Monday, September 28, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 09/28/09 from Albany, NY.

The Big News: Al Sharpton preached education reform to WWE fans, John Cena beat down Randy Orton some more, and Rosa Mendes had a match for the ages.

Show Analysis:

MVP and Mark Henry were in the ring for the VIP Lounge to start the show. MVP went to introduce Al Sharpton, but Big Show and Chris Jericho interrupted him. Jericho took umbrage with MVP’s introduction for Sharpton, saying it wasn’t good enough for the most prominent civil rights leader of our time. Jericho and MVP then bickered back and forth about Sharpton’s greatest accolades. It was a pretty obvious and desperate ploy to get as positive of a reaction for Sharpton as possible.

Sharpton came out to boos anyway, while all four of the wrestlers applauded him. It was quite the amusing scene. He talked about his education reform tour. MVP asked for a tag title match on Raw. Jericho noted that Henry and MVP already had a shot and that Jericho and Show were scheduled for another match later in the show already. Jericho mixed in an amusing tirade against the fans.

Sharpton asked the people if they wanted a title match and when they cheered he said the people spoke and made the match. Jericho cried discrimination, a point Michael Cole emphasized in the next segment and was clearly a WWE joke at Sharpton’s expense. Sharpton wasn’t a disaster here in a good or a bad sense, but his presence felt pointless and undesired.

Chris Jericho and Big Show beat MVP and Mark Henry. They gave them a lot of time. The match was okay with a pretty good finishing sequence. The heels worked over MVP for a bit, and then worked over Henry for a little while. Show applied a long headlock on MVP.

MVP came in with an overhead belly to belly, yakuza kick and balling on Jericho. He went for the playmaker but Show broke it up. Henry sent Show out of the ring, and MVP got a rollup on Jericho for two. They really got the crowd with that near fall. MVP hit a DDT for two. However, he got caught bouncing off the ropes by a Show punch and Jericho hit the code breaker for the pin.

Al Sharpton, Primo Colon, Chavo Guerrero, Hornswoggle, Santino and Chris Masters did “comedy” backstage. It was funny. Just kidding. Elsewhere, Randy Orton cut a brief promo saying he would win back the title.

Mickie James beat Rosa Mendes in a 4 hour, 23 minute, 34 second bout. Alicia Fox was in Rosa’s corner. When you look at some of the matches that are given time on Raw and some of the matches that aren’t it becomes so apparent WWE writers have no concept of what constitutes a good wrestling match. They gave Rosa more than enough rope to hang herself, as this was among the worst matches in Raw history.

Here’s the rundown of the match. Rosa horribly botched something, Mickie hit a dropkick, Rosa horribly botched something, Mickie hit a neck breaker, Rosa hit kicks and shoulders, Mickie came back with a huracanrana, Rosa horribly botched something, Rosa horribly botched something else, and Mickie hit the chick kick for the pin. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how bad Rosa is until this match. “What a match!” proclaimed Michael Cole at the conclusion. How am I supposed to believe anything he says when he’s shameless enough to praise crap that awful?

Legacy came out to do a promo. Ted DiBiase said that no one expects them to win on Sunday but that they are primed for the victory of their careers. Yes, Sunday. I’m used to WWE pay-per-views every three weeks, but this pay-per-view more than any other I can recall is jarring in just how quickly it seemingly has come. It feels beyond unnecessary and too quick.

Cody Rhodes put over DX’s accomplishments big but said they would win. Shawn Michaels interrupted this chanting boring and HHH made fun of them as nerds and assholes. DX treated this like a joke. They came to the ring, Legacy left, and HHH promised hell. The dynamic here was all wrong. The heel young guys are putting over how good the face legends are, while the face legends make fun of the heel young guys and treat them like jokes. Hello, one of these groups is more in need of being talked up than the other.

Jack Swagger (who came out wearing the US title) beat Evan Bourne. Swagger hit a powerslam and back breaker. Bourne avoided the gut wrench power bomb and dove with his knees off the top rope. Swagger hit the power bomb for the pin. After the match, Swagger said he would officially be US champion Sunday. Miz came out to disagree. They started brawling, allowing Kofi Kingston to come in and take back the belt. This “stealing the belt” storyline is such a stupid program.

Chavo Guerrero and Chris Masters beat Hornswoggle and Santino. Masters beat Santino with the Masterlock and then applied the Masterlock to Hornswoggle after the match. Chavo Guerrero felt this was too much and punched Masters to break the hold. This was supposed to be a face spot but the crowd didn’t cheer at all. I’d like to think it’s because they loathe Hornswoggle and his crappy segments as much as I do, but I think it’s more likely just apathy.

