Saturday, May 17, 2008

Judgment Day 2008

For once, a PPV that I definitely won't be watching, unless it gets some pretty spectacular reviews. The record function on my Sky+ box packed in last week, so I'm taking the opportunity to upgrade to HD. And that won't be done till Tuesday. If the show gets really spectacular reviews, I might pick it up afterwards, but from the look of this line-up, I'm not holding my breath.

For some reason, this show is overloaded with matches from Raw. They've officially announced six matches, with four from Raw, one from Smackdown, and one from ECW. Although I can't find any mention of it on the WWE's web site, the usual sources say there's a seventh - Mark Henry vs the Big Show - which would be a Smackdown match. But this is still a very Raw-heavy show, perhaps because they've got a lot more star power than the other brands at the moment.

And on one level, there's a lot of big names on this show, up and down the card. But for the most part, they're in combinations we've seen before, or that don't particularly thrill me. Still, let's go through it.

1. WWE Championship, steel cage match: Triple H (c) v. Randy Orton. The Raw world title, in other words. Triple H won the title from Orton at Backlash in a four-way match, also featuring John Cena and JBL. This is Orton's automatic rematch. Or rather, this is Orton's second rematch, because the first one aired on Raw as part of a bizarre angle to push William Regal as the biggest villain on the show. Regal has notionally been "running" Raw for months now, without ever doing anything. But then he won the 2008 King of the Ring tournament, which also aired on Raw, and went stark raving mad.

So the current story is that Regal stalks around the show throwing his weight around and arbitrarily doing weird things, like turning off the lights in the middle of matches, booking people in 2-on-15 handicap matches, or, in this case, ordering the show off air while the match was still going on. (The actual finish was that Regal went out to the arena and stopped the match for no reason, making it a No Contest draw.) And now, equally randomly, he's booked Triple H and Orton in a steel cage match. Why a steel cage match? Just because. There is no reason. I'm going to assume that's because Regal's nuts, rather than because the writers have forgotten that they're supposed to have a reason for gimmick matches.

Anyway, Triple H has been utterly dominant in this feud (as usual), and it's a pretty safe bet that he's not going to lose the title in his first proper defence. The match will be fine, and while there might be some sort of Regal-related shenanigans, you can be pretty sure that it'll actually air.

2. World Heavyweight Title: The Undertaker v. Edge. The Smackdown world title. These two already fought at Wrestlemania, and again at Backlash. Traditionally, by this point they'd be wheeling out the gimmick matches for a bit of variation. But no. Instead we have a circular storyline that doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Deep breath... Undertaker beat Edge for the title at Wrestlemania, using his Unnamed Submission Hold, which the announcers adamantly insist is a mystery to all. It's actually a gogoplata, a little-used MMA submission hold. At Backlash, Undertaker retained the title with the same move. So far, so logical. Then it all gets a bit silly.

Edge's fiancee Vicky Guerrero, the corrupt Smackdown general manager, strips Undertaker of the title, on the grounds that the gogoplata is a chokehold, and chokeholds are against the rules. This is all true, and might have made sense if he hadn't been using the hold for months. Then, Vicky banned the hold for good measure. Yes, the hold that was illegal anyway. Yes, I know.

And then... Then Vicky announced a tournament with the winner facing the Undertaker for the vacant title at Judgment Day. A tournament which she rigged for Edge to win. Now... wouldn't it have been simpler just to say that the tournament was for the vacant title? What's the point of stripping Undertaker if you're going to put him in the next title match anyway?

Normally WWE storylines make passable sense (in their own warped way), but this really is bordering on gibberish. Anyway, it's Undertaker and Edge for the vacant title. They've had good matches so far, and I'm sure this will be at the same standard. Logically, there are two likely endings - either Undertaker wins clean with one of his other finishers, or he uses the gogoplata and gets DQ'd, with the title remaining vacant a little while longer.

