Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 11/27/07 from Charlotte, NC.

The Big News: Raw was a terrific show.

Show Analysis:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 11/19/07 from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The Big News: Chris Jericho is back to save us all.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels came out to start the show. He said that the better man won last night, and invited Randy Orton to the ring to shake his hand. Orton appeared on the screen and said he wasn’t falling for that. Michaels admitted it was a setup, but that he planned on challenging him to a title rematch before kicking him. Orton said he wouldn’t come down, and that he had a guy running around with a torch to symbolize the passing of the torch to him. They cut to this guy throughout the show.

Michaels was then joined by Mr. Kennedy. When Kennedy went to grab the microphone, Michaels punched him and knocked him out of the ring. That was funny. Kennedy gained control and rammed Michaels into the post. Kennedy said Michaels had his shot and now it’s his turn. Michaels challenged him to a match. Kennedy said Michaels is most famous for losing. Regal ordered the match, which never ended up happening. They brawled on the outside so the match never started. Michaels gave him sweet chin music into a chair and that was it.

Jerry Lawler beat Santino Marella again. Santino got the crown from Lawler and said that he would beat Lawler like a rented dog. He continued to run down Lawler, who used a backslide for the pin. Randy Orton then ran in and gave Lawler the RKO. Backstage, Mr. Kennedy said Michaels is trying to hold him down. Kennedy said he won’t be denied.

Vince McMahon said that he thought Survivor Series was one of the best of all time, and wanted to get the independent views of William Regal and Coach. Okay, so they’re satirizing their own booking meetings. Coach and Regal joked about Hornswoggle last night. Carlito then showed up and said he liked Vince’s tough love of Hornswoggle. Vince in turn made Carlito vs. Hornswoggle.

Jeff Hardy beat Umaga via DQ. They did an old school big man/little man match. Umaga applied a long nerve hold. Umaga ran into a post and Jeff hit the DDT, but Umaga cut off his momentum and went back to the nerve hold. Umaga hit some kicks and a sick looking spinning uranage. He went back to the nerve hold. Umaga missed a head butt off the second rope, and Jeff hit the whisper in the wind and mule kick. He missed the swanton, and Umaga hit the Samoan drop. He missed the Samoan spike, and Jeff hit a twist of fate.

Umaga went to the outside, and Jeff hit a baseball slide and pescado. At that point Snitsky ran in. Snitsky and Umaga double teamed Jeff and knocked him out of the ring. HHH then came out and fought off both heels by himself. Jeff rolled back into the ring and they celebrated together. The match was pretty slow, with the constant rest holds dragging it down. It picked up well towards the end but the finish was a real letdown. HHH was asked why he came out to help Jeff, and he said that he wanted to show who the real badass is. He has nothing in common with Jeff, except respect.

Cody Rhodes finally defeated Hardcore Holly in a quick match. Holly used punches, slams, clotheslines, and a drop kick. He went for the Alabama slam, but Cody escaped and hit the DDT for the pin. There was very little response, and Orton came in and laid out both with RKOs. This Cody Rhodes/Hardcore Holly feud has been a total disaster.

Finlay and Vince were chatting backstage. Vince said he doesn’t like surprises, but Finlay said the Irish do. Vince suggested they go out for a drink after the show. Finlay said he would get Vince some milk, which is what Vince needs at his age. Vince was angry, but Finlay said he was joking. They were teasing dissension between the two. They then announced that Ric Flair will return next week.

Mickie James and Maria beat Jillian Hall and Melina. Before the match, Jillian Hall ran down Lilian Garcia and a musician who collaborated on her album. It went on and on, and the guy didn’t seem to understand what was going on at all. This led into a quick and typically sloppy match.

This week’s near death involved Jillian trying to hit a 450, and landing wrong with her knees crashing on Melina. They really need to tell these inexperienced women that they need to refrain from doing really dangerous moves. Melina survived, luckily. The finish saw Jillian Hall rub Mickie’s face in her boobs. Mickie responded by kissing Jillian and knocking her out with a kick. This segment was a disaster in so many ways.

Hornswoggle beat Carlito. Yes, one segment they had breast smothering and lesbian kisses, and the very next segment was midget comedy aimed at children. I don’t care about “protecting” children from “objectionable” content, but this is one serious identity crisis as far as the target audience. Hornswoggle ran away from Carlito, and dumped water on him. Carlito was going to spit apple in his face, but Finlay came in. Carlito spit apple in Finlay’s face, so Finlay attacked Carlito and dropped Hornswoggle on him for the pin. Hornswoggle then spit apple in the face of Carlito.

Randy Orton was in the ring at the end of the show, waiting for the guy carrying the torch. The guy got clotheslined by Chris Jericho. The graphic appeared, and was decoded to say save_us_y2j. There was then a countdown and the old break the walls music. The announcers put over the reaction to Jericho huge. Jericho told the fans to call their friends and tell them he is back. He promised to excite and delight. Orton wanted to know what Jericho is saving us from. Jericho said Orton’s boring personality and monotonous voice, amongst a number of complaints. Jericho said he will take Orton’s title.

