotic face turn. The poem he reads before the match was pretty good, though. Booker powers him into the corner to start, but gets clubbed down with the clubbing forearms that club. Clothesline gets two for Heidenreich. Thank god for auto-complete when Heidenreich is wrestling, otherwise his matches would take me another 10 minutes each while I spell check. Booker slugs back and runs into an elbow, which allows him to roll out and take a breather. They brawl outside and Booker gains control, as I ponder exactly what Heidenreich is supposed to be doing while “selling”. Seriously, the guy is AWFUL at it, making goofy faces and veering wildly between being totally in control and looking out of it. Heidenreich comes back with a clothesline (yes, another one) and stomps away on him, then sends him into the post. That allows Heidenreich to work on the arm, really picking up the frenetic pace of the match, but Booker fights out of the wristlock. Heidenreich elbows him down again, really showing his range in the ring tonight, and goes back to that wristlock. Booker fights back with a spinebuster and the sidekick. Heidenreich sells it like he’s dead, because he has no in-between shades of selling, and Booker goes for the finish with the axe kick, but misses. Heidenreich also blocks the Bookend, but clotheslines Heidenreich to the floor. They fight over to the announce table and Heidenreich grabs a chair for the DQ at 6:49. The crowd boos the crap out of that finish, rightfully so. This was quite terrible and they tried to drag the feud longer before turning Heidenreich face a few weeks later. 1/2*
WWE Cruiserweight title: Funaki v. Spike Dudley v. Paul London v. Chavo Guerrero v. Shannon Moore v. Akio.
We start with Paul London against fluke Cruiserweight champion Funaki. Funaki, used mainly as an announcer for years, was given the title in December to show how little they cared about the belt at that point. London overpowers him to start and gets an armdrag. He dives on Funaki out of the corner, but misses a charge and gets bulldogged for two. Funaki tries to finish, with whatever his finisher is, but Spike Dudley trips him up and London rolls him up for the pin at 1:39. Next up, Spike Dudley v. Paul London. Spike works him over in the corner, but Funaki trips up Spike to give London the pin at 1:59. Next up, Paul London v. Shannon Moore. Moore comes in and gets two on London, and a rollup for two. Backslide gets two. He grabs a headlock, but London rolls him up for two. Moore whips London into the corner a few times and goes up, but misses a moonsault and London finishes him with the 450 splash at 3:37. So now it’s Akio v. Paul London, the main event of many Velocity shows throughout 2004. Akio kicks him down for two right away, then brings him into the corner for a version of Tajiri’s Tarantula. That gets two. Akio hits the chinlock and follows with an enzuigiri for two. He keeps stomping away and chops London in the corner, but Paul comes back with a neckbreaker off the top rope to put them both down for the count. London makes it back up first to break the count, but Akio stays down and he’s gone at 7:05. Stupid finish. So that leaves Chavo v. London for the title. Chavo pounds on the tired London (although the match has only gone 7 minutes thus far) and works a cover for several two-counts. This brings up the unique physics of wrestling, where time elapsed is a subjective matter and people can act like they’ve exerted 20 minutes worth of energy in a 2 minute TV match. I think it has something to do with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Not to be confused with HHH’s Theory of Relatives, which is how he has stayed on top for 5 years. London reverses a slam into a cradle for two, but Chavo pounds him down again. London comes back with a Northern Lights suplex for two and makes the comeback, firing away with forearms and a backdrop. Rollup gets two, but Chavo reverses and holds the ropes for the pin and the title at 9:47. Cheap finish, incredibly rushed match that meant nothing. Chavo would suffer an injury and lose the title to London a month after this, and pretty much everyone else involved in the match would be fired in the bloodletting of 2005. *1/2
After fast-forwarding through more crap from the Divas, we head back to JBL, who delivers a variation of his famous “I am a wrestling god” interview from Royal Rumble. JBL actually became one of the best talkers in the business by the end of his seemingly neverending title reign, but unfortunately couldn’t back it up in the ring outside of garbage matches.
Undertaker v. Luther Reigns.
