Monday, December 28, 2009

WWE Raw Report

Date: 12/28/09 from Hartford, CT.

The Big News: It’s too late to apologize for Raw the last two weeks, but thankfully WWE delivered a better show this week.

Show Analysis:

Chris Jericho was outside the building at the beginning of the show. He was simultaneously asking fans to sign his petition to get him back on Raw and insulting those same fans. This was a cute idea, even if I did originally hear it proposed by some disreputable riffraff. It reminds me of Jericho’s very entertaining WCW character always complaining of conspiracies against him.

John Cena came to the ring and brought a table out from under the ring. He suggested Sheamus wrestle him in a tables rematch for the title. He said this with such enthusiasm that the crowd reacted very positively despite it being a significantly less interesting option. Sheamus came out and declined the offer for a tables match. He said he would beat Cena in a singles match. Cena gave him an FU through the table.

Backstage, Timbaland confirmed that Cena vs. Sheamus for the title was still on. Elsewhere, Randy Orton was annoyed that Legacy lost last week to Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston and Mark Henry even though the latter team had never teamed before. Orton said that because no members of Legacy have titles, they are failures. He said that he arranged for singles matches with Ted DiBiase vs. Bourne and Cody Rhodes vs. Henry. He announced that Rhodes and DiBiase would have to prove they are not failures by winning, or Orton would kick them out of Legacy and beat them up.

Randy Orton came to ringside to watch Legacy’s two singles matches. The story was that even though Rhodes and DiBiase won quickly and convincingly (about two minutes each), Orton didn’t look pleased afterwards. They seem to again be moving towards a breakup, with the tease being Orton jettisoning both Rhodes and DiBiase. Of course, that could also be a setup for a swerve with Rhodes and Orton turning on DiBiase. Either way, I think it was a positive that they put over DiBiase and Rhodes so strong.

Ted DiBiase beat Evan Bourne. DiBiase hit a head over heels clothesline and delayed vertical suplex. Bourne came back with a top rope huracanrana and went for the shooting star press but DiBiase cut him off. DiBiase went to drop him on the top rope but missed and just dropped him on the mat and then hit Dream Street for the pin. Bourne would be in so much better shape if they just gave him five minutes in his losses rather than two minutes.

Cody Rhodes beat Mark Henry. Henry was in control very early on but he accidentally injured one of his legs. He then went for a gorilla press but his leg gave out. Rhodes hit a chop block and DDT for the win. This was the very rare short match that didn’t feel rushed, I think because it was built around an injury angle rather than the guys just rushing to finishers a minute in.

DX and Hornswoggle were involved in a Jackass-like skit backstage. Shawn Michaels was distracted by Bret Hart’s return, but HHH pushed Hornswoggle on a skateboard into a singing Jillian Hall. DX and Hornswoggle go together like Dustin Diamond and sex tapes, like Shaquille O’Neal and Mike D’Antoni, like Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, like Jay-Z and R. Kelly, like a poke to the eye and a knee to the groin.

Maryse beat Kelly Kelly. Kelly hit a dropkick and a crossbody off the second rope. She missed the handspring elbow and Maryse used the implant DDT for the pin. After the match Maryse cackled and taunted Melina in French and English. I know I can’t go a week without pointing this out, but Maryse’s heel mannerisms are so unbelievably awesome. They need to find this woman something meaningful to do.

Big Show outside the arena told Chris Jericho to move on. He said that long distance relationships don’t work out. Jericho wanted to know if there was someone else (a new tag team partner for Show). Show told him to let it go and handed him an envelope. Jericho saw what was in it and laughed. This was a very amusing segment even if it wasn’t particularly difficult to figure out what was in the envelope.

Vince McMahon came to the ring. There were chants of “we want Bret.” Vince said that the crowd loves guest hosts. There was mild applause. He then showed a video history of Bret Hart. This was a tremendous package that glorified Bret’s career and then went over the Bret/Vince feud. It ended with Vince saying that Bret screwed Bret. I was excited before for Bret’s return and this got me even more excited.

The difference between Bret’s return and Hulk Hogan’s return is Bret actually has a reason to come back and a built-in direction. If he does the street fight with Vince at WrestleMania, I think it’s going to do great business.

Vince told a story about how he offered to shake hands with Bret after Bret’s Hall of Fame induction and Bret showed contempt for him. Vince teased he would bring Bret in as host next week anyway, but then said Bret will never be guest host on Raw.

Shawn Michaels then came out. The tease was that he would say something about Bret, but instead he asked Vince for the WrestleMania rematch with Undertaker. Vince said that he wouldn’t make that match and that Shawn would have to, whatever that means. Shawn then suggested Vince bring closure to his issue with Bret. Shawn added that only good things will happen if Bret returns. Shawn added that he will be happy to see Bret one more time. So Vince announced Bret as guest host next week.

