Monday, March 31, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 03/31/08 from Orlando, FL.

The Big News: WWE devoted Raw to paying tribute to one of pro wrestling’s all time greatest performers.

Show Analysis:

The show began with a nice video package on Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels. Throughout the show they aired clips from Flair’s career. They also had a pre-packaged interview where Dusty Rhodes called Flair a national treasure.

John Cena and HHH’s music played, but neither came out. That was the setup for Randy Orton, who came out and asked if the people were expecting someone else. Orton said that going into Mania everyone was asking who would beat him, but he retained. He ran down all the guys he has beaten, and said that it is the Age of Orton. These sorts of promos are an excellent way to get over the prestige of both champion and championship.

JBL interrupted and said he deserves a title shot. JBL said his title reign was based on dominance, and Orton’s is based on luck. He asserted that at Mania he beat the toughest guy on the show at his own game. JBL said he should be the number one contender, and wants the torch back. At this point, Matt Hardy jumped Randy Orton from behind, setting up a later match.

The returning Cryme Tyme defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. I’m glad Cryme Tyme got another shot, given it seemed they really wanted it and their firing may have been more the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back than anything else. With that said, they certainly didn’t look good here. The match didn’t build at all, and ended abruptly when JTG got a rollup in the midst of the rednecks getting heat on him.

Shawn Michaels came to the ring. He said he felt bad about the previous night, and got choked up. He said he had too much respect for Ric Flair to not bring his “A” game. He said retiring Flair is a burden he will have to carry the rest of his life. Or until Flair returns, anyway. Michaels left, and backstage Batista looked mad at him. Clearly they have something planned here. They should be careful not to make Michaels seem too pathetic.

Paul London and Brian Kendrick beat Cody Rhodes and Hardcore Holly. A piece of advice for aspiring pro wrestlers out there: if your partner turns on you one week, don’t team with him again. Even if you have temporary success, things are going to turn out poorly over the long haul. It may seem like a good idea, but seriously, don’t. Holly briefly worked over London with chops and a clothesline. London made the tag to Kendrick, but Rhodes quickly hit a bulldog on him. The match degenerated into a brawl, and Kendrick rolled up Rhodes for the pin.

Chris Jericho beat CM Punk. Jericho and Punk traded kicks and rollup attempts, and there were dueling chants for each man. Jericho missed a springboard drop kick and landed wrong on his face. He seemed concerned about losing a tooth, but appeared to be fine. Punk went after Jericho’s leg and hit a high knee. Punk followed with a GTS attempt, but Jericho escaped. Jericho went for the Walls but Punk escaped. Jericho then hit the code breaker for the pin. This was a good match. I would have protected Punk for at least a few weeks to retain any momentum he may have gained by winning Money in the Bank.

Big Show made his entrance. He congratulated Floyd Mayweather, plus his manager, handlers, bodyguards, chair and brass knuckles. He mentioned how Ric Flair put him over as a better big man than Andre the Giant. Show said nobody can take him one-on-one, which brought out Great Khali. Show was ready to fight, but Khali left. I must say I find this feud oddly compelling as the battle of the friendly giant and the mean giant. The wrestling, however, is likely to leave something to be desired.

Maria and Santino met backstage. Santino wanted to know if Maria got a rabies shot after being kissed by Snoopy the Dog. He then asked if they went out for dinner at Kibbles and Bits. Maria wanted Santino to call off their match. Santino ran down the WWE divas in general, and said they should be at home making pasta and babies. Maria slapped him. He yelled back at her in anger.

Randy Orton beat Matt Hardy. Hardy was aggressive early, brawling with Orton, sending him into the barricade, and hitting an elbow drop and neck breaker. Orton took over with a back breaker and Garvin stomp, but Hardy came back with a moonsault and side effect. Hardy went for the twist of fate, but Orton countered with a European uppercut. Hardy hit a neck breaker and went for the leg drop off the second rope, but Orton rolled to the outside. Hardy pursued, and hit the twist of fate on the floor. Hardy rolled Orton back into the ring, but Orton hit a sudden RKO for the pin. That was a nice finish.

Maria beat Santino. All the angry divas came down and attacked Santino together. Maria gave him a low blow and scored the pin.

Ric Flair came to the ring for the final segment. He said that the fans should rejoice, because he’s had the greatest wrestling career ever and he lost to a great wrestler and man. He said he loves the fans and the business and he is in a good place. There were “thank you Ric” chants. HHH came out, and said some people wanted to say thanks. Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, JJ Dillon, Barry Windham, Batista, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Greg Valentine, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, John Cena and Flair’s family came to the ring. Finally, the rest of the roster joined them and they all led “thank you Ric” chants. Flair was sobbing uncontrollably.