3. WWE Tag Team Titles: John Morrison & The Miz v. Kane & CM Punk. This is the token ECW match. Morrison and the Miz (despite being on the ECW roster) have held the Smackdown tag titles since last November, and have developed into a rather good team. Unfortunately, they've been short of decent challengers - they've spent most of this time in a half-hearted feud with low-ranking babyfaces Shannon Moore and Jimmy Wang Yang. It's a shame, because they're good talkers, and could be very entertaining in a higher-profile role. After a shaky start, Morrison has grown into his acid-casualty character; and Miz is continuing to improve in the ring. I would happily see these two remain as champions for a while, but I don't expect it to happen.

Kane is the ECW Champion, and CM Punk still holds the Money in the Bank title shot that he won at Wrestlemania. Since winning that, he's drifted around doing Not Very Much, and generally getting beaten up by midcarders like Chuck Palumbo. This is a very strange way to book somebody who's won a shot at a world title, as they've made it pretty clear that Punk is simply not in the same league as any of the current title holders. I can only assume he's in the course of a slow-burn heel turn, which would actually make sense.

Kane and Punk are a random-looking team, but they've actually teamed up on ECW on-and-off for several months (in matches that evidently left no impact on anyone). I expect this will be a good to average match, and the babyfaces will win to start an oddball title run, and give Punk an excuse to appear on a higher-profile TV show.

There are two other conceivable outcomes. One is that Punk screws up and loses the match, continuing his slow-burn storyline. I would be happy with that. The other is that Punk turns on Kane, lets the bad guys beat him up, and then cashes in his title shot. But I can't see any wrestler wasting that title shot on the D-list ECW Title.

4. WWE Women's Title: Mickie James v. Beth Phoenix v. Melina. The women's division is desperately short on good girls, which is one of the reasons why Mickie has got the title again. This three-way seems to be intended mainly to provide an excuse for heels Beth Phoenix and Melina (who's been on the fringes for months) to squabble with one another. I suspect this means Melina's turning, in order to even out the sides somewhat. The match will be short and okay; I predict Mickie retains after Melina costs Beth the match, setting up a straight Melina/Beth fight down the line.

5. Chris Jericho v. Shawn Michaels. Another strange storyline from Raw. Last month, Shawn Michaels fought Smackdown's Dave Batista. It ended with Michaels apparently suffering a knee injury, but then pulling off a suspiciously good superkick to win. Jericho was the guest referee in that match, presumably to justify his taking an interest in the story - he certainly didn't contribute anything to the match.

Since then, we've had Jericho accusing Shawn of faking the injury, Shawn insisting that he didn't, Jericho being won over, and Shawn then saying "Hey, I was faking after all." And now they're going to fight. Technically both wrestlers are meant to be heroes. The storyline started off with Jericho seeming to be the villain, but as it's moved on, they seem to have decided that it's Shawn. The crowd reaction is going to be very interesting; I'm not sure it's possible to make people boo Shawn Michaels, even if that's the plan. I suspect the crowd might just be confused.

Jericho is the Intercontinental Champion, but there's been no mention of that midcard title being on the line here, and it's plainly beneath Shawn Michaels. So I'm assuming this is a non-title match.

Technically, it'll be a great match with these two involved. The storyline is so bizarre that I'm not even going to try to predict an outcome - although a run-in by Batista is entirely plausible, since he's not doing anything else. To my mind, this is the only thing on the card that really counts as a big draw - it's likely to be good, and there's an interesting story behind it.

6. John Cena v. JBL. Arbitrary pairing of the other two from last month's four-way title match. Cena has been off filming a movie, so the build-up to this has been lacklustre. In his absence, they've been pushing JBL strongly as a bullying villain. Cena could do with a big win, so I assume he's getting it here. The match probably won't be much.

7. Big Show v. Mark Henry. Two very large men hit one another. Big Show seems to be working his way through the villainous giants on Smackdown, which makes some sense, but doesn't allow for especially good matches. This isn't the best use of him. Big Show will win - unless, please god no, they're planning a long-term feud - and the match won't be much to write home about.

Worth buying? Meh. Jericho/Michaels looks good. The rest of the card... well, there's some technically sound stuff on there, but the storylines aren't very inspiring, and I can't fathom why they're doing Undertaker/Edge for the third month running. I can't say I'm losing much sleep about missing this show.