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January 1, 2010
– Adam Russell

Clocks and Robbers

The new year was being rung in by Smackdown with this show, and all the attention was focused on who would challenge The
Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble. For my money, Rey Mysterio, after having his championship
match interrupted by Batista last week, should still be the number one contender, but that isn’t how WWE logic works. Instead we got a
‘Beat the Clock’ challenge, featuring eight prominent Smackdown superstars. The ‘Beat the Clock’ challenge is a concept we’ve seen
several times in recent years, wherein the man who wins his match in the quickest time wins the challenge, and in this case, becomes
number one contender. I generally like Beat the Clocks, even if they should be used more sparingly, because it often makes for exciting
television, adding another aspect to the matches- every second counts. Of course, this could also be achieved with time limits for
matches, but those words don’t exist in the WWE Universe.

We started off the show, and the new year, with my favourite performer of last year, CM Punk, who still hasn’t had a shave, the evil
bastard, and his disciple, Luke Gallows. Punk asked the crowd who made resolutions for the new year, and supposed that they’d already
broken them anyway. He then invited everyone to join him in a pledge to adhere to the straight-edge lifestyle, saying that his message will
spread, and that the youth of today will come together to form a straight-edge society. Punk showed again here why he is currently the
best promo man in the company, clearly adlibbing little things to play off the crowd reactions- see ‘line of the night’ for more on that.

--- Beat the Clock Match- CM Punk Vs Matt Hardy

So our night of beat the clock matches got underway with Matt trying to score early wins with a roll-up and small package, and then going
to work on Punk’s abdomen with some shoulders to the gut and a front suplex. Matt Striker on commentary pointed out that this was in
retaliation to Punk hitting Hardy in the gut with his Slammy award the previous week. No other announcer would even think that, let alone
say it. Punk came back with a kick, but then springboarded into a punch to the gut, and took a side Russian legsweep. Punk finally made
a comeback with a kick to the back and a neckbreaker, and then he applied a headscissors. Matt fought up to his feet and hit the first part
of his clothesline/bulldog combination- Punk blocked the bulldog and hit a leg lariat for a nearfall. He then executed a nice back suplex
and locked on a facelock, which Hardy countered with a back suplex of his own. Matt connected with the clothesline/bulldog at the second
time of asking, and then hit a Side Effect for a two count, but Punk grabbed the ropes to block a Twist of Fate. The Straight-edge
Superstar then connected with a roundhouse kick to the head, and hit the Go To Sleep to pick up the win, and set the standard for the
evening, at 7’20. Afterwards, Gallows came in and hit the Gallows Bomb on Hardy.

This was a competitive, though not particularly good, opening match. Matt has really looked sluggish for a long time now, and I was
disappointed not to see Punk do more to work the ’every second counts’ gimmick, as he’s usually a very smart worker in this regard.

--- Beat the Clock Match- Kane Vs Dolph Ziggler

The match began with a period of grappling on the mat, putting over that Kane can hang in that department with the former amateur
wrestler. Ziggler got an edge by going after one big red leg, but Kane came back with a clothesline and suplex, earning him a two count.
Ziggler countered a back body drop attempt into a DDT, and then hit an awkward-looking Rocker Dropper for a two of his own, following
up with a trio of elbowdrops. Kane made a comeback after powering out of a facelock, hitting a big boot, a side suplex and a running
powerslam for a series of nearfalls. He then hit his flying clothesline for another two count, as we approached one minute left until they
reached the 7’20 mark that Punk set. Kane zoned in on the victory, going for a chokeslam, but Ziggler landed on the apron and hit a
hotshot, then returning to the ring to lock on a rear naked choke. Kane faded to the mat, but there was no chance he was going to give up
or pass out, and the time ran out, with the match ending in a draw. After the bell, Ziggler, looking thoroughly annoyed, delivered a Trid Yap
to the Big Red Monster. The finish here let the match down somewhat, as it was obvious what was going to happen as soon as Ziggler
locked on the chokehold. Further from that, the way Ziggler applied the hold- coming from behind, jumping up and grabbing the head of
his opponent- is exactly the same way that he sets up for the Trid Yap, which makes me wonder why he wouldn’t just have hit the move
instead. That’s being nitpicky though, as this really wasn’t a bad outing, and it’s heartening to see that there is still an attempt to elevate
Ziggler.

--- The Great Khali Vs The Carolina Panther

The panther thing was seemingly a reference to some sporting rivalry, but the match was over before anyone could have had a chance to
explain it. The double handed chokeslam gave Khali the win in 27 seconds.

--- Intercontinental Championship Match- Drew McIntyre (champion) Vs John Morrison

Morrison went right for the jugular here, hitting a leg lariat, and then clotheslining the champion over the top rope. He went out after him,
and hit a sloppy moonsault off the security wall, picking up a two count back in the ring. Drew got a foothold in the match, no pun
intended, by hitting a boot which resulted in Morrison’s foot being trapped in the ropes. McIntyre then went to work on the injured limb with
a leg grapevine, which Morrison countered by doing a one-legged nip-up and hitting an enziguri. He then hit an Eranio kick for a two
count, and then a Flying Chuck, which he performed on one leg. McIntyre hit back with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, and then went to take the
turnbuckle pad off the corner. Morrison took the opportunity to beat down on McIntyre with punches in the corner. The ref vehemently tried
to stop Morrison’s assault, and with the two arguing, McIntyre pushed Morrison into the official, causing the ref to call for the bell. the
official decision was a disqualification victory for McIntyre after 4’48. Morrison attacked the champion again as he walked up the ramp,
and the two briefly brawled before being separated. For how much Striker and Grisham were putting this over as a highly-anticipated
rematch, it’s a shame, and a little surprising, that it got less than five minutes. The cheap ending is less surprising, following on from the
abomination of a WWE championship match on Raw last week. At least this finish was mildly creative, and made the champion look
smart, rather than flat-out weak.

