Thursday, June 28, 2007

Must See TV

NBA draft's on. Check it out now. Joakim Noah is dressed as ridiculously as any human being in history. It's a sight to behold. I don't think I've ever seen anyone in my life look so ridiculous. He may fall to the second round just based on the way he looks. Good lord.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

E-Mail Note

If you sent me an e-mail last night or prior to 9AM Pacific today, please re-send. UCLA switched up its e-mail service and it appears e-mails sent during that time didn't get through.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 06/25/07 from Corpus Christi, TX.

Show Analysis:

So, this is a pretty heavy story. Here’s what happened on the show. No analysis this week. I don’t even know how to begin in addressing this story or many of the comments made this week, which aired on the West Coast after more information became public.

The show started with a picture of Chris Benoit. Vince McMahon was standing in the ring in an empty arena. He explained that this show was going to be about his storyline death, but Benoit, Nancy and Daniel really died and the show would be a tribute to one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time. They then aired some video packages from the DVD WWE did on him.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler discussed the passing of Benoit, Nancy and Daniel. They aired the end of the Royal Rumble 2004 which Benoit won. Steve Austin said that Benoit is one of the most talented guys he has ever known, and that he always gave it his all. He added that Benoit was one of the most honest guys, polite and generous. Austin said he will miss Benoit very much.

Michael Cole and JBL spoke about Benoit. Cole talked about how much Benoit cared about his kids and how well behaved they were. John Cena said Benoit’s death is so sudden and he doesn’t know how to react to it. He said Benoit was the sort of guy you went to war with, and that he looked out for people. He said Benoit was a good man who lived for the business and busted his ass for the fans. Cena said he couldn’t open up to him because he was so hard, but Cena loves him.
Tazz and Joey Styles talked about how happy they were that Benoit came to ECW. Tazz said that Benoit always helped the younger guys out, and how happy he was to be calling Benoit’s matches again. They aired Benoit’s match with Elijah Burke last week. CM Punk said he was disappointed he couldn’t wrestle Benoit last night and now he feels guilty. He said Benoit is his hero and he hopes he can do Benoit’s memory right by being the best he can.

They aired Chris Benoit vs. Dean Malenko from Hog Wild 1996. Dean Malenko then spoke about Benoit. He noted meeting Benoit and Eddie Guerrero in Japan. He said that Benoit was a private person and a lot of people didn’t get to know him. He said he was honored and privileged to spend time with Benoit. He said it was ironic that he lost both Benoit and Guerrero in such a short time. Malenko said Benoit gave everything he had and left a legacy in the business. Malenko said that he gave Benoit the crossface. He added that Benoit touched so many friends and that he would miss Benoit’s friendship. He said he is happy that Benoit and Guerrero are now together, and that he will never forget Benoit.

Michael Cole talked about how much respect people have for Benoit. They aired a Benoit vs. JBL match. Stephanie talked about what a great wrestler Benoit was. She talked about how happy Benoit was when he found out Stephanie and HHH had their child. She discussed how much Benoit loved his children, and said she will always know him as a friend.

Chavo Guerrero was next to speak. He said that when Eddie died, the first person he called was Benoit. Chavo said that Benoit wailed when he found out. Chavo said that last week he spent the night in Benoit’s home. He noted that Benoit is a private person, but he let Chavo in and made him feel at home. He said he learned so much from being in the ring with Benoit. Chavo said he spoke with Benoit the day before he died (presumably Sunday), and that Benoit concluded by telling Chavo “I love you.” Chavo said that he loves Benoit, and Benoit is a part of his family. Chavo concluded that he would trust Benoit with his kid and his wife because he knows what a great heart Benoit has.

They aired Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit from Japan. William Regal said Benoit was one of the most dedicated and best wrestlers. They then went to Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit in a Royal Rumble ladder match. Jerry Lawler said that Benoit had passion, desire and intensity, and that he wasn’t in the business for the money.

Edge said that there are three people in the industry that he can go to talk to, and now two are gone. He talked about watching Stampede Wrestling, and how Benoit became one of the greatest ever. He said that when he had personal issues he went to Benoit because Benoit cared. Edge added that everyone in the locker room loved Benoit, and no one had anything bad to say about him. He referred to wrestling Benoit recently, and how Benoit was smiling and happy after the match. He told a story about Daniel coming to a WWE show and doing exercises with Benoit. Edge broke down, said he loved Benoit, and that he will miss him.

