WWE Raw Report
The Big News: Shaquille O’Neal was pretty darn great in a pro wrestling role. Did you expect anything different?
Jerry Lawler introduced Shaquille O’Neal to start the show. Shaq threw down a sign that said “All Hail King Kobe.” Shaq now plays for the Washington Wizards’ rival Cleveland Cavaliers, and he referenced that by saying “LeBron says hi.” He got booed for that, but then said he was joking. The crowd was with Shaq in spite of that.
Shaq’s start was inauspicious, as Lawler and a video screen had to walk him through the announcement he had supposedly put together. The announcement was that Randy Orton’s SummerSlam opponent would be determined in a five person beat the clock featuring MVP, HHH, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and John Cena.
Chris Jericho came out and of course took a shot at Shaq with a Kobe reference. Shaq from this point on was great. He called Jericho Christina and kissed him on the forehead while Jericho looked scared. Usually I’d be against portraying a wrestler and non-wrestler in that way, but it is Shaq and he’s the rare exception that can pull that off. Jericho demanded to be consulted with and catered to by the guest hosts on Raw. He said that if Shaq didn’t do that there would be problems. Shaq got in Jericho’s face and asked him what kind of problems.
That was Big Show’s cue to come out. He was right around the same size as Shaq, although obviously thicker. Show said that Shaq would have a better shot at making two free throws in a row than intimidating him. He told Shaq to get out of his ring. Shaq called Show fat boy and challenged him to a match. Show said that if he cripples Shaq the NBA will come after him. Shaq said he knew that would be the response, and brought out Cryme Tyme as Jericho and Show’s Raw opponents with Shaq as the ringside enforcer.
Mark Henry beat Carlito in 6:49. Carlito knocked Henry to the floor and went for a pescado but Henry caught him and threw him back in the ring. Carlito tried to punch Henry but Henry caught it and crushed Carlito’s hand. Henry then went on the attack and kept going for pins. He hit a corner avalanche but missed a sit down splash. Carlito hit a springboard dropkick and went for the back stabber but Henry avoided that. Carlito came off the ropes and was caught with the world’s strongest slam for the pin. This was not a good match.
Mickie James, Gail Kim and Kelly Kelly beat Beth Phoenix, Rosa Mendes and Alicia Fox. The heels worked over Kim, who eventually tagged Mickie. Mickie came in with clotheslines, a neck breaker, a huracanrana and a Thesz press on Alicia. Gail tagged herself in and hit a top rope dropkick off the top for the pin. That seemed to be a tease for a Kim/James feud but the announcers didn’t play it up at all.
Shaq and Hornswoggle did a vignette backstage, just to do the visual. Hornswoggle screwed up dunking a basketball on a small hoop. Michael Cole was there for some reason (evidently he ran backstage and then back out to the announce table), and said that was Shaq-elicious. He wanted a terrorist fist bump from Shaq but Shaq just shook his head and left.
MVP went to a double count out with the returning Chris Masters. Masters looked smaller but still really chiseled. He also has a full head of hair again which helps a lot. They just exchanged moves without much build. They brawled on the outside. Masters kept pulling MVP back out when MVP went to return to the ring and finally applied the Masterlock for the double count out.
Kofi Kingston beat Brian Kendrick in seconds. Kendrick called out Jerry Lawler before the match and said that nobody embarrasses him. He threatened to slap Lawler after he beat Kingston. Kingston then hit trouble in paradise and scored the immediate pin. This was classic WWE humiliation comedy. They really need to bury this spot, because they love it so much that they have to use it all the time and it ends up hitting everyone on the roster except the top guys and makes it hard to elevate anyone.
Triple H and Cody Rhodes went the full 6:49. HHH of course needed an excuse for barely not being able to finish Rhodes in less than seven minutes, so Ted DiBiase attacked him in the knee with a weapon before the match. Rhodes went after HHH’s knee throughout the match. He sent the leg into the post, chop blocked HHH and applied the figure four.
HHH reversed and hit a spine buster. DiBiase then got on the apron and asked HHH to hit him. The announcers explained that he couldn’t do this because it would constitute a disqualification. Huh? HHH then threw Rhodes into DiBiase and the announcers explained that was fine. Oh, okay. HHH hit the pedigree with a second left and went for the pin. We then got this classic actual commentary from Michael Cole: “One second left. Can he get him?”
