John Cena & Triple H vs. Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, & Randy Orton (WWE Saturday Night’s Main Event 3/18/06)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Rawbserver over on my Ko-fi account.

A line up this stacked confined to a sub-15 minute match predictably produces a damn good match. I’m sort of head over heels for how much this match is able to accomplish and tease, all without ever spiraling into clutter or overambition (for the most part).

As a match, it’s main function is to provide some interpromotional interactions as the participants of each brand’s Mania World Title match team up with each other. It’s a mix of Survivor Series brand supremacy and the WWE staple of “Can they co-exist?” Luckily, none of these aspects of the match ever gets too obnoxious, and what’s left instead is just some really hearty, simple pro wrestling.

For the purposes of the match, Cena & Hunter play a more antagonistic role, and they really only do so because Rey’s just the most natural babyface in the bunch. It’s actually heartening to see how much work gets put into Rey being sold as a major threat in the match. Early on when he tags in, it’s a real boon for the Smackdown team. Rey’s quickness and high flying ability single handedly flusters both Triple H and Cena, and it’s only after Hunter takes his head off with a big clothesline that his momentum’s finally neutralized.

Speaking of Hunter, this is a rather well-behaved performance from him that shows seem genuine positive qualities to his work. In that early shine before the commercial, he’s actually doing a damn good job basing and bumping for Rey to help put him over. Later when it’s back to the broadcast, Hunter’s smartly cast in the role of controlling the heat segment. It’s nice seeing him throw his weight around here, and Rey’s obviously game to bump and sell as an ideal face in peril. Love too that it’s Hunter placing Rey on the top turnbuckle that ends up costing him, basically giving Rey a springboard to launch off of before getting the hot tag. Really the only time Hunter’s worst habits threaten to pop are his insistence that he gets two Pedigrees in here: one on Cena as the inevitable betrayal, and then one on valiant Rey trying to break up the dirty pin.

Cena’s also excellent here as always. Perhaps the best thing we get from him are the interactions with Orton, who is also great in this small performance. Those early moments with Cena show Orton at some of his best, good stooging and heel selling for the ace before taking a shortcut to kill the momentum. Then late in the match, the action comes down again to Cena and Orton after Hunter turns on Cena. What results is a finish so simple in concept but so wonderful in execution I actually yelped upon seeing it: Orton goes for an RKO but Cena catches him and cradles him for the pin.

It’s a brilliant finish, supplemented by Cena’s groggy rising sell to put over the damage from the Pedigree. As much as I hate Hunter’s move being put over, it does also sort of force a narrative change in Cena, he gets the win with this clever cradle probably because there wasn’t enough in him left to keep going.

Simple, hearty, breezy TV wrestling. The kind of stuff that validates nostalgia even if for just a 10 minute span.

Rating: ***3/4

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