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.

9 Comments:

Blogger hobbyfan said...

Todd,

I posted on my own blog about this, so I'll share with you.

The writing team was, as usual, asleep at the switch. Had a DQ been called on Cody Rhodes, then Triple H would indeed have the time to beat. He wouldn't have lowered the time by much, maybe 20-30 seconds, but this was screwed up 7 ways to Sunday. I'm not sure if Gewirtz was part of the WWE contingent in San Diego over the weekend w/Hurricane and the Bellas, but I'd not be surprised, because it'd explain his inability to write an accurate storyline the last three weeks.

The way I had it figured, the Masters-MVP match was under the time limit, going 3:39. Bourne pinned Swagger in 3:40. Cena beat Miz at 4:23. Had they decided to give the "spoilers" a chance, then Bourne would be going to Summerslam instead of Cena, because he posted the best time. That's where the real mistake in the booking lies.

It's not enough that Big Show had his ESPN moment last year with Floyd Mayweather. Now, it's with Shaq. Knowing in advance that Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold on "Entourage") is hosting next week's show, I'm thinking that Jericho is using his lines about being consulted on the wrong people. If Piven decides to do the show more as Ari Gold and not trying to plug his new movie, he might have something with Jericho. I don't see it happening.

I walked away the minute they showed Santino backstage with Shaq. Shaq's doing the Scrabble gag from one of those ESPN NBA commercials, and Santino looks like a total tool, same as Cole did. I think you're right about Santino, though. His earlier comedy bits were improvised, just like a certain former champion's raps. Now, Santino can't get laughs, just shrugs. He's not wrestling for some reason, so send him down to Florida.

It's like in baseball. When you've got a hot prospect that needs playing time, and isn't getting it with the major league team, you have to farm him out for a while. Santino is that prospect. Florida is calling.

I think next week's handicap match may start the breakup of Legacy. Hunter will bury Rhodes & DiBiase by squashing them in about 3:00 or less, then lobby to have a do-over of the 3-way from Night of Champions.

Shaq claimed he & Hornswoggle went to school together. I wonder about that, if it was part of the show or if Dylan Postl ('Swoggle) really is an old pal of Shaq's from back in the day. I doubt it.

If this keeps up, you know they'll start something with "Saturday Night Live" when they start their new season.......

6:15 AM  
Anonymous John said...

This was a better than usual RAW in my opinion. The action seemed to keep coming non-stop thanks to the Beat the Clock matches. It was a nice twist that of the 5 Beat the Clock matches, 2 actually didn’t win. Usually those set ups just pre-suppose that the selected will win making their opponents basically jobbers. I had hoped from rumors that if Cena and Trips were facing each other at SummerSlam, then maybe Orton would get a new challenger for a change. In fact, since the gauntlet squash, I haven’t understood how they haven’t given Henry a title match if he can so easily pin the Champion (as Cole repeats constantly). At least Carlito got more offense than Orton or Jericho against Mark Henry. I thought the tension that developed quickly between Orton and Swagger was good – even though inconsistent with Swagger’s debut of showing Orton respect. That could have been an interesting match. I know the WWE is enamored with Mysterio types like Bourne because the kids love them. Whatever. But I don’t think it was such a great idea to have Swagger lose to him. At least they set it up as if it were a fluke. MVP not advancing due to Chris Masters was a nice surprise I thought. It was good to see Masters back, but it lacked a good build-up…or reason. Despite the lack of fanfare, MVP not advancing due to an opponent of equal ability was a good twist and something unexpected from the genuinely un-creative Creative team. And then you have Cena and Trips…

Trips is so concerned about his status it’s pathetic. He should be insecure – he has very little to offer. The set up was textbook Trips though. Since we know he’s sooooo good, Cody alone can’t be a threat. So they have to lead pipe his knee – which he can barely sell he’s such a crappy actor (see his real bad promo as evidence). And if that wasn’t enough to keep him from beating the clock, they had to mix in Ted Jr. Finally all excuses were in place so he’d agree to not succeed by 1 second – but he still won of course. That was just presumed! That’s why in his lingering efforts to be significant, Super Trips will be beating up both Cody and Ted next week. I wonder if Orton will be allowed to return the favor and save his ‘friends’. Although, Trips can usually beat up all three at once as I recall. What a buffoon.

