Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 12/11/06 from Uncasville, CT.

The Big News: We got a double dosage this week of John Cena, Triple H and Edge in a strong edition of Raw.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Conclusive Finishes: 7 of 8. This is an absolutely fantastic number, particularly since the one inconclusive finish was setting up an immediate follow-up match with a conclusive finish. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with inconclusive finishes when you have a weekly television show, but WWE has gone so far in making matches seem inconsequential that a shock therapy session is needed to make people care about match results again. Featuring clean finishes as much as they did this week is a step in the right direction. If match results prove who is better and who is going to get the bigger future push, pay-per-view events start to mean more as the culmination of major feuds and issues.

Match Results: John Cena b Armando Alejandro Estrada; Jerry Lawler & Carlito Caribbean Cool b Chris Masters & Viscera; Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin b Highlanders; Triple H b Edge-DQ; Triple H, Shawn Michaels & Ric Flair b Edge, Randy Orton & Kenny Doane; Victoria b Torrie Wilson; Umaga b Jeff Hardy; John Cena b Johnny Nitro.

Show Analysis:

John Cena beat Armando in the opener. Armando said nobody wanted to see him fight Cena, and offered Cena Cuban cigars as a peace offering. Cena of course broke a cigar in two. Armando offered his watch, but Cena destroyed it as well. Armando then offered cash, but Cena threw it into the crowd. Cena beat up Armando and pinned him after the FU. He applied the STFU after the match until Johnny Nitro came in. That was kind of weird, as Nitro only delivered one kick which Cena sold forever. It looked like Nitro really caught him with the kick. Nitro plugged Cena’s match against Kevin Federline. Backstage, Cena challenged Nitro to a match.

This was an entertaining opening segment, but I’m not sure they got enough heat on Armando in advance to where this felt more like the justified release of long-standing hostility and less like unprovoked bullying. When this angle has traditionally been done with a Jim Cornette or Bobby Heenan, the heel manager will torment the heel for months if not years on end. Armando and Cena were seemingly introduced to each other a few weeks ago, and thus it’s not totally understandable why he would have such malice towards the man.

Jerry Lawler and Carlito beat Chris Masters and Viscera. Masters hit a body slam and some punches on Lawler. Viscera followed with punches, slaps, an elbow drop and a sit down power bomb. Lawler tagged Carlito, who came in with a knee lift, clothesline and springboard elbow on Viscera. He gave Masters a drop kick. Carlito sent Viscera into Masters and rolled up Viscera for the pin. This was a really sloppy match, in large part due to Viscera. I don’t really see the purpose he serves as enhancement talent when you could bring in a better, smaller worker that would make his opponents look good in losing. Lawler was really trying, though. I celebrated the finish, because it meant we wouldn’t get Todd Grisham on commentary for the rest of the show.

Backstage, Cryme Tyme were presumably conning Highlanders in a shell game. Charlie Haas came in and reprimanded Cryme Tyme for the negative stereotypes. They mocked him. Shelton Benjamin then entered and said that he would reunite with Haas. Shockingly, that got a positive pop from a segment of the audience. I like that they are teaming Haas & Benjamin again, but it seems like they skipped a few steps in the story given Benjamin was leery of Haas just last week. Elsewhere backstage, Kenny wanted credit for helping Edge & Orton win last week, but Orton said they would have won anyway.

The World’s Greatest Tag Team defeated the Highlanders. Haas hit an overhead belly to belly and hard clothesline on Robbie. Benjamin gave him a suplex and a body slam into a Haas back breaker. Poor Marty Rubalcaba was given a fake last name, Elias. He’s the only WWE referee I’ve caught a wrestling event with, and he deserves his real name, dammit. Robbie hit a side Russian leg sweep and tagged Rory. Rory came in with a head butt and back drop, but his momentum didn’t last long. Benjamin caught Robbie with a yakuza kick and they gave Rory the World’s Greatest Double Team (broken arrow) for the pin.

