Tuesday, February 05, 2008

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/04/08 from Austin, TX.

The Big News: Triple H has vanished.

Show Analysis:

Randy Orton came out to start the show, and had a contract for a title match with John Cena. He made it a point to say two or three times that his lawyers drafted the contract. Cena came out to a huge reaction and signed the contract without looking at it. This might be significant later. Mark Henry came out to distract Cena and Orton gave him the RKO. Backstage, Orton said he didn’t need the help. Henry said he would enjoy ripping Cena’s arm out of the socket.

Mickie James and Kelly Kelly beat Victoria and Beth Phoenix. It was nice to see Victoria back, even if it was just to put over Mickie. Victoria yanked Kelly around by the hair. Kelly tagged Mickie, who came in with a huracanrana and neck breaker to Victoria. Beth tagged in, but Mickie caught her in a guillotine choke. It was called by Jim Ross, too, so maybe he watched UFC 81: Night of the Guillotines. Beth tagged back in Victoria. Victoria speared Kelly off the apron, but Mickie used that opportunity to hit the implant DDT for the pin.

Shawn Michaels came out for a weird promo. He said he was close to winning the Royal Rumble last year, and close to beating John Cena at WrestleMania. He said he feels unsatisfied, and he wants to go back to Mania and take the title. This reads like a serious promo, but he delivered it in a weird sarcastic manner that made it seem like he was making fun of the material.

Chris Jericho joined Shawn. Jericho said he respects Shawn a lot and has fond memories of their match at WrestleMania XIX. He said Shawn won’t win the Elimination Chamber, though. Jericho said nobody has won more or been in more Elimination Chambers. Well, three is the record for appearances. Unfortunately, zero is not in fact the record for most Elimination Chamber wins. Jericho said he will win the Chamber.

Jeff Hardy came out to a big reaction and said he will win. JBL was next, and he disparaged the state of Texas. He said he always gets what he wants. He added that Umaga speaks the language of money, and will guarantee JBL’s victory. Umaga came out and it was unclear whether he would get alone with JBL. Snitsky of all people was the last person out. He said he deserves to be in the Chamber. Shawn disagreed, and this led to a brawl where the faces cleared the ring. William Regal made a six man tag.

Mr. Kennedy beat Super Crazy. Kennedy went after Crazy’s leg, and won with what was called an inverted figure four. It was a different move than Michaels’ inverted figure four. I don’t really know which one more accurately deserves the label. After the match, Kennedy made fun of Ric Flair. He suggested Flair come out next week and forfeit his No Way Out match with Kennedy. He concluded by noting that if Flair does come, Kennedy will end his career and leave him limping for the rest of his life. This was a good serious promo.

Carlito and Santino beat Brian Kendrick and Paul London. Kendrick hit a series of kicks on Carlito, but Santino pulled open the ropes and Kendrick fell through. London literally chased Santino around the ring in a comical fashion. While this was going on, Carlito hit the back stabber on Kendrick for the pin.

Next up was Vince McMahon demanding Hornswoggle kiss his ass. This segment lasted forever, so I’ll save you the agony. Finlay protected Hornswoggle from doing it, and Hornswoggle bit Vince instead. It was a comedy spot, but the crowd didn’t react at all. “This is not funny,” opined Jerry Lawler. Damn right, King. Vince announced Hornswoggle vs. Vince next week, and if Finlay interferes he is fired.

Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. The heels worked over Holly, who made the tag to Cody. Cody came in with a double ax handle off the top, bulldog and DDT for the pin. Carlito and Santino interrupted the post-match celebration. Carlito said that the Boricua-Paisan Connection are the number one contenders, and Santino added that Holly and Rhodes are as likely to hold onto their titles as Maria is to pose for Playboy.

Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy and Chris Jericho beat Umaga, Snitsky and JBL. The faces were successful early, clearing the ring and hitting stereo dives to the outside. The heels gained the advantage and worked over Jericho. Umaga missed a head butt off the second rope; Jericho hit an enzuigiri and made the hot tag. Jeff came in with the whisper in the wind. We got a succession of finishers: the Samoan spike followed by sweet chin music followed by a yakuza kick. Jeff then hit the twist of fate and swanton on Snitsky for the pin. This was a good match with a hot finish.

