Monday, January 25, 2010

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/25/10 from Columbus, OH.

The Big News: The Royal Rumble match itself is the primary focus of WWE’s Royal Rumble PPV build this year and Bret Hart will return next week on Raw.

Show Analysis:

DX spoke to each other and the crowd to start the show. HHH wanted to know where the leprechaun was. Shawn Michaels said he sent Hornswoggle home because this was serious business. Hooray! Michaels talked about how important winning the Royal Rumble is to him. HHH said it is important to him too. He knows Michaels wants Undertaker, but he wants a title shot. HHH said that it will come down to them and they will always be friends, but if HHH has to step on Shawn’s dream to get to his he will. Michaels said that he understood. This was a very strong segment. HHH in particular was really good.

DX beat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Michaels was in control early but Legacy took over. The announcers said that this year’s Royal Rumble is the most star studded ever. They need to stop saying that every single year. It just makes them seem full of it.

Michaels kicked DiBiase in the gut and tagged HHH. HHH came in with a high knee and face buster for DiBiase and spine busters for both Legacy members. He went for the pedigree but Michaels tagged himself in. Michaels and HHH teased dissension but Michaels hit sweet chin music on DiBiase and HHH knocked Rhodes out of the ring. Michaels covered for the pin.

MVP cut a promo before his match. He said that Miz can’t keep running from him forever because he’s the number one contender and he will take the title. Miz came out and started talking about MVP’s incarceration again. MVP said Miz would be very popular in jail and there would be a bunch of friends fighting to be Miz’s exclusive friend. That was clever. I say if Raw becomes more like Oz, that’s a good thing.

Big Show beat MVP. They put over the idea that Miz and Big Show are now aligned, so Miz is apparently taking Chris Jericho’s spot. I think the dynamic between Show and the trash-talking, egotistical smaller heel works well, so it’s smart to keep it going. This match, on the other hand, was not what I would call smart booking. MVP hit a face buster and yakuza kick but then he was just caught with a choke slam for the clean pin in two minutes or so. After the match the announcers were still selling an MVP vs. Miz title match. This segment sure buried MVP, Miz and the title.

Backstage, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase were bickering. Randy Orton suggested they get it together and said that he would take the title from Sheamus with or without them. Oddly, Randy Orton had very little presence on this show.

The guest host this week was Dule Hill from the TV show “Psych.” I don’t know who that is, but that’s okay. I’m going to be more tolerant of random Raw guest hosts from here on in. James Roday, another actor from “Psych”, was scheduled to be on the show but couldn’t attend because he had an appendectomy. Miz told Hill that he had to google Hill’s name to find out who he is and that the Miz is more famous than Hill. I can understand Miz’s perspective. Hill said Miz would wrestle someone of his choosing later in the show.

Maryse beat Eve Torres to advance to the finals of the women’s title tournament. Maryse before the match did a promo but was interrupted by Dule Hill playing with the fireworks. Eve hit a somersault senton and body slam. She missed a moonsault. Maryse went for the implant DDT but it was reversed into a suplex for two. Maryse then hit the implant DDT for the pin. This was good by WWE women’s match standards.

Vince McMahon came out and said that if Undertaker were there he would dare him to call Vince a coward. He then said there’s no reason to bring back Bret Hart because the people have forgotten about him. He went into the crowd asking fans why he should bring back Bret. Let’s just say these fans did not represent themselves well as sentient beings. Vince concluded there was no good reason to bring back Bret and went to leave.

John Cena interrupted. He didn’t like Vince’s comments about Bret Hart or his treatment of Roddy Piper. Cena noted they helped to build Vince’s empire and he treats these people like commodities. Cena said Vince is just about himself and is pathetic. Cena told Vince to do the right thing and invite Bret to Raw next week. So Vince did. And then he made Sheamus vs. Cena for later in the show.

I thought this was very good segment. I liked the way they set up Bret’s return and the basic thrust of the angle. The one negative is that Cena has done so many smarmy, cutesy promos that everything he says comes across as insincere to me now. It makes him less effective when doing serious promos, which I thought at one point he was excellent at.

Kofi Kingston beat the Miz. Miz worked over Kingston briefly. Kingston hit a frog splash off the top but Miz kicked out at two. MVP’s music played, Miz turned his back on Kingston like an idiot and of course Kingston then hit trouble in paradise for the pin. This was some continued great build for a US title program.

Carlito and Dule Hill were in the production truck. Hill said he would put in a random code and that would be Carlito’s opponent for the night. Kelly Kelly was the random selection and Carlito was happy. However, Santino then interrupted the proposed match. He offered to take Kelly’s place, but Jack Swagger jumped Santino from behind and laid him out. Amazingly, Carlito didn’t end up losing to Kelly. If you’d have asked me to give odds on that after Hill made the match, it would have been +3000 Carlito not losing.

