Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Hierarchy of Sport, 2009

The Best: MMA
A Notch Below the Best: Football
Awesome: Hockey, Basketball
Good: Baseball, Boxing
Respect 'Em, Not My Thing: Soccer, Tennis
Non Sport, Non Entertaining: Golf, Auto Racing

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/23/09 from Nashville, TN.

The Big News: Chris Jericho continued his feud with wrestling legends, this time verbally dueling with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

Show Analysis:

Vickie Guerrero came out to start the show and said that after what happened to Shane and Stephanie McMahon, she is now the interim general manager of Raw. She wished the McMahons the best. John Cena came out, not understanding why she got the job. He suggested Mike Adamle or Michael Cole would be better, making fun of both. He told Vickie not to lie to the fans, and said that she doesn’t care about the McMahons, only that her husband is champion. He said he wanted to use his rematch clause on this edition of Raw.

Edge and Big Show joined the proceedings. Edge said that he doesn’t answer to Cena, and that Cena can never reach the status he wants because he is in Edge’s era. Edge presented Cena as the shining beacon of hope that all fans cling to, and said that when Cena loses his title rematch the people will be left with nothing. Umm, okay. Cena made fun of Vickie, so Show told him to show some respect. Cena responded by implying Show and Vickie are sexually involved. Vickie said that Edge is her husband, Show her friend and Cena her subordinate. She announced Cena would face either a friend or family later in the show.

CM Punk beat John Morrison and the Miz to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania. It was a triple threat but functioned as a handicap match most of the way with Miz and Morrison double teaming Punk. Punk went for the GTS on Miz, but Miz got caught in the ropes. Punk gave him a high kick, but Morrison then dumped Punk out of the ring. Morrison attempted a shooting star press off the apron, but hit Miz instead of Punk.

Miz and Morrison double teamed for a little while, but Punk eventually fought them both off with a bulldog/clothesline combination and a power slam on Morrison. Miz and Morrison hit him with a kick/electric chair combination. Morrison and Miz then turned on each other. They both went for pins and began fighting. Miz went for a suplex on Morrison, but Punk caught Morrison. He then spun Morrison around to knock Miz out of the ring and hit the go 2 sleep for the pin. This was a clever finish and a good match. The lack of crowd reaction hurt, but this crowd appeared pretty dead for much of the show.

Cryme Tyme and Melina beat Dolph Ziggler, Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix. You know, in the history of lame gimmicks, Dolph’s gimmick as the guy who likes to introduce himself repeatedly really is all time bad. The heels worked over JTG. JTG tagged Shad. Shad came in with clotheslines on Dolph. Dolph tagged Santino. Santino pumped himself up but then charged into an STO for the pin.

Shawn Michaels beat JBL. They traded punches early. JBL went to throw Michaels into the post. Michaels reversed and sent JBL into the post, but JBL bounced back into Michaels’ head. JBL went for a superplex. Michaels fought him off, but then JBL came in and knocked Michaels to the floor with a yakuza kick. JBL worked over Michaels with an abdominal stretch, but Michaels then made his comeback.

Michaels hit a flying forearm, inverted atomic drops, a body slam, and an elbow off the top. JBL avoided sweet chin music, and Michaels avoided the clothesline from hell. JBL hit a big boot and went for the clothesline from hell again but ran right into sweet chin music. The match was okay but not particularly good. Vladimir Kozlov then came to the ring, and they announced he would face Michaels on Raw next week for a chance to face Undertaker. Michaels went to attack Kozlov but was caught with a spine buster.

Mike Knox beat Jamie Noble in 29 seconds. Noble before the match said that if he lasted longer than last week he knew he would be going to WrestleMania. Knox beat him with the downward spiral. They had a clock, because you know, they figure everyone loves to watch people get humiliated as much as Vince. They then ran a tremendous video package announcing Ricky Steamboat for the Hall of Fame. They put over his match with Randy Savage and aired a lot of WCW footage. He will be inducted by Ric Flair.

They then introduced Ricky Steamboat to the crowd. The crowd didn’t react much, but they didn’t react to basically anything. Steamboat was dressed in a suit and looked good. He put over the meaning of the Hall of Fame and put over the crowd. That brought out Chris Jericho. Jericho celebrated Mickey Rourke not winning an Oscar, and said he’s a loser just like his character in the movie and Flair, Piper and Steamboat.

