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.


Blogger hobbyfan said...

Ok, Todd, I can get you no-selling "When In Rome", the movie Don Johnson & Jon Heder have coming out, which is the real raison d'etre for why they were there. I guess you can't be bothered with watching television other than Raw or MMA, otherwise you'd be a little more up on things.

Anyway, Heder came off as a clueless dork, much like his breakout film, "Napoleon Dynamite", which was nearly 6 years ago. Of course he would bond with Miz. I feel sorry for Carlito having to be dressed as Napoleon.

I feel even sorrier for Jack Swagger. Who did he tick off? A year ago, he was the ECW champ, and now, he's JTTS fodder. WTF? I like the guy, but what did he do to deserve this?

As opposed to Triple H and/or Undertaker talking to Vince, I've a more pointed message for the insane chairman: Get over yourself!!

If HBK doesn't win the Rumble, he's likely to cost UT the World title in some form, likely no later than Elimination Chamber. This one's too easy to figure.

Divas match was sloppier than normal, but then, we were supposed to get two singles matches, which have no been delayed to "the coming weeks". Why? I'll give Eve some points for adding a submission finisher (cross armbreaker), though.

What you neglected to mention about the main event: Heder tried to bail, but Johnson, working the face corner, cut him off and shoved him back in, setting up the finish.

Masters-Orton wasn't that good. Orton acted exhausted after forcing a rope break out of the Masterlock, then hits the RKO? Can you say, convoluted? Thought ya could.

Cena/Kofi vs. Legacy was easily the best match. Cole can be forgiven for the stupid post-match yammering because he's played as a dork anyway. Vince won't get it.

Nice idea to show clips of Stone Cold on "Chuck", but why not have someone have the stones to mimic Austin in the arena, since he worked with Johnson on "Nash Bridges" nearly 10 years ago, and do a skit with Johnson?

The open was fine, but UT is right. Vince is afraid of what might happen if/when Bret returns (and that has also been delayed, probably 'til after the Rumble). Serves him right.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous mike said...

Michaels was clearly pissed about something at the end of the show. HHH was about to finish his talk with Shawn and then Cena's music hit and Michaels started flipping out. It looked like he was yelling at someone at ringside and I could clearly see his lips say "No one knows what the fuck they are doing". I was wondering what that was all about.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I think the WWE has just decided to establish a new star AT Wrestlemania with MITB instead of leading up to Wrestlemania. Also, no mention of Taker, a smackdown wrestler, getting challenged by HBK, a raw wrestler? Guess it's not that important...

9:59 AM  
Blogger AKFooFighter said...

HHH, HBK, UT, Hitman, Vinny this WWE or AARP?

- Matt in Anchorage

10:15 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

How about seeing if Geritol will sponsor the show?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous SteRDLK said...

Nobody has commented on this yet, including Todd

Cody Rhodes reaction to Ted after their loss. Signs of a Legacy break up.

Too many <5 minute matches, shoddy.

Heder AKA Dynamite was hilarious, one of the best hosts yet.

Eve did well to try and save the finish with a nice finisher. Can't see her beating Maryse though.

The Swagger schtick. Any chance he will just destroy the competition and win the Rumble? THAT would be amazing.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. FUCK OFF. Sorry for the bad language.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

I have to agree with hobbyfan on the Swagger affair - who the hell did he piss off? Or maybe it's just the WWE's ridiculous programming. Seems like they have to have a huge dividing line between the headliners and the mid-to-low-carders. In any case, it's a waste of a good wrestler and a foolish way to run the business. What the WWE needs is to have an entire 2-hour show of main event-level feuds and matches. But wait, that might take away some of the spotlight from the selfish prick of pricks, Triple H.

I have to disagree with hobbyfan, however, on the Orton-Masters match, though. I though that was a great match....or, it was very good with the potential to be great. BUT...the WWE ruined it by making it a silly ploy in the Orton-Sheamus story. Nevermind that it's predictable and uninteresting to have Orton interrupt Sheamus at the beginning of the show and have the opposite happen at the end (can't you see the brains in the creative meeting thinking how brilliant they are?). They could have done that silly ploy and still allowed Orton and Masters more time instead of cutting it off abruptly with the RKO. Still, it remained something fresh, and both of those guys sold each other like crazy. Orton and Masters could be big. Some of the other wrestlers could learn a few lessons here. What they should be doing is building feuds that involve more than one person. Why not have several guys trying to get at the major heel? Have several guys trying to get at the face? Or the current champ? You'd build a lot more interesting stories and fill up the two hours with some exciting stuff.

Which brings me to the main reason this show sucked. By my calculation, it was one full hour of boring, sermonizing bullshit. Hell, it was at least 30 minutes before we even saw a match on television! Yes, we can have the Vince vs Bret buildup. We can even have the silly shenanigans of Triple H and Shawn Michaels. ending up with the campy, vaudevillian crap that ended the show, stuff that Todd so rightly branded as an embarrassment to this sport. But edit it! We don't need one hour of that crap. Then maybe you'd have more time for something fresh and exciting like Orton vs Masters (insert your favorite wrestlers here who aren't given nearly enough television time). All I'm asking for is another ten mintues - that still leaves 50 minutes for Triple H to annoy us and Vince McMahon to bore us.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

One more thing.... You had to roar with laughter when Lawler shrieked, during the Orton-Masters match: "I don't think I've ever seen anyone escape from the Masterlock!"