This was a very interesting segment. I’m really intrigued by where they will go with Bret and Vince and they didn’t tip their hand much on what they will do. How Shawn Michaels will be involved is also very much in the air. Here, it seemed that they could be building to Shawn as a face making amends with Bret, or Shawn wanting Bret to come back so he can get him again.

Personally, I think Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels are such natural real life rivals that they shouldn’t be united in any way in the storyline. It’s like Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. Bret and Shawn together won’t feel natural or real and it will thus undermine the seeming reality of Bret and Vince. Shawn’s been a heel for select programs in the past few years, and he can do it again here. It even could play into the feud with Taker, since Taker of course was no ally of Shawn during that period himself. Hopefully that’s what WWE decides as well.

John Cena was doing an interview backstage when he was jumped by Sheamus. Elsewhere, Kofi Kingston thanked Timbaland for the chance to earn a shot at the US title. This was just killing me, with WWE seemingly making it a point to emphasize that Kofi is right back exactly where he was before they tried to push him. But it turned out not to be that bad. MVP suggested that he be given a title shot when Kofi wins the title. Miz then came in and said Kofi won’t win the title. Timbaland said that if Kofi beat Miz in a singles match, he would get a title shot immediately after rather than next week.

Kofi Kingston and Miz had two back-to-back way too short matches. First Kofi beat Miz almost instantaneously with trouble in paradise as Miz was coming off the top. Then in the second “match” Kofi used a frog crossbody, crucifix cradle, side Ghanan leg sweep, boom drop and trouble in paradise. He had Miz pinned but Randy Orton interfered and gave Kofi an RKO on the floor.

A good 75 percent of Raw matches are too short to the extent that it undermines what they are trying to accomplish, but these Kofi-Miz matches were particularly egregious examples of that negative trend. It seemed like beating the Miz is a ridiculously easy task to accomplish. That made Miz look really weak. That in turn made the US title seem really unimportant. That in turn made Kofi look bad given he lost to the US title to Miz.

A lot of wrestling fans feel there should be more wrestling on WWE and TNA TV because they like wrestling matches when they watch wrestling. But even setting aside that preference, even if you don’t like to watch wrestling, you simply have to give wrestling matches time to breathe if you want the stories you’re trying to tell to work. When you rush all the matches the wrestlers look bad, the feuds feel fake, and interest in pay-per-view feud culminations declines.

Randy Orton backstage said that his issue with Kofi Kingston isn’t over and that it will be over when he says it is over. He said that next week he will finish it and kick Kofi in the skull. On the plus side, this has to mean Kofi will get the final win in the feud given he lost clean at the PPV. Right?

Random note. WWE over the past year has utilized obvious plants on Raw and Smackdown. The cameras will zoom in on a really attractive woman all dressed up and sitting by herself or with another really attractive woman, diligently holding up a carefully made sign plugging a WWE catchphrase or guest host that isn’t over. It’s always really obvious, and it was particularly obvious at a number of points tonight.

WWE needs to drop this practice. It makes them look tacky, insecure and pathetic that they need to pay non-wrestling fans to look like what they want fans to look like and to hold opinions that they want fans to have. If you want an upscale audience, produce a sophisticated product that doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence rather than Hornswoggle skits. Superficial audience manipulation does not help your cause in the slightest.

There’s a reason the NFL is never going to order its announcers and players to make incessant references to NFL fans as the “NFL Galaxy” and it’s pretty much the exact same reason the NFL is never going to pay models to hold up signs mimicking NFL corporate slogans. If you treat your fans like oblivious idiots year after year, eventually that’s all that will be left of your audience. Well, until you buy different fans.

DX beat Big Show and Chavo Guerrero. Chris Jericho was given a front row ticket by Show earlier and he watched the match from ringside. This was kind of a strange match, in that Chavo has been treated as a total undercard joke for years but here he was actually given offense and presented like a credible opponent for DX. It was a pretty good match too.

Chavo went for the three amigos on HHH but HHH countered with a suplex of his own. Chavo hit a dropkick on HHH and took over on Michaels. The heels took turns on Michaels until he got the tag to HHH. Show went for the choke slam but HHH escaped. HHH hit a spine buster on Chavo and a face buster on Show. Show then speared HHH. Chavo went for a frog splash off Show’s shoulders but missed. Michaels then took Show out of the ring. Hornswoggle ran in and went for the pedigree on Chavo but Chavo countered. Chavo then walked into the pedigree for the pin.

After the match, Jericho came over the barricade and threw a temper tantrum. Michaels ended up giving him sweet chin music. HHH then said he would give Jericho a rematch next week but if Jericho loses he is “off Raw forever.”