Final Thoughts:

It’s always nice when you can embrace people you love or appreciate while they are still doing fine and are fully remembered. Ric Flair absolutely deserved the appreciation that WWE showed him for his tremendous contributions to the business.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 03/24/08 from Columbia, SC.

The Big News: The final Raw before WrestleMania is in the books. We have ourselves a bona fide main event, and it’s not necessarily the match you would expect.

Show Analysis:

John Cena came out to start the show. He cut that promo they love to script for him where he rattles off fifty things in a row in a cutesy manner to convey there’s a lot going on. He said he will leave WrestleMania as champion. Big Show came out and said he will end Floyd Mayweather’s boxing career, and that will replace Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant as the most remembered WrestleMania moment. He said people are split on John Cena’s match, but everyone including Mayweather’s family is pulling for Show. He actually got some boos for that.

JBL joined the proceedings, and said he made history by revealing Hornswoggle’s father. He added that he’s just getting started since his match at Mania has no rules. Cena joked about beating JBL at Mania. Randy Orton was next out, and said nobody thinks he’ll retain but he will. Umaga then came out and yelled in Samoan. It was played for comedy. Cena said he speaks Samoan, and apparently Umaga was making lame jokes about Orton.

HHH was the final star out, and he plugged his t-shirt. He then said there is one reason wrestlers lay it on the line, and that’s the title. He said Mania is at a building with no roof because Orton-Cena-HHH would blow the roof off. HHH said the King of Kings will go back on his throne. All the wrestlers started arguing, and William Regal made a no-DQ 8 man tag main event. The tone of this segment was all wrong for a go home show, and it felt really contrived as well. The only guy who had the right tone in selling a big pay-per-view was Triple H.

Carlito and MVP beat CM Punk and Chris Jericho. Jericho put MVP in the Walls early, but Carlito dumped Jericho to the outside and MVP worked him over. MVP missed the running yakuza kick, and Punk tagged in. Punk hit a high kick, power slam, knees from the clinch, a high knee and a bulldog on MVP. He missed a springboard clothesline. Jericho then went for an enzuigiri on MVP, but MVP ducked and Jericho nailed Punk in the fact. MVP covered for the pin. This was a nice finish to build towards Mania.

They ran an absolutely fantastic package on Ric Flair. It was so well put together, and I wish they were airing packages like this one every week.

Mr. Kennedy backstage predicted that Ric Flair will retire at Mania, Undertaker’s streak will end, and Mr. Kennedy will win Money in the Bank, cash it in, and become champion. They did a Big Show 24/7 segment where they showed him training and he gave his thoughts on the fight. Great Khali then pinned Hardcore Holly in a very brief match.

Next up was the indisputable highlight of the show. Ric Flair came out, and said that he was unhappy about last week because he doesn’t know if he would have beaten Vince McMahon. Flair was angry at Shawn Michaels for showing no confidence in him. He said he’s losing respect for Michaels. Michaels came out, and said he could never lose faith or confidence in Flair. He started talking about how Flair will always be a legend to him, but Flair told him to shut up.

Flair said he doesn’t need anyone to tell him who he is, because he’s feeling pretty good about himself. He took out the old NWA title, and said Michaels grew up watching him against the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk and Bruiser Brody. Flair said he picked Michaels because he wants to prove he can still be the Nature Boy. He added that he needs Michaels to bring out the best in him. Flair continued, and this was the money line, that he needs one more night at Mania to get him through the rest of his life.

Michaels told Flair that he’ll give him what he needs. Michaels then said that the family loved Old Yeller, but they had to take him out to the back and finish him. Michaels said he will put Flair out of his misery. Flair slapped Michaels and asked if Michaels was kidding him. Flair said, “I got your Old Yeller,” and slapped him again. A crazed Flair yelled at Michaels to take him out to the woodshed right then. Michaels said he will put Flair out of his misery, and left to boos.

This was an absolutely fantastic segment. This is how you cut a promo to sell a match. There was no comedy. Nobody was trying to be cute. You understood the motivations of both men very clearly. Ric Flair has a very specific goal, and it is genuinely extremely important to him. And you’ll have to order the show to see if he will achieve that goal. Ric Flair cut what is a rarity in pro wrestling these days: a genuine, honest-to-goodness money promo.

They ran a package on Floyd Mayweather. He said he’s smaller than Big Show, but he is mentally tougher, quicker, and packs a harder punch. He talked trash to and beat up a Big Show action figure, which was hilarious. They aired video of Show on Conan. I didn’t see the original segment, but it would seem they did a great editing job. The clip seemed like a serious segment talking about a real confrontation and it wasn’t played for comedy, when I would suspect the original segment was a lot of comedy.

