Wednesday, April 30, 2008

LeBron "Sidney Poitier" James

His hands get tangled up with Darius Songaila, he gets lightly tapped in the upper body, and he flings his hands in the air and staggers backwards as if he's been assaulted. I'm not going to begin to defend all the trash the Wiz have been hurling this series, but LeBron looks like such a punk with this nonsense. He's acting like a European soccer diva. And don't even get me started on the announcers, who apparently feel that Songaila randomly decided it was a good moment to punch LeBron in the face despite it clearly not being a punch and it not even clearly being in the face despite LeBron's theatrics.

UPDATE: Songaila was suspended a game for this bullshit. Well, nobody ever accused the NBA of not having double standards when it comes to stars. Nice to see they're encouraging whining and play-acting.

Also, it's the month of audio with me. You can check out new audio with me and Bryan Alvarez talking everything at:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 04/28/08 from East Rutherford, NJ.

The Big News: You people disrespected me, so you don’t get to read about the big news.

Show Analysis:

HHH came out to start the show and said the Age of Orton is dead and the Game is back. Randy Orton intervened, and said the odds were stacked against him. HHH pointed out Orton was very confident before the match. Orton said he is a victim of his own success, because he was so dominant they wouldn’t put him against anyone one-on-one.

HHH said the three person and four person matches benefited Orton, who could sit back and capitalize on other people’s work. Orton said he would invoke his rematch clause at Judgment Day. HHH said people are tired of Orton’s talk, and told him to leave the ring. Orton refused, so HHH hit him with the microphone. An angry Orton changed his mind and said he would invoke his rematch clause for Raw.

Mickie James, Maria, Kelly Kelly, Cherry, Michelle McCool and Ashley beat Beth Phoenix, Melina, Victoria, Natalya, Layla and Jillian Hall. Despite involving 12 women again, only five or so really did anything. The women brawled at the beginning, leaving Beth and Kelly in the ring. Beth gave Kelly a tree slam, Melina gave her a DDT, and Jillian went for a handspring elbow but was blocked. Kelly tagged Mickie, who used punches, a huracanrana, a Thesz press, and a rollup on Jillian for the pin.

JBL beat Highlander Robbie. Highlander Rory was at ringside, and backed off when JBL challenged him. JBL destroyed Robbie with punches, kicks, elbows, a back suplex, and a clothesline from Hell for the pin. I was having flashbacks to a Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw squash from 1996. After the match, JBL said that John Cena robbed him of the title. He vowed to destroy Cena and then take back the title.

Paul London and Brian Kendrick beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. Cade used a high back drop on London, and Murdoch hit an elbow. London tagged Kendrick, who hit a flying forearm and dropkick on Cade. Cade hit a clothesline to take back over, but Kendrick abruptly rolled up Murdoch for the pin. The rednecks argued after the match. Murdoch took a microphone and sung that he’s got friends in low places. He was booed at first, but cheered when he finished. He was pretty damn good, and apparently will be the face coming out of this. I’m all for more of Murdoch singing.

Paul and Katie Lea Burchill beat Super Crazy in a handicap match. Paul dropped a knee, and Katie hit an elbow and kick. Katie missed a kick, and Crazy used a huracanrana on Paul. He went for a moonsault on Paul, but he missed. Katie then hit a dropkick off the top and Paul finished Crazy with the curb stomp. Katie took the pin.

Next up was the coronation of King Regal. He said he wouldn’t relinquish his general manager post, and that as GM and king he is the most powerful entity in WWE. He said xenophobia and jealousy will prevent the audience from liking him, but they will have no choice but to respect and fear him.

Mr. Kennedy interrupted, and said he couldn’t congratulate Regal given Kennedy wasn’t even invited to participate in the tournament. Regal said nobody talks to him unless granted an appointment, and told Kennedy to apologize. Kennedy instead said that he’s Mr. Kennedy. Regal responded by punching him in the mouth and apparently busting him open hardway. Kennedy and Regal got into a fight. They added a new harder edge to Regal, which is encouraging.

Cody Rhodes beat Santino Marella. Before the match, Santino bashed the Sopranos for their fake Italian stereotypes and phony accents. Santino hit kicks and punches, and Cody missed a springboard crossbody. Santino used a judo throw and camel clutch, but Cody escaped with the electric chair. Cody went for a bulldog, but Santino escaped. Cody then hit a DDT for the pin. After the match, Cody was going to badmouth Santino, but Carlito shut him up with the back stabber.

