Wednesday, 23 July 2008

WWE The Great American Bash on Sky Sports - TV Review

It’s time for the three WWE brands to engage in their monthly get together on pay-per-view, and this time it’s The Great American Bash, shown live on Sky Sports here in Britain, and headlined by C.M. Punk defending his World title against Batista, and Triple H and Edge fighting over the WWE title.

Title action begins the evening, as John Morrison and the Miz defend their WWE Tag-Team titles in a four way against Curt Hawkins & Zak Ryder, Jesse & Festus, and Finlay & Hornswoggle. An interesting way to start the show, although there were some good, albeit brief performances from some of the combatants, particularly from Morrison and big Festus. New champions were crowned here, as during the obligatory mass brawl, Hawkins and Ryder won the belts when Jesse was knocked off the top rope and pinned seconds afterwards. I still get confused about who is Hawkins and who is Ryder, but they won the gold anyway in what can only be termed as a slightly disappointing match. Perhaps if it had been fought under elimination rules then those involved would have had more to do.

More title action follows, as Shelton Benjamin challenges Matt Hardy for the U.S. Title. This looked like a great match on paper, and it looked great in the ring as well. A good solid wrestling match with a good storyline and plenty of false finishes, with Hardy and Benjamin putting in good performances, especially Benjamin, who seems to have been overlooked for a long time now, and his win was well deserved. After countering Hardy’s moonsault with a knee to the head, Benjamin took the champion down with his pay dirt finisher. A three count later and he was the new champion. Good solid action here, and hopefully there’ll be a rematch somewhere down the line.

Then it was Mark Henry’s turn to defend the gold, as Tommy Dreamer challenged for the ECW title. Henry, of course, is accompanied by his new best friend Tony Atlas, while Dreamer is accompanied by Colin Delany. I knew beforehand that this wasn’t going to be a mat classic, and I was right. Dreamer tried his best, and good on him for doing so, but it would take an absolute miracle to get a good match out of Mark Henry. Unexciting and uninspiring to say the least, with Delany turning on his mentor, and Henry getting the pin after a powerslam. So I guess we’re going to have to put up with this man as champion for a bit longer then.

Normal service was quickly resumed with what I thought could be a match of the night candidate beforehand, Chris Jericho versus Shawn Michaels. Starting off as slow-paced and methodical, Jericho connected with a knee to Michaels’ mid-section straight away, and targeted that area as the match went on. What followed was a very good match, maybe not the best match these two have had, but still good nonetheless. Jericho flunky Lance Cade made his obligatory appearance, mainly getting the crap kicked out of him by Michaels. A Jericho elbow as they tried to get back into the ring opened up a cut above Michaels’ previously injured eye. The blood became like a bullseye for Jericho, with the referee’s pleas to stop the match falling on Michaels’ deaf ears. Eventually the referee stopped the match, awarding the match to Jericho. Look for this one to continue into Summerslam folks.

Time to crown the first Smackdown Divas champion, with Michelle McCool taking on Natalya. This was the first time I’d seen the young Miss Neidhart in a WWE ring, and she looked good, and I was even surprised to see Michelle using a couple of heel hooks in this one. The even bigger surprise was when Natalya tapped out to the heel hook, making Michelle the first ever Divas champion. Not bad I suppose, but I would have preferred Natalya as the champion. The celebrations were then interrupted by Chris Jericho, who came back out and announced that as Shawn Michaels had been diagnosed with a detached retina his career was now over. Guess we won’t see that Summerslam match now then.

Main event time #1, with C.M. Punk defending his newly won World title against former champion Batista. If you don’t know by now, I’m a big Punk fan, have been since his days in Ring of Honor, so this is one match I was really looking forward to. The battle between power and speed proved to be an interesting, if not exactly enthralling, one. Although these two seemed well suited to each other, and the match was well executed, but it just lacked that certain something, that indefinable “it” factor that would have made it a really good match. The animal got in all of his big power moves, while Punk was able to get in some good moves against the big main, in particular his crisp looking kicks, but the match was ended when Kane came down to the ring and attacked both men, resulting in a double disqualification. Overall this match wasn’t too bad, even if it didn’t exactly set the pulses racing.

Then it was time to go outside the arena for the New York parking lot brawl between John Cena and John “Bradshaw” Layfield”. It was obvious from the outset what kind of match this would be, and it was also obvious that the first segment wasn’t actually “live”. For some reason this reminded me of Roddy Piper’s alleyway brawl from They Live, lots of brawling with a few wrestling holds thrown in for good measure. Another nice thing about this was the lack of commentary, which added to the tension of the fight. So what we got here was a few broken windscreens, a few dented bonnets and roofs, and JBL setting a car on fire with Cena in it, who managed to miraculously escape the inferno. Cena would later use a fork life truck to impale the car that the stunned Bradshaw was in (I hope he’s qualified to drive a fork lift - I’m not, as I failed the test), before bringing the car out into the arena. This was when things went “live” and the commentary returned. The brawl continued onto the stage, with JBL countering Cena’s FU attempt by throwing him off the stage and through the car windscreen. A three count later and JBL had won the fight. Quite entertaining in it’s own way.

Main event time #2, with Triple H defending the WWE title against Edge, fresh off his wedding to Vickie Guerrero, and his playing away from home as it were. This is another of those matches that gets the interesting tag attached to it. Technically it was fine, and I can’t fault it on the performances of those involved, but as with some of the previous matches it just failed my capture my imagination. Edge and Triple H were well suited to each other, and it showed in their performances, but this match just didn’t do it for me. It was overlong, and it wasn’t helped by the catfight between Vickie Guerrero and the wedding planner, whatever her name is. So after Edge spears Vickie, Triple H took him out with the pedigree to get the title retaining three count. Not exactly enthralling, so this one just gets an okay.

In conclusion - this year’s edition of The Great American Bash was definitely a mixed bag, which saw a mixing of the exciting and the unexciting. Hardy/Benjamin and Michaels/Jericho were definitely the highlights of the show, but the rest of the card was kind of take it or leave it as far as I’m concerned. Most of it was good in it’s execution, but I just couldn’t develop any form of emotional attachment with the wrestlers, the sort of attachment you get when you see a classic match, when a wrestler works the crowd and gets you involved in the outcome, making you care about what is going to happen. That’s something that didn’t happen here, and that’s why this year’s Bash will be remembered as a below par show.