Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/13/09 from Atlanta, GA.

The Big News: WWE had its annual draft show, with the matches on the show dictating who would switch shows.

Show Analysis:

The show opened with an odd scene. They panned to the different announce tables where the Raw, Smackdown and ECW teams introduced the show. Well, they cut to Josh Mathews, commentating live for one of his first shows, and he immediately developed a nose bleed like a nervous teenager. “I feel your pain, brother,” Fred Ottman remarked somewhere.

Next up was a promo segment. Batista came out and said he wanted retribution for Randy Orton taking him out. Shane McMahon then joined him and said he wants retribution just as badly. HHH then came out to say he would be the one to get retribution since Orton was coming after him all along. Vickie Guerrero then came out and announced Shane, HHH and Batista vs. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, with one of them getting a match against Orton if they win.

This was the worst show-opening talk segment in years. They are almost always entertaining and helpful in advancing the key storylines, but this one felt completely pointless, dull and poorly delivered. Guys, you’re getting Orton in a six man tag. All three of you can get your revenge. You look like self-centered morons arguing about it.

Rey Mysterio beat Evan Bourne. Rey used a drop toe hold to send Bourne into the barricade. Bourne hit a standing moonsault and went to the top but Rey cut him off with a top rope huracanrana. Rey then finished Bourne with the 619 and top rope splash. This was good, but it was tremendously disappointing that they had a three hour show and gave these guys less than five minutes.

MVP was the first draft pick to Raw. I think that’s a good move. MVP has been on Smackdown forever and moving to Raw may be able to establish him at a higher level. It’s imperative to keep him strong at first.

As a minor point, the announcers kept talking about how there would be “random” picks in this draft. Given everyone with a brain can figure out that the top stars are drafted on Raw and the lesser stars are drafted on the supplemental draft, why not just acknowledge that next year? Just say that the brands will receive picks from the top stars of each brand. It’s true, and it doesn’t feel like you’re insulting anyone’s intelligence.

Kane beat The Brian Kendrick. Kane nailed Ezekiel with a big boot. Kendrick missed sliced bread #2 and Kane beat him with the choke slam. Big Show was then drafted to Raw in a move that doesn’t matter one way or another.

Orton complained to Vickie Guerrero backstage about the handicap match. In response, Vickie said that if Rhodes or DiBiase won, the person they beat would have to face all three members of Legacy in a handicap match next week. Jack Swagger and John Cena had a confrontation backstage. Swagger said that he is the future of the company and that when he beat Cena WWE would have a new poster boy. Cena responded by making fun of Swagger for calling himself the All American American. Cena’s right, you know.

Michelle McCool, Maryse and Natalya beat Kelly Kelly, Mickie James and Melina. They went a minute or so in another one of those matches that just make matches feel pointless. They really need to reverse that trend if they want to sell PPVs, and I think as a result it’s about time to put the kibosh on matches shorter than four minutes or so. They do more harm than good just about every single time. Mickie came off the ropes and was caught with a Michelle boot to the face for the pin. Melina was drafted to Smackdown.

John Cena beat Jack Swagger. Swagger hit a clothesline and applied a full nelson which Cena powered out of. Cena hit shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle shuffle. Cena went for the FU but Swagger grabbed the ropes. Swagger hit a yakuza kick and botched a DDT really badly. He followed with a knee lift and power slam but was caught coming off the ropes with the FU. Cena then applied the STF for the tap out.

I’d avoid having Swagger do jobs in general, but on rare occasions against a Cena level star I think it’s fine. The match, however, was not good at all. The picks to Raw were HHH and Matt Hardy. HHH is basically a Raw guy already. I am curious what they are going to do with the titles, given Cena and HHH are both on Raw. The most obvious thing is Cena losing the title to Edge, but they may feel that is too obvious.

As for Hardy, I don’t really understand what they’re doing with him. It seems they want to continue his feud with Jeff Hardy, so either Jeff is getting drafted in the supplemental draft or they’re going to undermine the split brand premise right after the draft, which would be quite dumb. After they announced the draft choices, Edge jumped Cena from behind but Cena fought Edge off.

