Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 01/28/08 from Philadelphia, PA.

The Big News: Randy Orton vs. John Cena is coming early. Too early.

Show Analysis:

John Cena came out to start the show. He got roundly booed again. I’ve seen wrestling fans turn on a lot of people over the years, but never has that sentiment seemed dumber, less deserved and more pathetic than with Cena. He said that the doctors told him he would be out for 12 months and that he would have to watch WrestleMania at home. With a new champion and contenders, Cena made a gamble and risked his career for a chance to go back to WrestleMania. He challenged Randy Orton for Raw.

Orton came out, and said that everyone challenges him, and everyone loses. Cena said that Orton is smart, and that he’ll take the match on Raw because Cena isn’t 100 percent yet. Orton said that he has become a bigger deal than Cena ever was. He said that he won’t defend his title unless people are paying to see it. That’s a good thing to say. Orton suggested they wrestle at No Way Out, and Cena agreed. Cena then said he would get some on Raw.

Beth Phoenix and Jillian Hall beat Ashley and Mickie James. Beth mocked Mickie for crying. Mickie came at Beth with punches. Beth gained control, hit a side slam and fisherwoman buster, and pinned Mickie again. Ashley never tagged in, thankfully.

William Regal came out to announce that there will be an Elimination Chamber at No Way Out with the winner getting a title shot at Mania. Regal stumbled over his words and went blblblblbl with his lips, which was great. The wrestlers in the Chamber will be Umanga, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Triple Haich, Chris Jericho and JBL.

Carlito beat Cody Rhodes in a bad match. They managed to blow an arm drag, which is quite the feat. Cody went after Carlito’s arm. Santino distracted Cody, and Carlito hit the back stabber for the pin.

HHH and Shawn Michaels beat Umaga and Snitsky. Triple H took a shot at Michael Buffer for stealing “his” material before the match, which was funny. Shawn hit chops and a flying forearm on Snitsky, but was knocked off the top rope by Umaga. The heels worked over Shawn. It was the first match in a while where both members of a tag team used a lengthy bear hug. Umaga missed his running butt drop, Michaels hit a tornado DDT, and made the tag. HHH came in with a high knee and face buster for Snitsky. Michaels hit sweet chin music and a somersault plancha on Umaga. HHH then gave Snitsky the spine buster and pedigree for the pin. This was a good match for the audience.

Randy Orton and JBL had harsh words backstage about WrestleMania, but agreed to team up. Elsewhere, Jeff Hardy said that he is at a crossroads. He noted that he needs to win the Chamber and go to WrestleMania. He asserted that last night was just the beginning, not the end, for Jeff. We’ll see about that. Vince McMahon was angry at Hornswoggle for not winning the Rumble. Vince said he’s ashamed of Hornswoggle and ordered him away.

Mr. Kennedy beat Brian Kendrick. Kennedy jumped Kendrick coming into the ring. Kendrick came back with an enzuigiri, but Kennedy hit him with the mic check for the pin. This was an effective squash. Afterwards, Kennedy said he wants to end Ric Flair’s career. Backstage, Chris Jericho said a new Jericho emerged when he choked JBL and he likes that Jericho.

Maria beat Melina, in one of the rare editions of Raw with two women’s matches. Maria used a bronco buster, spinning head scissors, and gut buster. Melina tried to roll up Maria. Maria grabbed the ropes, so Melina pulled down her pants. Maria dropped down for the pin. Santino after the match was angry that the audience got a shot of Maria’s bikini bottom. Maria’s hair and makeup reminded me way too much of Christy Hemme this week. That’s a very bad thing.

JBL and Randy Orton beat Chris Jericho and Jeff Hardy. Jeff hit the swanton early on Orton, but JBL pulled Orton out of the ring. The heels worked over Jeff. He tagged Jericho, who went after JBL. He hit a springboard drop kick to take out Orton, and hit the lionsault on JBL. Jericho applied the Walls on JBL, but Orton hit an RKO on Jericho. JBL covered for the pin. John Cena came out after the match. JBL left Orton on his own, and Cena gave Orton the FU.