Chris Jericho was in a tuxedo for an award edition of the Highlight Reel. The award was for best actor in sports entertainment. The nominees were Mr. Fuji and Don Muraco for Fuji General, Michael Cole for Deliverance Part II (Heidenreich molesting him) and Shawn Michaels for pretending he had a knee injury to beat Batista. He announced Shawn as the winner.

Shawn limped out. Jericho said that nobody goes from pious preacher to backstabbing bastard as quickly as Shawn. Jericho congratulated Shawn, told them to play Shawn’s music, and left. This was a nice close to the segment, with Shawn looking upset. They need to better define Jericho’s motivations, which I just don’t get. After the match, Santino made fun of Roddy Piper so Piper slapped him.

HHH and Randy Orton fought to a no contest. HHH hit a clothesline, and ran Orton into the post. He worked on Orton’s shoulder and arm. Orton kicked HHH in the face, and applied a long headlock. Orton hit the Garvin stomp and sent HHH into the steps. HHH fired back with punches and a face buster. Orton retaliated with a power slam and back breaker. HHH hit a superplex, and applied the crossface.

At that point, we saw William Regal in the production truck. He said that the people disrespected him, so they don’t deserve to see the finish of the match. He told a production guy to take it off the air. We got a few more seconds of audio with no picture, and then it just cut out altogether.

Final Thoughts:

I’ll wait until at least next week to decide what to make of the ending of the show. I think as a general proposition, you don’t want to have fans feel like they were screwed out of what they were promised. That doesn’t mean that you always deliver what fans expect, but it shouldn’t feel like the promotion promised something and then screwed fans out of it. No matter how clever the concept may seem, that emotion hurts business.

Of course, the idea here is clearly to transfer the heat to William Regal. We’ll see how that goes. I would like to see Regal be given a more prominent position, so maybe this will pay off in that regard. Or maybe it will just lead to frustration towards the company. Let’s just call this the NFL draft version of Raw, and we’ll evaluate what to make of it with the benefit of hindsight.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

NFL Draft Thoughts

Kudos to the NFL for the decision to cut down the times between picks. It made the first round move so much more quickly and made it significantly more entertaining to watch. There wasn't much in the way of dead time, lame interviews or rehashed discussions. It's just bang-bang. I'm so glad this will be the case going forward.

As far as the first round, I like Glenn Dorsey a lot at number 5. I like him the best of anyone in the draft. At the next spot Vernon Gholston has bust written all over him to me. I'm really skeptical of guys drafted for athleticism who don't produce in college at the level they're expected to produce in the pros. I was encouraged by the fact nobody drafted WRs. It suggests GMs are wising up, because WRs are so unbelievably hit and miss that they're not a good investment in the first round.

So far, I'm very happy with the Redskins trading down and adding a couple picks. The options weren't great given their needs at 21, and hopefully they'll stockpile some quality players later on. It will really help the franchise if they can learn to use the draft like all of the most successful franchises do.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I'll be on Fight Network Radio tomorrow (Friday) at 3 Eastern/12 Pacific, so check that out at:

Also, I've got a new CBS piece on HDNet Fights at:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone

I was reading the new Rolling Stone today, and I think my dislike for this guy reached new heights.

For those who don't know, Taibbi is a political writer for Rolling Stone. His columns are distinctive in just how mean-spirited and nasty they are. He tears apart everyone and everything, with his barbs seemingly being 1/4 critique and 3/4 simple ad hominem making fun. But what makes the pieces at least borderline tolerable is he usually targets people in the public eye that deserve the criticism if not the invective.

Well the piece I read today wasn't about those sorts of people. It was apparently an excerpt from a book he has written, and the excerpt talked about him joining a megachurch so he could report on what went on there. But he clearly didn't enter to observe; he came in to ridicule and little else. The article has him making fun of the people in the megachurch for dressing badly, for losing their hair, for being lonely, for being inarticulate, for being overweight. If he recognized these people were having trouble and were looking for something, one would think he would be sympathetic. But instead he heaped on the insults with the same smug arrogance that he heaps on the insults towards Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama and just about every politician on Earth.

