We kicked things off tonight with the ECW Championship on the line, when reigning champion Matt Hardy defended against Mark Henry. This was a great match to kick off the show, and marked the first time that Matt Hardy has pinned the World’s Strongest Man cleanly on PPV. I have to admit that Henry’s run on ECW has been very effective, and his matches against Hardy have been much better than expected. It’s hard to predict where things will go from here, as it seems clear that Henry has had his opportunity to win the ECW title back and since he lost clean to Hardy should shuffle back to the “end of the line” so to speak. The problem is, he is the top heel on the show right now, and it seems almost impossible to remove him from the title picture. However, the Hardy/Henry program runs the risk of growing stale if new blood isn’t introduced, so while creative doesn’t necessarily have to pull Henry from the top, now would be a great time to introduce a new title contender into the scene. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give last night’s opening bout 7 Stars.
Our second championship match of the evening was a singles match featuring Beth Phoenix vs Candice Michelle for the Women’s title. Thankfully, this match was kept short, as Candice has been less than impressive in the ring since returning from her shoulder injury. Reports are indicating that creative realizes Candice is injury prone, and that she may not be a commodity that management will hold on to for the long run, so they are utilizing the most out of her now rather than later. It makes sense from a business standpoint, but also makes for some sloppy and in general weak championship wrestling matches. Last night was no exception. Candice seems to have nothing left to offer the live crowd. Although she still appears to be over, as the fans in Portland were behind her throughout the match, her gimmick and athleticism have both worn thin. Here’s to hoping Mickie James gets a chance to step back up to the championship plate sometime soon. 4 Stars.
Next up, in what I suppose was a “mask on the line grudge match,” we had Rey Mysterio vs Kane. This was a surprisingly good match, with a surprisingly bad finish. These two guys had a fast paced, high impact match that saw both competitors work some impressive offense. I often forget that when Kane puts his mind to it, and works with agile talent like Rey, he can more than hold his own, and his size is able to match his opponent’s speed. Thus was the case last night. The match kicked off with the necessary intensity that the story line (as senseless as it was) required, and I particularly loved the spot where Rey reversed a sidewalk slam attempt into a reverse DDT. The ending of the match, however, was an anti-climactic letdown, and was about as ill-conceived as the angle it was based on. If the goal of the match was for Kane to win so that he could unmask Rey, why would he intentionally DQ himself? And then following the chair shot, when Rey was down and not moving, why not rip the mask off at that point as opposed to walking away amidst that silly, forced, “evil” laugh? Not only did the finish make no sense, but it foreshadowed a continuation of the weakest angle on Raw right now. 6 Stars.
It then seemed as if the PPV stumbled onto a temporary broadcast of Raw as MVP made his way out to the ring for a segment that was fun, albeit too long for a PPV. MVP blasted Vickie Guerrero for not putting Smackdown’s hottest piece of “merchandise” on the No Mercy card, and he was then interrupted by Randy Orton. Orton got a great reception from the live crowd, and “RKO” chants could be heard throughout most of the arena. I’ve said it before, but Orton’s current theme of blurring the line between face and heel status and confronting anyone around him no matter their respective status is just great. It freshens his character in addition to giving it depth. The team of Manu, DiBiase and Rhodes then hit the ring to disagree with Orton, and it was in this exchange where Orton’s mic skills really showed how green these three guys really are. I also noticed why we haven’t heard from Manu very much, and what might be a possible hinderance for the big guy: he has a pretty bad lisp. Now I want to make it clear that I am not making fun of the guy, nor am I against anyone who has a lisp, but his tough exterior combined with a lisp that makes him sound more like The Cable Guy than a legit tough guy is something the audience may not be able to get behind. The segment then continued when CM Punk and Kofi Kingston hit the ring and a small battle erupted between Priceless and Punk/Kofi/MVP. I’m glad these guys had a chance to make a PPV appearance, and it did serve as a creative reminder that these guys are PPV players that will have an opportunity to actually wrestle in the future, but when it was all said and done this segment took too long to arrive at a point, and felt like something we should see on a Monday or Friday night as opposed to on a PPV.