They announced Ben Roethlisberger as the guest host of Raw next week. If I’m a Steelers fan, I’m none too pleased about him scheduling goofy wrestling gig distractions the day after a key night game when his team is 1-2. If this story gets national attention over the next couple days, I expect he’s going to receive a lot of criticism for doing this during the season.

The gauntlet match with John Cena against Chris Jericho, Big Show and Randy Orton was more of an angle than a match. Jericho attacked Cena first. Cena went for the FU a few times but couldn’t get it. Jericho applied the Walls. Cena got to the ropes but Jericho refused to break and just kept the hold on. Big Show then came out and went after Cena with punches to the body. Cena went for the FU but Jericho attacked Cena from behind for the DQ.

Orton then came down to the ring looking evil and ready to pick the bones of the beaten down Cena. A funny thing happened at that point. The Hell in a Cell cage started to lower. And all of a sudden Orton went from confident to scared. He tried to run away but Cena grabbed him to keep him from escaping. Orton panicked, but then he was just able to easily leave through the cage door. Orton climbed the cell with Cena chasing. They brawled on the top of the cell and Cena gave Orton the FU.

I really liked the start of this segment. The story of the heels beating down the champion and weakening him for Orton to me was compelling storytelling. I didn’t like the twist of the cage lowering and Orton turning chicken heel at all.

To begin with, I don’t think Orton should be portrayed as a coward. It’s a trait that works well for many heels (like Chris Jericho for example), but I think it undermines Orton and diminishes his character.

Moreover, psychologically it’s just weird to have Orton so excited about getting this beaten up Cena only to become terrified when the cage lowered. Shouldn’t he be happy that he gets this terribly weakened champion all to himself? If he’s such a coward, why does he even want a title rematch in a cell match? Why would he even want this gauntlet match? It’s not unjustifiable psychologically, but to me it strains credibility within the context of the story.

Then there’s the fact that Orton just left through the cage door immediately after the cage lowered. What exactly is the point of this cage if he can leave so easily? It was like they brought the cage there to specifically make the point that you can escape, which seems to me the exact opposite feeling you want fans to have about the cage.

And finally, there’s the issue of the consumer perspective. What are we paying for? Cena’s already beaten up Orton, made him submit and taken his title. Orton has done nothing in the interim and apparently has no confidence in himself in this rematch. So what’s the point of the whole thing? It’s just not very good storytelling or build.

Final Thoughts:

This was one of those episodes Raw where a million little things were really eating at me, and it had some big negatives on top of the host of little negatives. I sense I probably came down harder on this show than most because of the little things that drove me nuts, but I thought this show was pretty darn dreadful.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lions End Streak

...against the Redskins, of course.

It befuddles me how anyone who follows the Redskins closely can look to blame anyone other than Dan Snyder. Yeah, Jim Zorn doesn't look like a great coach. But until Danny Boy lets go of his unbelievable arrogance and hires a competent general manager who will make independent decisions rather than cater to his whims, there's no coach on Earth who can make this team work.

By all accounts, Danny Boy loves the Redskins. Has since childhood. Willing to spend very large amounts of money "to win." Obsessed and impatient with winning. But there's one thing he loves even greater than the Redskins and their success: himself. Despite it being blatantly obvious that Danny Boy does not have any real understanding of football, he insists on playing GM with help of crony yes-man Vinny Cerrato. And because he lacks the knowledge to evaluate mid-level football talent, he over and over and over again goes for flashy, headline grabbing players, trading away mid-round draft picks that are imperative to building a winner and wasting huge money each year in dead cap that keeps them from establishing depth. Thus the Redskins usually have a handful of high quality players (mostly on the downside of their careers) and then an ocean of subpar talent and a complete lack of depth. It's no recipe for winning, and it has failed repeatedly. Meanwhile, since he can't blame himself (the unmistakable culprit for the Redskins' struggles), he has to repeatedly scapegoat his coaches, switching around the coaching staff basically every year. That in turn leads to no stability, no consistency, and even if the Redskins had above average talent they couldn't win under such a broken system.

The solution is beyond obvious. Snyder needs to stop meddling with the FOOTBALL operations of his football team, and needs to hire the best personnel man he can get to choose a staff and players. Snyder's money can be very useful in helping the franchise, but he needs someone competent in the role he now occupies. Of course, Snyder will never do this. He'd rather lose and play GM than win and let someone else be a real GM. So he'll fire Zorn, make another flashy coaching hire, and the cycle will begin yet again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 09/21/09 from Little Rock, AR.