Maria was to wrestle Melina, but Maria needed some backup since Candice is out of the WrestleMania match. Beth interfered, and who should make the save but Ashley. What a crappy choice to inject into the match. Mickie James is more attractive than Ashley. She’s more charismatic than Ashley. She’s much more over than Ashley. She’s a much better wrestler than Ashley. But sadly, Ashley got the spot.

Santino came out and Jerry Lawler did too, setting up a six person tag. Lawler worked on Santino with a back drop and drop kick. Maria and Melina came in, with Maria hitting the bronco buster on Melina. Beth gave Maria a sit down power bomb and tagged Santino. Maria slapped and chopped Santino, and Lawler added some punches. However, Beth and Melina took out Maria’s knees, and Santino pinned Maria for the win.

HHH confronted John Cena backstage. He said that Cena beat him at Mania, but HHH knows that Cena isn’t the better man. HHH said that if Cena gets in his way, he will mow Cena down. Cena responded that he is bringing home the title.

Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, HHH and John Cena beat Big Show, Randy Orton, Umaga and JBL in the main event. It was less a match and more an angle. Finlay came out and brawled to the back with JBL. Batista came out and brawled to the back with Umaga. Randy Orton kept yelling at Big Show for some reason so Show gave him a choke slam and left. HHH and Cena couldn’t agree on who would take out Orton, so they brawled to the back. Flair and Michaels then fought over it. Flair knocked Michaels out of the ring and got Orton to tap to the figure four. He celebrated to end the show. The ending was great, but the match felt too contrived.

Final Thoughts:

Wrestling is frequently just about getting you to want to see one match. This show really made me want to see Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels, so it has to be considered a significant success.

For MMA fans out there, I want to make mention of a live chat with Chuck Liddell at the Los Angeles Times website on Wednesday. You can get in on the action at from 2PM-3PM.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 03/17/08 from Lafayette, LA.

The Big News: A seventeen on two handicap match proved to be not all that much of a challenge for John Cena and Randy Orton. HHH? Well, that’s another story.

Show Analysis:

Raw kicked off with the Highlight Reel. Chris Jericho celebrated his Intercontinental Title win, and then brought out the Big Show. Show was wearing a relatively tight t-shirt this week, and he really does look in markedly better shape. I think it helps his character a lot, because he had more menace early in his career before he put on additional weight.

Jericho needled Show about getting punched, and showed the press slam from last week. Show laughed about it, and said that nobody likes Floyd Mayweather. Show said that Jericho is much better in the ring than Mayweather, and Jericho wouldn’t last two minutes with Show, so Mayweather is in real trouble.

Jericho responded that while nobody likes Mayweather, everyone thinks Show is a jackass too. Jericho said that Mayweather will knock Show’s teeth out. Show called Jericho loud, arrogant, disrespectful, and way over his head. He suggested they wrestle for the Intercontinental title, and added that Jericho looks like he’s ready for a night of karaoke singing Justin Timberlake. Jericho accepted the match.

Vince McMahon gloated about his place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He said he would celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by ending Ric Flair’s career. To that end, he announced Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon in a street fight.

CM Punk beat Carlito in what is probably somebody’s idea of fun. Carlito threw him to the floor and followed with punches, kicks and a springboard elbow. Punk hit a high knee and bulldog. He went for a springboard, but fell into a Carlito dropkick. Carlito went for the back stabber, but Punk escaped. Punk went for go 2 sleep, but Carlito countered and hit a neck breaker. Punk retaliated with an enzuigiri and hit go 2 sleep for the pin.

They aired a vignette with the premise being that Santino Marella was trying to direct Snoop Dogg to tell Maria she should have stuck with Santino and not posed for Playboy. Snoop disagreed with this, said that Maria should be able to do what he wants, and walked out. Snoop has always been a big defender of women. His tribute to women at the end of the Chronic was almost as touching as the one at the end of Reflection Eternal.

Umaga beat Paul London and Brian Kendrick in a handicap match. Umaga hit a cool Samoan drop spot on both of them at the same time. He followed with running butt drops on each. Kendrick at that point walked away, so Kendrick and London are apparently not going to last much longer as a team. Oddly, the announcers completely ignored this development. I’m not sure what that means. Umaga then hit the Samoan spike on London for the pin.

William Regal backstage wanted to know how HHH would stop Randy Orton and John Cena from walking out in the main event. HHH said that if either were to walk out, they would be removed from the main event at WrestleMania. Elsewhere, Ric Flair said he didn’t want Shawn Michaels to go get into his affairs against Vince. Flair said Vince had no chance in hell of beating him. This was a great quick promo.

