Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 07/27/09 from Washington, DC.

The Big News: Shaquille O’Neal was pretty darn great in a pro wrestling role. Did you expect anything different?

Show Analysis:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 07/20/09 from Raleigh, NC.

The Big News: Ha ha ha ha ha! It was a memorable evening of world class comedy for the WWE Universe to savor and enjoy. In other news, WWE Night of Champions Sunday may draw fewer domestic pay-per-view buys than the Affliction Trilogy show next week. Think about that one for a second.

Show Analysis:

John Cena came out to start the show. He cut one of those incredibly obnoxious, cutesy, corporate shill “comedy” promos. He put over Z.Z. Top, put over the crowd, put over the show, and put over Night of Champions. Randy Orton interrupted the shilling and pointed out he won the Orton/Cena/HHH match at WrestleMania 24. Cena responded with even more insufferable material and threatened Orton. Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes came out and they were ready to attack Cena 3 on 1 when HHH made the save.

HHH said he isn’t concerned with winning the title himself but making sure Orton doesn’t retain. HHH and Cena did more comedy making fun of Orton for getting punked by a “hobbit” (Seth Green). Orton suggested Legacy vs. HHH and Cena. Cena responded with even more obnoxious comedy, acting all coy like Orton was trying to set them up to fight amongst themselves. Cena and HHH accepted anyway.

I’ve long said that Cena is a great overall performer who receives unfair backlash from fans because of the material he is saddled with. But you know, there comes a point where you have to stop blaming the material. Cena may have the ability to be a phenomenal promo, but for most of 2009 he’s been absolutely terrible. Right now he is as unlikeable a main event face as WWE has had in years, a thoroughly grating personality who makes me want to punch him in his smug face more than any top level heel.

Throughout the show they had a series of “comedy” vignettes with Z.Z. Top featuring songs probably 10 percent of the Raw audience is even aware of. Pretty much every single segment died a horrible death. Santino was there throughout with a fake beard doing lame scripted comedy. Chris Jericho sucked up to them, but they put him in a match with Mark Henry. Chavo Guerrero was angry about his treatment so they put him in a tuxedo match with Hornswoggle. The WWE women danced to a song and Santino stripped down and danced. They eventually brought Z.Z. Top in front of the crowd and the crowd seemed so disinterested I kind of felt sorry for them.

Primo Colon, MVP and Kofi Kingston beat Big Show, Carlito and Jack Swagger. The heels worked over Kofi. Show dropped him on the barricade and Swagger hit a leg drop. Primo got the hot tag and already got his big comeback on his brother Carlito. Do they have no concept of build? This is a brother vs. brother feud, and they jumped from arguing one week to a full turn in week two to an all out brawl week three to they’re already wrestling each other in week four.

Primo went to town on Carlito. He hit a leg drop off the ropes, and a brawl broke out where MVP hit a pescado to the outside. Carlito went for the back stabber on Primo but he was accidentally speared by Show. Kofi took Show out to the floor and Primo hit a springboard head butt on Carlito for the pin. This was a fun closing sequence. Show laid out everyone afterwards.

Jerry Lawler beat The Brian Kendrick. Kendrick got into an argument with Lawler at the announce table for no discernable reason and then they just cut right to a match. Again, on the subject of build, wouldn’t it make more sense to, say, build to this ever so slightly? You know, like Kendrick badmouths Lawler for 30 seconds on a few shows, Lawler finally cuts a 30 second promo back, and then they do the match and it actually means something?

Anyway, Lawler hit a punch early. Kendrick worked him over briefly. Lawler made a comeback with punches and a dropkick. Kendrick went for the sliced bread #2 but Lawler avoided that and hit a fist drop off the second rope for the pin. This was a lot of fun. The WWE women really should watch this match. For whatever reason, they have it in their heads that they need to prove how athletic they are so they do 50 big spots in each three minute match, blow half of them, and it feels like a poorly choreographed and executed dance routine rather than a match. Lawler, on the other hand, sticks to the absolute basics but he’s so good at doing those basics that everything looks perfect and the match works great.

