Darren Young is gay and SummerSlam was excellent. Both topics have generated a lot of discussion, and I’d like to analyze a match that, on any other night, would have garnered more attention. At SummerSlam, it had to compete with the likes of Punk/Lesnar and Cena/Bryan. But it gave me one more chance to review Mr.One More Match.
When Christian made his comeback in June, I got my gitch in a twist because he pinned Dean Ambrose. I didn’t think he was in good enough standing on the roster to be pinning a member of The Shield, an opinion which disappointed some Christian fans. While I am happy that Christian has such exuberant followers, I could not count myself among them.
I found him entertaining 10 years ago, but perhaps since I was never a true Peep, I didn’t have enough goodwill stored up to tide me over in these leaner times. With great respect for the high-risk matches he has wrestled, those same matches have likely hampered his present-day abilities. It is hard to inspire the fans, or a story, when injuries interrupt your momentum.
But Captain Charisma keeps coming back, and earning himself one more match. Leading up to SummerSlam, Christian became the number one contender to Alberto Del Rio’s World Heavyweight Championship. Let’s go right to the entrances!
“Dreams You Never Lived And Scars Never Healed”
Now more than ever, the lyrics of Christian’s song ring true – resonating even in my own cement heart. The video package makes it look like this will either be Christian’s crowning achievement or his swan song. They show photos of him with his childhood buddy Edge and the subsequent highlights of his career. Even though he’s just never thrilled me, I understand why it would be nice for him to have another shining moment. I cannot deny his accomplishments, nor his potential to elevate Del Rio.
Speak of the diablo, Alberto looks less resplendent here without Ricardo, but compensates with a lot of scarf-flinging and demanding that Lillian introduce him in Spanish. He is sporting 1.5 black eyes before the match has even started.
Ring The Bell
- Collar and elbow tie-up, scramble towards the corner. When the ref breaks the hold, Christian makes a point of shoving Alberto, quickly establishing how focused he is. He wears an almost-grim expression. There is an early, spontaneous “Let’s go Christian” chant.
- Alberto brings him down with a headbutt, a kick and punches. He cinches in a side headlock that Christian can’t seem to shake, repeatedly trying to loosen himself enough to throw Del Rio into the ropes. When he finally does, Alberto shoulder blocks him to the mat. Del Rio pounds his chest and pops his pecs with pride. I’ve always loved his cocky gestures, my favorite being when he yells “DEL RIO!” mid-match. Bucket list item: stand up in the middle of a School Council Meeting and yell, “HICKEY!” because I take such kick-ass minutes.
- Christian jabs Alberto under the chin and tosses him out to the floor. Vintage Christian clapping to engage the crowd, which annoys me every time, but I know I’d be clapping like a fool if I was there in person.
- He baseball slides out towards Alberto, who scoots around and back into the ring. Christian follows, ducks his punch, and slingshots Alberto off the ropes which Alberto sells beautifully.
- Christian climbs to the top turnbuckle, sees that Alberto is in pursuit, and jumps over him onto the mat. He gives Alberto an elbow to the jaw and another jab as Alberto backs up onto the turnbuckles. When Christian follows him, Del Rio slides out from underneath, leaving Christian sitting facing outward on the top turnbuckle. Christian looks winded and exhausted, so either he’s winded and exhausted, or being a great underdog!
It’s Go Time
- Alberto approaches from behind with a wicked step-up enzuigiri, leaving Christian dangling upside down and the announcers wondering if this is the end. Del Rio goes back in with multiple stomps to Christian’s shoulder, until the ref cautions him out of the corner.
- Christian manages to disentangle himself and get out to the floor, where Del Rio twists his arm behind his back and shoves him hard against the barricade. This is what makes Christian a great opponent for Del Rio, I realize, as the announcers remind us of Christian’s recent shoulder injury that kept him out for a year. It’s the shoulder that he uses to spear an opponent, and the target for Del Rio’s cross armbreaker.
- Thrown back in the ring, Christian is pinned for a 2 count.
