Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Various Links

Here is my first piece for CBS Sports. I'm very happy working with them thus far. I'll have one or two pieces for them in the next week, on the Strikeforce show at the Playboy Mansion that should be a lot of fun.

You can check out free audio from Fight Network with myself and Mauro Ranallo here. We talked about last night's edition of Raw earlier today, which just to make perfectly clear, I thought was absolutely terrible.

Also, if you're a member (and I recommend it - it's good value), there's a talk with me and Bryan Alvarez available at F4W where we discuss the SI/CBS transition as well as UFC 76.

Also, since I got a number of e-mails about this given the late report, everything's fine with me and my family. I drove up to the Bay Area for my grandmother's 90th birthday and she doesn't have internet access. She's still going strong even at her older age.

Raw Report

Date: 09/24/07 from Milwaukee, WI.

The Big News: Hornswoggle and Vince McMahon are on good terms, which spells trouble for a number of heels on the roster.

Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 5.

Show Analysis:

Coach came to the ring to start the show. He said Randy Orton was suspended indefinitely for what he did last week. Vince McMahon joined Coach, and said that everyone should respect him and Coach for their authority. He said that he would embarrass HHH, and announced HHH vs. Carlito and Vince in a cage. Vince guaranteed victory.

Vince then said he owed Hornswoggle an apology. Hornswoggle came out. Vince said he didn’t mean the negative things he said last week. He just wanted to test Hornswoggle to see if he was about love rather than money. Vince wanted to know if Hornswoggle loves him. Hornswoggle said he loves Vince. Vince said he loves Hornswoggle. They hugged. Vince brought out Melina, who said she thinks Hornswoggle is cute. She called him Horny, and Horny jumped on top of her and they rolled around.

John Cena came out and tried to attack Coach. Vince announced that the main event of the show would be a championship surrender ceremony. Coach would get to decide if Cena kept the world title. Any segment where your world title rests on the whim of a heel GM is a strong one. I hope Dana builds UFC 77 around whether he will strip Rampage of his title and give it back to Chuck.

Hardcore Holly defeated Cody Rhodes. This was a fine start to a fine feud to help get Cody over. Holly said Cody should be in a boy band, and he’ll have to earn his respect. Holly beat him up with punches and chops. Cody came back with a side Russian leg sweep and drop kick, but missed a springboard crossbody. Holly pinned him clean with the Alabama slam. I would normally say you should protect a rising star, but certainly you can make an exception for a star the level of Sparky Plugg. Particularly given his track record for grooming rising young talent.

Randy Orton in a recorded segment said that John Cena is a phony. He said Cena got disqualified on purpose, to get out of defending his title. Orton said he enjoyed beating up Cena’s father, and that he’s going to take the title. Ron Simmons beat Santino via count out. Santino worked over Simmons. Simmons started to make a comeback, but Santino walked off. Great finish.

Melina and Jillian had a conversation backstage in front of the camera. Melina let in Jillian on a secret. She made an agreement with Coach that if she dated Hornswoggle, she would get a women’s title shot. Melina is disgusted by Hornswoggle. They did a comedy vignette with Highlanders and Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch. Highlanders lifted up their kilts. I haven’t laughed that hard since Epic Movie.

Vince McMahon and Carlito beat Triple H in a cage match. Carlito would fight HHH while Vince would try to escape. HHH would then fight off Carlito and catch Vince. HHH went for the pedigree on Vince but Carlito gave him the back stabber. HHH quickly recovered and stopped Vince from escaped. HHH and Vince ended up fighting at the top of the cage. Carlito distracted HHH and Vince escaped. They emphasized that this was HHH’s first loss since he returned.

That sent a real message. You’ve got all these idiots on the internet complaining that HHH doesn’t put anyone over, and that he buries everyone around him. Well, shows what they know. HHH showed he’s a team player by putting someone over. And not just anyone – he put over a guy that has real potential as a main event wrestler and that really needed the help. Way to do the right thing, Hunter.