Mickie James did an interview on the stage with the crowd and ring behind her. It made me happy because that was the old interview setup back in the WWF Superstars days. Mickie badmouthed Maryse and said she would take her title. Miz came out to put over Maryse as a glamorous champion and said Mickie in ten years will be working as a waitress at Waffle House. Mickie said Miz is just upset that she scored a pinfall on Maryse and Miz can’t score at all. Maryse sprayed hairspray in Mickie’s eyes. Oh man, she’s going to join the Beautiful People.

Mark Henry beat Chris Jericho via DQ. Henry stood on Jericho, threw him around, and used a giant swing. Jericho responded with a bulldog and went for the Walls but was thrown to the outside. Henry pursued him, but Jericho hit Henry with a chair for the DQ. Jericho went for a code breaker afterwards but as caught in the world’s strongest slam.

Hornswoggle beat Chavo Guerrero Jr. in a tuxedo match. Chavo’s pant legs were sewn together. You should have heard the announcers guffaw with fake laughter. They thought this was the funniest thing they’d seen in their entire lives. Hornswoggle stripped Chavo of his clothes, and the announcers nearly died laughing at the hilarity. Chavo had chili peppers on his underwear, you see. More comedy.

Chris Jericho argued with Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes backstage. Legacy made fun of Jericho and his father. Jericho said that the whole roster wants to team with him. They announced next week on Raw the host will be Shaquille O’Neal. That should be fun, and Shaq is certainly a big enough celebrity that it makes WWE look good to get him for this capacity.

Rosa Mendes and Alicia Fox beat Kelly Kelly and Gail Kim. Kelly hit a sloppy huracanrana and victory roll. Gail used a huracanrana and attempted a top rope crossbody that was countered by an Alicia dropkick. Kelly used a whirlybird and handspring elbow on Alicia. Rosa threw Kelly over the top rope and Kelly kind of skinned the cat. Gail and Kelly hit a double dropkick, Gail used a pescado and Alicia used a sloppy small package for the pin. See my earlier comments on the Lawler match. It was amazing how much shit they tried to get into this three minute match, when the only moves that looked crisp in the never ending series of high spots were the whirlybird and the Gail huracanrana.

John Cena and HHH beat Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes. The heels worked over Cena for a while. He tagged HHH, but HHH was quickly cut off and they worked over HHH for a while. Finally, HHH got the tag to Cena. Cena came in with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle shuffle on Rhodes. He went for the FU but DiBiase stopped him. He then applied the STF but Rhodes broke that up too. Orton tagged himself in and went to punt Cena but Cena got out of the way and rolled up Orton for the pin. This was good, but didn’t really do much for the PPV. Cena and HHH shook hands afterwards.

Final Thoughts:

A lot of people seemed to think I was too generous to last week’s show. I wasn’t a big fan of the show, but I thought that if you accepted what WWE’s goals were (a lot of lighthearted comedy, little emphasis on wrestling or pay-per-view matches), the show did a good job of accomplishing its goals. It was an amusing show that went by quickly.

Well, this week’s show was the perfect counterpoint to that. It had the same goals. For whatever reason, WWE doesn’t care that they have a pay-per-view Sunday and made basically no effort to make you interested in it. Instead, they just wanted to write a whole lot of comedy. And they wrote a whole lot of comedy. Unfortunately, it all sucked.

This wasn’t really a bad wrestling show (although the booking was atrocious from that standpoint) so much as a really awful comedy show (think Freddy Got Fingered level comedy) with a smidge of wrestling mixed in. It was often times painfully bad and WWE once again came across so out of touch. Since WWE writers seem to think they’re so brilliant at writing comedy and seem to hate pro wrestling so much, they really should give up on this wrestling thing and just produce a sitcom. I’m sure it will be quite the hit.

Monday, July 13, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 07/13/09 from Orlando, FL.

The Big News: Seth Green was guest host and wrestled a match on Raw, and it worked out a whole lot better than I would have imagined.