John Cena and Mark Henry had your typical arm wrestling match. The heel stalled for a while. The heel gained the advantage, and the face fought back. Cena was about to win when Orton interfered. Cena escaped and lifted up Henry for the FU. I know that you want to put over a challenger strong going into a PPV main event. However, I think when your face challenger is coming back from a serious injury he should be selling it to at least some degree. It isn’t believable that Cena so soon after a torn pec would be stronger in that damaged region than a healthy power lifter who outweighs him by 150 pounds. Moreover, that vulnerability makes him more sympathetic anyway.

Final Thoughts:

WWE’s booking going into Mania is just awful. They have the most natural story ever for a big match. John Cena had the longest WWE Title reign in 20 years, but was forced to relinquish the title without having lost it in the ring. With Cena gone, Randy Orton won the title and defeated every major challenger. Now Cena is returning early from a major injury to regain his title from the champion who has dominated in his absence. This is on paper just about the most natural money program you’re possibly going to get. Yet, WWE isn’t even telling the story. Hell, they aren’t even teasing the story. Orton vs. Cena feels like just another program. There’s no excuse whatsoever for that. They’re flushing easy money down the toilet.

Additionally, HHH wasn’t even on Raw, nor was his absence acknowledged. He’s the guy who is presumably going to be added to the WrestleMania main event, and they were teasing Jeff Hardy in that spot more than HHH. That’s just ridiculous. Pro wrestling is about build. You make fans want to see something, and then get them to pay to see it. But WWE is seemingly so consumed with keeping things unpredictable that they aren’t building anything. Have you forgotten what business you are in?
I’ve got a few plugs to conclude the report. First, I’ll be on Fight Network Radio with Mauro Ranallo tomorrow. Show starts at 3PM Eastern/12PM Pacific, and I’ll be on ten minutes after the hour. You can pick up the show at http://www.hardcoresportsradio.com.

Also, you can check out my piece on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s latest big win here:


I also interviewed Steve Austin and JBL for CBS Sportsline, but the noise in the arena was too loud to accurately transcribe the whole thing. So here are a few notes from that. Austin arrived really early for the show. He was picking up his tickets at the same time I was checking in, an hour before the first fight. He was out for the first fight, before all the other wrestlers. Austin said it was his first live MMA event, but he’s been following the sport for about two years. He thinks the MMA and pro wrestling audiences are pretty distinct.

JBL and Undertaker arrived a little bit later, and all three wrestlers were hanging out and drinking throughout the evening. It was JBL’s second MMA event. His other MMA event was Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock I, and he joked about how tough Shamrock was to persevere through the beating he got that night. JBL did some training with Shamrock in advance of doing the WWE’s Brawl for All shoot competition years back. Contrary to his reputation in some circles, JBL was very friendly, laid back and articulate.

TNA was smart in the way they had Kurt Angle come out. He arrived much later than the other wrestlers, so that the crowd had filled out. He then walked down to ringside with a camera crew, and everyone was standing and mobbing him as he came down. It was like Chuck Liddell when he comes out, only much more orchestrated for the effect. It will likely look good if and when they air it on Impact. It was interesting in general to see how much the live crowd reacted to the wrestlers, particularly given it was a pretty star studded crowd with the likes of Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay-Z.


Anonymous mean dean said...

Hate to turn this into UFC 81 instead of Raw discussion, but since you brought it up and I actually saw it, unlike Raw, I'll go there.

I'm curious, really, about pretty much everything that happened in the Lesnar-Mir match. The stoppage, for one, but also how Lesnar looked in general. It seemed like Mir had a triangle nearly locked in at one point and Lesnar just powered his way out of it with ease.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Todd - As always I enjoy your posts. One thing, on the broadcast last night when Shawn Michaels was walking to the ring for his promo, Jim Ross said HHH would not be there due to a 'Family Emergency'. And since it was never mentioned again, I assume it was not an angle. I know i heard it and listened again to my DVR to confirm....Interesting...

9:24 AM  
Blogger nevs999 said...

Can we all agree the highlight of Raw was clearly Santino? And I'm paraphrasing...