This was the last-ditch effort to get anything out of Reigns, as they pushed him against Undertaker in hopes of getting him some heel heat. It didn’t work. Reigns slugs away to start, but runs into a big boot that gets two for Undertaker. Taker works the arm and it’s the ROPEWALK OF DOOM, with a foot of space between Taker’s arm and Luther’s head, and he gets two off a Downward Spiral. Taker chokes away and goes after the ref with some harsh words, and that allows Reigns to undo the turnbuckle. They fight over that and slug it out in the corner, and that drags on for a while. They seriously just keep punching each other for like two minutes, and then awkwardly work into a spot where Reigns gets whipped into his own exposed turnbuckle. Irony can truly be a fickle mistress. Taker pulls the prone Reigns out to the apron and elbows him in the throat, which is apparently “vintage Undertaker” according to Michael Cole. Man, no need to verbally blow the guy every time he does a simple move. Back into the ring, Undertaker now tastes the bitter cold steel of the exposed turnbuckle, and it doesn’t taste good, I bet! Reigns stomps away on him and whips him into the corners, not thinking about, say, whipping him back into the exposed turnbuckle corner instead, and gets a suplex for two. The crowd is deathly silent as Reigns’ dull offensive series continues and he pounds away on the back and drops an elbow for two. This sets up a half-crab from Reigns out of a lame kneebar and Undertaker slugs out. Michael Cole calls that “throwing hands”, which makes me want to “throw hands” right in his face to shut him up. Taker “throws hands” and gets two on Reigns. Undertaker tries a comeback, but no, the boring Reigns offense continues, as he spears Taker and gets two. Another elbow gets two. This match is going NOWHERE. And not even nowhere fast, nowhere SLOW. Reigns tries for the Test Drive neckbreaker, but Undertaker fights out and gets some clothesline in the corner. He tries Snake Eyes, but Reigns seems unaware of what was being tried and doesn’t sell properly, so Taker boots him down and drops the leg for two. Chokeslam sets up the tombstone, but Reigns escapes and gets an inverted DDT. Cole interprets this as a swinging neckbreaker, which is interesting because it was neither a neckbreaker nor swinging, and then proceeds to say “swinging neckbreaker” about 18 times until I want to “throw hands” at him again. Reigns tries it again, prompting Cole to say it again, but Undertaker reverses to a DDT and finishes this boring-ass crapfest with the tombstone piledriver at 11:42. Thank god. *
#1 Contender tournament final: Kurt Angle v. John Cena.
This was the finals of yet another derivative tournament to determine who gets a title shot, which was seen in various forms seemingly millions of times through 2004 and then again multiple times in 2005. John Cena was still US champion at this point, and consensus was that Cena needed to go over bigtime and in dominating fashion to get him ready to co-headline Wrestlemania against JBL and carry the World title. Angle takes him down with a headlock to start and hands onto that, preventing Cena from escaping a couple of times. Cena finally brings him into the corner to force a break, and then tries his own headlock. Angle quickly schools him by reversing to his own facelock on the mat, but Cena fights out of it. Angle gets clotheslined to the floor and they brawl onto the announce table, where Cena shows good fire and hammers away on Angle. Back in, Cena gets two. He pounds away in the corner and catches Angle with a clothesline out of the corner, setting up the F-U. Angle wriggles free from that and bails out of the ring. Back in, Cena stomps away in the corner, but Angle cuts him off and reverses another attempt at the clothesline out of the corner, turning it into a german suplex into the turnbuckles. Ouch, man. Angle goes right after the neck now, hitting a snap suplex for two and grinding his arm into the neck on the mat. Backbreaker gets two. Angle stomps away and takes him down with a bodyscissors. Cena fights up out of that and elbows Angle down, but gets caught with another german suplex, which turns into the rolling germans. That gets two. Cena comes back with a flying shoulder tackle, which Cole refers to as his “pound and ground” offense. Notwithstanding that the proper term is “ground and pound”, as taken from the UFC, I fail to see how jumping in the air fits the definition of “ground” in the first place. Angle goes to the eyes, but Cena hits him with a spinebuster for two. Angle comes back with the german suplexes again, but Cena catches him with a backdrop suplex into a powerbomb for two. Another try at the F-U is reversed by Angle into a sunset flip for two, and Angle snaps off an overhead suplex to put Cena down again. This allows Angle to hit Cena with an Angle Slam, but Cena reverses out and DDTs him for two. Another try at the F-U, but Angle reverses that into