Show Analysis:

HHH came out to start the show and introduce the guest host, Seth Green (he’s a C-list actor). That was a smart move clearly made to ensure Green would get a positive reaction. Green came out and appeared to be 3’4” and 54 pounds. He announced a six person diva swimsuit match. HHH and Green plugged his show and told jokes about Randy Orton. An angry Orton came out, and Green announced Orton and Legacy vs. HHH, John Cena and Green. Using someone like Green as a “celebrity” to me sounded like a bad idea, but this came off fine. The audience was kind to him and he was okay.

Maryse, Rosa Mendes and Alicia Fox beat Gail Kim, Mickie James and Kelly Kelly. They were wearing swimsuits which were as skimpy as WWE has shown in ages. It didn’t come off as sleazy, either. I enjoyed it. Gail hit a huracanrana and Kelly hit a handspring elbow on Rosa. The heels worked over Kelly. Kelly tagged in Mickie, who hit a Thesz press off the top. Maryse, however, threw her into the post and hit an implant DDT for the pin. As an aside, Mickie had a more normal physique than the other ultra-skinny women, and I thought she looked better for it.

Backstage, Seth Green met with Chris Jericho. Jericho reprimanded him, so Green suggested he leave. Jericho said that he had something to say and told Green to stay out of his business. Later, Green asked Big Show for advice. Show told Green to watch his match with Evan Bourne to see how people Green’s size fare in WWE and offered help for one million dollars (the old Austin Powers Dr. Evil joke).

Miz beat Primo Colon. Primo called out Carlito, but Miz came out instead. Primo hit a side Russian leg sweep, back elbow, dropkick and springboard crossbody. However, Carlito then came out and got on apron to distract Primo. Miz hit a full nelson forward leg sweep for the pin. Carlito attacked Primo after the match and spit apple on him.

I hated this segment. Primo and Carlito are legitimate brothers and they broke up last week. They should be doing something to acknowledge that and make this feel different than any old generic feud, but here they are doing the most formulaic of heel interference scenarios. This is phony, lazy booking with a complete lack of vision.

Jack Swagger beat MVP. Swagger used wrestling early and MVP retaliated with punches. I could just hear Jesse Ventura in the back of my head going on a rant about technical wrestling and rule breaking. Swagger worked over MVP. MVP came back with balling but Swagger snapped his arm over the ropes and hit the gutwrench power bomb for the pin. This was not a good match.

Chris Jericho came out to acknowledge Edge’s injury. He said that he should have known better than to take a tag team partner as frail and easily injured as Edge. He said that Edge was the weak link in the team and that Jericho shouldn’t be punished for Edge’s imperfections. He then said that he had a clause in the Night of Champions contract that if Edge was injured he could choose a new partner. They should have just stuck Tom Zenk in a mask and claimed he was Edge.

Mark Henry came out. He teased that he would be Jericho’s partner, but then said he was there to be Jericho’s opponent. Jericho’s facials in reacting to this were great. They delayed for a while, Henry beat up Jericho a bit, and then Jericho just left for a count out. They appear to be doing a gimmick where heels just walk out on matches with Henry. Henry has an awesome new gimmick where he raises his hands and all the fans stand and then puts his hands down and all the fans sit. It took off amazingly well here and given a few weeks it will be huge and a great visual. Props to whoever had that idea.

Hornswoggle beat Chavo Guerrero. Guerrero had one hand tied behind his back. Hornswoggle used the stink face and a small package for the pin. I would have preferred commercials. Backstage, Randy Orton praised Ted DiBiase for slapping his father. Cody Rhodes said that Dusty Rhodes may be a future guest host on WWE Raw.

Big Show beat Evan Bourne in a squash. Show threw Bourne around for a while. Bourne hit one dropkick off the top and then Show speared him and applied the camel clutch for the submission. Kofi Kingston made the save afterwards. This was your typical WWE “bury the talented smaller guy for no good reason” booking. ZZ Top was announced as the guest hosts for next week.

HHH, John Cena and Seth Green battled to a double DQ with Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Green was all scared coming out. I guess it’s better than taking the match as a joke, but it begged the question why exactly he made the match to begin with. They did a spot where Green tagged in and ran away to set up HHH and Cena getting in shots on Legacy. The heels worked over Cena, who got the tag to HHH.

