Date: 10/20/08 from Corpus Christi, TX
The Big News: Cyber Sunday is, well, Sunday. Also, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler might have delivered the worst night of commentary in Raw history.
Kelly Kelly and Candice Michelle beat Jillian Hall and Katie Lea. The heels briefly worked over Candice, with Katie using a back breaker and Jillian executing a handspring elbow. Kelly got the tag and used a whirly bird, crossbody off the second rope and famouser on Jillian for the pin.
The most striking thing about this match was the announcers used the entire match to incessantly plug a Halloween costume contest at Cyber Sunday. They even continued into future matches. It is fine that they want to plug that, but they literally talked about it for five minutes straight with this over-the-top enthusiasm to the point it was terribly counterproductive. Nobody cares about a costume contest, and nobody will care no matter how long they plug it. All they do with the hard sell of the mundane is kill off their announcers’ credibility as anything other than total phonies and insult the audience’s intelligence.
Chris Jericho came out. He emphasized that he is the champion and bemoaned the disrespect that he has been shown. He further complained about the choices for referee at Cyber Sunday. He said Steve Austin is the worst choice, which makes no sense. Shawn Michaels explicitly said he would screw you out of the title and attacked you last week. How could Austin be worse? I get that they want fans to vote for Austin, but you can do that without having characters say things that they wouldn’t say.
Chris Jericho again talked about beating Steve Austin and the Rock in the same night, and said after he beats Batista he will prove his dominance as champion. Batista came out and said that if Jericho beats him, Jericho will have earned the people’s respect. However, he laughed at the likelihood of that happening. He also said that in the interim Jericho needs to stop whining and crying. Mike Adamle then came out and said Jericho and Batista would compete in gauntlet matches against the same three opponents. Jericho slapped Batista and left.
This was a weird segment. Jericho delivered the same promo he has done a million times, and made no reference to what happened last week. I thought last week advanced the Jericho/Batista feud well, but they blew off the whole thing like it never happened and Jericho seemingly doesn’t care about getting pinned. I do enjoy smirking, incredulous Batista, though. It works perfectly for him.
JBL beat Stone Cold Steve Haastin. JBL complained about the mockery of him having to face a has-been impersonator last week. He said that he’s a man of dignity, which cued Austin’s music. For some reason, the people this week were actually fooled momentarily. They popped like it was the real Austin and then quickly quieted when they realized it wasn’t. Haastin hit Thesz press and some punches, but he missed the stunner and JBL hit the clothesline from hell for the pin.
Troublingly, the story of the second match was the same as the first: awful commentary. Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole fake laughed more in this one segment than the vast majority of humans do in their entire lives. It was like they were competing to see who could do the loudest and fakest fake laugh, even as nobody in the crowd was reacting at all. It was off-the-charts obnoxious. It reflects such insecurity that they think fans won’t appreciate comedy if you don’t shove it down their throats.
Rey Mysterio beat Snitsky in what basically amounted to a squash match. Snitsky missed a big boot. Rey hit a springboard senton, low dropkick, double foot stomp off the top, 619 and springboard splash for the pin. They ran a Mike Knox package, so perhaps he is coming to Raw. I hope not.
Miz and John Morrison beat CM Punk and Kofi Kingston. Before the match Miz and Morrison talked themselves up. Miz said they have more street cred than K-Fed. They mocked DX by asking, “Are you 50?” That’s apparently the first tease for a match with them, and you knew after that they would be beating Kofi and Punk.
Punk hit an enzuigiri on Miz and Kofi and Punk hit a double kick to the head. Kofi followed with a dropkick, and threw Morrison over the top rope onto Miz. Kofi hit a European uppercut and a monkey flip. Morrison kicked Kofi in the head and got the tag. The heels took over, with Morrison using a Northern lights suplex and dragon sleeper. Kofi eventually made the tag to Punk. Punk hit a swinging neck breaker, slaps, a spinning back fist, high kick, high knee, bulldog and power slam on Morrison. Punk hit the GTS, but didn’t realize Miz had tagged back in. Miz rolled up Punk for the win.
Santino was the highlight of the show again. He came out with Roddy Piper’s attire, Goldust’s face paint, and Honky Tonk Man’s wig and guitar. He said all his potential opponents are washed up. He made fun of Piper’s weight, said Goldust’s career has “flamed out” and said Honky made his career copying Elvis.