Shaq and Santino were playing Scrabble backstage. Shaq was using a bunch of Shaq-isms. Cryme Tyme came in and Santino did a rap. It’s amazing how quickly Santino went from amazingly hilarious to completely unfunny. I don’t know this to be true, but I suspect a lot of what made Santino so funny was him improvising and now he’s clearly scripted to be wacky and it’s flopping every week. If I’m wrong and the WWE writers were chiefly responsible for the original funny material, they need to rediscover what they had there.
Hornswoggle beat Chavo Guerrero in another dreadful “comedy” match with the announcers fake guffawing throughout. Chavo was blindfolded. It ended after approximately 35 minutes when the blindfolded Chavo jumped off the top rope with Hornswoggle not even on the ground and Hornswoggle then hit the frog splash for the pin. They announced Ari Gold will be guest host on Raw next week. Not the guy on the board.
Evan Bourne beat Jack Swagger. Of course the guy with the most upside in the tournament was booked the worst. Bourne went to the top but Swagger threw him off. Swagger went for the gut wrench power bomb but Bourne rolled him up for the pin with three minutes still left on the clock. Backstage, HHH challenged Rhodes and DiBiase to a handicap match next week. That’s just what they need, another handicap match involving HHH and young talent.
John Cena beat Miz. Miz before the match said that he has a plan to keep Shaq healthy: sit him against the Wizards because they’ll win anyway. He talked about how the other team will build up a big lead against the Wizards or Redskins and then run out the clock like he will against Cena. This match basically consisted of Miz running away. When Cena finally caught him he immediately applied the STF for the tap with two and a half minutes still left on the clock. Miz was treated as a total joke again.
Cryme Tyme beat Chris Jericho and Big Show via DQ. Shaq was in a ref shirt but he openly rooted for Cryme Tyme and interfered on their behalf. The heels worked over JTG, who got the tag with help from Shaq. Shad used a gorilla press on Jericho and Cryme Tyme hit the drive by with JTG coming off the ropes. Show broke up the pin attempt and beat up both members of Cryme Tyme for a bit before being disqualified. This was another awful main event finish. Show took out Cryme Tyme and called out Shaq.
Shaq took off his referee shirt and came in. Show grabbed Shaq by the throat. Shaq responded by grabbing Show’s throat. As they choked each other, Cryme Tyme came in and broke Show’s hold. Shaq then hit a forearm that knocked Show out of the ring. This was a fun angle.
There were two principal points of interest on this show. I’ll tackle the negative one first and then move to the positive one.
On the negative side, this was yet another example of WWE burying the young talent they need to move up the card and protecting the same stale established stars. I’ll reiterate my point from the other week and make it more explicit this time.
WWE recognizes they need new stars. WWE knows how to protect wrestlers and book them strong. Yet they refuse to protect and book anyone strong who is a threat to the established main eventers. In fact, they do the opposite and protect the main eventers from ever looking somewhat weak against them.
Jack Swagger and MVP were the younger guys with promise in the beat the clock challenge, and of course they were the ones who were eliminated with minutes left on the challenge. HHH on the other hand, needed to be attacked with a weapon before his match just to explain him not quite winning in time. Miz was treated like a joke again in the main event.
I don’t see what else can be concluded about this booking other than that the blatant conflict of interest with Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H manifests itself in an overt conspiracy on the part of the writing team to keep anyone new from challenging the established top stars.
I just don’t buy incompetence as the explanation, because they know how to protect the people they want to protect. It just so happens that nobody with potential ever gets protection. The fans are the ultimate losers, as we have to endure the same eight guys in main events week after week, month after month, year after year in perpetuity.
Okay, on the positive side, Shaq was predictably awesome. He’s a real natural for pro wrestling, with his size, charisma and speaking ability. What I was most impressed by with Shaq was his ability to mix humor with seriousness and not undermine the seriousness of the actual angle. Shaq was better than the majority of the WWE and TNA rosters at being able to find that right balance so you took the physical confrontation seriously. If Shaq wants to do a few matches after he retires, they could do some great stuff with him.