The Big News: Cedric the Entertainer was on Raw! Also, there were some wrestling angles and stuff.

Show Analysis:

The Bella Twins (who are apparently now Raw regulars despite being traded to ECW a few months ago) and Cedric the Entertainer arrived in a limousine to start Raw. A bunch of random people came out of the limousine including a football team, old woman, rabbi and goat. It was meant as comedy but didn’t do anything for me.

DX came out to start the show. They said that they will be wrestling Legacy in a Hell in a Cell match at, well, Hell in a Cell. They then pointed out that Shawn Michaels won the first Hell in a Cell and HHH has won the most Hell in a Cell matches of anyone. They added that Legacy has never competed in the Cell. DX promised Legacy the beatings of their lives and that the feud will come to an end. This was a good promo.

Triple H beat Cody Rhodes via DQ. HHH sent Cody into the post early and applied the crossface. Cody gained control and beat down HHH. On the outside of the ring, Legacy dropped Shawn Michaels on the announce table and they did a high/low on Michaels. Back in the ring, HHH went for the pedigree on Cody but DiBiase hit HHH with a chair for the disqualification. DiBiase hit HHH in the head with a chair and looked to break his neck with the chair but Michaels made the save with a sledgehammer. This feud to me is the best thing on Raw right now. It’s also become a genuine attempt to elevate Legacy, which I’m very happy about.

Cedric the Entertainer came out to very little reaction. Michael Cole labeled this a “standing ovation.” Cedric said he’s a wrestling fan and told some awful jokes. The announcers did their off-the-charts irritating and condescending fake laughter. Santino came out and told a crappy joke of his own. Chavo Guerrero then came out and challenged Cedric to a match. Santino accepted for Cedric.

The Miz beat Evan Bourne clean. Before the match Miz had the United States Title and said he’s more like a champion than Kofi Kingston ever has been. Kingston laid him out and took back the title. Miz crotched Bourne and followed with a neck breaker, knee lift and double chicken wing. Bourne crotched Miz on the top rope and followed with a top rope huracanrana. Bourne went for a shooting star but Miz moved out of the way. Bourne compensated and landed on his feet, but Miz then hit the skull crushing finale for the pin.

Jerry Lawler hosted a contract signing for John Cena and Randy Orton’s Hell in a Cell match. Earlier, Orton had told Legacy they had the night off and he’d handle the contract signing himself. Lawler said that there was a no physicality rule for the evening. Cena was smiling, goofing around, mugging for the camera and generally just making the whole thing seem like a joke.

Orton signed the contract and told Lawler to leave. Orton said that he has never been more dangerous. He noted that he has been in a Hell in a Cell match and Cena hasn’t. Orton concluded that he knows what to expect from the match and what it takes to win.

Cena responded with one of his goofy, obnoxious promos. He played footage of Orton submitting and made a bunch of goofy faces to imitate Orton for comedy. He laughed at the idea he would be intimidated by Orton. He said Orton should be worried because he doesn’t know what Cena is capable of. Cena said he would destroy Orton. Orton then said he found two men who would put Cena through hell. Chris Jericho and Big Show attacked Cena. Mark Henry and MVP made the save. Cedric made a 6 man tag main event.

Beth Phoenix beat Mickie James in literally right around a minute. Alicia Fox was at ringside. Mickie avoided a slingshot suplex and hit a neck breaker and Thesz press off the top rope to the floor. Alicia distracted her allowing Beth to send her into the post and hit the glam slam for the pin. Alicia gave Mickie an ax kick after the match. To recap, they decided to build a title match by having someone other than the challenger pin the champion in 60 seconds.

Kofi Kingston beat Jack Swagger via count out in a US title match. If you thought the booking of the women’s title program was bad, this was amazingly much worse. Miz ran out about 25 seconds into the match and stole the US title again. Swagger then attacked Miz and took back the title. Rather than returning to the ring for his title match, Swagger then proceeded to leave with the title himself and be counted out. So officially the US title is nothing more than a prop and having possession of the strap is more important than actually winning the championship. Whoever came up with this idea shouldn’t be allowed within 500 feet of a booking meeting for a pro wrestling company ever again.

