Monday, October 29, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 10/29/07 from Philadelphia, PA.

The Big News: Still no Chris Jericho. Sorry, people.

Show Analysis:

The show began with a Halloween Battle Royal featuring Mickie James, Maria, Torrie Wilson, Victoria, Extreme Expose, Melina, Jillian Hall and Michelle McCool. All of the women wore their outfits from last night, except Torrie who wore an Eagles jersey rather than a Redskins jersey. Wearing the jerseys of two rival teams on consecutive nights isn’t the way you get over a face with either city.

Victoria had trouble in her sumo outfit, which was played for comedy. It came down to Victoria, Torrie and Kelly Kelly. Torrie hit a football tackle on Victoria. Torrie and Kelly dumped Victoria. Kelly then eliminated Torrie to win. Beth Phoenix came out and laid out Kelly after the match.

Shawn Michaels came out and said he wants a rematch with Randy Orton. Vince McMahon joined him and accused Shawn of wanting to take Orton out. Shawn admitted this was true, because Orton tried to prevent him from leaving wrestling on his own terms. Vince apparently made Shawn vs. Orton for Survivor Series. Shawn then went to hit the superkick, but missed. They were smart enough not to pretend it hit, and Shawn instead acted like he was just showing he could have hit him. This segment didn’t work, thanks to poor writing and hammy overacting by Vince.

Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes beat Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. The only reaction to this match was chants of Y2J. The heels worked over Holly, who made the tag to Cody. Cody hit a DDT for the pin. Even though I don’t think this storyline works in 2007 for reasons I’ve mentioned previously, they have executed the story and built it along very well.

Beth Phoenix backstage said she is not sorry about what happened to Candice, and that she is glad to have crushed Candice’s dreams. This was a good promo. Mickie and Trevor Murdoch then had a conversation where Mickie thanked him for helping her last week. Lance Cade came in and said Mickie is out of Trevor’s league. Cade told Trevor to keep his focus. They were teasing a Murdoch face turn.

William Regal was worried about injuries, and questioned Vince about Umaga and Randy Orton vs. Triple H. Vince said HHH is personal and different than other wrestlers whose health he cares about. Vince then told Hornswoggle that he needs to learn to fight for himself, and to hate others.

Hornswoggle beat Coach. Mick Foley was the referee. They did a bunch of old midget match spots. Coach attacked Foley and brought a chair into the ring. Foley stopped him, and Hornswoggle used Socko to the testicles. He then hit the frog splash for the pin. Backstage, HHH said the odds may be against him, but he always has a trick up his sleeve.

Lance Cade beat Paul London. London hit a crossbody off the top and huracanrana. Murdoch was moving towards London, but Brian Kendrick took him out with a plancha. In the ring, Cade hit a sit down power bomb for the pin. This was a good short match, which is pretty much the standard with London and Kendrick. The Highlanders attacked London and Kendrick after the match to send a message.

Jeff Hardy and D.H. Smith beat Carlito and Mr. Kennedy. Jerry Lawler said D.H. stands for Davey and the Hart Family. The heels worked over Smith, who hit the enzuigiri on Kennedy and made the hot tag. Jeff came in with the whisper in the wind, twist of fate, and swanton on Carlito for the pin. This was good.

Santino came out and said he had a complaint with the travel department, because they prevented him from going to Cyber Sunday to confront Steve Austin. They teased Austin would come out, but instead Santino appeared on the screen with a fake bald head. Maria then came out and told Santino that Austin would be on Raw next week. Santino didn’t believe this. Santino is great. They concluded the diva search. The fans booed both. The girl who can’t complete a sentence lost.

Umaga and Randy Orton beat Triple H via DQ. The heels beat down HHH for a while, and then Shawn ran in out of the blue for the DQ. This was really dull and ridiculously predictable. I was expecting they had a much better conclusion planned. Vince said DX will return next week.

Final Thoughts:

This show was average. The wrestling was generally good, but it felt like there was an awful lot of talking. The show built well until the lame finish. It’s kind of troubling that next week they’re building around Steve Austin, Vince McMahon and DX. That combination is beyond stale.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


The New England Patriots are the most classless sports team I can ever recall.