JBL came out and said that he was looking forward to confronting Finlay, but unfortunately Finlay was looking after Hornswoggle. JBL said that he had to do something for St. Patrick’s Day, so he would take on the second toughest Irishman in the company, Colin Delaney.

Delaney came out to absolutely no reaction. Seriously, I think the crowd would have been louder if Lillian Garcia had asked for a moment of silence to mourn somebody’s death. I think the majority of the crowd didn’t know who he was, which isn’t a good sign for ECW. JBL quickly defeated Delaney with a big boot and three clotheslines from hell.

In a completely unexpected spectacle of a match, Ric Flair won a street fight over Vince McMahon. They did much more than anyone could have expected. I think the idea was to convince people that Flair has another great match in him against Shawn Michaels. Flair dominated early with stomps, chops and punches. Vince sent Flair into the post, and hit him with a TV monitor. Flair juiced.

Vince hit Flair with a trash can, but Flair kicked out. Vince hit Flair with a Singapore cane multiple times, but Flair kicked out. Vince hit Flair with a chair and covered, but Michaels ran in and pulled the referee out. That was absolutely ridiculous. All the major players are being put over strong going into Mania, but Flair needs help to avoid being defeated by the 62-year-old owner of the company.

In any event, Vince next brought in a table. By this point, he was completely gassed. He had about as much energy as Phil Baroni in round four of the Kala Hose fight. Vince slowly set up the table, but Flair gave him two low blows. He placed Vince on the table and then hit a splash off the top of all things for the pin.

Maria and Candice beat Jillian and Victoria. Santino did commentary, and was his typically hilarious self arguing with Jerry Lawler. Jillian hit a handspring elbow on Maria. Victoria went for a standing moonsault but landed on Maria’s knees. Candice was tagged in, and went to work with clotheslines and a spinning wheel kick on Victoria.

Victoria hit a back breaker, but Jillian missed a 450 and Candice hit the unprettier on Jillian for the pin. After the match, Santino threw a drink on Lawler. He then stole Lawler’s sandwich and gloated obnoxiously about it, which was tremendous. He ate the sandwich and celebrated. I hope they do go ahead with Lawler vs. Santino at Mania.

They ran a half-face/half-heel package on Floyd Mayweather that made him more sympathetic than not. Between this and the following segment, it’s very hard to figure out what exactly they are aiming for with Show vs. Mayweather.

Big Show beat Chris Jericho via DQ. Show hit punches, kicks and chops. Jericho went for a baseball slide but was caught and hurled into the barricade. Show went for a second rope corner splash ala Vader but missed. Jericho hit a lionsault and covered but Show tossed him to the outside. At that point, Jericho grabbed his belt and hit Show with it for a DQ. Show then laid out Jericho with a punch and choke slam. Jericho was certainly booked like a heel in this match, but I’m not sure how we were supposed to take it.

Randy Orton and John Cena spoke backstage. Cena said they would go out there and beat up everybody until there would be nobody left. Orton suggested they take a dive and not get hurt. Cena said he was cool with that if Orton wanted to lay down. Orton wanted Cena to take the dive, but Cena wasn’t going for that. HHH came in and said the match would continue until they beat every opponent or could no longer physically continue.

Randy Orton and John Cena beat everybody in an absolutely idiotic main event. First, a minor quibble. They repeatedly said everybody on the Raw roster was in the match, even as it was apparent that key stars including Mr. Kennedy, HHH, Chris Jericho, Big Show, Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels weren’t there. No explanation was given why HHH wouldn’t want Michaels, Show and Kennedy in particular out there. It was a 17 on 2 handicap elimination match, with all the other guys standing on the apron.

The more major issue is booking three quarters of your roster to be total jokes is so unbelievably stupid. Yes, it makes Cena and Orton look like more of a threat. But not by much. Do they really come out of this match significantly stronger than they entered? Of course not. But their opponents, who were treated like absolute losers, come out looking much worse. And presumably Raw is still going to be on the air after Mania and they are going to need to use these guys. So why bury them? This seems to be a regular WWE gimmick under WWE creative, and it’s so stupid and counterproductive.

Anyway, Cena rolled up Santino for the pin. Cena tapped out Trevor Murdoch with the STFU. Cena pinned Lance Cade after an Orton RKO. Orton eliminated Super Crazy with an RKO. Cena defeated Robbie McAllister with a top rope rocker dropper. He pinned D.H. Smith the FU. Orton pinned Paul Burchill with the RKO. Orton defeated Val Venis with an RKO. Cena and Orton hit a double team RKO on Cody to pin him. At this point the rest of the opponents realized they couldn’t win 17 on 2, so they all ran in for the DQ.