Triple H beat Edge via DQ in a nothing match. They brawled on the outside, and HHH sent Edge into the announcing table. Back in the ring, HHH hit a high knee and knocked Edge off the apron. As he chased Edge to the outside, Randy Orton interfered. That brought in Michaels, followed by Kenny, and finally Ric Flair. It takes away from the gravity of a very serious angle they did just two weeks ago for Flair to return so quickly. DX and Flair cleaned house, and Coach made a six man tag match. They announced that next week there will be a 30 man battle royal at the beginning of the show with John Cena facing the winner for the title at the end of the show.

HHH, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels beat Edge, Randy Orton and Kenny Doane. HHH gave Kenny a delayed vertical suplex and knee drop. Michaels followed with a sleeper and HHH hit a chop block. The heels took over on Flair, using mostly punches and kicks. Michaels was tagged in and hit a flying forearm, inverted atomic drops and an elbow off the top. He gave Edge sweet chin music but Orton immediately gave him the RKO. Orton and Michaels traded blows, and Michaels hit a swinging neck breaker. Edge missed a crossbody off the top and Michaels tagged HHH.

HHH came in with hard clotheslines and punches on Kenny. He sent Orton and Edge to the outside and hit a spine buster on Kenny. He tagged Flair who went for the figure four on Kenny, but Edge and Orton broke it up. Kenny went to apply the figure four on Flair but Flair rolled him up for the pin. The heels after the match jumped the faces. They set Michaels up for the concerto, but HHH came in with the sledgehammer for the save. This was a good match. Nitro and Melina were talking with Kevin Federline on speakerphone in the back. Coach came in to grant Nitro a cage match with Jeff Hardy next week, and left with Nitro and Melina. That left Federline still on speakerphone, and Ron Simmons came in for his weekly spot.

Victoria destroyed Torrie. Torrie didn’t want to wrestle Victoria because Victoria’s crazy and she was going to get her ass kicked. Carlito didn’t seem particularly concerned about her well being, and wished her good luck. Victoria just pummeled Torrie. She bit off one of Torrie’s nails and spit it out. She finished Torrie with the widow’s peak. Victoria is a great monster heel. It’s going to be a sad day for one Nathan Hubbard when Victoria gets her hands on Mickie James. Mirko Cro Cop’s not the only monarch without the crown. This is such simple build, but it’s very effective. Chris Masters came in afterwards to give Torrie the Masterlock, but Carlito made the save.

Umaga defeated Jeff Hardy via ref stoppage. Armando wasn’t with Umaga. Hardy hit kicks, a splash and whisper in the wind early. Umaga beat him down with punches, clotheslines and the dreaded nerve hold. He missed a splash off the top. Hardy hit his swanton, but Umaga powered out with ease. Hardy acted shocked and went for the twist of fate, but was caught with a Samoan drop. He hit his running butt drop twice and Marty stopped it.

Umaga gave Hardy a third butt drop and then took poor Marty, who just had his name taken from him, and gave him the Samoan spike. He then gave Hardy the Samoan spike. This was a very effective match in making Umaga look destructive. This segment also accentuated another point for me. As entertaining as Armando is, Umaga is more menacing without him. After having what amounts to a handler for so many weeks, when he is set free he seems out of control. Armando also is fun, and removing that element of fun may be a good thing for this type of character.

John Cena beat Johnny Nitro. Cena dominated early with punches and kicks. This led to a hilarious exchange between Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. Lawler said, “If Cena nails Federline in the mouth, his rapping days will be over.” Responded Ross, “They’re not?” Cena went for the FU, but Nitro escaped. He threw Cena into the steps, worked on his back, and applied a sleeper. He hit a face buster and the sky twister press. Cena kicked out of a pin attempt, and finished Nitro with the Cena slam, five knuckle shuffle and FU.

Final Thoughts:

This was as straight forward a wrestling show as WWE has produced in years, and I consider that a good thing. We had a series of matches, with the winners moving forward to set up bigger future matches. The whole focus was on building the upcoming matches, and a consistent focus like this will make it easier to sell future PPV matches by making the match results seem more meaningful. Thankfully the last month of Raw has been consistently pretty strong, after an almost unbearable couple of weeks last month.

Next week my exams will be done and I’ll be back home in DC, so I’ll write up a live report from the 3 hour Raw at MCI Center. I’m also kind of itching to do some more writing now that I have time, so look for pieces on TNA, WWE and UFC in 2006, and what they should do in 2007. I’ll also be at ROH Final Battle in Manhattan, so I’ll have a write-up on that as well. But first I have to conquer wills and trusts.