Layla and Michelle McCool were out to watch the next match, sporting hilarious t-shirts; Layla’s claimed that the two ‘love the Glamazon’,
whereas McCool’s claimed that ‘Piggy James loves food’. Told you it was hilarious.

--- Beth Phoenix Vs Mickie James

Mickie tried to wear Beth down with punches early on, but ran into a big backbreaker. Mickie tried a different tactic, hitting a Thesz press
from the top rope. Layla climbed onto the apron at this point, causing a distraction which allowed Michelle to try to pop James with a kick,
but she got the Glamazon instead, giving Mickie a chance to roll up her opponent for the win at 1’02. After the bell, Michelle and Layla
double-teamed Mickie (that’s every match so far, barring the Khali squash, which has featured a post-match attack), but Phoenix, upset at
McCool’s interference, made the save. She floored McCool with a gorilla slam, as Mickie fought back against Layla. After the heels had
been cleared from the ring, Beth and Mickie slapped hands, teasing a Beth face-turn, before the Glamazon hit the Glam Slam on Mickie,
leaving her lying. I like this turn of events. Beth is by far the most interesting female wrestler in the company, for my money, and I’m all for
her playing the tweener and eventually ripping through McCool for the women’s championship.

--- Beat the Clock Match- Chris Jericho Vs Rey Mysterio

Before the next beat the clock match started, Jericho announced that he’s going to win every championship in the WWE during 2010,
including beating D-X on Raw next week to win the tag team championship, and starting by winning the beat the clock challenge.

He backed up his claims by taking it to Mysterio in the early going, throwing him hard to the outside of the ring. Rey hit a springboard
cross body block for a two count, but Jericho took back over with a clothesline and a back suplex. Rey hit back again with an enziguri kick,
but a 619 attempt was halted by a back body drop. Jericho applied a facelock, which Rey elbowed out of, and then Mysterio hit a drop toe
hold on Jericho which sent him face-first into the bottom turnbuckle. He then hit a flying headbutt from the top rope onto a standing
opponent, which had Matt Striker frenziedly drawing comparisons to El Hijo Del Santo. A springboard cross body block earned Rey a
nearfall, and then a neat sequence saw Jericho counter an attempted kick with a Walls of Jericho attempt, which was in turn blocked by
Rey, until Jericho won the exchange with a torture rack backbreaker. That earned Jericho a two count, but Rey came right back again, low
dropkicking Jericho into position for the 619. This time Jericho countered the move into the Walls of Jericho, cinching it in with just over a
minute to go of the time limit. Rey managed to wriggle free of the move, hitting a hurricanrana, and then hit the 619. He went for a
springboard, but was greeted by a Codebreaker, and it looked like Jericho had done enough. However, Rey kicked out at two and, with
Jericho arguing with the referee over the count, Rey managed to small package him and pick up the duke at 7’19, just one second before
the time limit expired.

This was a terrific little match, easily the best of the night, and it’s no surprise considering these two men had one of the feuds of 2009.
There were some really neat counters on display here, and the finish was timed to perfection.

Rey stuck around at ringside to watch the next match, the final match of the night.

--- Beat the Clock Match- Batista Vs R-Truth

Batista powered Truth back into the corner, then hit a clothesline, and a shoulder to the gut. Truth blocked another shoulder with a well-
placed knee, and rolled Batista up for a one count. He followed up with a legdrop, but Batista took control of the match with an eye rake,
then hit a clothesline and a suplex. Truth tried to make a comeback with the corner jazz, for some reason doing the splits without Batista
coming at him, leaving himself wide open for another attack. This was a ridiculous spot which really made R-Truth look like an idiot.
Batista went for the Batista Bomb, but Truth fought out and hit a leg lariat which sent Batista to the outside. He followed up with a rolling
plancha, and then sent the Animal back into the ring. Batista caught him coming back in with a kick, and sent him shoulder-first into the
ringpost, following up by whipping him into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Truth ate a sidewalk slam, and then the Animal went for a
spear, which was countered horribly into a DDT. Truth hit the axe kick for a two count, but Batista blocked a missile dropkick and hit a
spear, and then the spinebuster, pausing to taunt Mysterio with 20 seconds left. Batista then levelled Truth with the Batista Bomb, but
with the referee up to a count of two, Mysterio pulled him out of the ring, and the clock ran out. Inexplicably, this blatant cheating didn’t
result in a DQ win for Batista, rather it went down as a time limit draw. There had to have been a better way than that to achieve what they
were going for here, and that finish really did nothing to help what was already a poorly put together match, or Mysterio in general.

Some little justice was done though, as Vickie Guerrero came out, and announced that because of the finish, Rey would face Batista next
week in a number one contenders match. Something tells me we’re going to end up with a triple threat match at the Rumble with the
Undertaker defending his championship against both Rey and Batista.

That aside, this was a wholly satisfying edition of Smackdown, and a strong way to start the new year. There were no (that’s right, zero)
backstage skits, all the action was confined to the ring, with three decent or better matches, and we saw some nice storyline
progression. This augurs well for 2010 on Smackdown.

MVP of the night- Matt Striker. Sometimes he can be annoying, but tonight he was really on his game, offering the kind of insight you just
don’t get anymore from WWE commentators.

Line of the night- CM Punk asks for a show of hands as to who made new year’s resolutions. The crowd boos. Punk responds with a
smile “you don’t boo that. You just either raise your hand, or don’t.” I laugh.