Date: 04/02/07 from Dayton, OH.
The Big News: WWE followed up WrestleMania with a solid Raw that continued their recent streak. Vince McMahon was very agitated about losing his hair, while the challengers are lining up for John Cena.
Conclusive Finishes: 5 of 5.
John Cena came out to start the show. He received a passionate mixed reaction, and he’s back to the point where he gets a substantial quantity of boos each week. He said the champ is here, which immediately brought out Shawn Michaels. Michaels said that this is usually the point where he comes out and says that he made history with his opponent. He got in subtle references to past opponents Bret Hart (“screw jobs”), Mick Foley (“mind games”) and Hulk Hogan (“brother”).
Michaels said that Cena won last night, and he doesn’t like it. He added that he won’t lie to himself and say his opponent was the better man. He said Cena did win but that Cena is not the better man. Cena said that sounded like a challenge and that he would take on Michaels any time. Michaels suggested right then, but Coach came out. Coach said there would be no WWE title match, and instead Michaels and Cena would defend their tag titles in a 20 man 10 team battle royal.
This was a really odd promo by Michaels. I think the underlying idea was that Michaels is always carrying opponents to classic matches, but he doesn’t feel like giving Cena credit because everyone knows Michaels is the better worker. Seriously. He didn’t spell this out, but that’s absolutely how the promo was structured. On the plus side, it was subtle enough that I don’t think most people will get it to where it will hurt. I wouldn’t continue forward with this theme because it buries Cena.
Shawn Michaels and John Cena won a tag team battle royal over Fit Finlay and King Booker, Rob Van Dam and Sabu, Cryme Tyme, Highlanders, Kenny Dykstra and Chris Masters, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Eugene (in an odd bit of storyline discontinuity given they were just feuding before Eugene turned back face for no reason), Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms, Elijah Burke and Matt Striker, and Deuce and Domino.
The rules were that if one member of the team was thrown over the top rope, both members were eliminated. Dykstra went out, followed by JTG and Eugene. Cena dumped both Deuce and Domino. Finlay eliminated Striker and Booker pushed RVD off the top to the floor. That left Booker and Finlay with Cena and Michaels. Michaels gave Finlay sweet chin music to eliminate him.
Coach came out and said that there would be a second 10 team battle royal for the tag titles. Matt and Jeff Hardy won the second match over Michaels and Cena, Guerrero and Helms, Paul London and Brian Kendrick, Dave Taylor and William Regal, Sandman and Tommy Dreamer, Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch, Marcus Cor Von and Kevin Thorn, Johnny Nitro and the Miz, and Viscera and Val Venis.
Venis was out first, followed by Regal. Jerry Lawler referred to Regal as Steve (his name pre-WWF). Ross corrected him, but then referred to his partner as William Taylor. Dreamer and Miz were eliminated next, at which point Michaels grabbed Cena from behind and threw him over the top rope. That cost them the tag titles, and Michaels indicated he just wants the WWE title. If they were going to do this they should have done it at the end of the match for dramatic effect rather than randomly in the middle. Following the elimination of the champs, it came down to the Hardyz and Cade/Murdoch. Hardyz did stereo leg drops off the ropes and eliminated Cade and Murdoch to win.
Neither of these battle royals was very good, as there were few stories within the matches and they consisted mostly of simple eliminations. However, they did tell a fun story and constituted an interesting way to start the show. Moreover, battle royals work better than gauntlet and handicap matches in these circumstances. They tell the story of the star battling against all odds without burying the opponents.
Shawn Michaels backstage said that the tag titles were muddying waters. Randy Orton confronted Michaels. He said Michaels got his title shot, and Cena is giving him another one because he knows that he can beat Michaels but not Orton. Michaels said that he is better than Orton. They then did a backstage vignette where your view was supposedly Vince McMahon’s as he wandered around backstage. This allowed them to show people laughing at Vince without giving a view of him yet. It was a little goofy.
Vince McMahon came out wearing a hat. He said last night will be a date that lives in infamy. He blamed Steve Austin for the injustice. He said that he would rewrite history, and had Lillian Garcia announce him as the winner last night. He then announced that Lashley would defend his title against Umaga. Vince said people wouldn’t get to see Vince bald, because he had his hat surgically cemented to his head.
Lashley came out and pulled off Vince’s hat. Vince scurried to cover his head. He tried using a towel, Lawler’s crown, and J.R.’s hat, but Lashley kept pulling them off. Vince hid under the ring apron but Lashley pulled him out. Eventually he hid under Lillian’s skirt, so Lashley pulled off the skirt. This was absolutely hilarious. Five star comedy. Vince was fantastic.
Ric Flair and Carlito beat Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. The heels worked over Carlito, who eventually tagged in Flair. Flair came in with chops but Benjamin turned the tide with a back body drop. Carlito made the save with a chop block to Haas. Flair used another chop block and applied the figure four to Haas for the submission. I’m glad they are drawing out the Flair and Carlito issue so it will mean something when the story plays itself out.
Melina came out and said that she proved Ashley is just another pretty face. She had a special photo op arranged, but wouldn’t you know it was interrupted. Mickie came out and attacked Melina. I’m glad they are back to a women’s title program that could hypothetically produce decent matches. They announced that next week Mick Foley will present a special wish for Make a Wish on Raw. Angle alert, and I don’t mean Kurt. Or even Eric.
Great Khali beat Super Crazy with the chop and tree slam. Backstage, Armando told Vince to take it easy. Vince went nuts again, and made Umaga and Armando vs. Lashley in a handicap. He warned Armando not to fail him. This made little sense, given Vince supposedly wanted to get revenge on Lashley very badly and putting Armando in the match would make that much less likely. Matt and Jeff Hardy were interviewed, and talked about how happy they were to win the titles. This was a nice, short bit to put over the significance of the belts.
Edge came out and said that a lesser man wouldn’t be there after the hell he went through the previous night. He said he was confused upon hearing that Michaels and Orton want title shots and Cena is still champ. Edge said he has beaten up and outsmarted all of them. Edge said he is the best and he will be the next WWE champion. This was an effective serious promo.
Lashley defeated Umaga and Armando. Jim Ross’s voice was in really bad shape the entire night, and he threw in the towel this final segment and Jerry Lawler did the commentary on his own. This match was mostly Umaga working over Lashley with Armando watching. Umaga gave him the Samoan drop and running butt drop. He went for the Samoan spike but had it blocked. Lashley gave him the spear. Umaga went for an avalanche but accidentally landed on Armando. Lashley gave Armando the running power slam for the pin. There was very little crowd reaction to this match, which is not a good sign for Lashley in the midst of the biggest push of his career.
WWE still seems focused coming out of WrestleMania, and this was an even better show than many recent weeks. It didn’t feature much in the way of good wrestling, but the booking was strong with some great comedy and freshening up of programs.