John Cena and Dule Hill did comedy backstage. James Roday was on speaker phone, I guess since they figured some people would miss him otherwise. Alicia Fox came in and was flirting with Hill. Hill said he would come to ringside as a good luck charm for her but she threatened him if she lost.

Gail Kim beat Alicia Fox. Alicia hit a tilt a whirl back breaker but missed a kick. Gail responded with a power slam for two. Things fell apart from there and after a bunch of botchery Gail hit the “eat defeat” for the pin. After the match Alicia slapped Dule Hill, which seemed kind of uncalled for to me.

They announced next week William Shatner will be the guest host. Did you know that he is now 78 years old? This is amazing to me. There are way too many goofy guest hosts between now and WrestleMania. It’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to setting up the top programs for that event.

Sheamus beat John Cena via DQ. John Cena hit a suplex but Sheamus took over with a DDT and power slam. He threw Cena into the steps on the outside and they teased a count out. Cena got in and hit the Cena slam and five knuckle but Sheamus avoided the FU. Sheamus hit a back breaker but Cena countered a big boot attempt into the STF. Sheamus grabbed the bottom rope and hit the big boot on the floor. They teased a count out again but Randy Orton ran in and gave Sheamus the RKO. Cena then gave Orton the FU and stood over the two title participants to end the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show reminded me a lot of last week’s show. The build towards the Royal Rumble gave each show more focus and they were better shows than other recent editions of Raw. Each show was also highlighted by an excellent opening segment. I thought the Vince McMahon segment this week was strong as well.

On the negative side, the treatment of championships on this show was so bad. The US champion and number one contender both lost relatively cleanly in just a few minutes, and there are no signs that either of the two winners will be moving into the title picture. So what exactly does the US title even signify?

Then in the main event of the go home show for the Royal Rumble, both wrestlers in the WWE title match were left laying as a third guy who isn’t even challenging for the title stands over them. Maybe I’m being rigid and close-minded here, but I’d never build a title match by having both champion and challenger lose and I’d never have the final image prior to a PPV title match be both champion and challenger laid out. These seem to me pretty basic propositions.

Monday, January 18, 2010

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/18/10 from Knoxville, TN.

The Big News: The road to WrestleMania is underway, with Vince McMahon vs. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker taking center stage.

Show Analysis:

Raw started with a tremendous opening segment. First, Vince McMahon came out. He said that life is about decisions, and that he made the decisions to let Bret Hart return, to kick Bret, and to never let Bret return again. He said that the fans want to remember Bret as he was, not how he is. Vince said that Bret is a broken down horse that needs to be put down, and it is Vince’s job to put him down.

Vince explained that Bret is like a piece of gum that has been chewed up and spit out because it has no more flavor. Vince further explained that Bret is like an infection and he needed to chop it off. Vince blamed the fans for the decision, because the fans always want bigger, stronger and better performers. Thus Bret needed to be pushed aside.

I absolutely loved this Vince promo. WWE writers deserve credit for this one, because it was very well written and well delivered as well. It told a great story and tied in well to the real issues between Vince and Bret. Bret has described Vince’s attitude towards talent in very similar terms to what Vince said about putting down horses, and Bret wasn’t making those points just to sell a wrestling feud.

Undertaker then came out. Vince said that he wasn’t done. Undertaker replied that it was his time now. He added that he was there in Montreal and he saw fear in Vince then and now. Undertaker said Vince screwed Bret twice and he ought to be terrified of the consequences. Undertaker called Vince a coward and Vince just left.

Undertaker added that Shawn Michaels is in denial. Undertaker noted that Michaels said he would end Undertaker’s streak but he didn’t. Michaels came out and asked for his answer as to whether Undertaker would give him a rematch at WrestleMania. Undertaker said Michaels failed and the rematch will just be more disappointment. Undertaker said he has nothing to prove and that he won’t give Michaels the rematch at Mania. That line drew boos of course, but interestingly the crowd was clearly with Michaels throughout this entire segment.

Undertaker said that while he wouldn’t give Michaels a shot at Mania, he would give Michaels the chance to prove himself on Raw. Michaels said no, because he wants to beat Undertaker on the biggest stage. Thus he said he will win the Royal Rumble and challenge Undertaker for his title. Michaels said that he will take Undertaker’s streak, soul and title. That last line was way too hokey for me, but the rest of this segment was very strong. They did a great job of building up two matches and it was compelling television throughout.