Bill Belicheck is a miserable, miserable human being.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MMA Scoring

There has been a lot of discussion about the 10 point must system in MMA, and whether it should be modified to some degree to more accurately reflect who wins any individual fight. John Philapavage is working on trying to generate a genuine discussion about this and try to affect change. You can read more here:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 10/22/07 from Omaha, NE.

The Big News: Candice Michelle took a spill off the top rope in the middle of a women’s title match.

Show Analysis:

Mr. Kennedy was in the ring to start the show. He encouraged people to vote for him. He compared Jeff Hardy to Hillary Clinton, because Jeff has no testicles. He then compared Shawn Michaels to Rudy Giuliani, because they both live in the past. Gee, I wonder who they want to win the voting with those comparisons being made in Nebraska. Mr. Kennedy said he’s like John McCain, because he was on the fast track before everything fell apart. Okay, he didn’t say that. He asked what you can do for Mr. Kennedy instead. Jeff Hardy came out and said Kennedy’s approval rating sucks. He attacked Kennedy. Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels joined the fray, and Jeff cleared the ring.

Brian Kendrick, Paul London and Mickie James beat Trevor Murdoch, Lance Cade and Melina. The heels worked over Kendrick, who gave Cade an enzuigiri and made the hot tag. London came in with a drop kick and spinning heel kick. Cade accidentally clotheslined Murdoch and London gave Murdoch a standing shooting star press for the pin. This was an excellent little match. Mickie has great presence as a personality.

Next up was a cavalcade of backstage vignettes. Jeff Hardy and Shawn Michaels talked about facing Randy Orton. Shawn said he couldn’t trust Jeff in their tag match, and Jeff said he’ll do exactly what Shawn does. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin made fun of Cody Rhodes for losing repeatedly to Hardcore Holly. Cody said he respects Holly. Benjamin was really effective here as a heel. William Regal and Coach had a conversation, where Coach convinced Regal to make a match between Hornswoggle and Umaga.

Cody Rhodes beat Shelton Benjamin. Cody hit a bulldog. Haas distracted Cody, and Benjamin rolled him up. However, Cody rolled through and scored the pin. The World’s Greatest Tag Team jumped Cody after the match, but Hardcore Holly made the save. This was an effective segment. If this were TNA, Cody would have turned heel and attacked Holly.

D. H. Smith (Harry Smith, son of Davey Boy) made his Raw debut, defeating Carlito. He dedicated the match to his father. He hit drop kicks, a northern lights suplex, and finished Carlito with a running power slam. There is no excuse for not building up Smith’s debut with vignettes. His debut would have been so much more poignant and impactful if it was preceded by a month’s worth of vignettes showing highlights of Davey Boy Smith’s career, and hyping his debuting son. Instead, he just debuted randomly, and a week after a show in England at that. He didn’t even have a ring entrance. This is such simple stuff as far as star making goes. Have an iota of patience and ensure potential stars make the best possible first impression.

Umaga was ready to face Hornswoggle, but Hornswoggle ran away and HHH came out. HHH and Umaga had a big brawl. The diva search is wrapping up, and they brought the final three contestants in front of the crowd. They eliminated one, so the whole thing is almost over. The final two each got 30 seconds to speak. The blonde struggled to string together two or three coherent words at a time. It was beyond embarrassing. The second woman was much better. Backstage, Randy Orton suggested to Mr. Kennedy that they work together to weaken the other two.

Ron Simmons beat Santino Marella via DQ. The match was weak with an awful finish, but Santino was gold as a personality in this segment. He said that everyone is in the new WWE magazine, including The Rock, The Undertaker, The Bret Hart, and Andre the French Giant. He was angry that Mantaur is in the magazine and he isn’t, and even angrier about Steve Austin. He was interrupted by Save Us. I think this slow build is working well. Fans chanted Y2J. Santino threatened to open a can of ass whip on Austin, which brought out Simmons. It was mostly just punches and kicks, until Santino hit a low blow and was disqualified. HHH backstage said that it doesn’t matter what type of match he has against Umaga, because he saw doubt in Umaga’s eyes and he will see fear on Sunday.