Michael Cole and JBL said that Benoit being quiet didn’t mean he didn’t have emotion. JBL alluded to Benoit kicking people out of the locker room for not having respect. HHH was next, and said that it’s tough to sum up Benoit’s life in a few moments. He said Benoit was about respect, and told a story about Benoit teaching a lesson to someone who disrespected Shawn Michaels. HHH said there is no one in the world he respected more than Benoit. They ended the show with Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. HHH from WrestleMania XX.

Dear God

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rod Beck

One more quick thought from the weekend. Rod Beck passed away today, and the stories I read saw a lot of people have a lot of complimentary things to say about him. Well let me add one more. When I was a kid I used to love getting autographs at various sporting events, and I remember very vividly getting Rod Beck's autograph after a game at Candlestick Park in the mid 90s, because he had this image of being menacing and yet he was out there signing autographs for maybe 30 or 45 minutes when he didn't have to at all. He was determined to give everyone an autograph that wanted one and was a really nice guy. I remember it because people would stop by and sign for a little while and leave, and he was there this entire time just signing and chatting with people. I've got probably some 200 or so autographs from that time period (maybe even more), so the fact that interaction really stands out in my mind says something for him being a cool dude. Too bad.

Weekend Thoughts

Baroni/Shamrock was a great show. I don't think it was the show of the year, but definitely a fun time with exciting fights and a tremendous main event. I was really impressed with Frank Shamrock. He picked out Phil Baroni for a reason I guess, just like Randy Couture going after Tim Sylvia. He said what he'd do and he did, while taunting Baroni along the way. Frank signaling Phil was going to sleep and then immediately knocking him silly was awesome. I can see why a lot of people dislike Frank Shamrock, but I like the guy. And I don't need to see him tested either. I'm perfectly content just seeing people have fun and look good. Frank knows that too - he's not going to be facing Rich Franklin or Matt Lindland any time soon.

Everyone's on the Cung Le bandwagon now. Exciting fighter, but I'd wait to annoint this guy something special until one of his opponents actually makes an effort to take him down. Murilo Ninja looked the best he has since 2003. Anyone know why the announcers specifically avoided mentioning Josh Thomson went to Stanford? It was like their producer went to Cal and forbid it. And as far as the announcers go, Goldberg obviously loves the sport but he's a bad commentator. And Jay Glazer is horrendous - stupid, annoying, and thinks he knows a lot more than he does. The real lowlight was him essentially badmouthing a guy for tapping out to a fully sunk rear naked choke with both hooks in. Ugh.

As for Penn-Pulver, another good show. Penn looked really good as well, and I think he desperately needs to stay at 155. It's not that he can't compete at 170 - he surely can and has proven it. It's just that having to stay at 155 forces him to concentrate on his diet and training. At 170 his weight can go up and down and he doesn't concentrate as much on cardio. He should definitely stick at 155, although I don't expect it. I would try to force him if I were in charge of UFC. There's so much depth at 170 that they have title matchups for years. 155 is deep with talent but thin with guys that the public is interested in. Penn as champion could remedy that and turn 155 into another money division. The rest of the show was pretty good but nothing special. Poor Manny - his shoulder condition looks like a deal that isn't going to go away and will limit the mark he could make in the game.

Johnny Nitro is now the ECW champion. Why even bother with that title if they're going to book it like that? I would be shocked if Vengeance doesn't bomb as far as buy rates go, and if the company wonders why the all title gimmick didn't work, they should look at this as a pretty good sign of why. You've got a guy who doesn't even appear most weeks on Raw, almost always loses, and shifts over to ECW and wins their "world title" in his first match. Now that's a worthless championship.

Friday, June 22, 2007 Pieces

I just realized I never added a link for this piece. I figured people would have seen it since they put it on the main page, but if you haven't, here's an article on the TUF finals, as well as thoughts on Shamrock-Baroni, UFC events and a lambasting of the Slice-Mercer PPV. And on the subject of Shamrock-Baroni, I'm picking Baroni via KO round 1.

Also, here is a gallery of the top UFC fights they would give us pictures of. The list looked a lot different when it started, but all the fights named are good fights and we got some cool pictures.

Hope everyone has a good weekend. Should be fun - Shamrock vs. Baroni, Penn vs. Pulver and Castillo vs. Hatton. Plus the NHL Draft~~~!!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

If You've Been Waiting for a Rant...

WWE Raw Report

Date: 06/18/07 from Richmond, VA.

The Big News: WWE is back to its dumbest, most counterproductive worst. This show left me livid.

