Monday, May 01, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 05/01/06 from Columbus, OH.

The Big News: We were coasting through a typical edition of Raw when all of a sudden something bizarre happened, and WWE programming became exciting again. Joey Styles cut an awesome promo on WWE’s brand of sports entertainment that said all the things most of us have been thinking for ages now. It was as close to an uncompromised promo as you could expect, and more on point than Paul Heyman’s interview in front of a much smaller audience at One Night Stand last year.

It was the single most encouraging development on Raw in years, perhaps even 2001. And it was followed by another intriguing segment that suggests HHH’s face turn and reunion with Shawn Michaels could be coming as soon as next week. There’s an opportunity to create a fresh and compelling main event mix. The key is what they do with John Cena’s character. Amazingly, suddenly, unexpectedly, there’s reason for optimism.

Title Changes/Turns: Joey Styles turned. In which direction depends upon your perspective.

Match Results: Maria & Torrie Wilson b Victoria & Candice Michelle; Mikey Mondo, Nicky Nemeth & Johnny Jeter b Eugene Dinsmore, Gene Snitsky & Goldust; Kane b Rob Conway; Umaga b Rory Fox; Carlito Caribbean Cool & Rob Van Dam b Chris Masters & Shelton Benjamin; John Cena b Nicky Doane.

Show Analysis:

Vince McMahon announced that like God, he was going to take a night off, and make the Spirit Squad GMs for the night. Remember when he was just there to hire a new general manager? He’s like the South American military leader that says he is coming in to reinstall democracy but instead becomes an unwanted dictator.

In any event, the Squad drew spirit straws, and Kenny won, earning him a title shot against John Cena in the main event. They are not very bright. Why not just make a six pack challenge for the title? They also showed Backlash highlights really frequently throughout the show. Well, highlights is probably the wrong word. Actually, they hit just about every lowlight on the show.

Maria and Torrie Wilson beat Mickie James and Victoria. They were all dressed in cheerleader outfits, which I enjoyed more than I should have. Torrie gave Victoria the stink face, and Maria gave Mickie the bronco buster. At that point it became very hard to pan the match. Trish ran in and grabbed Mickie’s leg as she went to suplex Maria into the ring. Maria collapsed on top of Mickie and scored the win. Mickie later went for revenge on Maria during the Kiss Cam segment.

The Spirit Squad (Nicky, Johnny and Mikey) beat the Odd Squad (Eugene, Goldust and the ever popular Gene Snitsky). This match made me happy because they gave the other team a name and theme, like a really crappy Survivor Series team. It’s not quite Roddy’s Rowdies versus Rude’s Brood, but it will have to do. They literally completely cut away from the match to show Vince McMahon backstage doing nothing. It was like Nitro. Spirit Squad and Odd Squad played the role of Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, while Vince McMahon played the role of Hulk Hogan walking into the building.

Anyway, the Squad worked over Eugene. He hit Rock Bottom and made the hot tag to Snitsky. Squad quickly gained back control and Johnny hit a spin kick on Eugene for the pin. The crowd was dead for this, shock of all shocks. The interviewer was instructed backstage to ask Eugene how it felt to lose, which was pretty funny. Eugene said Eric Bischoff taught him one lesson, to never quit. Then he thought about it and realized Bischoff did try to get him to quit and was a real jerk. He gloated about still having a job. Matt Striker then attacked him with a dictionary. The highlight was Eugene selling the beating by remarking “ow.”

Spirit Squad confronted Shawn Michaels backstage. They were very happy about their plan. They gave him the night off as a wrestler, but made him referee for Kane vs. Rob Conway. Worse, he had to wear a shirt that said May 19. Styles said this was brilliant. You know what would have been brilliant? Put him in a singles match with Kane if you dislike him so much. Hell, make him wear the t-shirt in that. Shockingly, the Squad’s plan didn’t work out.

Shawn Michaels pulled a Reggie Evans on Rob Conway before the match, and put the May 19 shirt on him. Throughout the match he kept waiving May 19 in Kane’s face and laughing, and somehow this made Kane angry at Conway. I wonder if Shawn wrote May 19 on a piece of cardboard and kept waiving it in Kane’s face whether Kane would attack the cardboard and drop elbows on it while leaving Michaels alone. In any event, Michaels was joking around, again teasing DX. He brought a garbage can into the ring, and Kane hit Conway with it and gave him the choke slam.

Kane left, but Michaels got on the mic and said May 19 a bunch of times. Kane came back to the ring, and concluded somehow that the guy speaking in Michaels’ voice was not Michaels, but actually the unconscious Conway. So he scooped up the unconscious Conway, gave him the tombstone and pinned him. This whole thing was hilarious, but I was laughing at them, not with them. This segment didn’t have the slightest bit of believability. You didn’t feel the wrestlers were acting based on real motivations, but rather were just playing out a cute idea by bad script writers.