Sheamus beat Evan Bourne. Randy Orton came out to watch, which temporarily distracted Sheamus. If I were booking, I would never do the spot where one guy comes out and the other guy turns his back completely on his opponent to look at the other guy. It reminds me of the monologue in Scream about horror movie conventions. It’s so stupid and has been proven to be stupid on so many occasions that it just makes you laugh at the show itself for passing this off as believable human interaction.

Anyway, Bourne took advantage of Sheamus turning his back by attacking Sheamus with kicks and a top rope double knee. Sheamus came back with a back breaker, big boot and razor’s edge for the pin. After the match, Orton and Sheamus had a stare down. This segment accomplished its purpose.

Backstage, DX spoke with the Miami Vice guy. Miami Vice Guy was looking for Napoleon Dynamite, who was late arriving to the building. HHH talked about not liking Napoleon, the first of many clues that Napoleon was meant to be a heel. This built to what I guess was meant to be a comedy spot with Carlito dressed up like Napoleon.

Jack Swagger said that last week was a fluke and challenged Santino to another over the top challenge. Santino came out apparently dressed like the Miami Vice guy, or so the announcers explained. Miami Vice was in fact a television show aimed at adults and went off the air 21 years ago. Santino said he had a replacement opponent for Swagger and brought out Mark Henry.

Henry completely no sold Swagger’s attempts at offense and press slammed him out in less than 30 seconds. So Swagger is obviously the next in the long line of guys Vince gets his jollies out of humiliating. Well, I look forward to Swagger’s MMA career. It will certainly be better than this.

Napoleon Dynamite arrived. He heeled on the audience by screwing up the town they were in, but the audience didn’t get it and cheered him anyway. He then came to the ring with the Miami Vice guy and arrogantly said how awesome it must be for the fans to see real life movie stars. The crowd again cheered. Napoleon then referenced Lane Kiffin positively, and finally the audience figured out that he was in fact a heel and booed. I was worried there for a while that they were going to need to flash “BOO HIM” on the Titan Tron to clue this crowd in on the deal.

Napoleon then introduced Miz as his friend. Miz thanked Napoleon for entering him in the Royal Rumble. He talked about how people like the Miami Vice guy but said that nobody remembers his partner. Miami Vice guy said that everyone remembers Tubbs. Oh yeah, Tubbs. It was nice of him to bring Bryan and Vinny to BOLA. Miz compared Tubbs to MVP, and I have absolutely no idea what this was supposed to mean.

Miz and Napoleon started making fun of Tennessee, which brought out MVP. MVP said he is in the Royal Rumble and if nothing else he will get rid of the Miz. I always liked that angle in the early Rumbles. There would always be one or two faces determined simply to eliminate their hated rival, like Randy Savage going after Jake Roberts in 1992.

MVP went after Miz but Big Show came out and knocked out MVP with a punch. He high fived Napoleon and Napoleon made Big Show and Miz vs. DX for the main event. I didn’t really want to see him in the first place, but Napoleon was very good in this segment acting like a heel. He pulled it off better than just about any other guest host that has tried to do that, so good for him.

John Cena and Kofi Kingston beat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. The heels beat up Cena, who got the tag to Kingston. Kingston came in with a springboard clothesline, dropkick and boom drop on DiBiase. He went for trouble in paradise but DiBiase countered with a clothesline and Legacy went to town on Kingston.

Cena eventually got the tag from Kingston. He quickly hit the FU on Rhodes but DiBiase made the save. Kingston tagged in and hit the frog crossbody off the top on Rhodes for the pin. It’s too late for Kingston now, but this was a fun match regardless. Michael Cole went comically overboard after the match trying to rehabilitate Kingston. “Kofi is in such an incredible zone these days,” he said, “How hot is Kofi?” Yeah, he’s hot. He’s only been pinned by his top rival three separate times since the last PPV. This was classic WWE insult your audience’s intelligence stuff. We think you’re so stupid you don’t remember the most basic events of the last month.

Hornswoggle challenged Napoleon backstage to a match. This ended up turning the main event into a six man tag. Enough with the celebrities wrestling. They’ve killed that worse as a gimmick than even WCW did. Later Napoleon was panicking about the match and Miz and Big Show told him not to worry because they’d take care of things. They gave Napoleon a Ric Flair like robe that said “The Flame.”

Gail Kim and Eve Torres beat Maryse and Alicia Fox in an abomination of a match. The heels worked over Gail, who tagged Eve. She missed a dropkick by about 8 feet but Alicia sold it anyway. Eve started diving all over the place completely out of control. They screwed up a pinfall spot. Eve then did a convoluted arm bar spot for the submission.

