Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 01/21/08 from Hampton, VA.

The Big News: Royal Rumble is Sunday.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels opened Raw’s HD era with a victory over Mr. Kennedy. This was a really fun match. The first half in particular was as good as any first half of a match on Raw in ages. Kennedy worked over Michaels, who came back with a swinging neck breaker, flying forearm and elbow off the top. Michaels was setting up for sweet chin music, but Kennedy left the ring. Michaels followed him with a somersault plancha, but during a break Kennedy used a slingshot to send Michaels into the post.

Coming back, Kennedy stomped a mud hole in Michaels, and followed that with an ole kick. Michaels did the Ray Stevens bump but came back in with a head over heels clothesline. Kennedy went for the mic check, but Michaels escaped. Michaels came off the top with an elbow, but Kennedy got up his knee. Both men sold this huge. Kennedy then hit the Lambeau leap for a two count. Michaels went for sweet chin music. Kennedy ducked, so Michaels went for the inverted figure four. Kennedy escaped that, but Michaels hit sweet chin music for the pin.

Randy Orton backstage spoke with Vince McMahon. It kind of undermined last week’s angle that Orton was basically fine. Vince directed Orton to shake Jeff Hardy’s hand, but Orton didn’t want to. Vince said the handshake would make Orton look like a gentleman. Why would Vince care about that? Vince then said he didn’t care if Orton didn’t mean it. So why did he ask for this in the first place? Vince then said the handshake would let Jeff know he can’t beat Orton. Okay. This all felt very contrived.

Beth Phoenix beat Mickie James. Beth dominated the match again. Mickie hit a huracanrana and went for an implant DDT, but Beth blocked it. She then hit her finisher for the clean pin, which was most definitely more of a muscle buster than fisherwoman buster this week. Not that this is some huge distinction. Mickie cried after losing. I really, really like a wrestling match where one competitor definitively proves to be the best and the other is sad to discover this is the case. It’s kind of doubtful they came up with this scenario watching B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson, but that’s what it reminded me of.

HHH backstage said he didn’t know who his opponent would be. He made a joke about Vince trying to cover up his defects since they are now in HD. HHH said the winner of the Rumble usually wins at WrestleMania. Thus, he said, it wouldn’t matter who he fought on Raw since he would be winning the Rumble. He guaranteed victory. Elsewhere, Cody Rhodes, Brian Kendrick and Hardcore Holly had a little comedic discussion. Basically, they all love the idea of competing in the Rumble and Holly is a grouch.

Hornswoggle and Finlay beat the Highlanders in a squash. Remember when they tried to push the Highlanders as tag title contenders? Basically, Finlay beat the crap out of them and Hornswoggle got in his spots. Finlay hit the Celtic Cross and Hornswoggle the frog splash for the pin.

Chris Jericho came out for a promo that started out way too melodramatic but ended up building into a good one. Jericho said that he was watching last week’s edition of Raw with his son, and his son wanted to know if he was a coward. Jericho was angry that JBL shook his son’s confidence in him. Jericho said that JBL made a mistake by attacking him and not finishing the job. He put over Madison Square Garden and said that Sunday it will be a fight.

Vince spoke with Jeff Hardy backstage. Vince told Jeff never to risk his life or Orton’s again like he did last week. He said that the Hardy/Orton handshake will be like touching gloves before a fight. Jeff said he would go out there and give people something to talk about. He then sat back in his seat and made faces at the camera for 10 seconds. Seriously. Again, the handshake deal felt totally contrived, and holding that camera angle for so long presented the sort of comic absurdity you just don’t want in a main event program.

Umaga beat Brian Kendrick in a match where Kendrick could have qualified for the Rumble. Kendrick hit a missile drop kick, spinning heel kick and enzuigiri, but couldn’t knock Umaga off his feet. Umaga then finished him with a press slam into a Samoan drop and the Samoan spike.

Backstage, Mickie was crying. Maria wanted to know what was wrong. Mickie said that she gives it everything she can, but she just can’t beat Beth. Ashley arrived, and Mickie left like any reasonable person would. Ashley said she was at the Playboy Mansion and Hugh Heffner had an idea for Maria. This was the first tease for MARIA IN PLAYBOY~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~! I predict that issue will sell 14 billion copies. Anyway, Santino interrupted before the conversation could progress.

