Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Monday, November 16, 2009

Flying Under the Radar: SLL Pimps the Unpimped

Every now and then, I like to at least try to actually contribute something to this blog. With the Segunda Caida 500 officially announced, I am now watching a shit-ton of wrestling trying to make myself a valuable member of the team, so I thought I could use that as an excuse to create content.

Basically, it occurs to me that Goldust is apparently having this awesome year of work, but the only thing that really gets talked up is the Seamus feud. I mean, it is kinda incredible that Dustin would just roll into ECW and turn a random midcard feud with a green FCW alumnus into something epic. You watch it and you know that Goldust in '09 is the real deal, but that by itself probably doesn't translate to a guy who will likely land in the top 20 of the 500. You have to dig a little deeper than that. Phil does his part with the Fab Five WWE Matches of the Week, but I figure it wouldn't hurt to have one more guy digging up rad matches that no one else is really talking about.

John Cena vs. Chris Jericho - WWE 2/2

Cena is right up there with the best workers in the WWE this year. He is still a guy who eats a beating spectacularly and makes great babyface comebacks, but he's made real strides with his offense in 2009. No big additions to his arsenal, but his brawling looks so much better now, and he can actually carry a match on offense as a result. Guy who used to do his best work against monsters who would beat the shit out of him, and can still do that as the awesome Big Show feud proved, but now also looks really at home in matches with dudes like Michaels and Jericho where he is beating the shit out of them. Cena rushes the ring and is just absolutely pummeling Jericho. He always had good wild haymakers, but now he's throwing big overhand blows, some nice shots to the face, and a lot of great body shots, which not a lot of other wrestlers use. He gets backed off by the ref, which allows Jericho to charge out of the corner and blast him with a forearm in the back of the head. Then Jericho does this great bit where he pulls Cena's shirt over his head and beats on him like a hockey fight. First half of the match is all about these two just wailing on each other. Second half is more like your classic Cena match, as Cena eats a nice back-first bump into the announce table and now has to work from underneath, but even here it feels a lot more evenly contested, with both guys finding counters and escapes for stuff and neither man holding an advantage for very long. Cena finally manages a nifty counter of the Walls of Jericho into the STF to get the win, and I guess one could question the booking wisdom of giving Cena the win in a non-title match leading up to the Elimination Chamber title defense that Jericho was in, but fuck it. I'm starting to think Cena's '09 may be almost as good as his '07.

The Undertaker vs. John Bradshaw Layfield - WWE 3/20

Kinda weird that the main event of Smackdown's 500th episode special goes overlooked. Well, main event was an angle with Cena, Edge, and Show, but whatever. I guess I was just the only one who liked it, in which case the rest of the world has shitty taste in wrestling. This is a match between two old guys who are really good at punching people in the face, and it is built around them punching each other in the face. JBL hits the ring, IC Title in hand, holds it up defiantly in front of The Undertaker, and Taker socks him. Punches the shit out of him all over the ring until JBL manages to land a shot of his own, and starts knocking Taker across the ring. I think the first time it really occured to me how great JBL was and that he wasn't just an Eddie creation was a match he had in 2005 with Taker. Undertaker was a guy who worked a lot of feuds with people who would cut promos about how they weren't scared of him, how his mind games wouldn't work on them, but in the end they always were scared. JBL was the first guy I saw say he wasn't afraid of The Undertaker and then have a match where he actually wasn't afraid of The Undertaker, and spent most of the match on the offensive, which was especially surprising since he had been booked as a guy who worked cowardly heel against faces half his size. JBL still isn't scared, and he takes nasty shots at The Undertaker every time he gets an opening. There is also a lot of stuff with JBL working over Taker's leg after he dodges a big boot on the outside and Taker gets hung up on the security wall. Despite being off TV for much of the year, '09 has seen Taker undergo a bit of an interesting transformation as a worker. Apparently there was a plan to bring up Hade Vansen - a British FCW cruiserweight working a "Fallen Angel" gimmick - and put him into a feud with Taker for Mania this year. Vansen got released, so obviously it never happened, but it still seemed to get the idea into Taker's head that he would have to figure out a way to work big matches against small opponents. The result is that he now will have matches against guys like CM Punk and Shelton Benjamin where he is still presented as this big scary asskicker, but where his seemingly overmatched opponents will put up a game fight against him, and where he will allow himself to show some degree of weakness to get them over as credible threats. JBL isn't exactly Punk or Benjamin, but we see here that Taker's change in style has been carried into other matches as JBL works over his leg. Since when does Taker do body part selling? Well, he does it now, and he does it pretty consistently through the rest of the match. Yeah, he still does the snake eyes/big boot/leg drop combo, but he is limping to the corner to deliver the snake eyes, he loses his balance and staggers into the ropes after the big boot, and he comes off the ropes slowly to deliver a leg drop that doesn't get much height. We see he's beatable. Indeed, the previously dopey Devil's Gate now becomes useful as a flash submission to get Taker out of a jam in several matches, including this one. JBL doesn't instatap like people usually do, but on a certain level, that seems fitting. This will, after all, probably be JBL's last great match, and it felt right that he didn't go down easy.