Beth Phoenix beat Candice Michelle two straight falls in a 2/3 falls match to retain the women’s title. Beth hit a tree slam to win the first fall quickly. In the second fall, Candice went for a series of pinning attempts but couldn’t finish Beth off. Candice went to the top rope. Beth went to knock her off, and Candice lost her balance. She fell straight down, landed on her head, and was knocked silly. It was an unplanned and scary looking bump. Beth quickly covered, and Candice was carried off on a stretcher. Nobody wants to see this sort of accident happen.

Shawn Michaels and Jeff Hardy beat Randy Orton and Mr. Kennedy. The heels worked over Jeff, and then worked over Shawn. He made the hot tag to Jeff. Jeff hit the whisper in the wind and gave Kennedy the swanton for the pin. After the match, Orton went for the RKO on Jeff, but Shawn cut him off with sweet chin music. This was a good conclusion to the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show was generally effective and entertaining.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend Thoughts

With the Patriots running up the score against an outgunned team, they're really turning into an unlikeable bunch. I was reading Bill Simmons' column about it last week, and that was when it started to register what assholes this bunch is. The thing is, I always liked the Patriots. They were the underdogs against the Rams, and Tom Brady was always the underdog against Peyton Manning. They seemed more blue collar than the Colts, with a tough, no-nonsense defense and diverse offense that you could respect. But this season I've really come around on them. Their coach is a major league creep, beyond just the cheating stuff. He's always been a petulant jerk towards the media, his colleagues and other people in general. And their goal this year seems to be to provide humiliation to their opponents in defeat rather than just win. Amazingly, I'll be rooting for the Colts for the first time against the Pats in 2 weeks, and obviously it would be awesome if the Redskins could give them a fight next week.

On the college scene, I'm not convinced that the national championship is going to be contested with a pair of teams that both have two losses. The theme of the season is "EVERYONE MUST LOSE." By my count there are only 16 teams left that don't have at least 2 losses. It's crazy. And even the one or two loss teams that are supposedly the cream of the crop have at least a couple performances where they look really weak.

UFC was to me on the lower end of their PPV offerings the past few years. I rarely don't like a UFC show, and I didn't really care for this one. Silva-Franklin was exciting and saved it to a degree, but the rest of the card was subpar. As for that main event, you got the impression that if Franklin and Silva fought 100 times, Silva's winning 97 times. Franklin just looked totally overmatched, and it didn't help that he was content to stand when his only hope was to go to the ground. As for Silva, I think he's being ridiculously overhyped in many circles. His wrestling has been a liability for a great many years, but for whatever reason 3 of his 5 UFC opponents have been content to stand with him. Travis Lutter gave him problems, and Lutter is nothing special. To me, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes or even Yushin Okami is a bad style matchup for Silva. Doesn't necessarily mean he'd lose, but I'd have a lot less confidence in him than other top pound for pound fighters like GSP or Fedor against anyone. As for Tim Sylvia, the guy just needs to accept that he's a heel. Matt Hughes did, and it's fun to root against him. Watching Sylvia try to be the good guy is just sad, because it doesn't take.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 10/15/07 from Birmingham, England.

The Big News: Shawn Michaels made his in ring return to Raw.

Show Analysis:

At the start of the show, Randy Orton suggested to William Regal that Mr. Kennedy, Jeff Hardy and Shawn Michaels wrestle each other in a triple threat match. Regal said he would take that under advisement, and then went out to make an announcement. He said that since Orton likes threes, it would be Orton facing all three of his opponents in singles matches.

Randy Orton beat Jeff Hardy. Jeff hit a baseball slide and pescado. Orton took over with a headlock. Hardy came back with the whisper in the wind. He went to the top, but Kennedy came out to distract him. Orton crotched Jeff on the top rope, and hit the RKO for the pin. This was rather cookie cutter, but good enough.

Santino defeated Val Venis. Santino went after Val’s leg. Val never really got a comeback, and Santino scored the pin by grapping the ropes. This was sloppy but fine. Carlito backstage was joking with Coach about Hornswoggle. Coach said that he had a plan to get rid of Hornswoggle. This led to a show long story where Coach chased Hornswoggle into catering, the women’s locker room, and then had a bicycle/tricycle chase.