Great Khali beat Santino in a squash. Beth Phoenix told Santino that if Khali won, he would get to kiss Santina next week. Khali won with a chop. CM Punk was then drafted to Smackdown. I think that will work well. He can eventually torment the champion Edge.

Kofi Kingston beat the Miz via DQ. Miz hit a baseball slide and dropped Kofi on the ring apron. Kofi came back with a frog crossbody but Miz rolled through for two. Kofi hit the side Ghanan leg sweep and high double leg drop. Kofi missed trouble in paradise but Miz couldn’t capitalize. Kofi got up on the second rope. Morrison tried to push him off but the referee saw it for the DQ.

Miz was drafted to Raw. Miz attacked Morrison and gave him a swinging neck breaker. I think splitting up Miz and Morrison is a good move. Yes, they work well as a tag team. But tag teams mean absolutely nothing in WWE in 2009. It’s just brands the guys as midcarders, when Morrison is one of the few guys on the entire roster who could be elevated to a much higher position and help freshen things up.

The execution of this, however, was weird. It was like Miz was the star. He is the one going to the A show, and he is the one who was focused on here. Morrison, on the other hand, is stuck in nothing happening ECW. I don’t really understand this segment if it was intended as the beginning of a big push for Morrison as a single.

Edge won a three brand battle royal over MVP, Cryme Tyme, Mike Knox, Big Show, Finlay, Tyson Kidd, Paul Burchill, Mark Henry, Ricky Ortiz, the Colons, R. Truth and Chavo Guerrero. The story was that Big Show and Mark Henry were eliminating everyone. Show dumped Ortiz, Burchill, Chavo, Primo, Kidd and Carlito. Henry threw out Knox, Shad, Truth, JTG and MVP.

Edge eliminated Finlay. That left Edge, Henry and Show. Show lifted Henry over the top rope to the apron and eliminated him with the knockout punch. Show then charged Edge like an idiot and Edge pulled down the ropes for the final elimination.

The draft picks to Smackdown were Kane and Chris Jericho. Kane is pretty inconsequential, as he basically flips places with Show. Jericho as a selection I really like. He’s kind of been lost in the shuffle on Raw, and with Smackdown a little thinner it should provide Jericho the opportunity to really shine.

Christian beat Shelton Benjamin to earn ECW its only draft pick. Christian went to the top but Shelton leaped up and hurled him off with a release superplex. Christian went for the kill switch but Benjamin reversed into a back breaker. Benjamin missed the stinger splash and Christian hit the kill switch for the pin. As they got ready for the ECW pick to be revealed, Matt Striker said he hoped it would be John Cena. That was funny. It turned out to be Vladimir Kozlov, which isn’t the most inspiring of additions.

Matt Hardy beat CM Punk via DQ. Matt used an abdominal stretch and hit the side effect, but Jeff ran in and attacked Matt for the DQ. Jeff set up for the swanton, but Matt escaped. Maryse was drafted to Raw, presumably to feud with Beth Phoenix when Beth fully turns face.

This was the fourth champion to switch brands on this show, with a fifth to come. I don’t harp on this point because I know WWE doesn’t think in sports terms, but I always hate this brand switching of champions. The idea of a championship is that it symbolizes you are the best at something. People care about a title fight because it will decide who the best fighter in a certain weight class is.

WWE has completely undermined this notion by having so many belts and not protecting the champions, which is a big part of their PPV decline and inability to elevate new stars. But when they have five champions move away from the place that they won and defended their titles, why even bother with having the titles? You’re just beating people over the head with the fact that the titles are just gold props for certain wrestlers to carry around. Nobody cares about two people fighting over an inanimate object. They care about the symbolism of that object, symbolism that has been completely and utterly lost.