- Armbar! Christian fights up to one knee and delivers several body blows to loosen the hold. He runs the ropes and gets in a kick to Alberto’s chest, but in his next attempt he is tossed up in the air to the mat.
- While Christian is down, Del Rio strikes with a low drop-kick to his arm, then immediately wraps that same arm around the bottom rope to wear it down. In a neat follow-up move, Alberto climbs to the top turnbuckle, stomps mid-air on that shoulder/arm, and lands gracefully on his feet. Two count.
- Another low drop-kick to Christian’s weak arm, then Alberto twists him around the ropes for more wearing down. When the ref breaks the hold, Christian looks comedically exhausted and overwhelmed. Lawler “goes out on a limb” and predicts that Christian will win the title because he is resilient.
- Cue Christian ducking out of the way as Alberto goes through the ropes and onto the floor, missing his target but to great effect.
- Now Christian drags his tired body and limp arm up into the corner, and can only clap by banging his palm against the turnbuckle. The fans clap along in support, and I am amazed by the crowd’s responsiveness.
- Christian climbs to the top rope as Del Rio gets to his feet on the floor. Christian executes a beautiful high frog splash, and both men are down as the announcers vow that this could be Christian’s last chance at the title.
- As both men roll back into the ring to break the count, you can see that the left side of Christian’s back is bruising up. Both men trade blows and Del Rio gets Christian down on the mat by wringing the injured arm and repeatedly stomping on it. As Christian writhes in pain, Del Rio takes a breather. At this point, he’s got black eyes, a bloody nose, AND I just noticed that his left ear is very bruised.
- Del Rio makes like he blames Christian for the bloody nose, and slaps him as he takes to the ropes for an aerial attack. Christian brings his knees up and the tide has turned. Christian bangs on the mat and the fans start clapping in time with him immediately. The Peeps are in the house! Just not so much at my house.
Driven to Distraction
I spend too much time concerning myself with injuries during a wrestling match. Not in a hand-wringing, “Oh my dear, I hope he’s just selling the dickens out of that chair shot!” sort of way, but more a “Now I must scrutinize every move to determine whether real injury occurred and how they worked through it” because I find the mechanics and athletics of wrestling to be pretty amazing.
When Del Rio came down the aisle with black eyes, I started doing some mental math to determine if he could have gotten those bruises on Smackdown, taped five days earlier. Then he started checking his nose during every moment of down-time in the match, as if he expected it to be bleeding. I tried to remember if anything had happened in the match to cause a bloody nose, and wondered if the two injuries were linked (as a broken nose could cause black eyes and a bloody nose, but he came out with the black eyes, and yes I was totally enjoying the match but these are the things I can’t let go of). The next day we learned of a scuffle with some guys who assaulted Del Rio that day.
It is unfortunate that wrestlers don’t necessarily have the freedom to protect themselves when they are being threatened in public. History has shown that it’s usually better for them to suffer through an altercation, and avoid negative publicity. I admire Del Rio (and McIntyre) for making a smart choice.
- After trading blows, Christian pops up to the middle turnbuckle and drop-kicks Alberto. He’s making all sorts of weary sounds as he then puts Del Rio into the other corner and hits him repeatedly while the crowd chants to 10.
- Christian climbs to the top turnbuckle and ducks when Alberto approaches with his step-up enzuigiri. Del Rio is down and the announcers wonder if this is Christian’s chance for victory. A flying cross body and a 2 count! Michael Cole is getting fired up. Great work by the announcers on this, as they are telling a simple story without the usual ridiculous exaggeration.
- Alberto is on his knees, begging for mercy. Christian walks towards him and gets a headbutt to the abdomen. Del Rio picks him up for a suplex but Christian sneaks over him and tries to apply the Killswitch. Since the Killswitch takes several hours to engage, Alberto is able to get out of it and push Christian into the corner.
- Before Christian can escape, Alberto gives him a backstabber but can only get a two count. No one can believe that Christian has been able to withstand this onslaught. What I like is that he’s not coming off looking like a superhero, because it’s been brilliant back-and-forth wrestling.
