Watch your fucking language.I don’t usually cuss in columns. But it was fucking incredible.
It’s early days, but I think we may have just witnessed the two television matches of the year in a single night, a fact made even more impressive by the fact that Sheamus and Christian’s match with The Real Americans from last week’s Raw and Cesaro’s defeat of Randy Orton from Friday’s Smackdown were special bouts in their own right. As soon as Kane distracted Bryan for a distinctly heelish sneak attack from a pumped up Christian with a point to prove, something special was in the offing. The Canadian has, for me, always worked best as a heel, wrestled best as a heel actually, and this was no exception. The force and intent with which he swung D-Bry into the barrier was eye watering, and had the crowd turning on him in no time. There aren’t many performers who could pull off an out of nowhere heel turn like that, but Captain Charisma is certainly one of them.
As the bell rang, Christian immediately began to work the arm, an obvious psychological touch perhaps, but certainly one I appreciated. Equally impressive was the story they managed to weave through the early going of the match; brief Bryan rallies being disrupted by a wily veteran, for example the exquisitely timed open right hand which stopped a suicide dive dead in its tracks. One should also consider the American Dragon’s selling which was absolutely first rate throughout; hearing his anguished yell as Christian came off the ropes with a simple shoulder tackle demonstrated to all of us the commitment Bryan has for his craft. Ultimately, it is attention to detail that matters in suspending audience disbelief, and these two men gave a masterclass in cinema verité last night. Notice how Goat Face’s half crab reversal was halted by Captain Charisma kicking out at the injured arm; now that’s how to make a match look legitimate. Look closely also at the determined, focused expression on the Canadian’s face, at the way he wrestled the match more slowly and deliberately than he would have done if he were portraying a babyface, at the wince inducing impact of the tornado arm trap DDT off the second rope, the focus again on that arm…incidentally the arm needed for his opponent’s YES Lock finisher.
When the match finally began to turn in the bearded one’s favour, we got to see an expert tutorial in how to work a hot babyface comeback, from the high octane clotheslines to the stiff kicks that got the crowd chanting “YES” and yet as this rally progressed, Bryan never forgot to sell the arm, even to the extent of only extending one arm in his trademark pose when he ascended the top turnbuckle. In a spot which had me fondly reminiscing about the golden days of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura berating wrestlers for “taking too long” and praising prone opponents for “playing possum”, Christian got the knees up on the splash attempt, again reminding us of his veteran smarts, and perhaps of Bryan’s hot headed risk taking. The three dimensional nature of both characters is well worth keeping in mind as you watch the match, which ended in thrilling fashion with a series of reversals (always a strong part of Captain Charisma’s ring game) that resulted in a roll up finish right out of Bret Hart’s mid 90s playbook. If you want to see great technical wrestling on television, and why that style of match is the ultimate pleasure for a discerning fan, have another look at Raw’s opening bout. Just brilliant, and even more so because it tied into all the plot lines heading into Sunday.
With the bar set that high, one could have forgiven Cena and Cesaro for being slightly trepidatious about matching that kind of quality, but lo and behold they went out there and cleared that bar by several inches. A year ago almost to the day, CM Punk and John Cena went out on Monday Night Raw and tore the house down in an instant classic. Last night’s second hour stormer belongs in the same bracket. I’ve had an inkling for a while now that the Franchise Player and the Swiss destroyer would turn out to have excellent chemistry and I’m pleased to say that the hunch proved correct. From the opening bell, Cesaro is all over Cena, not giving him a moment’s peace, going for roll ups, backing him into the corner, showing him in kayfabe terms that he is not one of these wrestlers Cena can just out power; in fact, the Real American is stronger and has great technical proficiency too, a fact immediately given credence by the distinctly old school arm ringer that somewhat reminded me of Jake Roberts in his pomp. Cena’s response was to go for some chain wrestling of his own, but unlike a lot of matches involving the company’s top star, there was no sense of contrivance about it; he was fighting throwback fire with fire, before gaining separation and hitting some more typically “Cena” offense.