Chris Jericho beat Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer went for a DDT which Jericho reversed into a Walls attempt, but Dreamer avoided that. Dreamer hit a sit down power bomb and went to the top but was crotched. Dreamer came off the ropes anyway, but was caught with the code breaker for the pin. Rey Mysterio was then drafted to Smackdown. That’s clearly the wise move and one of the most obvious moves going in, as hopefully Rey can help regain some of the Hispanic fans that Smackdown has lost.

The highlight (well, lowlight really) of this match was Todd Grisham making a complete jackass of himself. Matt Striker put over Tommy Dreamer as an ECW legend. Grisham responded smugly that if Dreamer is a legend so too is the Brooklyn Brawler. What a dipshit. Now, granted, Dreamer hasn’t exactly headlined Madison Square Garden and he’s enhancement talent now, but he is absolutely one of the biggest stars in ECW history. Why even keep the ECW name if its biggest historical stars are akin to WWF jobbers?

And what possible good comes from a play-by-play announcer burying a face like that? You’re just disrespecting a guy who has worked really hard and sacrificed so much in this business for 15 years, and that clown Grisham hasn’t even seen more than clips of what Dreamer did in the original ECW anyway. Well, Todd Grisham, you’re as much of a pro wrestling announcing legend as Art Donovan.

HHH, Batista and Shane McMahon beat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. The faces here were TNA level annoying and unsympathetic. The story is that they are so selfish and stupid that they will fight amongst themselves so they can get Randy Orton first, rather than just waiting for a six man tag in a mere two weeks where they can all get their revenge on him. And if this is the story, why didn’t Shane just jump HHH the week before Mania so he could get his hands on Orton instead?

Anyway, the faces broke up each other’s pin attempts. Batista hit a spine buster and Batista bomb on DiBiase but Shane broke up the pin. Batista shoved Shane, and Shane speared Batista. In the midst of this HHH tagged himself in and hit the pedigree on DiBiase for the pin.

Final Thoughts:

I didn’t care for this show at all. It kept my interest and curiosity, but they did so many things that drove me nuts up and down the card. Ultimately, I’m not even sure why they had a draft right now. It felt like very little changed. They switched up their big men and women’s champions and midcard champions and midcard heels, but it wasn’t like they did a lot to set up big new feuds or to elevate fresher talent. I’m not terribly optimistic about summer 2009 in WWE.


Anonymous Mean Dean said...

I had a long conversation with a friend tonight on whether they should just end the brand split, or how they could fix it, and I was curious on your thoughts on one idea that came out of it all.

What if they kept the brand split, but went back to an undisputed champion. They then kept the IC and US titles on separate shows, and used those as #1 contender titles?

Each PPV, one of the two champs would get to face the Undisputed champion, while the other would defend his title. If the second-tier champ beats the Undisputed champ, they vacate their other title and the next PPV two new people square off for it. You can lose your UC title shot, but you don't lose your #1 Contender belt unless you lose it in a match for that belt.

I think it could really help put more emphasis back on the titles and make them mean something, and also create some interesting new angles to work with. You could have a guy who would basically be the Atlanta Braves of WWE, who constantly retains the IC or US title, but can never get over the hump and beat the Undisputed Champ. If you get a new UC, you could put a lot of focus on who would get to compete for that now vacant #1 contender title.

It would take a LOT of planning ahead, which would never work in WWE, but I think it's something that could add a lot of variety to the shows while still maintaining the brand split.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Max said...

What's the point of doing a "draft" when the talent is going to make its way on both shows in no time. Completely contradicts the point of having one to begin with.

Great posting Todd - as usual.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mean Dean has a good point but that is too much for WWE writers to muster up and I tried watching Raw but you know what I just end up flipping the channels. It is just a bad show.

7:09 AM  
Blogger AKFooFighter said...

Nice knowing you, Jericho...says the man who is only stupid enough to waste his Monday nights watching this dreck.

Is it really a "draft"? Why not call it Raw Selection Monday since no one is drafted ala the NFL or my fantasy baseball league? People just switch the nights they work on national television.

