Just because a card looks good on a paper, it doesn't mean it'll translate well in reality. Capitol Punishment started off well enough, but fell completely flat near the end. Let's take a more detailed look.
The Capitol Punishment set was one of the coolest WWE has had for a PPV in quite awhile. I wept for humanity a little bit when people on Twitter thought it was the White House instead of the Capitol Building, but it at least looked awesome. Very slick and coupled with the red, white and blue ropes, it set the stage for the night quite well.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston for the United States Championship kicked things off. Makes sense, US Title on the line, continuing to set the tone very well, and rightfully, the AMERICAN won! [/extreme patriotism] These guys had a great opening contest though, Ziggler always turns the volume way up on PPV, he owns that opening match slot. Kofi's no stranger to that role either, and when he's given enough time to work with, he's a master at letting a match heat up to its boiling point. Dolphy Z and Kofi are obviously no strangers to each other, but something about putting them together on PPV just makes them up their games considerably. Dolph picked up the US Title after calling an audible when Kofi's legs buckled during the Zig-Zag, but it allowed Ziggler to lock in the sleeper anyway and win the title more definitively. Great way to start the show.
Predictions: 1 for 1
The Miz vs. Alex Riley going on second confused me and the dead crowd didn't help things either. This had to have been one of the worst crowds for any WWE PPV and what should've been a big night for Alex Riley, the hometown hero, the crowd just wasn't biting. Lame. The match was enjoyable though, definitely a star-making performance for Riley and I was really impressed that WWE pulled the trigger and let him beat The Miz 1-2-3 with his new finisher, the move formerly known as The Edgecution. Don't worry Mizfits, he'll be just fine and he did the right thing tonight by making Riley look so good... after kicking his ass for eight minutes.
Predictions: 1 for 2
Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show was next and this one wasn't so much a match, but I enjoyed the story that was told. An enraged Big Show attacked Del Rio during his entrance, but an enraged Mark Henry attacked Big Show before the match began and hit him with the World's Strongest Slam through the announce table. Makes sense, Show murderlized Henry on Smackdown, so somebody had to get their wig split. After Henry beat him up, beat him up and broke his leg, broke his leg, the ref was going to rule the match a count-out via forfeit, but Show insisted on starting. The World's Largest Athlete got a bit of offense in, but once Del Rio locked in the Cross Legbreaker, it was all over. Big Show couldn't walk, the referee called the match off and Del Rio picked up one of the most smug wins in WWE history. Fantastic storytelling and Del Rio should get "I BROKE BIG SHOW'S LEG" stitched into his scarf.
Predictions: 2 for 3
Wade Barrett came to the ring without music and ran down Washington DC and America in general because of Anthony Weiner and our national debt. Oh yeah, Wade? Well... England is... uh... you guys just had that stupid Royal Wedding... that we were obsessed over too. Goddammit. Someone come out here and shut him up.
YEAH! America saved by... the guy from South America! Oh well, at least "America" is in there somewhere. Wade Barrett vs. Ezekiel Jackson wasn't the most exciting match ever, but there's just something about the old school styles from these guys that I just really enjoy. It was like watching Dino Bravo vs. Don Muraco at SummerSlam in 1988, nothing particularly memorable, but a fun throwback. Big Zeke picked up the win and the Intercontinental Title after several bodyslams and the Torture Rack (again, deliciously old school), and solidified his spot as Smackdown's next big thing.
I know everyone is calling him the new Ahmed Johnson (because according to wrestling fans, all muscular black guys are the same), but I'm seeing 2005-era Batista mixed with just a smidge of Sid Justice. He's got that quiet intensity, which they were trying to break him of tonight (don't like), but I hope they just let him do the scary quiet guy instead of forcing him to scream. Zeke is the thinking man's monster, he doesn't need to be the Ultimate Warrior.
Predictions: 2 for 4
Backstage, CM Punk cut one of the most believable, dastardly and awesome promos I've seen on WWE TV in years. I'm talking Foley in his prime awesome. It was all about Washington DC politics and how he's a politician too, but the only difference is, he's the only honest one that's swimming with the sharks. He also promised to do the most honest thing the WWE Universe has ever seen if he won his match, which continues the trend of cryptic endings to CM Punk's promos.
CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio was definitely the Match of the Night. As I said on Twitter, if you ever want to claim that wrestling isn't an art, watch CM Punk perform, the guy is unquestionably an artist. Rey's no slouch either and when he's in there with Punk, they just bring out the best in each other. High drama, near falls, reversals, it's all you can ask for in an exciting wrestling match. Was it their definitive match? Maybe not, but it was still fantastic and Punk reversing the 619 into the GTS was beautiful. Now... what's the honest thing he's going to do?! Oh and Punk screaming "I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE!" before the bow and arrow submission was hysterical.
Predictions: 3 for 5
Randy Orton vs. Christian was when the show really started to go downhill. Don't get me wrong, this match was good, not anywhere close to their instant classic last month, but good. Unfortunately, it had big shoes to fill. First, the good stuff: I know Orton's been battling a concussion, but he was great tonight, even introduced some new moves to his arsenal, including a real cool move in the corner where he slithered between the ropes and rolled Christian up for a schoolboy. See WWE, if you insist on calling the guy "The Viper," have him do cool stuff like this instead of flailing around like an idiot in between moves. Incorporating the nickname into his moveset gives it a much more natural feel. Christian was terrific as always, but was once again screwed out of his World Heavyweight Championship. And surprise, surprise, that bastard, Mike Chioda, was responsible.
Christian's foot was clearly under the bottom rope when Orton hit the RKO and despite it being clear as day, Lawler and Booker T, who are supposed to be the good guys, just brushed off the claims, despite the mountain of evidence. I understand keeping the story going, Orton has no other viable contenders to work with right now, but the ending just fell flat for me. And to make matters worse, Orton nailed Christian with the World Title while Captain Charisma was rightfully arguing his case. Your hero, ladies and gentlemen. If this story doesn't end with Christian getting the belt back, I have no idea what the hell they're doing.
Predictions: 4 for 6
Then we got a "bonus attraction" with Evan Bourne vs. Jack Swagger. Crowd was dead. D-E-A-D. DEAD. They were dead the entire night to begin with, so add filler into that mix? Wow. Bourne continues to have Swagger's number and picked up another win, but this story needs to go somewhere if they want people to care. But perhaps they don't?
Oh, and the Bella Twins were at ringside with Keith Stone, the worst pitchman for beer since the last misogynistic character that was used to sell beer. It was the most awkward product placement on WWE TV since Kentucky Grilled Chicken on the commercial-free episode of Raw.
Then the Fake Barack Obama came to the ring... and WWE showed real United States soldiers saluting the fake Commander-in-Chief. That was incredibly insulting. Then they had the fake black president break dance with Booker T. Oh, WWE.
Now that Washington DC was obliterated like a Roland Emmerich movie, it was time for the Main Event!
John Cena vs. R-Truth for the WWE Championship. Here's the danger of the "cool down" segment, while WWE traditionally throws a Divas match in between the two main events, when you kill 20+ minutes with what WWE did tonight, you run the risk of never getting the crowd back. On top of that, the crowd already sucked tonight and they basically gave them a dose of Ambien right before the most important match on the card.
And to make matters worse, Truth and Cena didn't really click either. Truth's new persona is a breath of fresh air, it's engaging, unique and unlike anything else in wrestling right now, but he's still wrestling like "Mr. WUSSUP?!" instead of "Mr. LIL JIMMY GOT GOT!" Imagine if John Cena turned heel and was still doing the big shoulder block/hip toss/Five Knuckle Shuffle comeback combo, it wouldn't go over well. Truth is still doing the Lie Detector, Scissor Kick, and Shut Up, those are flashy, pretty moves for good guys. Truth did start to get into his groove when he stole a fan's water, who then threw it in his face, allowing Cena to throw Truth back in the ring and hit the Attitude Adjustment for an incredibly anticlimactic finish to an anticlimactic show.
Predictions: 4 for 7
Too many wonky finishes and really bad third act killed this show. Ziggler/Kofi through Punk/Mysterio wasn't worth $55 alone, but it was a great start to the show. Orton/Christian, while solid, left me confused and annoyed and then everything after that ranged from boring to embarrassing and infuriating. There was definitely fun to be had on this show, but not worth the money to watch the replay or even buy the DVD. First thumbs down for a WWE PPV in 2011 and unless they're really looking to ride the momentum of next year's presidential election, I don't see a Capitol Punishment 2012 happening.