"then you'll pose for Tough Guy with Blond Hair who has a Partner with a Girl's Name Magazine."

...at least we can count on the dude saying something remotely entertaining each week.

- Matt in Anchorage

9:29 AM  
Anonymous steve khan said...

Anonymous is correct about HHH.

I liked the Orton-Cena stuff off the top (I don't think there are any loopholes in that contract by the way), but I agree with Todd about the arm wrestling. I couldn't understand why Mark Henry would be intimidated, and thought it would be much more effective if Henry just beat Cena.

Since HHH really wants to be in the main event at WrestleMania (meaning, he WILL be in the main event at WrestleMania) they should make it a triple threat with Cena and Orton. Also, Orton should walk in and out as champion. Beating those two at Mania clean will do more for his career than anything they could possibly do at this point. Cena (or HHH) winning on the big stage is too obvious and it wouldn't help either guy. Orton winning also doesn't mean Cena's chase has to end.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Thanks, anonymous (please add some name in the future, by the way), and Steve. Totally missed that line. I slightly modified the report for the Observer site, although I'll leave the original report up here. WWE certainly doesn't deserve any blame if HHH had an emergency. I figured it was some weird strategy.

I don't know where you're going with your post, Dean. If you're suggesting it was some sort of work, it wasn't. After the match Mir said he had the armbar locked in really tight and he was surprised Lesnar was able to power out. The stoppage in my opinion was bad. I didn't really register it at the time. I thought he was stopping the fight and that to me would have been worse, so when he said he was taking a point deduction I was just relieved the fight wasn't being stopped. But getting the standup from a very good position for Lesnar was a bad decision by the ref.

Santino is the highlight of Raw most weeks, it seems. Wish he was doing more than midcard comedy.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous DW said...

Shawn Michaels has become way too big for his britches. A cartoon prima donna. What Todd says is most likely correct, that he was "making fun of the material."

And when are we going to stop the concentration on "heels" and "faces?" Wrestling has become a spectacle for simpletons. When the reviews begin to omit names in places of adjectival nouns like "heel" and "face" you know the battle is over. We should be using forums like this to attempt to make wrestling more interesting. Yes, you can have a heel and a face, but why so cookie cutter?

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. I don't understand the idea that Todd reported, thus: "They have the most natural story ever for a big match. John Cena had the longest WWE Title reign in 20 years, but was forced to relinquish the title without having lost it in the ring. With Cena gone, Randy Orton won the title and defeated every major challenger. Now Cena is returning early from a major injury to regain his title from the champion who has dominated in his absence." The last part confuses me. Is it already decided that Cena will win? If he does or doesn't is irrelevant as long as the entire story and the action are well done. That would be a success. To report the "philosophy" of what is going on here as "to regain his title from the champion who has dominated in his absence" is anti-climactic. The philosophy should be "to attempt to regain his title from the champion who has dominated in his absence." Now there's an interesting prospect. To announce that the story is going to be one way only is like telling us the murderer in a whodunit - and certainly it decreases interest. It sounds picky, but it isn't, because stating things this way shows us all how much the predictability of wrestling has permeated even those who report on it. There is excitement in what Todd states, but there'd be more excitement in a philosophy that leaves us guessing. This is one reason why the WWE programming is so bad - they're marketing it toward simpletons. Heaven forbid anyone should have to think about this stuff. Todd is right about one thing, though, "they’re flushing easy money down the toilet." Todd also says "pro wrestling is about build. You make fans want to see something, and then get them to pay to see it. But WWE is seemingly so consumed with keeping things unpredictable that they aren't building anything." Well, I gotta say, if they're trying to make fans want to see something, they are leaving out a huge share of the audience - those who are looking for something with some continuity and some creativity. It seems there are a lot of stooges who are cheering for crap. There are a lot of other people out there, WWE. And "keeping things unpredictable?" It's not predictable, it's just disjointed foolishness. The WWE is nothing but predictable.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

I wasn't trying to imply anything, my comment was just poorly worded. I noticed it after I posted and decided to just hope you'd read it right instead of tacking on a second comment.

I was just looking for your general opinion, as well as your thoughts on the two items you already addressed (the stoppage, Lesnar powering out of the hold).

5:32 AM  

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