Randy Orton vs. Edge (WWE Backlash, 2020)

At Backlash, Edge and Randy Orton worked very hard and had a genuinely great pro wrestling match. They told a simple story that progressed nicely across the surprisingly breezy 40+ minute runtime. Little things like Orton dodging an armdrag and dominating much of the early grappling were complimented by good facials that never veered into over-acting, and hammered home the story that maybe the more battle-worn Edge wasn’t quite able to hang any more. They worked with intensity and crispness, but never phoniness.

Like a lot of modern matches that intentionally shoot for ‘an epic;’ I would have trimmed more than a few nearfalls, and nixed the section where they imitated finishing moves of their peers — most matches like this need to be reigned in, and this was no exception. But beyond that, this was evidence that both men still have it in them to produce compelling matches — which is honestly as much of a pleasant surprise with regards to Orton as it is with regards to Edge.

Obviously there’s a big ‘but’ coming here.

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Wrestlemania 34 Review

Wrestling Christmas has finally been and gone.

Much like regular Christmas, following months of build up and excitement, after a few hours you were thankful it was done for another year. Time to… Take down the Wrestling Tree?

Anyway.

Wrestlemania 34 had fans reaching almost unheard of levels of uncynical hype before showtime. WWE had not only thrown together a fairly compelling card, but it was so stacked that people forgot that sitting still and watching anything for seven hours is fucking insufferable.

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Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Carmella vs. Natalya (WWE, Money in the Bank 2017)

Watch this match here. (Sub required, $9.99 monthly)

This was the first ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.

As is often the case with WWE, most of the talk surrounding this match centred on the finish, so I’d be remiss to start anywhere else. For those who didn’t see it, James Ellsworth, Carmella’s squeeze, knocked Becky Lynch off the ladder, climbed it himself, unhooked the titular briefcase, and tossed it to a prone Carmella on the mat, who was then declared the winner.

There’s a lot to wrap your head around here, but your tolerance for this finish will vary depending on how much stock you invested in the idea of this as a ‘historic’ match – and I don’t refer to it as such because WWE chose to use that verbiage. Bar the odd street fight here or there on very rare occasions, weapons-based gimmick matches were not the domain of women in WWE until very recently. To participate in a heavily promoted ladder match, one of the most popular stipulations in all of wrestling, after decades of men making their names this way, is a cool milestone – and an important one. I can 100% understand anyone who was frustrated with this finish if they were hoping for a more… traditional conclusion. I think people, especially WWE’s long-suffering female fans, wanted something that would be used in video packages for years to come. They wanted their version of Razor Ramon standing atop the ladder at Wrestlemania X with two Intercontinental titles. As Carmella herself alluded to on Twitter, they wanted their ‘boyhood dream’ moment. They didn’t get it. They didn’t even get the simple visual of a woman, be she heel, face or whatever, climbing the ladder and retrieving an object. That seems like a pretty low bar for WWE to miss.

Were this not a ‘first time ever’ occurence, I don’t think I or anyone else would care as much. The finish was a new idea to get some heat on a young heel, for a show that is sorely lacking one on the female side, so that much I can get on board with.

It’s an overly-cutesy finish, which I’ve grown to hate, and that’s WWE’s bread and butter these days. Any match that isn’t just two dudes trying to pin each other becomes a game of ‘how creative can we be?’ in this company. This was akin to Big Show losing a tables match by accidentally stepping on one and breaking it because he’s so fat. It was a cute idea; some people even loved it. But a lot of people just groaned. When a push comes to shove though, it just irks me because you only get so many ‘first time ever’ moments. This will always be the first ever ladder match with women in WWE. It will always be James Ellsworth. It will outlast both his and Carmella’s careers. And in years to come I think even people in favour of this finish will realize that.

As for the match, well, I don’t have another 500 words to say on that. It was a pretty lame ladder match, near the bottom of the Money in the Bank rankings, were you to be a big enough loser to sit down and actually rank them. While Charlotte wowed near the finish with another beautiful dive from the top rope to the floor; there wasn’t much to speak of here in terms of high risks, innovation or thrills. There were several instances where people came off very shakey and nervous, which is understandable, but the end result was a very underwhelming match, bell to bell. There was good heat though, with most of the nearfalls (is that what you call it when someone almost gets the thing in a ladder match? Answers on a postcard) generating a lot of crowd noise – but that only took the match so far.

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (WWE, Payback 2017)

Watch this match here. (Sub required, $9.99 monthly)

This was bad and it was never-fucking-ending.

It was a ‘House of Horrors’ match, which is the latest attempt to parlay Wyatt’s character into something other than plain old rasslin’ matches. Ironically, his plain old rasslin’ matches with The Shield and Daniel Bryan are some of his most highly regarded battles, unlike his reviled ‘spectacles’ such as the ‘Ring of Fire’ match with Kane, the compound brawl with The New Day, and Wrestlemania 33’s embarrassing spooky-slideshow, also featuring Orton.

There’s a certain pretentiousness that permeates everything WWE does with Wyatt, like they think there’s a depth or cleverness there that might break through to ‘casual’ audiences. The video package for this match had a whisper-y cover of ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses;’ akin to Hollywood’s current obsession with breathy covers of kids’ songs for their trailers. I feel like they expect a prime-time Emmy for this.

The match was divided into two segments; a pre-taped vignette in a creepy Blair Witch-like house, and then a brawl in the arena.

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The haunted house section was entirely based on editing and theatrics. There was spooky music, frequent camera cuts, an abundance of colourful lighting, all the clich├ęd haunted house imagery you would imagine and, scariest of all, they added THUD sound effects to every single punch either man threw. There really wasn’t much actual brawling – if you expected this to at least be a violent, prop-heavy backstage fight, you were wrong.

This basically served as the ‘heat’ of the match, with Wyatt having the jump on Orton as they went room to room. When Orton tried to fire back, Bray would bail.

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It’s WWE, so of course the whole affair was too campy to take seriously but, and this was the real failing of the match, they played it 100% serious.

As more time passes, and more people try and imitate it, you come to realise how on-point Matt Hardy’s wacky ‘short films’ were. They didn’t turn around TNA business, but they knew exactly what they were and they reinvigorated his career.

Because WWE is so unwilling to laugh at itself, and so cocksure about the ‘genius’ of the Bray Wyatt character, they doomed this match before it ever started.

Wyatt crushed Orton with a dirty-ass refrigerator and stole his limo (oh yeah, Randy Orton showed up in a limo, in slacks, with no shirt on) to end the first segment of the match. The crowd loudly booed as the commentators tried to act completely serious and recount what they just saw.

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After the Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe match, Wyatt returned to yet more booes. He then did his FULL ENTRANCE. I was begging for this to be a one-move/quick pinfall deal once he hit the ring, but no joy. When the lights came up at the conclusion of Wyatt’s drawn-out saunter, Orton was already in the ring. They brawled for another five excruciating minutes. Orton was in control before the Singh brothers and Jinder Mahal interfered, allowing Bray to get an utterly meaningless win.

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I went into this match sick-to-death of Bray, and very unimpressed with Orton’s level of effort since January. I came out of the match pretty sympathetic to both, as there was nothing they could do to save this. Both guys at least tried their best to show intensity in the house brawl, and it came across, but it was such a doomed segment that it didn’t matter.

I’d love to be the contrarian and say this was actually a lot of fun, but even in this era of endless hot takes, that would be too disingenuous.

This was absolutely painful to watch.