HHH came in with a face buster and spine buster for Orton. Orton caught HHH with the RKO, but Green made the save which was the big spot. Orton kicked Green and went to punt him but Cena made the save. Then all of a sudden Rhodes brought a chair into the ring and HHH a sledgehammer and that was that. The match worked much better than I would have expected, although the finish was horrendous.

Final Thoughts:

I thought this show was pretty good. It had all of the trappings of WWE’s current mentality towards pro wrestling that I’m not a huge advocate of, but I thought the segments for the most part succeeded in what they were trying to do. The crowd seemed into the show throughout and Seth Green did well with what he was given.

I want to make mention of a documentary I had a chance to see on “Gentleman” Chris Adams. It looks at his life and death and has interviews with a lot of people from the World Class era in Texas. I think it’s an enjoyable watch for people interested in that period:


Also, I’ll be on Fight Network Radio tomorrow at around 4:10PM Eastern/1:10PM Pacific with John Pollock. We’ll be talking Raw as well as UFC 100 and whatever else is going on. I think this one could be a lot of fun. You can listen at:


Monday, July 06, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 07/06/09 from San Jose, CA.

The Big News: WWE Night of Champions will be headlined by Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. John Cena. It’s like deja vu all over again.

Show Analysis:

“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase came out to start the show. He had his old Million Dollar Belt. He brought out Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, Jr. Ted Sr. said that he was in control of Raw. He noted there would be no title matches before Night of Champions but that he would have some fun on Raw. He announced DiBiase and Rhodes vs. Edge and Chris Jericho for Night of Champions.

Ted Sr. then asked Cody if Henry should be punished for what he did to Randy Orton last week. Rhodes said yes, so Ted Sr. made Rhodes vs. Henry. Rhodes wasn’t pleased with this. Ted Sr. then said that he knows Orton is holding back Ted Jr. He said that Orton is using Ted Jr. Thus, he made DiBiase vs. Orton for Raw.

Edge and Chris Jericho beat the Colons. The heels worked over Carlito. Carlito eventually tagged Primo, who came in with dropkicks, a spinning head scissors and springboard crossbody. Edge gained the advantage and tied Primo into the ropes. Carlito went to untie Primo, but then was caught by an Edge spear when Primo was untied. An angry Carlito came in the ring and distracted the referee. Jericho hit the code breaker on Primo and Edge followed with a spear for the pin. This was a short but good match.

After the match, Carlito threw Primo into the post, attacked him with punches, and threw him into the announce table. Ultimately it isn’t a big deal, but to me two brothers splitting up ought to take place over a longer period than two weeks.

Legacy met backstage. Orton said that when he beats DiBiase, it won’t accomplish anything. DiBiase took umbrage at that. He said that his father was better than Orton’s father, and that he will beat Orton.

Mickie James and Gail Kim beat Maryse and Alicia Fox. Mickie hit a neck breaker on Fox, knocked Maryse off the apron, and hit a low dropkick. Gail came in with clotheslines, a huracanrana and a springboard crossbody. Maryse gave Gail a high kick from the apron and tagged herself in. She worked over Gail briefly, but Gail then hit a weird move that involved pulling Maryse into her leg for the pin.

Cody Rhodes met with Ted DiBiase Sr. backstage. Rhodes had some money for DiBiase to get out of the match with Henry, but DiBiase said it wasn’t enough. He said that Rhodes is the son of Dusty Rhodes, and he despises Dusty. He said that the fact Rhodes is in the Hall of Fame and he isn’t is a travesty. He told Rhodes to go do the match or he would put Rhodes in polka dots. He should have threatened to buy off Rhodes’ girlfriend with a fur coat.

Mark Henry beat Cody Rhodes via count out in a brief match. Rhodes went for a crossbody off the ropes, but was caught with the world’s strongest slam. Rhodes rolled out to the floor and just left.