However, if any casual observer were thinking that the senior athlete had an advantage in the explosiveness game, Cesaro takes the next ten minutes to dispel any such assumptions. Put simply, his strength is like nothing human, and the moves he puts together with that power are crisp, eye catching and crucially, look like they hurt. The brutally hard Irish whip to the buckle is designed in kayfabe to soften up the back, which Cesaro then assaults mercilessly. The fall away slam into a bridging cover had me jumping out of my seat, but the dead lift gutwrench and dead lift superplex from the apron over the ropes to the canvas were both genuine “make inarticulate sounds at the TV” moves. Given a showcase environment, Cesaro grabbed the chance to show what he could do in both the Orton match and this one. That bodes extremely well for his future, as I believe such “clutch players” are highly valued by top brass, particularly when they work a heel gimmick well, as the Swiss is beginning to under Colter’s tutelage. When you look at the up and comer’s ring style, you see elements of Regal, Angle, Benoit and even DiBiase, and that is exalted company to be in, particularly when top guys like Orton and Cena are selling and bumping for him.
That’s right dear reader, the somewhat maligned Franchise Player showed last night that when called upon to make an opponent look great, he can do a stand up job. I’m not denying that he’s failed at this task in the past, but last night, he played a crucial role in making his opponent seem a threat, and not in the “slow paced beat down but Cena wins” way that he is often called out for, either. This was a fast paced, competitive, back and forth affair between two powerhouses and its presentation was every bit as convincing and legitimate looking as the earlier bout between Daniel Bryan and Christian. Yes, Cena’s famed “resilience” was sold on commentary, but not to the detriment of Cesaro getting over. The famed adage of Paul Heyman “one guy goes over, the other gets over” was never more true for me than last night. This was particularly evident in the way Cesaro, like Punk in his matches with the company poster boy, often cut off signature passages of Cena offense with a reversal. I’m aware that some aren’t fond of Cena pulling out reversals to prove he can work, but I thought it meshed brilliantly in the context of what he and Cesaro were trying to achieve. The back and forth nature of the contest had been established from the beginning and was written through it as if it were a stick of rock. Seeing Cesaro hit his insane elevated European uppercut flush on the chin of his opponent only to see him kick out was a great use of the near fall, and the giant swing, when it inevitably came, had the crowd eating out of their hands. With their audience hyped to such an extent, the finish could not afford to be lacklustre, and like the previous match I discussed, the performers in this one came up with a beauty, involving a counter out of the AA and a big boot to the face from Cesaro, who then ran into a clothesline even JBL could be proud of and then a roll through dead lift AA for the three count.
I don’t usually cuss in columns. But it was fucking incredible.
These two feature matches encapsulate everything that is wonderful about professional wrestling. Like the bouts discussed by my esteemed colleagues in the art of the match review, they told magnificent stories, involved no little physical sacrifice and came across as entirely convincing to the extent that it was rather easy to suspend disbelief and live with them within the moment. If Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown continue to gift us free to air matches of that quality, we’re in for a hell of a year.
Last edited by Maverick; 02-18-2014 at 04:40 PM.
Watch your fucking language.I don’t usually cuss in columns. But it was fucking incredible.
Great column Maverick and they was both great matches.
If given 5 more minutes or so I think Christian v Bryan (who, if people was to say are the two best in ring workers in the company would hear no arguments from me) could've not only been a TV match of the year, but a match of the year full stop contender. It's so rare to see psychologically used in a WWE match these days, it's refreshing when it does happen.
Cesaro and Cena then had Cena's best match since Summerslam with some amazing spots. The deadlift was awesome (even though I have a suspicious when Cesaro knocked Cena all the way to the floor just before was a blown spot because of how dangerous the bump was), and Cena did prove he can have can allow midcarders to look competitive when he wants too (although the promo at the start of the show Cena informed Cesaro he wasn't on the level of anyone in the rest of the match).