That brought out Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He said Santino is in the last minute of his fifteen minutes of fame. God, I hope not. Santino showed off the Honk-a-Meter, which is now in double digits. Santino told a bunch of bad jokes at Duggan’s expense. Duggan said if it wasn’t for Santino’s boyfriend, Santino wouldn’t be champ. He then yelled “tough guy” at Beth. Santino hit Duggan with the guitar, and accidentally busted open his mouth in the process. Santino is awesome, but Beth is also tremendous in her reactions to Santino.
There was supposed to be a tag match with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase vs. Cryme Tyme. However, the match never started. Rhodes, DiBiase and Manu jumped Cryme Tyme three on two, and laid them out.
The main event was the gauntlet matches. Rather than having one guy wrestle three matches and then the other, they had Jericho and Batista alternate so one guy would always get a weakened opponent. William Regal was the first opponent. Batista hit a spine buster and Batista bomb for the pin in a very quick squash. Jericho then hit the code breaker on the weakened Regal and pinned him.
Mark Henry was next. Jericho started, and went for the Walls. Henry powered out. Henry whipped Jericho into the corner and hit an avalanche. Henry missed a splash, and Jericho hit the lionsault. Henry kicked out of the pin attempt. Jericho removed a turnbuckle. The referee went to cover it, and Jericho grabbed the title belt. He hit Henry with it but the referee saw it and disqualified Jericho. Batista then hit a quick spine buster for the pin.
The final opponent was Kane. Jericho went after his leg and went for the code breaker. Kane escaped and hit a clothesline off the top. Jericho kicked out of the pin attempt. Kane went for a choke slam, but Jericho fought out. Kane finally hit the big boot for the pin. Batista then came in and hit the spear for the pin.
I didn’t like this show at all. I thought the booking from top to bottom was not good. Obviously, they want you to think Batista will win the title at Cyber Sunday, but Jericho has now lost three times in two weeks and they aren’t building up a new program in any instance. I think that does more to devalue the title than anything.
I also absolutely hated the commentary. It was simply unbearable. Commentary matters in how fans perceive a promotion, and the commentary tonight reminded me of Tony Schiavone in the dying days of Nitro when he had long ago stopped caring. The announcers were so phony and fake in their enthusiasm that it came across they didn’t care at all and were just acting. One of the strengths of Jim Ross is he doesn’t try to convince you that urine is lemonade, and thus when he’s excited it gets you excited. The quality of the commentary needs to improve immediately.
This leads me to a point I’ve been meaning to make for weeks. This “WWE Universe” nonsense has to stop. Think for a second about the reaction if the NFL pulled this garbage. The NFL decides that they want to label their fans the “NFL Galaxy,” and the announcers and players are instructed to refer to the “NFL Galaxy” every five minutes even if there was no reason to do so.
If the NFL pulled that nonsense, it wouldn’t last one week. Fans would react with vocal, overwhelming negativity at being unsubtly and condescendingly force fed these idiotic and unnecessary corporate buzzwords. Years later, people would still be joking about how stupid the whole thing was. But wrestling fans are used to this stupidity from their wrestling so either they take it and accept it or they just give up like so many already have.
Vince McMahon this year seems to be on a trip about wanting to attract a more sophisticated audience. And I certainly applaud him for that inclination. But step one to attracting a sophisticated audience is not insulting its intelligence for two straight hours. We can decide for ourselves if a segment is funny. We can decide for ourselves how we want to describe ourselves as fans. We can decide for ourselves if an upcoming event is something to look forward to. Persuasion is fine. Mindlessly shoving tripe down our throats like we’re mentally challenged is kind of a turnoff.
That’s kind of a sour note to end the evening, so here’s a quick look on where I see the key members of the EliteXC roster ending up. I haven’t spoken with anyone yet, so these are just my quick thoughts and informal vibes.
Antonio Silva: He’s actually got a pretty sizeable contract, and I don’t see anyone out there being willing to match it. He would have been a good fit for Japan when he was more freaky looking, but I’m not sure now. I think Dream or World Victory Road will make him the best offer, but he may join UFC for better opportunities.