But let’s not get carried away. This is still Triple H. So after Vince escaped, HHH turned around and went after that terrified jobber Carlito. He rammed him into the cage repeatedly, bloodied him up, and laid him out with a pedigree on a chair. It’s a good thing they did this, because they would be risking HHH’s tremendous drawing power if someone got the best of him for longer than a minute and a half.

Brian Kendrick and Paul London beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch via DQ. Kendrick hit sliced bread number two, but the Highlanders ran in and attacked Cade and Murdoch. Another great finish. Highlanders are heels now, and feel getting destroyed by Snitsky in seconds qualifies them for a tag title shot. Which, come to think of it, does. The tag team division’s really heating up. Maybe they can fight HHH six on one next week.

Melina backstage was in the shower. Horny was also there, but she didn’t realize it. When she figured it out, she screamed and ran off in her towel. Horny chased her around and pulled off her towel. Vince was leaving when HHH approached him. HHH challenged him to a one on one match on Raw next week. Vince agreed.

Shelton Benjamin and Beth Phoenix beat Jeff Hardy and Candice Michelle. Jeff came off the second rope, but got caught with a Shelton power bomb. Jeff eventually made the hot tag to Candice. Candice used a drop kick, huracanrana and running elbow. However, Beth caught her with the fisherman buster for the clean pin. The best part of this was that they announced Candice as being from Milwaukee before she jobbed out. That way, the next time they return to Milwaukee, Beth will be a much bigger star for defeating the home town hero in her hometown.

The finale of the show was the Coach/Cena segment. Coach backstage said Orton’s indefinite suspension was actually just for one day, and he wish had done that to Cena’s father. Cena came out, and Coach antagonized him. Coach wanted Cena to beg to keep his title, but Cena wouldn’t do it. Lillian then announced that Mr. McMahon said that Cena wouldn’t be stripped of the title, and he would be wrestling Coach in a tables match. Cena put Coach in the STFU and gave him the FU through the table. Hornswoggle McMahon came out to close the show and smiled at Cena.

Final Thoughts:

A fine show. Great booking. Great comedy. Great wrestling. Best of all was the way they created new stars to help fill out the roster. Bravo, WWE.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Leaving SI.com

I quit SI.com today. I feel they misrepresented to me how much they were going to be doing on MMA, and I was ashamed to be a part of what was really paltry and lacking coverage of the sport on their part. I actually have a lot of major issues with them, but I'll leave it at that. Glad to be gone, and I'm starting with CBS Sportsline next week.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 09/17/07 from Nashville, TN.

The Big News: Randy Orton got his revenge on John Cena’s father.

Conclusive Finishes: 4 of 6.Show Analysis:

The show began with a particularly good opening package on Randy Orton vs. John Cena. John Cena then came out. He said that he felt great, and was proud of his father. He added that Orton is stupid to want a rematch with him, and that everything he did last night will be legal in a last man standing match. This was a good promo, but it would have been better if he just made those points explicitly rather than a cute series of sarcastic thank yous. Coach then came out, and made Randy Orton vs. John Cena Sr. for Raw. He said that Cena’s father agreed to the match so that Cena wouldn’t be stripped of the title. This was a strong opening.

Jeff Hardy defeated Shelton Benjamin to retain the Intercontinental Title. Shelton hit a northern lights suplex early, and Jeff came back with a pescado. Shelton went after Jeff’s head for most of the match. Jeff hit the whisper in the wind and the swanton to score the pin. This was a good match. Vince McMahon was angry in his limousine, while Hornswaggle was acting crazy. Vince told Coach to take care of Hornswaggle.

John Cena tried to talk his father out of the match. Elsewhere, Santino wanted to impress Maria. Jillian suggested a country duet, but nothing came of that. Vince and Coach chatted backstage, while Irish music played in the background. They went to Vince’s office, which was decorated with all sorts of Irish paraphernalia. Vince and Coach tried to catch Hornswaggle, but Hornswaggle escaped.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan beat Daivari in a capture the flag match. Duggan represented the United States and Daivari represented Iran. This was a pretty random match, but it was fine. They just climbed back and forth until eventually Duggan got the American flag. They did more diva search stuff this week. It will be interesting to see the reaction to these women at the end. When they did live segments, I hated them, but I did pay attention. Now that they have cut away packages, I treat them instinctively like commercials. Seriously, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any of these women, so I wonder if fans will know who any of the women are by the end of the search.