the anklelock. Cena kicks him out of the ring to escape, however. Cena actually goes up and guillotines Angle with a legdrop as he’s coming back in, and gets two. Nice bit of thinking of his feet there. He charges into the corner and hits boot, but recovers with the F-U and gets two. This marked one of the few times someone kicked out of the F-U, in fact. Cena stops to celebrate prematurely, and Angle kicks him in the knee and goes to work on the ankle, getting ready to go for the kill with the anklelock again. He rams Cena’s ankle into the post, and he’s just an absolute master of drawing sympathy heat for Cena, as he applies a leg lock to Cena and forces him to get to the ropes. He keeps stomping the ankle and softens him up with the Angle Slam, leading to the anklelock. Normally this is certain death for any babyface caught in the move, but Cena is the Chosen One and so he gets to fight to the ropes, forcing Angle to switch to the unbreakable heel hook. Cena makes the ropes, however, and the ref gets caught in the middle and knocked out. First ref bump on the night, actually, which is rare for them. Angle goes for Cena’s chain, but gets speared into the corner while thinking it over, and Cena finishes with the F-U at 19:20 to earn the Wrestlemania title shot. Real good effort from Cena here, as Angle always brings out the best in him. Not as technically good as a lot of Angle’s stuff, but the point was to make Cena like a world-beater, and that’s exactly what it accomplished, as he survived all of Angle’s crazy counters and fought out of the unbreakable heel hook to get the clean pinfall. ***3/4
Smackdown World title, barbed-wire cage match: JBL v. Big Show.
As usual, the rules are the standard pin, submission or escape. This was set up by a three-way title defense at Royal Rumble, where JBL beat both Big Show and Kurt Angle in a better-than-average match, but screwed over Big Show in order to do so. So this is the rematch, in a cage designed to cash in on the ECW craze of 2005. Odd that they’d choose to cash in on that craze by sticking two of the guys most hated by ECW fans into this kind of match. Although the match was sold on the barbed-wire aspect as though it was covering the cage, in fact the wire is only at the very top of the cage and would never be used in the entire match. Show slugs JBL down to start and pounds him in the corner, but JBL shoulderblocks him down. Neckbreaker allows JBL to climb the cage, but he balks at the barbed wire on top of it and changes his mind. He opts for a crossbody attempt instead, but Show slams him for two. Show keeps pounding him in the corner, but JBL climbs again. He stops at the wire again and tries another shoulderblock instead, but Show simply stands there and knocks him down, then suplexes him. JBL comes back and sends him into the cage to take over. Show starts bleeding, so JBL hits him with a flying shoulderblock and starts chopping. Show goes down and JBL boots him in the head and drops an elbow for two. He undoes one of the leftover tag ropes and chokes Show down, squeezing more blood out of him, and clubs him down with the clubbing forearms. Show fights back with a big boot and a powerbomb, looking awkward while doing so, and now it’s JBL’s time to bleed. He’s a hell of a bleeder, I’ll give him that. Show sends him into the cage to work on the cut, but now JBL’s flunkies run out and try to get into the cage with a pair of bolt cutters. GM Teddy Long boots them all out of the arena again, but Orlando Jordan gives JBL the bolt cutters before he goes, and JBL slugs him down and adds the Clothesline from Hell, which looks to finish but only gets two. This match is totally heatless, as the fans don’t even pop for that near-fall. Another go at the clothesline is blocked by Show, who chokeslams JBL for two. JBL goes low, however, and another clothesline gets two. This one is not quite from hell, merely from a close substitute, like New Jersey. They fight up to the top and slug it out on the top rope in a spot that means nothing towards the match and is only there to set up the big special effect for the match — Big Show chokeslamming JBL to the mat and right through it, creating a giant hole in the ring. Show casually walks to the door and escapes the cage, but WAIT…it turns out that JBL actually crawled right out via the hole created by his fall, and thus wins the match. This was not made clear by the camera angles in the least, as they opted for going for the surprise finish by not focusing on JBL’s escape and instead following Show out of the ring. This left the crowd totally deflated and confused, much like this match made me feel while I was watching it. Sometimes “creative” is not necessarily “good”. This would prove to be the final “skin of his teeth” title defense for JBL, however, as his luck (and 8 month title reign) came to an end at Wrestlemania 21. **1/4
Pretty good show! I didn’t remember much of it afterwards, but it’s worth a look.