I continue to be baffled why they have the women try about 10 times as much as the best male performers on the roster. It would be one thing if they were succeeding, but they blow half their spots and yet the next week they have even more moves. It’s like they view wrestling as figure skating, a performance art where you get points for attempting hard stuff even if you mess it up. Fake Fake Fake.

HHH spoke with Vince backstage. Vince said that he’s not a coward and that he may have to call out Undertaker. HHH said that Vince could have just let the thing with Bret go but he had to get the last shot. HHH added that if Vince brings Bret back it will just make Bret a bigger star but that if Vince doesn’t everyone will know he’s a coward.

Randy Orton beat Chris Masters. Masters isn’t over as a face yet. They need to give people a reason to like him. The pec flexing is a reason to be amused by him but it’s not a reason to root for him. Sheamus came out to watch the match. Orton hit a back breaker but his RKO attempt was countered with the Masterlock. Orton got to the ropes and then hit the RKO suddenly for the pin. The finish worked well. Sheamus after the match gave Orton the big boot and stood over him.

Next week the hosts of Raw are actors from the USA show “Psych.” The hits just keep on coming. That’s the go home show for the Royal Rumble so hopefully they keep them out of the way.

DX and Hornswoggle beat Miz, Big Show and Napoleon Dynamite. I liked Napoleon’s performance earlier in the show but I hated him here. He was acting ridiculous like he was mockingly parodying pro wrestling. Then again, Hornswoggle is no less insulting and he’s a regular character.

The heels worked over Michaels. Hornswoggle tagged in and went after Miz but was caught with a clothesline. Napoleon tagged in and kicked Hornswoggle in the chest. He charged into the turnbuckle and HHH got the tag in. Napoleon tried to run away but the Miami Vice guy threw him back in the ring. HHH punched Napoleon. Show grabbed HHH by the throat but Michaels hit sweet chin music on Show and Miz. Show fell on Napoleon. Hornswoggle then tagged in and hit the frog splash for the pin.

It’s awfully hard to sell PPVs or get people invested in feuds when wrestling is portrayed as such a campy joke, where B-celebrities dress up like goofs and play fight with midgets.

After the match, HHH told Michaels that Shawn needs to find another way to get a match with the Undertaker other than winning the Rumble. John Cena then came out and announced he is in the Rumble. He said that the last time he was in he won it and he will win it again. Big Show then came in and said he would win the Rumble. There was a fight. Cena threw out Show. DX dumped Cena. HHH dumped Michaels. HHH then said he would win the Royal Rumble.

Final Thoughts:

I thought this show was definitely better than recent weeks. It was kind of a strange show, in that there were a number of segments that I really liked and a number of segments that I really disliked.

The sell for the Royal Rumble at the end was kind of troubling. The fun of the Royal Rumble for years has always been the drama of someone breaking through and getting their shot at the title and a higher spot on the card. That happened with Yokozuna and Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Chris Benoit, Batista and Rey Mysterio. Even when guys had been on top before, the Rumble usually gave them their first shot to be champion as a face, as happened with the Rock, Triple H and Brock Lesnar.

That’s basically the whole appeal of the Royal Rumble: to find out who will be the next guy to take his place as one of the top stars in the business. Yet this year, it’s just the same group of guys vying for yet another shot at a title they’ve wrestled for a million times. I don’t care about Shawn Michaels, HHH, Big Show or John Cena wrestling for the title. There’s no drama. There’s no coronation of a new star. It’s just the same stuff.

I think Mania will do well this year because they’ve started to set up a number of interesting programs with the guys that they have. But they’re missing that new guy bursting into the top scene and that takes a lot of the steam out of the Rumble in my opinion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/11/10 from Minneapolis, MN.

The Big News: If you want a quick capsule explanation of what has gone wrong with WWE booking over the past decade, just watch the way the company booked Mike Tyson in 1998 and then how they booked Tyson in 2010.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Mike Tyson. All the announcers put him over huge. He got a lot of boos from the crowd anyway but they cheered him when he started talking. They showed video of him knocking out Shawn Michaels and some fans chanted “you screwed Shawn” which was very funny.

Sheamus came out and called Tyson a washed up ex-champ. Sheamus said he is WWE champion which means he is the baddest man on the planet. The comedy continues. Tyson cocked back for a punch and Sheamus flinched huge like an 8-year-old. I guess he’s still shook from what happened with Mark Cuban.

Next up was the precession of people asking for a title shot at the Royal Rumble. Randy Orton was first and demanded a shot from Tyson. Next was John Cena, who was not popular with this crowd. He said he has beaten everyone there, although he acknowledged he beat Mike Tyson in Punch-Out. I’m not sure how many people understood the reference, but I did so it’s fine by me.

