By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Mr. McMahon Addressed the Troops
It's only fitting that the Chairman of WWE kicked off the annual event and express his gratitude to the troops, regardless of whether his on-air character was a heel or a babyface at the time (I honestly can't remember). Say what you will about the man being "out of touch" or what have you, but he really does go above and beyond in giving back to the troops with these shows and going overseas when they aren't obligated to. Granted, they no longer go overseas for the event and instead travel to bases here in the United States, but it might be because there's no longer as large of a presence over there as there once was. Either way, it's always an enjoyable event and this was a heartwarming promo from McMahon to start the show.
World Tag Team Champion Big Show def. Carlito
In addition to being hilarious, Carlito was was such a slimy character that he was the perfect choice to go one-on-one with Big Show because he could escape all of his offense. He did that for a portion of this match, but Show mostly squashed Carlito, which was fine because the crowd got a kick out of it. These two would later enter a feud over the World Tag Team Championship going into WrestleMania 22.
By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Hulk Hogan Addressed the Troops
Hogan's appearance was a pleasant surprise and it must have been a treat for those in attendance. It also might have been the first time where Hogan was on a WWE program and didn't plug anything. It wasn't long before The Miz interrupted who had a cheesy albeit enjoyable exchange with John Cena. The subsequent brawl between the faces and heels set up the multi-man main event nicely. It had a Raw feel to it, but at least it was relatively harmless.
The Usos def. Gold and Stardust
I grew tiresome of seeing these two teams work together after a while during the fall, but it's been long enough since they last clashed that I didn't have a problem with it. They worked a fun tag team match which isn't too surprising given their great chemistry. The match didn't have much meaning behind it, but it was a nice way of kicking off the in-ring portion of the show.
By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Daniel Bryan def. Bray Wyatt by Disqualification
This match was over before it even started, as the interference from Luke Harper and Erik Rowan caused it to go to a disqualification no more than a minute into the bout. That was probably for the best since it appears WWE is saving Bryan vs. Bray for down the road, and it could be a marquee matchup if built to correctly. Doesn't this count as Bray's first loss in singles competition to date?
Daniel Bryan and CM Punk def. Luke Harper and Erik Rowan by Disqualification
We saw the same match at Survivor Series, so it was much of the same from the two teams. That isn't to say that it wasn't a solid tag team outing while it lasted, though. Bray Wyatt getting banned from ringside only to return and cause the match to go to a DQ was odd, but it help set up the subsequent six-man tag match also involving John Cena. Speaking of such, I found it refreshing that not a single person booed Cena upon his entrance. It is not everyday something like that happens.
Solid match with Randy Orton and Sheamus defeating World Heavyweight Champion Big Show and Dolph Ziggler. It was well wrestled and the restart from SmackDown General Manager Booker T was nicely done. Sure, Show might've looked a bit weak in defeat, but it took two finishers to finally take him down for the three count. Also, this show wasn't about furthering feuds anyway, so the ending result of this bout came as no surprise.
Brief match between Alberto Del Rio and Ryback. Del Rio's pre-match promo with Ricardo Rodriguez got a chuckle out of this viewer, but the match was over before it even got started. I don't see why they needed to protect Del Rio here by having him lose via disqualification, but Ryback was still able to hit his finisher on them both regardless.
Extremely entertaining Miz TV segment guest starring the Muppets. Being the major Muppet mark that I am, I might've found this more humorous than most would, but it was still very fun. I got a kick out of Kermit's line asking Miz if he was a good guy, essentially breaking the proverbial fourth wall in the process. Damien Sandow's interruption only enhanced this promo as well as his enjoyable verbal exchange with Miz and the Muppets. This was the highlight of the show for me and I always love it when the Muppets appear on WWE programming.
Good match with The Miz defeating Damien Sandow. Given the fact this was the first-ever meeting between the two, it provided viewers a nice preview of what they're capable of inside the ring. They developed solid chemistry and both were able to hit their signature spots before Miz scored the roll-up victory. I highlight anticipate seeing more from Sandow and Miz in the future.
Decent six-man tag team match with WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No and R-Truth defeating 3MB. I'm not much of a fan of 3MB, so they were a majority of the reason why I didn't care about this bout, but it served its purpose in delivering a fun finish and some quality comedy from Team Hell No.
