Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio; Smackdown 12/7 - SECOND
Our first match makes the actual ballot, with this main event from the first eligible Smackdown. It's not a barn-burner, but there were enough interesting elements to warrant a re-watch later in the year, which is what I consider the pass/fail during the first 6 months of the project. Sheamus was his usual clubbering self, and the majority of the match was him blowing Del Rio apart, and there are few better at that game than the Celtic Warrior. Del Rio is someone I've had a lot of criticism for, over the course of his WWE tenure, but this was possibly his first great stoogey performance. Rather than getting lost in arm work, or trying to look all menacing, he was just flopping around, and capitalising on those opportunities when Sheamus put himself in trouble. His kicks were really crisp, and worked as a great equalizer to Sheamus' punches, and the step-up enzuigiri to Sheamus' back, after a missed Brogue Kick was a creative way to work that signature spot. There's also the nice build around Del Rio randomly pulling out a moonsault, for the first good near-fall, then whiffing on another, for the finish. Add to that Ricardo being his ever-engaging self, and a fun post-match with Big Show being a douchebag, and you've got yourself a really fun TV main event.
They didn't get lost in kickouts; they didn't try to be or do anything more than what they were or should; they went in, gave us a fun 10 minutes, and got the fuck out. What more could you ask for, on any given Friday?
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus; RAW 12/10 - NO
This is a No of the big, stinkin' variety. They open up with Sheamus exploding Ziggler's taped leg for a few minutes, then that's completely forgotten about for the rest of eternity. Sheamus returns the favour later on, taking a facebuster from the top rope, afterwards looking like he doesn't know what planet he's on, then is instantly all better, and back in control. The match started nowhere, went nowhere, and ended nowhere.
John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio; RAW 12/24 - NO
An enjoyable match, sure, but compare this Miracle on 34th Street Fight to Orton/Otunga from the year before, and it's not even close. This was fun, but felt so overly scripted, and lacked any sense that the performers were really in the moment. Cena's acting was as horrible here as his boo-birds say it usually is, which just sapped any possibility of this being engaging right out of it. No amount of Ricardo reacting to Santa Claus could make up for that.
John Cena vs. Antonio Cesaro; Tribute to the Troops 12/19 - NO
Sorry, America. Definitely a lot better than the Christmas Eve match against Del Rio, but there just wasn't enough meat on the bones to put it on the ballot. I must say, it sure is refreshing to hear an entire crowd react positively to John Cena, for a change. Life was a lot simpler when people cheered babyfaces, and booed heels.
Team Hell No vs. Team Rhodes Scholars; Main Event 12/19 - NO
Wow, I must be in a bad mood, or something. These guys got a lot of time (like, 20 minutes), and as such were really able to take their time. Little things like everyone pausing in the early going to let the crowd chant "Cody's moustache", and boo when Sandow first tagged in, gave this the feel of a bigger match than it was. I guess you could call it a Main Event feel, if you wanted. As well, Team Rhodes Scholars did a great job communicating verbally throughout the match, both with each other, and getting into it with Mike Chioda. Finally, they went with the tried-and-true Smackdown Main Event Tag Team Formula ©, which is about as automatic as a tag match can get, for being enjoyable.
So, it's a match with some definite positives, but some pretty glaring flaws. One that really hurt things, in my eyes, was when Daniel Bryan spent about 30 seconds loading up for a suicide dive, then finally ran the ropes for it, but instead stepped to the apron, for his leaping high knee. Sometimes you have to call an audible, but that was a clear example of how not to do it. There's also the opening babyface shine, which was about 5 minutes of COMPLETELY meaningless, boring mat work, from both Kane and Bryan. It took the energy that the crowd brought to the match, and just chucked it down a mine shaft. Stack on top of that Kane feeling off his game for the duration of the match, and a finishing stretch that somewhat fell apart, and this ended up being a solid effort at a match this long, but not something that holds up to the scrutiny of MOTY.
Greg McNeish - Grand Chancellor