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Sunday, 15 February 2009

No Way Out preview

I, like most wrestling fans, love this time of year. The Royal Rumble is my favourite PPV there is, and who can’t emotionally involved in the build to Wrestlemania, positioned at the biggest show of the year?

It used to be great that there was nothing between the Rumble and Mania, but since the calendar was flooded with PPVs, that is no longer possible.

Until a few years ago, No Way Out was a pain-in-the-backside, somewhat redundant, show which actually trod on the toes of the other two. The Elimination Chamber was used at this event last year in two matches, and apart from the obvious synergy with the title of the Pay Per View being an expression apropos for the situation, it was a good fit.

The John Cena comeback storyline dominated the Rumble and the subsequent show, so the Chambers determining the number one contenders was a reasonable decision.

Having the matches as title encounters is an interesting call, but a plausible one and not one which I have a problem with. Some say that the Smackdown line-up is stronger than Raw, which is a statement I would tend to agree with, but I’d put to you that a match which involved Big Daddy V, Khali, Finlay, MVP, Taker and Batista last year was a belter. No reason that the Raw chamber match won’t be as exciting as that was, even though we probably know the destination of the belt.

There are only five matches on the card, so before I get to those, I’ll try to pinpoint where any other matches or segments can be added.

There is an obvious Raw bias to the card. Aside from it’s chamber match, they also have the high stakes JBL v Shawn Michaels bout and high profile Shane McMahon v Randy Orton encounter. ECW has Swagger v Finlay, while Smackdown isn’t represented other than their main event.

Smackdown is the logical destination for more activity. Neither the US Champion Shelton Benjamin nor Primo and Carlito, the tag champs, are involved at the moment, so perhaps they could find themselves in action.

This is where TNA have a strong suit in their X division, because if they want to add a spectacle to the shoe, they can put a bunch of guys out there and let them have fun. Because the Cruiserweight division is no more, it doesn’t really work for WWE to stick a bunch of guys together. Plus, they have the Money in the Bank, so they may feel they are watering down the concept.

Other potential matches may involve wrestlers who are in line for a certain push. Umaga is not in the chamber, so could potentially be given a chance to beat someone, although obvious contenders are at a premium. Khali, perhaps? It wouldn’t be pretty, but the message of Umaga being a monster would be reinforced.

Mr Kennedy is on his way back, so he may get involved somewhere, and other notable matchless individuals are (in no particular order) Matt Hardy, Christian, CM Punk, William Regal, R-Truth, Mark Henry and Mizorrison.

Here’s a bold suggestion, since I was on the money with them last time – I’ll take a backstage attack by....someone, with the suggestion it’s Matt Hardy, on Jeff Hardy. This would either mean Jeff can’t compete, or more likely that he competes injured, putting paid to another title effort. Another step towards the logical Matt v Jeff match at Wrestlemania.

Jack Swagger v Finlay – ECW Title match
This has to be a strong contender for opening match, and you’d think will feature Christian (just Christian. It’s hard not to write Christian ‘Cage’) in some respect. I think they’d be well served to sit him on commentary if the idea is to have him face the winner. It would allow him to re-ingratiate himself with the audience, give an opportunity to explain the kayfabe reasoning for the return and build some foundation to a feud with either man.

You’d think Swagger wins here. It’s hard to see why they’d give him the belt to have him drop it, and if Christian’s destiny is the ECW title, winning it from Swagger makes more sense. Not that I wouldn’t like to see Christian v Finlay, mind you.

My big problem with Finlay, which I’ve probably stated before, is that as great a wrestler he is, he hasn’t won a match cleanly for about three years. He always has to use the bloody shillelagh, and I really dislike heel tactics being used for a babyface as a regular habit, because it waters down the heat for the heels. Imagine if, for example, Regal started to use brass knuckles again. The commentators would moan about the nefarious tactics, but fans would be thinking about Finlay getting away with using foreign objects too.

Anyway, that aside, I think Swagger will win, and win clean.