Jericho accused Steamboat of selling his soul by becoming the “Dragon”, the karate kid, and feeding into stereotypes. He talked about Steamboat carrying the Komodo dragon and spitting fire like a circus freak. Jericho said that Steamboat retired and ended up broken down with a broken family, still working backstage in the business. Jericho labeled him a life long sellout, the loyal dog that is getting his bone with the Hall. He called Steamboat a hypocrite and started to leave.

Steamboat stopped him, saying that if Jericho wanted to talk about hypocrisy he had something to say. He said he remembered signing an autograph for Jericho 20 years ago, and noted that Jericho described Steamboat as his hero in his autobiography. He further noted how Jericho has gone back and forth between embracing and turning on fans for years like a hypocrite.

Steamboat added that never changed at any point in his career. He always entertained the audience, and he returned to WWE to help the young talent and pass the torch because he loves the business. He said he’s not a hypocrite or a sellout, but a Hall of Famer. Jericho kneed him low, hit him with the microphone and sent him into the video wall in response. He yelled at Steamboat and called him a has been.

Both Jericho and Steamboat were so fantastic in this segment. What’s so great about Jericho’s feuds is that he finds little ways to add believability. Those little touches of reality add poignancy and emotion that so many cookie cutter feuds lack. Jericho’s segments have recently been the best stuff in pro wrestling every week.

John Cena beat Chavo Guerrero. Vickie said that Cena wouldn’t get his title rematch. Cena vowed to hunt Vickie for a title shot on Raw and Smackdown. All she has to do is avoid him for 22 more days and the mandatory title rematch vanishes. Seriously, I don’t understand this rematch clause concept at all. Apparently it’s in your contract that you get a rematch if you lose a title, but the general manager can just say no and you have no recourse other than to bug him or her. Anyway, Chavo was Cena’s opponent, predictable but crappy. Cena won in a hurry with the five knuckle shuffle, FU and STF.

Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase came to the ring, and Orton had a sledgehammer. Orton said he’s a victim. He wanted to mind his own business but the McMahons just wouldn’t stay out of his way. He said he hoped Stephanie’s kids were watching her get the RKO so they can learn from their mother’s mistakes.

A furious HHH charged to the ring with a sledgehammer. When he arrived, Orton suggested they lose the sledgehammers. Both men threw them away, but when HHH got into the ring he pulled out a second sledgehammer. Legacy ran away. The doors to the parking lot were locked, so they ducked into a dressing room and barricaded the door. HHH broke through it with a sledgehammer like the Shining.

HHH closed in on DiBiase and Orton and hit DiBiase with the sledgehammer. He swung at Orton but crashed through a mirror. Orton and DiBiase again ran off. They grabbed weapons, but then thought better of it, threw them down and ran away again. They got into a car which HHH hit with a sledgehammer before they drove off. I didn’t like this angle. It all felt too goofy to me, more like a cartoon than a serious angle. I would have just kept them apart more explicitly.

Final Thoughts:

I thought this was a good show overall. Some of the WrestleMania angles are working better than others, but on the whole the direction is solid.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Typically Asinine Article by Rick Reilly

And with a healthy dose of Reilly's patented phony righteous indignation as a bonus.

Apparently if you haven't been directly implicated in a steroid scandal, you're clean and wronged. So Reilly argues that the MVPs who have been established as steroid guys should have their trophies taken back and given to....ummm, well....Luis Gonzalez, Carlos Delgado, Mike Piazza and Moises Alou. Because there are certainly no red flags with any of those guys when it comes to performance enhancing drugs.

Reilly loves to glorify and vilify. You're either bad, or you're good. He's had years and years now and he's so stupid that he still thinks the story of MLB over the past 10-15 years is of a group of rogue evil doers who cheated all the good hearted citizens of MLB. All this time and he still doesn't understand the scope of the problem, the nature of the problem, or even the most obvious signs of steroid use.

It's like a parody of the worst possible analysis of MLB and steroids imaginable.

Monday, February 16, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/16/09 from Spokane, WA.