Show Analysis:

The show started by recounting Vince’s death. Mick Foley came out and said that if he knew Vince would spontaneously combust, he would have been nicer last week. He apologized to the McMahon family. Randy Orton came out, and suggested Foley had the motivation to bomb Vince’s car. King Booker came out and pointed the finger at Lashley. Lashley came out and shoved Booker. That brought out John Cena, who said Vince has tons of enemies, and we should just let the feds do their job and get on with the show. Coach made his entrance and said he’s in charge on an interim basis. He made Orton and Booker vs. Cena and Lashley plus Foley vs. Umaga.

Brian Kendrick and Paul London got a nice reaction, and defeated Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. They should have given these guys more time. Haas went for a German suplex on Kendrick, but Kendrick landed on his feet and hit sliced bread #2 for the pin. Carlito was out next, and said nobody was cooler than Vince. He said Torrie Wilson and Ric Flair were lucky to get drafted to Smackdown so they don’t have to deal with Carlito any more. Sandman made his entrance and Carlito bailed. Cryme Tyme were doing a memorabilia sale of Vince’s stuff. You know, like viva la savings.

Jeff Hardy beat Daivari with the whisper in the wind, twist of fate and swanton. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch after the match kind of explained their heel turn. They said that they tried to play by the rules but Matt and Jeff went too far so they had to respond for their fans. Heel promos sometimes don’t make perfect sense, but this made no sense. Backstage, Iron Sheik approached Coach and said he deserves his own talk show on Raw. This would be fantastic, but would probably end horribly.

William Regal introduced himself to Maria. Santino came in and Maria tried to introduce the two men, but Regal was unhappy. Pairing Regal with Marella is a good idea. Hopefully they can work together on the road and Regal can help him improve. Vince’s limo driver was interviewed, and he said he got a call from his wife and went to get better reception when Vince was blown up.

Umaga vs. Mick Foley didn’t take place. Foley jumped Umaga before the match started. They brawled around. Foley hit Umaga in the head with a chair, but Umaga hit a crescent kick that sent the chair into Foley’s head. He then hit a butt drop that sent Foley’s head into the steps. Backstage, Foley was checked by a doctor and couldn’t answer any questions. This was a good angle that presumably takes Foley out of Sunday’s main event.

Mr. Kennedy came out and he’s a heel again. He said he doesn’t like the Raw audience, because they have no respect for talent. He said he respects Vince and will dedicate his career to Vince. I guess the Kennedy-Edge angle is completely forgotten. I can see the idea behind doing a slower turn, but it seemed like the fans were ready to embrace him last week. Finally around this point they showed a picture of Sherri Martel briefly.

Melina and Jillian Hall defeated Candice and Mickie James. The heels worked over Candice. Mickie eventually tagged in and hit a fisherman suplex, but Melina defeated Mickie with a leg drop neck breaker. Jim Ross after this match did the solemn, serious sell after this match. For Vince, not Sherri.

Randy Orton and King Booker defeated Lashley and John Cena. The heels worked over Cena, who tagged Lashley. Lashley hit a spine buster on Booker, but Orton tagged in and hit the RKO on Lashley for the pin. Stephanie McMahon arrived in a limousine, crying. She came to the ring and cried some more. The crowd booed. She said next week there will be a 3 hour celebration of Vince McMahon. Seriously. Like we haven’t seen enough of this nonsense. She talked about how much she loved Vince as the fans responded “what.” She promised Vengeance when they find out who was responsible, and left to boos.

Final Thoughts:

I hated this show.

I had no problem with last week’s show whatsoever. But if I had any idea at that point where they were going with this I would have gone on an extended rant at that point in time. This whole angle is awful for three very large and independent reasons.

First, the whole reason I liked this angle in the first place was it got Vince McMahon off television. Vince is a great performer, but he is ridiculously overexposed at the expense of the roster of actual wrestlers. Worse, he has been doing the same character basically every week for ten years and it is unbelievably stale. The upside of killing off the Vince character was that it would allow the show to focus on the wrestlers. But the angle has had the exact opposite effect. Vince is more the focus of the show than ever before, and everything else is a secondary or tertiary issue. It’s more overbearing than ever.

Second, even if it weren’t annoying and unentertaining, it’s also counterproductive from a business standpoint. Over the past five years, WWE has completely destroyed a fundamental building block of professional wrestling: the interest wrestling fans have in seeing the conclusion to specific wrestling matches. That interest is what gets people to order pay-per-view events. Fans want to see which wrestler will prevail. But that emotion has been completely destroyed, and instead fans now largely watch just to see a good “show.”