Prediction.....err, what I just said.

Shawn Michaels v JBL – “All or nothing”

This has been one of the oddest feuds in recent history. A weak setup and now quite a flimsy, possible blow-off match, but has been punctuated by tremendous promos filled with well-conveyed emotions.

I don’t anticipate a fantastic match here, because watching JBL wrestle isn’t nearly as interesting as listening to him talk. However, expect a well told story with umpteen false finishes. They can afford to play with the ending more because the other three main matches involve different setups, so this the biggest straight up one-on-one wrestling match on the agenda, if you see what I mean.

WWE have a luxury with these guys, because they can take it wherever they want the storyline to go, and not worry about either guy losing momentum. JBL is a gifted orator, and can get his heat back at the drop of a hat. He could lose every week and still get the right reaction. Michaels, meanwhile, is so loved because of his history, he will likely be cheered forever, so could afford to lose also.

I tend to think HBK will triumph, here. I don’t see them having JBL beat him straight up, so unless they have something up their sleeve whereby Bradshaw has an accomplice who can help him win and set up Michaels v Accomplice at Mania, you’d think the babyface has to prevail.

Prediction: Shawn wins, and by this time next week has had an incident with another superstar, building to a big Mania match.

Randy Orton v Shane McMahon – No Holds Barred, Hardcore, Street Fight, No DQ match

Shane only competes in matches where the rules are flung out of the window, so this’ll be however they are currently defining a match in which they can do what they like.

Logically Randy would go over here in a nasty one, but logically Shane wouldn’t be so dominant in the last couple of weeks, either.

I still think Orton will win, but I have an unsettling feeling that he’ll rely on Cody and Ted to help him out. I’m going to be quite non-committal on the details of the match, but I’ll say that after Orton gets his hand raised he contrives to kick Shane in the head....sorry, SKULL, and put him out of commission.

The setup is then there for it to go a couple of ways. One theory that I’ve seen doing the round is that Randy will brag to have rid the WWE of two McMahons, and that Steph’s response will be to unleash her husband, Triple H, as the man to stop Orton. This is logical in a couple of ways. One in the sense that it would recognise the relationship and have Trips stand up for his wife, and also in that Randy has the main event slot at Wrestlemania, and could choose to head to Smackdown and challenge The Game.

I have an alternative one, in the spirit of trying to come up with extra ideas. Try this one.

Orton wins and destroys Shane, then does the aforementioned menacing speech to Steph. He is interrupted by champion John Cena, who defends the honour of the Raw GM. We build to Mania with Orton v Cena, and have Cena beaten down a couple of times by Legacy. Maybe a couple of Raw superstars try to stand aside Cena, like Kofi or Rey, and Legacy take them out.

Randy them threatens Cena on the last Raw before Wrestlemania, and says that he’ll win the belt, and that his backup will help him. “You’re three on one, John, the odds are against you,” Randy will say.

Cena refutes this suggestion, and says that he indeed will have someone in his corner at Wrestlemania. Cue Vinny Mac to return, and the last raw ends with Vince and Cena aligned.

At Mania, a give and take match has the obligatory ref bump, and Mr McMahon steps in to try to revive the official. As he is bent over, Orton gets ready for a big punt. He doesn’t get a chance to, and Vince stands up and gets in Orton’s face. As the two men face off, Cena staggers to his feet. Vince grabs a weapon, and levels the Champ. Ref recovers, Orton covers, and we have a new champion.

Vince’s reasoning for helping Orton could be that when Orton slapped him and realised that Orton had that characteristic that Vince likes: Ruthless Aggression. Leaves things open for a Cena chase of the belt and Vince trying to hold him back. I know it’s been done, but most other stuff isn’t working right now.

Plausible, no?


Prediction: Orton to win, probably not as convincingly as he should do

Raw Elimination Chamber – John Cena (c), Chris Jericho, Kane, Kofi Kingston, Mike Knox, Rey Mysterio.

