Monday, February 01, 2010

A Short Novel on Raw

Date: 02/01/10 from Nashville, TN.

The Big News: WrestleMania is approaching and WWE delivered one of its strongest and most memorable Raw efforts in a while.

Show Analysis:

The show started with a graphic for Jack Brisco. Edge then came out. He noted that he is not only back but in the WrestleMania main event. He said he was expected to be out longer but he watched the Slammy Awards and heard Chris Jericho thank him for getting injured so Jericho could team with Big Show. At that moment, Edge said the room went silent, not just because Dennis Miller bombed with another brutal joke but because Edge made a vow he wouldn’t miss Mania for a third time with an injury.

Edge said that he’s the ultimate opportunist and the Rumble was his opportunity to make it back to a Mania main event. Edge said that Jericho has a Slammy and his mug shot on TMZ while Edge has his ticket to Mania. I like little jabs like the TMZ one because it makes the feud feel more real. Edge asked rhetorically whether it would be smarter to go after the champion who is 17-0 or the champion who has never competed at Mania. He said he would do the smart thing and wait until after the Elimination Chamber to make a decision.

This was a good promo by Edge. I’m glad he’s back as I think he’s one of the best performers they have and he feels fresher than most of the main event mix. Interestingly, his promo was kind of heelish in that the opportunism stuff made him come across kind of like a coward. I’m not sure if the idea is to gradually shift his character or what.

Sheamus came out to join Edge in the ring. He said that a lot has changed since Edge left. He conceded that he hasn’t wrestled at Mania but added that he did something Edge couldn’t do at Mania, beat John Cena. Edge said he has made a career of beating Cena for the title. Sheamus said he will walk out of the Elimination Chamber as champion. He then told Edge to leave before he put him back on the shelf. Edge didn’t leave so Sheamus attacked him. Edge fought off Sheamus with punches of his own.

I absolutely hate the idea of putting up a title in an Elimination Chamber in February. The Elimination Chamber ought to be the way the other brand creates a challenger for WrestleMania, like they have done previously. That way both major Mania title shots are treated as huge deals that you have to go through a lot to earn. It builds up both the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber as really important and ties the Chamber PPV to the Rumble PPV. Here, the Elimination Chamber undermines the significance of the Rumble, because five different guys are getting a title shot and the chance to headline Mania just one month after the supposedly all important Rumble.

John Cena beat Cody Rhodes to qualify for the Elimination Chamber. Rhodes gained the advantage very early but Cena hit the Cena slam and five knuckle. He went for the FU but Rhodes fought out and hit a clothesline and moonsault. Cena responded with the FU out of nowhere for the pin. Backstage, William Shatner told Vince McMahon he couldn’t wait for Bret Hart to embarrass him.

Triple H beat Jack Swagger to qualify for the Elimination Chamber. Swagger hit a DDT, leg drops, and applied an abdominal stretch. He went for a Vader bomb but HHH got up his knees. HHH went for the pedigree but Swagger reversed and hit the Vader bomb for two. HHH then quickly hit the pedigree for the pin.

They did a skit with William Shatner doing spoken word versions of Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Triple H’s themes. This didn’t really do it for me comically but I thought it was a clever idea that just didn’t click for whatever reason.

Backstage, Triple H met with Shawn Michaels. HHH was joking around with Michaels and trying to cheer him up but Michaels was just too depressed. HHH told Michaels to get into the Chamber and take the title.

Randy Orton beat Shawn Michaels. Michaels hit a swinging neck breaker but missed sweet chin music. Orton retaliated with a back breaker and dropkick. Michaels then came back with a top rope elbow but his sweet chin music attempt was countered into an RKO attempt. Michaels avoided that and hit an atomic drop and flying forearm. Michaels went for his usual nip up but Orton quickly rolled him up for the pin. I loved that finish given Michaels has been telegraphing that nip up spot for over a decade now.

After the match, Michaels was really down. His facials were phenomenal. He sold extreme frustration but at the same time was able to avoid coming across like he was throwing an unsympathetic hissy fit. That’s a tricky balance and Michaels pulled it off so perfectly. This really was great.

Backstage, Ted DiBiase told Randy Orton he was sorry about what happened at the Rumble. A seething Orton just left and DiBiase stood there looking rather angry in his own right. This segment made it pretty clear that these men now no longer trust or like each other and that the breakup is coming, probably at Elimination Chamber.

The Legacy breakup is going to be tricky. It has been booked of late so fans sympathize more with Orton, but I don’t see how they can elevate Rhodes or DiBiase out of the feud if Orton goes face. His face turn will be the central focus and they’ll put him strong over the other two. It will be so hard to book it in a way that Rhodes and DiBiase come out stronger than they went in. I know Orton is going to be a hot face sooner rather than later, but I really think they should find a way to go with the seeming original idea of a heel Rhodes and Orton against a face DiBiase. It’s just so much more conducive to creating a new star. Turn Orton later on.