Umaga beat “Rapid Delivery” Rory Fox~! Armando spoke some Spanish before the match. He should really avoid doing so, because his accent is awful and people will quickly catch onto the fact he’s of Palestinian heritage. Umaga hit a splash off the top and the thumb to the throat for the win. WWE’s choices for pushes are so unbelievably suspect.

Backstage, Vince McMahon was cuddling with Candice Michelle, who said she had Labiagitis. Vince asked if that was acute, and she said it is cute. Wow, that’s rather vulgar. They started making out. HHH came in, and made a joke about McMahon getting an erection. HHH and Vince then got into a discussion/subtle argument, where they teased dissension between the two. Vince wanted him to be special referee for the main event. HHH wanted a future title shot if Kenny won, but Vince basically told him to or else.

Mick Foley was the guest on the Cutting Edge. Edge said he still has a claim to the title since Cena pinned HHH. He said he doesn’t get any respect, and added his win at Mania was tarnished by Joey Styles’ commentary. Mick Foley came out and said he hasn’t forgot the Mania match. At first he wanted to figure out what went wrong, but realized things went right. He said it might have been the greatest hardcore match of his career and in history. Don’t push it, Mick.

He called Edge the toughest SOB in WWE, shook his hand, shook Lita’s hand and gave Lita a kiss on the cheek. He said he got his defining Mania moment, and showed Edge’s face after spearing Foley through the flaming table. Foley said that moment was realizing Edge would never be the same. Edge would never want to go through that again, while Foley does. Foley challenged him to a rematch right there. Edge said “You’re on.” He continued, “You’re on crack.”

Edge said he would take on Foley in any match he wants next week. Foley threatened to cut him open with barbed wire, razor wire and thumbtacks. So apparently they are meeting in some stipulation match next week on Raw. That’s surprising. I might even go to the show in Anaheim weren’t I in the middle of exams. Okay, so maybe that isn’t entirely true given exams aren’t stopping me from going to PWG this weekend.

Chris Masters said he has proven he’s superior to Carlito, because Carlito needed to cheat to beat him. Rob Van Dam came out for a Masterlock Challenge, but Benjamin ran in and attacked him when the Masterlock was applied. Carlito made the save with a chair, so Spirit Squad made a tag match.

Rob Van Dam and Carlito beat Chris Masters and Shelton Benjamin. They cut away from this match as well for Vince and Candice backstage, but given what Vince was doing with Candice, it was not unwelcome at all. Spirit Squad gave Styles a note during this match, so he left. The heels worked over RVD, including a power slam by Benjamin. RVD came back with a spinning heel kick and made the tag to Carlito.

Carlito came in with punches, a back body drop, a springboard elbow and a drop kick. Benjamin hit him with a crescent kick, but RVD hit Benjamin with a kick off the top. Masters went for the press slam on Masters, but received the back cracker instead. Benjamin went to bring in a chair, but Charlie Haas took it away and Carlito rolled up Benjamin with the tights for the pin. This wasn’t as good as it should have been.

Spirit Squad backstage told Joey Styles he was doing a bad job. He had a lack of spirit, and was giving off negative energy. The Squad said if he didn’t do a better job he would have to wear a female cheerleader’s outfit. Jerry Lawler was amused when Styles came back, and started mocking him. Lawler said he should show some enthusiasm, and he would do so if this were ECW. Styles responded, “If this were ECW, I wouldn’t be working with a hat like you.” That got a big reaction from the crowd.

Styles got pissed off. He shoved Lawler twice and slapped him. This was great. Lawler called him a little idiot and shoved him to the ground. Styles left to ECW chants. Lawler apologized after the break to Styles, and asked him to come back out. Styles came out, and proceeded to cut an awesome promo. He said he would show why for seven years in ECW he was the loose cannon of commentary.

Styles said that six months ago, WWE called him because they had humiliated and fired Jim Ross. So he got Ross’ spot, and from week one got a lecture on the difference between professional wrestling and sports entertainment. He isn’t allowed to say wrestler or wrestling, only sports entertainment and superstars. He is told to deliberately ignore the moves and holds, when that is damn insulting to wrestlers. Because he is not sports entertainment, he gets pulled from WrestleMania for Jim Ross, the guy he was hired to replace in the first place.

Then he is pulled from Backlash. In ECW he called live PPVs solo, but now he is not good enough to call Backlash because he’s not a sports entertainment storyteller. He said he is sick of sports entertainment, male cheerleaders, boogers, bathroom humor, semen and Vince McMahon, who mocks God to feed his own ego. Amen. Furthermore, he’s sick of fans who buy into that crap. Double amen. That got boos, and the crowd treated it as a heel turn. He said he never needed his job, and doesn’t want it. “I quit,” he concluded. He was cheered in a “we’re glad you’re leaving” sort of way.