Final Thoughts:

This was a dull but inoffensive show. The Chris Jericho return was fine. It didn’t come across as a monumental moment, but the follow through was going to be the key no matter what happened the first week. I’ll be discussing Jericho’s return further on Fight Network Radio tomorrow at 3PM Eastern/12PM Pacific tomorrow (Tuesday). Check it out, and have a good week.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 11/12/07 from Topeka, KS.

The Big News: Survivor Series is Sunday, and Chris Jericho returns on Monday.

Show Analysis:

Batista came out to start the show. He said that William Regal invited him to compete on Raw. He plugged his Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker. It was a weak promo, with the lowlight being, “Weapons are not only welcome, they’re allowed.” Undertaker came out to the ring, but Regal interrupted. He said that they would team up to face Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch.

Undertaker and Batista beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. This was a total squash. The only drama was Undertaker and Batista teasing dissension. Undertaker gave Cade a choke slam. Murdoch broke up the pin, so Batista took him out. Undertaker then gave Cade the tombstone for the pin. Batista then gave Murdoch the Batista bomb so Undertaker wouldn’t show him up. It’s good to put over your headliners strong going into a pay-per-view. But if you’re going to book the tag titles like this, please just dissolve them. They do more harm in devaluing titles than good in getting over the champions.

Beth Phoenix beat Maria. Maria sold fear over the match. Beth kicked her and threw him around before finishing her with the fisherwoman buster. Santino came out, and casually said, “Don’t worry, Maria will be okay.” He then quickly moved on to Steve Austin’s attack last week, which was funny.

Santino said Austin owes him an apology. Austin wasn’t there, so he went to Jim Ross. Jerry Lawler stood up for Ross, so Santino challenged him to fight. He said he would give Lawler the first punch, so Lawler socked him and Santino sold it big and left. Santino called him stupid and vowed revenge. He challenged Lawler to a match. This was a great segment.

Rey Mysterio and the Hardyz defeated Mr. Kennedy, Fit Finlay and MVP. The heels worked over Rey’s back. Rey made the hot tag to Jeff, who hit the whisper in the wind on MVP. Kennedy broke up the pin attempt. Jeff used a drop toe hold and Rey a drop kick to set up a double 619. Jeff then hit a swanton on MVP for the pin. This was a fun match. I wish they would try to get in one longer good match like this every week.

They aired another Chris Jericho teaser. This time it said 6 days and 23 hours, and “break the walls.” As if that weren’t explicit enough, Jerry Lawler said that he’s broken the code and it’s going to happen next week. So Chris Jericho looks to be coming back next week. The build for this has been strong. Hopefully they have a strong idea of where they are going to go with Jericho upon his return.

There was a face to face summit between Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton. They reiterated the rules of their match. Michaels said Orton had sweet chin music banned because Orton knew he would lose to it. Orton said Michaels is a hothead and he would use the move and get disqualified. Michaels said he would win with another hold, and he doesn’t need the move. The segment ended with Orton attacking Michaels. Orton was setting up for the kick to the head, but Vince McMahon stopped him so Orton gave Michaels the RKO instead. I like that they are using the kick to the head as the out of bounds move, sort of like the pile driver in Mexico or territories where it was banned.

Michelle McCool, Kelly Kelly and Mickie James defeated Layla, Melina and Jillian Hall. Mickie kissed Layla and then knocked her out with a kick. That is a fine finisher. The match was short and sloppy. Sort of like a good…never mind.

Jerry Lawler beat Santino. Lawler went after Santino’s leg, and Santino came back with forearms. Santino was setting Lawler up for something and told Ross to watch. That gave Lawler the chance to roll up Santino for the pin.

Santino is fun to watch when he is frustrated, but this is ultimately a wrestling show. Portray him as a buffoon outside of the ring, but he needs to be a threat to some degree in the ring. Yes, he’s not a very good wrestler. But neither are Great Khali, Snitsky, or Big Daddy V. Surely if you can push bad wrestlers solely because they are big you can also push a bad wrestler because he happens to be the most entertaining character on the show.

They aired a pre-taped segment of Hornswoggle training in front of an empty arena. I guess they didn’t have the confidence to run this in front of a live crowd. His opponent was announced as Great Khali, but it was Coach pretending to be Khali. Coach was unhappy but William Regal led him on. Hornswoggle ended up pulling down Coach’s pants and hitting the frog splash for the pin. This segment sucked.

HHH beat Umaga via disqualification in the lumberjack match main event. The lumberjacks were the Survivor Series teams. Umaga worked over HHH, and the heels took some opportunities to get in shots as well. HHH started to come back. He rammed Umaga into the ring posts, and hit a DDT. As HHH was heating up, Finlay came in for the DQ. Rey Mysterio then took out Finlay, and the two teams brawled for a solid end to the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was an entertaining show that built Survivor Series well.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 11/05/07 from Los Angeles, CA.

The Big News: Steve Austin and DX returned.

Show Analysis:

The show opened with a graphic for the Fabulous Moolah. Shawn Michaels and Triple H then came out in DX attire. They were about to do the “let’s get ready” shtick when Hornswoggle joined them. They told him to back under the ring, but he refused and put Michaels in the short arm scissors. Shawn said that Hornswoggle could be a member of DX. HHH told him to go back under the ring, but Hornswoggle said there was a monster under the ring. Michaels went to check, and got pulled under. He came out with worms in his mouth.

