Monday, January 07, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 01/07/08 from Uncasville, CT.

The Big News: Raw opened 2008 with a bizarre show. It featured some very bad segments and some very good segments, in terms of entertainment and in terms of build.

Show Analysis:

This report is dedicated to the man who is smelling fear, smelling blood, and coming to eat you.

Vince McMahon started the show by promising a special and unpredictable Raw Roulette show. William Regal told Vince that he tried to redeem himself for not hitting Hornswoggle by taking Triple H out of the Royal Rumble. Vince was pleased, but suggested Regal go further by injuring HHH as well. He announced HHH vs. Regal, and spun the wheel to make a first blood match. Regal was jumped by HHH as he left Vince’s office.

Shawn Michaels and Mr. Kennedy beat Charlie Haas and Trevor Murdoch. This started with Michaels and Kennedy coming to the ring presumably to wrestle each other. Vince spun the wheel and it landed on strange bedfellows, which meant parejas increibles. I guess in the spirit of a lucha libre gimmick match, Charlie Haas inexplicably put on a mask. It appeared he was parodying Mil Mascaras based on the mask and mannerisms, but I’m not entirely sure. This development went entirely unexplained. I would think Charlie Haas of late has more closely resembled El Hijo del Santo. Get it? Get it? Eh, forget it.

The heels worked over Michaels. Michaels took off Haas’ mask, and that was the end of that. There was a point when Haas came off the top and it appeared Michaels was supposed to get up his boot but didn’t. Haas thus jumped off the top, landed on his feet, and dropped an elbow. I’ve seen that spot done intentionally on independent shows, but always with a heel who is teasing but not delivering a spectacular top rope move.

In any event, Michaels went to tag Kennedy but Kennedy wouldn’t tag. Michaels took matters into his own hands, giving both opponents sweet chin music. Kennedy at that point tagged in, gave Michaels the mic check (clever new name for his reverse STO), and scored the pin. This match was too goofy, to the point it totally distracted from and diminished the Kennedy/Michaels story.

Hardcore Holly beat Carlito with the Alabama slam in a trading places match, which meant that each man had to dress as the other. The announcers tried to sell that Holly wasn’t pleased with the stipulation, but Holly didn’t appear to get the memo. He played up the gimmick, wearing a big fake wig and carrying an apple to the ring. Carlito had a goofy yellow wig. They also wore each other’s ring attire. Hopefully the next trading places match will feature Hardcore Holly against Maria.

This was intended for comedy, but the crowd didn’t react to it at all. It was short, but stupid. Jim Ross got in a spin the wheel make the deal reference, which is where the Raw Roulette concept was lifted from. The stipulation drew a surprisingly strong buy rate the first time it was used by Bill Watts, for a Jake Roberts vs. Sting match.

Vince McMahon and Maria were backstage. She spun the wheel to determine the match the divas would be in. It landed on a submission match, so Vince moved it to lingerie pillow fight. Elsewhere, Jeff Hardy said he spent New Year’s in the hospital with his brother. He said he would take Orton’s title and take Orton out. They kept this short and to the point, which is smart with Jeff. Next, Vince McMahon told Hornswoggle that he could qualify for the Royal Rumble if he won a tag match with a partner of his choosing.

The returning Ashley won a lingerie pillow fight. Ashley got fireworks for her big return, which was greeted with deafening indifference by the crowd and by me. The bigger news was Maria, who looked stupefyingly, mindbogglingly, timestoppingly hot. The other competitors were Melina, Mickie and Jillian Hall, and it basically amounted to a handicap match with the faces having the numbers advantage. The match went on and on and on, with the women doing a bunch of spots on a bed. Maria hit a bronco buster on Jillian. Ashley hit an elbow off the second rope onto Jillian lying on the bed, and scored the pin.

Hornswoggle was looking around for a tag partner. Finlay wasn’t there, so the dim-witted Hornswoggle decided to recruit a tag partner from the ranks of the guys who never win. First he went to Super Crazy, who said that he isn’t that crazy. He then went to Santino, who didn’t want any part of the match and said that he finds short people creepy. Take that, Joe Stevenson! The joke ended up being on Crazy and Santino, given who they would have had to defeat to qualify for the Rumble.

HHH beat William Regal in a first blood match. It was a good brawl. Regal sent HHH into the post, steps and unprotected turnbuckle. HHH retaliated with a face buster and went for the pedigree, but Regal reversed. Regal hit a running knee and brought in the brass knuckles. HHH caught him with a spine buster and punched Regal in the head until he bled. HHH continued to pound the bloody Regal, gave him the pedigree, and celebrated over his corpse.