John Cena beat Nicky Doane. Cena controlled the match early with an elbow drop, punches and a suplex. He went for the FU, but HHH punched him. The Spirit Squad then beat on Cena for the rest of the match, but HHH was always really slow and lazy to count. Kenny eventually got furious and shoved HHH. HHH punched him back, gave Mitch a pedigree, and left.

As he was leaving, Shawn Michaels came out with a referee shirt, and they stared at each other for a while. Kenny hit a leg drop off the top on Cena, and Michaels went to count but stopped counting at two. Kenny went crazy. Michaels gave him sweet chin music and a crotch chop. Michaels and Cena cleared the ring, and Cena gave Kenny the FU for the pin.

Final Thoughts:

Wow. The Joey Styles promo was the most entertaining segment on WWE television in ages. I didn’t think much of the return of ECW, but it can be meaningful if it provides an alternative vision to professional wrestling that has been badly missing in recent years. I want them to go with a theme of fans against fans. Encourage the fans of “sports entertainment” and “professional wrestling” to battle it out. Make them choose sides, not unlike WCW vs. NWO.

In all honesty, the real problem isn’t terms like pro wrestling and sports entertainment, or ECW versus WWE. It’s an issue of a product that is logical, treats its fans with respect, and pushes based on talent versus a product that is illogical, insulting and pushes people who bring next to nothing to the table. The more the former asserts itself, the less the latter will grip the common fan base in an apathetic, unresponsive malaise that doesn’t much care for the current product but is resigned to nothing better coming along.

I’m not against sports entertainment as a concept. WWF was the first product that I watched. I just want logical storylines that I can get into, interesting characters, matches with results I care about, and pushes given to people who can talk and/or wrestle and have more than just a look, a name or a connection.

This all boils down to one basic problem: over the past few years nobody with Vince’s ear is telling him what sucks. It can only be regarded as a positive when someone is scripting valid complaints about the product to be voiced on the air. It suggests there is some realization of those problems backstage. Maybe the fact UFC is killing WWE on PPV this year woke them up. Whatever it is, there needs to be more introspection, not less.

The most encouraging thing I can say for this show is that for the first time in ages, I am genuinely excited to see what happens on the next show. I get that feeling when I watch ROH. I get that feeling when I watch UFC. I get that feeling when I watch PWG. It’s about time I got that feeling when I watch WWE again.

4 Comments:

Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

Thumbs up man, this was the first edition of RAW in a long time where I felt I was watching something significant happen.

Back in the big run in the late 90s and early 00s there was always intriguing things going on and last night's show was right along the same lines.

Triple H/Shawn Michaels... are they face.. are they heels... are they together? DX redux?

Cena has weathered the storm of ambiguity, now he's absolutely polarizing, people love him to spite those who hate him... and if you watched his match at Backlash, his work in the ring is getting better (still not good but better).

Foley/Edge... can't go wrong there.

Styles' promo was so bizarre and exciting. I really hope they don't stick to the idea of taping "ECW" before SmackDown, they need to take ECW outside of the WWE arenas and get it in front of ECW fans.

The mid-card is strong with RVD/Shelton/Masters/Carito, and now throw Haas into the mix, 4 good workers and Masters (who is also getting better).

There was a lot of good on this week's RAW and like you I honestly am excited for next week.

6:57 AM  
Blogger 17Haze said...

Pretty good edition of Raw. The ECW invasion and a returning DX has my interest peaked. If there is a John Cena vs. RVD match at One Night Stand I will buy that PPV, just to see how the fan reaction will be to Cena. I actually can't wait for another week of RAW. Its been a while since I've said that.

1:33 PM  
Blogger DenisGorman said...

I like the idea of a fan feud--Dave mentioned it today on WO.com--simply because it forces the fans to support ECW or WWE without devaluing one or the other.

I think next week's Raw might be the most important in WWE history. If WWE can build on Joey's promo with logical booking--never a sure thing--, this could be a monster money-maker.

Think about this: During the Foley-Edge rematch, Sabu or Terry Funk (it would probably make more sense for Funk to run out because of his history with Foley. Personally, I would love to see a Sabu-Edge match at ONS II) run out and beat the crap out of Edge.

4:46 PM  
Blogger brian said...

There's definitely a good base to build on, but after recent years I'm pessimistic that WWE will actually follow it up with logical booking and take full advantage of the situation. Hopefully I'm wrong though. At least it'll interesting to watch now.

2:27 AM  

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