I think it's really a sad commentary that he has become successful pandering to the worst in human beings, but it seems to me a growing trend in a digital age where you can say anything over the internet about anyone with no consequence or accountability. But while I understand the cathartic power people get out of being nasty in a one-way forum, I don't understand why people enjoy reading those sorts of rantings. And both groups are pretty sad in my book.

Here's to Taibbi one day getting the comeuppance for his nastiness.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 04/21/08 from Greenville, SC.

The Big News: WWE actually convinced the presidential candidates to cut pro wrestling style promos for Raw. And then proceeded to make fun of them. Also, William Regal is the 2008 King of the Ring.

Show Analysis:

The first four matches were King of the Ring qualifiers. It wasn’t quite Yamma, but the first round was rather dull with none of the matches going very long or featuring very much.

Chris Jericho beat MVP. Jericho and MVP traded moves. Jericho hit a baseball slide, followed by an MVP belly to belly, followed by a Jericho northern lights suplex, followed by an MVP yakuza kick and face buster, followed by a Jericho bulldog. Jericho missed a lionsault. MVP went for the play of the day but Jericho escaped and applied the Walls for the submission.

CM Punk beat Matt Hardy. Hardy hit a swinging neck breaker and double ax handle off the second rope. Punk retaliated with a high knee and bulldog. He went for a springboard clothesline, but it was countered into a side effect. Hardy went for the twist of fate, but Punk escaped and went for go 2 sleep. Hardy got out of that but Punk dropped down and covered for the pin.

Finlay beat Great Khali via disqualification. Khali dominated the match. He hit a clothesline, big boot, overhand chop, and rammed Finlay’s leg into the post until he was disqualified. In what was not one of Jerry Lawler’s finer moments, he asked if Khali had been counted out immediately after Lillian Garcia announced he had been disqualified. Big Show came out but Khali left.

William Regal beat Hornswoggle via submission with the Regal stretch. This was kind of a storyline inconsistency given the last time Regal and Hornswoggle were in the ring together Regal couldn’t bring himself to beat up Hornswoggle despite almost getting fired for it.

They announced that Sunday’s four way title match will be under elimination rules. Throughout the show they featured brief promos from the participants. JBL said he will take the title by surviving and rising to the top like he always does. HHH said Sunday will prove who is best, and it will be him. John Cena said the other competitors will have to get through him to get the title and he’ll make them earn it. Randy Orton said he’s sick of hearing people say they will take his title, and that he will remain champion at Backlash.

Shawn Michaels called out Batista, and asked him if all of this was because Batista wanted to wrestle Ric Flair at WrestleMania. Batista said no. He added that he was sick of talking, and that they would finish it at Backlash. Michaels said he’s everything Batista said he is, and that he’s got blood on his hands. However, he pointed out that the man who will do anything to get ahead is Batista’s opponent at Backlash. Batista and Michaels had a staredown. This was another solid Batista/Michaels segment, and I’m glad they didn’t emphasize the role of Jericho here.

They aired short comments from each of the presidential candidates, who incorporated WWE talking points into their speeches. You can read the text of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s remarks at CNN’s political ticker. As for John McCain, he managed to get in Rock, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, HHH, Undertaker and Steve Austin references. I can’t believe they got the presidential candidates to do this.

Carlito beat Hardcore Holly. Holly hit an inverted atomic drop and clothesline. Carlito came back with punches, stomps, dropkicks, clotheslines and a body slam. Holly went for the Alabama slam but his back gave out and Carlito hit the back stabber for the pin. After the match Santino vowed to win the titles, so Cody Rhodes told him to shut up and the tag champs fought off the contenders.

CM Punk beat Chris Jericho in a King of the Ring semi-final. Jericho dropped Punk on the ropes. Punk went for a springboard, but Jericho kicked away the rope. Jericho hit a huracanrana and the competitors went for a series of pinning attempts. Jericho hit an enzuigiri, but Punk hit a power slam and knees from the clinch.

Punk went for go 2 sleep, but Jericho escaped. Jericho hit a bulldog and went for the lionsault, but landed on his feet and applied the Walls. Punk got to the ropes, which was a nice touch after MVP tapped earlier. Jericho stomped Punk repeatedly. He went to the top, but Punk knocked him down and hit go 2 sleep for the pin. This was the best match of the tournament.