Finally, Cena vs Miz. Although Miz was made to be not much of a threat in the ring, at least he’s not portrayed as a coward. He cops an attitude and tries to make you believe that he believes he can beat Cena. So now we get the inevitable – Cena vs Orton at SS. Actually I might have been originally looking forward to a renewed rivalry between these two, but Trips just drained all the life out it – and continues to. Back to Trips, this guy is so paranoid that we don’t get the message that even Swagger had to sell him back stage to Orton! “The good news is you don’t have to face Triple H at Summer Slam…” What kind of opponent would say something like that? Mr. Stephanie needs to get out of Creative at the very least…

I unfortunately missed the main event thinking the Cena match was the finale. With Orton standing in the ring with him, it felt like a good show ending. I don’t have any interest in the Big Show anyway. He was a terrible choice for Jericho. Unless he’s going to be made vulnerable, he has no point unless he’s in freak of the week matches with Khali or something. (Although Trips beats Big Show regularly in house shows with his devastating pedigree – I repeat, what a buffoon). But all in all, a fairly fast paced entertaining RAW. I only had to flip out during the “comedy” moments of Chavo/Hornswoggle (groan) and Shaq – the guest host – who had time to play Scrabble with Santino during the broadcast that he was in charge of.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous hhh said...

Todd you are right. Shaq should do some matches when he retires because I can just pedigree him (cause no one, even Hulk Hogan himself when he was hulking up can get up from that move) and bury him again and again when he faces me.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous John said...

I really do enjoy your posts hhh!

6:57 AM  
Blogger AKFooFighter said...

Props to the Big Witness Protection (Shaq), and to Show for his part in the angle. It was actually, you know, fun. Remember when these shows were fun?

Good times.

- Matt in Anchorage

12:57 PM  
Anonymous F.Leghorn said...

Todd, I laughed out loud when I read your 'terrorist fist bump' line. Oh, what a time that was.
Otherwise, all points made are valid, as usual. The Diesel has so much natural charisma, they'd have had a hell of a time keeping him from being entertaining. ( To non-NBA fans, please note I'm referring to Shaq, not Kevin Nash, who is, in fact, never entertaining). I have no idea why they'd push Bourne over Swagger at this point; he's excellent, but at his size, won't be allowed to do much of anything with it. What is irritating is that the talent is there, waiting to be used, but they instead keep pushing the husband to the moon, and even in the case of Jericho's partner, why in the world stick him with a dull guy like Show? They should have put Swagger or Ziggler with him, gotten them the rub, and we all win. This way, as usual, nobody wins. Meh.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I thought this was one of the worst Raws in a long time. Just dreadfully boring from start to finish with very few exceptions.

The stupid comedy, fake laughing, and idiotic repeating of the "WWE Universe" phrase that will never catch on is really starting to drive me crazy. Not to mention the bad matches, the short matches, and the matches with no ending.

Todd, I'm guessing you're a big Shaq fan, and I thought he was all right but not as fantastic as you thought. Part of it may be that I'm sick of the whole guest-host thing. Talk about making the whole company look like a bunch of jobbers -- they can just bring anybody in to boss them around for a week.

And nobody should be portrayed as physically threatening to any wrestler that's not a in pure comedy role. Within the context of the show, they should be world-beaters. If Shaq had a guest spot in a movie about a fighter, the writer and director would never allow such a scene, and Raw should be no different.

Triple H uttered one of the stupidest things I've ever heard: "I've learned that if you cut the dog's tail off, the dog dies." Really? I guess if you just hack a dog's tail off and nobody treats it there's a chance it will get infected, but that's a pretty weak analogy.

So did Masters go through some sort of hair restoration? Or was he so jacked up on stuff that going off all or some of it actually let his hair grow back? If the latter, that's quite an indictment of the wellness policy, since he passed several tests before later failing, and since I believe steroids (which can be detected) cause hair loss but growth hormone (which cannot be detected) does not.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Todd, it was a terrorist fist JAB (tm E.D. Hill, Fox News). Get it right.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Steve Khan said...

Shaq's performance was great--better than most of the roster.

And the Triple H/Legacy thing was stupid on so many levels. You'd think HHH would've turned the idea down seconds after he pitched it.

HHH also used (and butchered) a line from Gran Torino.

11:59 AM  

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