Finally, Kofi Kingston of all people came out. He basically acknowledged that he doesn’t deserve a shot and lost clean last week to Orton, but just said he wants a title shot because he hasn’t gotten one before. He added that he won’t wait for a title shot just because he hasn’t won matches to earn one. Kofi looked like such a loser here, but I guess they felt Cena vs. Orton MMMMCLXII for the title shot would feel played out so they threw in a random third guy. And Kofi if nothing else definitely qualifies as a random third guy.

As Kofi was speaking, the crowd chanted “Cena sucks” and then “Randy.” Sheamus said he just defended against Cena and wants the Royal Rumble off. I don’t really care because it’s just Sheamus, but I don’t understand why they’re booking him like a chickenshit heel. It doesn’t fit with the character they’d previously given him. Mike Tyson said that he has never ducked a challenge and made a triple threat match with the winner getting a title shot at the Rumble.

Alicia Fox beat Kelly Kelly to advance in the women’s title tournament. Kelly threw Alicia over the top rope and hit a clothesline off the apron. She followed with the whirlybird but her huracanrana attempt was reversed into a power bomb for the pin.

Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase beat Mark Henry and Evan Bourne. Prior to the match DiBiase and Rhodes teased dissension in Legacy by arguing over who’s turn it will be to advance at the Royal Rumble this year. Legacy briefly worked over Bourne. He tagged Henry, who gave Rhodes a press slam. Henry tagged back in Bourne for the shooting star but DiBiase pulled Rhodes out of the way. Rhodes then hit the crossroads for the pin.

Backstage, Shawn Michaels and HHH weighed the merits of making peace with Mike Tyson. HHH pointed out he’s insane. Michaels, however, said that he thinks Tyson is a changed man and will prove it.

Shawn Michaels confronted Tyson after the commercial break. He said he forgave Tyson for knocking him out. Tyson then went heel. He said that he doesn’t need forgiveness. He enjoyed it; he doesn’t regret it; he would do it again. Chris Jericho then came in. So if you had 0 weeks in the pool for how long Jericho would be gone, a winner is you. Stipulations, shnipulations, WWE wants its monkey men.

Chris Jericho said that he got Mike Tyson’s number and that they are now friends. Thus, Tyson made a match of DX vs. Jericho and Tyson, where if Jericho wins he can stay on Raw forever. Yes, that’s right; they booked a match with Mike Tyson and advertised it for 80 minutes.

Jack Swagger came out and said that he will win the Royal Rumble and go to WrestleMania. He posited that no one will be able to throw him over the top rope and issued an over the top challenge. Santino came out to accept, and the announcers immediately pointed out Santino sucks at battle royals and holds the record for quickest elimination in Rumble history. So of course he won.

Swagger went to throw out Santino but Santino hung on and Swagger flew out. You know, I wouldn’t book segments that serve no purpose other than to bury and humiliate my best young talent, but maybe that’s just me. What, is this guy a heroin addict? Did he pull a Mel Phillips? Did they find out he’s a spy for TNA? I know they love burying guys, but Swagger has as much star potential as anyone on the entire roster.

Randy Orton beat John Cena and Kofi Kingston in a triple threat. Can you guess who did the job? Of course you can. Cena and Kingston double teamed Orton a lot early. Orton then basically took over 1-on-2. He would beat up one then the other. He hit a DDT off the ropes on Cena but Kingston used a frog crossbody on him off the top. Orton responded with a back breaker on Kingston and punches for Orton.

Kingston gained control with the S.O.S. on Orton but Cena caught Kingston as he went for the boom drop and applied the STF. Cena then used the Cena slam on Orton but his FU attempt was broken up by Kingston. Kingston hit the boom drop and trouble in paradise on Cena but Cena fell to the floor. At that point, Cody Rhodes interfered by kicking the steps into Cena’s head and distracting the referee. DiBiase attacked Kingston from behind and Orton hit the RKO on Kingston and pinned him yet again. They told the story that Legacy is together again.

I’m not sure what exactly it is, but Orton vs. Sheamus is more interesting to me than any Raw title match in quite a while. Maybe it’s just that it feels genuinely different. It doesn’t hurt that the winner isn’t clear and that the direction will likely be different depending who comes out on top.

Backstage, Mike Tyson threatened to tear out Hornswoggle’s intestines and jump rope with them. He said he would rip out Hornswoggle’s brain, put it in a newspaper, and smash it against the window like Silly Putty. I was so very disappointed when he didn’t follow through on these threats. I mean, I didn’t think it was possible for my feelings about Hornswoggle to be articulated so perfectly. I want to chop him up and put him inside the mattress like drug money.