William Regal and Vince McMahon had a backstage discussion. Regal said that Triple H wasn’t in shape to compete, and Triple H would not appear on the show. That’s a good touch to sell the beating last week. Vince and Regal also had a discussion about the pronunciation of Umanga’s name.

Mr. Kennedy beat Randy Orton via DQ. They went back and forth early, with the announcers talking about which man is more arrogant. Orton hit some European uppercuts and a back breaker. Kennedy quickly hit his rolling fireman carry slam. At that point Jeff Hardy interfered with a drop kick and swanton on Kennedy for the DQ.

Vince McMahon came out and introduced Umaga. He said Umaga would be wrestling Andy Simmonz in a street fight, one of the choices for Cyber Sunday. Umaga destroyed him, and pinned him with a Samoan drop on a chair. Vince then said that they would be having a first blood match, another choice. Umaga hit Simmonz with a head butt, running butt drop and repeated Samoan spikes until he bled from the mouth. Vince finally announced a cage match. Umaga threw Simmonz repeatedly into the cage and left. This was a clever and very effective segment. It reminded me of Big Van Vader destroying jobbers in WCW.

Candice Michelle beat Jillian Hall. Prior to the match, Jillian put down Lilian Garcia’s singing. Candice beat Jillian quick with a spinning heel kick and the unprettier. Beth Phoenix did a short promo after the match. She said that Candice will get her women’s title match next week. Hardcore Holly approached Cody Rhodes backstage and wanted to know why Cody keeps challenging him. Cody said he would beat Holly and earn his respect. Holly slapped him.

Rory McAllister beat Brian Kendrick. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch were at ringside. Rory worked over Kendrick. Kendrick tried to make a comeback but he was distracted by Robbie and Rory hit a slingshot reverse suplex for the pin. Kendrick and London are fantastic workers, and they have immense troubles getting decent matches out of the Highlanders. I don’t get why they are being pushed. All they had was a likeable gimmick as faces. As heels they aren’t over as characters and they are really quite bad in the ring.

Shawn Michaels did a promo backstage. He said you cannot kill that which is not your creation. That’s a dubious claim. Shawn said he will win the title from Orton at Cyber Sunday. Coach chased Hornswoggle to the ring. Hornswoggle hid under the ring, and Coach had a Wile E. Coyote detonator ready. He tried to set it off twice, but it didn’t work. He went under the ring to fix it, so of course Hornswoggle came out the other end and set off the bomb. Coach came out from under the ring with black stuff all over his face. This cartoon comedy doesn’t bother me, but I suspect it’s probably a turnoff for many.

Hardcore Holly defeated Cody Rhodes again. Holly worked Rhodes over with chops and punches. He went for the Alabama slam, but Cody got out. Cody then went for a series of pin attempts. He used a small package, crucifix slam, back slide, rolled through on a crossbody and more. There were seven or eight near falls, and the crowd didn’t react at all to a single one. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a dead crowd for a series of near falls. Holly then pinned him clean with the Alabama slam.

The crowd not reacting to a single near fall was again a signal that this type of story does not work in 2007 WWE. The idea is you have the young guy challenging repeatedly and trying to gain the advantage, but he keeps coming up short. In theory, the crowd gets behind his efforts and when he wins it is a big deal. The problem with this concept is that for the past six years, WWE has buried so many young wrestlers that the crowd doesn’t want to invest in a loser. When a young guy loses a couple bouts easily, they learn not to take the guy seriously, and it is very hard to get him over. The reaction to this match made that crystal clear. This was supposed to be the week where the crowd really got into Cody trying to win and the exact opposite reaction occurred. If you want to get over a new star, you need to protect him. That’s all there is to it.

Shawn Michaels beat Randy Orton via DQ. Orton went for the superplex, but Michaels pushed him off the top and hit an elbow. Michaels set up for sweet chin music, but Kennedy ran in. The heels double teamed Michaels, but Jeff came out to help. Michaels avoided the RKO and hit sweet chin music to close the show. Michaels’ return should have been advertised in advance and probably saved for PPV.