I’ve not really hidden who I think will win this, but then I don’t think I’m being revolutionary in picking John Cena to retain. I’d go so far as to say the only people who are predicting anyone else are doing so out of either boredom or simply taking a chance that if a shocking swerve happens that they can claim they predicted it.

I’d break out the patented, much sought after McNichol Eliminator, but I don’t want to overuse it. I may use it on the next match. Tell you what, I’ll use the travel version.

Knox, Kofi and Kane won’t win. No-one beginning with K. Outside chance of Mysterio, but frankly very, very unlikely.

Chris Jericho is the only real candidate, but with his Wrestlemania future looking like it will have something to do with Flair, or Mickey Rourke, or some such escapade, he doesn’t need the WWE title for this. Cena, meanwhile, has nothing obvious lined up, and makes more sense as a headliner.

As for the match composition, I’d go with two of John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Kofi Kingston to start the match. Add Jericho at three, and have five minutes of these guys bumping around and having fun. Kane or Knox enter next, and do the monster thing of dominating the smaller three. This takes up most of the time until Cena is next, destroying all and eliminating Kane/Knox. The final monster is introduced last and gets rid of Kofi, evening the babyface and heel quotas. Rey then falls, leaving two heels to beat on Cena. Jericho sneakily rolls up Kane/Knox, and leaving him and Cena. We all know what happens then.

Prediction – Hmm, seems I jumped the gun again. I’m enjoying the fantasy booking, though

Smackdown Elimination Chamber – Edge (c), Big Show, Triple H, Undertaker, Vladimir Koslov, Jeff Hardy.

What’s that? No waffle this time, just get into how you’d book it? Ok, you’re the boss.

We start with Triple H and Koslov. Standard action for five minutes, before Jeff comes in next. Jeff has been selling injuries from an earlier beating, but seems to overcome this to be the star of the match to this point. Show is next, and Jeff takes one chance too many, missing a move and running into a Big Show KO punch. Jeff is history. Big Show dominates, and Taker enters next. The Deadman stands tall, eliminating Koslov as he goes. Triple H, Taker and Show battle while Edge lies in wait. Perhaps accusations of favouritism from JR as Edge has the best draw.

The three in the ring hit big moves on one another, so when Edge enters they are vulnerable. Spear on Show, and the big guy is history. Edge doesn’t leave it there, mocking Show, who forces his way back into the cell with a steel chair. He smashes Edge with it, sending the Rated R Superstar into Takers waiting clutches. A Tombstone later, and Edge is gone.

We are left with Triple H and Undertaker, with the former kicking out of a chokeslam/or reversing a Hells Gate, while Taker survives a Pedigree. Gotta make both look good, haven’t we? Eventually Triple H gets hold of the chair Show left in, and cracks Taker. A cover, but Taker still kicks out. Taker gets back in charge, but somehow Trips engineers a Pedigree on the chair, and finally wins it.

Prediction – Triple H. I don’t see two champions retaining in the Cells, and it strikes me that Cena must do, and therefore this one is the most open for the title to switch. Edge and Show seem to be building something, and it strikes me that they are likely to tangle in some manner at Wrestlemania. I can’t see Koslov winning, and Jeff, as previously discussed, has his issue with Matt. That only leaves Taker or Triple, both with great records in the Cell. The only problem with Triple H winning is where that leaves Undertaker for mania, and vice versa.

Maybe Triple H v Taker at Mania? I’d like to see that, although not for the belt, since Taker’s streak v someone’s title has been the theme of the last two years.

Anyway, we’ll soon see. I’m really looking forward to this show, and hope you are too.

Don’t forget, live coverage will take place on this here blog, with my continuing updates keeping you posted on the action, as well as offering my opinions and predictions. Those that followed live last month will recall that I called the Matt Hardy turn during the show, down to very close detail. Maybe I’ll be equally prescient tonight.

Hope to see you during the show – you can join in the blog by emailing me at robthegreen at hotmail dot com.

Enjoy No Way Out


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