Miz did a promo starting backstage and then coming out in front of the people. He talked about how he was once banned from the WWE locker room. He referenced JBL by name mocking him and said that everyone ridiculed him and wanted him to quit. Miz noted that he used that negativity as fuel and now he doesn’t go in the locker room because he has a private dressing room. He said he will publicly humiliate MVP and that MVP doesn’t belong in the same ring with him.

Miz said he’s the reason people watch Raw and the most entertaining star on the show. He made some remarks about MVP’s criminal past, which brought out MVP. MVP said he has embraced that past and talks about it openly. Since when? MVP said he has worked hard to get back into society. They traded insults.

At this point the segment fell apart a little because they had all this scripted material and they got lost. So you had each guy delivering lines that didn’t really correspond to what the other person had just said. God I wish they’d just give the guys bullet points. The basic gist was MVP saying that he is a dangerous person and daring Miz to bring that out of him. They then got into a brawl.

I loved Miz’s promo here. They did a great job bringing up real events to make his character feel more authentic, and his delivery was phenomenal. If they’d just ran with him when he caught fire against Cena, I think he would be a Jericho/Edge level heel at this point.

Eve Torres beat Katie Lea Burchill. They announced Katie has been signed to Raw. Katie hit a back breaker. Eve came back with dropkicks and used a rollup for the pin. They announced next week’s guest hosts are a guy from Miami Vice and Napoleon Dynamite.

Vince McMahon came out and said that he wanted to end the rumors that he brought security to keep Bret Hart from entering the building. Vince said that Bret screwed Bret and last week he screwed Bret. The crowd started chanting boring, which is not a good sign. Vince said Bret will never be seen in WWE again. Like Jericho?

DX beat Chris Jericho and Mike Tyson. Tyson and Michaels locked up and Tyson shoved Michaels down. Michaels ran into a shoulder block by Tyson. A frustrated Michaels tagged HHH. Jericho came in and DX gained control. Jericho hit an enzuigiri on Michaels and tagged back Tyson.

Hornswoggle then came out with boxing gloves. Jericho came in to yell at DX but Tyson took off his shirt behind Jericho to reveal a DX shirt. He then hit the KO punch on Jericho and Michaels pinned him. The punch looked phenomenal, so props to Jericho and Tyson assuming Jericho is still alive and has all his teeth.

Final Thoughts:

12 years ago, WWF shelled out a ton of money to bring in Mike Tyson. There was no guarantee it would be a good investment, but they made it work really well by carefully building up a story and making it all seem like a really big deal. By the end, all Tyson had done was stand outside the ring as a second referee and then punch Michaels. It made the WWF millions of dollars and turned the tide of the Monday Night War.

Here we are 12 years later, and you couldn’t have a more stark contrast. You actually had Tyson doing a match, but WWE only thought to advertise it for 80 minutes. And this match was a TNA style “fake match” where the only logical explanation is that Tyson was pretending to wrestle in order to deceive DX. You know who used to pull that crap? WCW, while WWF was kicking its ass. And the big payoff is Tyson celebrating with the annoying midget. So yeah, thumbs down on that.

Monday, January 04, 2010

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/04/10 from Dayton OH.

The Big News: On a night when TNA pulled out all the stops, WWE was content to stand with a pat hand.

Show Analysis:

Bret Hart came out to start the show. His entrance music was remixed and I kind of wish they’d just kept the old music. Bret looked old and not in particularly good shape. Bret said that he wanted to come back to WWE previously but Vince always said no. He said he was grateful to talk to the “WWE Universe.” He thanked the fans and said he owes everything to the “WWE Universe.”

Bret asked Shawn Michaels to come out. Michaels did, and Bret called for a truce. That was greeted with boos. Michaels said Bret deserved what happened in Montreal for disrespecting him and the business. The crowd responded “you screwed Bret” and Bret said “I rest my case.” Michaels said there’s a big part of him that doesn’t regret any of that, but that another part of him knows in 12 years a lot of things have changed.

Shawn said that he always respected Bret but he felt that Bret didn’t respect him. He continued that when he thinks of Bret he doesn’t think of Montreal but instead Anaheim and the iron man match. Shawn said he’s ready to move on and bury the hatchet. Bret offered his hand in friendship. That got more boos than cheers, which says it all when you have two very popular faces. Shawn shook and that did get cheers. Shawn then teased sweet chin music but gave Bret a hug instead. Bret finally called out Vince McMahon but Vince didn’t come out.