Great match between John Cena and United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. Both of their roles on this show were fitting since Cena has been the face of this annual event for years while Cesaro has trashed Americans for weeks now. The match wasn't all that long, but Cesaro looked strong in defeat after scoring some offense early on. This is another feud I would love to see occur at some point down the line.
Overall, an enjoyable show that featured some quality action and touching video packages celebrating the event's tenth anniversary. Obviously, the matches weren't the focal point of the show, but they did a superb job of giving the live crowd entertained and happy with all the faces going over. I personally skipped through the concerts, but it made for some fine filler for those in attendance. It never ceases to amaze me how WWE goes above and beyond for saluting our troops each year and doing so in such a respectful and classy manner.
Brief words from Barrack Obama to kick off the show that were kept short and sweet. The video packages throughout the night from various celebrities were a nice touch to the good feel this show gave off.
Solid match between Wade Barrett and Randy Orton in a preview from what we'll see in their Tables bout at TLC. Both got in their respective moves and traded offense, and the double count-out keeps both rivals strong going into Sunday.
Decent match from Zack Ryder and Jack Swagger, but nothing we haven't seen before. Ryder's quick promo before the bout regarding United States Champion Dolph Ziggler was a nice tie-in to the show's theme as well as introduce the legendary Sgt. Slaughter down to the ring to manage the Long Island Iced Z. Ziggler's sold Slaughter's clotlhesline like a beast, and Ryder's victory over the irrelevant Swagger gives him some momenteum going into Sunday. Additionally, watching Slaughter lock Ziggler in his own submission hold was a funny moment.
Quick, yet unsurprising Divas tag team match that served its purpose. Showing footage of Maria Menounos's appearance on Raw from two years ago was a smart move by informing viewers who have forgotten. With that being said, Menounos was the main focus of this contest due to her status as a celebrity, but looked pretty impressive with her roll-up victory over Divas Champion Beth Phoenix.
Entertaining match from Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan, as their perfect chemistry makes their matches worth watching for sure. Although they could have gone a bit longer and provided more than what we got, having Booker T involve on Bryan's behalf was nicely done and gives Rhodes all the more reason to be angrier towards the former World Champion.
Formulaic tag team match with Primo and Epico defeating WWE Tag Tag Champions Air Boom in a non-title match. Nearly two months ago, Air Boom was basically unbeatable, and now can't even win a match. I'm all for pushing the new tandem of Primo and Epico and eventually crowning them tag team champs, but they need to be featured on television more often if they wish to garner any legitimate heat.
Throwaway filler Sheamus dominating Drew McIntyre within minutes, in a bout that only saw McIntyre get in one offensive move. It's shocking to see The Chosen One misused so greatly over of the course of 2011, as he has fallen tremendously since his move to Raw back in April. These two foreigners have terrific chemistry and could provide a great rivalry if done right, but having McIntyre lose consecutive matches and come off as a joke in his television matches will not make the crowd take him seriously.
Enjoyable performances from Nickelback, Mary J. Blige, and George Wallace that were evenly distributed throughout the show. Being the huge Nickelback fan I am, it was fun to see them perform two of their best songs live to a wrestling audience. Blige's respective songs were a blast as well, while Wallace succeeded in telling some humorous jokes audience members of all ages could understand.
Strong six-man tag team match main event with John Cena, WWE Champion CM Punk, and Big Show defeating the team of The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, and World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry. It was given great time, and everyone involved got in their spots at the end to send the crowd home happy. As much as I don't like Henry taking pin-falls, it was logical aftermath from the Slammy's and was due to him taking two finishers, so I guess it's fine in my book. Classy conclusion to the show with Cena cutting a promo on the troops while the entire roster came out to greet fans in the crowd.
Overall, a much better edition that provided two enjoyable hours while feeling more like an actual wrestling broadcast similar to Raw or SmackDown rather than a filler two-show program. Unlike years past, all the solid action made it to television, while the handful of celebrity appearances made the show noteworthy and media-friendly. WWE never ceases to amaze me with the amount of class and thought they provide to those protecting the United States annually with Tribute to the Troops, and this year was no different.
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