WrestleMania and Backlash had pretty much the same lineup. One was a huge success and the other was a gigantic failure. That’s because fans don’t care about individual wrestling matches, and just want to see big shows now. If WWE wants to rebuild its PPV business, it has to convince fans that the big PPV matches are important. There’s nothing that could be less helpful to that goal than building the entire show around a murder mystery completely disconnected from the PPV programs. It undermines the PPV matches by making them less of an issue.I like mysteries in wrestling. But the goal of the mystery should ultimately to build to a money match. Here there is no money match. There is no way to pay this off in a way that benefits business. What, is Vince going to come back as a babyface to avenge his attempted murder? Is Shane going to try to gain revenge for his dad? Even if they did something like that nobody would care. Nobody buys that Vince was blown up. It’s just a fake over the top wrestling angle.

You can get me to suspend disbelief and believe that two wrestlers hate each other and are going to fight. But it’s way too much to get me to believe that Vince McMahon, who is in fact alive, was blown up in a car on national television and now people are fighting over this. There is no money to be drawn and making it so much of the focus makes it hard for anything else to feel important. There were no reactions at any point during this show to the many teases of who blew up Vince. That’s because the whole angle feels contrived and fake, which isn’t a great start for some sort of main event program.

Third, even assuming this weren’t an overbearing and stupid angle, and even assuming it weren’t idiotic for business, it’s also another tacky, sleazy WWE angle that makes WWE look like a contemptible form of entertainment to the general public. I don’t personally find this angle offensive, but I can only imagine what the average person would think about this nonsense. You’ve got a business filled with death, and they turn it into a stupid angle.

You have a fake tribute show essentially parodying very real tribute shows for Eddie Guerrero and Owen Hart. You’ve got the announcers selling this as a tragedy like when countless wrestlers have died. You had a legitimate company hall of famer die of unnatural causes last week, and they ignored it on one show and treated it as an afterthought on the other to sell their fake angle. This sort of crap is why basically everyone in this country thinks the wrestling business is a joke. It’s so callous and sleazy.

WWE has actually had a pretty good year in 2007. The booking and wrestling has been better, and the promotion has taken their product more seriously and avoided counterproductive nonsense. Well, the nonsense is back in full force, and I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

LaVar Hurt

LaVar Arrington was injured, apparently pretty seriously, in a motorcycle accident today. One has to figure that this is the end of his career, given he was barely holding on as it was, cut after one season by the Giants. It makes me sad, because LaVar in spite of his short prime is one of my all time favorite athletes. I just loved watching him play for the Redskins. He had such energy and passion and was a great, bright guy off the field as well. I hope he's cool with the way the past few years have gone, as he's caught a lot of bad breaks. And geez, athletes need to cool it with the motorcycles. I don't understand why anyone rides a motorcycle given how they dangerous they are. But athletes? They're you're risking so much more given your career rides with your physical wellbeing. And riding without a helmet is just dumb. It's a shame.

Friday, June 15, 2007

RIP Sherri Martel

What surprising news. I was literally just watching her on the WWE Families DVD yesterday (great DVD, by the way). She seemed to be doing very well at the Hall of Fame and also on this DVD, so I'm curious what the deal was. She was a really good female performer, as a good women's wrestler for the time and a really strong heel personality. Too bad.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 06/11/07 from Wilkes-Barre, PA.

The Big News: Mr. McMahon is apparently dead.

Conclusive Finishes: 7 of 9.

Show Analysis:

The show began with an apparently insane Vince McMahon reading from a prepared statement. He spoke calmly and softly, announcing the draft and Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night. He said that he is in control of his faculties, and wants the evening to be a true representation of how people feel about him. Vince labeled this the defining moment of his life. This was a really compelling little start, and calm Vince with his reading glasses looked really old.

Edge defeated John Cena via count out to start the show. The premise was that if you won, you would earn a draft pick for your show, and that person would be selected randomly. This wasn’t a good way to emphasize the importance of the draft, given Edge’s presence as a “Smackdown representative” just points out how WWE randomly mixes people around even without a draft.

Edge gained early control with a yakuza kick and baseball slide. Cena went for the FU and then the STFU, but Edge escaped both. Cena came back with a clothesline, shoulder block and Cena slam. He went for the five knuckle shuffle but Edge got up and went for a spear. Edge missed that and tumbled to the outside. Cena followed, and rammed Edge into the announce table and steps. He was setting up Edge for an FU off the steps through the announce table, but Edge raked Cena’s face and rolled back in the ring. Cena was counted out.