Final Thoughts:

This was a middle of the line show. It had some good and some bad. There were some very effective segments and some very ineffective segments. I didn’t like the overarching storyline of three BS finishes to set up the PPV match, however. To me, the BS finishes devalue the ultimate match, and decrease rather than increase interest. They make matches feel irrelevant. To me, the formula for building up pay-per-view main events 80 percent of the time should be the champion and challenger winning a bunch of TV matches and then facing each other. It doesn’t require a large team of creative writers, but it has a long established history of drawing money in wrestling, boxing and MMA. Trading BS finishes doesn’t.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Weekend Sports

It was overall a great sports weekend. The positives:

-USC loses to Stanford. Just a great upset in every respect - great team to lose, great team to pull off the upset. Came down to the end. I was very happy for this one, as were my parents and sister (I'm the only dimwit who didn't go there in our family).

-Caps off to 3-0 start. I was hoping that this would be the year the Caps turned it around, and it's looking like it might well be. It's a long season but so far they look much improved. The additions of Backstrom, Nylander and Kozlov boost the offense, the D is looking much better, and Kolzig is in top form. I'd love to see the Caps back in the playoffs with the old jerseys.

-Yankees fall in ALDS. I hate the Yankees. They had a poll on ESPN about the team you love to hate more: Cowboys or Yankees. And it's a good question for me given they were the big rivals of my Orioles and Redskins as a kid. The Yankees ran away with it. But to me the answer is the Cowboys. I love rooting against the Cowboys. But I simply hate the Yankees. I don't like them at all, and it's not fun rooting against them because they always make the playoffs over the Orioles. It's like rooting against Hunter. Anyway, glad to see they lost and I think if they get rid of Torre they're going to have even more problems.

The negatives:

-UCLA provides Notre Dame's first win. I think this is the final toll for Karl Dorrell, as I can't see him being brought back after the season. Hopefully they can have an amicable split and bring in a coach that gets better on field results. Not a good win at all with the turnovers.

And finally:

-Redskins vs. Lions. This was a very pleasant surprise. Redskins were 2-1 but hadn't looked great. This was the game where it really seemed like they're a contender again, particularly with the defense looking strong. It also continues the trend of the Redskins doing better when they make less changes, and then they make moves to "put them over the top" and it backfires. This was the sort of dominant win you rarely see in the NFL because the teams are so evenly matched. They just whooped up on the Lions in every regard. And, prior to the game I made a little bet with my buddy Matt Nevala over the result of the game. As the Lions lost, he, like the Genius, has a poem for us all.

Hail to the Redskins. Hail Victory.
Hail to the Redskins, especially when they play the Motor City Kitties.
The 2007 Washington Redskins deserve much appreciation for their ability to run, pass, block, tackle and kick far better than the woeful Detroit Lions could ever imagine.
Todd Martin is a brilliant man for loyally following this juggernaut of a team. I can’t say the same thing for myself.
- Matt Nevala, Anchorage AKLife-long Detroit Lions fan

I think he could give 50 Cent a run for his rhyming money. Of course, that's not high praise. ;)

Raw Report

Date: 10/08/07 from Grand Rapids, MI.

The Big News: HBK is back.

Show Analysis:

Vince McMahon came out to start the show. He was pleased with Randy Orton’s title win, and demanded that all the Raw superstars come out later to congratulate Orton. He said Orton’s next title defense would be at Cyber Sunday. Triple H joined Vince. He said that he wanted to invoke his rematch clause with Orton immediately. Vince made Triple H vs. Orton and Umaga in a handicap match instead. This was fine.

Candice Michelle, Maria and Mickie James beat Beth Phoenix, Melina and Jillian Hall. The heels worked over Mickie’s leg, including a Melina stump puller. Mickie tagged Candice, who came in with clotheslines. She defeated Jillian with a northern lights suplex and a sloppy victory roll. The match was short but inoffensive.