I really hope they can capitalise on Cesaro's momentum he built from the matches with Cena and Orton. While we all know he's not going to win at Elimination Chamber, let's hope he's allowed to look great though. He could well be pushed onto the backburner after the Chamber, with the likes of Taker, Lesnar and Hogan taking staring roles and WWE network advertisements taking up a lot of TV time, the timing is either great or a disaster, but I hope he at least gets a decent length match at Mania, or get's a Wrestlemania moment (could he Cesaro giant swing Big Show? Will he have something to do with Hogan?). I remember a lot saying Sandow's match with Cena was a launching pad but he was jobbing to Santino within a couple of weeks and hasn't stopped jobbing since, and if Cesaro is used to put other over who do have more significant Wrestlemania roles, it will be another missed opportunity.
Wow Maverick, awesome column, and so timely written as well. I always appreciate Raw reviews that are quick on the draw.
After I saw the Raw results, I went to see the Cesaro match. It was incredible. I knew the result and even how Cena would have won, but the action still managed to pull me in, due to the way both men pull off incredible moves and sell the offenses on display. Cena's roll over deadlift into the AA was incredible. Cesaro's super megaplex got me “making inarticulate sounds at the TV”. As you said, the reversals were poetry in motion, and reminded me of the Punk’s match last year. If Cesaro continues to bring it, he will be a major player in the rest of 2014. His style, a mix of very fluid chain-wrestling and powerhouse moves, is unique in the landscape of WWE. The only wrestler in past times that can fit this mould, as far as I can remember, would be Brock Lesnar.
On the other hand, Cena deserved the praises. He has been performing on a high level in terms of in-ring work for the past few years. Though he is no Angle or Bret, he is still very competent in bring out the best in some wrestlers such as Bryan, Punk and Cesaro. He deserves more credit. More importantly, Cena hasn't been hogging the limelight for some time now, with mainevent slots on Raw usually going to Randy, Bryan, Shield or Wyatts. In a way, I believe his career is winding down all so slowly, and this is a great transition time for him to stop carrying the company fully on his shoulders.
Reading your play by play just replayed the full match vividly in my head. Great job. Hope to see more from you!
Mav- Very enjoyable read here. The play by play of the match, mixed with your reactions were perfect. I also want to point out to the Cena naysayers that he has put over Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Cesaro in the past 2 years. Not many faces of a generation can claim such generosity. In a sport that requires extreme levels of ego to be on top, he has been starting to pay it forward.
Both matches as you said, were fantastic. The Cesaro vs. Orton match was also fantastic. Some great wrestling going on at present time! I hope they can capitalize on Cesaro's momentum. For a while now I have seen him as being able to succeed where Del Rio fails, and Cesaro is great in-ring as well. I think he could be that top level heel.
Good stuff Mav
The mighty Sidgwick. I rather like that!
I rather liked this, too, because it compelled me to watch Cesaro vs. Cena earlier than scheduled. I’d planned to watch RAW this Sunday, as I have ‘Mania XIV to revisit, but I couldn’t help but hoy this match on after reading your review. And what a match it was. I don’t mean to reduce it to the bare bones, because it wasn’t a mere spot-fest, or use awful “net” language, because I hate it, but:
THOSE SPOTS THO!
I think my favourite of the bunch was the dead lift superplex. I don’t usually cuss in my feedback, but it was fucking incredible.
I laughed at the “make inarticulate sounds at the TV” line because I did the exact same thing at the European uppercut spot, which proves beyond doubt that botches can add to drama as well as detract from it. Let’s call it a happy accident. I think my noise went something like “BLOH?”
If I have one complaint about the match, it’s that they could have slowed down just a touch. It wasn’t so quick that plausibility was stretched, but I felt that slowing things down slightly, or shaving three minutes from the run time, may have added a shade more realism. Minor complaint, though. I can’t not fault a Cena match!