We then headed back to the in-ring action where our number one contender’s match stepped to the plate with Batista vs JBL. I’m not sure what purpose this match was supposed to serve, but for two guys that could have put together a fun brawl, this was a waste of time. Batista dominated JBL in about 5 minutes, and solidified The Wrestling God as someone the fans can officially put no faith into where the “big match” is concerned. I can predict JBL’s role on Raw tonight: he’ll dominate someone like Deuce in about 2 minutes to prove to anyone who cares that he’s still a main event caliber heel that is qualified only to beat jobbers who are weeks away from being released from the company. I will admit that his promo after the match was hysterical, and he delivered it with such honesty that I really was laughing out loud at times. JBL always impresses me on the mic, it’s just a shame that his habit of always losing the big match will hinder his ability to get over with the crowd any more than he already has, which is not saying much. And in the case of last night, he came across as a jobber as opposed to a competent contender who lost a match. 4 Stars.
Next up was The Undertaker vs Big Show in singles competition. This match was a lot better than I expected, and The Dead Man moved about the ring much quicker than I thought he would considering his knees have been in bad shape since his return to the ring at Summerslam. One thing I have really grown to like in wrestling is the use of the knockout finish. In the age of mixed martial arts, submission and knockout finishes to matches have become more commonplace, and to see them utilized in wrestling gives more of a shoot style edge to bouts. Granted Big Show used the exposed turnbuckle to initiate his finish, the two stiff shots to the face put him over as a credible opponent to The Undertaker as well as a genuine threat. ‘Taker reversing Big Show into a DDT midway through was a tremendous spot, and in all these two guys worked as hard as they could against one another. Although I prefer The Undertaker wrestling opponents with a more technical, mat style, I enjoy the occasional big man battle he can have as well. 6.5 Stars
The WWE Title was on the line next as Triple H defended against Jeff Hardy. This was an outstanding contest, and I can honestly say I was on the edge of my seat as Hardy came so close to finally winning the strap. The match was back and forth throughout, and the finishing sequence proved that it was anybody’s win up until the bitter end. Both men were at the top of their game, and my only complaint here is that I fear Jeff Hardy’s time may have come and gone. Speculation can run amuck over why Hardy didn’t walk out with the belt: either it was the airplane incident that did him in, or backstage politics that prevented him from reaching the gold, but whatever the reason the time just seemed right for Hardy to win and once again he did not. His performance may have been great enough, however, that it won’t cost him any support from the fans, but there’s not many more title matches this kid can lose before the live crowd throws the towel in on him. 8.5 Stars.
It’s now time for our main event of the evening, a ladder match pitting Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels for the World Heavyweight Championship. This was a tremendous bout, with both guys delivering a match of the year performance. Chris Jericho is a very humble guy when he gives interviews, and in a recent one he claimed that him and HBK would most likely not have a classic, or even the best match of the night, because he doesn’t like to have those expectations going into a bout. Well he’s eating an extra big slice of humble pie right now, topped with a scoop of modest flavored ice cream, because that was one hell of a ladder match. Both guys hit each other hard, so hard in fact that they seemed burned out by the end of the bout and it became a tad sloppy. A few spots misfired, but I forgive both guys because they left everything in the ring last night. Jericho gave up a tooth to win that title, and the two of them hanging onto either side of the belt on top of the ladder was the epitome of suspense. Bravo guys. If this feud is over, which I am certain it is, then these two competitors have just completed one of the best angles in recent professional wrestling history. 9 Stars.
Overall, this was a solid PPV, with the big matches living up to their expectations, and in the case of the last two, exceeding them. If more attention was paid to detail, and the undercard was booked to its full potential, then this could have been an excellent event. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give WWE No Mercy 6.5 Stars.
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