Carlito beat Hardcore Holly. Holly hit a suplex, back drop and low blow. He was going for the Alabama slam, but Santino got up on the apron. Carlito used the distraction to hit the back cracker for the pin. This might be the tease of dissension between Holly and Cody Rhodes given Cody was at ringside and couldn’t prevent this. Throughout the show they aired excellent video packages for Orton vs. Hardy.

HHH won an over the top gauntlet match to qualify for the Royal Rumble. Boy, did this make Vince’s grand scheme last week make absolutely no sense. He acted like he had some diabolical plan, and instead it was an over the top rope qualifier. The booking of Triple H over the past month has made absolutely no sense. Anyway, Triple threw Snitsky, Mark Henry and William Regal over the top rope and that was that.

The final segment was built around the handshake. Orton said that Hardy won’t win his title, but he has won his respect. Hardy said he doesn’t care about that. He didn’t hit the swanton to impress Orton but rather to hurt him. He added that he did it for his brother and to show he’ll do whatever it takes to become champion. Hardy said that if he is going to shake hands with people he respects, there are a lot of people he respects more than Orton. He shook hands with the announcers, Lillian and a bunch of fans. He then went back in the ring and gave Orton the twist of fate to end the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show was about building the Royal Rumble, and they did a good job.


Anonymous #1 HHH Hater said...

So lets have our Rumble predictions.. I bet my house that HHH wins the whole damn thing! Anyone want to go with Superbowl predictions next?

6:26 AM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

I'm predicting Steve Blackman will be a surprise entrant in the Rumble

8:47 AM  
Blogger nevs999 said...

A couple of WWEHD observations from an out-of-the-demo viewer watching on a non-HD television:

- Shawn Michaels' hair plugs never looked so rich and full.
- Did you notice Jeff Hardy's chiclets? Kid must be a devoted flosser.
- Enough with the extended close-ups of the "superstars". HHH and Hardy looked plain dopey and it came across as a desperate attempt to do something HD-y with the new toys WWE invested in.

For those of you interested, I'm working on a Cody Rhodes feature for the 2.1.2008 Anchorage Daily News to advance WWE's latest stop here for a house show on 2.7.2008, the third show in five years.
Good times.

Rhodes said all the right things about being a superstar during our phone interview. But he did seem genuinely floored to be given the chance so early in his career. It will be interesting to see how, and I guess if, WWE pushes him and turns him into something.

- Matt in Anchorage

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jericho's promo was one of the best that I have seen in a long time. Very effective and believable.

The Highlanders are done and done. At first, it seemed like a gimmick that would work but it's time to stuff them in a box and send them off to OVW to join the Spirit Squad (although the SS were way over more than the Highlanders).

And speaking of tag teams, I know this has been discussed before but has the tag team division ever been this far off the radar? I grew up with the Wild Samoans, Road Warriors, Midnight Express, etc. It's a sad state of affair for tag teams and any teams with any potential are being disbanded or buried.

Todd, what is the Ray Stevens bump? I should know this but don't.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous steve khan said...

I thought it was a little much to have Mickie crying in the back. She should've gone wacky instead.

You could tell Maria's been working out for her Playboy spread.

The HHH storyline sucks.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I have no idea on the Rumble. I guess I'll pick Hunter. Good default pick. Superbowl I've got to go Pats sadly.

The Ray Stevens bump has been popularized in the modern era by Ric Flair. It's the thing where he is whipped into the corner and goes upside down.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Non sequitor comment:

Is it just me or does Barack Obama sound uncannily like the Rock (albeit an scholarly, calmer and non-yelling version)?

6:53 AM  
Anonymous steve khan said...

Yes, I thought so too. He should rename himself to "The Rock Obama".

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to ask if anyone else heard this on RAW: When JR and Lawler were looking at wwe.com and talking about parents using "tough love" with their kids, and they were suggesting that Britney Spears' parents should try that (as Vince is doing with Hornswaggle), I thought I heard JR suggest that the Hogans try that approach too. Did anyone else hear that??

2:09 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

Very glad to read your review of the Jan 14 show and see your opinions on how much the show lacked in terms of quality, sense and appropriateness. Hardy's inability to work this feud on the microphone (if he didn't write the line about taking Orton out himself, he should at least have criticized the writer who supplied it so the illogical line wouldn't make it on the air - either way, Hardy is responsible), Michael's ridiculous whining about being exempt from qualifying for the Rumble, Vince and Hornswoggle, JBL, the mini-Rumble, and the silly Flair angle - I agree with your harsh criticism of it all. I would also add the Triple H vs Snitsky match to it as that was just another predictable piece of trash to make Triple H - who has more clout than anyone else on the roster - look good, win or lose. Nepotism is bad, wherever it appears.

