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Randy Orton vs Jinder Mahal: *1/2
This was a hell of an ordeal. I think to sum it all up it felt like the wrestling equivalent of a summer blockbuster that flops at the box office. The Punjabi Prison is a big, imposing structure that looks impressive. However the end result was a bloated, never-ending match that was hard to sit through, had way too many plot turns and ultimately made the me feel like I wanted my money back.
The concept of the match is cool enough, but in practice it didn't work. When they are inside the ring it is pretty hard to see inside through both cages, and the crowd was bored in part because they couldn't see very well; which led to the "Delete" and "CM Punk" chants. The rules involving the four doors were a little too complicated, although it did work when the Singh brothers came in and screwed Orton from escaping. It also didn't help that WWE didn't stay honest to the structure, which was supposed to keep people out but the match was filled with interference. I don't really care about Khali coming back; I wasn't expecting him to return but it wasn't that shocking and it isn't like is going to come back and be a big star (although he could feud with Orton).
Lost in the shuffle of the match though, was the bump taken by Samir Singh, who put his ass on the line to give the crowd something to pop for. That was an incredible bump; in a lot of ways it was worse than the Shane McMahon leap off the Hell in a Cell since he was falling backwards and there was no cushioning underneath the table. Hell, they didn't even bother to take the monitors away so he freakin' landed on those. That kid is getting paid like a star and isn't expected to be one, but he risked a lot taking that bump while a lot of the higher-priced "stars" did a hell of a lot less. Kudos to him.
Rusev vs John Cena: **3/4
There was nothing in the match itself that was bad; the stipulation is kind of strange but they worked through it with the pedestals and the flag stands, which they did the most they could with and build towards the big spot that the crowd got behind. All in all it is just a generic John Cena match, when where he defends his brand of nationalism against some other wrestlers nationalism and he hulks up at the end and wins the match.
The real star of this match though, was JBL, who said an unbelievable amount of stupid things during the match. The list is really countless, but I'll limit it to the three worst things he said:
"Rusev knows this isn't the time to celebrate!"
JBL said this when Rusev had knocked Cena down and had retrieved the Bulgarian flag from its post. Since Rusev still had to take the flag up the ramp and place it in the holder on the pedestal, JBL was right that this was not the time to celebrate. Of course when he said it, the camera shot was of Rusev, standing on the top turnbuckle and waving the Bulgarian flag, celebrating.
"It has been a long time since another country's flag flew over Philadelphia!"
JBL was clearly alluding to the fact that Philadelphia was a key city during the American Revolution, when the United States was still part of Great Britain. The problem is that the flag is hardly flying over Philadelphia, it is sitting on a pedestal at the Wells Fargo Center. If it was flying over City Hall, or at the town common, that would be one thing; but random flags are hung up all over any city. In fact, considering the Wells Fargo Center is home to the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers, I'm sure there is a Canadian flag hanging in the rafters of the same building. And what is the difference between the flag hanging from the turnbuckle post and the flag being placed on a small pedestal?
"Out of all the high stakes matches John Cena has been in, this might be the biggest one!"
Throughout the match, JBL continuously hyped up what an important match this is for Cena. I don't mind the announcers stressing the importance of a match, but you have to refrain from hyperbole in order to maintain credibility. Cena has been in a zillion world title matches, main-evented WrestleManias and worked matches where he would be fired if he lost, or someone else would lose their jobs. Yet a match where the stakes are Rusev would be able to put his country's flag on a small pedestal is the most important match of his career? JBL is Vince's guy through and through (earlier in the night he referred to the ring as the "sports-entertainment ring") but holy crap is he bad.
AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens: **1/4
Oh my, what a major disappointment this match was. My initial reaction was that something had gone wrong with the ref bump and the submission attempts because the finish felt so flat and out of place; almost like when a heel gets a cheap win and the referee or General Manager comes out and restarts the match. Instead WWE took arguably the two best workers in the company in a big match, and gave them a completely bogus finish that killed the crowd. This was not a strong show for finishes in a lot of the matches, but this one was the worst. Nobody believed that was the finish and with the referee giving the Mexican count, Styles looked pathetic being unable to count out of such a slow 1-2-3. They were on their way to having a pretty good match, nothing life-changing but probably the best match on the show, but it was cut short with that finish. For a show with the top two matches being gimmick matches that probably were not going to be that good, this should have been the highlight of the show as far as work-rate, but they never got the chance.
The Usos vs The New Day: ***1/2
Nice, competitive match with a honest finish. These are just two veteran teams that know how to work a tag team match and how to get the crowd involved. Good spots, dramatic near falls and a clean finish are the formula to a good opening match and they certainly delivered. The New Day really deserve a lot of credit; they keep trying to be creative with their characters and they never fail to get the crowd to react to their gimmick. That is why they will really work as long-term champions on SmackDown until the right team comes along to beat them. The Usos are not really spectacular, but they perform well in their role and are underrated workers inside the ring.
Lana vs Natalya vs Charlotte vs Tamina vs Becky Lynch: **
The match was fine, although it lagged when they were focusing on Lana but it picked up when they were working towards the finish. I'm not sure what their endgame is with Lana; she is highlighted all the time but the prevailing story seems to be that she is inexperienced and doesn't belong in the ring with all the other wrestlers. It seems strange that you would showcase someone and have the message repeatedly be that that person isn't to be taken seriously. The storyline is pretty accurate though, Lana is not very good in the ring and it showed during this match. Once she was out the match was fine, but it ended very quickly and the finish was a little weak since it wasn't something like a known finisher that pinned Charlotte. Natalya makes sense as the number one contenders since she is the top heel in the division, and her and Naomi could have a solid match at SummerSlam.
Baron Corbin vs Shinsuke Nakamura: **
Not an impressive match at all, particularly for Corbin who WWE clearly has high hopes for but failed to have a beyond mediocre match with a guy as talented as Nakamura. Outside of his look, he doesn't offer anything that would make you think he is a star, and the crowd seemed bored for most of the match until Nakamura's comeback. Something I think he really needs to work on are his punches; if they are going to bill him as this dangerous striker he has to learn how to deliver better worked punches. Being able to punch well in real life is different than in wrestling, when guys like Bret Hart or Scott Hall never were champion boxers but had tremendous deliveries when throwing punches. The finish didn't help things because it was such a misfire. WWE didn't want to beat two guys they are trying to push, so the answer was to do a BS DQ finish where nobody loses clean. The fans don't care about it, and it doesn't even really accomplish anything since all it does is set up a future match where presumably somebody would have to lose again.
Sami Zayn vs Mike Kanellis: *3/4
The match wasn't offensively bad or anything, but the crowd was dead for it and Kanellis already feels like a guy destined to job and be the butt of jokes. I thought a good idea would be to have him go on a long undefeated streak and sell the idea that he was really powered by Maria and was kind of an unstoppable force; but it looks like they are going to do the standard 50/50 booking so that neither Kanellis or Zayn gets anything out of the feud.
Must Watch Matches:
YOSHI-HASHI vs Tetsuya Naito:****1/4 - NJPW G1 Climax Day 3
Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin:****3/4 - NJPW G1 Climax Day 4
The Okada vs Elgin match was sensational. Okada is a total stud, but Elgin might be the most underrated guy in wrestling right now. His power moves always get over and give a good contrast to the other top wrestlers in NJPW, and his agility, selling and striking ability allow him to hang inside the ring with the smaller, quicker stars.