The following piece was contributed by avid wrestling fan and analyst JR. Follow him on Twitter at @StarNinja99.
Tonight marks the return of No Way Out, once the event that held the Elimination Chamber. While this year it has been revamped into a different format. We shall have to see if it becomes a staple once again, or a sad revamped attempt like Vengeance was last year.
So, lets get started with Good Ol' JR's predictions for No Way Out, and it can only be found here, at Next Era Wrestling!
Pre-Show: David Otunga versus "The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay
Ah, the Youtube pre-show, a free to view Internet version of Heat. Sadly, the quality has not quite stacked up to Heat, but it is indeed free. Well, this one is a pretty easy prediction, even with they (Kayfabe) injury angle. Brodus will win this, but unlike most of his squash matches, Otunga will at least attempt to put up a fight, mostly on the leg. Still, its obvious we're going to see The Funk on a roll with a win tonight.
Ricardo Rodriguez versus Santino Marella in a Tuxedo match
I want to avoid myself and all of you the pain of focusing on this match for more than a paragraph. The fact that this match was even suggested by the creative team is an insult to our intelligence. Worse, Ricardo may actually have some wedge of talent, but we are never going to actually see it. Take it for what it is, a stupid gimmick match.
Santino with the Cobra for the win. End of statement.
Beth Phoenix versus Layla for the Divas Championship
I'm not really upset with this match occuring again. There aren't many women on the roster who can actually wrestle on the card, but these two can. Lets hope we can squeeze some time out of this card to let these ladies put on a proper match.
I see Layla retaining here, mostly because they seem to want to hold the title on her until Kharma's return.
Speaking of the wrestler formerly known as Awesome Kong, don't put it outside the realm off possibility to see her make her way down that ramp tonight, purely based off the images she leaked over twitter. Its slim, but possible.
CM Punk protects AJ from Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero.
Strong segment to kick off the show featuring all the stars of this Sunday's WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship matches. I was pleasantly surprised to see AJ be the first one to appear, and she continues to flourish in her current character. The verbal exchange between Punk and Ziggler was humorous, and Sheamus wasn't that bad here either.
Solid tag team match with Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan defeating World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and WWE Champion CM Punk. It featured some great action and had the perfect outcome with Ziggler getting the pin over Sheamus. Kane's appearance was a nice touch, and it was an intriguing way to end the segment with AJ and Kane making eye contact. My only complaint is that AJ now seems to be the focus of this feud rather than the WWE Championship.
Throwaway match between Brodus Clay and Heath Slater. It was practically over before it even started. However, having David Otunga attack Brodus Clay following the bout was smart moving. This would be the first pre-show match for a pay-per-view that's actually received some type of build-up, and this was an efficient way of doing so. Clay rarely looks this weak, so it gave Otunga nice heat.
Brief match between Beth Phoenix and Alicia Fox. Having Divas matches go under a minute seems to be the norm these days as usual, but it's better than not featuring them on television at all. They've hardly built this feud between Layla and Phoenix in recent weeks, so I don't think many people care about their upcoming title match regardless.
Great promo from Big Show. He's had some passable promos since turning heel last month, but this was easily the best of them all. Not only did I love how he mentioned his WCW past, but his entire story made sense. He showed good intensity and is playing the card that he's finished doing what the fans wanted him to do.
X-Division Champion Austin Aries
The following piece was contributed by avid wrestling fan and analyst JR. Follow him on Twitter at @StarNinja99.
The X-Division. Once the pinnacle of all things TNA. The thing that sorted TNA out from the rest of the pack. It made the struggling program a must watch for all pro wrestling fans, and catapulted them into the Television scene more than anything else on the shows programming.
Who can forget The two Thirty minute iron man match classics between AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels? Samoa Joe's undefeated streak and rise to the top of the division? The debut of the Ultimate X match? And above all else, the three way Unbreakable match that is perhaps the best performance in the companies history?
Today, we have Austin Aries as the X-Division title holder. He is indeed a deserving champion, and one of the most promising wrestlers the independent circuit has seen in years. But what of the rest of the X-Division? Today, I intend to break down the current lay out of this Division, the titles recent history, and the way it seems, in this writers eyes, the title has fallen from prominence. And you'll only find this article on Next Era Wrestling!
First, lets take a look at the current shape of the X-Division Roster. You have the above mentioned Austin Aries, a seemingly untouchable leader of the division. Then you have Kid Kash, who has not been on TV since March. Jessie Sorenson, a promising individual indeed, is out on a very serious injury, and will not be back anytime soon. Then you have two rookies in Mark Haskins and Zima Ion, who seem to have talent but have yet to have that breakout match in TNA. Add to that Chris Sabin, formerly of the highly successful Motor City Machine Guns, and that about fills out your roster.