The thing I have to disagree on is your statement about the "impressive" nature of the Orton-Hardy match. Rather than dub this as impressive, I think it's only as you said - dangerous. It's reached the stage where it's no longer wrestling, it's a circus sideshow. Keep it in the ring, or nearby and let's not have that kind of dangerous stunt. Not only does it bring potential injury - to both parties - but in an organization that is overburdened with injuries, where does one go from here? The more of this stuff they do, the more outlandish they make it, the less fans will be satisfied with wrestling skill in the ring. Use the personalities and talents of the wrestlers and stop with the stunts. I honestly don't think the WWE knows how to do this anymore. They want the cheap thrill - they don't want to think. I'm glad you thought this was dangerous as well - I hate to think that these people - whether I like them or not as performers - are being put in such harmful positions. Whether the angle "got over" is yet to be determined. Perhaps the crowd cheered, but is that really a good thing? Sure, it got a good response (and this needs to be viewed in terms of the intelligence of the fans), but in the long run, is the WWE doing itself a bad turn? Will they be able to present televised shows without some over-the-top gimmick that could possibly put more wrestlers out of commission?

The other thing I have to disagree with you on is your final thoughts. I do think that Hardy's push has taken off, but I think it's due more to Randy Orton's contribution to this feud than to Hardy's. Week after week, Orton puts incredible intensity into his role, even when he's asked to look like a chump and an inept fool who doesn't deserve the title (and that's another criticism I have - he can't look good and still have the crowd think that Hardy can beat him? After this is over, either Orton's rep will be destroyed or they'll have to do damage control to bring him back, or both. Why, when you can make him look good and still have fans thinking Hardy can beat him at the PPV?). Orton sold the Jan 14 show, just like he sold the Hardy-Umaga cage match the week before - and he wasn't even in the match! Hardy can't even do simple microphone work - even you commented on that ridiculous line about taking Orton out - but it wasn't just that - every response he had while taking with the backstage Orton was dull. He may be a high flyer, but that's really all he has.

With that,.I don't think Hardy deserves to win at the Rumble. I don't think it's a wasted opportunity because the champ has a big role to fill. Keeping the belt is only part of it - there's just as much mic time (acting a role), personal appearances, etc., in short the champ needs to have personality and be a representative that can act a role - and Hardy doesn't appear to have this talent. The wasted opportunity would be taking the title away from Orton. And why do you think that there are skeptical fans that think Hardy shouldn't be taken seriously? Yes, he can wrestle, but that's all he can do. What the WWE has made of pro wrestling has, in a way, undone men like Jeff Hardy. There's so much soap opera that a man of Hardy's talents can't survive in that atmosphere. If the WWE is struggling to create new stars, it isn't accomplished by giving the title to someone who can't "act" his role. They need to find the right people from the start, not reward people just because they want to push someone who had one out of three required talent components.

Which brings me to my last point. I think you oversimplify the categories of wrestlers. You dub them as "best performers" (which you clearly categorize as the lighter weight stars) "muscleheads" and "gimmicks." Sure, some wrestlers fall into one category only but there are many who span two - and sometimes even three - of them. You also say that fans in 2008 respond more to talent than physique. And yet, talent and physique can go hand in hand - Orton is the perfect example. So I don't see the logic here. Hardy has wrestling skill, but in my opinion he has no charisma and he is TERRIBLE on the microphone. He's not a musclehead but he has a gimmick (nail polish, hair dye, silly outfit, wacky - and embarrassing entrance) so Hardy himself breaks your categorization theory down. Orton also has two of them - he's a skilled wrestler and he's a musclehead. There are others, too, that possess two or more of those categories. So, it's a difficult thing to say that wrestler fall into one of those categories and that fans are now recognizing the talent over the physique or gimmick. In my opinion, Hardy's popularity with fans is must as much with his gimmick as his wrestling skill.

