Saturday, May 31, 2008

One Night Stand 2008

Yes, a mere two weeks after the last PPV, it's time for another one. One Night Stand is an odd show. It stated life in 2005 as a one-off tribute to ECW, the influential cult indie promotion. In 2006, it was used as a springboard to launch the WWE's own version of ECW, which turned out to be a half-hearted mess.

By the end of that year it had become embarrassingly clear that the new ECW would not be able to sustain its own pay-per-views. But One Night Stand 2007 was already on the schedule, and so the WWE ran a show entirely composed of what they hand-wavingly labelled "extreme rules matches" - i.e., gimmick matches. Placing it two weeks after a regular WWE show might have made some sense if it was a completely distinct ECW show, but in the event, it was just a weird oddity.

And now, here we are again - apparently for no reason, other than that somebody forgot to take it off the schedule. The WWE certainly can't seem to work up that much enthusiasm for it; the main event segment on Monday's episode of Raw was given over to telling us that (a) they're going to give away some money to boost the ratings, and (b) the rosters will be reshuffled... in a month. Mentally, they've already moved on to the next show (Night of Champions, at the end of June).

But hey, it's on Sunday, and it's on Sky Sports 3 in the UK, so let's look at the card.

1. WWE Title, Last Man Standing: Triple H v. Randy Orton. This is a rematch from two weeks ago. If that match had ended inconclusively, then this might make sense, but in fact Triple H just won the match cleanly. So Orton is getting a rematch because... er, well, because there wasn't enough time to set up any other challengers, really. But even then, they shouldn't have done such a decisive ending in the previous match.

It's often said that one of the problems with Triple H is that - as the boss's son-in-law - he books his character to be ridiculously strong. There's certainly no sense that Orton, or anyone else on the roster, poses the slightest legitimate threat to his continued reign as champion. Now, this sometimes works. The Undertaker has made a career out of being essentially invincible. But usually, matches work better if there's a realistic possibility that the good guy could lose. His actual matches are fine, but the storylines suck the life out of them.

On paper, the idea here is that a Last Man Standing match (i.e., victory by knockout only) favours Orton, because he won an LMS match against Triple H back at No Mercy 2007. In theory that's fine, but in reality it doesn't work because Triple H is apparently invincible. Oh well.

It'll be an okay match, and Triple H will win.

2. World Heavyweight Title, TLC Match: The Undertaker v. Edge. This is the fourth consecutive PPV where Undertaker and Edge have fought over the Smackdown world title, and it's really time to draw a line under it. The title is still technically vacant, as the previous match ended with a count-out, but that's really academic. This time round, they're going for the little-used and TLC Match ("Tables, Ladders & Chairs"), which is basically a ladder match with added weapons, and if you ask me, probably more trouble than it's worth for a D-list show such as One Night Stand.

There's also a stipulation that if Undertaker doesn't win the title, he's leaving the WWE. So, unless they've got some weird long-term story in mind, he's winning the title - perhaps leaving the way clear for Edge to jump to Raw and face some fresh opponents there.

Actually, I suspect this should be a pretty good match. It's wasted on a show like this, though.

3. Singapore Cane match: The Big Show v. John Morrison v. Tommy Dreamer v. C.M. Punk v. Chavo Guerrero. Winner gets a shot at the ECW Title at Night of Champions. Interestingly, the ECW Title isn't being defended on this show. I applaud this move; they have three world titles and there's no reason why they should all be defended on every single show. The winner will get four weeks to build up to a match against Kane, and there's the outside possibility that by that time, somebody might care.

A Singapore Cane match is just a normal match, except with an added kendo stick. Most of these guys are actually pretty good, so on paper it could be decent. Midcard wrestler Tommy Dreamer sticks out like a sore thumb, admittedly. He's there because the premise is that all the former ECW Champions are competing for the title shot, and Dreamer held the belt way back in the 1990s. So expect him to take a vicious beating in order to save the more senior wrestlers from having to do it.