Final Thoughts:

We still won’t have a perfect idea of WWE’s WrestleMania plans for a few weeks, but I’m not a fan of what is shaping up. Randy Orton vs. John Cena should have been the big match. It has the perfect story of the champion who never lost his belt coming back to defeat the man who has dominated in his absence.

That should be a big match, both on pay-per-view and in terms of making the title really mean something. It’s easily the best candidate for WrestleMania main event. Only, that’s not the main event now. Instead, we’ll likely get HHH vs. Cena, HHH vs. Orton or HHH vs. Cena vs. Orton. None of those has the same dynamic as Orton vs. Cena with the proper buildup.

You could theoretically justify this by saying you can pop two buy rates rather than one. However, there are two problems with that. One is that the Elimination Chamber is likely to boost No Way Out above the normal B numbers as much as is possible. Two is that they don’t have enough time to properly build this match for No Way Out.

Wrestling is fundamentally about making fans want something badly, teasing it for a long while, and finally delivering. Orton vs. Cena should be a big payoff. But the problem is over the past few months, they haven’t been planting the seeds for it. They haven’t been talking about how Orton never beat Cena for his title, or about how Cena is training to recapture his title from Orton.

Instead, Cena returned and the next night he’s already wrestling the champion on the next pay-per-view. Orton vs. Cena, which should have felt like a major culmination, instead feels just like any other pay-per-view main event. It’s almost an anticlimax with WrestleMania coming up the next month. It’s like they’re undermining that program out of fear of how well it could do, when a properly paced Orton vs. Cena program over the next three months would make HHH vs. Cena for the title all the bigger in the summer.

With Orton involved, this makes me flash back to Orton/HHH in 2004. That should have been a big WrestleMania program, but they rushed it. The result was the match which should have been huge meant very little, and it took Orton years to recover from that. Pacing is of paramount importance in pro wrestling, and this whole thing feels way off. It’s like they’re booking just to keep fans on their toes, when a slow, predictable build would be so much more profitable.


Anonymous RNN said...

You missed a possibility:
They didn't want to blow off Hardy-Orton yet, and keep fans on their toes. Thus:
A non-healed Cena loses at NWO and (possibly) gets "reinjured" while Hardy wins the chamber.

For no matter how nice the payoff would have been now, a "Jeff Hardy boyhood dream" at WM, while Matt wins the US title (and better yet: also winning MitB), is certainly one of those Wrestlemania moments.

1:36 AM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

John Cena came out to start the show. He got roundly booed again. I’ve seen wrestling fans turn on a lot of people over the years, but never has that sentiment seemed dumber, less deserved and more pathetic than with Cena.

I agree with the sentiment of this, especially since there's surely a lot of people who boo Cena simply because it's the "cool" thing to do as a fan, but I think this is also off base a fair amount.

I don't feel like getting into it because it's a fairly complicated, and very opinionated topic. The main point is, that statement basically lumps people like me in with the people who boo just to boo.

I'm personally tired of Cena, though. I used to like him, and I WANT to like him. There aren't many people on the roster who I dislike. Cena just bores the hell out of me though. The only program he's been in that I found at all intriguing is when they involved his dad with Orton. Outside of that, I don't find him compelling in the least, and when he's on he makes me change the channel.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous #1 HHH Hater said...

Todd, did you really think that HHH would be out of the Main Event in Wrestlemania? Even though they are breaking the tradition where the person who WINS the Royal Rumble gest the #1 title shot IN WRESTLEMANIA, no no no it is now the Elimination Chamber that gets the #1 Shot, does that make sense? So you have two pay per views where whoever wins will have a shot at the title in Wrestlemania. WWE is a joke now to me. This is just why I hate HHH, if they where going to do all this they should have just made him win the Rumble. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

6:29 AM  
Blogger jcj said...

I'm with Mean Dean and I'll go a little further.

WWE is not my favorite style of wrestling, but I've been a consumer of the product for a quarter-century. I don't "hate" WWE, but there have been elements of the promotion I've preferred to others.