It was quite the run of matches here, as next up was Chavo Guerrero vs. Cedric the Entertainer. And it went longer than the two previous matches combined. Santino was the referee. Cedric came out in a cape and mask. He went under the ring and a much larger and well built man in a cape and mask came back out. That imposter Cedric laid out Chavo and went back under the ring. Hornswoggle came out from under the ring in a cape and mask and gave Chavo the frog splash. He went back under the ring and the real Cedric came back out and covered for the pin. Cedric, Imposter Cedric and Hornswoggle then danced together. Utter crap.

They announced Rev. Al Sharpton as guest host next week. That has the potential to be perversely entertaining. Backstage, Chris Jericho and Big Show wanted to speak with Cedric the Entertainer.

Jerry Lawler thanked Lillian Garcia for ten years of service and said she is the diva of the decade. They let Lillian give a goodbye speech in the ring. She was immediately crying and put over what a privilege it has been to work for WWE and that her heart will always be with the WWE fans. This clearly meant a lot to her. Michael Cole then immediately cut to plugging the main event. This felt like a grudging tribute, but Lillian made it feel special anyway.

Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Big Show beat MVP, Mark Henry and John Cena. Prior to the match Jericho said that if the faces won Orton would have to wrestle Cena, MVP and Henry in a gauntlet match next week but that if the heels won Cena would have to wrestle Orton, Jericho and Show in a gauntlet match. The heels worked over Cena. He got the hot tag to MVP who hit balling on Jericho but was cut off by a Show head butt. They worked over MVP. He eventually got the tag to Henry (I’m getting kind of sick of WWE formula tag matches), who gave Orton head butts. Cena threw Show over the top, but Orton then hit the RKO on Henry for the pin.

Final Thoughts:

I didn’t care for this show much. It had a lot more segments that aggravated me than the past few weeks. I’ve officially turned on the guest host concept. I liked it as an idea at first but I’ve grown sick of it. It would be fine if the guest hosts were used to complement the general product, but instead they’re treated as the stars of the show. That’s okay if it’s someone like Shaquille O’Neal or Bob Barker, but it’s annoying with B-list and C-list celebrities like Cedric the Entertainer. If I wanted to watch comedy with revolving celebrities, I’d watch Jay Leno. If I watch a wrestling show, I want wrestling. The focus should be matches and interviews and angles.

Watching WWE’s Best of Smackdown DVD over the weekend it was obvious that WWE now more than ever views itself as this goofy comedy show where the highlights are the most ridiculous and bizarre segments the creative team can come up with rather than the stuff that actually resonates with fans. Likewise, these guest host segments have become masturbatory exercises for the company, an opportunity to feel accepted as “legitimate” (read: better than rasslin’) entertainment. I wish they would just be proud to be pro wrestling again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 09/14/09 from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Big News: Trish Stratus and Batista returned to action in the first genuinely excellent edition of Raw in ages.

Show Analysis:

Batista came out to start the show. He thanked all the fans and said it has been a rough year for him. He said that he came to say goodbye. He was then interrupted by Randy Orton. Orton said he is not happy about losing the title, but that Batista retiring cheered him up. Orton told Batista to save the speech because no one cares. He added that Batista was retiring because of him. He told Batista to hang his head and cry.

Batista laughed and said that he was laughing for two reasons. First was that Orton is predictable and second was that he knew something Orton didn’t know. Batista took off his arm brace and clotheslined Orton out of the ring. Batista said he wasn’t there to announce his retirement but rather to announce that he is going to Smackdown. No explanation was given for this. I guess they want him as an opponent for CM Punk, but Batista chasing a heel champion is really overdone. Batista further announced Trish Stratus gave him one last no holds barred match with Orton later on Raw. This was a cool little angle.

Trish Stratus came out. She’s now a brunette and she still looks great. She didn’t get as big of a reaction as I would have expected. She announced Randy Orton vs. John Cena Hell in a Cell at the next pay-per-view.

Jack Swagger and the Miz beat Kofi Kingston and Primo Colon. The heels worked over Primo. A Swagger Vader bomb attempt collided with Primo’s knees, and that gave Primo the chance to tag Kofi. Kofi came in with an ax handle off the top and a dropkick on Swagger. As he was punching Swagger in the corner, Miz made off with Kofi’s U.S. title. That distracted Kofi and Swagger hit the gut wrench power bomb on Kofi for the pin.

Alicia Fox beat Gail Kim to become the top contender for Mickie James’ title. Mickie did commentary on the match. Alicia used a leg scissors. Gail came back with clotheslines and a crossbody off the top for two. However, she missed a dropkick off the top and Alicia hit the ax kick for the pin. This was better than expected.