William Regal beat Finlay in the other semi-final. For those who don’t know, these two are rivals dating back decades and have had some unbelievably brutal matches against each other. They mat wrestled early. Regal sent Finlay’s knee into the steps. Regal stomped on and kicked the knee. Finlay fired back with punches and sent Regal into the post. He followed with a senton, punches and a knee lift. Regal hit an awesome knee and applied the Regal stretch. Finlay wouldn’t tap but his eyes rolled back like Ed Herman against Demian Maia and that was it. This was good, but it should have gone longer.
Even after the presidential candidates endorsed WWE programming, WWE still couldn’t resist making fun of them. They had a faux match with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Hillary impersonator came out with Bill to Hogan’s music. Bill kept posing in front of Hillary while she tried to speak.

Obama then came out to Rock’s music with big fake ears. Hillary gave Obama the leg drop, but Obama kicked out. Obama hit the rock bottom and went for the people’s elbow, but Bill tripped him. He added, “I didn’t have illegal contact with that candidate. Umaga then came out and gave both the Samoan spike. This was dumb and unfunny, but it wasn’t offensive or unwatchable either.

The good women came out to congratulate Mickie James’ title win, but they were interrupted by the bad women. Beth said it’s just a matter of time before she gets back her title. Michelle McCool slapped Beth, and a brawl broke out. The good women cleared the ring.

William Regal won the King of the Ring tournament by submitting CM Punk. Punk hit kicks to the head and a high knee. Regal used a suplex and a bow and arrow. Punk used repeated high kicks and covered for two. Punk went for go 2 sleep, but Regal grabbed the ropes. Regal hit a high knee and applied the Regal stretch for the tap. This was good, but too short. I really hope they did this because they have plans for Regal and not because he just seemed the most appropriate for the gimmick. Regal is a great performer and it would be a shame if he’s treated like a joke again next week.

Edge, JBL, Chavo Guerrero and Randy Orton beat Undertaker, Kane, John Cena and Triple H. You read that correctly. Chavo didn’t do the job. The heels worked over Cena, including a JBL side Russian leg sweep and Orton sleeper. Cena escaped and tagged Kane. Kane cleaned house, including a side slam and top rope clothesline on Chavo. Chavo went to the top but was caught with a choke slam. As this was going on, Edge made the tag, hit a spear, and covered Kane for the pin. After the match, Cena gave Edge the FU. HHH went for the pedigree on Cena, but JBL broke that with a clothesline. Orton gave Cena an RKO. Undertaker finally gave JBL and Orton a double choke slam.

Final Thoughts:

I thought this show was good. It could have been even better if they gave the tournament matches a bit more time, but this was still a crisp, fun show that flowed well.

Finally, you can check out my thoughts on Backlash with Alex Reimer at Alex also has a Red Sox podcast you can check out there.


On, they've got Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain cutting wrestling promos on each other.

I don't even know what to say. I cannot believe they got them to do this.

The actual comments:

“Hi. I’m Hillary Clinton but tonight in honor of the WWE you can call me Hill Rod. This election is starting to feel a lot like King of the Ring. The only difference: the last man standing may just be a woman.”

“To the special interests who’ve been setting the agenda for too long and for all the forces of division and distraction that have stopped us from making progress, for the American people, I’ve got one question. Do you smell what Barack is cooking?”

“Looks like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to settle their differences in the ring. Well, that’s fine with me. But let me tell you, if you want to be the man you have to beat the man. Come November, it’ll be game over. And watcha gonna do when John McCain and all his McCainiacs run wild on you?”

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Kalib Starnes Picks Out Entrance Music for Next Fight

Friday, April 18, 2008

Favorite Films of 2007

Yes, I know it’s April now. But I don’t think anyone other than movie critics have the chance to see most of the major releases of any given year within the calendar year. And it’s kind of silly to make a list if it’s just based on luck as far as what you happened to have seen. I still haven’t seen every film from 2007 I want to, but I’ve seen the vast majority. So here are my favorites. The key movies I haven’t seen that might crack the list are Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I’m Not There, Persepolis and The Savages. If there’s another major movie that’s not on my list, it’s probably because I didn’t like it all that much. My favorite 10 films of the year in alphabetical order:

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: This may have been my favorite film of the year. It’s a really well put together heist-gone-wrong drama. The narrative going back and forth works well, and the performances are very strong. It’s a great movie.