John Morrison & Cryme Tyme vs. The World's Greatest Tag Team & Ricky Ortiz - WWE 5/22

Going into this year, this is not a match I would have been particularly excited about. But 21st century WWE may be the most schizophrenic wrestling promotion ever. They will make moves almost completely at random, and the guy who is brilliant one week will be completely overhauled the next for no real reason at all and re-emerge as something you no longer want to see. The opposite can happen to, and for equally flimsy reasons. In December '08, John Morrison is an awesome heel who works stiff and has a lot of nifty highspots, Cryme Tyme has developed into a perfectly fine tag team with JTG looking actively good and Shad being passable, Benjamin is pretty much useless outside of Money in the Bank matches but gets fawned over because of his track and field skills and superfluous workrate matches, Haas is working a gimmick based around impersonating other wrestlers that is not particularly funny and doesn't make him any better in the ring but does at least get the crowd to respond to him for the first time in his life, and Ortiz is a babyface who is not completely terrible in the ring but is so douchey and unlikable that you have no desire to watch him. Fast forward to May 22, 2009. Morrison was turned face and started working pretty loose, though the highspots remain nifty. Cryme Tyme is still a perfectly fine tag team, but JTG has slipped and Shad has stepped up to become a real solid hand, really holding the team together. Benjamin had by far the most bizarre transformation. After spending much of his run going in and out of the doghouse because of his failure to live up to his potential, he was suddenly declared by the powers that be to be a great wrestler, without really changing anything about his work at all. Not only that, but MVP - who was really over as a heel and was consistently delivering big in the ring - was thrown in the doghouse because he now didn't know how to work despite being pretty much exactly the kind of wrestler that the WWE loves (except black), and that he should be more like Benjamin, the kind of charisma-free workrate-for-workrate's sake wrestler that the WWE always hated. MVP made it out the other side as a babyface, with his charisma intact and his talent semi-intact, but he's never really been the same since. But the insane kicker to all of this is that somewhere near the end of MVP's fall from grace, Benjamin - who had been ordained as a great worker that others should aspire to be like - completely changed up his game. He dropped the pointless athletics, he developed an actual personality, he even learned to throw a punch, for God's sake! He is not as good as MVP once was, nor is MVP as bad as Benjamin was, but they came pretty close to swapping places, and Benjamin is now a guy I enjoy watching. I still don't get much from Haas, who dropped the impersonations bit and went back to being the dry Benjamin tag partner that he was being routinely mocked for in the first place. And while Ricky O's douchebaggery made him unwatchable as a face, somebody had the decent sense to turn him heel. Everything that made you hate him as a face now makes you love him as a heel, and he is probably the star of this match. Then he got fired. Whatever. This is a really cool match featuring six guys at really weird intersections of their careers in 2009.

John Morrison vs. Umaga - WWE 5/29

I kinda feel for Umaga. Not so much in regards to him getting canned. He really dug his own hole on that one. Just his career arc in general. He had this huge, year-long undefeated streak that effectively established him as an unstoppable monster. It culminated in a pair of matches where he got to beat the shit out of John Cena, and then a match that was realistically the main event of the biggest card in professional wrestling history where he got to beat the shit out of Bobby Lashley and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. And then...that was kinda it. I mean, I guess you have nowhere to go but down from there, but they really did kind of a mediocre job of sidedraining him after those feuds, sorta leaving him in that Kane status of "you must be able to beat this man in order to be a main eventer". I mention all of this because one of the reasons I continue to defend the brand split is that it creates an easy mechanism to sidedrain guys, almost replicating the territorial system of days gone by where a wrestler could come in, run his big angles, and then head somewhere else before he wears out his welcome. After Mania 23, they had three opportunities to use this mechanism with Umaga, and they waited for the very last one, at which point he only had two months left before he got busted for the final time, and I question their decision to wait so long to pull the trigger on that one. I realize this is an oversimplification of the situation. It was a decision effected in large part by a lot of other questionable booking decisions, and if we were to take a look at all the questionable booking decisions made by the WWE over the last few years, we'd be here all month. But it's regrettable that there are two years worth of Umaga/Rey and Umaga/Taker matches that we never got. The last few months of Umaga's WWE run are our consolation prize. This is basically a one-man show. Umaga is forced to sell Morrison's dainty offense - and when you're up against Umaga, you really get to see just how dainty the offense is - early on, but Umaga comes back strong with an eye-popping military press into a Samoan drop and dominates the rest of the match. There's also some nerve-lockery here, and while I'm not opposed to nerveholds, they are kinda dependent on how they are sold, and Morrison is not really up to task. Still, Umaga is a guy who delivers a hell of a beating, and the one he delivers here is enough to sell me on this match. The post-match beatdown with the Samoan Strap is great and CM Punk running in for the save is a lot of fun, too.


Blogger Brian said...

glad to see a new post, SLL.. - you have a good sense of storytelling in wrestling and it makes for an engaging read..

12:34 PM  
Anonymous IM said...

The section on Benjamin was a real good read, your the first person who's been able to put into words what happened to MVP. The first time I saw Shelton Benjamin seem good at something other than "JUMPING REAL FAR" was during that rad 3 way fued on Smackdown! between Chavo Guerrero, Shelton and MVP (Sometimes featuring R-Truth) there was a handicap match where Shelton looked like he was in the same class of wrestler as Chavo and MVP.

It's a shame WWE went all schizo and decided MVP and Shelton should be in the MITB rather than give us the 3 way they'd been building to, at Mania.

Did Umaga go to Smackdown! this year? or was it the Draft prior, I just remember him doing nothing on whatever show he was on and then beating the shit out of CM Punk for a couple fun months

9:01 PM  
Blogger S.L.L. said...

Umaga going to Smackdown was this year.

1:12 PM  

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