Judge Ike Oden once again dedicates this review to the Odenation.
"Forget polite debate—true battles come to the nation's capital when the Superstars of Raw and SmackDown present Capitol Punishment."
Capitol Punishment is a disappointment. It isn't a failure of any kind, but it's far from a must-see WWE event like Royal Rumble or WrestleMania. It's a smirking, politically spoofing PPV that doesn't take its gimmicks or stories too seriously. Though this direction is sometimes fun, it makes it difficult to take the wrestling itself very seriously.
• United States Championship Match: Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler
Things get off to a promising start here. I've never been a huge fan of Ziggler's wrestling style or his heel shtick (thanks in part to manager Vickie Guerrero, who puts my teeth on edge), but the man works surprisingly well opposite high-flying Kofi Kingston. The match itself is entertaining, with some great off the rope action by Kingston and fine reversals by Ziggler. The outcome of the match attempts to suck the life out of the action—an unsatisfying cop-out on what is otherwise a very watchable bout.
• Alex Riley vs. The Miz
For my money, The Miz is the most entertaining wrestler in the WWE today. It's about time this crazed narcissist squares off against his former lapdog/personal assistant, Alex Riley, a setup ruined by the fact that Riley's wrestling skills begin and end with fake punches. The Miz counters this strategy by beating the crap out of him…with wrestling. Miz overpowers the guy in terms of charisma, skill and ability and holds back very little when it comes to putting the screws to Riley. Sadly, Riley gets an underdog story twist despite the fact he never earns it in the ring. Much like the wrestlers in question, this match is way too uneven.
• Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio
The built-up rivalry between Big Show and Del Rio has the most compelling pathos of the entire event: Big Show has let himself get way out of control on his quest for vengeance against Del Rio, putting Show in the sights of his adversary and Mark Henry (the only wrestler whose bulk rivals that of world's largest athlete). Henry's presence, along with a bum knee subplot and Del Rio's consistently obnoxious antagonism, makes this one a winner, though at four minutes in length the match feels way, way too short. Still, it makes enough impact to overshadow the rest of the evening.
• Intercontinental Championship Match: Wade Barrett vs. Ezekiel Jackson
Wade Barrett intros this with an America-bashing speech that predicts the outcome of this match before it even starts. Though cliché, the motivation of patriotism is such a longtime staple of the WWE that I can't help but forgive it. The match itself is fine—the action figure shaped Jackson proves he's worthy of the belt and Barrett never disappoints as the only heel in the WWE that rivals The Miz. My only issue is the lack of surprises and urgency in the proceedings, which makes me feel like both wrestlers were holding back.
• Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
This match moves more frenetically than any other in the PPV. Mysterio has remained an A-list wrestler for all these years due to his ability to perform crazy-ass top rope drops, flips, dives—you name it. Punk isn't quite the acrobat that Mysterio is in the ring, but he's got enough of a flair for it to make him a formidable rival to Mysterio. Punk's "straight edge" angle works well here and the lack of interference from his New Nexus cronies makes the affair feel evenly matched. Without a doubt the best of the set.
• World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton vs. Christian
How do I come away from a match-up between Orton and Christian under whelmed? I've never been a huge fan of Christian, but I'm willing to admit his skill as a wrestler is hard to ignore. Orton, on the other hand, has evolved into one of my favorite superstars of the WWE's current roster. So what's the deal? Orton obviously holds back until the climax of the match, while Christian is letting loose with everything he's got (supposedly the outcome of the match could vaguely decide the future of his career). The climax is creatively suspect, but the last few minutes when Orton lets loose are decidedly awesome. Still, it's far too obvious he's reigning himself in. Why, Randy?
• Evan Bourne vs. Jack Swagger
The most boring match of the disc has Swagger put Bourne through his paces unconvincingly, while Bourne struggles to muster an underdog moment letting loose a high flying comeback. These two mismatched superstars are thrown together to pad out the three hour running time, making for a good opportunity to exercise the chapter skip button on your DVD remote.
• & WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. R-Truth
Here, my friends, is the greatest offense to Capitol Punishment as a Pay-Per-View: A schmaltzy, ridiculous WWE Championship match between the WWE's contemporary Hulk Hogan archetype (Cena) and, um, R-Truth.
To be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure what R-Truth is going for with his new crazy, conspiracy theory spouting, child hating persona. He feels like a cartoon character that often borders on a racial stereotype from an era of hip-hop that occurred a decade ago. At one point in the Pay-Per-View he tells a photographer he wants to be "So fresh and so clean, clean" when he's photographed with his (actually Cena's) belt. This new persona is so bizarre and lacking in imagination that it makes me resent R-Truth, not because he's a heel who hates fans, but because his character just plain sucks. It's a shame, as I've always liked R-Truth as a wrestler and found him to be criminally underused in the WWE. I appreciate the push, guys, but not this way. Not this way!
The match itself is technically proficient. Cena brings his usual speed and swagger to the event, while Truth almost acquits his bad persona in his ability to go toe-to-toe with Cena. What ruins the match is the outcome, which is decided by a child throwing water on R-Truth's face. Seriously. This momentary distraction gives Cena the time he needs to take Truth out. WWE needs more children getting behind their merchandising empire, I suppose. This is an embarrassing cap to an otherwise ridiculous, if entertaining match. I just wish it wasn't a friggin' Championship Match.
A few other notes about the event:. Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, and Booker T provide their typically entertaining commentary, though Booker T is entertaining enough to rival a Macho Man or Dusty Rhodes in the wordplay department. Secondly, the interstitial skits involving a Barack Obama impersonator visiting the WWE during the event are universally and unequivocally horrible. God invented fast forward for a reason (or so I was taught in my Sunday School classes) and this is one of them.
The DVD itself is up to WWE's usual standards, offering a fine, sharp picture and very clear audio track. The only extra is an interview with Christian after his Orton match that adds nothing to the event itself.
Guilty of being a disposable PPV.
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