Beowulf: I’m a huge fan of Robert Zemeckis. I love his films. But when he tried Polar Express, it didn’t work for me at all. When I heard about Beowulf, I wondered why he was trying his weird form of CGI again. Well, it was worth it. The kind of creepy characters worked better for this film than a children’s movie. It’s scary, sexy and a lot of fun.

Bourne Ultimatum: The Bourne films are quite remarkable in terms of Hollywood sequels, in that I think each has improved on the last. This is the standard for a quality, summer action film. Matt Damon is great, and the frenetic pace works well.

Enchanted: Don’t turn your nose up at it because it has music and it’s done by Disney. It’s an enjoyable comedy with characters you care about, catchy songs, and some tremendous send-ups of classic characters and story devices.

I Am Legend: This was another film that I think some people dismissed as just an empty CGI-infested mess. I strongly disagree. You get a great performance by Will Smith, a scarily empty alternate New York, and some real jolts.

Knocked Up: This hilarious film worked better than Superbad because it had a sweeter center underneath the jokes. The screenwriters played a tricky balancing act, by making a really raunchy that was at its heart really a chick flick.

The Lookout: The Lookout got shafted as far as recognition goes simply because it was released earlier in the year. I’ll take this film against most of the year-end Oscar films. It has great acting, great direction, and an atmosphere that draws you in.

Michael Clayton: I love a great legal thriller, and this is a great legal thriller. There is a morally ambiguous center, lots of twists and turns, and a really well crafted screenplay. It’s a shame this genre doesn’t produce many movies.

Ratatouille: Pixar delivers again. This is a fun, briskly paced film with likeable characters that appeal to kids and adults. I hope they keep making films like this perpetually.

Simpsons Movie: I was so glad that this movie worked. As a long time fan of the series, I was skeptical when I heard about this because I think the series has been on a pretty precipitous decline for a while. But it absolutely worked. It captured the spirit of the series very well while delivering solid laughs throughout.

Honorable mentions:

4 Months, 3 Days and 2 Weeks barely missed the list. It was possibly the most powerful film I saw this year, albeit not a fun experience. Juno reminded me of a feminine version of a Quentin Tarantino film – the dialogue was snappy and witty, even if a little too confident in its own brilliance. 2 Days in Paris was a funny, caustic little film that I definitely recommend. King of Kong and In the Shadow of the Moon were great documentaries. I don’t get why there have been so many fictional movies about space exploration when documentaries on the subject work so much better. I thought the narrative of There Will Be Blood was unsatisfying, but the performance by Daniel Day Lewis was really powerful. Disturbia and 1408 were fun genre films that did a great job building suspense. Walk Hard got a lot more jokes out of its premise than I figured it could going in. I don’t care what anyone says – Spider-Man 3 was a fine entry in the series. I think people were turned off by all the characters, which has been a calling card of bad superhero movies, but I thought the narrative worked just as well as in the previous two. Another unrecognized film that I liked was Meet the Robinsons, a funny computer animated film. American Gangster was a good gangster film that didn’t quite reach great. Gone Baby Gone was a fine complement to Mystic River and a great directorial debut for Ben Affleck. Bridge to Terabithia was a touching and sweet children’s film. And Once was a unique little gem of a film I’m planning to see again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shame on ABC

I've been watching 30 minutes of this Democratic "debate" on ABC, and EVERY SINGLE QUESTION they have asked has been a stupid, superfluous "gotcha" issue. Nothing of substance. I can't bear to watch any more of this crap. What a sad, pathetic reflection of the state of the "news" in 2008. Do your job, ABC News. Unbelievable.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 04/14/08 from London, England.

The Big News: Mickie James won the women’s title, Chris Jericho interjected himself in the Batista vs. Shawn Michaels feud, and next week there will be a King of the Ring tournament.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels came out to start the show and said the thing with Ric Flair is a closed issue for everyone but Batista. Michaels said Batista’s real issue is Michaels. He said he’s not proud of everything he has done, but he is tired of apologizing for his past. Ric Flair’s music played, but Chris Jericho instead came out to boos. Jericho said he wanted to make the point that we’ll never hear that music again thanks to Michaels. Way to disprove your own point there, Y2J.

Jericho called Michaels a phony, and said that Batista’s point isn’t that Michaels retired Flair but that he enjoyed doing it. He said he thrived on screwing Bret and kicking Marty through the Barbershop window. Jericho said that’s who Flair is. Jericho said Batista’s dislike of Michaels isn’t irrational, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Michaels suggested to Vince the Flair retirement stipulation. Michaels gave him a superkick. They announced that there will be a King of the Ring next week, which is a good idea for a one week rating.