Before the return of Chris, the only man that came close to a level where they could challenge for the Title was Alex Shelley. But, along with Ric Flair, Alex left TNA to seek greener pastures. Then you have to take out X-Division originals such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, and the like, as they have all moved up the ladder or fallen into very saddening mediocrity due to TNA creatives lack of angles for these very talented individuals.
The X-Division was the centerfold of TNA for most of its decade long run, until mid-2010n when the now infamous Immortal Angle took shape. With this inception, a slow decaying of the division took place, culminating in Abyss taking the title from Brian Kendrick in the Summer of 2011, when the ever-hated Eric Bischoff attempted to end the group for good.
CM Punk and AJ confront Daniel Bryan and Kane.
Decent promo to kick off the show featuring Mr. McMahon, John Laurinaitis, and World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus. McMahon received a great reaction from the crowd and played his role well with Laurinaitis. However, the Celtic Warrior's part in this segment didn't make all that much sense, but it was a nice tie-in to his match that followed.
Good match between World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and Tensai. Their styles meshed well and impressed me with how much they were actually capable of. While it was blatantly obvious Sheamus was going over, Tensai looked good in defeat. His post-match attack on his Sakamoto didn't mean all that much since he's been around for only two months, but at least it means they haven't completely given up on the Tensai character.
Throwaway mixed tag team match with Beth Phoenix and Ricardo Rodriguez defeating Divas Champion Layla and United States Champion Santino Marella. While Ricardo may indeed be a talented athlete, he's forced to limit himself due to his gimmick. The main focus here was giving Phoenix the win over Layla to receive another shot at the Divas Championship, and it worked.
Solid promo featuring WWE Champion CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane, and AJ. This three-way title rivalry hasn't been given all that much mic time since it started, so I'm glad they were able to further the feud in this segment. AJ was awesome as usual, and Punk's verbal change with Kane and Bryan was also very good. Much like the opening segment, it's main purpose was setting up the mixed tag team match for later in the night.
Entertaining Fatal-Four Way elimination number one contender's match featuring Intercontinental Champion Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Great Khali. Thankfully, Khali was out early, so it left the three best workers to finish the rest of the bout. I liked the extra layer of Ziggler eliminating Swagger, as it adds even more tension between the team. Suspenseful near-falls between Ziggler and Christian, a duo that exhibited their awesome chemistry last week on SmackDown and even more so in this bout. Cool finish with Ziggler capitalizing on Christian's injury to pick up the much deserved victory.
Typical squash match with Ryback dominating two local athletes. I found the jobbers' entrance to be pretty humorous, as well as their antics during the bout. Although I've said it time and time again, Ryback must be inserted into a legitimate feud sooner rather than later, as those tired Goldberg chants continue to grow louder and louder each week.
Sheamus takes advantage of the Big Red Mosnter Kane.
Effective segment to kick off the show featuring World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. Ricardo Rodriguez's Sheamus impersonation was hilariously funny, and it was nice to see some heat put on him rather than the usual sympathy by attacking the Celtic Warrior. What didn't make sense to me was that Teddy Long was in charge, when John Laurinaitis easily could have had either David Otunga or Eve to fill in for him.
Throwaway match between Alberto Del Rio and Great Khali. Obviously, Khali isn't the best worker, so his offense against another guy the crowd couldn't care less about didn't mean much. However, Del Rio picking up the submission victory was a nice momentum shifter and came off as impressive.
Nice aggression from Brodus Clay during his squash match with Derrick Bateman. I'm glad to see him move over to Friday nights where he can hopefully have longer matches and be given more room for his character to evolve. It's a shame to see Bateman be Clay's latest victim, as the current NXT rookie does indeed acquire talent.
Slow match between Drew McIntyre and Sin Cara. I liked how McIntyre was able to get in some offense, but Sin Cara looked like he was moving in slow motion on several occasions. It could quite possibly be due the fact that he just recently returned from injury and wanted to keep it at a slower pace to avoid any botches. Nonetheless, Sin Cara has improved in the ring since he's return and will continue to flourish on Friday nights.
Although the visual of Ryback picking two men up on his shoulders to execute his finisher is still pretty cool, we've seen it so many times in the last few weeks that it wasn't as special as it once was. If they won't push Ryback into a legitimate feud yet, then he should at least go back to squashing under-carders on the roster.
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