That led to the first draft pick. They aired a cool graphic that bounced around the screen like Press Your Luck and added a little drama to each announcement. The first selection was Great Khali to Smackdown. Edge was shocked by this, and John Cena smiled. Khali and tape delay are a fine combination, so I’m all for sending him to Smackdown. This did kind of point out that it’s silly for these guys to fight for the right to bring more competition to their own show.

They aired a Vince McMahon vignette. It was good stuff because it focused more on the real Vince McMahon, who is more interesting than his TV character. Jesse Ventura then spoke about Vince. He said that Vince hasn’t earned the name Mister and that he’s just McMahon to Jesse. Jesse said that Vince is a dictator, and not a benevolent one. He noted that all dictators fall. He had a weird line where he said he has met the dictator of the world. I’m not sure if that was a dig at Bush or what.

Coach then announced that Vengeance will be a Night of Champions, as reported in the Observer. He said that the main event would be a WWE championship challenge, where any former or current champion left on Raw at the end of the evening would be eligible to compete for the title. This ended up shaking out as John Cena vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Randy Orton vs. King Booker vs. Mick Foley.

CM Punk beat Carlito. Carlito slapped Punk, and Punk retaliated with a high kick and knees. Carlito went after Punk’s ribcage with kicks, knees and a body scissors. Punk escaped and gained control with a Boston crab, springboard clothesline and running knee. He went for the bulldog, but Carlito got out and hit the back cracker. Punk fell to the floor, and by the time Carlito got him back in the ring he was able to kick out. Punk then hit go 2 sleep for the pin.

ECW’s draft selection was the Boogeyman. That’s as inconsequential a move as you’re going to get. Snoop Dogg appeared, and put over Vince for monopolizing the business and making money for himself. He talked about liking John Cena and Steve Austin, and called Vince an asshole. They then aired another vignette on Vince, this time focusing on his Mr. McMahon character.

Mick Foley came out, and brought up the open WWE championship match. Foley said he is a former champion, and he would be a part of that match if he survived on Raw through the evening. Foley said Vince has the ability to do a lot of good, but hasn’t really done so. He put over Vince’s patriotism and charity with nary a Samuel Johnson reference. Foley said that Vince doesn’t have any real friends. He noted that Hulk Hogan, HHH, Eric Bischoff, the Rock, Dick Ebersol, Shawn Michaels, Trish Stratus and Ted Turner all were asked to participate in Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night but declined to participate. Foley basically said that nobody ought to care about Vince.

Umaga beat Balls Mahoney. The ECW announcers pretty well buried Balls by intimidating he had no chance before the match even began. That a bad way of presenting a match, because a victory doesn’t mean much if it was a foregone conclusion going in. In any event, Umaga squashed Balls with the Samoan spike in about 20 seconds. This led to the next lottery pick, which was King Booker to Raw. That’s a good addition to boost Raw’s roster. Steve O put over Vince McMahon as the man and read a poem. Featuring these idiots as a key part of WWE summer programming is a huge mistake.

Lashley beat Chris Benoit. Lashley scored a takedown early, but Benoit pulled guard. Benoit set up Lashley for an arm bar but Lashley escaped. Lashley got another takedown, and again Benoit worked for a straight arm bar from the bottom. Lashley escaped and again got another takedown. This time Benoit looked to be going for a keylock, but Lashley escaped. Michael Cole and JBL explained absolutely none of this, by the way, which is kind of important if you want to get MMA spots over to the WWE audience.

Benoit took over with chops and a snap suplex. There were chants for Benoit. Lashley went for the human torture rack, but Benoit escaped and went for the crippler crossface. Lashley avoided that, and used a backbreaker drop. Benoit went for the crossface again, but Lashley got to the ropes. Benoit tried the sharpshooter but Lashley escaped that as well. Lashley attempted a power bomb, but Benoit dropped out the back and hit three rolling Germans. Benoit applied the sharpshooter, but Lashley powered out. Lashley then hit a power slam for the pin. This was sloppy at times, but overall quite good.

The next draft pick was Chris Benoit. I liked the symmetry of two men having a solid match and the loser ending up in the same place as the winner, but obviously that wasn’t how things ended up. Benoit could definitely use a change of scenery, but there is so little to work with on ECW. Moreover, Raw with two hours to fill could use Benoit to provide longer matches when needed.