- Del Rio is really mad now, and administers a stiff kick to Christian’s arm. He finishes with an Olé! kind of arm flourish, but it’s angry, and I like it. While Del Rio seems distracted by his bleeding nose, Christian rolls him up for a 2 count.
- Back to the corner, and Alberto’s step-up enzuigiri connects with a snap, but Christian is able to kick out again at two. Tellingly, Christian adjusts his position on the mat as soon as he kicks out, and Alberto goes for a seated senton off the top but no one’s home.
- Christian gestures for the crowd to cheer, then hits a flying elbow from the middle rope. Cole says the tide has turned now, and Christian once more gets the crowd clapping. Everyone loves him!
- Del Rio charges him into the corner and delivers multiple shoulder blocks to the gut. He lifts Christian into a seated position on the top turnbuckle. It looks like Del Rio is angling for a superplex but Christian goes for a sunset flip. Alberto maintains his position by jabbing Christian in the face, but Christian recovers and gives him a feeble drop kick.
- I’ll tell you what’s not so feeble, the hurricanrana that Christian pulls out of nowhere while Del Rio is seated on the top turnbuckle. “He just keeps coming at you, with moves like that!” heralds Michael Cole, and the fans are distraught when Alberto kicks out at two.
- Christian starts running for the spear, and is met half way with a drop kick to the face. It’s not the least bit predictable and I’m having a great time watching this. “I bet that’s it!” vows JBL, and imagine Alberto’s dismay when it is not IT. Michael Cole is incredulous that Christian was able to kick out, and Lawler points out that Del Rio failed to hook the leg. Useful, Lawler!
- Del Rio is all fire as he gestures for the cross armbreaker and chants “Si! Si! Si!” which gets the crowd doing the same.
- When Alberto goes for the float over, Christian counters with a drop toe hold that leaves Del Rio draped across the middle rope. Captain Charisma busts out a signature move by slingshotting himself over the ropes and slapping Alberto when he lands on the floor.
- He doesn’t have the upper hand for long, as Alberto does a baseball slide-dropkick combo and gets himself another near fall. By this point the announce team is echoing Del Rio’s disbelief that he’s been unable to pin Christian thus far. “This is awesome!” chants the arena.
- Alberto goes for another low drop kick, misses, and gets rolled up for a very close pin count. As he clambers to his feet, SPEAR!
- Oh no, the shoulder! Christian’s shoulder has been worn down by Del Rio, and the impact of the spear has rendered Christian unable to go for the pin. Christian cries and holds his arm, the better to isolate it for Alberto to lock in the cross armbreaker!
- They struggle, Christian trying to get some leverage and grab the ropes, but Alberto cinches it in tighter and regains control. A few seconds later and Christian taps out.
Del Rio celebrates the victory, pointing to his “Hecho En Mexico” tattoo and raising the title belt. They replay the highlights of the match: Christian’s hurricanrana from the top, Del Rio’s drop kick mid-spear, one of the many astonishing near falls, the spear that was Christian’s undoing, and his eventual submission.
It’s easy (and sometimes fun) to pick apart a match move by move, but all that matters is how it makes you feel. When I first saw this match last Sunday night, I felt so surprised and impressed. Not because I needed a fairytale ending for my struggle to appreciate Christian, but because you can’t fake the way you feel. Until now, I couldn’t find it in me to give more than a lukewarm response to Christian’s wrestling, and I’m happy to report that I liked this match a lot. It moved, it flowed, there were some great spots, and both guys looked competitive.
I’m no card-carrying Peep, but Christian played a huge role in this terrific match. He conducts the crowd like an orchestra, clapping and rousing support during every lull in the action. He was always exactly where he needed to be, and made Del Rio look every inch the slick villain. Christian’s fans have been as resilient as he is, hoping for that magical one more match. Now I get it.
Please enlighten me further with your favorite Christian matches! Comment below and tweet me @kickyhick. My next “anatomy of a match” will follow Night of Champions, which I will attend in person. I am excited beyond words!