But there I go again, failing to suspend my intelligence for show biz.

Go Cubs.

- Matt in Anchorage

10:42 AM  
Anonymous SteRDLK said...

Couldnt CM Punk just go straight back to Raw by defeating Triple H next week?

The draft picks were pretty rubbish, aside from Matt & MVP coming to Raw. But with HHH back here, I doubt they will get a chance to main event.

But the matches between Shelton & Christian, Rey & Evan, and Cena & Swagger were all very good matches

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Joebeck said...

At this point in time, I wonder if everyone's just burned out, writers and fans alike. 5 hours of television a week with no seasons or breaks. Eventually, things just start getting old. I began watching in 2004 and I'm really just tired of investing my time in the same thing over and over.

If it were more realistic, it'd be worth my time. Not realistic in the wrestling matches, but realistic in the believability of the characters and their motivations. To me, the advantage of pro wrestling over MMA should be that you can have the guaranteed exciting or interesting finish. But that doesn't mean it should be cartoonish or insult my intelligence.

When I watch Law and Order, I realize that court isn't really like that all the time. It's a more exciting facsimile of the real thing. The show maintains just enough of a semblace of credibility though to make it feel compelling and real, so that when they do something outrageous i'm still drawn in instead of driven to mock.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I've increasingly become more interested in the idea of just unifying the main champions and having one undisputed champ. The Raw, Smackdown and ECW titles mean very little because there are 3 of them, so it may just be for the best to ditch the concept and have one champ that can potentially mean something. I don't know about having the IC and US champs getting the consistent shots on the PPVs though: 1) it would get redundant after a while 2) those belts are already so devalued it would be weird to make them so important so quick and 3) you'd need to switch the IC and US titles too much in order to keep fresh challengers.

5 hours a week is most definitely too much. But to me they just need to accept that less is more and stop doing so much. Longer matches, fewer angles, basic long term outlines over constant short term angles. It likely would diminish ratings some in the short term but in the long term I think it would benefit all facets of the business.

3:46 PM  
Blogger DW said...

Wait a minute? Did WM25 even happen? Or am I dreaming? There's another match between Triple H and Orton next week? Wasn't their match on (and I snicker using the WWE's terminology) "the grandest stage of them all," at WM25 the deciding moment?

I guess I was dreaming because here's what wwe.com has to say - "With his defeat of Randy Orton, Triple H achieved much more than simply retaining the WWE Title. For months, The Legend Killer and The Legacy had run roughshod over WWE’s royal family, promising that a win at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania would begin a new era. But with a punt, a sledgehammer and a thunderous Pedigree Triple H both avenged the McMahons and put an end to Orton’s delusions of grandeur."

So I guess it was all taken care of. But wait! There's still another match! Huh? I read on from wwe.com: "Next week's Raw will be headlined by Triple H vs Randy Orton. This came as a result of Triple H winning his match on Raw last night, thus earning him the chance to meet Randy Orton, one-on-one, on the final edition of Raw before the Backlash PPV."

What? Like WM25 never happened? Gee, it sounds like Triple H took care of business at WM25 from the first report, yet it sounds like he still hasn't accomplished anything from the second report "thus earning him the chance meet Randy Orton, one-on-one....." Scratching my head over this until light dawns......and now I realize what's going on here. At WM25, the King of Selfish Pricks' match was upstaged by HBK and the Undertaker. Oh yes....so now, on television, with nobody (and you can be sure the rest of the show will suck - but that's nothing unusual either) else to share the spotlight with him, he'll repeat his performance. Is there anything more sad than a man who has to control everything about the show in order to promote himself? Or anything more laughable than the creative team unable to keep track of what they're doing from week to week.

