Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/30/09 from Dallas, TX.

The Big News: WrestleMania is Sunday. So is WEC.

Show Analysis:

Alicia Fox, Brie Bella, Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly, Gail Kim, Maria, Mickie James, Melina and Tiffany beat Natalya, Jillian Hall, Katie Lea, Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix, Layla, Rosa Mendes and Maryse. This was one of those non-matches where they do like two moves and then someone (Tiffany) rolls someone else (Katie Lea) up for the pin. Tiffany winning was kind of odd since I doubt even half of the Raw audience even knows who she is.

This was mostly just a backdrop for Santino Marella anyway. Santino came out in a robe. He still wants in the women’s battle royal and said he is an equal rights pioneer. He then took off the robe and danced around in some skimpy attire as the women laughed. Beth was annoyed and all the other women jumped him. They need to find something new and more substantive for Santino to do, because his act is losing steam.

Chris Jericho beat Jerry Lawler. They traded punches and kicks, with Jericho gaining control. Lawler eventually pulled down the strap and made a comeback with punches. All of a sudden Jericho caught him in the Walls for the submission. After the match Lawler came back with a punch. Jericho left, noting he already beat Lawler. He then vowed to beat the legends at Mania. I’m surprised they didn’t have Ric Flair cut a promo about his watch.

Edge confronted John Cena backstage, and said that they would need to take out Big Show together or they would be sitting ducks. Cena said he’d rather lose on his own than win with Edge’s help. Rey Mysterio beat JBL in a non-title match. JBL worked him over. Rey came back with an enzuigiri, 619 and springboard splash for the pin.

Big Show beat John Cena. Show dominated with power moves. He stood on Cena, brushed off Cena’s moves, threw him into the barricade and choked Cena. He went for the choke slam, but Cena escaped and went for the STF. He couldn’t apply it. Show went for the knockout punch but Cena ducked under and went for the FU. Show blocked that and hit the choke slam for the clean pin. Edge jumped Cena afterwards. I’m glad this was just focused on the match and not the love triangle.

Shawn Michaels arrived in a hearse and appeared in the ring in front of a casket. He said that he’s not afraid and that Undertaker’s streak will end. He noted that Undertaker hasn’t been able to beat him, and that he has played psychological games without retribution. He’ll never get his comeuppance, he crowed. The lights went out and Undertaker appeared in the ring, but Michaels was gone. Undertaker destroyed the set. He then slowly sensed Michaels might be in the casket. He opened it, but Michaels wasn’t there. Taker turned around and Michaels came from under the casket with sweet chin music and a bunch of crotch chops. Michaels did a great job here.

Kane won an eight man battle royal with the Money in the Bank participants. Mark Henry threw out Finlay. Hornswoggle then distracted Henry, allowing Kane to dump him. Kane threw out MVP and Benjamin together. Punk dumped Kingston. Christian threw Punk over the top, but Punk held on. Kane then grabbed Christian and tossed him over the top to take out Punk for the win. I figured Kane would win here, since everyone will figure the winner isn’t winning Money in the Bank and nobody expects Kane to win that anyway.

Raw ended with a compelling segment that worked well on its own but didn’t make a ton of sense if you’ve been watching the show every week. Randy Orton came out and recapped the history of Evolution. He said at that time he vowed that he would ruin HHH’s life, but that he needed to wait until he could assemble a group and HHH had more than ever before to take. They then aired a series of videos that made it seem like Orton won the Rumble, targeted HHH, and then sought to destroy HHH’s family as well.

The only problem with this is that the whole start of the angle a few weeks ago was that Orton was scared of HHH and wanted to wrestle for Edge’s title. An angry HHH then browbeat Orton into accepting a match with him and Orton only accepted because HHH agreed not to touch Orton between then and WrestleMania.

Orton said he did all those horrible things to get HHH to attack him (so why’d you ask for the stipulation that he couldn’t touch you?), because then HHH would feel in control and he could counterattack (so if HHH didn’t attack you in your home you couldn’t have attacked him 3 on 1 the next week?). He further explained that the whole IED thing was a fake (since it doesn’t fit with the new story).

Orton continued by saying that HHH can’t bring his sledgehammer to WrestleMania, because he talked to Vickie Guerrero and if HHH is disqualified at WrestleMania he loses the title. Wait, aren’t the McMahons ultimately in charge? Wasn’t Vickie appointed by them? And if she does have this power, why haven’t the McMahons fired her?

Anyway, long story short, Orton told a great story here, but it made absolutely no sense if you’ve been following the show for the past two months. This was staggeringly illogical for a WrestleMania main event, and yet another example of how they really need long term planning.

The segment picked up with the arrival of a limousine. Ted DiBiase, Cody Rhodes and security came out to protect Orton. Vince McMahon’s music played, and he strutted out for a fight. Then Shane McMahon’s music played, and he joined Vince on the stage. Finally, HHH’s music came on. They all looked at each other and marched down the stage towards the ring. “Oh my God, it’s on,” Lawler exclaimed. The McMahons beat up security, reached Legacy, and a gigantic brawl broke out to close the show. The setup of this showdown was tremendous.

Final Thoughts:

This show was light on angles. They clearly figure the groundwork is laid for the show, and focused here on recapping the programs and putting the final touches on the key feuds. This was a well constructed show overall, but on its own it didn’t do a lot to make you want to see WrestleMania. Then again, the angles for Michaels/Undertaker and Orton/HHH were pretty good and there’s not a lot you could do to get people all that excited about anything else by this stage of the game. WWE dug its own grave in regards to WrestleMania a long time ago. Regardless of the build, it should be a fun show as WrestleMania always is, and I hope everyone traveling to Houston has a good time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/23/09 from Kansas City, MO.

The Big News: Raw closed with one of the better angles you’re ever going to see.

Show Analysis:

Ric Flair was in the ring to start the show for the big heat segment for Chris Jericho’s match at WrestleMania. Flair accepted Jericho’s challenge on behalf of Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper. Flair said he would be in their corner. Chris Jericho appeared on the screen. He posited that they are 25 years past their primes and he is a bigger star than they ever were. Jericho said that nobody cares about Flair any more, and came to the ring.

Jericho in the ring noted that he knew the legends would accept because they are afraid of leaving the spotlight and ending up nobodies. Jericho said his beatdown of the legends will be uncomfortable and they’ll be remembered as the has-beens who were brutalized, humiliated and euthanized by Jericho. Flair responded that the legends won’t let themselves be judged by punks like Jericho. He said he will be proud to stand by his Hall of Fame brothers and Mickey Rourke as Jericho is defeated.

Jericho punched Flair. He proceeded to give Flair a long and brutal beating. He tore off Flair’s suit. Flair bled. Jericho threw Flair into the steps and beat him up at the announce table. Jericho eventually hit Flair with a video camera. He then took off Flair’s watch and destroyed it.

Flair and Jericho both did a tremendous job here, but the segment didn’t have the intended reaction with me. I wasn’t angry at Jericho’s character. I just found the whole thing sad to watch. Flair looked at old and immobile as I’ve ever seen him, and it seemed desperate to put him in this position. An additional problem is that it’s hard to build heat for a 3 on 1 handicap match with three old men against a heel. The whole scenario just emphasizes that they don’t have it any more.

I think this is a case where less would have been more. To me, the most poignant moment in the segment was Jericho destroying Flair’s watch. But after they destroyed the watch they just cut out and never explained the significance of that or emphasized it. I think they just should have had Jericho punch Flair and break his watch. Then they could focus on Flair’s emotional reaction rather than the fact he’s in his undershirt bleeding from the head.

Jeff Hardy beat Dolph Ziggler in an extreme rules match. Dolph got in his weekly move. This week it was hitting Jeff with a trash can. Jeff then took over. He dropped Dolph off the ropes onto the trash can. He followed with the twist of fate on the trash can. He nailed Dolph with a series of chair shots, and finally finished Dolph with the twist of fate and swanton on the chair. Jeff after the match said that wasn’t extreme but what happens to Matt at Mania will be.

John Cena had a “get well card” for Vickie, which was another of those cutesy Cena promos with lame jokes that make so many people despise him. It was just a bunch of dreadful jokes with Cena smiling like he was so unbelievably clever. I got to watch the Edge DVD that WWE put out this weekend, and it had a package of Edge and Christian comedy vignettes from 2000. It was absolutely hilarious, and reminded me that WWE comedy doesn’t have to be so lame if you’ve got competent comedy writers.

Christian, Kofi Kingston, MVP and CM Punk beat Shelton Benjamin, Finlay, Kane and Mark Henry in an absolutely bizarre 8 man tag. Finlay was just on the heel side with no explanation or pay off. As for the match, it didn’t build at all. As in, I can’t recall since the beginning of WWE Raw a match that had so little build. Nobody got heat on anyone. It was just guys doing a bunch of moves all over the place with no rhyme or reason. With the odd pairings, I couldn’t keep up with who was attacking who or why.

Eventually Christian won with the kill switch. Then Finlay laid out everyone with a ladder and celebrated as they played his music. It was like they think people want Money in the Bank to be an utter clusterfuck devoid of an iota of psychology and they set out to prove in this match it will be.

Randy Orton backstage cut a promo. He noted that HHH accused him of cowardice, but said that he’s not the one attacking people in their homes with a weapon. Orton said that HHH upped the ante and now he would do something that would make the previous assaults on HHH’s family look tame. Orton concluded that no one will be able to call him a coward, and that HHH has brought this upon himself.

Big Show beat Edge via DQ. Edge went after Show’s knee, but Show hit a head butt and dropped Edge’s neck onto the ropes. Show tied Edge into the ropes and was going to punch Edge, but Chavo Guerrero got in the ring to ask him not to, and the referee immediately called for a DQ. Show went after Chavo. Edge got untangled and went for the spear, but hit Chavo accidentally. Show then used the knockout punch on Edge. This was one of those utter crap finishes that just make matches in general seem like pointless contrivances.

Rey Mysterio beat William Regal. JBL brought Regal to the ring and did commentary. Regal dropped Rey on the apron and worked him over with punches. Rey came back with kicks, the 619 and a springboard splash. They only gave these guys three minutes or so, which was so disappointing.

Undertaker came to the ring, and said that the last time he wrestled Michaels, Michaels spent five years at home trying to recover. Undertaker added that when Michaels is questioning his faith he needs to remember that he opened the gates to hell himself. At that point, a video package aired of Shawn Michaels in a cemetery. Seriously.

They played spooky, melodramatic music and he talked about Undertaker’s past victims. Michaels dug a grave for Undertaker, with a tombstone that said 16-1. Michaels then kicked the tombstone in the grave. He said rest in piece in a gravely voice and started throwing dirt in the grave. This was laugh out loud funny in terms of how ridiculous and hokey it was. It was also a gigantic step in the wrong direction for the only WrestleMania match that has actually been clicking. What a disaster of a segment.

Mickie James beat Santino. Santino wanted to be Miss WrestleMania, and was told he could be in the battle royal if he beat Mickie James with one hand tied behind his back. Mickie quickly tied his other hand behind his back. Santino kicked Mickie and dropped his knees on her. He got on the floor and tried to roll over her, but that didn’t work. Santino then tried to climb the ropes but it took forever with no hands and Mickie caught him with a kick in the head for the pin. Jerry Lawler then challenged Chris Jericho to a match next week.

Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase were supposed to wrestle HHH, but the match never happened. They immediately double teamed HHH. HHH sent DiBiase into the steps and Orton into the table. He went under the ring for a sledgehammer, but Cody Rhodes was there and put handcuffs on him. That was a cool spot. Legacy handcuffed HHH to the top rope and triple teamed him. Orton grabbed the microphone and said there was only one person who could save HHH and she had better hurry.

Orton got the sledgehammer and was going to hit HHH with it when Stephanie ran out to plead with him. HHH yelled at her to stay back, but she came closer to Orton to ask him to stop. Orton stared at her menacingly, and as she turned around to escape DiBiase and Rhodes were waiting.

Orton grabbed her and gave her a DDT right in front of HHH. HHH tried to pull away her unconscious body, so Orton attacked him again. He then grabbed the sledgehammer and teased hitting Stephanie with it. Instead, he dropped it and gave unconscious Stephanie one cold kiss on the lips. Orton stood up and stared at HHH with evil eyes while HHH was held back by handcuffs. Orton then hit HHH in the head with the sledgehammer. This was a phenomenal segment.

Final Thoughts:

I think too often shows get praised or ripped for very narrow reasons. There will be one really good or really bad segment and the rest of the show will be unfairly viewed under the same lens. Last week’s show got a lot of criticism, but to me it was far from an awful show. The problem with that show was mainly that it had the unfortunate job of fully announcing and fleshing out a disappointing WrestleMania card, and it got scapegoated for that.

This week is kind of the reverse. I suspect it’s going to be perceived by many to be a step forward, when to me it was overall a much worse show than last week. It had worse wrestling, worse build, and a number of genuinely counterproductive segments. Luckily for this week’s show, it had one hell of a saving grace.

The final segment between HHH and Randy Orton is as good of a wrestling angle as you’re going to get. Most of the credit goes to Orton, who was as menacing as a heel in that segment as any heel I’ve ever seen. Orton’s methodical sadism was just captivating. It wasn’t even what he did, but the way that he did it.

Pro wrestling has produced so much television over the past decade that fans have seen it all. So there’s often a temptation to do really big angles as a way to get people’s attention. You have a gigantic beating with all sorts of weapons, when in fact the best tact is often to go in the other direction and to make every little thing count. Orton ultimately just gave Stephanie a DDT and a kiss. But the way he did it made it feel almost vulgar and lascivious to watch. That’s a testament to the way that you sell all the little things. It reminded me a lot of Jake Roberts at his best.

WrestleMania needed a shot in the arm, and if it was possible for an angle not involving an outside force to have that effect, this was that angle. And as bad as much of the rest of the show was, it’s unlikely after the Orton/HHH segment that many people are even going to remember.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/16/09 from San Antonio, TX.

The Big News: We’ve only got two more Raws until WrestleMania, and the card is seemingly pretty much set.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels and Undertaker beat Vladimir Kozlov and JBL. The heels worked over Michaels, who made the tag to Undertaker. Undertaker went to town on JBL with punches, clotheslines, old school, snake eyes, a big boot and a leg drop. He set up for the choke slam, but Michaels tagged himself in and hit sweet chin music for the pin. An angry Undertaker chased Michaels up the ramp. Michaels seemingly left, but when Undertaker turned around he was hit with sweet chin music. This was a good start to the show.

Backstage, Vickie Guerrero met with Edge. Edge forgave Vickie, much to her surprise. Vickie claimed that Show forced himself on her because he’s so big. Edge said that Show used her, and that what Edge and Vickie have is real. They hugged, and Edge appeared to subtly smirk. Elsewhere, Randy Orton said he decided not to press charges against HHH, despite specifically demanding that clause two weeks ago. He’s angry at HHH for last week so he’s going to deal with HHH himself.

Mickie James, Melina and Kelly Kelly beat Layla, Jillian Hall and Beth Phoenix. Kelly blew a kiss to the sky on her way out, which was the primary acknowledgement of Test’s death on the show. The heels got the heat on Mickie, who eventually tagged Melina. Melina hit a Thesz press off the ropes on Beth, but Beth retaliated with a back breaker. A brawl broke out, and in the middle of the brawl Mickie kicked Santino low. Beth went after Mickie, but that gave Melina the opportunity to roll up Beth for the pin.

HHH beat Cody Rhodes in a cage match. HHH used a sledgehammer to keep Ted DiBiase and Randy Orton at bay while the cage lowered. Orton and DiBiase attempted to climb the cage, but HHH threw Rhodes into each of them to knock them off. He then hit Rhodes in the head with the sledgehammer and pinned him.

Rey Mysterio beat Dolph Ziggler. Dolph got in a little offense with a clothesline and punches. Rey took over and won by sending Dolph into the post, hitting a springboard senton, and following that with the 619 and a top rope splash. Rey has apparently issued an Intercontinental title match challenge to JBL for WrestleMania.

Chris Jericho came out for a potential match with Ric Flair. He said that he knows Flair has been waiting to come out retirement, and that Flair is a coward and has been. Flair then made his entrance and said he is retired. Flair said he won’t tarnish his sendoff and that he can’t wrestle, but that he found some men who can.

Jimmy Snuka, Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper came out and they surrounded the ring. Jericho tried to escape but was caught by a Flair punch. Jericho challenged Snuka, Piper and Steamboat to a handicap match at Mania, with Flair and Mickey Rourke watching. I’m glad they’re not having Flair wrestle, but what a colossal disappointment that match is.

CM Punk, Kofi Kingston and MVP beat Shelton Benjamin, Mark Henry and Kane. Christian and Finlay did commentary for the match, while the thoroughly irritating Hornswoggle made all sorts of annoying noises. I was just begging someone to set Hornswoggle on fire or push him off a bridge by the end of this.

The heels isolated Kofi Kingston. Kane gave him a side slam and Benjamin applied the abdominal stretch. Kingston got the tag to Punk, who gave Benjamin a springboard clothesline, swinging neck breaker and high knee. MVP and Benjamin horribly botched a spot, and Punk hit the GTS on Benjamin for the pin. Money in the Bank is supposed to be about workrate, and this match certainly didn’t get me psyched up about the potential for a classic bout.

Backstage, Big Show told Vickie not to believe Edge. Vickie said Show is using her. Show said Vickie pursued him and that they both know he’s anatomically superior to Edge. Hey now! Show said that Edge doesn’t love Vickie, but that he does. It is odd for one of the top Mania matches to be built around a love triangle involving Edge, Vickie Guerrero and Big Show. HHH left the building with Stephanie McMahon, who was apparently behind the lowering of the cage. At this point, I think they should do the double turn with HHH and Orton sooner rather than later.

Edge and John Cena battled to a no contest in a non-title match. Vickie Guerrero was the special referee, with the stipulation that if Cena touched her, he would be out of the Mania title match. Cena hit a fisherman buster but Vickie wouldn’t count. Cena hit the Cena slam and went for the five knuckle shuffle, but Vickie fell on top of Edge. When she finally moved Cena gave Edge the five knuckle anyway.

Cena went for the FU, but Vickie pulled Edge off. Cena then applied the STFU but Vickie grabbed Cena and tried to pull him off. At that point Big Show came out. Show and Edge attacked Cena together. They tied Cena into the ropes, Vickie slapped him, and Show hit him with hard punches. Then Edge abruptly speared Show, and that was it.

Final Thoughts:

This show was fine, but it felt just like the normal build for any pay-per-view. That’s the problem when you don’t set up any matches in advance and don’t shell out for an outside gimmick performer. Hopefully WWE learns its lesson and next year it begins setting up WrestleMania matches well in advance like usual. Or hell, I won’t complain if they get back to that long before then.

Long term planning in such a no-brainer in pro wrestling. It’s easier on the writers, because they don’t have to begin constructing everything anew every few weeks. It’s more interesting for the fans, who can follow more complex storylines that unfold over a longer period of time. And it makes more money, because fans are waiting to see certain matches long before they are paid off.

The bottom line is that wrestling pay-per-views should exist because they are a needed platform for the matches that will settle issues. Instead, it usually feels like the matches exist because they are needed to fill a pay-per-view. WrestleMania is usually the exception, but this year even WrestleMania feels thrown together at the last minute. Probably because it was.

One final point. If WWE knew that it didn’t have a particularly marketable card for this year’s WrestleMania, they really should have made more of an effort to try to elevate some new wrestlers. WWE has had trouble creating new stars, and yet on the biggest platform of the year, not a single wrestler is slotted higher on the card than they have been before. The same main eventers are wrestling the same main eventers.

WrestleMania this year is going to draw almost exclusively on the name, with a little help from Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels and maybe Randy Orton vs. HHH. So why regurgitate the same names in the other feuds? Jack Swagger vs. John Cena, CM Punk vs. Edge, Evan Bourne vs. Chris Jericho and Low Ki vs. Rey Mysterio wouldn’t have done any fewer buys than what they have and at least then you would have set up a bunch of younger stars for future success. WWE is like that sports franchise with a roster that can’t win the championship, but that still refuses to give playing time to the stars of the future.

Finally, a few non-Raw related notes. First, I’ll be on Fight Network Radio tomorrow a little after 3PM Eastern/12PM Pacific discussing pro wrestling and MMA. You can listen on the internet at:


Second, my most recent MMA piece on Strikeforce and Showtime is up at:


Finally, everyone’s invited to join a Yahoo March Madness group with me. The group ID# is 148422 and the password is “mm”. Have a good week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/09/09 from Jacksonville, FL.

The Big News: Raw was headlined by a reenactment of Friday the 13th Part XII: Hunter’s Revenge.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels came out to start the show. He put over the streak, but said he’s done well at WrestleMania himself. He said he respects Undertaker but isn’t afraid of him, and that nothing lasts forever. An Undertaker video played and Undertaker appeared behind Michaels. Michaels realized without even turning around.

Undertaker said Michaels’ arrogance has clouded his judgment and that he will fall. Michaels responded that he shouldn’t have to qualify to wrestle anyone at Mania, and that he can’t wait. Undertaker said Michaels is dreaming and he should worry about his soul. He added that Michaels should be careful what he wishes for because he will “rest.” At that point, Michaels interjected and said he will rest comfortably knowing he did the impossible. He said Undertaker has never beaten him and he never will. This was a good segment.

JBL won the Intercontinental Title from CM Punk. Punk got a big reaction. They said JBL has big plans for Mania, so apparently some angle is coming. Punk hit a high knee and tope. JBL responded with a yakuza kick and fall away slam. Punk made his comeback with a springboard clothesline, high knee and bulldog. He went for the GTS, but JBL raked his eyes and hit the clothesline from hell for the pin. Backstage, JBL agreed to do something for Vickie Guerrero in return for this title shot, although it wasn’t specified what that will be.

Randy Orton and his wife were shown at their home in St. Louis, and they announced HHH would be wrestling Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in a handicap match at the close of the show. Have you figured out the ending to the show yet? They sold that HHH received one of the worst beatings in years on Smackdown, but apparently he only needed three days to recover. Orton said that he will keep taking a little out of HHH, leaving just enough so he can defend the title at Mania.

Maryse beat Melina. The Raw and Smackdown women were at ringside. Melina hit a Thesz press off the ropes, punches, and dropped her knees on Maryse’s abdomen. However, she charged into the corner and missed, allowing Maryse to cover her for the pin. This was much better than most recent Melina matches. There was a big brawl after the match with the faces clearing the ring. They announced a 25 woman battle royal at Mania with women from Raw, Smackdown, ECW and the past. The winner will be crowned Miss WrestleMania. I always thought that was Rockin’ Robin.

Edge and Big Show had a contract signing. Edge talked about attending WrestleMania VI. He said that Show is better than Warrior and he is better than Hogan, so they should make history and have an even bigger classic. Show agreed, and they shook hands. John Cena then came out and interrupted.

Vickie said she invited Cena and that it was only fair that he compete for the title at Mania. Cena said it was time to tell the truth. Vickie begged him not to, but instead of saying that Show was fooling around with Vickie he said that he was in love with Vickie. Everyone was stunned. Edge told Vickie to tear up the contract, but she wouldn’t do it.

At this point, I loved the segment. I loved how the insincere heels were being so polite to each other only to have the face come out and screw everything up for them. I loved how they planted all the seeds so the fans would realize Cena knew about Vickie and Show, but trusted the fans’ intelligence enough that they didn’t have to spell it out.

I loved the idea of Cena in the coming weeks simultaneously tormenting Vickie by holding this secret over her head and tormenting Edge, who thinks he may be hooking up with his wife. And I loved the idea of building up that tension until Edge explodes and finally finds out. It seemed like a fun angle that they could easily carry all the way through to a WrestleMania climax.
Well, that all ended in a hurry. On the entry way, Cena just admitted that he didn’t love Vickie, and instead showed video of Show and Vickie talking about their affair and making out. Needless to say, I absolutely hated this turn. They had an angle they could have really milked, and they paid it off in about a minute and a half. They implicitly acknowledged they have no faith in their fans’ ability to understand an angle that they don’t spell out in the most explicit terms.

Moreover, the turn of events made little sense. Why would Cena just spill this information out, when he could continue to hold it over Vickie’s head until very close to WrestleMania? And why wouldn’t Vickie just tear up the contract after he threw away his leverage?

Kofi Kingston beat Chris Jericho in a Money in the Bank qualifier. Jerry Lawler was again really digging into Jericho. Kingston hit a springboard crossbody and side Ghanan leg sweep. He set up for the high double leg drop, but Jericho stopped him and went for the Walls. Kingston flipped out, but Jericho cut him off with an enzuigiri. Kingston fought back with a high double leg drop but Jericho blocked trouble in paradise and applied the Walls.

Ric Flair then came out to distract Jericho. That allowed Kingston to hit trouble in paradise for the pin. That means Money in the Bank is Kane, Mark Henry, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, CM Punk and (SPOILER) Christian. I hope those guys can pull it off, because they’re missing some ring generals to hold the match together.

Orton in St. Louis said he wasn’t at Raw not because he is afraid of HHH but because he might lose control of himself and take out HHH before Mania. Jericho backstage said Flair took away his WrestleMania moment, so he challenged Flair to un-retire and wrestle him next week on Raw. I don’t see that happening. Hopefully Flair doesn’t return at all. I don’t think it would add many buys, and it would just make Flair look like a liar after the send-off they gave him last year.

They announced the newest member of the Hall of Fame. The class of 2009 is now Steve Austin, Bill Watts, the Funks, Ricky Steamboat and Koko B. Ware. That’s sort of like a baseball hall of fame class of Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Greg Maddux and Orlando Merced. Or a basketball hall of fame class of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and Ricky Davis. Honky Tonk Man is inducting Koko.

Rey Mysterio, Christian and Finlay beat Kane, Miz and John Morrison. The heels worked over Christian, who tagged Finlay. Finlay came in with a bunch of clotheslines and tagged Rey. Rey landed a springboard senton, springboard crossbody and top rope huracanrana. He set up for the 619 but Kane caught him by the throat. Finlay and Christian used a double clothesline to deposit Kane out of the ring and Rey hit the 619 and west coast pop on Morrison for the pin. This was a very fun little match.

Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes were in the ring for the main event. HHH’s music played twice but of course he didn’t come out. Orton cut a promo on HHH in St. Louis when someone knocked on the door. Orton had his wife get the door only to realize it was of course HHH. If you want to build around a swerve, the swerve shouldn’t be obvious in the first five minutes of the show. Things got worse from there, as the segment quickly degenerated into total camp.

HHH broke down the door with a sledgehammer, looking absolutely ridiculous with his leather jacket in a suburban setting. He chased after Orton in the house, which was total comedy. Orton seemingly got away, so HHH lurked around looking for Orton like in a horror movie. From time to time someone would pop out of their hiding place screaming in terror.

Eventually it became obvious that Orton was under the stairs, but for some reason despite Orton making multiple noises HHH couldn’t figure it out so Orton jumped him from behind. HHH beat up Orton and threw him through the front window of Orton’s house. Burglars be aware that the Ortons use light, breakaway glass in their home. Oh well. HHH was beating up Orton on his front lawn when police arrived. Orton ordered them to throw AJ Styles in jail, and the show ended with a zoom in on HHH in the police car like an episode of Cops. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to take this angle seriously after this segment.

Final Thoughts:

I thought the vast majority of the show was good to very good. Unfortunately, of the angles they shot for the three biggest angles, I thought one was poorly conceived and the other was an outright disaster. I enjoyed the two hours, but I was less interested in Mania in the end, and significantly less interested in the top match.

Monday, March 02, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/02/09 from Boston, MA.

The Big News: WWE continued its drive towards WrestleMania, making clearer the top matches on the show.

Show Analysis:

Jerry Lawler began the show by making an announcement that he said was both the biggest announcement he has made on Raw and one of the biggest matches, if not the biggest, in the history of Raw. What was this historic, epic match? Why, Edge vs. John Cena for the world title.

This was really dumb. First, nobody buys this as some huge match. We’ve seen Cena vs. Edge in a title match on Raw seemingly 8 million times already. Trying to sell the fans on this just makes them think you view them as idiots.

Second, you’ve got your biggest show of the year in a few weeks and announcers should be careful to avoid ludicrous hyperbole that makes you roll your eyes and ignore them. If ever there is a time to be reserved on hype for individual TV shows, it’s now.

Third, wasn’t the whole storyline that Cena was going to hunt down Vickie Guerrero for as long as it took to get his title shot? Usually when you do a storyline like that the heel doesn’t give in within the week. Are they so impatient and fidgety that they can’t even do a six week story now?

Chris Jericho then conducted a segment in the old Piper’s Pit set. He showed the Jimmy Snuka angle, and had Snuka on as a guest. Jericho praised Snuka and his feud with Piper, but noted Snuka is still doing independent dates in his 60. He added that Snuka entered the Rumble last year, selfishly taking a spot of someone who deserved it and could have won. He told Snuka it is time to pack it up and that wrestlers need to be careful not to end up like Snuka.

Jericho asked if Snuka understood, and Snuka said no. So Jericho took out a cocoanut. Snuka took the cocoanut and threatened Jericho. Jericho backed off, saying repeatedly “don’t disgrace yourself.” That’s a tremendous heel line when he’s about to get his comeuppance. Jericho left, and Snuka turned his back for seemingly five minutes like an idiot. Of course Jericho jumped him from behind and beat him down.

This was a marked step down from the other Jericho segments in recent weeks, for two principal reasons. First, they have played off the cocoanut angle so many times over the years it feels terribly stale. Second, Snuka has never been a good talker, and the thing that has been making these segments is not nostalgia but mic work. The segments work much better when Jericho gets verbal pushback. As such, they should be using guys like Arn Anderson and Michael Hayes instead of guys like Snuka. Still, Jericho performed well again and the segment was good.

Kane beat Mike Knox and Rey Mysterio to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank. That’s right. Kane is in, not Rey. Really. The story of the match was that Rey would try to fight off one monster and then the other. Knox threw Rey under the bottom rope, which is a cool spot, and then went after Rey’s back.

Rey came back with a spinning head scissors and went for the 619 on Knox, but Kane caught Rey. Kane kicked Knox out of the ring and went for the choke slam, but Rey escaped and hit the 619 and a springboard senton. Knox broke up the pin and hit a downward spiral on Rey. Kane then hit a choke slam on Knox and covered for the pin. Kane added a choke slam for Rey after the match.

Kelly Kelly and Mickie James beat Beth Phoenix and Jillian Hall. The match was just a backdrop for the build for a Melina vs. Maryse match. Those two did commentary for no apparent reason other than they are going to feud and they couldn’t figure out a more organic way to get there. The heels worked over Kelly, who tagged Mickie. Mickie hit a Thesz press off the top on Jillian. She tagged back Kelly, who hit a top rope sunset flip for the pin. Melina and Maryse bickered on commentary and after the match Maryse gave Melina a DDT on the floor.

Randy Orton and Legacy came out with an army of security and lawyers. Orton challenged the winner of Edge vs. John Cena to a title match. He said that HHH isn’t going to WrestleMania, but rather going to jail because he is pressing charges for assault with a deadly weapon.

At this point I was hating the segment. It’s wrestling. We see assault with a deadly weapon every other week. If you could press charges for this, WWE would need to hire an entirely new roster because everyone on the current roster would be imprisoned. And Randy the Litigator is so much lamer a character than Randy the Viper.

Thankfully, things got much, much better. HHH came out to the ring and got in Orton’s face. He said that after all he has done, Orton needs to beat him at Mania. He said Orton has to avenge the moment that defines his life, the Evolution betrayal. HHH said he is not a good person. He wasn’t happy for Orton’s success and made the decision to take what was his. He said that no Orton can do the same, but instead he runs out of fear because he knows he doesn’t have what it takes. HHH concluded that Orton is still the kid that carried his bags.

A lawyer called for security, but Orton stopped them and said he changed his mind. He said he would face HHH, on the condition HHH doesn’t put his hands on Orton until Mania. HHH agreed. At that point, Orton said it felt great to punt Vince, Shane and especially Stephanie. He said he can still smell Stephanie. HHH got back in the ring and in Orton’s face, but he couldn’t attack. HHH said that the last time they wrestled he broke Orton’s collarbone. HHH added that was business, but this is personal and he will break Orton’s neck. This was a great segment, and HHH in particular was tremendous.

Shawn Michaels beat Vladimir Kozlov. Kozlov got even less of a reaction on Raw than he gets on Smackdown. Kozlov landed some punches. Michaels used a chop block but Kozlov quickly reversed his figure four attempt. Kozlov applied the human torture rack. “It could almost be a submission maneuver,” Michael Cole informed us. Michaels escaped and went for a flying forearm, but ran into a “head butt” for two. Sadly, Kozlov’s head may have missed Michaels by a full two feet.

Michaels came back with an elbow off the top and sweet chin music for the pin. The match was bad, but it had the right finish. I’m glad they’ve stopped the teasing and made it explicitly clear it will be Undertaker vs. Michaels at WrestleMania. Undertaker appeared at the entrance after the match. They announced Bill Watts for the Hall of Fame, with Jim Ross inducting. I hope they give those guys some time to talk.

John Cena beat Edge via DQ. Edge worked over Cena, but Cena came back with shoulder blocks. Cena went for the FU, but Edge escaped and hit an implant DDT for two. Edge knocked Cena off the top rope to the floor and they teased a count out, but Cena got back in at 9. Cena hit a top rope rocker dropper and five knuckle shuffle but Edge blocked the FU and applied the sharpshooter. Cena escaped to the ropes. Edge went for the spear but Cena countered into the STF. Edge got to the ropes.

Edge hit the spear, but Cena kicked out. Edge brought in a title belt at that point. Cena stopped him and went for the FU, but Edge grabbed the belt back from the referee and hit Cena with it for the DQ. After the hyperbole of the opening segment, this was quite the crappy finish.

After the match Vickie announced Big Show as the number one contender for Mania. I guess they felt Edge vs. Cena was too familiar and so they added Show to freshen things up. My philosophy would have been that Edge vs. Cena vs. Show isn’t going to add any interest whatsoever, so why not match Edge and Cena against younger guys and try to elevate them?

Final Thoughts:

This was clearly the worst episode of Raw since No Way Out. I still wouldn’t call it a bad show, because it had some key strong points, but I thought more segments were misses than hits as far as building up WrestleMania. Still, not every show can be a home run, and I do expect the build to continue to be good in the coming weeks.