Backstage, Vince McMahon was asked about Bret Hart’s remarks. He feigned not knowing what Bret said and added that he would engage with Bret on his terms. Thus, he announced he would call out Bret later on the show.

Maryse beat Brie Bella in the first match in the 8 woman tournament to crown a new women’s champion. They announced Melina was injured and wouldn’t be able to defend her title. I’m glad they did that rather than risking her health in a short angle or match. Brie used some throws on Maryse and a dropkick. Behind the referee’s back, Nikki threw Maryse into the announce table. Maryse was gaining control when the Bellas tried to do a switch. Maryse saw it happen so she just kicked Nikki and pinned her with the implant DDT.

This match utterly buried the Bellas, who were portrayed as cheating faces outsmarted and beaten fairly by the heel. And I say great. Put over Maryse strong. After the match, Miz came out and said that he might call Maryse back if she won the women’s title tournament.

MVP beat Jack Swagger, Carlito and Mark Henry for a shot at the US title. Swagger hit a power slam and corner avalanche on Carlito. Henry threw MVP over the top rope and gave Swagger a clothesline. MVP hit a yakuza kick on Henry, threw Carlito into Swagger, and gave Swagger the playmaker for the pin. This was mostly just spots, but it was fine.

Bret Hart met with Chris Jericho backstage. Jericho said he knows Bret really despises Michaels, and suggested Bret referee the tag title match later in the show. Bret said he really does want to put Montreal to bed. Jericho thought this was all an act. Bret got in yet another WWE Universe reference and said he remembers Jericho screaming in the dungeon.

DX beat Chris Jericho and Big Show. Before the match DX did comedy with Hornswoggle and Santino, who was pretending to be Chris Jericho. Hornswoggle then came to the ring with DX and was active throughout the match. I know it’s a children’s gimmick, but it’s hard for me to understate how much of a turnoff Hornswoggle is to me associated with a top act. I don’t think I’m in the minority on this either amongst guys in their 20s and 30s.

The heels worked over HHH. Show missed a Vader bomb and Michaels got the tag. He came in with flying forearms on Show but was crotched by Jericho when he went to the top. Hornswoggle ran in and gave Show a splash. Michaels covered but Show powered out. Michaels went for sweet chin music but was caught with a choke slam for two. Jericho tagged in, but Michaels avoided a lionsault attempt and a Walls attempt and go the tag to HHH.

HHH came in with a pedigree on Jericho, but Show made the save. HHH and Michaels then hit a combination pedigree on Show. Jericho attacked from behind sending HHH into Michaels and rolled up HHH for two. Jericho hit the code breaker on HHH but Michaels made the save. Hornswoggle went to interfere again but Jericho kicked him in the head. HHH went for a pedigree which was reversed into a Jericho Walls attempt but Michaels hit sweet chin music on Jericho and HHH covered for the pin. This was a very fun match.

After the match Jericho slowly got up and DX tried to get the crowd to sing goodbye to him but it didn’t take with the crowd at all. Probably because nobody with a brain could possibly buy that Jericho is gone. I don’t know why Jericho and Show lost, given Jericho helps Raw so much and they’ll bury their stipulations again when Jericho returns within the next two months. Really there should be a pool on how many weeks Jericho is gone.

Backstage, Randy Orton met with Vince McMahon. Orton had an offer for Vince in regards to Bret Hart, but Vince said that what Bret did to him was nothing compared to what Orton did to him. Orton responded that he knows Vince does business with people he dislikes, and he’d love to kick Bret Hart in the skull and send him out of the company. Orton said he would do that if Vince gave him the 30 spot in the Royal Rumble. Vince said that he has his own security and told Orton not to confront him again.

Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase approached Randy Orton afterwards. They said that they would return the favor from last week and sit ringside for Orton’s match this week. They added that if Orton lost, they would kick him out of Legacy and beat him up.

Sheamus beat Evan Bourne. Sheamus came out for a promo. He said that John Cena couldn’t beat him last week and that he will face a new challenger at the Royal Rumble. Evan Bourne came out and said that if given the opportunity he can beat Sheamus. Sheamus said that if Bourne beat him, he would give him Bourne a shot at the Royal Rumble.

Bourne went on offense quickly and hit the shooting star press but Sheamus powered out at two. Bourne came off the top again but was caught with a fall away slam and then a big boot and razor’s edge for the pin. Sheamus did the best job I’ve seen yet in this segment carrying himself as a star. I think he’s getting better on the mic too although he’s still quite limited as a performer.

The announcers acknowledged the passing of Dr. Death Steve Williams and put him over. They talked a little about his career and aired a graphic for him. I’m glad that they did and wish they would do this every time regardless of the circumstances of the person’s death (well, beyond a Chris Benoit situation, obviously).