You’ve got to hand it to HHH. One week after for all intents and purposes beating his childhood idol in his final hometown match, HHH followed it up by destroying his friend and mentor in the first match of their apparent feud when Regal needed all the help he could get to make it work. They could have told a hell of a story with Regal going back to his roots. And HHH would have got over a lot better in the end cleanly pinning this reinvigorated man in the payoff to their feud. Instead, Regal isn’t a real threat to HHH and so the win doesn’t matter.

Chris Jericho beat JBL and Snitsky in a handicap match via DQ. Yes, JBL made his long awaited in-ring return completely unannounced in a gimmick match. Apparently nobody in WWE read the Observer with all the buy rate figures and noted how well SummerSlam did. Oh well, at least they presumably understand the concept of a pay-per-view buy rate unlike some other promotions that shall remain nameless. Don’t worry Calvin Ayre, I’m thinking of someone else.

The match was brief, before JBL hit Jericho with the ring bell and choked him with a cable. JBL dragged Jericho around by the neck and tried to hang Jericho. It was a long and intense angle. Given that I can never recall WWE doing this heavy of a choking gimmick pre-Benoit, and that WWE doesn’t exactly have a sparkling record when it comes to taste, my suspicion is they planned this angle with the specific intent of playing off Benoit. The angle as executed didn’t bother me, but if that was the intent, well, that’s disconcerting.

The worst part about the whole thing is that we have seen the big beat down 8,000 times and it never, ever pops a buy rate any more. Meanwhile, announcing an in-ring return does. So they did a big angle that likely makes them seem like total creeps to many people, and they hurt business in the process.

Mick Foley and Hornswoggle beat the Highlanders. Hornswoggle’s partner at first was B.K. Jordan, who looked kind of like a cross between Christopher Daniels and Keith Lipinski. At that point Foley came out. Foley softened up the Highlanders, and tagged in Hornswoggle to deliver the frog splash for the pin.

Jeff Hardy beat Umaga in a cage match. Umaga worked over Jeff, including applying the dreaded nerve hold. Given the premise of a nerve hold was exposed about 10 years ago, I guess that just means Umaga has a lot of nerve to use such a dull rest hold for three minutes of every match. Umaga back dropped Jeff into the cage, and hit an avalanche that sent Jeff into the cage. Randy Orton at ringside threw a chair into the ring, and Umaga hit Jeff with it.

Jeff kicked out, and came back with a DDT. He went to escape, but Orton slammed the door in his face. Umaga covered, but Jeff again kicked out. Umaga went for the Samoan spike, but Jeff countered with the twist of fate. Jeff weighed his options, and then went to climb the cage. Jeff hit a whisper in the wind off the top of the cage. He covered Umaga for the pin. It was an incredible spot to end a great final segment. Jim Ross and Randy Orton did a tremendous job selling the move. They should play that clip about 15 times between now and the Rumble. If pro wrestling TV were all about the main event like a boxing or MMA PPV, this show would have been a home run.

Final Thoughts:

The first hour was dreadful. The second hour was very entertaining, but did more to hurt the Rumble buy rate than to help it. I suspect people enjoyed this show, but I thought it was a definite step down from recent weeks.


Anonymous mean dean said...

The bigger news was Maria, who looked stupefyingly, mindbogglingly, timestoppingly hot.

A friend and I met Maria and Mickie (and Ken Doane, we think, it was even before the Spirit Squad and we weren't too familiar with him) at a Buffalo Wild Wings after Raw a couple years ago. Had Kenny take our picture, which came out like crap because of the lighting. Maria is indeed really, really good-looking.

1:30 AM  
Blogger nevs999 said...

Bizarre is correct.

How about them showing Flair in the opening tease but not again during the actual show?

But tell me if I'm reading too much into the fact that the main event featured three sub-40 (age) performers - Hardy, Ooh-Mang-uh and Orton. It doesn't seem like that's happened a lot in recent years.

Oh, and did I miss the explanation as to why Hornswoggle can't talk?

Whatever. Happy New Year.

- Matt in Anchorage

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Steve Khan said...

It's good Vince didn't want to see a Submission match. We need more bra and panties and such.

The best part of Ashley's big return, was Melina and Jillian Hall, as they paid no attention to it and started jumping on the bed during her entrance.

I don't think the choking stuff had anything to do with Benoit. If it did, I wouldn't be surprised if it were JBL behind it.