My point is, one can't categorize the way you indicated, downplaying the muscleheads and gimmicks because they, too, can have talent. And talent can be broken down into sub-components: wrestling skill and acting ability. And someone like Hardy only has one sub-component - the skill. He lacks the acting ability, a serious flaw to make a successful champ. Orton on the other hand, another man who spans two of your categories, talent and "musclehead," has both of the talent sub-components - he's a skilled wrestler and a great actor. There's your champ - but...the WWE is making him look like a fool and that's why Hardy is popular. Orton is acting his role perfectly, which downplays his own ability and makes Hardy look even better than he is. And in this world of "face" vs "heel" fans blindly respond only to faces (that's another topic that deserves an entire email to discuss). Simply, put...."heels" should be made to look competent so they can be used to keep fans interested in them. Years ago, people cheered on heels because they liked them - the WWE makes it clear that fans are not supposed to like heels and so they present them as incompetents, like Orton (and Chris Masters, another good example and a wasted performer). I want to cheer on someone because I like the "total package" - not blindly because they're a "good guy." Why would the WWE want to limit itself like that? As usual, and clearly from its history, they don't have the talent to run this business beyond the obvious, thereby limiting their revenue by going for the quick buck. It ain't a difficult concept.

My opinion? Keep the belt on Orton and use men like Hardy to make it look like Orton has competition. There's a lot more mileage to be had from Randy Orton than Jeff Hardy.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous DW said...

Again, I'm glad to see your report get really critical of a lot of the elements in the Jan 21 show. The WWE is showing, week after week, that they are either aiming their shows at a juvenile audience, or that they are simply untalented and can't come up with anything that is so blatantly obvious that it's boring. Add some Triple H selfishness (the Triple H show made it's weekly appearance last night) and you've got a WWE show.

The one thing I would have mentioned myself, is that Jeff Hardy continues to show that he can't handle the spotlight. He can't carry a segment and he can't act out his piece of the script. When he went into the crowd for the "handshakes of respect," the crowd went absolutely dead. You could hear a pin drop. I guarantee if Orton was the face, you'd have barely been able to hear him reciting the fans' names. He knows what he's doing; in short, he's talented in all respects of the business. Orton oozed the ambiguity of character that made you wonder if he was telling the truth or lying. He transcended the pathetic script that you pointed out. Hardy however, failed. - and this should tip the WWE off that Hardy can't handle the role of champion.

Further, you mention that the show was about building the Royal Rumble - and that they did a good job. In my opinion, they did a terrible job. The main event is what it's all about and so far, with what they've shown us, we have to think that Orton is only holding the belt out of sheer luck, that he's incompetent to hold the title. In his matches and confrontations with Hardy, he's been "Twist of Fated" and "Swantoned' regularly. In his matches with Jericho, he was put in the "Walls of Jericho" at every match. With Michaels, he received the superkick at six Raw shows in a row. Why would we believe he can defend the title fairly? The only thing you can imagine happening is that 1) Hardy will win, or 2) Orton will win by cheating, DQ or some other nefarious means. Why would I want to pay money for that when I can see the recaps on successive episodes of Raw? What would make me tune in? If they set this up like the recent Cena vs Lashley match. Each one showed that they had the ability to beat the other - and during that entire match, I had no idea what would happen. So, I was eager to tune in. For Orton vs Hardy, I have no drive, no ambition to watch. You'd have to be mindless to pay money for that - which brings up a whole other topic, the intelligence level of the average fan, but I won't go there right now. So, in my opinion, they didn't do a good job. Far from it.

And as for Raw being about building the Royal Rumble, the WWE is failing miserably by using every televised episode to build PPVs. I know, I get it that they have to build the paying show, but how about this for a change. Ensure that the televised shows are about fantastic action, great talent, nail-biting matches, real and believable heat between competitors and continuity of the characters. In short, make the show great in itself, instead of TRYING like heck to push the PPV. Make people want to watch Raw itself, not as an advertisement for the next PPV. If I knew each weekly show was out of this world, I'd buy the PPV. Instead, we get lame advertisements for the PPVs and almost nothing worth watching for two hours. The WWE needs to stop using RAW and SD to build PPVs and concentrate on an overall great product with the PPV build a subcomponent of the show. And online reporters should be pointing out that fact so the nitwits in creative can understand what fans really want.

Thanks for your review. Happy to see that you have a critical eye!

8:20 AM  
Blogger Swain said...

On a non-WWE note, how does one judge score the Swick-Burkman fight 29-29? Not because such a score wasn't earned, but I thought the whole point of the 10 point must system was that each round would have to be 10-9 or less. 29-29 is a mathematical impossibility. Or did one of the judges go into business for themselves, choosing to give the earned score, rather than the required score?

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orton kept the belt....les all pretend to be shocked...as i have been saying all along no way was hardy getting that title

9:54 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I believe that judges are technically allowed to give 10-10 rounds, but it's understood they never will. I think we have seen 10-10 scores before. I'll see if I can't get a more definitive answer this weekend.

12:23 AM  

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