Friday, March 18, 2016
Only recently did I add the Tribute to the Troops shows to my list of potential reviews and I’ve now pulled one out for the first time. If you don’t know, these are special shows done for the troops. They originally would take place over in Iraq, like here, but eventually would stick to the states. I feel like that took away from the appeal of these as a fan honestly. This was recorded on 12/7, but aired on Christmas.
After a short video to talk about the troops, we go straight to the action. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are on commentary. They sound like they didn’t make the trip and are in a studio somewhere.
I was right about commentary as Lawler admits they are in WWE Headquarters. These two had a big series of matches over the summer so they are no stranger to each other. They start like two guys that know each other, jockeying for the upper hand. Edge gets in a cheap shot but Cena returns with a hip toss and slam for two. Edge hits a DDT and the crowd is pretty hot. Edge seems one step ahead of Cena throughout, which makes sense given his veteran advantage. Cena comes back, climbing to the top but is knocked outside by Edge who then mocks the “you can’t see me” gesture. After a commercial break, Edge is wearing down Cena in the middle of the ring. Cena fights out, but Edge goes to bring in a steel chair. The referee stops it considering how Rated RKO nearly killed DX the previous week with chairs. Edge turns back the clock and nails a spinning heel kick before applying a camel clutch. That’s a great move due to the history of it and where the match is taking place. Cena powers out and goes into the five moves of doom. Commentary promotes his upcoming match with Kevin Federline. He tries the FU but Edge counters into a DDT. An electric chair drop from Edge as these two guys are not just going through the motions like some do on these shows. Edge goes for the Spear, but Cena hits the FU instead to win.
Better than I expected. I sensed this would be similar to the UK Pay-Per-Views, where the guys kind of mail it in because the crowd will be hot regardless. Instead, both guys worked hard and looked guy. Edge using the camel clutch was genius too. The right guy won to make the crowd happy.
We go to a patriotic slideshow of the WWE’s time with the troops before CM Punk and Shelton Benjamin wish the fans a Merry Christmas.
I expect this to be good. CM Punk takes over Shelton Benjamin with quick arm drags, so a frustrated Shelton just slugs him. Punk just does it again, so Shelton goes to leave but Punk brings him back to the ring. Benjamin turns the tide by working over Punk’s arm. Punk comes back with a leg lariat. He only uses the right arm for some clotheslines, selling the left arm work. The knee strike/bulldog combination only earns two. A helicopter flies by, getting a major pop. Shelton tries to best it by leaping to the top and coming off with a snap superplex for two. Shelton makes a mistake as Punk rolls him up and wins.
Too short to be really good, but it was still fun. Kudos to Punk for selling the arm throughout and even after the match, which adds to this.
Here’s an intriguing matchup that I can’t remember seeing any other time. Johnny Nitro and Melina get military paparazzi, which I thought was a nice touch. Nitro does his best to avoid Undertaker, but once he gets caught, the fans pop hard. I can’t recall another time that Undertaker made the trip to Iraq. OLD SCHOOL connects as you can tell this will relatively be a squash. He tries the Last Ride but Melina gets on the apron. Nitro nails an enziguri while Melina shrieks at the top of her lungs. Undertaker is done with allowing Nitro offense and puts him down with the chokeslam and Tombstone.
An extended squash for the Undertaker so the fans can see him. There are worse squashes I could see as this was a pretty cool sight.
We are taken to Lillian Garcia’s emotional National Anthem from earlier in the show. Then we get some questions answered by soldiers. There is also footage of an attack that happened while the show was being set up.
This was during the time that it was announced as the “ECW World Heavyweight Title”. Lashley had just captured the title three weeks earlier in the Extreme Elimination Chamber. Holly wants a test of strength, but knows that’s a dumb move so he goes for a cheap shot. Holly throws him into the steel steps, getting more offense than I expected so far. Lashley, like Undertaker in the previous match, gets tired of the lack of offense and busts out a belly to belly suplex. Lashley hits a torture rack backbreaker, or the Rack Attack, if you’re more familiar with the current product. He then goes all British Bulldog by winning with a running powerslam.
Pretty basic and dull here. Hardcore Holly was a good hand at this point but never really had classics. It was smart for Lashley to work him to help his improvement, but it didn’t make for a good match.
Again, a ton of time gets spent on the troops and some of their stories. Melina cries when discussing a funeral they attended for a soldier that sacrificed himself.
In 2008, these two would have a pretty fun feud. At this point, Umaga was undefeated and headed towards a World Title match. Jeff Hardy tries to use his speed to gain an advantage, and it works for a moment as he hits a dropkick. Umaga kicks out at one but is knocked outside, where Jeff follows with a baseball slide and plancha. The plancha is caught though and he’s driven into the ring post. Umaga is now in firm control until he misses a top rope splash. Jeff hits the Twist of Fate, but when he goes up for the Swanton Bomb, the “Samoan Bulldozer” gets his knees up. RUNNING ASS ATTACK! He nails the Samoan Spike to remain undefeated.
The best match since the opener. It wasn’t great but it was fun. Umaga was splendid in this role, while Jeff Hardy played the underdog great too.
If memory serves me right, these two had a match at Unforgiven a few months prior that had a spectacular finish where Carlito double springboarded into an RKO. Carlito is in control early, outworking Orton on the mat. A thumb to the eye turns the tide for Orton. As he applies a chinlock, we get some credits at the bottom of the screen, which is odd. Carlito quickens the pace for a near fall before a springboard back elbow. His springboard offense always looked slower than most. Orton nails that excellent inverted backbreaker. Orton tries to steal a win with his feet on the ropes, only for the referee to catch him in the act. He argues, allowing Carlito to roll him up with a handful of tights and steal it.
Fun little match here as I always enjoy a face that can cheat and have it be fun. They did well with the time to make this a cool watch.
Santa Claus comes out to give out presents but announces that he needs help. Out comes Maria Kanellis, Torrie Wilson and Kristal Marshall to the biggest pop of the show. Santa makes some perverted jokes to the ladies before they give out gifts. Chris Masters shows up to Scrooge this whole thing up. He wants Santa to take the Masterlock Challenge. Santa fails to break it but after, reveals himself to be JBL! JBL takes him out with the Clothesline from Hell to send everyone home happy.
Overall: Coming into this, I had little to no expectations. As I stated earlier, I expected a half-hearted effort from most guys due to the crowd being hot regardless. We did get that in some places, but none of the matches were really bad. Outside of the Lashley/Holly match, they were all at the very least fun. It’s not a show you need to watch, but it’s a harmless way to spend just under two hours. Next on is