It was a pay-per-view marred by suspensions and injuries, but did WWE No Way Out make the best of a bad situation? Our resident night owl Chris Pilkington braved the early hours to find out.
Call it bad luck, karmic retribution or simply a series of unfortunate events; whatever you choose, there’s no denying that it’s been a cruel, cruel summer for the house that Vince built. To lose one main event talent is bad enough, to lose two should start alarm bells ringing and to lose three is downright careless. This is exactly what WWE has had to contend with as Chris Jericho (kicked a flag, got suspended, toured with Fozzy) Randy Orton (failed a wellness test, got suspended) and Alberto Del Rio (suffered a concussion, not cleared to wrestle, bonked on the head by Khali) all found themselves with no way in to No Way Out. The WWE creative team scrambled for a solution and found a Dolph Ziggler shaped peg for their main event hole, Kane became further embroiled in the Punk vs Bryan situation, and even The Genetic/Geriatric Jackhammer himself returned to WWE TV to threaten Big Johnny with expulsion.
All of a sudden, the losses didn’t seem that major. A cautious air of optimism began to spread, with even Good Old JR jumping on the bandwagon and predicting wholesale shake-ups to the WWE product. So, did WWE pull the trigger and usher in a new era of superstars? In a word: no.
The age old saying states that if God gives you lemons you should make lemonade. Vince and company seem content to store all their lemons in the sun, letting them go sour until nobody wants them, and then they have to go and buy some more lemons and start the process all over again. What makes it all the more frustrating is that WWE has so many ripe and juicy lemons (ok, enough of the lemon analogy) to pick from. What could have been a night to experiment and outside-the-box-thinking turned into a completely by-the-numbers affair, the very definition of damage limitation, a company stuck in a holding pattern. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. This is, after all, a very different organisation than the one that gleaned a surprising amount of diamonds from a bunker full of coal in the mid to late nineties.
Any hope of an uprising was soon squashed as the first match of the evening saw Dolph Ziggler beaten by the World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus. For the briefest of moments it seemed like we were in for a repeat of the WrestleMania debacle. As heat magnet Vickie Guerrero jumped onto the ring apron to give her man a good luck kiss my heart sank. Ziggler turned and Sheamus charged … thank the heavens that he ducked and the match began. And in truth it was a good, if unspectacular, encounter. A large portion of the crowd were well behind the ever impressive Ziggler as Sheamus continues to be crushed under the unfair weight of his WrestleMania disaster. A title change here could have benefited both men, allowing Sheamus the chance to shake his somewhat stale character from the shackles of those misguided eighteen seconds in Miami whilst allowing Ziggler to be involved in something more meaningful than bouncing off of Brodus Clay.
Meanwhile, in the hunt for the WWE Title, CM Punk also managed to retain his championship, besting Kane and Daniel Bryan in another solid and unspectacular match. This was probably the match of the night, with the inclusion of Kane adding nicely to the dynamic of the match rather than diluting the technical expertise of Punk and Bryan. It has to be said that the star of the show was AJ who really seems to be relishing her current role and is by far the most interesting WWE diva since Mickie James’ initial run. And as great as she is, this surely speaks volumes for the current lack of excitement for the three men involved in the match. Daniel Bryan continues to be punished for having the nerve to have an over catchphrase, Kane has gone from attempting to murder Eve to falling for the charms of AJ in record time and Punk? If last summer’s Punk was Pepsi, this summer’s Punk is Pepsi Max; he still looks and acts the same but he’s lacking the giddy sugar rush that made us all fall in love with him in the first place. It would have been nigh on impossible to keep the momentum he once had over such an extended period of time, but it’s almost as if the writing team have stopped caring.
And finally there was our main event of the evening, featuring a man who less than a week earlier Vince McMahon said hadn’t been relevant since 1999 – The Big Show – and a man who funnily enough has been in the main event of the last 1,999 WWE shows, John Cena (or maybe it just feels that way.) The first thing you should notice is that once again, neither World Title was featured in the main event. I’m really not one who places much important on such things in that I feel the potential quality of a match should dictate its position on the card rather than if it is being contested for a title or not. With that being said, it is amazing just how far the importance of the titles has fallen in the last year or so. Remember when Punk threatened to leave the company with the title and what a big deal it was? That sure seems like a long time ago. And in it’s place is a match to decide whether Cena gets fired (for the 1,999th time funnily enough) or Big Johnny gets fired (and supposedly goes back to his job in the talent relations department?) I’m sorry, but there is no intrigue or value in either of these outcomes. The fans are already conditioned to believe that when Cena gets fired he’ll be back within two weeks, whilst Johnny’s position has been under threat since practically his first day on the job. The problem is that WWE have put so much faith in storylines at the expense of almost everything else (the prestige of the titles, tag team wrestling, the Divas, the midcard, etc) that they almost have no other choice than to continue putting their most bankable star in ludicrous main events with even more ludicrous stipulations.
What we got was a poor match. It certainly didn’t feel like a PPV main event should. The run-ins from the likes of Brodus Clay and Kofi Kingston failed to add the desired emotional impact to a storyline that never really felt like it hit its stride. If we’re honest, nobody was expecting a five star classic from these two, with Cena running pretty much on autopilot since his defeat to Lesnar, and Show far from his moderate best.
There were other matches on the card, sure, but if WWE can’t be bothered to promote or even mention them in passing, then I can’t be bothered to review them. Believe me, you’re not really missing much. This was a throw-away show if ever there was one. The only notable happening was the firing of Big Johnny, who no doubt will be back as if nothing happened before the month is through. And that’s perhaps the biggest problem of the whole show. Nothing felt like it had any importance, it was all too…safe. As solid as the matches were for the most part, nothing was accomplished that couldn’t have been done on an average Raw or Smackdown.
I’ve had a lot of fun with every WWE PPV this year, probably more than most, and I am at heart a forgiving and optimistic person, but No Way Out 2012 will unquestionably go down as one of the most pointless and disappointing PPV’s of the last year.