Boogey Man then came out from under the ring. He said he’s the Boogey Man, and he wants to join DX. They decided to let him in and were again about to do “let’s get ready.” Great Khali then came down. HHH guessed he wanted to be a part of DX too, and told him to get in the back. Coach interrupted and was annoyed with all this, so HHH told Khali that Coach had been talking trash about Khali.

HHH said to ask Michaels, since everyone knows Michaels can’t lie. Now that was a funny line. Michaels corroborated HHH’s story. Khali gave Coach the big chop. Michaels said he didn’t know who wrote this garbage, but it’s the worst debacle since Katie Vick. HHH agreed, but said no one wrote it because they’re on strike. This segment had a few funny lines, but overall was a miss.

Beth Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly almost instantaneously with the fisherwoman buster. Santino said that Steve Austin wouldn’t be at Raw. He brought a paper bag just in case so Austin could try to act his way out of it.

Snitsky beat Joey Munoz. Carlito was going to wrestle the jobber, but instead he decided to have Snitsky wrestle for him. Snitsky pinned him with a pump handle slam, and then laid out Carlito with a big boot and pump handle slam. When WWE wonders why their roster is so thin with marketable talent, they need to look to segments like this one. This made Carlito look like such an impotent, worthless goof for absolutely no reason. Snitsky would have got over just as well if he just beat the jobber without bringing out Carlito to be absolutely buried.

Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio beat Finlay and Mr. Kennedy. This was one of only two matches on the show that got any time. These four will be on opposite teams at the Survivor Series. The heels teased not getting along early. They went after Rey’s leg. Rey tagged Jeff. Jeff hit the whisper in the wind, but Finlay broke up the pin attempt. Rey then gave Kennedy the 619 and Jeff hit the swanton on Kennedy for the pin. This was a hot finishing sequence.

Maria told Santino that she heard Austin was there, but Santino said the odds of Austin showing up were the same as him winning an Oscar. So, Santino came to the ring. He addressed the director of the Condemned, who didn’t even get polite applause. Santino trashed the film. Austin then came out with a DVD of the Condemned. He asked Santino’s opinion of the film, and Santino trashed it again. Austin said he respected that, and offered to share a beer with Santino. Santino didn’t want to, because he prefers wine.

Austin offered him the DVD, and called it the best action film of the last 10 years. Now that’s comedy. Santino threw down the DVD and stepped on it. Austin gave him the stunner. He then drove out a beer truck and gave Santino a beer bath. Santino was great slipping around like Bobby Heenan. Austin doused Maria too. This segment was good overall, but went a little too long. Austin as a corporate shill hurts his character. Moreover, in 2007 Santino is a more entertaining character than Austin anyway.

Vince told Hornswoggle that he would be wrestling Great Khali at Survivor Series. DX then killed time by bringing out the fat oily guy and then girls from the Playboy Mansion. This was followed by a pair of brief matches.

Cody Rhodes defeated Trevor Murdoch first. Cody hit a bulldog, body slam and knee drop. Lance Cade tried to interfere but failed and Cody rolled up Murdoch for the pin. After a video package for Moolah, Super Crazy and Jim Duggan beat Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. Crazy and Duggan said “si” and “ho” back and forth, apparently for comedy. Crazy won with a rollup in no time at all.

HHH and Shawn Michaels beat Umaga and Randy Orton. The heels worked over HHH, who tagged Michaels. Michaels hit a flying forearm, inverted atomic drop and elbow off the top, but was cut off by Umaga. The heels then worked over Michaels, who tagged HHH. HHH hit a face buster, spine buster and went for the pedigree, but Umaga gave him the Samoan spike. Orton went for the RKO, but HHH avoided it and tagged Michaels. Michaels immediately hit sweet chin music on Orton for the pin. This was a good conclusion to the show as far as the match and Survivor Series build.

Final Thoughts:

This show did nothing for me. It was intended to be a lighthearted fun show with a couple major returns, but was primarily built around a seemingly interminable series of goofy comedy segments. There have been worse editions of Raw this year, and more destructively booked editions. But this was a perfect illustration of why so much of the traditional pro wrestling audience has left the WWE’s product in the past five years. There is a serious disconnect between WWE’s idea of entertainment and the historical appeal of professional wrestling.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Torre to Dodgers

I don't really like the move for Torre. He has established a great rep with the Yankees, but if he fails with the Dodgers along with his failings early it may lead a lot of people to conclude the Yankees run was more the money and talent than him. It reminds me of Phil Jackson with the second Lakers run, and even then Phil had more championships and with multiple teams. I guess I ultimately just don't think coaches are that important in baseball, certainly relative to football or basketball. So if you're a coach with power you should be careful in picking your spots. I don't think the Dodgers will flop under Torre, but I don't think they have enough talent to make it to the World Series. An ESPN poll asked whether Torre or Girardi would win more games next year. Torre was winning the vote but I would strongly bet Girardi.