Brett Rogers: He’s a decent prospect, but still on the rise and he doesn’t mean much now. I would think Strikeforce or another smaller organization is most likely.
Cristiane Cyborg: She’ll likely end up wherever Gina Carano ends up.
Dave Herman: I expect UFC to make him a good offer. He’s a strong prospect for the sport and good enough to make an impact there over the next few years.
Eddie Alvarez: Affliction’s decision makers like guys that have success in Japan, so Alvarez would be a natural fit for them. Dream obviously also has used him, and he would be a good opponent for a number of guys in Strikeforce as well. UFC would certainly like to have him too. He has better bargaining position than most.
Frank Shamrock: Strikeforce is the natural fit for Frank, but the question is how much money they can afford to pay him over the long haul. There is still a lot of animosity between Frank and Dana White, but I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibility.
Gina Carano: If Affliction is willing to pay up, a fight with her and Cyborg at their next show would make a lot of sense. UFC could still decide to use Carano and other women in WEC, but I don’t expect it. If there are no other serious offers, I’m sure Strikeforce would be willing to make an offer to each. If the AFL ever runs the pay-per-view they have talked about, that would also make sense.
Jake Shields: He would fit in well in UFC’s welterweight division, and I’m sure Zuffa would like to lock up one of the last top 170 pound fighters that they don’t have under contract. He’s Northern California based, so Strikeforce is also a possibility. His talent would also likely lead to Affliction taking a look depending on his price point.
Joey Villasenor: He’s a solid veteran, so I could see just about anyone taking him. I don’t see anyone proactively going after him either, so he’ll likely be shopping for the best offer.
Kimbo Slice: Here’s the big question. I don’t think UFC will take him. I don’t see Affliction being all that interested either, given their emphasis on steak over sizzle. Dream or World Victory Road would likely be interested given his look. In real life he’s not all that far removed from the gimmick Pride saddled Quinton Jackson with back in the day. For a guy who meant so much so recently, I think there will be a surprising lack of interest in him. Someone will pay up, though.
KJ Noons: Noons is an interesting case, because he seems to have a higher opinion of his value than anyone else. UFC hates his agent, which will hurt him there. I don’t see Japan willing to make a big offer. He’s in a tough spot. He may pull a Latrell Sprewell and walk away from the best offer.
Murilo “Ninja” Rua: Ninja is a lot like Villasenor. Nobody would have any reservations about having Ninja on their card, but I don’t see anyone tripping over themselves to get him. I kind of see him going back to Japan since he had his best successes in Pride.
Nick Diaz: Diaz is one of the more interesting ones. He’s colorful and talented, but he also has a tendency to get himself into trouble. World Victory Road would make sense since he could have a rematch with Takanori Gomi. Strikeforce would make sense since he’s another Northern California fighter. Dream would work as well since there’s a lot of talent in that division over there. I could also see Affliction or UFC making an offer. I think he’ll probably split time between World Victory Road and an American promotion.
Nick Thompson: He’s in the Villasenor/Ninja camp, although with a little less cache. He may find himself on smaller shows, and when he strings together some more wins he’ll get a UFC return offer.
Paul Daley: He’s a natural fit for UFC’s European expansion, so that’s where I expect him to go.
Phil Baroni: Strikeforce signed him, and Japan is also a possibility for some fights.
Rafael Feijao: I don’t think he’s good enough yet to make it in the UFC. He’d be a natural fit for WEC, but they closed that division. He doesn’t really have a name anywhere, so I don’t see Strikeforce, Affliction, Dream or WVR being all that interested in him. I think he’s going to have to take a low offer from someone.
Robbie Lawler: UFC has been interested in bringing him back for quite a while. He was one of the guys they wanted for the fourth season of the Ultimate Fighter. I’m sure they’ll make him an offer. If Affliction is looking to add contracts, he would likely be one of the first people they would look at too. I think he ends up back in UFC.
Scott Smith: He’s in the Ninja/Villasenor position. I think that the main event with Robbie Lawler will help, even though he lost and the viewership was disappointing.
Wilson Reis: He’s a natural fit for the WEC. Given there isn’t a lot of interest worldwide in the 145 pound division, I would be surprised if he doesn’t end up there.
Yves Edwards: He’s already fighting Josh Thomson at the next Strikeforce show.