The Big News: With No Way Out over, WWE finally began the build for WrestleMania.

Show Analysis:

Vickie Guerrero came out to start the show and introduced Edge. Edge celebrated winning the title at No Way Out. He called himself a miracle, and said that like Jesus turned water into wine he turned the WWE title into the world title. Really, that’s more like turning water into water. Vickie explained that when Stephanie McMahon went to the hospital with Shane, Vickie was in charge. Thus, she was able to replace Kofi Kingston with Edge in the second elimination chamber.

John Cena then came out. He congratulated Edge, but said that he wanted a rematch and that he would get Edge. This was a good opening segment. If Edge vs. Cena is the plan for WrestleMania, that’s a really underwhelming match. Backstage, Shane McMahon challenged Randy Orton to an unsanctioned fight to settle their score.

William Regal, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase beat CM Punk and Cryme Tyme. Punk hit the GTS on Rhodes at the onset of the match, but Rhodes’ partners pulled him out of the ring. The heels got heat on Punk including a series of Regal knees. Punk hit an enzuigiri and tagged in JTG. A brawl broke out, and DiBiase hit a cobra clutch slam (called Dream Street) for the pin. Backstage, Stephanie tried to talk Shane out of the fight with Orton, but Shane wasn’t having it.

Chris Jericho made his way to the ring and implored members of the academy not to vote for Mickey Rourke. He said that it will encourage washed up legends to continue when they need to shut up and shut it down for their own good. That brought out Roddy Piper.

Piper told Jericho that he has liked and respected Jericho for most of Jericho’s career. However, now Jericho isn’t entertaining but judgmental and patronizing. Piper told Jericho to shut up. Piper said that the Wrestler isn’t about old timers wanting another run, but about the honor and respect they have. He added that it’s about physical and emotional pain, and the thrill of performing. An emotional Piper said that Ric Flair was right, that wrestlers live for that.

Piper talked about fans remembering spending time watching great wrestling moments with now deceased family members. He said those moments shouldn’t be buried but should be celebrated. Piper noted that he has one hip and hurts all the time, but as long as the fans say so he will crawl out to give one more memorable moment because old school’s cool. Jericho then kicked Piper in the leg and screamed at him to crawl around. It’s hard to understate just how phenomenal Piper was in this segment. It was one of the best promos I’ve ever seen.

Randy Orton backstage said that he has no problem fighting Shane, and that he doesn’t need Rhodes and DiBiase to leave Shane unconscious. Kane beat Jamie Noble in 16 seconds with a choke slam. Noble before the match said that he won’t fumble his big WrestleMania moment and he’ll last longer than the 9 seconds Chavo Guerrero made it last year against Kane. I’m fine with the occasional buffoon to laugh at, but it’s amazing how many guys WWE books to be total jokes. It’s their favorite and most repeated archetype these days, and that’s ridiculous.

JBL came out for a historic announcement. He said he doesn’t care that Shawn Michaels is now free and financially secure, because he had an epiphany. His new goal is to end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Shawn Michaels then came out and said that the showstopper, headliner and main event is back. He said he is Mr. WrestleMania and wants to face Undertaker himself.

Michaels proposed a match between himself and JBL next week with the winner getting Undertaker. JBL agreed. Michaels then started poking JBL and said JBL will be lucky to make it to Mania. Michaels came across really obnoxious in this segment. As for Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, that may end up being the match with the most interest at WrestleMania.

Rey Mysterio beat Mike Knox. The crowd was hot for this one. Knox hit a big clothesline, threw Rey under the bottom rope, and hit a tilt-a-whirl back breaker. Rey came back with a bulldog, enzuigiri and 619. He went for the west coast pop but Knox ducked under. Knox tied Rey into the tree of woe, but charged into the post and Rey rolled him up for the pin.

Melina retained the women’s title beating Beth Phoenix. Santino has a new look. Gone is the eyebrow, but in are highlights in the hair. Beth worked over Melina. On the outside, Rosa attacked Melina. That brought out Kelly, Candice and Mickie, who beat up Santino and Rosa. In the ring, Melina used a small package for the pin. I just don’t understand why Melina retained here given what a flop she has been as champion.