To me, "John Cena as top guy" is reflective of what I don't like about WWE. I think it's okay that I express that.

This doesn't mean he's not a nice person or that he doesn't try.

But his gimmick seems silly to me, it doesn't engage my attention at all, and while his wrestling ability has improved, I remain of a mind that he just isn't any better than marginal in the ring. I know there is a body of opinion that differs from me here, but my WON Awards vote for most overrated for 2007 went to Cena and I didn't have to struggle with that vote.

Or rather, to be less confrontational, his work style is not one which I prefer, and I view it as emblematic of the WWE style as a whole, which, I don't believe has ever been further away from the wrestling style that I prefer than is it now.

So, I don't like him so much, and I don't think that's pathetic, no. I think it's okay for a consumer to say to a company "that thing you're selling, I don't like it."

Personally, were I to attend a WWE event and could choose only one wrestler to boo, it would be HHH; on the list of problems I have with WWE, "John Cena as top guy" comes well after "all of the McMahons, except maybe the grandchildren. Maybe."

So, I disagree, Todd, respectfully, with your opening salvo. I don't care for the John Cena character; I don't care for his in ring work; I don't enjoy that he's positioned as the top guy; and while others may disagree, I don't find my position to be remotely dumb.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous steve khan said...

Kennedy didn't jump Kendrick, Kendrick slapped Kennedy. C'mon, Todd...

11:59 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

This may seem like a silly distinction I'm going to make, but it's true. I used the word "seemed" as an intentional wiggle word - that is the way the reaction overall comes across to me. Thus I was trying to avoid lumping all fans who boo Cena into one category, but rather commenting on the message the reaction as a whole generates.

I appreciate that you guys don't like Cena, and you're not going to have unanimous opinion on anyone. What I meant to comment on is the fact that WWE is filled with guys who are pushed hard despite stinking in the ring. Cena is nowhere near the top of the list, and he's such a good talker and has so much charisma. It would be one thing if fans regularly turned on guys who are bad in the ring, or annoying gimmicks. But the fans for the most part are sheep. They don't turn on Hornswoggle despite all the idiotic vignettes. They don't turn on HHH when he's burying guys. They don't turn on Khali or Big Daddy V or the countless gigantic slugs when they're shoved down our throats. With the rare occasional exception at a major PPV when all the hardcores come in, they cheer and boo who the promotion tells them to. Yet John Cena is the one guy they vehemently reject. It strikes me as absurd that of all the things wrong with this company it's John Cena that there is a backlash against. He's much, much, much more of a solution than a problem.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Corey said...

HHH vs. Cena is the WM momey match. I just don't think Orton can deliver the goods 1 on 1 in the WM main event and it showed at the Royal Rumble.

Orton-Hardy was the perfect stage for Orton to raise his game. He had a willing opponent who's a bump & spot machine and the prime position on the card.

It wasn't a bad match, but it wasn't a great match. When HHH took on Mick Foley in 2000 in a similar position he deliver big time.

Orton just isn't the guy.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

Keep in mind that Triple H has a great deal of clout backstage, so I'm almost certain he keeps others down, keeps others from looking good. If there's criticism of Orton's ability - which in my opinion is astronomical; he's a man who can really entertain and he displays tremendous athletic ability (unlike Jeff Hardy who is one-dimensional and has no heat when he's not flying off the ropes) - it's because Trips wants Orton to hold back so he doesn't overshadow Trips. Remember, this is all about Triple H getting his record-breaking championship run and whoever is rising on the scene will be told to step aside, turn down the heat, stop naturally taking the spotlight, so all eyes will be on Triple H.

6:13 PM  
OpenID bgsumadmanscru said...

IMHO the reason Cena takes more flack then any of the other problems with the company, is there has never been a guy more pushed to the top with less of a defined character (even Lashley was simply defined as HARD HITTING soft spoken)... Fans don't know whether to cheer or boo him because he is the biggest chameleon in wrestling... He has many of the attributes of a Hogan, Rock, HHH, Austin or others but he still hasn't carved out his own style or personality he rides the fence... He changes so much from week to week.. For example one week

1. He wants to use his rock charisma and does the goofy I don't care about my opponent because he is not in my league promo

2. The next week he is ultra serious for 7 minutes straight with a I want to tear your cuts out passion like HHH or Austin than starts waving his hand in his face and saluting and being goofy again..