Backstage, Beth Phoenix wanted to know why Trish didn’t put her in the women’s contender match. Jericho then said that Trish was in love with him but he told her to hit the bricks. Trish laughed at this interpretation and made fun of Jericho’s relationship with Big Show. Beth responded that at least Jericho has the guts to compete and didn’t run away to a yoga store. Trish said she would get a tag partner and wrestle Beth and Jericho.

Shawn Michaels beat Ted DiBiase via DQ. Before the match DiBiase and Cody Rhodes bragged about making DX tap. They said that they’re no longer the sons of their fathers but rather the other way around. I really liked this not only because of its role in helping to elevate Legacy but also because it tried to emphasize an in ring result as being a particularly important development and accomplishment.

DiBiase worked over Michaels early. Michaels came back with a figure four but DiBiase broke it by going to the eyes. Michaels then sold his eyes throughout the rest of the match as DiBiase attacked him. Michaels finally came back with the elbow off the top and went for sweet chin music but Cody grabbed Michaels’ leg for the DQ. Another brawl broke out all over the place. This was a hot segment and Michaels did a really good job selling.

Evan Bourne and Hornswoggle beat Chavo Guerrero and Carlito. The heels went after Bourne. Bourne eventually made his own comeback. He had Chavo beaten down and tagged Hornswoggle. Chavo grabbed Hornswoggle but Hornswoggle spit apple in Chavo’s face and hit the frog splash for the pin. Afterwards, Chavo said that he gave up and Hornswoggle wins, so that would appear to be the end of that feud. Thank God.

John Cena did a promo backstage. He said that he wanted to give up many times at Breaking Point but that he kept his word and didn’t give up. He said that at Hell in a Cell Orton will see a more savage side of Cena. This was a much more consistently serious promo and as a result it was extremely effective.

MVP, Mark Henry and Trish Stratus beat Chris Jericho, Big Show and Beth Phoenix. It started as a tag match with MVP and Trish against Jericho and Beth. Beth and Trish started but Show quickly ran in and Henry came out too. Trish thus made a six person tag. The heels worked over MVP, who hit an overhead belly to belly on Jericho and went for the yakuza kick. Jericho tagged Beth and MVP tagged Trish in response.

Trish and MVP did balling together on Beth. MVP hit a pescado on Jericho. Trish was coming off the ropes for a dive but Henry tripped her. Henry then took out Show. Back in the ring Trish hit the Stratusphere and Stratusfaction on Beth for the pin. This was a fun match. They announced Cedric the Entertainer as the guest host next week. I’m not optimistic about that one.

Batista beat Randy Orton. Batista hit some clotheslines. Orton grabbed a chair but Batista speared him. Batista threw Orton into the announce table and steps. Orton went for the RKO but Batista countered into a spine buster. Orton left the ring, but John Cena came out to stop him from leaving. Orton couldn’t decide where to go but eventually went after Cena. Cena gave him a clothesline and threw him back in the ring. Batista hit a spine buster and Batista bomb for the pin.

This was more of a squash than anything which doesn’t help Orton, but it was entertaining and gave Batista nice closure on Orton continually getting the better of him. I assume that Legacy not being there will become a plot point leading to Orton breaking with DiBiase following Hell in a Cell or Survivor Series.

Final Thoughts:

This is the sort of show I would love Raw to be every week. It was a wrestling show, build around serious feuds and the resolution of conflict. There was plenty of talk and entertainment, but it wasn’t presented in a goofy way that taught you not to take it seriously. They did a good job reintroducing Batista, they kept the DX-Legacy program hot and Trish Stratus did a good job as host. All in all, a very enjoyable two hour program.

Monday, September 07, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 09/07/09 from Chicago, IL.

The Big News: Bob Barker hosted Raw.

Show Analysis:

Howard Finkel announced at the beginning of the show that this would be the Price is Raw. The Price is Right music played and Bob Barker came out to a big pop. He then received a legitimate prolonged standing ovation. It made me happy because I’ve always liked Barker a lot. He put over the people and then introduced a pricing game.

Santino Marella, Jillian Hall, Irwin R. Shyster and Chris Jericho were told to come on down. An excited Santino ran down out of the crowd. Jericho was disgusted by the whole thing. The prize was a Best of Smackdown DVD. Santino wanted to buy a vowel and then bid $1465, which felt lame and contrived.