They announced Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr. for the Hall of Fame, and they will be inducted by that egg sucking dog Dusty Rhodes. Backstage, Stephanie McMahon was on the phone with someone who she asked to come and intervene in Shane and Orton’s fight.

The main event was the big showdown between Randy Orton and Shane McMahon. They brawled into the crowd. Orton threw Shane into the announce table and steps. Shane hit Orton with the ring bell twice and set up for the Van Terminator. At that point Rhodes and DiBiase ran in to interfere. Rhodes hit the roll of the dice and Orton punted Shane. Stephanie came out to mourn our fallen hero. “I love you, Shane,” said the little kid in the front row. I’ll give this much to gallant Shane: Orton never could get the best of him one-on-one to the end. He’s a true warrior.

As Shane was carted off, Orton gave Stephanie the RKO. He then acted shocked by what he did. HHH ran in to check in on Stephanie. A seething HHH stared down Orton, who looked resigned and concerned about what he got himself into. Orton and HHH both did a great job here, and that’s apparently your other big Mania match.

Final Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about WWE’s recent programming, from No Way Out last night to Raw tonight. On one hand, this was an entertaining show, and No Way Out was even better. But ultimately the goal of wrestling is to make money, and I suspect WWE may have thrown away a lot of money by taking so long to get around to setting up their key WrestleMania matches.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Favorite Films of 2008

The past few years I’ve listed my favorite films of the year. Here’s my third edition, having watched most of the best acclaimed movies of the year. The key ones that I’ve missed are Bolt, Defiance, Gran Torino, Happy-Go-Lucky, Role Models and Waltz with Bashir. With that said, here’s my top 10.

10. Frost/Nixon. Great acting, and a very interesting movie on the duel between Frost and Nixon.

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This is my second favorite of Judd Apatow’s string of hit comedies, behind only Knocked Up. Very funny movie with a soft heart underneath.

8. Kung Fu Panda. I’m in general a much bigger fan of Pixar animation than DreamWorks, but I think DreamWorks really scored with this one. Rather than rely on pop culture references, it relies on classic storytelling and it works great.

7. Milk. I went in kind of expecting to dislike it, both because I’ve hated Gus Van Sant’s pretentious series of recent movies and because I’m not a big fan of biopics. But this is a great one, that manages to tell the story as well through characters as you could through a documentary.

6. Iron Man. Great summer blockbuster with exciting action and likeable characters. Iron Man at least to me kind of seems like a “B” superhero, but they’ve got an “A” franchise with this one.

5. The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke deserves all the credit he has received for this one, with a tremendous performance and a really memorable character. And I think I might have liked it even better if I weren’t a wrestling fan.

4. Wall-E. Another awesome film by Pixar. It’s more of a “prestige” or “art house” CGI film than most of Pixar’s other crowd pleasers, but technically it’s breathtaking.

3. Slumdog Millionaire. I think of this as more of a fairy tale with fantastic elements than a gritty depiction of third world reality that some see it as, but either way it’s a touching story that stands out as one of the year’s best.

2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Yes, it’s a lot like Forrest Gump. But it’s still an incredibly memorable film with lots of great characters and emotional moments. I really liked it and look forward to seeing it again when it comes out on DVD.

1. Dark Knight. This was one of my favorite movies in years. It had so much hype going in and it absolutely delivered. Heath Ledger was fantastic and the story had great depth and intrigue. I think it deserved the Best Picture Oscar, and I’m not typically a big complainer about the types of films that get best picture nominations.

Also, a few honorable mentions: In Bruges (well made comedy/drama), Horton Hears a Who (fun kids’ movie), The Visitor (nice little story with great performances; first half better than second), Hamlet 2 (extremely funny under the radar comedy), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (unfairly criticized popcorn movie), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (sweet teen romance), Doubt (very well acted play on the big screen)

And finally, Oscar picks. These are my picks for the most deserving choices among the selected nominees. They aren’t meant as predictions and they don’t include films that weren’t nominated.

Best Picture – Curious Case of Benjamin Button narrowly wins over Slumdog Millionaire for me. I liked both a lot but the former moved me more. Milk finishes third.