Cena cleared the ring of most of the jobbers anyway with a chair. That left just Umaga and JBL. JBL went to hit Orton with a chair, but he missed and hit Umaga. Umaga gave Orton the Samoan spike and then chased JBL to the back. HHH then came out and laid out Orton and Cena with pedigrees.

Final Thoughts:

This show was a mixed bag. It had some good build, and it also had some weird and outright crappy booking. We’ll see what they do next week, but I’m not expecting a strong buy rate for Mania.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

NCAA Tournament

Well, it's time for March Madness. I'm looking forward to this year's tournament a lot. I think UCLA got a real gift of a schedule out west, and have a much easier path than the other number 1 teams. Wanted to let you know that everyone is welcome to join a Yahoo group with me if you would like.

Group #: 77486
Password: march

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 03/10/08 from Milwaukee, WI.

The Big News: With the outlook for WrestleMania looking grim, WWE delivered an excellent edition of Raw, increasing interest in just about every Mania match and producing a very entertaining self-contained show to boot.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Ric Flair. He said that Shawn Michaels had some nerve in saying that he would end Flair’s career, and called out Michaels. Flair said that when he started the business had no sympathy, and that he has no sympathy today. However, he sensed that Michaels had sympathy last week.

Flair said he’s still the Nature Boy and he doesn’t want his career to continue if he can’t beat the best. Flair said that he wants respect, not pity. He argued that if he wins it will be because he is the man and if Michaels wins he will have beaten the man. Flair added that if he has a good day he can catch Michaels and continue his career. He asked for Michaels’ best.

Michaels said he’s Mr. WrestleMania, and at that event he is the man. He said that they will steal the show, and they shook hands. Michaels then said he will be at Smackdown to assist Flair against Edge and his cohorts. Randy Orton then came out, and said that he was in charge. He made HHH vs. Kane and John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels in WrestleMania rematches. This was a great start to the show, particularly the Flair promo.

Undertaker beat Mark Henry in a casket match. Undertaker used some punches and went for the old school rope walk but was caught in a bear hug. Henry and Taker brawled on the floor, where Taker sent Henry into the post and casket. Henry came back with a power slam and 2 big splashes, and tried to drag Taker to the casket. Taker instead caught Henry in a ridiculously sloppy gogoplata (which is not the same as a triangle choke). Henry bled from the mouth and Taker pushed Henry into the casket. There is still no reaction to the gogoplata.

They aired the first of three backstage promos from the WrestleMania main eventers. This was basically an attempt to make clear the motivations of each wrestler, a very good idea. HHH’s promo was the best of the three. HHH said he lives for the title, and he’s getting his chance to get it back. He said he will fight for the title as if his life depends on it, because as far as he’s concerned it does.

Mr. Kennedy beat Finlay via disqualification. The “all WrestleMania rematches” concept died the second match in. It’s not a big deal at all that they advertised that and didn’t deliver. It’s not like anybody is going to feel ripped off. Still, it is disconcerting that they don’t have episodes of Raw mapped out even a week in advance going into Mania. Pro wrestling is not meant to be booked week to week.

Prior to the match, JBL appeared on the screen and said that he is amenable to a Belfast brawl at Mania. That should be fun. He said that he will put Finlay next to his son in the hospital. This enraged Finlay, who laid out Kennedy with repeated shillelagh shots. He kept attacking Kennedy even as referees tried to stop him. Eventually he knocked Kennedy unconscious with a shillelagh shot to the head. This was an effective angle.

Chris Jericho defeated Jeff Hardy to win the Intercontinental Title in an excellent match. They locked up early, but quickly began trading blows. Jericho clotheslined Hardy over the top rope. Jericho then missed a clothesline into the corner and flew to the outside himself. Hardy followed with a baseball slide and went for a clothesline off the barricade. Jericho caught him and sent him crashing into the announcers’ table, which looked really impressive. Jericho then hit a splash off the apron into the ring, and followed with a back breaker.

Hardy retaliated with a forearm and the whisper in the wind for two. Jericho hit a Northern lights suplex for two, and the two wrestlers traded pinfall attempts. Jericho hit a crossbody off the top, but Hardy rolled through for two. Hardy went for the twist of fate, but Jericho escaped and hit a lionsault for two.

Jericho then went for the Walls, but Hardy reversed into a pinning attempt for another two. Jericho missed the enzuigiri and Hardy gave him the twist of fate. That looked to be it as Hardy went to the top, but Hardy missed the swanton. Jericho then nailed the code breaker for the pin. These two were really on and the match was tremendous.

Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff were to have a rematch from the first WrestleMania against Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. However, it turned out just to be angle, which is probably for the best. Jillian Hall came out and said that Windham and Rotundo can’t afford the rights to Made in the U.S.A., so she would sing it for them. Her singing made Nikolai cover his ears, Rotundo gave her an airplane spin, and that was that. As an aside, Windham has really become a forgotten man to the current generation of wrestling fans. A DVD of his best stuff would really be quite good, even if it wouldn’t sell.

They announced Jack and Jerry Brisco for the Hall of Fame. They acted like the two were practically interchangeable and best known as a tag team. I suppose that was to be expected given Jerry has worked for the company for decades, but it still served as kind of an insult to Jack Brisco’s stature in the business.

HHH beat Kane. Prior to the match, Randy Orton tried to remind Kane of all the times HHH has screwed him over. Kane grabbed Orton by the throat and said he didn’t need to be reminded. Kane was in control early with punches and kicks. He sent HHH out of the ring, but HHH sent Kane into one of the posts. Kane regained control with a big boot, body slam and clotheslines into the corner.

HHH hit a face buster and went for the pedigree, but Kane reversed. Kane went for the choke slam, but HHH escaped and set up again for the pedigree. Orton distracted HHH, allowing Kane to escape and hit a side slam. Kane came off the top with a clothesline attempt, but HHH caught him and hit the pedigree for the pin. This was an okay match.

John Cena did his backstage promo. He said he wasn’t supposed to be back in action until October, but he risked his health and career for the chance to be on the WrestleMania card. He said that he isn’t angry at Orton and that he thanks him because he was getting complacent. Cena said that Orton made him hungry to come back for Mania, and that he respects Orton. He said that at Mania his time will come again.

Delivery was good but this was one hell of a crappy script to give Cena. He’s not angry at the guy who in storyline nearly ended his career? And if his big goal is to compete at Mania rather than to win back his championship, why does he even care about the match result? And if the big issue is Mania and not the title or gaining revenge, why exactly should fans care about the pay-per-view events that occur after Mania?

Melina beat Maria. Candice and Beth were in the respective corners. Santino came out and distracted Maria. That allowed Melina to come from behind with a kick and her leg drop neck breaker for the pin. The heels laid out Candice as well and Santino left with Beth and Melina. I understand that they want to have Maria in a serious angle, but I hope after Mania she goes back to generally being happy and smiling. She’s much more likable and attractive with that demeanor, as opposed to being angry and serious.

Next up was the big Floyd Mayweather/Big Show angle. It worked very well, because they played off audience reactions and let Mayweather be more of a heel. That’s the role he plays best, and he was fantastic here. In recent weeks, Mayweather seemed out of place. Playing the heel now, he looks like a complete natural for pro wrestling.

Prior to the angle, they showed a vignette reminiscent of the 24/7 shows. Mayweather showed off his money and toys in his home. Shane McMahon then came out to preside over the weigh-in. Having a weigh-in three weeks prior to a match is exceedingly silly, but we’ll let that one go. Mayweather came to the ring with shades, bling and an entourage.

Mayweather was now carrying himself as a heel, and he has great natural arrogance. He looked genuinely pissed off at the fans chanting “let’s go Big Show.” They got the weights, with Mayweather coming in at 159 (bring on B.J. Penn!) and Big Show weighing 441.

Show pointed out that Mayweather had a crew of eight guys. Show said that he had his own posse, and all the wrestlers surrounded the ring. Mayweather vigorously protested this to Shane. Show suggested PBF throw some of his money to the crowd so they wouldn’t hate him so much, or throw some money at his crew so they will continue to pretend to be his friends.

Show said that he will either embarrass Floyd at Mania, or guarantee that Floyd never boxes again. The crowd cheered that. PBF took the microphone, and took out a wad of hundred dollar bills. Mayweather said he respects what Show has done in WWE but doesn’t respect him as a human being. He said to beat him, Show will have to catch him. He again vowed to break Show’s jaw at Mania.

As Floyd was leaving the ring, Show press slammed Mayweather over the top rope onto wrestlers on the floor. Mayweather left selling his elbow. Mayweather was great here, but Mania will be tricky to book. Maybe you have Shane and some heel wrestlers turn on Show, and then Mayweather makes the save and knocks out Shane.

Randy Orton said that he’s the perfect champion because he is an amalgam of HHH and Cena’s best character traits. He said he will retain his title at Mania. This was short and non-descript.

Edge beat CM Punk. The crowd was behind Punk. Edge worked over Punk’s back, but Punk blocked Edge suplex attempts with knees. Punk then went on offense with a leg lariat, high kick, springboard clothesline and high knee. He went for a bulldog, but Edge countered with a DDT. Edge went for the spear, but Punk leap frogged over it. He then went for go 2 sleep, but was distracted by Ox Wheeler and Del Hawkins. That allowed Edge to hit the spear for the pin. This was a good short match.