John Cena beat Sheamus via DQ. Timbaland did the ring announcements. They gave these guys very little time and they were way out of position for a couple spots early anyway. Cena basically just did all his moves. He hit shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle. Cena went for the FU but Sheamus grabbed the ropes and then the ref to stop the move. Cena hit the FU anyway, but the referee rather than counting the pin fall got right up and called for the DQ.

We’ve seen some awful finishes in WWE this year, but this was absolutely atrocious even by those standards. The referee was like a cartoon in how stupid this decision was, and it just felt like the promotion screwing you more than an angle that continues this feud. Sheamus gave Cena the big boot after the match and stood over him. I continue to see nothing in Sheamus. I don’t think he’s in the top 80 percent of the WWE roster in terms of main event talent and marketability.

Final Thoughts:

As I said at the beginning, this was a better show. It still had its flaws, particularly all the matches but one being either too short or way, way too short. But the booking was much better besides the main event, there was very little of the idiotic comedy, and they did a much better job building up some programs. It has been a rough spell for Raw but they have enough interesting programs for WrestleMania that early 2010 should, knock on wood, produce some very entertaining shows.


Blogger AKFooFighter said...

I may be paraphrasing, but Jericho landing the "I'm scared for the future of America" blast was the WWE moment of the year IMO.

- Matt in Anchorage

P.S. - Happy New Year

1:28 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

When Big Show gave Jericho that envelope, I knew it had to be one of two things. A ticket was one, a contract for Raw being the other. With Bret Hart coming in next week, I see a title change, which would start the latest break-up of DX, with HBK going heel and siding with old foe Vince, or they both go heel to resume an old issue with Bret.

What makes more sense to me, if they want to facilitate a title change, is to add the Hart Dynasty to the mix, and bring them over from Smackdown for one more shot at the titles. They can have Bret come out and say that even though the kids are over on the blue brand, since he's running the show, they get another title shot. How simple can that be? Oh, that's right. What's simple for us is too complex for Vince's staff of idiots.

On paper, I figured, Legacy would go 1-1, with Rhodes jobbing, but then they had to go and do an injury angle with Mark Henry. Not sure if the knee injury was actually legit, and Mark certainly sold it like it was, but the breakup teases have gone on far too long, and we expected a split to have already happened by now, what with Marine 2 hitting stores today. What are they afraid of?

One other thing. In light of all the legit concussions in football and other sports, they need to ban the concussion punt. You have a guest host coming in whose career ended because of a concussion, so I don't see Bret allowing Orton to pull that stunt. It's got to go.

The finish to Sheamus-Cena II looked familiar, and with good reaason. 3 1/2 years ago, Edge pulled the same stunt to save the title. It's as if, again, they treat us like idiots who can't remember beyond a certain point. Well, guess what? We can, and we always will!!!

All the matches were rushed, and there was too much talking. Timbaland just didn't cut it as a host for me. But, with Bret and Mike Tyson coming the next two weeks, well, as JR would say, business is about to pick up. All we need is Stone Cold returning for a brief visit, and......!

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Timbaland was the worst host they've had. At least other bad hosts were bad in a perversely entertaining way. Timbaland was just bland. What is this guy, like 70 years old or something? He moved like an old man and talked like an old man with advancing senility, repeating the same things over and over. I'm sure he's a bit of a has-been if he's willing to do Raw, but wasn't he a pretty hot star just a few years ago?

I hope Gail Kim came to the WWE for the dollars and nothing else, because going from a champion wrestler to joining the Bella twins on guest-host-groupie duty is a major step down.

I assume the woman sitting next to Jericho was one of the plants you were referring to. Did you catch Jericho holding up the ticket, realizing it shouldn't have the stub attached, quickly removing the stub, and then holding it back up?

I have to disagree on the HBK thing. If Hart were coming back healthy and up for a multi-match feud, it would be great to see a final chapter to this. But he's apparently only up for one prop-filled match, so I don't find a feud with Michaels that can't go anywhere to be that interesting. I think some sort reconciliation that infuriates McMahon and eventually leads to the WrestleMania street fight would be a better approach, given the limitations.

Overall, an OK show whose main entertainment for me was teasing the return of Bret Hart next week.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

"One other thing. In light of all the legit concussions in football and other sports, they need to ban the concussion punt."

On the contrary, I think the way to go would be to treat concussions as extremely serious in storyline, reflecting the new thinking in the real world, and that does seem to be the route they're taking.

Orton's kick is actually done safely most of the time if you watch it closely. He makes very light contact, but with his snarling expression, the screaming announcers, and the quick camera shot change it comes across as much worse than it is.

"You have a guest host coming in whose career ended because of a concussion, so I don't see Bret allowing Orton to pull that stunt. It's got to go."