The notion of a person being stupid and making a ridiculous bid is funny, but at the point you’re bidding over a thousand dollars for a DVD you can’t possibly invest in the actual joke because you’re being beaten over the head with the fact it’s scripted comedy. That’s a big problem with Santino in general. He’s gone from an amusing character to an unbelievable farcical caricature. The reaction is not, “Ha, what a moron that guy is!” but rather, “Yeah, like we’re supposed to believe any functioning human being thinks a DVD costs fifteen hundred dollars.”

Jillian Hall decided to sing and then bid $75, which just continued the trend. IRS bid $50 including taxes, so he was little better. Jericho tried to leave. Barker said that he was being naughty and that his mother would be ashamed, which was funny. Jericho was annoyed at being called Chris and wanted to be called Mr. Jericho. Jericho said he was one half (of the tag team champions), but Barker took this to mean $1 was his bid. So of course he won. The premise here was much more amusing than WWE’s typically ham-fisted execution. Still, Barker made the segment fun.

MVP beat Chris Jericho. Jericho got this match as a result of winning the pricing game, and if he won he would win a trip to Hawaii. The Bella twins modeled for the trip. Weren’t they traded to ECW? Aren’t there any Raw women who could do that? This is such simple storyline consistency stuff. Jericho went after MVP’s back. MVP hit a face buster, but as he went for balling Jericho countered into the Walls. MVP escaped and hit the yakuza kick. He went for the playmaker, but Jericho escaped and went for the code breaker. MVP reversed that into a cradle for the pin.

DX and Bob Barker met backstage. DX said they were big fans. Barker said they would spin the wheel to determine their opponents later in the show, but sadly it was a digital wheel rather than the wheel from Price is Right. Their opponents were Chris Masters and Randy Orton. HHH mocked Masters’ hair plugs.

Evan Bourne beat Chavo Guerrero. They announced that Chavo could win a new car if he won this match. The crowd seemed very pleased when Bourne came out rather than Hornswoggle. I know I was. Chavo dominated the match with an abdominal stretch and the three amigos. He went to the top for the frog splash, at which point Hornswoggle came from under the ring with a super soaker and squirted it at Chavo to prevent him from jumping.

Chavo went after Hornswoggle, allowing Bourne to get a rollup for the pin. So, Evan Bourne needs interference to keep from losing clean to the guy who lost to the annoying midget 200 straight weeks? Great. And with all the garbage DQ finishes they have done in the past few months, blatant interference in front of the referee is not a DQ here?

Cody Rhodes came out to address what happened last week. He said that he is still a member of Legacy. Cody said he doesn’t agree with what Orton did to his father, but Dusty didn’t make Cody a main eventer. That’s definitely true. Orton did. Wait, what? Cody said Dusty was an excellent father, but he’s sticking with Orton. He said he would make John Cena submit as a favor to Orton. Cody said that there’s nothing Dusty wouldn’t do for his son, but there’s nothing his son won’t do for his own career.

John Cena beat Cody Rhodes via DQ. They presented Rhodes pretty strong here given Cena is challenging for the title Sunday, and I’m pleased by the trend towards protecting Rhodes and DiBiase. Cena was in control for a while. Rhodes took over and used some submissions, including a chin lock and a Fujiwara armbar. Cena came back with shoulder blocks but missed a top rope rocker dropper. Rhodes applied the figure four but Cena reversed into the STF. Orton interfered for the DQ. Cena gave Rhodes the FU after the match.

They said that Batista will make an announcement next week on Raw. It seemed to me a retirement tease, but I guess we will see what they have planned. They’re billing DX vs. Legacy at Breaking Point as the first match in WWE history where submissions count anywhere, which is another ode to complete lack of attention to detail given the most famous submission match in company history ended with a submission outside the ring (Foley/Rock).

Bob Barker introduced a second pricing game. A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox was introduced as the new player. The prize was a WrestleMania 26 travel package. A.J. bid $1,000. IRS bid $2,000. Jillian bid $5,000. Santino bid $1,200. The price was $1,247, so Santino won.

For winning, Santino got a chance to win another prize, a hot tub. However, he could only win the prize by winning a body slam challenge against Big Show. Show slammed him so he lost. For some reason Barker didn’t understand what was going on, as he kept asking whether it was over even after they played the loser music twice. Barker then announced that there would be a second challenge, this time between Show and Mark Henry.

Mark Henry beat Big Show in the body slam challenge. They basically traded slam attempts until Henry got it. Match itself was bad but the slam looked very impressive and they did their best to get over Henry and MVP as challengers in the last week. Backstage, Bob Barker did a mini-interview on his career and plugged his book. It was fun. Trish Stratus was announced as guest host of Raw next week.