Santino and Carlito beat Paul London and Brian Kendrick in a number one contenders match. Carlito hit a sit down power bomb on Kendrick, and the heels briefly got the heat on him. He tagged London, who came in with a huracanrana and spinning heel kick. However, Carlito caught him with a back stabber for the pin. London and Kendrick didn’t break up after the match. Santino and Carlito cut a brief comedy promo after the match vowing to take the titles.

Mickie James beat Beth Phoenix to win the women’s title. The announcers did a good job telling the story of Mickie finally beating Beth, but it would have worked even better if they hadn’t abandoned the story for so long and then brought it back and immediately paid it off. Beth hit a slingshot suplex and used a cool camel clutch-like submission. Mickie rammed her into the turnbuckle, hit a spinning head scissors, and used a Thesz press off the top. Beth kicked out of that, but then Mickie got her in a victory roll for the pin. An emotional Mickie celebrated after the match, and even kissed Todd Grisham in celebration.

William Regal backstage said he wanted to prove he can beat Randy Orton. Chris Jericho approached Regal and wanted to be in a triple threat match with Batista and Shawn Michaels. Regal said he could referee the match. He then announced Umaga vs. Jericho for the Intercontinental Title. I absolutely hate interjecting Jericho into the Batista/Michaels match. I thought that was the strongest match on the card as far as selling PPVs, and Jericho to me seriously subtracts from the match. It confuses the basic issue and tells everyone there will be a screw job finish.

JTG beat Cade Murdoch in a brief match. Murdoch hit a crossbody off the top, but JTG rolled through for the pin. Cade and Murdoch teased dissension after the match.

Randy Orton beat William Regal. Orton before the match said he has beaten everyone there is to beat, but now he would get to beat the Raw GM in his own country. Regal received chants of “let’s go Regal” as well as other odd noises coming from the crowd in his support. Orton hit a back breaker, but Regal used a series of exploders. One dropped Orton right on his head. Regal followed with an awesome knee lift, but Orton hit the RKO out of the blue for the pin.

Chris Jericho beat Umaga to retain his title. The two brawled early, before Umaga took over with a head butt, splash and nerve hold. Jericho hit a baseball slide, but on the outside, Umaga gave him a clothesline. Umaga missed his running butt drop, and Jericho hit a series of forearms including one off the top rope. Jericho went for the Walls, but Umaga escaped. Umaga hit a Samoan drop, but he missed the Samoan spike. Umaga was sent into the ring post and Jericho put his feet on the ropes for the pin. The second half of the match was quite good.

Paul Burchill beat Jim Duggan in a quick match with the curb stomp. Sadly, Duggan didn’t try to get the crowd to chant U.S.A.

JBL and HHH battled to a no contest in a bad match with a worse finish. They brawled. JBL hit a swinging neck breaker and full nelson. HHH used a face buster and clothesline over the top, at which point Randy Orton interfered to end the match. Orton gave HHH an RKO. JBL then laid out Orton and HHH with the clothesline from hell.

Final Thoughts:

This show was again a little lighter on star power, with no Smackdown or ECW wrestlers and no John Cena either. Given that, I thought the show was overall a slightly above average entry. Orton-Regal, James-Phoenix and Jericho-Umaga were all good, as was the Michaels promo at the beginning. The show did end on a sour note, however.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Raw Report

Date: 04/07/08 from Albany, NY.

The Big News: The lineup for Backlash took shape, with Triple H vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. JBL and Shawn Michaels vs. Batista as the top matches.

Show Analysis:

William Regal began the show by announcing a title match at Backlash featuring JBL vs. Randy Orton. He labeled JBL the most deserving #1 contender in history. HHH came out and criticized Regal’s choice. He said Orton didn’t beat anyone at Mania; he just took a cheap shot and got lucky. He also wanted to know how the Smackdown announcer became the top contender by slapping around a midget. Regal made HHH vs. JBL and Orton in a handicap match, and said HHH would be put in the title match if he won.

Umaga beat Val Venis. I’ve got to give it to Val. He always comes to the ring smiling and confident, in spite of his 300 bout losing streak on Raw. The man certainly believes in the power of positive thinking, and maybe it will work for him one of these years. Umaga won with a long nerve hold, running butt drop and Samoan spike.