Factoring in your MP work – which I hope others do because you’ve been quietly very prolific – you’ve been on fire since the DBC exit.
You didn't even mention The Big Show!
Great write-up. I didn't love the Bryan/Christian match as much as you did, and the roll-up at the end reminded me of Owen winning the I-C Title from Rocky Miavia, rather than anything his brother did, but it was certainly enjoyable and set up the real point of the whole contest--Kane trying to stop DB from competing in/winning EC. The Cesaro/Cena match was incredible. I already thought Cesaro was terrific, but he's growing in my eyes seemingly on a weekly basis and already has two of the best matches of 2014. This match, to me, was Cena really putting Cesaro over. I felt the way about this match that a lot of people (wrongly in my view) felt about the Sandow match. That dead-lift powerplex was amazing, as was the finish. Great work by these two and by you.
You're absolutely right - Cesaro vs. Cena completely overshadowed Christian vs. Bryan, which is a real shame. As many people pointed out on Twitter, Captain Charisma wasted no time adapting to a new heel role. Unlike guys who have been heels for months/years, in one match Christian did stuff to make you actually want to boo him (the mocking of the 'Yes' chant, the brutality, etc.). Why should we boo guys like Fandango, Sandow, or Rybaxel, who don't do anything heelish other than talk smack during their matches? That's why a lot of midcarders are lost nowadays - they don't act like villains. WWE assumes the crowd will boo them because they're facing a fan favourite. Lazy booking, really.
Good stuff, Mavs.
Interesting! The parts of RAW I enjoyed most, and by a wide margin, was virtually everything done by the members of the Shield and the members of the Wyatt Family. Reigns' match with Henry, Ambrose's attack of Henry post-match, Rollins' continued peacemaking without treading anywhere near wimp-land (which peacemakers often are vulnerable to!), Wyatt's "if you're not ready to die" promo, Rowan's simple "Run!", Harper being Harper, their final chaotic battle with the Chamber contestants - love, love, loved it all. I haven't been as excited for a PPV match as I am for Shield/Wyatts since probably 2010.
Anyways, I just find it interesting that you and I find different highlights from the show - though I did enjoy the two matches you've described, and forgive me if I'm assuming incorrectly, but I'd guess you did enjoy the Shield/Wyatts parts I described, far less eloquently. I think it might just be a small indicator of our fandom types. I'm probably a little bit less of a purist wrestling fan than you are.
Great column, though. Christian's heel turn was unexpected and wonderful.
Watched Raw today, and shit that match between Cena and Cesaro was fucking brilliant! Apart from the sports that you mentioned, there were other amazing moves, too. Cesaro's running uppercut that sent Cena crashing to the floor, Cena countering the Swing with a DDT; he even countered it into a STF once. Just pure badassery! But that deadlift superplex by Cesaro completely owned! I mean, even after having read the results, the reactions by many, including yourself, I couldn't stop myself from saying 'Holy Shit!' out aloud. I even chanted with the crowd's 'This is awesome!', that was the magic of the match. Even Zeb did his part when he told the crowd to shut up when they were chanting for Cena. A Match of the Year contender for sure. If they can continue 2013's momentum, where we got a MOTY contender almost every month, we are sure in for a treat this year as well. We already have two deserving ones in two consecutive months. What else can outdo them?
A very impassionate column, Mav. This certainly channeled your excitement. Good stuff!
Director of Operations- I got two words for ya...