Donald Trump said it’s pathetic Vince gave himself an appreciation night. He put over Lashley again, and referred to shaving Vince’s head. Ashley then appeared on video to thank Vince for the diva search. I’m glad someone appreciated those. She alluded to the time Vince made Trish Stratus bark like a dog, which led to Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah coming out to a dog house and fire hydrant and barking. Next up to talk about Vince were Iron Sheik and Jimmy Snuka. Snuka said that Vince is crazy, and Sheik said that Trump shaving Vince’s head is what made Vince crazy. They were sadly quite reserved.

MVP beat Santino Marella. Santino hit some arm drags early, and they traded stiff kicks. MVP used some knees and a kick to the back. MVP executed a gorilla press and dropped Santino back. Santino hit a hard spinning back fist and punches, but was cut off by MVP. MVP hit the Ole kick ala El Generico and the playmaker for the win. The draft pick was Torrie Wilson, who JBL put over huge.

Bret Hart then appeared. He sarcastically said that it is hard for him to properly express his feelings for Vince in words. So he concluded that the best way to express his sentiment is with a fist upside the head, and “that’s all I have to say about that asshole.” It’s always nice to see Bret, and this was an amusing little promo.

The Miz beat Snitsky via disqualification. Snitsky won quickly with a body slam and clothesline. However, he attacked Miz after the bell, so the referee reversed the decision and gave it to the Miz. This set up the next draft pick, Chris Masters to Smackdown. I guess they are planning another push for Masters. We will see how that goes.

We got some more tributes to Vince. Bobby Heenan noted that Vince has given more people work than anyone else in the industry, but he has also taken away more jobs than anyone else. He made fun of Vince’s walk as well. Roddy Piper came out, and introduced some more McMahon lowlights. Piper said that reflects who Vince really is. Next up was Mark Cuban, who put over Vince as a winner and entrepreneur who represents the American dream.

Candice Michelle beat Kristal in a quick match with an enzuigiri and spinning heel kick. That led to the next pick, which was Lashley. The crowd reacted big to this, rather oddly given Lashley is on Raw just about every week. Coach then came out and stripped Lashley of his ECW title, which is doubly confusing given Lashley has defended that title on Raw all year. The smart thing to do at this point is not create a new ECW champion. At this point it would mean less than nothing and just devalue the real titles. Lashley said he will prove himself to be a champion on Raw, so it looks like he has a program coming with Cena.

Bob Costas said he didn’t appreciate not getting an opportunity to announce for Vince, but he does appreciate people bringing up his infamous interview with Vince. He brought up how Bobby Knight as the next guest actually lowered the temperature in the room.

Batista beat Elijah Burke and Jeff Hardy in a weird triple threat match. Batista hit a power slam on Elijah, but Jeff broke up the pin. Batista went for the Batista bomb on Jeff, but Jeff reversed with a huracanrana. Jeff hit a pescado on Batista, but missed a swanton attempt on Elijah. Batista then gave Jeff and Elijah spine busters and finished Elijah with the Batista bomb.

The next lottery pick was Ric Flair to Smackdown. Batista was happy, and that makes a lot of sense to me. Maybe they will give Flair a title program with Edge at some point. Captain Lou Albano cut a typically zany promo on Vince. Dusty Rhodes came out and said Vince built an empire while destroying a lot of people along the way. He concluded that you have to respect Vince. Gene Okerlund put over Vince sarcastically for firing him and putting people out of business.

There was then a battle royal for the final 2 picks. The participants were Matt Hardy (representing Smackdown), Chavo Guerrero, William Regal, Chris Masters, Mark Henry, Kevin Thorn, Matt Striker, Marquis Cor Von, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, Johnny Nitro, Kenny Dykstra, Viscera, Eugene and Randy Orton. Can you guess who won just based on the list? Why of course you can, and it was Randy Orton.

A pair of ECW wrestlers was out first, Matt Striker and Sandman. Regal and Guerrero were out shortly thereafter. Mark Henry and Viscera squared off, with Henry throwing Viscera out. Things were cleaned out during a commercial break, leaving a final six of Orton, Cor Von, Henry, Hardy, Masters and Nitro. Cor Von was the next out, leaving only Raw and Smackdown.

Orton drop kicked Nitro out. Hardy got rid of Masters. Hardy was trying to pull out Henry, giving Orton the opportunity to dump out Henry from behind. That left Hardy and Orton. Orton went for RKO but Hardy got out and hit the side effect. The crowd was really into Hardy. Hardy went for the twist of fate, but Orton lifted him onto the apron and knocked him out with a European uppercut.