Mickie James and Ashley beat Jillian Hall and Melina. The heels worked over Ashley and Mickie briefly, but Mickie scored the implant DDT on Melina for the pin. The match was predictably sloppy, with Ashley looking particularly awkward.

Brian Kendrick and Paul London beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. London hit a cool drop kick into a standing moonsault. Cade worked over London with an inverted atomic drop and head over heels clothesline. London got the tag to Kendrick, who came in with clotheslines and drop kicks. Cade came in and gave him a sit down power bomb, but he was still able to roll up Murdoch for the pin.

HHH beat JBL and Randy Orton. They brawled early. The heels took turns on HHH. JBL was setting up for the clothesline from hell, but Orton tagged himself in. JBL said he had HHH, but Orton came in and was given the pedigree for the pin. Regal announced a triple threat for the title, which brought out John Cena. Cena suggested a fatal four way, so Regal said Cena could get in if he beat JBL and HHH in a handicap match.

Santino Marella and Carlito Caribbean Cool beat Cody Rhodes and Hardcore Holly. Holly went for the Alabama slam on Santino, but Carlito broke it up with a DDT. The heels got the heat on Holly, who eventually tagged Cody. Cody came in with a drop toe hold and knee drop. He went for a superplex, but Santino pushed him off and hit a top rope head butt for the pin. That was a surprisingly clean finish. Hopefully they plan on adding some credibility to Santino.

Cryme Tyme did a backstage vignette plugging a WrestleMania clearance sale. It build to JTG playing with panties that he thought belonged to Kim Kardashian but were actually Mae Young’s. Elsewhere, JBL tried to talk to HHH but HHH had ear plugs on. An annoyed JBL stormed off.

Beth Phoenix beat Maria. Maria scored with some punches early, but Beth took over with a body slam, baseball slide and weird Boston crab into a back breaker. Maria responded with a crossbody off the second rope and a scorpion death drop. However, Beth hit a stun gun and the fisherwoman buster for the pin.

Batista and Shawn Michaels were the guests on the Highlight Reel. Michaels pointed out that Ric Flair challenged him to the match at Mania. Jericho asked Michaels if he was truly sorry about retiring Flair. Michaels said yes, but Batista interrupted and said that was bullshit. Michaels said he idolized Flair as a child, and that if Batista was such a great friend he could have talked Flair out of the match. Michaels asserted that Flair didn’t ask Batista for the match at Mania because Batista didn’t have the nerve.

Michaels said there is blood on his hands, and Mania was the hardest night of his career. Batista responded that he trusted Michaels to do the right thing, and he’ll never trust Michaels again. Michaels said he did do the right thing, and challenged Batista to do something about it. Batista smiled and said he already has. This was a really good segment, and they have done a hell of a job building a match out of the Flair retirement.

William Regal announced Shawn Michaels vs. Batista for Backlash backstage. Randy Orton complained about Regal’s treatment of him. Regal said Orton would have to take on all challengers, and said that next week in England it will be Orton vs. Regal.

John Cena beat HHH and JBL in the main event. Randy Orton was at ringside. JBL worked over Cena for most of the match, but wouldn’t tag HHH. Finally when Cena took over, HHH wouldn’t tag in. JBL became agitated, and fought with HHH. Orton tried to get in the middle and JBL accidentally punched him. Orton responded by giving JBL the RKO and Cena covered for the pin.

Final Thoughts:

This show was very light on star power, which made it come across as uneventful and dull. But as far as booking goes, the show was well put together. It wasn’t a bad show, just an unambitious one.

I had two observations coming out of the show. First, this show reminded me of that handicap match with Cena and Orton vs. “the Raw roster.” So many of the guys that were utterly buried in that match were now being relied upon to carry this show. The result is likely to be a weak rating, which suggests the company should be more careful about burying people unnecessarily.

Second, I like the fact that they set up the main event for Backlash over two weeks rather than one. I think storylines work better if they unfold over time, and two or three steps are to me better than one. They could have just had HHH, Cena, Orton and JBL come out last week at the beginning of the show to announce their title intentions and make a match. But that type of build makes the match feel artificial and just put together to sell a pay-per-view. When a story unfolds over a longer period of time, it feels like more of a natural culmination of a series of events. It’s a tactic I would use more often if I were them.