BFB- I'd definitely agree that it was Cena's best match since Summerslam. I might even rate it a little higher for him personally as he wasn't encumbered by a bad arm in this one. Would need to revisit the Bryan/Cena match first before I definitively decided. I'm glad you liked Christian/Bryan as much as I did. As a massive fan of Captain Charisma, I'm pleased to see WWE using him in the role he should be, that is, tenured veteran who can put on stellar matches week to week. The heel turn will help him achieve that even better! Cesaro is getting a hefty push right now and the way he's performing, he may end up actually supplanting somebody in the 'Mania plans. Something like a Sheamus/Cesaro midcard match would not surprise me at all, and it would be a great way to spend ten to twelve minutes. I don't think he'll have the ball dropped on him like Sandow. If he can continue to develop as a personality as well as a wrestler, his future looks very bright. Thanks for the read and feed!
JWG- It wasn't a Raw review as such, more an expression of what I liked about those two barn burners! But thanks for the kind words. Cesaro, to me, makes me think of Kurt Angle. The pure wrestling, the strength for a man his size, the development of character, the ability to lock up with ANYONE and have a good match. Angle is the man he should aspire to follow, for me. I can see the Lesnar comparison to an extent, but Brock's size was as much of a draw as his skill. The other obvious comparison to Cesaro is Regal, particularly around the year 2000. I do think Cena deserves more credit, but then again, he's wrestled plenty of stinkers and buried plenty of opponents on the mic and in the ring, so he has a long way to go before people forgive him for that completely. He is taking steps in the right direction though, for sure. Thanks for the read and feed.
Kleck- I personally have a VERY high opinion of Del Rio, so I would be very careful about calling him a failure. Perhaps his character grew stale too quickly, perhaps his mic work wasn't quite good enough, but the man has consistently put on great matches near the top of the card, so I believe history will view him very favourably. I don't know what wrestling fans want sometimes. The combination of incredible in ring ability and great charisma is extremely rare. That's why someone like Shawn Michaels is held on such a pedestal. But I digress. I do think Cesaro has a decent shot at becoming a semi-regular in the main event. His talent will ensure that he is always involved in matches like the chamber and MITB, plus the odd main event one on one. He may even be involved in more than that. I hope so! Glad you enjoyed the column!
Sidg- You've earned that sobriquet my friend! Your Wrestlemania series is stellar and likely to inspire some 'Mania work from myself. I think it's a testament to how well worked the match was that the spots didn't feel the least bit "spotty"...they were worked into the fabric of the match. Cesaro is an absolute beast and his current run of form promises a great deal for the next year. I personally enjoyed the pace, just as I did with Punk/Cena from a year ago, but I do take your point. Just shows what good conditioning those two have. Batista should watch and learn! I've always thought the odd bit of stiffing/botching helps keep a match "real" and this was a prime example. Glad you enjoyed the column and also that you've been reading ATTITUDE! I've truly loved the opportunity to work with Maz on the MP on a weekly basis and the work we've been doing is something I'm proud of.
Xan- Just to set the record straight, I'm not a Big Show fan or anything...I just thought his acting work in the autumn storyline was superb and I bought into the character change! Never have I said that he's the world's best in-ring worker or anything! I was thinking particularly of Bret's roll up finishes on Perfect and Ramon during KOTR 93 when I made the comparison with D Bry/Christian. Agreed on Cena doing his level best to put Cesaro over; I thought he tried pretty hard with Sandow myself, but Cesaro is more "believable" as a threat to Cena, and a more talented worker, so it came across better. I agree that Cesaro has been in the two best singles matches AND the best tag match so far this year. I look forward with great anticipation to Sunday! Thanks for the kind words mate.
Chrisss- I loved the way Christian pulled off that turn. He is a master of his craft and an incredibly valuable commodity to WWE. Agreed on Rybaxel and company. They seemingly have no clue how to elicit heel heat. Cheers for the read my man.