The winner is tough to call. Kane is a babyface, so logically you'd expect his challenger to be a heel. That would be Chavo or John Morrison. But we've seen Kane and Chavo several times before. Morrison has possibilities, but he's still co-holder of the tag titles. Big Show/Kane isn't a particularly enticing match, but they're both very large, so the WWE might go for it anyway. Dreamer isn't winning in a million years. If CM Punk wins, then it's a storyline leading to a heel turn. I'm going with Morrison, who would at least be something fresh.

4. First Blood Match: John Cena v. JBL. Marooned on the fringes of the main event, John Cena finds himself wrestling JBL for the second show in a row. First Blood matches (first person to bleed loses) are usually pretty dire, since it's hard to tease a finish. And if you accidentally cut somebody for real, well, you're screwed. In fact, if you think about it for a moment, a First Blood match is actually significantly less extreme than a normal match, since those regularly continue with everyone bleeding freely. So what we have here is... a match which you can only win on a blood stoppage technicality. Oh, hold me back.

I suppose Cena should probably win to try and rebuild his fading aura, but frankly, I don't care.

5. Stretcher Match: Shawn Michaels v. Batista. A match which makes a degree of sense, but should still be hampered by the gimmick. The basic idea is that Shawn beat Batista at Backlash (two shows ago) by faking an injury, so Batista wants revenge. Nice, simple, straightforward. And so they're going to do a Stretcher Match, another gimmick which looks superficially good on paper, but usually doesn't amount to much.

A Stretcher Match is meant to sound as though the loser is going to be beaten so badly that he will have to be removed from the arena by the medics. In fact, the rules of a Stretcher Match are that the winner is the first person to put his opponent on a wheeled ambulance stretcher, and push it over a finishing line. So if you've ever wanted to see main event wrestlers fighting over a portable bed, this is your chance.

Floating around the edge of this storyline is Chris Jericho, who seems to be going steadily mad. He isn't booked anywhere else on the card, so I'm assuming he gets involved somewhere here to continue the story. (Although quite how they do that is another matter; Night of Champions is supposed to have every champion defending their belt, and it's hard to imagine Jericho defending his mid-card Intercontinental Title in a three-way against Shawn Michaels and Batista.)

Who wins? Er... it's a stretcher match, I don't honestly care. Batista, probably.

6. Falls Count Anywhere: Jeff Hardy v. Umaga. This is the second show running to be loaded with Raw matches, no doubt because they've got by far the better roster at the moment. The upcoming reshuffle ought to balance things out. Anyway, here are a couple of upper midcard Raw guys who should have a pretty good match without much story. Umaga used to be an unstoppable monster, but he's faded into being just an above average villain. He's supposedly being sent to Smackdown in the draft (a smart move), so conventional wrestling wisdom says that Hardy, the babyface, should beat him on his way out. Mind you, the draft's a few weeks away, so they could always have Umaga win here and give Hardy the rematch on free TV.

7. I Quit Match: Beth Phoenix v. Melina. For once, a women's match that doesn't feature the champion, Mickie James. Technically this is heel/heel, but Melina is obviously in the course of turning babyface to help balance out the roster. At the moment, it's far too heavy on villains, and they have nobody to fight. It's a bit silly to have an "I Quit" match on the undercard; the whole premise is based on beating the opponent into submission, and that ought to take a bit longer than the ten minute timeslot they'll probably get (including entrances). Theoretically you could always win one of these matches by submission, but for some reason nobody ever does.

Beth should probably win here; she's supposed to be a dominant wrestler, and I can't see the sense in having her lose an undercard I Quit match to an ex-valet. On the other hand, Melina ought to have momentum as she continues her babyface turn... but I think it'll be easier to rebuild Melina after a defeat.

Worth buying? Um... probably not, unless you particularly want to see the Undertaker/Edge match. The rest is okay, for the most part, but it's dragged down by some ill-advised gimmicks, and some of the pairings are way too familiar. This is a schedule-filler, and they'd have been better off not bothering with it.