Best Leading Actor – Frank Langella. When I first started watching this movie, I had my typical biopic problem where I couldn’t get into the movie because there’s this actor trying to be Richard Nixon. By the end, I was struggling to picture what the real Nixon looked like because Langella had so transformed himself into this character. I thought it was such a tremendous performance, although I certainly will have no problem with either of the other excellent frontrunners, Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke, winning.

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger. His performance was every bit as good as the advanced hype. I also thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was excellent. I don’t get Michael Shannon’s inclusion, though. I thought his unbelievable over-the-top performance did significantly more to detract from Revolutionary Road than to enhance it.

Best Leading Actress – Kate Winslet. I’m not blown away with the choices, to be perfectly honest. Great actresses, not necessarily their best performances. I thought Winslet controlled her movie in a positive way, so she takes it.

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams. Doubt was a movie for actors, and Amy Adams to me stole the show from two phenomenal co-stars. Her performance was the emotional heart of the movie. Marisa Tomei to me is the best runner-up.

Best Director – David Fincher. This usually goes to the winner of the best picture, and given I’m a big fan of Fincher I have no problem with him winning whatsoever. I also like Danny Boyle a lot so he’s a fine second choice in my book.

Monday, February 09, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/09/09 from Oakland, CA.

The Big News: No Way Out is this Sunday, and I’ve got a feeling Mike Knox is taking home the title.

Show Analysis:

Ric Flair came out to start the show. He said he misses the fans, but has no regrets. Chris Jericho interrupted, saying he wouldn’t let Flair waste any more airtime. They showed footage of Flair and Jericho hugging at Flair’s farewell last year, and Jericho said if he knew Flair would sell out to every two bit promoter in America he would have slapped him instead. Flair called Jericho a condescending punk and said he would never wrestle again. Jericho replied that Flair always has to be in the spotlight. Flair conceded that, because he likes meeting the fans, telling stories and being the Nature Boy.

Jericho said he is a locker room leader and the wrestlers respect him more than Flair. Jericho asserted that Flair will return because he can’t leave with his dignity. Jericho said that the point of the Wrestler is that the fans don’t really care. Jericho told Flair to stop letting the fans leech off him. Flair refused. Jericho then told Flair to do his tricks for the audience. Flair punched him and Jericho walked off. This was a great segment. Both men did a tremendous job and the issues involved felt very real and believable.

Jillian Hall and Beth Phoenix beat Kelly Kelly and Melina. Melina dominated the entirety of the brief match before Rosa interfered and Beth hit the glam slam for the pin. This was one of those matches that are so brief it is counterproductive. Beth and Melina will meet in a women’s title rematch next week.

Randy Orton came out with Legacy. Orton said that nobody can stand in his way. He claimed that he wasn’t going to punk Stephanie McMahon last week, but rather was just showing what could have happened if he wanted it to happen. Orton said that he wants Stephanie around so he can see her look when he takes out another member of her family. He closed by saying that the Undertaker won’t be able to beat him, so what chance does Shane have?

Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes beat Cryme Tyme. The heels worked over Shad briefly. Shad tagged JTG, who came in with clotheslines. He hit a face buster that is labeled the mug shot. However, he was then distracted by DiBiase. That allowed Rhodes to hit the roll of the dice for the pin.

Chris Jericho, Kane and Mike Knox beat John Cena, Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio. Kofi hit a frog crossbody and high double leg drop on Kane. Cena gave Knox shoulder blocks, a Cena slam and a five knuckle shuffle. Kane broke up an FU attempt with a punch and the heels worked over Cena. Jericho hit a DDT and Kane hit a side slam before Cena gave Kane the FU and made the tag. Rey came in with a springboard senton, huracanrana and bulldog on Jericho. Rey tagged Kofi, who went for a springboard but fell into a botched code breaker for the pin. This was a fun match, although the finish took it down a little.

Mark Henry beat Shawn Michaels via DQ. This was JBL’s “tune-up” for Michaels. Within seconds a chair ended up in the ring and there was a DQ. Michaels sent Henry’s face into the chair with the superkick. JBL after the match told Michaels to bring his wife to No Way Out so she can see Michaels lose it all. This match was so short they might as well not have bothered.

CM Punk retained the Intercontinental title over William Regal in another way too short match. Regal used some punches, elbows and hit an exploder before he was caught with the GTS out of nowhere for the pin.