Cody Rhodes wanted to face Randy Orton rather than Cena’s father. Coach declined that offer. Cena threatened bad things if Coach didn’t call off the match, but Coach wasn’t concerned. Coach announced Cena vs. a mystery opponent. He said that if Cena won, the match between Orton and his father wouldn’t take place.

Vince McMahon came to the ring. He said that he decided to welcome Hornswaggle into the family. Hornswaggle came out and pranced around. Vince then turned on Hornswaggle and said that he would be putting Hornswaggle up for adoption so he wouldn’t get any of the inheritance. Vince should have just consulted a wills attorney.

Anyway, Vince had a new mother and father for Hornswaggle. He attacked his new parents and they ran off. Vince said that Hornswaggle is a disgrace to him and ordered him out of his ring and his life. Hornswaggle was sad and left. That brought out HHH, who made fun of Vince with a long series of jokes. Overall the monologue was pretty funny.

HHH defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch in a handicap match. HHH cleared the ring of the rednecks, but Carlito came out and distracted HHH to even the odds. Cade and Murdoch worked him over briefly. HHH came back, beat them both up, and pinned Cade with a spine buster. Carlito came in for 3 on 1, but Brian Kendrick and Paul London made the save. HHH then beat them up like a pair of geeks and laid them out.

This nonsense is so odd to me. HHH is by all accounts a smart guy. He has to know that he can get over just fine without burying people. I mean, I remember years ago him talking about how Ultimate Warrior buried him unnecessarily at WrestleMania XII when a little bit less of a one sided match would have been better for all parties involved.

And HHH is aware of his legacy too, and presumably doesn’t want to be remembered as a guy that married into the family and got to the top by burying everyone around him. Then there’s an issue of the morale of the roster, which can’t be pleased with segments like these that makes them look like total jokes for no good reason.

In short, this type of segment benefits nobody. HHH gets over no better than he would if he decisively beat Lance Cade in a one on one match. And he looks like a selfish creep both to observers of the business as well as to his fellow workers. In short, if he thinks this type of crap is good for his career he’s woefully mistaken. As for the tag titles, they might as well just dissolve them. After a segment like this, they do more harm in devaluing the meaning of championships than anything else.

Candice Michelle and Mickie James beat Jillian Hall and Melina. Mickie hit a huracanrana and clothesline on Melina. Candice scored clotheslines, a drop kick, a northern lights suplex and the unprettier on Melina for the pin. After the match, Beth Phoenix shoved Candice. The announcers were putting over how big Beth is, but she didn’t look all that much larger than Candice. Coach told Vince he thought Vince scarred Hornswaggle for life. Vince was pleased and got into his limo, but Hornswaggle was in the trunk. Hornswaggle proceeded to open the trunk from the inside while the car was driving away so he could waive to Coach.

John Cena beat Santino via disqualification. Cena was amused by Santino as Coach’s pick for this match. The match ended quickly when Randy Orton ran in. Orton handcuffed Cena to the bottom rope. Coach said that Cena needed to win his match via pinfall or submission, so the match with Orton against Cena’s father would be on. I disliked this development because it went so far into the heel GM just blatantly making up the rules as he goes along that it undermined basic logic. I mean, why didn’t he just announce at the beginning of the show that last night Cena had to win via pinfall or submission to retain his title and that thus Orton is now champion? It’s the exact same non-logic, and presumably would be more desirable to Coach.

Randy Orton beat John Cena Sr. via disqualification. Orton was working over Cena’s dad, when Cody Rhodes came out to make the save. Orton threw him into the steps. Orton then gave Cena’s dad the RKO. Cena ripped off the bottom turnbuckle and came into the ring too late. This was a strong final segment, and Jim Ross in particular did a really good job selling this angle. It didn’t help that as they were going off the air, the crowd decided to loudly chant “you can’t wrestle” at Cena.

Final Thoughts:

This show was good. It advanced the Cena-Orton storyline well, and had some entertaining stuff underneath as well.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 09/10/07 from Green Bay, WI.