Anonymous Patrick said...

the day I finally decided to stop watching raw and they decided to put on a good show. Damn.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

The thing is, WWE tends to put on better shows, generally speaking, when it's drawing closer and closer to the Rumble and 'Mania, and then falls back off afterwards. Things have been encouraging, but I'm not getting my hopes up yet...

3:11 AM  
Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

I agree, RAW was strong this week. I've had a bitter taste in my mouth from wrestling recently including skipping out on watching this 5 week string of PPVs (my method of protest for crappy product, watch the free TV, skip PPVs). However, it's going to take a string of good shows to get me to watch New Years Revolution otherwise it's just UFC on Dec 30th and Royal Rumble for the next while.

Todd, what about some news on UFC buying WFA and having the option to pick up Rampage's contract? I know you're a Rampage guy and UFC is going to need an opponent for the Ortiz/Liddell winner...

Good luck on wills & trusts.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say Mr. Martin, what's your Final Battle 2006 seating, if I may so ask?

8:52 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

WWE is definitely better when it's in build mode because it just concentrates on putting on a wrestling show rather than throwing a bunch of garbage at the wall. The shame is they *might* be able to do better shows every week if they just had long term booking, because then the other shows would serve a purpose in setting up future angles. I think it's next to impossible to book a good promotion going week to week.

As far as WWE PPVs go, I don't really understand why people would order them. They haven't seemed to me to have any value for their cost for years. I think part of why Rumble, SummerSlam and Mania still do well are those are the times when people say, yeah, I don't like the current product all that much but I'd still like to order a PPV now and then and these are the biggest ones. I'll probably order the Rumble for that reason, but I'm looking forward to UFC and Pride Dec 30 and 31 a lot more. I have no idea what I'm going to do the 31st. I've already convinced a bunch of friends to get together for UFC on Saturday night, so it's going to be a hard sell to get them to watch more MMA on New Year's Eve, but if I tape the show I'm going to be waiting all night for it and I'll probably end up watching it in a drunken stupor at 5AM.

With that said, I could see New Year's Revolution doing a surprising buy rate, because the build for Cena-Umaga has been so much better than for most of their PPVs. The downside is I suspect people may expect they're not going to get a finish, because I don't expect a finish to the match myself.

I'll be third row balcony at Final Battle. I'm really looking forward to it. I haven't seen a show at the Manhattan Center before. The talent roster is mostly guys I see fairly regularly at PWG, but ROH is so much better booked that the issues feel more important.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

And I of course love UFC picking up Rampage (it was confirmed last night by Loretta Hunt). I'm planning to write more about that when I write about UFC in 2007, but I would push him to the moon. There is enormous money to be had. They do need Chuck to win, though, because Rampage and Tito are training partners and aren't going to fight each other (I know you could have said the same think about Chuck and Tito, but I really do think Rampage and Tito are closer and they have the same management team as well).

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Aside from one quick commercial, there was no mention of Cena's participation in Armageddon's main event. The fact that the match with Federline, which will add zero revenue and likely very little in TV ratings, gets more hype than most PPV matches is staggering.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Dave S. said...

Hey, I'm actually going to be at the Dec. 23rd ROH show also. Their Manhattan Center show in September was the first time I had ever seen ROH live (or on tape, for that matter), and I really liked it. I'm sure I would have liked it even more if I had known who all the non-TNA wrestlers were.

My view on Raw is this: If Umaga doesn't beat Cena for the title, then the writers of the show are officially retarded (though they have probably earned themselves that designation hundreds of times over the past few years). Seeing Cena chase Umaga for the title after he dismantles him will be so much more entertaining for both Cena and Umaga, and will make the show seem much fresher. If Cena wins, then what? Cena is still a douchebag who kisses up to the fans and gets booed anyway, and Umaga is dead as a character because he got beaten by a chump who nobody respects.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous MAZ said...

The whole Umaga - Cena title match is a train wreck waiting to happen. WWE gains nothing with Umaga as the champion and when Umaga loses, he'll be buried like so many others before him.

If Cena wins, who is there out there to chase him that we haven't already seen or that we would even care to see?

12:43 PM  

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