It's funny that Jericho couldn't beat Umaga before his match with Orton, but Hardy has defeated both Snitsky and Umaga now. If only Jericho didn't have a history of showing up late and no-showing events. You've got to hand it to HHH.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always wondered why people continue to watch wwe if they expect them to be so morally corrupt as to place an angle on tv just to spite the death of Benoit.

I wonder why people watch wrestlers like, JBL and Chris Jericho who were very close to Benoit, when they are expected to bend their ideals and allow themselves to be put in an angle that treads on and exploits the suicide of a friend.

WWE and choking/hanging angles;

Randy Orton choked Mick Foley by hanging him over the ring ropes during their feud.

Undertaker hung Big Bossman in the Hell in a Cell.

Big bossman choked Big Show by tying him to a car.

and thats just off the top of my head.

Steve Austin choked his opponents with tv wire in literally every match he had.

So everytime a wwe match or angle includes some form of choking some goof is going to say they did it to spoof Benoits' death.

The same people probably think wwe is exploiting Eddie Guerrero everytime Vicki hits the screen.

WWE is not without its GLARING faults but if watching it compromises your ideals, if you believe the worst possible scenario in everything they put on tv, then what example are you setting by watching?

5:24 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

If WWE did the angle thinking of Benoit, they weren't spiting Benoit or his family. They were exploiting that for emotion to sell a wrestling angle. I'm not sure if they were or they weren't. I wasn't in the booking meetings. But if you don't think they were exploiting Eddie's death with many of the Vickie Guerrero angles, I don't know what to tell you. Not only is that position patently absurd just from watching TV sporadically, but it's also objectively wrong as far as their intent in the booking. And I love the line about JBL not stooping to do such a thing. The guy who goose stepped in Germany for cheap heel heat.

I had forgotten the three angles you mentioned. The Foley/Orton angle was definitely a serious angle like this one. The two involving the Bossman were both goofy and over the top - not the same type of deal at all. Same with Austin. It was just a spot in a match (and saying he did it literally every match is comically absurd), unlike the Foley/Orton angle, this angle, or the old angles they used to do in NWA/WCW from time to time where there was long, extended choking scenes where the intent was to make the viewer think the heel had gone over the edge and was trying to kill his opponent. Maybe I'm wrong about WWE not doing many choking angles. If you want to think about it more and get back to me, feel free. But one example of a serious choking angle isn't much. I'll add one more from an e-mail I got - Jake Roberts and Ricky Steamboat in the 80s. If you had a ratio of choking to hitting with chairs over the past 10 years, I think it would be somewhere around 1 to 50, maybe even more lopsided. And I seem to recall WWE taking the choking with the cord out of their newest video game, which suggests the issue might be on their mind.

None of this serves as an unequivocal condemnation of WWE. Believe me, I'm not afraid to go stronger when I believe it is warranted. But if you ask me if I think WWE planned the angle thinking of Benoit, I would say probably. As far as setting an example by watching, yeah, I'm really sending a message to my non-existent roommate or the non-existent Nielsen box on my TV. Clearly I'm complicit when WWE does a tasteless angle.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I got two more, JBL/Eddie and Cena/Umaga. Maybe I'm wrong as far as the number of choking angles WWE has done. It's certainly higher than I was thinking when I went through my brain for examples.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Clearly I'm complicit when WWE does a tasteless angle".

You run a blog based on the content of the WWE's product. You have reviews on WWE shows on one of the most famous and successful wrestling/mma websites which in turn promotes you and your writing or blogging endeavors.

I don't know if you actually make money at doing this but I would say that any wrestling fan that surfs news sites know who Todd Martin is.

Clearly, you profit off WWE's existence. Now is that complicity?
That maybe too harsh a term but arguments can be made that it is or isn't.

The point is this; what separates wrestling journalists from real beat writers is that beat writers must cover the morally corrupt if it is their job. You made a choice and I guess that you do this as a hobby. If you view this as your job then touche.

The fact IS that WWE has historically walked a thin line between tasteful and downright evil storylines. I personally feel that if I knew that from Vince to the Booking Committee to the Agents/Producers to the Wrestlers, that the "concept" behind the choking of Jericho by JBL was to give fans a live visual of a deceased Chris Benoit to get heat, then clearly you feel this is an evil company.

Todd you say WWE "probably" did exactly that. Being in your position and knowing what you know then I'm not sure that I would continue to write about them as a hobby or anything otherwise.

I believe WWE wants nothing to do with anything "Benoit" which is asinine, but to each his own.

9:44 PM  

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