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.

13 Comments:

Anonymous tyson kaethler said...

so true, up and down. Orton is just amazing. when I was a kid in the 90s, Shawn Michaels was basically the reason I watched Raw. I always tuned in to see what he would do or say. I'm 23 now, and Randy Orton is my new Shawn Michaels. he is so awesome at what he does. I find it funny though that he still gets RKO chants from sections of the crowd, even after he kisses an unconscious Stephanie.

speaking of Michaels, holy shit @ that graveyard scene. it was hilarious and horrible for basically the same reasons.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous SteRDLK said...

I thought Raw had some good points and some bad points.

The good points were the Orton/HHH angle, and the Taker/Michaels angle.

Orton was THE star, proving once again why he has surpassed Edge as the #1 heel today. For the first time, he had the audience in the palm of his hand in a way only a small few can.

And HBK's promo was great I thought. He delivered it with sincerity and made the audience believe he can beat Taker, and Takers reaction was great yet a bit weird, seeing as Taker never shows emotions.

The big let downs for the love triangle (again) and Jericho, through no fault of his own.

The love triangle has bombed due to Cenas revelation whenever that was. It would have been so much better had Cena proving his love for Vickie, then the week before WrestleMania he made the revelation. This angle is fucked.

And finally, Jericho. A fantastic start to the show, but you can't feel anything for his opponents if they dont show up. Now I understand Flair is a bigger star than all 3, but imagine if they had saved the cage for a week and used it for this angle, the 3 legends watching their friend torn apart in the cagr and they couldnt do anything about it.

But what made this a massive disappointment was Jerry Lawler. He stood there, saying how despicable this was, yet he didn't think to help out? So Lawler can save Michael Cole from Kane, yet he can't save Ric Flair from Chris Jericho. hmmm good logic.

It was only later in the show he decided to show some balls and challenge Jericho, but way too late.

The IC title match is supposed to be JBL making history, yet he has 4 minutes to build it?

The MITB build up would have worked so much better had they done video clips bigging them up, placed throughout the show. Seeing as one of the 8 will be challenging for a world title some time in the next year, it would be useful to build them up now, rather than rush it like they did Punk.

8:08 AM  
Blogger EVE said...

Todd,

Am I the only one who liked the Michaels/Taker segment? I thought it was tremendous. Taker has always used intimidation tactics for his big matches. And most of his opponents get that horrified look on their faces. The entire build for this has been that Michaels is not afraid of the Undertaker. He proved it by going in the "Taker's Backyard" and throwing it right back in his face. Taker's reaction was priceless as well. Can't wait to see them go against each other at Mania

8:11 AM  
Blogger s1rweeze said...

"The entire build for this has been that Michaels is not afraid of the Undertaker."

As opposed to every other Wrestlemania match Undertaker's had? Why would Taker start acting psyched out now? Why Michaels?

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Dan Wahlers said...

EVE:

No, you're not the only one that thought HBK/Taker segment was tremendous. I did too. I respect Todd's opinions, and agree with him more times than not. But I have to totally disagree with him on this one. I thought it was a very well produced segment, and a cool twist to see Michaels turning the tables on Undertaker and using his own mind game tactics against him.

I loved seeing HBK channeling his inner heel, and showing an edge and cockiness that he hasn't had in a while. Recapping Undertaker's past WM victims as he walked through the cemetary was a nice touch too, I thought.

Was it kind of silly and cartoonish? Sure. But I don't think that's necessarily always a bad thing in certain situations. This is the Undertaker character we're talking about after all. I thought it was a lot more effective visually than if they had done yet another face to face promo in the ring. Been there, done that.

I like the storyline they've been telling where HBK has been one step ahead of Undertaker, and Taker conveyed that well with the frustration he showed. I thought it was a good segment, and a good Raw overall after several poor weeks in a row.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

You guys aren't the only ones who liked the Michaels/Taker segment. I got a couple e-mails about it as well and Dave praised it as well. I may be in the minority, which kind of surprises me, because I really did think the silly tone was a big turnoff for an angle not involving Kamala, Giant Gonzalez or a second Undertaker. Oh well. Different strokes for different folks.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous #1 HHH Hater said...

It was such gratification to watch HHH and Stephanie get owned. In my opinion it wasn't enough. He should have done more! It was funny to hear some of the audience congratulating Orton. Which was another bonus.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Dave S. said...

I actually thought the Michaels-Taker segment was good also. The Undertaker's character, by its very nature, is extremely hokey. Michaels' promo from the graveyard fit in perfectly with the Taker's persona. It may have looked a little silly, but what Michaels said was pretty much perfect. The buildup to this match has been excellent, and it's the only Wrestlemania match that I'm truly looking forward to.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I actually wasn't a big fan of the closing angle. It went on and on and on to the point where I couldn't help but question why security, referees, or wrestlers weren't coming out to break it up. Wasn't Steph on the verge of firing Orton a few weeks ago? Now she plays a damsel in distress, begging Orton to stop instead of racing out with a bunch of security and threatening him with repercussions, lawyers be damned, if he doesn't immediately drop the sledge hammer.

Yes, I understand that wrestling often features contrived situations like this to build heat, but this was just way too contrived for me. Likewise with Flair and Jericho. Everyone has expressed their love for Flair, and yet nobody came out to help him?

3:48 PM  
Anonymous F.Leghorn said...

I'm with you on the main points, Todd. I thought the Jericho/Flair segment, while effective, just made Flair look ever more like what he is, an old, out-of-shape man. If Lawler was so put out by it, why didn't he react? Christ, he was right there. I think that would've been the time for him to jump in, not some Glenn Beck-style outrage after the fact.
I also thought the HBK video was really cartoonish. I think it's just because the quality of it was so low-rent. I understand that they were trying to put over his 'motivation', and build up the heat between them ( making the Taker more and more angry ), but it seemed a step back for me. But, if people liked it, that's fine. It wasn't disastrous or anything.
This Cena/Edge/Show match is shaping up to be truly, truly awful. Show cannot work a lick, he's so fat, Edge just seems off his game, and Cena just continues to play the smarmy face creep who, as you pointed out, everybody hates except for children and their moms. Is Edge being turned face? Because this program surely seems to be making the case for it.
One word: Mistake!
On the other hand, Orton was so phenomenal in his work in the last angle, as was the Game, and even props to Steph (she took that DDT like a champ), that suddenly this match takes on a new element. If they are smart, they will keep these two apart next week, and just do promos to build for the Mania match to let it simmer. I'd really been appalled by how they'd botched Orton's build for this match, but it appears as though he and the Game just said, fuck it, let's do it ourselves. Awesome.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

To follow up on what I said earlier, I blame the poor writing for my not liking the final segment. Orton's acting was fantastic, and I say that as someone who was not an Orton fan until very recently.

Todd, you may be getting flack for not liking the Michaels vignette, but I'm 100% with on that. It was total cheese.

Despite my problems with the opening and closing segments, they were certainly intense. But when Cena comes on and acts like a clown, followed by Michaels cheesily "playing psychological games" with the Undertaker, it tends to undermine the stuff that we're supposed to take seriously.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

I have to say that Orton is sooooooo great as a heel now. The last 2 months he has been off the charts. It's too bad he'll have to job to the EGO.

8:16 AM  
Blogger DW said...

Absolutely right, mike. WM25 is being orchestrated to be the star vehicle for EgoTriple H. It's the biggest WM ever - the silver anniversary and the WWE's resident selfish prick will use every bit of his influence (which is significant, if not dominating, in the creative process) to ensure that his name is remembered with this event.

12:21 PM  

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