William Regal was redecorating his offense. He had pictures of the Queen, George Michael, and Elton John. Coach made an obvious joke in response, which angered Regal. The British are clearly more comfortable with their sexuality, as evidenced by Regal’s haircut. Vince came in and told Regal to continue monitoring Hornswoggle. Regal told Coach to do that, but Hornswoggle was already gone.

Val Venis was scheduled to wrestle Santino Marella. However, Santino said he wouldn’t be wrestling because he had another engagement. He said that there would be a substitute, Snitsky. Snitsky destroyed Venis and pinned him with a pump handle slam. This kind of takes the steam off the hot Venis-Marella program.

John Cena appeared in a video interview. He said his focus is on getting better and returning. When asked if he wanted to get back his title, he instead plugged Orton having to shake the hands of other superstars in the Raw main event. That was so stupid. It’s just the epitome of WWE’s short sighted approach. Downplay what could actually mean something in the long term to plug a very short term angle that isn’t going to be benefited at all by that plug anyway.

Triple H defeated Umaga and Randy Orton via DQ. Orton appears to have the same belt, only it no longer spins. HHH fought off both heels early, but Umaga sent him into the barricade. Orton and Umaga double teamed HHH, who bled. Orton hit a drop kick and Umaga a Samoan drop. HHH came back with a face buster and went for the pedigree on Orton. Umaga broke that up, but HHH sent Umaga out of the ring and gave Orton a spine buster.

HHH went for the pedigree again, but Umaga realized HHH was too much them, and attacked him with a chair. With the weapon, the heels were finally able to even the odds. Orton gave HHH the RKO, and Umaga a splash off the top and the Samoan spike. HHH was left badly beaten, and he struggled to make it backstage. Vince told him he would still have to shake Orton’s hand at the end of the show.

Highlanders beat Paul London and Brian Kendrick. London and Kendrick hit simultaneous planchas. The Highlanders worked over London briefly. He made the tag to Kendrick, and the faces made a quick comeback. Robbie pinned Kendrick with his feet on the ropes. Highlanders aren’t very good in the ring, even with such talented opponents.

Jeff Hardy beat Mr. Kennedy. Jeff hit an inverted atomic drop and leg drop early, but missed a crossbody off the top to the floor. Kennedy worked on Hardy’s knee with a half crab and chop block. Jeff came back with a side Russian leg sweep and brainbuster, but missed the swanton. Kennedy went for the pin, but Jeff rolled him over for the victory. This was a good match, albeit sloppy at times. Backstage, Hornswoggle turned up. He had been sleeping in a trunk, and attacked Coach with a cane.

The main event saw the wrestlers standing on the stage. Vince McMahon was in the ring, and he brought out Randy Orton. Orton put himself over. Vince then demanded HHH come out to shake Orton’s hand. He told Orton to go get HHH. Orton started up the ramp when Shawn Michaels made his entrance. He attacked Orton and laid him out with sweet chin music.

Final Thoughts:

This was the best edition of Raw in a while. There was very little nonsense, the final segment provided a fun surprise, and there was some good wrestling on the card.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

NBA Shocker

Say it ain't so, Kwame. It's a really sad day. What's the world coming to when Kwame Brown fucks up? I mean, who can we trust any more? All the children that look up to Kwame and emulate his play have got to be shaking their heads at this most unfortunate development. But I've still got faith in the man. You shall overcome, Kwame!

The Title’s the Thing

John Cena’s torn pectoral tendon is in the short term the worst possible news for World Wrestling Entertainment. Cena is far and away the company’s most valuable asset, and his departure leaves a major hole in the company’s planning. With that said, WWE should not bemoan the situation nor should it go into panic mode. The injury could in fact prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Following Cena’s injury, speculation has centered on who should be the next champion. This has been a major topic of conversation on the internet, and no doubt within WWE as well. The focus for most has been on whom to push. To me, that focus is misplaced. Rather than viewing this as a chance to build stars, WWE should focus on this as an opportunity to build the title.

WWE business in the past year has been a mixed bag. House show business has been strong, largely as a reflection of Cena’s star power. Cena’s departure will almost certainly hurt house show business in the short term, no matter how WWE proceeds. Pay-per-view business, on the other hand, has been on a severe decline. That decline reflects WWE’s inability to get people to pay to see specific matches. And that is where WWE may be able to profit from Cena’s departure.