William Regal said that Umaga vs. Batista will be a one-sided slaughter. Umaga and Batista came to the ring and fought. Umaga went for the Samoan spike, but he walked into a Batista spine buster. They then announced that Vince McMahon will get his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Friday. They also said that Mayweather suffered an elbow injury.

Shawn Michaels and John Cena fought to a no contest. This wasn’t bad, but it was a disappointment given the matches Michaels and Cena have had in the past. They mat wrestled early. Michaels worked over Cena’s leg, and Cena couldn’t get Michaels up for the FU because of that. Cena came back with the Cena slam and five knuckle shuffle. Michaels got out of a pin attempt, and came back with a belly to back suplex, inverted atomic drop, body slam and elbow off the top.

Michaels went for sweet chin music but missed. After a very sloppy 10 seconds of botchery, Michaels applied his inverted figure four. Cena got to the ropes. Michaels hit a baseball slide and Asai moonsault. Michaels sent Cena into the post, but then Orton sent Michaels into the post to end the match. Orton set up Cena for an RKO on a chair, but Cena escaped. Cena then hit the FU. At the close of the show, HHH announced that next week it will be Cena and Orton vs. the entire Raw roster.

Final Thoughts:

Raw needed to deliver, and it did. This was a much better show than recent weeks, and with two more weeks of good build WrestleMania should do well.

I’ll be on Fight Network Radio tomorrow (Tuesday) discussing this show as well as other subjects in wrestling and MMA at 3:10PM Eastern/12:10PM Pacific. You can listen at

Monday, March 03, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 03/03/08 from Indianapolis, IN.

The Big News: The WrestleMania build isn’t working at all.

Show Analysis:

William Regal at the start of the show said that the next three weeks would feature “triple threat takeover,” where John Cena, HHH and Randy Orton would each be in control of Raw one week. Basically, one week each will get to pick the matches of the three.

Big Show beat Brandon Hill in a very silly exhibition. They billed it as a “mixed martial arts match” which could end via pinfall, submission or knockout. Maybe next week they’ll have a football game where you can score points via pinfall, field goal, or touchdown. Plus, Hill came out in boxing gloves and attire. So I’m not sure what exactly WWE creative thinks a mixed martial arts match is in 2008, but it apparently is vaguely reminiscent of New Japan 35 years ago.

Anyway, Big Show threw around this miniature boxer and finished with the choke slam. It felt like it was being played for comedy. Show and Floyd Mayweather got into an argument after the match. Show referred to the $20M figure that’s been floated around. Mayweather appearing on the screen said he would break Show’s jaw. Show press slammed the jobber over the top rope. This feud isn’t working at all.

Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels beat Trevor Murdoch and Lance Cade. The rednecks worked over Michaels with an inverted atomic drop/yakuza kick combination. Michaels came back with a swinging neck breaker and enzuigiri on Cade and caught Murdoch coming off the top with a boot.

Michaels tagged Flair, who came in with chops and applied the figure four to Cade. Michaels gave Murdoch the inverted figure four and the faces got the submission win. After the match, Michaels said he doesn’t want to face Flair at Mania. He said it’s WrestleMania, he’s the show stopper, and Flair’s show would be stopped. This match and its aftermath worked well.

John Cena told William Regal that it would be HHH vs. Randy Orton in the main event. Regal said he couldn’t do this, because it was too big of a match. What exactly was Regal expecting? Cena also made a match between himself and Mr. Kennedy and told Regal to leave his own office.

They announced that next week will be a three-hour, three-brand WrestleMania Rewind Night, where every match will be a WrestleMania rematch. Given roster turnover and deaths, that would mean Jeff Hardy, Umaga, Mr. Kennedy, Finlay, Carlito, Santino, CM Punk, Big Daddy V, MVP, John Morrison, the Miz, Chavo Guerrero and many more can’t wrestle. Randy Orton will have to wrestle Undertaker or not wrestle (so HHH will probably be in charge), and JBL and Big Show can only wrestle Cena.

So basically, I don’t think they’ve thought this through, and at some point during the week they’ll figure it out and not deliver what they advertised. Which of course begs the question why they didn’t think about this and just say “a night of WrestleMania rematches” rather than “every match will be a WrestleMania rematch.”

Umaga beat Super Crazy in a hurry with the Samoan spike. The announcers read a statement from Batista where he vowed to beat Umaga at Mania and prove Smackdown’s supremacy.