Randy Orton beat Ted DiBiase. Orton worked over DiBiase with a DDT and chin lock. DiBiase hit a shoulder block off the ropes. Orton went for the RKO but DiBiase countered with a back slide. DiBiase followed with a power slam and went for dream street, but Orton escaped and hit the RKO for the pin. The match was pretty good but ultimately it seemed like it kind of underdelivered based on what they were trying to do.

MVP hosted the VIP Lounge with Jack Swagger as the guest. MVP called Swagger a fraud for what he pulled against Orton. Swagger said, “I went to the University of Oklahoma, you know what that means.” “That you couldn’t get into a better school,” MVP retorted. Swagger said no, it means that he is a D1 athlete.

Swagger referred to MVP spending time in prison and said the only thing MVP has been MVP of is the prison basketball league. MVP said that unlike Swagger he is never afraid of a fight. Swagger said he doesn’t fight criminals and left. MVP said that since Swagger came to Raw he hasn’t fought at all, and basically called him out. This was a very good talking segment.

Backstage, Ted DiBiase Sr. was excited and said that he was proud of Ted DiBiase Jr. for his efforts against Orton. Ted Jr. wasn’t having it. He accused Ted Sr. of setting him up to fail, and that it’s always about Ted Sr. Ted Sr. softly said that it wasn’t like that at all. Ted Jr. slapped him. I can’t speak highly enough of this little angle. It worked so unbelievably perfect. It was so simple and relatable. The father is looking out for his son’s best interests and wants to see him succeed, but the son just doesn’t understand and lashes out. I loved this angle.

Evan Bourne beat Kofi Kingston. This was good, but way too short. They did a quick series of pinning combinations. Kofi used a half crab and they traded head locks. They went for a few more pinning attempts. Kofi ran into the corner and hit heads with Bourne, allowing Bourne to hit the shooting star press for the pin. Big Show came out afterwards and laid them both out. I don’t have high hopes for a feud that seems to emphasize these midgets can only compete with Big Show two on one.

Triple H and John Cena fought to a no contest. HHH sent Cena into the post, and hit a back breaker, suplex and knee drop. Cena responded with shoulder blocks and the five knuckle, but HHH escaped the FU. HHH hit a face buster and spine buster. Cena countered the pedigree, but missed a top rope rocker dropper. They went for a series of pin attempts. Cena applied the STF but HHH got to the ropes. Cena went for the FU but HHH grabbed the ropes. They hit a double clothesline, and then Rhodes and DiBiase just ran in and attacked both to end the match.

After the match, Randy Orton came out and said that there was no winner and thus he won’t be facing either at Night of Champions. That sounds like the sort of thing they usually do in these situations. But no, Ted DiBiase Sr. came out and said there was no loser and that Orton will face both HHH and Cena at Night of Champions.

On the plus side, this was a good match and they did a strong job trying to make it feel important. On the minus side, this was the second time in three weeks they hyped the hell out of a Raw main event and then delivered the lamest of non-finishes.

Final Thoughts:

This was a good show. It was just a straight forward wrestling show built around wrestling matches and setting up future feuds. The additions of Swagger and Bourne help Raw, and it was fun to see the Million Dollar Man this week. It sure would be nice to have a fresh main event program at some point during 2009, though.

Finally, UFC 100 is this weekend. Leading up to the event, I’ve written an 8 part series on different aspects of UFC history. The pieces are as follows:

1. The Pioneer (includes Royce Gracie interview):


2. The Dark Days (includes Kevin Randleman, Jens Pulver and Pat Miletich interviews):


3. The New Ownership:


4. The Explosion of ’06:


5. The TUF Credibility Rise (includes Kenny Florian interview):


6. The Comedian (Joe Rogan interview):


7. The Most Notable Cameos:


8. The Next Generation (includes Georges St. Pierre interview):


I’ll be in Vegas this weekend to cover all the UFC 100 events, so check out CBSSports.com for all sorts of coverage of the event. I’ll also be on Tagg Radio on Saturday right before the show, and you can listen to their live preview of the event from Vegas 5PM-7PM Eastern, 2PM-4PM Pacific at http://www.taggradio.com/.