John Cena has held the WWE title longer than anyone in almost twenty years. But WWE never was able to translate that into making title matches meaningful on pay-per-view. Cena relinquishing the title without losing it in the ring was unplanned, but it is a perfect way to end such a long reign. Built up correctly, Cena’s return can revitalize the significance of the championship.

Titles were meaningful historically in professional wrestling because they signified who was the best. In recent years, WWE has been so haphazard with match results that the title is more a prop than anything else. Randy Orton has been fighting for the title for almost three months despite rarely winning matches on television. Title challengers aren’t protected leading up to their title shots, and the lack of long term booking leaves the title feeling empty.

All of these problems can be combated over the period of Cena’s injury. Cena when he gives up the title will have a claim to being the best. Everyone knows he is WWE’s top star, and that he held the title for a very long time without losing it. When he comes back, he will have a claim to the championship.

Likewise, the individual who holds the title in the interim will have a claim to being the best. It is imperative that person hold the title from now until Cena returns, fending off all challengers. That sets up the most simple and effective of title programs. Two men have legitimate claim to being the best, and each can only prove his supremacy by defeating the other. That is a dynamic that has been missing for ages, and that WWE can rekindle over the next year.

So how do we get there? The first step is making John Cena’s relinquishment of the title as dramatic and sad of a moment as possible. Cena needs to show up on Sunday if at all possible to provide the visual of coming out and handing over the title that means so much to him. He needs to be completely and utterly devastated, in a scene so depressing that even some of the people booing him will feel guilty.

They should tease not only that Cena is out, but that he may never be able to return. A promo where Cena vows to win back the title would be counterproductive. The moment needs to be as somber as possible. They then need to replay that video every other week until he returns, throwing in occasional updates that talk about “setbacks” in the recovery that create doubt as to if he can return.

The question then turns to who should be the new champion. I think a number of choices would make sense, but it has to be a heel. A face champion would make the fans happy even with Cena gone, but this is precisely the point when the fans shouldn’t be happy. That’s the whole key to making his return impactful. I like the dynamic of a guy turning heel in winning the title. That will anger the fans even more. They thought their guy was going to win the title, but he wasn’t their guy at all.

That would make either Triple H or Chris Jericho the best choice. Both are effective heels, and are also over enough as faces that one turning on the other would get serious heat. Vince McMahon orders a fatal four-way with Randy Orton, Triple H, Umaga and a mystery opponent, Chris Jericho. The heels Umaga and Orton are eliminated first, leaving the fans excited about a face-face finale. One turns heel on the other to take the title, and continues to defend successfully until Cena returns.

In order for this dynamic to work, WWE needs to be patient between now and Cena’s return. They need to slowly build up that match, even if short term indicators are bad. Frequent vignettes should remind fans that Cena lost the title without being defeated, and the heel champion should regularly taunt Cena. Hopefully, when the program reaches its peak, you not only have a monster one time buy rate, but you have reinvested fans in the title to where you can start raising future buy rates as well.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 10/01/07 from Cleveland, OH.

The Big News: Randy Orton made a “surprising” appearance at the end of Raw, laying out John Cena.

Show Analysis:

The show began with Vince McMahon and three particularly unimpressive looking jobbers. Vince guaranteed that he would win against HHH. He then said that the three men represented different disciplines of fighting – wrestling, karate and sumo. I seriously think this was meant to be a shot at MMA, but it was hard to tell because Vince’s idea of MMA appears to be about fifteen years behind the times. Vince then brought out HHH’s opponent at No Mercy, Umaga. He destroyed the three, who were labeled fighting champions by the announcers. Someone tell Vince what happened to New Japan when they tried to prove pro wrestlers are tougher than MMA fighters.

