The Big News: Raw was a terrific show.
HHH and Jeff Hardy defeated Snitsky and Umaga. This was sold as the main event of the show. Jerry Lawler said that Snitsky has never been pinned on Raw, which is such an insult to the intelligence of the viewing audience. They didn’t even change his name or his look. They just dyed his teeth, for God’s sake. Jeff and HHH were successful early. Jeff hit a pescado on both heels. They caught him in the air, but HHH came off the apron with a crossbody to knock them down.
The heels took over on Jeff. Umaga hit his spinning uranage, which looks really dangerous. If it isn’t, that’s a hell of a move. Jeff tagged HHH, who gave Umaga a spine buster. He went for the pedigree, but Snitsky broke it up. He then went for a pedigree on Snitsky, but Umaga broke that up. HHH tagged back Jeff. Umaga went for his running butt drop on Jeff, but HHH pulled Jeff out of the way.
Jeff hit the whisper in the wind on Umaga, which Jim Ross for the second straight week called the twist of fate for whatever reason. HHH gave Umaga the pedigree and Jeff hit the swanton for the pin. This was a very strong opener. William Regal then came out and announced Jeff Hardy vs. Triple H for Armageddon. I’m not sure where they are going with this, but hopefully they recognize that Jeff has a lot more to gain and a lot more to lose from this feud than HHH.
Ric Flair came out, and he said he chose Charlotte for his announcement because the city has been kind to him. He said his wrestling career can’t go on forever, and talked about the legacies of Cal Ripken, Jr. and Brett Favre. He teased retirement, but then said his announcement is he will never retire.
Vince McMahon came out, and said he wants Ric Flair to keep going provided he keeps winning. Vince said that the next match Flair loses will mean the end of his career. Randy Orton then came out and thanked Flair for the advice early in his career and for allowing him to end Flair’s career. Vince then announced Orton vs. Flair for the end of the show. This is a good story, and I’m glad they followed through on it even though it got out. The segment wasn’t explosive, but it told the story well.
Hardcore Holly, Cody Rhodes, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Super Crazy defeated Lance Cade, Trevor Murdoch and the Highlanders. The heels worked over Cody, with Cade hitting a yakuza kick. Cody tagged Holly, who pinned Robbie with the Alabama slam. The match was fine, and they gave it just enough time to where it meant something.
Backstage, Jeff told an interviewer that it is an honor to face HHH but that he doesn’t want the match to get in the way. He hesitated at that point, and HHH arrived. HHH pointed out he doesn’t do well with friendships, and that he isn’t going to be Jeff’s buddy at Armageddon.
Mr. Kennedy backstage plugged Shawn Michaels’ DVD. He talked about Shawn turning on his partners and losing matches. He made fun of him for losing his smile. I’m not sure current fans know what that means. They might want to have Kennedy show the footage. He said Michaels politicked his way into main event status even with hungrier and more talented guys out there. He said that no low of Michaels’ career will compare to when he faces Kennedy. This was a strong promo by Kennedy. They showed Flair backstage with Arn Anderson and Barry Windham.
Chris Jericho was next out. He got kind of a tepid reaction, but it was a cold crowd for most of the show. He said he came back to Raw to save us from Randy Orton and win the WWE title. He said that he thought Orton was a coward for not accepting his challenge, but maybe Orton is just too stupid to realize Jericho wants a title shot. He simplified his request to “me want title match.” He even had a visual aid, which was a picture of Jericho, a picture of the Cookie Monster, a picture of the title, and a picture of a match.
Jericho asked for an answer. Instead, he got Santino. Santino referred to Jericho as KYJ and said he has Lindsay Lohan’s haircut. Jericho acted like he didn’t know who Santino was. He kept screwing up Santino’s name, while Santino screamed that he is Santino. Santino said Jericho doesn’t deserve a title match. Jericho suggested they wrestle. Santino backed off, and then attacked Jerry Lawler to send a message. This was a hilarious segment, as Santino is a great heel to play off of and Jericho really got rolling as the segment progressed.
Chris Jericho beat Santino. This was basically a squash, done to put over and reintroduce Jericho. Jericho hit chops, punches, a suplex, a springboard drop kick, atomic drop and bulldog. He finished Santino with his new finisher, which is called the code breaker. It is sort of a cross between go 2 sleep and the back cracker. He grabs and drops the opponent into his knee. Jericho called Lawler into the ring after the match, and did commentary as Lawler beat up Carlito.
This segment was baffling in a way. This is precisely the way Vince always used to introduce a new character. Give them some mic time to establish the character, and then let them hit their moves in a showcase match. It’s totally effective, but they seem no longer willing to build anyone like this other than monsters. I had almost forgotten they knew how to do this. They should do a segment like this for every new character without exception. Not all will get over, but they sure have a better shot when you present them as unique and important from the outset.
Shawn Michaels spoke with Ric Flair backstage. He said he isn’t ready for the industry without Flair. Michaels put over Flair and said he could do it. Flair said he would give it his all. Next up, Mr. Kennedy beat Brian Kendrick. This was too short to mean anything. Kennedy quickly pinned him with something resembling an STO. After the match he said he will beat Michaels at Armageddon.
The next segment was the only serious miss of the week. Vince told Hornswoggle that Hornswoggle is lucky. Vince said that Finlay would face Great Khali at Armageddon. He then sent Hornswoggle to get an ice cream sandwich. When Hornswoggle left, Vince sent a coded message to Carlito via walkie talkie. Carlito was waiting in a room that had “free ice cream sandwiches” on the door.
Hornswoggle then sprayed a door on the wall like a Road Runner cartoon. He took off and supposedly ran through the wall. Carlito considered the circumstance and ran into the wall. Look, comedy in wrestling can be good. And I enjoy Looney Tunes. But there is a fundamental distinction. The Road Runner cartoons didn’t try to get you to spend $40 to see a fight between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote on pay-per-view. And it is a lot harder to sell anything on your show when you scream at your audience that it is all a work and a joke that shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Mickie James beat Melina to become number one contender for the women’s title. Beth watched from ringside and jawed with Mickie after the match. Mickie won with a huracanrana and implant DDT. Ric Flair was backstage getting ready to come out, and received applause from the wrestlers. HHH shook his hand.
Ric Flair beat Randy Orton. Flair hit chops and punches. Orton came back with punches and a back drop. Flair used a small package for 2. Orton hit a drop kick and used a suplex on the floor. Flair crawled back in. He came back with a suplex, and avoided the RKO. He hit some chops, attacked the knee with a chop block and applied the figure four. That got a big reaction.
Orton escaped and hit the RKO. Flair grabbed the rope to avoid the pinfall. Orton pounded Flair with punches for a while, but Jericho appeared for a distraction. Flair hit a low blow and grabbed the tights for the pin. This was a dramatic and effective segment, and one of the occasions where interference makes sense and works in the story as more than just a way out of a finish.
Well, I’ve become really optimistic about Raw in a hurry. This was a fantastic show, and easily one of the best of the year if not the best. What’s even more encouraging beyond the entertainment value of this one show is that the strength of this show is sustainable. It wasn’t a show that featured a lot of hotshotting. Rather, the strength came from telling good stories and presenting compelling characters. There is no reason they can’t keep this up. Big thumbs up for WWE.