Undertaker beat Randy Orton via DQ. Undertaker clotheslined Orton over the top. Orton came back with a power slam, but Undertaker took over with snake eyes, a big boot and leg drop. He went for the choke slam, but Orton escaped. Orton went for the RKO but Undertaker escaped. Undertaker then had Orton up for the tombstone, at which point Priceless ran in for the DQ. They beat up Undertaker three-on-one until Shane McMahon made the save. Shane helped clean house with Undertaker, and then he gave DiBiase the Van Terminator.

Final Thoughts:

This was a strong show with good build and angles. Chris Jericho, Ric Flair and Randy Orton in particular really held their own. The one big negative, and this has been true of Raw for ages but it really stuck out to me today, is that they have these matches that are way, way too short. They would be better off just booking one or two less segments, and using that time to add to all the other matches on the show. Every match doesn’t need to go ten minutes, obviously. But when you have four matches on one show that go a collective eight minutes, matches in general come across like pointless contrivances. It makes it harder to sell pay-per-views.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Tested Positive for Steroids

Will sportswriters now finally accept that they can't just try to cut the steroid bad guys out of the game and pretend the steroids era never happened?

As awareness of the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs increased over the past 4-5 years, I noticed mainstream sportswriters making more and more sense when talking about the subject. They started to acknowledge the scope of the problem for the first time; that they were complicit in ignoring it just like Bud Selig and the the rest; that there isn't an easy solution to make the problem go away permanently; etc.

But the one enduring, idiotic trend amongst sportswriters is this idea that you "punish" the evil steroid doers by not voting for them in the Hall of Fame and you only let in the "pure" guys. Of course, the problem is you have no idea who the pure guys were, and under those standards the guys who get in are based more on luck than anything else.

I'd heard as recently as a few days ago Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser talking about keeping Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame. Well, maybe they'll just add Alex Rodriguez to that list now, and instead put in the likes of Jeff Bagwell and Randy Johnson with the **NAKED ASSUMPTION** that they were actually clean.

My thinking is that baseball writers have to come to grips with the fact that just about everyone was on steroids in the homerun era. That doesn't mean the best players still weren't the best, and why should they be punished for playing by the rules that were handed them by the powerbrokers, fans and journalists of their sport? Compensate for the fact there was more offense by giving more credit to impressive pitching stats than impressive hitting stats and recognize the best. I know some people are going to enjoy villifying A-Rod (and I don't particularly like the guy), but how many names have to come out before people finally accept that it isn't evidence of individual, but rather, institutional corruption?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/02/09 from St. Louis, MO.

The Big News: The quality of Raw did a 180 this week.

Show Analysis:

I’m feeling under the weather so this is going to be relatively bare bones. Shane McMahon came out to start the show. He didn’t get much of a reaction but at least he wasn’t booed in Randy Orton’s hometown. Shane said that Orton’s legal team approached him last week after Raw and wanted a no holds barred match between Shane and Orton at No Way Out. Shane agreed. He said he would take Orton out so that Orton won’t be able to compete at No Way Out.

Randy Orton came out to cheers and RKO chants. He said that he let Orton beat him up last week. He told Legacy not to fight back because the wrestlers would jump in and it would be 20 on 3. At No Way Out he said he will be able to do whatever he wants to Shane without consequences. Legacy tried to jump Shane but he fought them off with a Singapore cane. This was an effective opening segment.

William Regal and Layla beat CM Punk and Mickie James. Layla distracted Punk, but Mickie took her out. That gave Regal the chance to knock Punk off the apron to the floor and as Punk was reentering the ring he got a running knee to the head for the pin. Next week Regal and Punk will wrestle in a title rematch.

Cryme Tyme beat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase via DQ for intent to double team. Seriously. The heels worked over JTG, who tagged Shad. Shad came in with a back drop, scoop slam and money money elbow. But Priceless was about to double team Shad, so they were disqualified. It’s nowhere to near the worst finish in Raw history because it did no harm, but this was most certainly among the dumbest. DiBiase and Rhodes gave Shad a double team implant DDT.

They ran a video package on Mickey Rourke. They showed Rourke saying that he wouldn’t wrestle Chris Jericho. Jericho came to the ring and said he respects Rourke for his acting and the fact he backed out of the match with Jericho in a cowardly fashion. Jericho said that the Wrestler is flawed because it focuses on legends hanging around for one last paycheck. He said the Ram character was based on Ric Flair. He bashed Flair for doing autograph shows in high school gyms and tell all interviews to low rent websites. How dare he talk that way about High Spots! He said these Hall of Famers should have their status revoked.

Cena interrupted Jericho, and called Jericho an idiot. He noted how Jericho is reprimanding wrestlers for holding on to their past when he is always bringing up being the first undisputed champion. Cena said Jericho is always violating things Cena respects and believes in, and that he would shut up Jericho in the main event of Raw.

This was an excellent segment. Jericho again cut a great promo. He’s so good at finding points about faces to criticize that feel very real but don’t bury the face and instead make you want to see Jericho get his. If I had one point of criticism it’s saying the Wrestler was based on Flair, when it’s been publicly stated many times that it was based on Greg Valentine. Even if people don’t know that, logically it doesn’t make sense since at the time the screenplay was written and the movie was filmed Flair was still wrestling for WWE and hardly doing the stuff that the Ram character was doing. Ric Flair will be on Raw next week, so we’ll see where they go with this.

Kane and Mike Knox beat Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio. The beard really does wonders for Knox. The heels worked on Kofi with a Knox big boot and Kane side slam. Kofi hit an enzuigiri and tagged Rey. Rey came in with a springboard leg drop. Kofi went for a pescado on Knox but landed into a back breaker, which was a cool spot. In the ring Rey went for the 619 but Knox caught him. Rey fought off Knox but was caught coming into the ring by a choke slam for the pin. This had a sloppy start but settled into a good match.

Shane and Stephanie were walking backstage when they were jumped by Legacy. Legacy beat up Shane. Orton was about to punt Shane but then he saw Stephanie and decided to punt her instead. Shane dove in front of Stephanie and took the kick to his body.

Beth Phoenix beat Candice Michelle. Rosa is now labeled an intern. Uh oh. Beth hit a slingshot suplex and applied an over the shoulder back breaker. Candice hit a springboard kick for two and went for the unprettier but Beth reversed into the glam slam for the pin. Rosa threw Candice out of the ring after the match.

JBL did a performance appraisal of Shawn Michaels. JBL said he fulfilled his end of the bargain, but Michaels didn’t fulfill his end in making sure JBL was champion going into WrestleMania. Michaels said that was JBL’s fault. JBL threatened to fire Michaels and asked Michaels if he wanted that. Michaels said that he wanted to kick JBL’s teeth down his throat. JBL said if Michaels did that he would lose a job and become a deadbeat. Really?

JBL offered a deal: JBL and Michaels will wrestle at No Way Out. If Michaels wins he will get all the money he is owed over the next year, but if JBL wins he owns Michaels’ likeness and name and he will work for JBL for the rest of his life and get nothing. Michaels accepted. JBL repeatedly poked Michaels and called him broken down, and then slapped Michaels. Michaels just left.

This was pretty much the JBL/Michaels feud in a nutshell. Both men performed very well but it made absolutely no sense. See, there’s this thing called the thirteenth amendment, and slavery is not in fact legal in this country any more. Even if you enter into a bet and lose it, a court is not going to force you to work the rest of your life for someone without pay.

Kane met with Stephanie backstage. They reached an agreement. Kane will get a spot in the Elimination Chamber and in exchange Kane’s brother the Undertaker will wrestle Randy Orton on Raw next week.

John Cena beat Chris Jericho in a good main event. Jericho brawled early and hit a bulldog and springboard dropkick. Cena used a belly to belly, Cena slam and went for the five knuckle shuffle. Jericho countered into the Walls but Cena escaped. Jericho hit a lionsault but Cena came back with the Cena slam and five knuckle. He went for the FU (now called the attitude adjuster), but Jericho escaped. Jericho went for the code breaker but Cena escaped. Cena went for the FU again but Jericho escaped into the Walls. Cena then reversed into the STFU.

Final Thoughts:

This was a much, much better show than last week. It was entertaining and built issues well.