WWE Raw Report
The Big News: WWE finally pushed a new guy into the immediate main event picture. For better or worse.
First, I just want to mention that my e-mail account may have been bouncing some e-mails last week. If you sent me an e-mail and it got sent back, that was unintentional and please do re-send. Second, the report may (or may not) be a day late next week.
Jesse Ventura was announced to start the show but Randy Orton came out instead. He wanted Ventura to give him another title shot against Cena. Ventura joined him. One of the Raw screens misspelled governor, which is so embarrassing. Ventura had on a flashy jacket and glasses and said he wasn’t dressed like a governor but like a pro wrestler.
Ventura said he likes Orton’s style, but that he’s an independent demanding revolution. He vowed to bring something completely new to the WWE. I was expecting a new gimmick match for Chavo vs. Hornswoggle but it actually turned out to be a novel and clever idea.
Ventura observed that the same people always get title shots in WWE. He said the next title shot wouldn’t go to Orton, Shawn Michaels, Triple H or Chris Jericho. Instead, there would be Raw matches between wrestlers who have never been world champion. The winners would then compete in a breakthrough battle royal to crown a number one contender. Ventura then announced a few matches that have never been made before, C.M. Punk vs. John Cena and Hart Dynasty vs. DX. I loved this premise and Ventura’s delivery was great.
Kofi Kingston beat Dolph Ziggler. I’m so happy with the way they booked Kingston at the Survivor Series. That was exactly what they need to be doing. Ziggler worked over Kingston. Kingston came back with the high double leg drop. Kingston missed trouble in paradise but then hit it on a second try for the pin.
They did a few vignettes where wrestlers said what they’re thankful for. I remember these vividly from the early Survivor Series events. My favorite was “I’m thankful that I ain’t Ricky Rude.” The vignettes this year for whatever reason seemed dull to me. Miz said he isn’t thankful for his greatness because he expects that and the people should be grateful to him.
Sheamus beat Finlay in a very quick match. They brawled at the onset. Sheamus hit the razor’s edge for the pin. Sheamus attacked Finlay after the bell and kicked him into the crowd.
Teddy Long was going to say what he’s thankful for but Vickie Guerrero interrupted and said the people should be thankful she has power and influence. Alex Escobar added that she’s eye candy. They teased Long throwing mashed potatoes on them but Escobar just took them. Elsewhere, Orton again asked Ventura to put him in the battle royal. Ventura put over Orton but said he wouldn’t go back on his decision. This felt very true to Ventura’s announcer character.
John Cena beat C.M. Punk in a pretty good match. Punk before the match said he’s thankful that he straight edge. He criticized the people for gluttony during Thanksgiving. He has these gigantic rolls under his eyes like he hasn’t slept in weeks. I’m not sure if it’s makeup of some kind but I like the look a lot for the character.
Punk went after Cena’s neck. Cena came back with the five knuckle shuffle and tried the FU but Punk landed on his feet. Punk went for the GTS but Cena escaped and applied the STF. Punk got to the ropes and hit a high kick for two. He hit a high knee but had a bulldog attempt reversed. Cena then hit a top rope rocker dropper and second rope FU for the pin.
Backstage, Jesse Ventura met with Vince McMahon. Vince thought that Jesse wanted to make a match between the two. Jesse said no, he actually wanted Vince to announce later in the show. He said that Vince’s father didn’t believe in him so he made him an announcer rather than giving him a more powerful position. Jesse had an outfit with a bow tie for Vince to wear.
MVP, Mark Henry and R. Truth beat Chavo Guerrero, Chris Masters and Jack Swagger in a match where all three winners advanced to the battle royal. Given Mark Henry, Chavo Guerrero and Jack Swagger were all ECW champions, that tells you where the ECW title stands in the WWE hierarchy of world titles. Maybe they should call it the ECW TV title. RVD made that title as big as the ECW world title anyway. The heels worked over MVP, who tagged Truth. A brawl broke out. Henry press slammed Chavo onto Swagger on the floor. Truth then hit a flying forearm on Masters for the pin.
Backstage, Triple H was angry with Shawn Michaels. Michaels acted nervously and wouldn’t look at Hunter. Hunter yelled at him for the kick at Survivor Series. Michaels said that he’s sorry and he figured Hunter would pedigree him first. Hunter basically admitted this and they bickered back and forth. Michaels said he has the dodgy eye thing and that he was aiming for Cena. This was all pretty damn funny.
A little person then came in and delivered a lawsuit to DX. Hornswoggle is suing them in little people’s court next week with guest host Mini-Me. That sounds like death. Or at the very least gonorrhea.
Evan Bourne was going to wrestle Primo Colon in a qualifying match, but Orton jumped Primo before the match and said he was now in the match. Ventura appeared on the screen. He said rules are made to broken so he would break his rule and put Orton in the battle royal if Orton could beat Bourne. Ventura said persistency pays off and he likes Orton’s style. Orton threw Bourne into the post, caught a springboard and countered with a power slam and then hit the RKO for the pin.
They ran an ad for the new WWE movie with Ted DiBiase. It’s strange that they’re now plugging that movie and DiBiase is still Orton’s heel lackey. There aren’t really any movements towards DiBiase going face either. Perhaps they have decided to delay it until WrestleMania. If so, they should still plant seeds every few weeks so it will feel more important when it finally happens.