Chris Jericho hosted the returning Highlight Reel with guest Jeff Hardy. They talked about Money in the Bank. Jericho said Hardy can whip out all the high spots in the world and it won’t matter because Jericho is winning. Hardy said he wasn’t going to take that, and added that he will win the match and become champion. Jericho said Hardy is no longer a friend but rather a target. Hardy agreed and gave him the twist of fate.

John Cena beat Mr. Kennedy. Kennedy worked over Cena, including a DDT to the apron. I always liked that spot. Kennedy sent Cena’s back into the apron. He worked on Cena’s neck. Cena came back with clotheslines, a top rope famouser and the STFU for the submission. They’re putting over the main eventers strong, and that is the smart way to go.

They had an unveiling of Maria’s Playboy cover. During this, they announced Snoop Dogg will be MC for the women’s match at WrestleMania. They also announced on their website that John Legend will sing America the Beautiful. When they went to unveil the cover, it had pictures over Maria’s face, boobs and non-existent bush. Santino came out and told Maria to get going with him. Maria said no, and they had an argument. Maria said she has already posed for Playboy, and she wants the world to see. Jerry Lawler laid out Santino with a punch. They then unveiled the real cover, which came down from the ceiling.

Carlito beat Cody Rhodes to qualify for the Money in the Bank match. Carlito went for the back stabber, but Cody escaped into a pinning attempt. Cody hit a crossbody off the second rope for two. They went for a series of pinning attempts. Cody hit a bulldog on Carlito, but Carlito kicked out. Cody went for a victory roll but Carlito avoided it and hit the back stabber for the pin. These two had a good little match, one of Cody’s best TV matches.

They did a weird video interview with Floyd Mayweather. The announcers kind of antagonized him by asking him questions about whether he’s scared and if it’s worth it to get hurt. Mayweather acted like a heel in response. This feud is turning into a disaster. They announced Mae Young is entering the Hall of Fame.

Finlay came out to the ring. Vince McMahon asked Finlay if it is true that Hornswoggle isn’t Vince’s child and that he is really Finlay’s son. Finlay admitted this. Boy, what a completely non-sensical storyline this has been. JBL then appeared on the screen in a hospital with Hornswoggle. They made a match between Finlay and JBL for Mania. JBL then turned out the lights and beat up a screaming Hornswoggle. Finlay and JBL could have a hell of a serious feud, but this angle is too silly to take seriously.

HHH and Randy Orton fought to a no contest. Cena was doing commentary, and he said that HHH is stronger physically, mentally and spiritually than him. That’s a hell of a line to feed your top face. Orton hit a back breaker and knee drops. HHH hit a spine buster, at which point Orton grabbed his title and went to leave. Cena tried to stop Orton. HHH knocked Orton into Cena. Cena attacked Orton and gave HHH the FU. Orton then gave Cena the RKO to conclude the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was not a good show, in terms of entertainment and particularly in terms of build. The booking has been pretty darn bad, and with three full weeks left, it is imperative that they have a strong show next week that gets people excited for Mania.

Here are some ideas to build the top Raw matches.

John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H: We have seen a million title match three ways. Just having three stars fighting for the title isn’t enough to really get people excited. They need to strongly define the motivations of each man. Cena needs to re-emphasize that he came back early from a very serious injury because he needed to reclaim the title that means everything to him. Orton needs to emphasize that he has defeated everyone on the Raw roster, and by defeating both Cena and HHH in the same night he will establish his supremacy as the unbeatable champion and the best wrestler in the world. HHH needs to talk about his longtime dominance of the brand, and how he needs to regain that stature from a pair of wrestlers that want to leave his reign of dominance in the past. The stakes for all three need to be communicated and delineated.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show: Mayweather just isn’t working as a face or even a tweener. They either need to do something big to get him over as a face, or they need to turn him full heel. I think the latter makes more sense as far as fan reaction goes, but Show is so much bigger that he’s the more natural heel. Other than that, this angle needs to be serious. This week’s segment with Show was too silly for a money angle. Next week they need something that makes this feel real and makes the crowd think that there might be some sort of legitimate physicality between the two. It should be something reminiscent of the first angle they did between Show and Mayweather. If they do an angle where Show gets heat on Mayweather, it needs to feel as real as possible. That means no choke slam or over the top wrestling moves. The most effective build might be Show throwing one punch and knocking Mayweather down.

Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels: In order to get over that Flair’s career is on the line and it is a big deal, they need to air packages on Flair’s career. WWE is capable of great video packages, and they need to whip out a package each of the next three weeks. At this point, this match may have the best drawing potential on the entire card, so a full 5-10 minute package each week wouldn’t be too extravagant. They need to show Flair wrestling Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk, Big Van Vader and the like. They need to show him cutting promos. They need to really make fans nostalgic and make fans think that this will be their one last chance to see a great Ric Flair match.