Chavo Guerrero backstage complained to Bob Barker about his loss to Evan Bourne. He wanted the car he was offered. Barker said that in any fight the best advantage is the element of surprise, and then suddenly punched Chavo in the gut. He followed with a chop to the back that floored Chavo. He said, “Have your pets spayed or neutered,” and that was it for Bob. This was funny.

Shawn Michaels and HHH beat Chris Masters and Randy Orton. The heels worked over Michaels, who eventually got the tag to HHH. HHH gave Masters a spine buster and tagged back in Michaels for an elbow off the top. Michaels went for sweet chin music but Masters ducked under and applied the Masterlock. HHH broke that up, and HHH and Michaels applied a simultaneous sharpshooter and figure four on Orton and Masters respectively. Masters tapped out for the finish.

After the match, DX brawled to the back with Rhodes and DiBiase. They fought through the backstage area before Rhodes and DiBiase eventually hijacked a car to escape. Orton avoided that situation and came back to the ring. He said that the title is the only thing he considers important in life. John Cena ran out and they brawled. Orton gave him an implant DDT and RKO on the chair. This was a hot ending to the show.

Final Thoughts:

I imagine tonight’s Raw will be a polarizing episode. Some people are likely to view the whole thing as a parody of pro wrestling, while others are likely to enjoy it as a campy fun. It ultimately comes down to what you want out of wrestling. Personally, I enjoyed Bob Barker hosting Raw. It’s not the sort of thing you ought to do every week, but as a special thing it was cute. The execution of the concept was generally lacking, but that’s to be expected from WWE’s writing team. Barker himself was to me among the best celebrity hosts.

There is, of course, the issue of the pay-per-view this Sunday. The guest hosts generally undermine pay-per-view build, but this week it was particularly pronounced. Whether it’s intentional or not, WWE has spent much of 2009 undermining the idea that pay-per-views are important events. But the genie was let out of the bottle a long time ago on that one, so it’s hard to be too bothered. The final ten minutes of the show they did a good job building the pay-per-view, but it kind of accentuated how lackadaisical they were on that count for the rest of it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 08/31/09 from Detroit, MI.

The Big News: The Shockmaster returned! Oh yes!

Show Analysis:

Dusty Rhodes came out to start the show. He noted that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in Detroit and put over the city. Dusty added that he is proud of his son Cody Rhodes. He announced Cody vs. Randy Orton for the title on Raw with Dusty in Cody’s corner and John Cena as referee. That brought out Orton, who said that Dusty is jealous Cody looks up to Orton more than he ever did to Dusty. Orton said Dusty was just shamelessly trying to gain Cody’s love.

Dusty responded that Cody is hungrier than Orton and that he will be there to raise Cody’s hand. Orton asked Dusty why he shouldn’t just have punted Dusty right there. Cody Rhodes came out and said that Dusty is his father and he won’t pass up the opportunity for the title shot. He said that this was strictly business. Orton said that the fix was in, and Dusty admitted as much.

Dusty was good here, but I was expecting him to be more fun. He was actually on the reserved side by Dusty Rhodes standards. No “bull of the woods,” “fruit of my loins,” “mothership,” “funky like a monkey,” “in pulic if you weel,” or anything. He sounded basically like everyone else on the show. That’s yet another argument for giving guys bullet points so they can define their own speaking style rather than having mediocre writers scripting out every word.

Beth Phoenix won a bad 6 woman battle royal to earn a title shot later in the show. Beth Phoenix eliminated Rosa Mendes. Gail Kim dumped Alicia Fox. Beth sent out Kelly Kelly. Jillian Hall and Gail Kim then fought for a while. It was quite bad. They blew a bunch of spots and the crowd turned on the match. Gail finally threw out Jillian, but Beth then immediately dumped Gail for the win.

Chris Jericho beat MVP in a very good match. Jericho hit a back suplex. MVP came back with punches and an overhead belly to belly. He blocked a Walls attempt and hit the yakuza kick for two. Jericho retaliated with a springboard dropkick and bulldog, but MVP regained control with balling. MVP’s playmaker attempt was reversed into a Walls attempt which was reversed into a small package for two. Jericho then hit the code breaker for the pin. Jericho and MVP worked very well together.

Dusty Rhodes and DX were hanging out backstage, plugging the Rise and Fall of WCW DVD. HHH said Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase are disgraces to their fathers’ legacies. Dusty said that when Cody won, he would give HHH or Shawn a title shot.