Randy Orton beat Kofi Kingston. Orton worked over Kingston. Following a double crossbody, Kingston came back with a European uppercut, side Ghanan leg sweep and boom drop. Kingston set up for trouble in paradise but Orton went to the outside. Kingston pursued with a tope and hit the S.O.S. for two. The finishing sequence saw an RKO blocked, trouble in paradise blocked, and then Orton hit the RKO for the pin. Boy did they drop the ball on poor Kofi. DiBiase and Rhodes seemed disappointed at ringside.

Vince McMahon came out for the final segment. He said that Bret and Shawn put Montreal behind them so he will too. He thanked Bret for hosting and Bret came to the ring. Vince said that he really does believe Bret screwed Bret and he hasn’t forgotten the things Bret has done. He said he hoped Bret would apologize.

Bret responded that he is looking for closure. He got what he wanted from Shawn, and this was the chance for them to make peace. Vince reminisced on Bret’s career and how he fought to the top. Vince said he felt like a father figure to Bret, and wanted to nominate Stu Hart for the WWE Hall of Fame this year. Vince thanked Bret for being the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. They shook hands and Vince raised Bret’s hand. They paraded around the ring until finally Vince kicked Bret and walked off to end the show.

Final Thoughts:

WWE has so many advantages over TNA in so many ways that it didn’t really need to respond to TNA’s challenge. And for the most part, it didn’t. This was just a standard Raw show, with only the return of Bret Hart standing out as something different. WWF didn’t change what it was doing much opposite Nitro at first either.

As far as the big angles with Bret Hart, I didn’t care for them much. Bret’s return to WWE is still very young, so of course there is plenty of time left for the angle to sink or swim. But tonight’s show seemed designed to take the raw nerves out of the whole angle. Bret twice referencing WWE Universe in the first two minutes, a term I don’t believe he’d use in a million years in real life, sent home the message that Bret was delivering WWE-scripted lines.

Hugging Shawn Michaels was not something that rung true to me either, having read Michaels’ and Hart’s books years after Montreal where they clearly still didn’t care for each other at all. And even if it is authentic, it isn’t what the crowd wanted to see.

WWE will have plenty of time to contextualize and explain the ending of the show, but I tuned out with much less interest in a Bret vs. Vince feud. They spent five minutes memorably burying the hatchet, and it was that part of the segment that stood out in my mind. Vince kicked Bret at the end, but that just felt like any old pro wrestling angle.

Emotionally, it felt like there was closure of the “real” issue between Bret and Vince, followed by the opening of a storyline issue between Bret and Vince. Vince reminiscing about his happy memories of Bret’s career felt much more authentic than him kicking Bret at the end, so that’s what I was left with.

Bret’s appearance, unfortunately, also hurts the angle I think. It doesn’t matter as much if it’s a guy who got by on promos, but Bret’s greatest strengths were his wrestling ability and skill. I love seeing Bret because he’s one of my all time favorite wrestlers and I’ll always remember his career fondly, but I’m not sure what younger fans are thinking. On second thought, if I have to suffer through Hornswoggle, they can live with Bret.

TNA is a promotion with some serious and obvious flaws, but watching Impact and Raw tonight, it felt like TNA is the hot promotion and WWE is the stale one. WWE is so fixed to its narrow formula vision of sports entertainment that it feels like you know everything that’s coming. The music openings for all WWE shows are the same. The fireworks are the same. The backstage segments are the same. The matches are the same. The comedy is the same. There isn’t the feel of unpredictability. Everything feels sanitized, and aimed at a young and unsophisticated audience.

TNA’s opening segment, for better and worse, was emblematic of how TNA is different. You had this ridiculous finish with a cage gimmick match ending in a no contest. Homicide is supposed to climb out the cage but he can’t make it. The crowd turns on the promotion. Homicide falls off the top of the cage and the camera misses it. And then Jeff Hardy just shows up unadvertised. In a lot of ways it was a disaster but it was also exciting to see performers out there without a seeming safety net.

If TNA tonight showed WWE that it needs to be more unpredictable and varied, watching WWE and TNA also sends the message that TNA needs to be much clearer with its storylines. WWE is always very careful to explain what’s going on, and that’s a good thing. You get video packages explaining the angles and they try to tie everything together.

Impact, by contrast, was full of inside references and rapid fire references to all sorts of things happening all at the same time. TNA needs to make sure their product is available to more than just the most hardcore wrestling fans. I’m not sure that tonight’s show was, even if I found it more enjoyable than Raw.