Either these fools think we are all idiots or they themselves are idiots - or both.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous SteRDLK said...

Another bad thing from Lawler

He called Randy Orton...

wait for it...

Randy Savage!!!

Im sure Vince loved that!!!

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Nott Keith said...

Do you really not know who John Heder and Don Johnson are?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I know of Heder as the actor from Napoleon Dynamite, School for Scoundrels and Blades of Glory. I thought all three were bad movies and that Heder isn't a very good actor. I'm not sure I could have identified him by name a month ago, but I know who he is.

As far as Don Johnson goes, I know of the TV series Miami Vice as a kind of quintessentially 80s TV crime drama that Michael Mann produced. I definitely didn't know Johnson by name nor could I have identified him from a picture.

With movies, music and sports you can get away with more dated references because new fans will check out the old stuff or be aware of it. I would certainly have no problems with Willie Stargell or Bart Starr references even though their primes were before I was born. Likewise, I've heard Duran Duran songs let alone more enduring acts like Prince or Michael Jackson who were at their peaks in the 80s. And I think a lot of people have gone back and watched Taxi Driver or Tootsie or Annie Hall. But with TV series, people don't tend to go back and watch them after they're off the air unless it's a really enduring sitcom like the Andy Griffith Show or the Brady Bunch. Thus at least to me TV references always seem much more dated. It's a more fleeting form of pop culture.

Not identifying those two or the women from that TV show (which I now have completely forgotten without WWE plugging it other than the woman who wrestled was named Maria and is of Greek heritage) is just a way of making a point that it's kind of silly to feature B-list and C-list celebrities so prominently when much of the audience is unlikely to know who they are or to view them as barely celebrities if they do. For some reason this has seemed to bug people both times, although I can't put my finger on exactly why.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous NUBE said...

I thought Miami Vice was with Jamie Foxx and Colin ferrell?

8:34 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

That was a feature film reboot of "Vice" that came out just a couple of years back, but didn't have the same kind of magic, even though producer Michael Mann was attached.

Anyway, getting back on point, and in response to DW, Masters is just getting established as a face, so why put him in with Orton? It's the same as having Triple H bury someone needlessly, IMPO.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No sell people makes sound like a knob and dumb. In others words a dumb knob.

Please stop

10:25 AM  
Anonymous DW said...

"Anyway, getting back on point, and in response to DW, Masters is just getting established as a face, so why put him in with Orton? It's the same as having Triple H bury someone needlessly, IMPO."

How is it the same, hobbyfan? What I posted was that it had great potential as well as being wrestled well. Masters wasn't buried, number one.....and the match was cut short because it was used as a silly ploy to build Orton vs Sheamus, number two.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous PeteW said...

I have a few quick comments. I thought the opening was beyond boring – 25 minutes of pompous chatter from Vince. I could care less about anything he says, pretends to care about or his actual vile feelings for the fans. The lame set-up for UT and HBK was not exciting or suspenseful to me. I think it was akin to tipping one’s hand to the Royal Rumble winner. The rest of the show was predictable and painful. I was excited to see Sheamus wrestle until we found out it was Bourne. (Mysterio is the resident small guy with superhuman strength.) I disliked watching a well-oiled tag team (Legacy) lose to two men who were fighting each other the week before and that had never worked together as a tag team (Cena, Kofi). I hate watching Swagger being crushed weekly - this episode by the World’s Fattest Man. And of course the anticipation of the main event of DX fighting anyone gave me good reason to turn in early since that is about as suspenseful as the sun coming up every day. I did wait for the Orton match though. It wouldn’t have killed them to at least give Masters some props and advertise him as the opponent as opposed to waiting until he stepped out. I found it kind of interesting that he gets a bigger “pop” as a face than Kofi despite the mass pushing of Kingston. Anyway, for my money it was the best match of the night. For the incredible brief moment they were in the ring together, it was quite exciting. Masters is being allowed to show a little more agility too which is good. Orton sold that masterlock so well you could tell from the crowd reaction that they were uncertain if he was under. I also thought the ending – although it came too quickly because they needed more time for the DX entrances I guess – was great. Orton nailed the RKO then collapsed in pain from the after- effects of the masterlock. Orton sells everyone’s moves. I hate the superman routines of Cena, Trips, etc when they pretend they’re hurt then bounce back seconds later. At least Orton hit his finisher – which is built to be a quick ender – and then remained in character in his act. I loathe when Kofi or Cena do a “boom boom” or a “five knuckle shuffle” leaving their opponent lying on the mat so long they could read a book while they’re waiting. And finally, the guest hosts are getting more disinterested each week and doing less and less. If they’re not gone by WM I’ll be surprised since they’re no longer drawing as much press interest.

7:11 PM  
Blogger AKFooFighter said...

I came across "highlights" of this week's TNA Impact show. Wow.

My music collection and movie tastes prove I'm all about nostalgia, but these wrestling, er, sports entertainment companies have gone too far when it comes to living in the past.

A Montreal Screwjob...TNA style in Orlando - are you kidding?

The complete lack of creativity is stunning.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

Ain't it the truth! It seems clear nobody has the brains to develop something with new talent. They're relying on the fame of former stars - most of whom are now way past their prime, to the point that some fans are a generation or more beyond them and have no idea who they are.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous how to ollie said...

I'm always looking out for great blogs. Seems like you have a good one here. Diamond in the rough.

8:40 AM  

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