Jeff Hardy, Brian Kendrick and Paul London beat Shelton Benjamin, Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. They only gave these guys about three minutes, which is absolutely ridiculous. They had a hell of a little three minute six man tag. The heels got heat on Kendrick very briefly, with Shelton giving him a press slam into a stomach breaker. Kendrick tagged Jeff. Jeff hit an inverted atomic drop, drop kick and whisper in the wind on Cade. He was going for the swanton, but Shelton crotched him. Kendrick then gave Cade sliced bread #2, and Jeff hit the swanton for the pin.

Vince welcomed back William Regal, and asked him to look after Hornswoggle. Randy Orton appeared “on satellite from Chicago.” He said that he was waiting for John Cena, and wouldn’t appear on Raw. That’s carny for “I’m doing a run-in in the main event.” It’s a SWERVE~! The Highlanders spoke with Regal backstage. They said they didn’t want London and Kendrick, only a title shot. Hmmmm. Let’s look at their 2007 Raw record. 0-2 in singles matches, 0-2 in handicap matches, 0-1 in battle royals, 0-1 in tag matches and one 8 man tag win on January 1 where Cryme Tyme scored the pin. Does WWE understand what a championship is supposed to represent?

Hardcore Holly pinned That Jobber Cody Rhodes again. Cody went for a small package, but Holly wasn’t having that. He smacked Cody and hit the Alabama slam for the pin in around two minutes. I don’t buy that you can get over a young guy by having him lose repeatedly and eventually win in the end in 2007. Fans have been too conditioned not to believe in new guys and will just accept them as jobbers. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that this storyline could conceivably work. Assuming that is the case, it is only going to work with a top guy, so that the eventual win means something. Holly on the other hand, is viewed as a lower card guy. Every time Cody loses to Holly, it brands him as a jobber. And the win at the end won’t mean a damn thing. They need to get Cody out of here immediately to save his career.

Beth Phoenix said that it is just a formality that she wins the women’s title Sunday. She had Lillian Garcia announce her as the champion. Lillian did so, but then said that is assuming she beats Candice. Beth threatened Lillian, but Candice made the save.

Vince McMahon beat Triple H via disqualification. Carlito was the surprise referee. HHH punched Carlito and went for the pedigree. Carlito gave HHH the pedigree, put Vince on top and went for the fast count, but HHH still kicked out. HHH punched Carlito again, and Carlito called for the DQ. Umaga ran in and attacked HHH. They fought back and forth until HHH got the sledgehammer. Umaga left at the request of Vince.

They did another vignette built around Santino Marella “trashing” The Condemned. They’re insecure about knocking the movie since it isn’t very good, so Santino is really obvious in telling people to watch the DVD even as he purports to dislike it. Val Venis came out, and made some derogatory remarks about Santino. Santino attacked Val’s knee. John Cena backstage cut another cute Rock Lite promo that is totally inappropriate for a heated main event program. Cena’s delivery was still really strong.

Mickie James beat Melina. This is becoming a trend, but the match was really fast. Hornswoggle distracted Melina, and Mickie scored the pin. After the match, Mickie went under the ring after Hornswoggle. Hornswoggle came out with her bra. He then went back under and came out with her top and bottom. Steve O introduced himself to Ron Simmons, and said Simmons could be tougher. Simmons threw him out of the locker room, and did so again at the end of the show.

John Cena beat Mr. Kennedy. Kennedy worked over Cena briefly by throwing him into the steps and hitting a DDT. Cena abruptly applied the STFU and Kennedy tapped immediately. WWE certainly doesn’t seem to be pleased with Kennedy. Randy Orton then did a run-in. He hit an RKO, then hit Cena in the head with the ring steps, then gave him an RKO on the announce table. Orton counted to ten, like a last man standing match. This was a good finish to the show.

Final Thoughts:

If you liked last week’s show, this was a great show for you. If you thought it was utter trash, it’s probably a bad sign they decided to remake it. All the matches felt totally cut off and quick, while they gave the stupid vignettes plenty of time to breathe. Raw is a real mess right now.

I’ve got three fun articles up on MMA in the last week. Please check them out.

You can check out my take on UFC 76, parity and the light heavyweight picture here:

Here’s a look at the Strikeforce promotion, and how their business model differs from other MMA promotions:

Finally, here’s my live perspective from the Playboy Mansion MMA show: