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:

http://hardcoresportsradio.com/

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

http://www.cbssports.com/mma/story/11496625

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.

12 Comments:

Blogger s1rweeze said...

Just thought I'd note that this will be the first Wrestlemania I won't be watching live since 1998. Like you said Todd, it feels a lot more like some random September pay-per-view or something. I'm sure HBK/UT will be good, but I don't see anything else worth watching live.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on the passing of Test? Just another wrestling death already forgotten?

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why WWE didn't acknowledge Test's passing on the show. Were they afraid of mentioning something, only to have egg on their faces after more details come out, as happened with Benoit?

-Sarah

7:39 AM  
Anonymous SteRDLK said...

The fact there is only 5 or 6 nailed on matches 3 weeks ahead of the biggest show of the year is dreadful

For example, UFC have just had UFC 96 nad have scheduled a couple of matches for UFC 100.

This could well be the worst WrestleMania in my time as a fan (my first Mania was 2000. The matches should start being made after the Royal Rumble, and the night after the Rumble should be when the winner decieds his opponent. The main events should not be based on a love triangle which involves the widow of a hall of famer, and a match between a man who attacked the other mans family.

The matches should be to decide who is the best in the business. Not some rushed storyline.

Why didn't Rey Mysterio challenge JBL on air? Another rushed match between two guys who have nothing better to do, all at the expense of CM Punk.

The on air graphic for the battle royal showed 18 people if I counted correctly, and at least 75% of them are ones who have no talent. If Beth or Maryse doesn't win it is a travesty.

This weeks Raw was abysmal, except for Undertaker and HBK, and Jericho again.

I don't think Jericho will be facing all 3 legends, they will hopefully say next week they they politely reject, but they know somebody who will accept, but we only find out at WrestleMania.

I doubt I will be ordering Mania this year. What a joke the booking is, especially after Rumble and NWO, two excellent events. It will be a sad day when the No Way out is better than the WrestleMania of a calender year.

8:03 AM  
Anonymous The Masterbater said...

WOw Piper, Snuka and Steamboat vs. Jericho. What a wait! This is a pathetic card. The 25th Anniversary should feel special but it doesn't SERVE THEM RIGHT! GOOD hope Wrestlemania fails miserably. They have retread matches for the main events, and whats up with the Money In The Bank Match, I mean freaking slugs like Kane and Mark Fat Henry, how are they going to climb the ladders? Is Vince going to have a big steak or some value meal inside the suitcase so those two hogs have enough motivation to climb the ladder? I don’t get it? Then you have the same ole Shelton who will not win again, and CM Punk who won it last year?? What the hell is up with that?

9:29 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Test very much fits the mold of a young pro wrestling death. Steroid user, probably for a long period of time. Not a great worker, but worked hard more often than not and put some mileage on his body. Washes out of the big time and then is found dead. It's sad, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. I thought they could have done more with Test than they did, but he did lack in the charisma department. As for not acknowledging Test's death, my impression is they're afraid of the Benoit arguments coming out again so they'd rather pretend young deaths don't happen.

I have no idea why they did the Rey/JBL thing the way they did. Can't come up with much of a reason in my head, either.

I sure hope you're right that they don't do the legends vs. Jericho handicap match, but geez, if they have a better replacement you'd think they would have announced it earlier than 2 weeks before the show.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Steve Khan said...

I really liked the stuff with Michaels and Taker. Building a feud becomes very simple when you have two established characters. We've seen that finish before a thousand times (Michaels tagging himself in) but the aftermath was great. Michaels sent a message and the commentators didn't need to sell it.

The rest of the show went downhill from there.

I like the idea of using a young guy against Jericho. Weeks ago I thought they should've announced that Austin was returning to Raw, but without specifying the reason. Then Flair says he won't come out of retirement to face Jericho, but he knows someone who will (Austin). Since Austin won't be there, which is a shame, they should've used a younger guy, instead of proving Jericho's point by using a bunch of old guys. Someone like Evan Bourne would've been good.

I think they didn't acknowledge Test because WWE simply doesn't want to be connected to all these wrestlers who die young.

1:21 PM  
Blogger DW said...

This week's edition of WWE RAW
scored a 3.6 final cable rating. That is down from the previous week's 3.7, which is also down from the 4-ratings the company was doing on RAW as the build-up to WrestleMania originally began.

One would assume the downtrend in ratings is a sign that fans are not very interested in the build-up to WrestleMania on RAW the past few weeks.

The show did hours of 3.56 and 3.67.

Trips' entrance into the mix doesn't seem to be panning out - but I doubt he'll let that stop the rise of "The Triple H Show" that Raw has become - and soon to overtake Wrestlemania.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous F.Leghorn said...

The booking continues to confound me. Todd made a number of relevant points, so there's no reason to rehash them, but there is literally nothing here that in any way interests me (Taker/HBK is likely to be solid, and they are trying to make it mean something, so I guess I'll let that one slide ). If this trifecta of hip injuries is the payoff for all of Jericho's hard work, I can't help but believe that they really did think it would be somebody else, but all the plans fell through. Is anybody beyond Steamboat even medically cleared to work? When Mickey Rourke, who has already been forgotten about post-Oscars, is the youngest guy in the angle for Jericho to sell for, then what the hell was this thing about?
The rest of it all just seems like a huge dud. I consider Edge to be a genius, in his way, and even he can't really make this love triangle thing work. Orton and HHH has some decent intensity going, but, really, at what cost? Cody and Ted are going nowhere fast, Orton's a chump, and I'm not sure what the payoff is. If they do that double turn, how do they justify having a face Orton and Cena? Where do they possibly go?

5:12 PM  
Blogger brian said...

Last year I considered trying to buy Wrestlemania tickets and travelling from the UK to see the show. Pretty glad I didn't make the investment now. Watching the rerun of the Savage-Warrior match from WM7 on WWE Vintage this week (is this show broadcast in the US?), which included the angles and interviews building up to the match, really highlighted once again the effectiveness of long term booking. Savage had the crowd in the palm of his hands at the end of that match. You won't see such an emotional response to any match at Wrestlemania this year.

4:02 PM  
Blogger DW said...

March 23's Raw should be Ted DiBiasi's turn for a Triple H beatdown - as another instalment on the road of Triple H's maniacally egotistical desire to own Wrestlemania 25.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Max said...

DW - I couldn't agree with you more....

1:48 PM  

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