Sometimes, being wrong is better than being right. And I was wrong a lot yesterday.
Before heading out to M&T Bank Stadium to watch my beloved Ravens play the Cincinnati Bengals, I predicted a lopsided loss for the home team. The Ravens, however, pleasantly surprised me with a 17-10 victory.
Then, last night, I sat in front of my TV to watch WWE’s Unforgiven pay-per-view convinced that Triple H would be the only champion to lose his title in a Championship Scramble match. I expected Jeff Hardy to walk out with Triple H's WWE title belt.
As it turned out, Triple H was the only one of the three champions not to lose his title. A Hardy did win a title, but it was Matt Hardy winning the ECW Championship Scramble.
The finish to the Championship Scramble for the WWE title – Jeff Hardy was the champion until Triple H made the winning pin with one second left – furthered the story line of Hardy’s quest for the championship. In retrospect, having Hardy win the title in a Scramble at this point would not be nearly as dramatic as him defeating Triple H for the title in a one-on-one match after chasing him for a few more months – which I fully expect to happen.
The biggest surprise of the night was Chris Jericho winning the Championship Scramble for the world heavyweight title. Jericho, who earlier in the night was battered by Shawn Michaels in an extraordinary match, was a last-minute substitute for CM Punk, who was unable to compete after being attacked by Randy Orton (and his entourage) backstage prior to the match.
I was pretty sure going in that Punk was going to retain the title, but, again, I think the way WWE booked this match was better for a couple reasons. For one, Jericho being the champion adds a new wrinkle to his ongoing feud with Michaels. It also sets up a program between Punk and Orton when the latter returns from injury. Moreover, Punk comes out of all this as a sympathetic figure, as he lost the title without even competing in the match.
Overall, I liked the Scramble concept and I hope WWE makes it an annual event like the Royal Rumble and the Money in the Bank ladder match.
The highlight of the show – as expected – was the non-sanctioned match between Michaels and Jericho. These two right now are just performing on a different level – in all facets of the genre – than everybody else.
The other big angle saw The Big Show turn heel, as he attacked The Undertaker and saved Vickie Guerrero. From the moment Big Show came out for the segment, it was obvious what was going to happen, and it became especially obvious when Big Show oversold his glee in anticipation of Guerrero getting what was coming to her. The turn makes sense, as Show wasn’t exactly thriving as a babyface, and Undertaker needs a fresh opponent.
Here’s a match-by-match look at last night’s show:
Shawn Michaels defeated Chris Jericho: Based on the incredible buildup to this match, an intense, emotional brawl was expected, and that’s exactly what was delivered. Michaels, wrestling with a slightly torn triceps, put on yet another amazing performance. Not only was the action believable and physical – the highlight was Michaels hitting a flying elbow off the top rope onto Jericho and Lance Cade, who were stacked on top of each other on the announce table – but the psychology was off the charts. Michaels’ acting and facial expressions were awesome, as he portrayed a man who was driven by hatred to go places he wasn’t sure he was capable of going. There is no one better than Michaels at making you suspend your disbelief enough to get caught up in the emotion of the story line.
Michaels brutalized Jericho during the final seven minutes of the 27-minute match, and the referee eventually stopped it after Michaels hammered a defenseless Jericho with repeated blows to the head. Michaels continued the assault after the match before finally backing off. At that point, Michaels broke down and seemed to be praying for forgiveness, while an unconscious Jericho was being tended to by the trainers. I would love to have heard Jim Ross call this match, but Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler did a good job, as they questioned whether Michaels will be able to live with himself after what he did to Jericho.
Jericho won the world heavyweight title Championship Scramble: Because the show was running long, the competitors came in every four minutes instead of five, so the match was really 16 minutes and not 20. The action was fine, but there really wasn’t any drama until the final few minutes. Kane had pinned JBL at about the seven-minute mark, and there wasn’t another fall until the final minute. But everyone knew Kane wasn’t going to win, and neither was JBL or Rey Mysterio. It would have been interesting to see how the match would have been laid out had John Cena not gotten hurt.
All along, I figured CM Punk would make a dramatic entrance at the end and somehow pull out the victory. Instead, Jericho, still selling the beating he took from Shawn Michaels, limped out. He quickly was speared by Batista and rolled out of the ring. Batista pinned Kane with 37 seconds left, but as he and Mysterio went at it, Jericho – who was barely in the match – snuck in and pinned Kane with seven seconds remaining. By the time Batista turned around, it was too late. Batista has become the ultimate hard luck loser, while Jericho got his heat back by gaining the last laugh after seemingly getting his comeuppance earlier in the show.
Triple H won the WWE title Championship Scramble: This was the best of the three Scramble matches, which isn’t a surprise considering it had the best lineup of workers. Kendrick ended up getting pinned four times – which I thought was unnecessary – but he put on a good performance. He was the champion for about six minutes, until Triple H pinned him with four minutes remaining. In the final three minutes, Hardy and Triple H each scored two pins. It looked like Hardy was going to win, but Triple H hit the Pedigree on MVP and pinned him with one second remaining. Neither Triple H nor Hardy scored a win over the other, and they shook hands after the match. As an aside, Benjamin did not factor in any of the falls, while MVP was pinned twice without gaining a fall.
Matt Hardy won the ECW title Championship Scramble: A good match to open the show, although it would have been even better if John Morrison had been involved. It’s worth noting that every competitor but The Miz scored at least one pinfall (Hardy was the only person to score two). The story of the match is that Henry lost the title without losing a single fall, which likely sets up a title match between Hardy and Henry.
World tag team champions Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes defeated Cryme Tyme: It was nice to see WWE actually gave this one some time (approximately 12 minutes) rather than making them rush through it. The match was decent, although not outstanding. After the champs retained, Manu, the son of Afa The Wild Samoan, joined DiBiase and Rhodes in a beat-down of Cryme Tyme. Later in the show, the trio helped Randy Orton attack CM Punk, so it looks as if the Orton-led heel stable of second- and third-generations stars is going to happen.
Divas champion Michelle McCool defeated Maryse: They both tried hard and the match wasn’t bad, but the crowd had zero interest. It’s obvious that McCool is not as over as she should be in relation to her push.