3. The next week he is such a tough street thug like his character emerged to be when he started rapping

4. Then the next week we are treated to his "rough childhood" in suburban Boston

All the while the company continues to market him as some kind of "Thug Marine???"" I mean when Kane made see no evil they only kept the hook for so long, when the rock was the scorpion king he didn't start wearing a loin cloth and bringing a sword to the ring...

I see the same thing happening with Kennedy as is with Cena.. You take a gimmick or character that might be a little over the top but is over with the fans, and as he ascends to the next level they bastardize that image more and more until what your left with is nothing like what you originally liked about the guy... Instead you are left with a large number of interchangeable main eventers..

8:58 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

Todd, you write...."We still won’t have a perfect idea of WWE’s WrestleMania plans for a few weeks, but I’m not a fan of what is shaping up. Randy Orton vs. John Cena should have been the big match. It has the perfect story of the champion who never lost his belt coming back to defeat the man who has dominated in his absence."

While I agree that the plans for WM are not shaping up to have what would be a great match, Orton vs Cena, I am troubled by your next comment "It's the perfect story of the champion who never lost his belt coming back to defeat the man who has dominated in his absence." Is this what pro wrestling has come to? Stories that have completely predictable outcomes? It seems that way, judging from most of what I see on WWE shows and the way I see fans behaving. But I'm surprised to hear it put this way in your column, a long time before the event even happens. Perhaps this would have been a better way to put it: "It's the perfect story of the champion who never lost his belt coming back to attempt to defeat the man who has dominated in his absence." Now there's a story worth paying attention to! I'm not just mincing words here or being petty. The way you made that statement tells me so much about the way pro wrestling is viewed today. I don't watch to see "formula." I watch to be surprised. One day I may like the outcome, another maybe not - but at least I'm entertained by both the action and the unpredictability of it. Now I'm only entertained (and that's only rarely) by the action - most of it is predictable. It seems that few people even think about anything except the simpleminded face over heel outcome to everything. There are dozens of possiblities for the Orton vs Cena feud. Are fans so fickle and untrustworhty that the WWE fears giving them anything but the predictable? And when this sort of philosophy creeps into columns weeks before an event, it's clear that there's no hope for anything other than "formula." This may sound like I'm being picky, but there's a lot of meaning in the way you made that statement, Todd. You've already decided that's how it should be - when in fact, it should be about the possibilities.

As for the final moments of the show - here we go with predicability. When have we ever seen the current champion not be made a fool of? Is this the only way a heel champ can be portrayed? You all know that Cena was rarely portrayed like this. But with Orton, against Triple H, against Michaels, against Jericho, against Hardy, he has always been the chump, even though he's retained his belt at the important events. Last Monday, Cena comes out and he has Orton - the champ, mind you - flat on his back in seconds! (Never mind that his finishing move, the FU, is a joke.) Why would I want to watch a a match in which I know the champ can't match skills with the opponents? Oh, that's right - see above - it's about predictability, so it doesn't matter! I think there's a way to make fans think the opponents can beat the champ (I'm tired of that old song-and-dance excuse for making Orton lose all confrontations) and still have the champion look like someone who deserves to have the belt by his ability. Right now, Orton's "champ" is a fluke, an incompetent. I'd be more interested in seeing competition between a capable opponent and a capable champion.

I've mentioned this before, but I'll do it again. There is way too much focus on "buy rates." These shows should be primarily about good, solid entertainment, with the added extra of the PPV builds. Instead, we get shows that are primarily about PPV builds, with the actual "show" itself being secondary. (Note that I did not call it good, solid entertaiment as the secondary element.) If the shows themselves are entertaining, I'll tune in. If I tune in, I'll see the PPV builds. If the shows suck, I won't tune in, so I won't see the PPV builds. Pretty simple concept.

4:47 PM  

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