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.


Anonymous Ryan Rosenthal said...

Excellent report there, Todd.

I personally really enjoyed the show tonight. From the cameos with the HOFers, to the mostly decisive matches, to the reflective McMahon clips...all and all, I thought the show was very entertaining.

As for the "death" at the end, as long as they essentially blow it off and ignore it come next weeks show, then I'm just fine with it. Obviously it's a way to kill off his character, and I'm all for that. I'd much rather spend that same time watching a match and/or a wrestler than see him do something he's been doing for well over a decade now. It's stale.

As for the picks, I'm really looking forward to Kennedy on RAW and I like the idea of Benoit on ECW, which will essentially give me a reason to watch the show (outside of CM Punk). Still though, the ECW show is very, very thin on talent, so I question where they're going with it. I am happy, however, that Lashley is off that "brand". There's nothing for him to do there anymore (as if there was in the first place) and now they can pay more mind to Punk, Burke & Co., as well as feature Benoit in a main event setting, which I'm all for.

Keep up the great work, Todd.


12:28 AM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

I loved the draft graphic, every time it came up I couldn't help but go "no whammy, no whammy, c'mon no whammy STOP!"

I also like the teased F-U off the steps. I hope they make a casual mention of that every now and again, because I think that's a spot they could build towards people wanting to see.

I had to leave for work during the Albano segment...did Masters represent Raw or SD! during the battle royal?

12:53 AM  
Anonymous CF Kane said...

A dull show from pillar to post, and, aside from the apparent blow off of 'Mr. McMahon', a really uneventful one. I almost wonder how many people saw that ending, as the final segment was beyond interminable, and seeing as how I knew nobody else was going to be transferred, I can't imagine that a large majority of the viewers hadn't already tuned out. At least, in the past, there has been one or two 'draft' picks who have been a bit of a surprise, but here, there was nothing. I even called two of them exactly as they happened, in both Benoit and Flair (no proof of that of course...but what would I have to gain from that lie?). The crowd seemed not to know how to react at all, and was dead throughout, almost ominously so at times. Is this what an episode of Heat looks like? I'd like to think that Mr. McMahon committed suicide after realizing that his three months of work trying to push the charmless hulk known as Lashley was a waste of time; what is there for Cena, Lashley and Kennedy to do on Raw, if they are all faces? Even a heel HHH can only bury one at a time; he's only human for god sake! I'm guessing that Benoit has been assigned the Finlay role over on ECW in trying to help some of those guys learn how to work--so, at this stage of his career, I guess it makes sense. Why waste any time having Torrie Wilson be 'drafted'? She'll add exactly what to the show? Her tits are starting to sag, so maybe she'll be in the Mae Young role. Edge no doubt had a look of fear on his face when Khali was moved to SD due to the fact that he knew, as Cena seemed to, that he'll have to try to work with this lumox some day. Really, why not move Umaga as well? He's got NOTHING to do on Raw now. This was the first time I'd seen Gene Snitsky since he'd gone through the 'change of life'.. I can't imagine a paycheck of any size is worthy of the genuine mutation that even the untrained eye can't help but notice; the juice seems to be wreaking havoc on Gene's system. He must be a very sad man because, in the end, it'll get him nothing beyond a few extra dollars and a smirking reference in Foley's next 'book'....Anyway, in the end, Smackdown gained nothing, ECW got a trainer, and Raw is now so top heavy (with HHH and HBK due back soon the hell is that gonna work?)that RAW is in danger of becoming TNA Impact, where all these solid workers ( and Lashley) get about three minutes to do a match, and the results mean even less than they did before, with no storyline development beyond 'Why has WeeMan turned on John Cena?'

5:45 AM  
Anonymous Che Kane said...

I also wanted to mention that I believe that Ventura was referring to Fidel Castro when he talked about the 'world's dictator'--he said something about a beard--although I think your interpretation is, technically, more accurate.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Ventura was definitely referring to Castro as he did visit Cuba during his time as governor (or shortly there after) and advoctaes changing US policy toward Cuba. The beard comment kind of gave it away.

Anyway, I see us getting a summer of who killed Mr. McMahon as a major storyline. In storyline, it's clear that this was a homicide and not an accident.That keads me to think that they're going in that direction, I'm kind of surprised that nobody else interpreted it that way.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please explain the El Santo reference.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Conspiracy Kane said...

Sadly, I think Phil may be on to something with the 'Who Shot Jr?' scenario...right now, my money is on the Iron Shiek.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous CF Kane said...

Well, a quick glance at the Observer website confirms what Phil wrote...that this is, in fact, to be a 'Who Killed Vince?' angle for the forseeable, between that and the weakness of the draft, I really (underline 'really' in your mind) have no interest in watching Raw anymore. And this is before the endless zany skits with Steve-O and the like...I'd call this a backfire on 'creative's' part.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I would have been a lot more harsh on this show if I'd known this was leading to a "who killed Vince" angle. But I'll save that rant for next week.

Santo always made it a point not to be seen in public without his mask for decades. Then in '84 he without warning took off his mask on a Mexican TV show. He died a little over a week later, as if he had nothing left to do after finally revealing his identity.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you think there are no masked wrestlers (desregarding the Luche Libre) in American wrestling? I think it would be a breath of fresh air to have a masked wrestler compete in these days. Anybody ready for a Mr. Wrestling III?

12:18 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I think it's just a cultural thing. The mask in Mexico isn't really about the intrinsic significance of a mask. It's about the cultural history and the symbolism over decades. It just doesn't have the same meaning in the US, and thus there really isn't much of a need for masks outside of trying to draw in the hispanic audience.

11:38 PM  

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