The Indians (Mickie James, Kelly Kelly and Melina) beat the Pilgrims (Michelle McCool, Layla and Jillian Hall) in a Mayflower Melee match. This was one of those goofy WWE comedy segments. It was better than they usually are. The two teams came out in outfits. The heels were disgusted with their pilgrim outfits and goofy pilgrim music. The music really was quite hilarious.
The Gobbledy Gooker came out as the time keeper. The faces came out to Tatanka’s music. The announcers spent most of the match apologizing for using the term “Indian.” The other heels abandoned Jillian because they were irritated with the costumes and Melina pinned Jillian.
After the match the Gobbledy Gooker attacked Melina. The Gooker took off her head and Michael Cole pretty much immediately identified this to be Maryse. I thought it was funny because I could hardly make out anything other than blonde hair. Maryse had trouble removing the Gooker outfit but was determined to for whatever reason. She spent what seemed like a minute completely detaching herself and then threw the outfit at Melina. This whole segment was weird.
DX beat Hart Dynasty. The Dynasty worked over Michaels briefly. HHH tagged in and hit a face buster and two spine busters. He went for the pedigree but it was broken up. Dynasty went for the springboard Hart attack but Michaels hit sweet chin music on Smith and HHH hit the pedigree on Kidd for the pin. This was just designed to put over DX. They weren’t trying to build Hart Dynasty for the future at all.
Chris Jericho after the match came out and said Ventura made Jericho and Big Show vs. DX for the tag titles at TLC. Jericho said Show wasn’t there (taping his movie presumably). HHH said that he was at the chocolate factory. Michaels said the match would be a TLC match. He was then about to say “if you’re not down with that,” but Jericho cut them off. He started screaming in rage. He said that as long as he has the titles, DX never will. Well, duh.
Batista came out for a promo. They played Rey Mysterio’s music and Michael Cole started talking about how surprised he was to see Rey. That was funny since before the break they had showed Batista walking toward the ring and said he would explain his annihilation of Rey. Batista said Rey will spend Thanksgiving in a hospital bed and that he has no one to blame but himself for stabbing Batista in the back and not leaving when Batista gave him a chance.
Batista said he is coming for Undertaker and the world title. Kane came out and told Batista to make an example of him. Batista left. I really like Batista as a heel. He feels fresher and I’m all for putting the title on him. It is a little tricky though because I sense a lot of the crowd (beyond just Washington DC) still wants to cheer him.
Legacy beat Cryme Tyme. They worked over JTG. Shad tagged in and gave DiBiase a power bomb. Rhodes made the save. DiBiase hit a cobra clutch into a uranage for the pin. This meant that the competitors in the battle royal would be R. Truth, Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Randy Orton, MVP and Ted DiBiase. That group doesn’t speak well at all for the job WWE has done building new talent.
Gail Kim and Alicia Fox bickered backstage. They were about to get into a pie fight, but then Santino came in. He said they shouldn’t be fighting but rather preparing food. So they hit him with pies. The Bellas and Eve Torres tried to help him but he made some more misogynistic remarks and they hit him with pies too. Vickie Guerrero then snuck in with a cake to attack Santino but Santino accidentally knocked it into her face. This was a clever comedy segment.
Sheamus won a battle royal to become number one contender to John Cena’s title. Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura did commentary. Vince at first just acted like Mr. McMahon but then he settled into kind of doing his old announcer role, which I enjoyed a lot. I always liked Vince in that capacity, and he did his typical stuff like calling eliminations before they happened and then taking it back. Vince and Jesse also did more discussion of rules and strategy than usual, which I like but Vince tries to discourage in his announcers.
Orton stood on the outside for much of the match. Sheamus threw out Truth and MVP. Henry eliminated both members of Legacy together. Sheamus immediately dumped Henry. Orton then came in. He threw Kingston over the top but Kingston skinned the cat and threw out Orton. Sheamus then eliminated Kingston to win.
The show concluded with a contract signing featuring John Cena, Sheamus and Jesse Ventura. Cena did one of his screaming showman promos that come across phony and scripted. They signed the contract. Ventura announced the match to tepid applause. Ventura then said he thinks there’s a conspiracy to keep Cena champ because he’s exactly the sort of champ WWE likes. Sheamus then attacked Cena with a kick, threw him into the post and body slammed him into the table. Ventura announced this would be a table match, which got no response at all.
For the most part I really liked this show. The writing felt significantly better than it has been, both in terms of the writing of individual segments and the comedy and also in terms of the way they built angles and laid out the show. Three hours is too long given how many shows they do, but this didn’t drag. Jesse Ventura was also one of the better guest hosts.
I would have absolutely raved about this show except for the ending. I’ve been strongly advocating the elevation of new wrestlers for ages, backing everyone from Miz to Kofi Kingston to Jack Swagger to Evan Bourne to MVP to Cody Rhodes to Ted DiBiase. But here they finally push a new guy into a main event, and it’s of all people Sheamus.
To me, the three big keys to sustained success in wrestling are wrestling ability, speaking ability and charisma. I’m cool with pushing anyone who has any of these elements. But to me, Sheamus has none. He hasn’t shown he can talk. He’s not a good wrestler. And I don’t think he has any charisma. He’s just a big stiff with a gimmicky look. The wrestler he most reminds me of is Mordecai, complete with basically the same finisher. If you don’t remember Mordecai, well, there’s a reason for that. I know Vince will always have the size fetish, but it’s so frustrating that here they are determined to put a new guy in the top picture and it’s this loser instead of one of two dozen more talented and entertaining performers.
Still, this show definitely registers as a success for me. It was better booked, entertaining, and at least they tried to elevate a new guy.