Sunday, December 17, 2006

Armageddon 2006

The final WWE PPV of the year, and this time it's a Smackdown-only show. This one is a pay-per-view in the United Kingdom, and suffice to say I won't be buying it. There are good matches on this card, and with some neutral headlining matches I might have been interested. But the Undertaker/Kane v Kennedy/MVP feud is one of the dullest things I've ever witnessed - it consists essentially of the villains getting beaten up repeatedly week after week while they ask nicely if they can leave now. It takes up two matches on this show, and probably lengthy ones at that. I regularly fast-forward past their segments on Smackdown; I'm not spending £15 for the privilege of fast-forwarding past them on a PPV.

So, let's keep this one relatively brief. By my standards, anyway.

1. Batista & John Cena v. King Booker & Finlay. A curious main event that betrays the lack of challengers on Smackdown for Batista's world title. It's a tag match in which Batista and the Raw champion John Cena join forces against Booker (the last Smackdown champion) and Finlay (who used to be Booker's lackey, then kind of wasn't, and now kind of is again). Traditional wrestling logic says there are two possible outcomes to this match. You certainly don't involve Cena in the decision because he's a guest and there's no follow-up. You don't have Booker pin Batista because that sets up a match they've already done several times. And you don't have Batista pin Booker, because he's already won that feud and they might as well start rebuilding Booker for future storylines. So either Batista pins Finlay, the minor member of the heel team, or Finlay pins Batista to elevate him and set him up as a future challenger - not the worst idea in the world, since Finlay is one of the best wrestlers on the Smackdown roster.

The match itself is likely to be good to decent. Batista has been wildly inconsistent since returning from injury; Booker is apparently working injured. But Finlay is hugely talented, and though Cena isn't exceptional on a technical level, he always works hard and he's good with the crowd. Should be alright, then.

Incidentally, in a sign of how incoherently the WWE plan ahead, they're trying to push this as a "first ever" teaming up of the Raw and Smackdown world champions - not much of an achivement considering the Smackdown belt was only invented a few years back. More to the point, didn't they do this exact same match on free TV just a few weeks ago? That was before Batista won the title, so it doesn't actually invalidate their claim, but it's a match they would never have done on free TV if they had planned to try and sell it so soon after.

2. Inferno Match: MVP v Kane. An "Inferno Match" is one of wrestling's more ludicrous gimmick matches: the guy who gets set on fire loses. MVP isn't very good and Kane is alright at best. The history of this feud suggests that MVP will get almost no offence, and then after fifteen minutes of tedious pummelling, either he will lose clean, or he'll win on a meaningless fluke. Either way, it'll involve a stunt sequence. Also, since Kane only wears tights, and MVP has a full body suit, it doesn't take a genius to work out who's losing this one. Kane will win, MVP's offence will consist of five punches in the fourteenth minute, and I will be delighted to save my money.

3. Last Ride Match: Undertaker v Mr Kennedy. See above, except this time the loser is the first guy to get bundled into a hearse. Both of these guys are capable of being entertaining, but this feud has been so one-sided that it's utterly devoid of interest. As MVP is losing the Inferno match, I would guess that Kennedy wins here on some sort of bizarre screwjob. But frankly, I couldn't care less, and I'm confident that the match will be unbearably dull.

4. United States Title: Chris Benoit v Chavo Guerrero. Continuing the feud based on a frankly tasteless storyline in which Chavo is somehow exploiting the estate of his late uncle Eddy (who died over a year ago, for heaven's sake, but they still won't shut up about him), while Eddy's friend Chris Benoit tries to work out what's going on. Since Benoit is the US Champion, that means they're going to wrestle over the belt for the second show running, even though Benoit won clean the last time. Ah, planning. As before, the actual wrestling should be very good, as long as the storyline is kept to the back. Benoit is one of the best of his generation; Chavo's good enough to hang with him. Since the storyline is nowhere near completed, I imagine Chavo wins the belt here. But then, that's what I said last time.

5. Cruiserweight Title: Gregory Helms v Jimmy Wang Yang. Jimmy Wang Yang is an Asian guy who thinks he's a redneck. Isn't that just hilarious? Why, my sides are splitting just thinking about it. God help us.

That said, as a wrestler, he's actually very good. Although we're apparently supposed to have forgotten, this is the same guy who worked for WCW as Jimmy Yang in its last few years. It's also the same guy who played Tajiri's henchman Akio. The silly gimmick doesn't seem to have affected his impressive matches, and he should have a good showing here with Gregory Helms. Unusually for a Cruiserweight Champion, Helms is actually being treated as a credible wrestler by the writers. It's unfortunate that they feel the need to prove that by having him wrestle guys out of his weight class, rather than actually building any meaningful challengers within his division. But it's better than nothing. Helms has had the belt for months and it's probably time to start thinking about moving it on. This match isn't the time - not enough build-up - but it'd make sense as a starting point for a series of rematches.

Helms wins, and the match will be good.

6. Mike Mizanin v The Boogeyman. Yes, that Mike Mizanin. The one who was in a season of The Real World five years ago and seems to have been doing the rounds of reality TV shows since, including the WWE's own Tough Enough from 2004. Given that he was obviously hired for novelty value, he's actually a lot better than you'd expect. He has natural heel charisma as the most annoying man in the world; wrestling is one of the few professions where this could be considered a boon. He'll be wrestling the Boogeyman, a ridiculous freak character who specialises in eating live worms, and who is arguably the worst wrestler (on a technical level) on national television. There's a good reason why his matches very rarely involve actual wrestling: he's extremely bad at it. Still, this will be a comedy segment, and it'll be fine on that level.

It occurs to me that neither of these guys has actually lost a singles match, so in theory there's an undefeated streak on the line. I'd give the match to Miz, though, because he's worth more to the company in the long run. At least he has a reasonable clue what to do once the bell rings; there's always a role for somebdy like him in the midcard. The Boogeyman is just a novelty act who can't actually wrestle, and his fifteen minutes of fame are probably up.

7. WWE Tag Team Titles: Paul London & Brian Kendrick v. William Regal & Dave Taylor. Announced at the last moment, but they've been building this up for weeks. The veteran English wrestlers Regal and Taylor are obviously being set up as the heels who the plucky champions can't beat, and in any event, London and Kendrick are clearly in the early throes of a break-up angle. (Why? Who could possibly think they're more use to the company separately?) They've had the titles for over six months now, so it's probably time for a change. A question mark hangs over Dave Taylor's health after his surprisingly early return from a recent leg injury, but aside from that reservation, I think a title switch is probably the smart bet here. There ought to be a massive style clash here - high-flying babyfaces versus old-school mat wrestlers - but it's been fine in the matches to date, so I'm expecting this to be good.

Worth buying? Well, if you're a big fan of Undertaker and Kane, yes, because they'll do their schtick at tremendous length, and the rest of the show will be just fine. Me, I can't face sitting through two long matches from that storyline, so I'll let this one slide. If the word is that it's a great show, I might consider getting the replay.