This left the final two picks. The first was Snitsky, and let’s just say I think they’d be much better off moving over Cor Von and giving that push to him instead. The other was Mr. Kennedy, who was acting like a full fledged face. He’s going to get over big on Raw, although it’s going to be tough to pull off the feud with Edge that they had set up.

Steve Austin was the final tribute to Vince. He said he appreciated spraying Vince down with beer. However, he doesn’t appreciate anything Vince did for him, because Vince tried to screw him over at every turn. This was a funny promo with tons of masked profanity, and a nice little closing to these pieces.

Vince came down to the ring, very tranquil. He looked at the crowd. He was given a microphone, but dropped it. He then left, again looking at the crowd. He walked through the backstage area by all the wrestlers. Finally he walked by Howard Finkel, Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson. He walked back to his limousine, got in, and it blew up.

Final Thoughts:

Wow. Well that was quite the memorable show. This show was certainly very Vince heavy, but if that is the genuine write-off for the character it’s worthy of that sort of focus. I doubt that this is the last we’ll see of Mr. McMahon the character, but I hope it is. Vince is a tremendous performer, but there is nothing at all left for him to do in that role.

The night ended up making Vince a very sympathetic character, and was ultimately a pretty sad evening. It’s the perfect time to put the Mr. McMahon era in the past, and the next time Vince appears in front of the crowd he can just be embraced for who he is rather than this character.

Vince has never gotten the revered reaction that he deserves because he has played this heel persona for so long. Even when he has been a face it’s still the character rather than the actual man. There are a lot of people that really appreciate all the entertainment Vince has brought to them over the years, and this served as a pretty emphatic cue that they don’t have to boo him any more.

But I can’t help but leave on a kind of down note. Vince has been going balls to the wall for over twenty years now, and there’s nothing left for him to prove. That’s an odd situation, because he’s a man that lives for that challenge. As such, I can’t stop thinking about El Santo taking off his mask in 1984.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 06/04/07 from Tampa, FL.

The Big News: Vince was mad, and it resulted in John Cena having to defend his title against both Umaga and Great Khali.

Conclusive Finishes: 6 of 6. This made me happy.

Show Analysis:

I’m back to writing the Raw reports. I’d like to thank Justin Shapiro and Steve Khan for helping out with the reports over the past month. It was very much appreciated. With that said, let’s get to the show.

John Cena came out to start, and got one of his huge mixed reactions. There were more cheers than boos for him on this evening. Cena talked about loving the business, and said he was happy to tell Great Khali FU. He noted that now he has to deal with the draft. He said that if this were to be his last Raw, he wanted to let out one more time that the champ is here.

He didn’t get quite that far, as he was cut off by Vince McMahon. An angry Vince accused Cena of trying to embarrass him. Vince said that he won’t break. Cena responded that Vince must be tired and confused, because he was babbling like he had lost his mind. Vince said he hasn’t lost his mind, only his title, and Cena will lose his title too. He made Cena vs. Umaga vs. Great Khali for the title. This segment didn’t make much sense as it happened, but ended up fitting into the theme of the night that Vince was furious and lashing out.

Cryme Tyme and Candyce Mychelle defeated Johnny Nitro, Kenny Dykstra and Melina. Nitro and Dykstra worked over JTG. They did a cool double team spot where Dykstra used a sling shot to send JTG into a Nitro elbow. Dykstra then draped JTG over his knees and Nitro came over the ropes with an elbow drop. JTG made the tag to Shad, who gave a really high back body drop to Dykstra. He gave Nitro a running forearm and went for the cover, but Dykstra broke up the pin. Shad gorilla pressed Candice onto Melina, and Cryme Tyme hit the G9 on Nitro for the pin.

Santino Marella defeated Chris Masters. This match was set up when Maria and Santino were admiring Santino’s title backstage. Vince ordered Santino to the ring for a title match and slapped him. Santino missed a drop kick, and Masters took over with snake eyes and a leg drop. Santino retaliated with chops and forearms. Masters gave him the stun gun and went for the Masterlock, but Santino slipped out. Santino used la magistral shortly thereafter for the pin. This was a sloppy match with a dead crowd.