The Big News: Vince’s son is Hornswaggle.

Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 5.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Vince McMahon. He said he’s glad his son isn’t from Green Bay, and ripped up a copy of WWE Magazine with Mr. Kennedy on the cover. He said he wanted to know who his son is. Great Khali came out, and said things are looking up can only mean him. He said he would be honored to be called the Great McMahon. JBL came out and said things are looking up refers to money. He said he could be JBM. Jeff Hardy came out and said things are looking up might mean his high flying. However, Jeff didn’t want to be Vince’s son. The attorney came on the screen. Vince said he hates all attorneys, including his own. The attorney said the son would be revealed later, but that Jeff isn’t the son. Jeff celebrated, so Vince made Jeff vs. Great Khali.

Paul London beat Lance Cade. They acknowledged the tag title switches this week. Cade worked over London with a back drop and clothesline. Trevor Murdoch got on the apron presumably to interfere, but as the referee went to stop him, Paul Kendrick ran in and hit sliced bread #2 on Cade for the pin.

Coach told Vince that he barred John Cena from the building. Coach then introduced the number 2 online vote getter for Vince’s son, Stevie Richards. Vince laughed uproariously. He wanted to know who the top vote getter was, and Coach said HHH. Elsewhere, Carlito said that he isn’t worried about HHH, because he is full of surprises. He said he would get to pick HHH’s opponent, and it would be someone who has beaten HHH multiple times. Carlito added that by the end of the night Carlito would prove to be HHH’s daddy.

Triple H defeated the “Natural Monster” Shelton Benjamin. HHH threw Benjamin into the post twice and went after his shoulder. Carlito distracted HHH, allowing Benjamin a spinning heel kick and DDT. HHH came back quickly with a clothesline, spinebuster, pedigree and pin. Carlito came in with a chair, but HHH got that from him. Finally, Coach bailed out Carlito by announcing that Carlito vs. HHH would be no DQ, but only for Carlito. This segment made Carlito look totally impotent, but it’s not like he was strong going in.

Randy Orton came out and referenced kicking John Cena’s father. He said he got in Cena’s head, and now Cena will make a mistake for him to capitalize on. Cena came through the crowd to attack Orton. Security held them apart. Cena told Vince that he will have revenge upon Orton for what Orton did to his father. It was a really nice little promo by Cena.

Mickie James beat Jillian Hall with a spin kick. Candice did commentary. Beth Phoenix jumped both competitors after the match. Candice came in to make the save, but received a fisherman buster for her efforts. The diva search is back. The announcers plugged it with more enthusiasm than Unforgiven.

Sandman beat Santino Marella via disqualification. Santino bashed The Condemned before the match. Santino grabbed Sandman’s cane and hit it with him early. He then tried to break the cane over his knee but failed and was in comedic pain. Backstage, Maria told Ron Simmons that she was thinking of breaking up with Santino. Santino at that point jumped Simmons, said damn, and left with Maria.

Great Khali squashed Jeff Hardy. He brushed off Hardy’s offense and hit a big boot. He squeezed Hardy’s head for a while and pinned him. Batista came out after the match and cleared Khali out of the ring.

The show closed with Vince McMahon and the WWE “active” roster. The attorney decided to eliminate candidates for bastard son through a procession of clues. It was very hokey. The son isn’t extreme, so the ECW roster left. The son has a fondness of gold, so the guys who haven’t been champion left. The son’s skin and hair are fair, so the non-white and dark haired guys left. The son is an individual champion, so Cade and Murdoch left. This left Sandman, HHH, and JBL. The son loves to play the game was the final clue. This left HHH and Vince. The attorney then clarified that the games include horseshoe, hopscotch and marbles, and that it was Hornswaggle. He came out and celebrated. HHH laughed at a disgusted Vince to close the show.

Final Thoughts:

From the perspective of selling a PPV Sunday, this show was a real failure. The Vince’s son storyline completely overwhelmed the hype for that show. WWE is in a tough spot with a really thin roster right now, but 40 minutes of Vince isn’t the answer. As for Hornswaggle as the son, it’s probably for the best. The whole angle was really silly, but at least now they can forget about it and treat it like a joke. Using a bigger star would likely have made them look silly. Now that they have paid off the angle, hopefully the focus can shift back to the main eventers again next week.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 09/03/07 from Columbus, OH.