Skul- Everyone knows of my love and admiration for The Shield and I have enjoyed the build to the match with the Wyatts, but for me, this week was a bit too samey, mirroring almost exactly last week's shenanigans. I also thought that Rowan and Harper's mic contributions were un-necessary and weak. I am pumped for the match though. I'd say that I was somewhere in the middle in terms of enjoying story/in ring aspects. As a Literature graduate and teacher, I am obviously drawn to well told stories, but I also love great, technical, hard hitting matches like the ones we saw on Monday night (well, Tuesday for us Brits) and that was what really stood out this week. It felt like I was experiencing Bret/Perfect at Summerslam '91 all over again and I marked hard for the memory of that. Cheers for the read, as ever, my friend.
Sub- Indeed, if that match doesn't restore your enthusiasm for the product, nothing will! It was definitely TV MOTY stuff, and may well eclipse many PPV matches too. 2013 definitely had a lot of great stuff going on, and 2014 should continue that trend. I'm very optimistic! Cheers for the read sir.
Ya know mate, my intention is to feedback as many columns as I can this year but yours leave me in a quandary. There wasn't really anything to say here for me. The writing was...eh, you know. I agree with a number of the sentiments expressed, but given the hype the Cesaro bout has received I've purposefully saved it until tomorrow when I can watch Raw, SD! and EC (hopefully) uninterrupted. So I can't really comment on the match. I was worried that it would be given undue praise and fall into the bad habit of Cena's matches to be anything but competitive, so it's exciting for it to be verified such a match isn't the case. I look forward to watching it, knowing our tastes, at least for in-ring action, are probably quite similar. I think, going on critical reaction alone, the WWE are desperately trying, and for the most succeeding, to make it up to the fans for Bryan not being in what was already a fantastic Rumble match. Huzzah!
Good stuff, even if I've nothing much to say. Nevertheless, I support your written endeavours always! Even if Sidg gets "mighty" and I get "thoroughly-roasted".... Junior.
Arrive. Write. Leave.
Thanks for the shout out
I said on the radio show this week that the last few weeks of TV have been very entertaining. Typically, I don't factor in the ho-hum, featured TV matches into my weekly entertainment factor, but the two weeks, particularly, have been so heavy on the awesome TV matches that it's been hard not to. The formula that can make the 3 hour show work is to allow young, up-and-coming talent to work with top guys (who they wouldn't be likely to wrestle on PPV for 8-12 months or more) in lengthy bouts. It fills the time more than adequately. Granted, there's still some work to be done, as the show peaked with Cesaro-Cena and the last hour felt like filler until the main-event began and felt like they had run out of ideas with the way that the main-event ended (which, sadly, included giving away the first physical encounter between the six man tag teams).
Why didn't you enter "The Voice"?
LOP Writer since 2004. Former Smackdown, ECW, Raw, and WWE PPV Reviewer. Current LOP Columnist since 2010.
The Doc's first book: "The Wrestlemania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment" on sale for LOP readers. Click here
'Plan- You're a man of high standards, so the fact that you have nothing critical to say is a huge compliment. I thank you sir! You're in for a treat with that match, it truly is an elevation for Cesaro and easily Cena's best performance for a long time. Certainly from a booking point of view, the 'E are doing well with their pairings at the moment. Fingers crossed for that continuing! Cheers for the read and feed my man.
Sidg- That needs to be your user title!
Doc- Agreed, they've hit on a winning formula for me. Put Orton and Cena with guys like Cesaro and Langston and you'll have some great entertainment week to week, with valuable experience for these up and coming main eventers. As for The Voice, well...these CF competitions are fun but very draining. Having been to the business end of the last two to take place, with the final of the DBC only a month before the audition deadline for The Voice, well, let's just say that I needed a break from that environment. Time for some other guys to get some shine. After your assistance this time last year and a whole host of columns since, I am good to go for the MP whenever someone decides it's time for me to come up. My "voice" is pretty well established by now! At this stage, no more coaching is required, so these newer guys can receive the guidance and I'll happily keep writing here until my time comes. As it stands, I am on the MP each week collaborating with Mazza,as well as writing here, so I'm going to be kept busy whatever happens! Thanks for the feed, always, my friend.