But Triple H has his fans. As an aside, let me mention one of them. Ben Miller, who writes a column for Wrestling Observer. Mr Miller recently wrote, regardling WM25: "Much has been made lately about how the storyline revelation that HHH is married to Stephanie has killed the HHH babyface character. And it undoubtedly has. But Randy Orton is just as much to blame for HHH’s fizzling heat. Nobody can possibly believe that a person could act the way Orton’s character acts, and that kills any babyface that opposes him." Oh, that's rich, ain't it? Now we have people blaming the opponent for Triple H's inability to sell himself as a character! Get with it, Miller - the only person holding Triple H back is Triple H himself. In fact, he's the one who's killed Orton's character but influencing the creative team to make a mishmash out of the feud and turn Orton's character into a completely deranged, unpredictable idiot. So if Triple H can't work opposite him, it's his own fault. In my opinion, the deranged Orton character offers a smorgasbord of opportunity for the face to work with. But Triple H - the person pushed the hardest at the WWE - doesn't seem to be able to handle it, so the Ben Millers of the world have to spread the blame out. Sorry, Miller, but you're logic ain't working.

WM25's victory for Triple H was easy to call. His win last night on Raw was easy to call. His win next week will be easy to call. And at Backlash, it will be equally easy to call - Triple H will lose the belt when another of his team members is defeated. That's the way they'll get the belt off him without him actually having to lose. Those are the effin' perks you get when you're both a performer in the ring and the most significant influence on the creative team.

Further, is there anything more embarrassing than a pasty, soft, baggy-clothed Shane McMahon being even remotely compared to one of the wrestlers? To have him showing up even the most lowly WWE roster member is a slap in the face. What a joke. Even his father wears a tank-top to the ring.

And speaking of jokes. The draft? Give me an effin' break. Here's more from wwe.com on this topic - just as an example of the ludicrous nature of it all: "Not only did the Draft (their upper case, not mine) bring Orton’s nemesis Triple H to Monday nights......" Ummmm, I don't know about you all, but I've been watching Triple H on Raw for the past month and a half.

The WWE is a joke as a company. And the fans who think this is entertainment are getting just what they deserve - nothing. It's time for a big change. Good-bye, Triple H. If only.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous CF Kane said...

As always, Todd ( and everybody else here )hits the mark. I watched out of a bored curiosity to see if anything 'unique' would happen, and all I got out of it was that the few people I enjoy watching (Jericho, Punk, Edge, or JR for listening ) are on a show that I never watch, and am not even sure what channel it is on on my cable box. This was all so predictable, and made to seem like a 'big deal' ( HHH on Raw? Wow, we never see him at all )when it's just a case of switching the exact same characters as though on a sheet of graph paper. MVP=Rey. Melina=Maryse (and who cares, anyway). Big Show=Kane. To me, there is no question that Smackdown got the better of the deal in terms of talent, and that Raw just got 100 times more boring. Watching the Game, Cena, Batista and Orton plod their way through each other, and beat up intriguing young guys like Cody and Ted in a revisitation of the Spirit Squad, leaves me utterly uninterested. That, and the Vickie Guerrero move, which, while she is a heat machine, is also kind of tough to watch as she's really not very good despite the reactions. Plus, more and more McMahons. Ugh.
I agree that splitting Miz and Moz was smart, but why in the world would you not make Morrison, an obviously gifted talent, the real focus of the split, instead of a jobber-in-waiting Miz? They desperately need to elevate some true new talent towards the top, or they will lose more and more of their fanbase to MMA, and be left with the sort of guys who write in to the Torch to call Keller a 'fag', and misspell it. Why not put Christian on Smackdown? With Jericho and Edge, the entertainment factor would soar as those guys are gold with each other. Morrison should be in the IC title mix starting today. It just makes sense.
I guess Edge gets the belt back, and maybe Punk takes it off him right after ( or off Cena, which would be a much more interesting move on his part), to get the even stevens on the gold. I really agree, however; just get a unified champion, and let them switch around on the show for the feuds. Half the time, the belt is meaningless anyway, particularly if Cena or HHH is involved.
It's amazing. They made their A-Show even worse than it was last week. Just new guys for them to bury week after week.

4:50 PM  
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