The Big News: Raw was all about temporarily writing off the many performers who exposed WWE’s wellness policy as a joke.

Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 5.

Show Analysis:

Jeff Hardy won the Intercontinental Title from Umaga. Umaga worked over Hardy, including a superkick to the floor and a Samoan drop. Umaga missed a head butt off the second rope, and Hardy came back with the whisper in the wind. Umaga hit a twisting uranage, but Hardy crotched him on the top rope and got a sudden pin. That was a weird end to the match.

Carlito approached Vince McMahon backstage. Carlito has a crappy new haircut. It looks like someone did it as a rib while he was sleeping. Vince suggested Carlito and Umaga vs. HHH. Carlito liked this idea. Santino revealed that he requested a rematch between Maria and Beth Phoenix. Maria was concerned, but Santino said he would be there to make sure everything went fine. Stephanie and Linda McMahon confronted Melina backstage, and Linda slapped her.

Santino came to the ring with Maria. He vowed to embarrass Ron Simmons when he is healthy. He is a great heel. Sandman came out. Santino made some disparaging remarks about Sandman and his stick. Sandman proceeded to beat Santino to the back with cane shots. That left Maria alone, and she was destroyed by Beth in their match. Beth no sold Maria’s attempts at offense and won with a fisherman buster. Beth said she would be receiving a title shot at Unforgiven. She cut a pretty good promo and gave Maria another fisherman buster. Candice came out but seemed afraid.

William Regal said he gave Randy Orton the night off, and welcome him via satellite. Orton said the blood was on Cena’s hands, because his father wouldn’t have been attacked if Cena just accepted the rematch. Regal announced Cena vs. Orton for Unforgiven. Cena came out really upset. He attacked Regal and laid him out with the STFU. Cena was really good here.

Paul London and Brian Kendrick beat the World’s Greatest Tag Team to become number one contenders for the tag titles. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch did commentary, and were excited about the competition. The heels worked over London, who then got the tag to Kendrick. He exploded with all sorts of kicks and scored the pin with sliced bread #2 on Charlie Haas. Cade and Murdoch congratulated Kendrick and London after the match.

Backstage, Vince announced that Coach would be GM again. Cody Rhodes and Mickie James beat Jillian Hall and Daivari. Prior to the match, Jillian Hall disparaged Lillian Garcia. Jillian and Daivari then did some singing together. Rhodes pinned Daivari with a DDT.

HHH vs. Carlito and Umaga was brief, as the heels were disqualified for double teaming HHH. They beat on HHH for a while, but he made a comeback with chair shots. At first Umaga no sold them, so HHH brought in the sledgehammer. He hit Umaga in the head with the sledgehammer multiple times and left him laying and bloody. This was a very effective segment to put over HHH.

Vince McMahon came out, and said that his family is just looking for a handout. Linda joined him, and said she doesn’t need money. She said given his infidelity she could take him for everything he’s got. Vince sucked up to Stephanie and had a video entitled “a father’s love” to show her. Instead, it was footage of their match together. Vince was furious, and HHH appeared to reveal he switched the tapes. He said hi to Stephanie, which seemed a tease of their relationship.

Stephanie said Vince needs help and should just step down from his position. Shane joined the party, and said that there are two Vince McMahons. Shane said Vince needs to change. Vince said that he can. That brought out Mr. Kennedy, who said he is the son, and that Vince doesn’t need to change. Finally, a lawyer came out and said the son isn’t Kennedy. The son will be revealed next week. He brought a message from the mother, “things are looking up.” That seems to be a tease of a tall guy like Great Khali, but who knows where they are going. I can’t really think of anyone that would work well as a pay off for this angle. I just hate the McMahon family soap in general. It’s total ego stroking, and takes away from the wrestlers and their storylines.

Final Thoughts:

This show was average. Next Monday could be a really bad show, with a thin roster and a heavy emphasis on the McMahon stuff.