Hornswoggle beat Chavo Guerrero in a “bullrope match” not actually contested under bullrope match rules. I’m not wasting any more time on this utter shit.

Mark Henry beat Big Show via DQ. This was a bad match, a flashback to 80s WWF with Henry putting Show in a long headlock where the two big guys just stood there. Show hit a spear and Henry hit a splash. Show then undid the turnbuckle and sent Henry into it for the DQ. Show then laid him out with the KO punch. Not that it matters, but they certainly haven’t done a great job making you think Henry and MVP have a prayer against Show and Jericho.

DX and Dusty Rhodes did another backstage vignette. They talked about the Kevin Nash-Hulk Hogan one finger push. HHH said if they were in WCW they wouldn’t have let Nash do that. They argued WWF vs. WCW with Dusty. Dusty pointed out WCW beat WWF when Shawn Michaels was on top and WWF rose up when Michaels left. As Shawn threw a temper tantrum, HHH started making fun of the Johnny B. Badd gimmick. Dusty noted that was his idea.

Kofi Kingston beat Carlito, Jack Swagger and the Miz to retain the Intercontinental Title. This is old news, but boy did they bury Miz again here. He announces his big goal is to win the United States Title. It takes him only two weeks before he already has his shot, along with two other guys who weren’t even on last week’s show and haven’t expressed much of an interest in the title. So the guy’s big career turnaround is going to be winning a title that you can get a shot at in no time at all without accomplishing anything in particular. And then he fails anyway. He’s like a pitcher who announces his big goal for the next season is to keep his ERA under five, and then he gets cut in May with a 12.83 ERA.

In spite of that, this was a fun match. Kofi hit an impressive plancha on all of the heels. He used a frog crossbody off the top onto Carlito and Miz. Swagger hit a series of clotheslines and a Vader bomb on Carlito. He went for one on Miz but hit the knees. Kofi hit a high double leg drop on both Swagger and Carlito. Miz gave Swagger the skull crushing finale but Carlito broke up the pin. Carlito then hit the back stabber on Miz but Kofi hit trouble in paradise for the win.

Mickie James beat Beth Phoenix in a good match by WWE women’s standards. Beth hit a slam into the corner and dropkicked Mickie into the post. She followed with a shoulder breaker. Mickie hit low dropkicks and a huracanrana. Mickie went to the top but Beth pushed her off to the floor and threw her into the barricade. Mickie then hit the tornado DDT for the pin.

HHH and DX were backstage again. HHH made fun of the Shockmaster, at which point the Shockmaster voice came on in the background. Fire went off and Santino stumbled through the wall in the Shockmaster helmet. It was revealed Arn Anderson was doing the voice, and Dusty said the idea could have worked. Only a very small percentage of the audience could have possibly understood this, but I don’t care. I found this laugh-out-loud hilarious and absolutely loved the segment.

John Cena backstage said that he wouldn’t give Cody Rhodes the title and that Rhodes would have to earn it himself. He did a good promo where he repeatedly stated that he would not quit against Randy Orton. It would have been really strong if he hadn’t started with the cutesy crap that makes it clear the whole thing is a joke and not serious business. They announced Bob Barker as guest host of Raw next week. I won’t lie. I love the idea. I hope it turns out well.

The main event wasn’t a match. John Cena, Cody Rhodes, Dusty Rhodes and Randy Orton came out. Dusty reiterated that there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his son, and apologized to Cena. Cody and Orton then attacked Cena two on one. DiBiase came out and joined them, and then DX tried to make the save. Dusty cut them off with his boot and they beat down the faces. Then Orton gave Dusty the RKO as a livid Cody looked on.

I like a good swerve but this felt like a Vince Russo swerve for the sake of a swerve. I mean, what kind of pointless plan was this? Dusty sets up a diabolical plan that involves two hours of deception. The big payoff? A two-on-one attack that occurs basically every week. Why not just book a three-on-one handicap match if you want to help your son? Or book the whole thing to be in a cage so nobody could make the save? He lied for two hours to accomplish basically nothing when he could have accomplished his own stated goal better by just being upfront from the beginning.

Final Thoughts:

This show was a mixed bag, which by recent Raw standards is a positive. I liked the Jericho-MVP match a lot and there were some other good matches as well. The DX comedy was pretty funny in general and the Shockmaster vignette was hilarious. Of course, you also had a number of matches that were quite bad, and I thought the main storyline was rather silly.