Backstage, Matt and Jeff Hardy were talking about how beat up they felt. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch congratulated them on retaining the titles and asked for a title shot when they are healed. Vince came in and made the match for later in the evening. Vince then saw Ric Flair and Torrie Wilson. Vince said he hates men hanging out with women half their age. Torrie noted the time Linda caught Vince and Torrie with Vince’s pants down to his ankles. Vince said, “You’ll be taking on Carlito.” Flair told Vince to bring Carlito on, but Vince said that he meant Torrie. Vince then made Flair vs. Orton. This segment seemingly went on forever.

Randy Orton beat Ric Flair. Orton hit a power slam and went for the RKO, but Flair escaped. Flair applied the figure four, but Orton got out. Orton came back with a back breaker, Garvin stomp, knee drop, and repeated punches in the corner. Orton hit a clothesline on the floor, and gave Flair a knee to the head. The referee checked on Flair, but allowed the contest to continue. Flair got back up, but Orton hit the RKO for the pin. Orton is doing a really good job with his new role as a sinister, cold-blooded assassin. I like that they are strongly pushing a normal looking person who is a well rounded performer in that role. It will give the character more longevity than assigning the role to really tall or really muscular guy who can’t work and is one dimensional.

Carlito pinned Torrie Wilson. Carlito told Torrie to leave and get counted out. He said he wouldn’t do anything to her. The referee rang the bell, and Torrie turned and started to leave. Of course, Carlito grabbed her from behind and gave her the back cracker for the pin.

Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch won the tag titles from Matt and Jeff Hardy. They did mostly clean mat wrestling early. Matt and Jeff took over on the rednecks, and Jeff gave Murdoch a pescado. Jeff sold his knee, and tagged Matt. Cade and Murdoch worked over Matt’s back briefly. Matt tagged Jeff, but Jeff was crotched on the top rope. Matt hit a side effect on Cade, and Jeff recovered to go for the swanton. Jeff missed, and Cade covered him for the pin. Jeff got his foot on the ropes, but Murdoch pushed it off.

Cade and Murdoch celebrated after the match. Matt started to ask about the foot on the ropes, when Cade and Murdoch jumped the Hardyz. They then hit the Hardyz with the title belts. I really enjoyed this program, and it’s kind of sad to see the payoff. I give WWE credit for turning Cade and Murdoch back without making Matt and Jeff look like idiots. I figured it would be hard to turn the rednecks without making the Hardyz look stupid for trusting them in the first place, but this segment did not have that effect.

Vince backstage told Coach that he was getting an ominous feeling. Coach went out and said that next week will be Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night. Now I’m starting to get an ominous feeling.

John Cena retained his title in a triple threat match over Great Khali and Umaga. Khali gave Cena a big boot and sent him into the steps. Umaga went to throw the steps at Cena, but hit Khali instead. Umaga gave Cena a clothesline, but missed a sit down splash. Cena attempted a body slam but couldn’t get Umaga up. Khali returned to the ring and squared off with Umaga. They traded punches, until Khali gave him a kick. Khali then used a leg drop on Cena.

Umaga attacked Khali, and Khali started to choke Umaga. Umaga gave Khali the Samoan spike. Umaga was knocked out of the ring and Cena gave Khali the FU for the pin. This was smart booking. I’m glad they put Cena over Khali strong at both PPVs, because he offers so much more as a performer. But the downside of that plan is that fewer fans order PPVs. Thus, they made sure all the fans saw Cena beat Khali one more time with the FU on TV. That was a wise move. I was down on the Khali push because I thought they had longer term plans for him, but I totally rescind that criticism. Pushing Khali for a few weeks with the express purpose of having him put over Cena strong was a good idea.

Final Thoughts:

The booking of this show was strong. Obviously the talent roster on Raw is a little bit thin, but that will be addressed for sure at next week’s draft. As a show kind of in limbo, this was effective. I could understand what they were doing with just about every segment this week, even if they weren’t universally exciting.

I’ve criticized the drafts in the past, but I’m fine with it this year. The brands are already so intermingled that you’re not losing much as far as a perceived brand divide. Plus, with three world titles, it’s not like those titles really symbolize anything, so flipping around the roster doesn’t do any damage there either. It will freshen up the rosters and that makes it a positive.

The one negative on this show was it was pretty Vince heavy. I know some people find him to be a great performer, but I’d rather he be off TV altogether than pushed as hard as he is. His character is so stale, and that time would be better spent on someone younger that can wrestle. I’ve seen Vince do this angry routine where he lashes out at performers hundreds if not thousands of times in the past decade. It’s totally played out, and I never need to see it again in my entire life. Hopefully they are writing him off TV next week.

First Piece