I'd be all for banning the move in storyline, similar to how the piledriver was made to seem more deadly with a storyline ban in past years, but I certainly wouldn't have Orton stop using it for the reasons states above.

I doubt Bret Hart will be addressing the head kick one way or the other next week, as with everything else they can do with him, that would not seem to be a good use of his time.

I think having a stroke is what ended Bret Hart's career. While many suspect the stroke was related to the concussion, I don't think that's by any means been proven. Bret himself felt a bad biking accident caused the stroke, although his doctors felt the stroke came first and caused the loss of control that led to the accident.

6:09 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

IIRC, Bret had his stroke about 2-3, maybe 4 years after his last match, so it isn't connected to the concussion he suffered in '00.

As it relates to Orton and his concussion punts, Vince has ignored what has been done elsewhere and lets Orton continue to play this psychotic sociopath when something could've been done months ago during the McMahon-Legacy feud. It left a gaping hole in the storyline that was never properly filled.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Next week's show is going to be epic. The build up for it makes me think that they want to kill TNA before they take off, which is bad for us but good for them.

I hate the idea of Jericho "being off raw forever" because we all know that it just isn't true. I bet he comes back the first 3 hour raw that they have.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd, you forgot to mention in your write-up that Timbaland was high as shit and it was embarrassing for everyone.


1:41 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

"A lot of wrestling fans feel there should be more wrestling on WWE and TNA TV because they like wrestling matches when they watch wrestling. But even setting aside that preference, even if you don’t like to watch wrestling, you simply have to give wrestling matches time to breathe if you want the stories you’re trying to tell to work."

My question is, why do we need all these contrived, overly long stories anyway? If you have exciting wrestling - that is, giving more people the spotlight and cease the rigid dividing line between the major stars and the mid-carders, you'd have an exciting show. To say that you need time for these ridiculous stories is ludicrous. We don't need them. There are NOT a given - start thinking out the WWE idiot box.

"Randy Orton backstage said that his issue with Kofi Kingston isn’t over and that it will be over when he says it is over. He said that next week he will finish it and kick Kofi in the skull. On the plus side, this has to mean Kofi will get the final win in the feud given he lost clean at the PPV. Right?"

Wrong. When has the WWE EVER employed logic? It was illogical for Orton to say that because the feud could essentially have been over. There's no need to continue it. In fact, putting Kofi in with Miz was a nice progression - now they are just back to the same old thing. Not saying that Kofi won't win at the PPV if there is a match, just saying it doesn't have anything to do with logic. What? Kofi can't be sold by the Miz? (And by the way, when is Triple H going to make himself useful and sell somebody?)

And what's up with Triple H and HBK continuing to mock minorities? The "midget" comment was way out of line as was HBK's sarcastic anti-gay comment at the end (even though it was delivered with phony genuineness). What if we said that what we really need on Raw was a big-nosed pompous ass? That wouldn't sound nice at all - yet that's what we're getting. And nothing looks more gay than the Triple H/Shawn Michaels duo. Not two months ago they were practically doing the nasty as they fawned over each other in the ring. Two bastards who deserve to be thrown out of the WWE - not Jericho.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Hobbyfan, you are correct that Hart suffered the concussion (and probably more undiagnosed concussions) in December 1999 and retired in September 2000 (after wrestling in January and doing a battle royal in May).

The stroke was in June 2002. The reason I listed that as the thing that put him out until now is when he has been asked to come back, he has consistently said the results of the stroke are what makes that impossible. The impression I got is that while he retired from the concussions, he might have eventually recovered to the point where he could have worked a match here and there if he were careful, but the stroke shut that door (or so we thought).

As for banning the head kick, I guess I was confused if you were criticizing that as a storyline hole, where it's unbelievable that, in storyline, it hasn't been banned based on the results we've seen, or if you are criticizing it as a legitimately dangerous stunt that could seriously injure someone for real.

Your last comments clear that up, that you think it's bad writing. I wouldn't necessarily disagree, but I kind of think it's an odd think to bring up so long after the time when he was attacking the McMahon family. If they left a storyline hole at that point, there's no way they'd bother filling it now. If there is a new angle built around it where it again is unbelievable that it's not banned, then that would be fresh reason to complain. This probably isn't even one of the worst examples of bad plotting.

4:13 PM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

Bob: Randy Orton's been using the concussion punt for about 2 years now. During the Legacy-McMahon angle at the start of the year, they had a golden opportunity to make a (kayfabe) administrative move to ban the punt "for safety reasons", but also because of the real-life dangers that go with it if someone tries to copy it (filed under "Don't try this at home"). Vince wouldn't do it, even though he himself presented a test case for why it should've been banned. They'll say it's all in the name of getting Orton more over as a sadistic, sociopathic heel, but they overlook the much bigger picture. They always do.

5:14 PM  
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8:56 PM  

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