Ted DiBiase beat Mark Henry in an Elimination Chamber qualifier. Henry clotheslined DiBiase to the floor but DiBiase took over there. DiBiase sent Henry’s arm into the post and the steps. Henry gained control with a clothesline and head butt but DiBiase went after the arm when Henry tried the world’s strongest slam. Henry avoided dream street but missed a corner avalanche and DiBiase hit a DDT with the arm for the pin.

WWE ran a video package on Jack Brisco. I thought it was well intentioned but really poor in giving credit to how successful his career was. It portrayed him primarily as a tag team star and spent more time on the Brisco Brothers Body Shop than his NWA World Title runs. There wasn’t a single mention of Dory Funk, Jr. It felt more like they were honoring the brother of a long time front office employee than one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

Backstage, Maryse said she was looking forward to wrestling Gail Kim. Didn’t WWE just announce they were going to wrestle on this show? Maryse said she was embarrassed watching Mickie James and Michelle McCool on Smackdown and said they shouldn’t be acting that way. She said they are grown women and should act that way. Gail reluctantly said okay. Maryse then said something (I assume something bad) in French to Gail.

Miz and Big Show were backstage when they were confronted by the Straight Edge Society. CM Punk said they were there to get a title shot with DX. Miz and Show said they wanted the title shot. William Shatner came in and made a triple threat title match for next week on Raw. He then froze in a smiling position and kept saying “freeze the frame” to the wrestlers. They all looked at him like he was a complete idiot. This was amusing.

HHH backstage told Michaels that he was spiraling down. He told Shawn that this wasn’t the end of the world and that there are plenty of other guys to wrestle at Mania. “Not for me,” Shawn replied. They announced Carl Edwards from NASCAR will be the guest host next week. Yay, more NASCAR hosts! What, was Larry the Cable Guy unavailable? Oh shit, pretend I never said that.

Kofi Kingston beat Big Show via DQ to qualify for the Chamber. Kingston crotched Show and dropkicked him to the floor. Show came back with a spear. Miz was taunting Kingston at ringside but MVP came out and chased Miz to the back. Kingston kind of hit a top rope dropkick and used the boom drop but Show powered out of a pin attempt.

Show went for a choke slam but Kingston accidentally thumbed him in the eye. Show went for the KO punch but couldn’t see and hit the referee. Another referee came out and called for a DQ. This was such a crappy finish that you could hear boos even with the face winning.

I hate crap finishes in general. I think you can pretty much always book in a way to avoid them. For example here just book Kingston to beat someone else clean to qualify. It would give him more momentum going into the match and you wouldn’t have this sour tasting crap finish teaching you that you can’t trust a match to end with a halfway decent ending.

But even in the spectrum of crap finishes, this was particularly bad. It made no damn sense. Kingston uses an illegal tactic accidentally and as a direct result Show accidentally hits the referee. How is Show responsible for this turn of events if someone must be blamed? It was Kingston’s damn fault if we must apply a strict liability standard that’s contrary to how matches are usually done.

And why must someone be blamed if there was no malicious intent? I’ve seen 8,000 accidental ref bumps over the years with no DQ called. DQs are sometimes called when the referee thinks the wrestler did it intentionally, but here there’s no way the second referee could possibly have thought this was intentional. Thus the DQ felt absurd.

This is just elementary human logic and ethics. A six year old would understand why this was unjust to the heel and yet this referee is booked to be so monumentally idiotic. You don’t see guys in the NFL getting 15 yard misconducts for accidentally running into the official. You should at least be able to avoid crap finishes that don’t even make sense within the context of what you do every single week. Ugh.

The final segment of the show started with Jerry Lawler introducing William Shatner. Shatner “accidentally” fell on Lawler for comedy. Shatner then introduced Bret Hart. I don’t know what it was, but facially he looked more like the younger Bret Hart I remember. He then cut an awesome promo.

Bret said that he came back for the right reasons and to make peace. He noted that was naive. Bret said this time he wasn’t there for peace but to talk to Bret face to face. Vince McMahon then came out. He said that he regrets nothing he ever said or did to Bret. Bret said that was the first honest thing Vince has ever said. He called Vince the world’s greatest liar. He noted some of the lies Vince told including saying that he was like a father to Bret.

Bret said Vince couldn’t lace his father’s jock. Bret talked about when he was in a wheelchair following his stroke. Bret said he got out of the wheelchair and vowed he would never feel pathetic again. Then he came to WWE to make amends and got kicked in the guts and felt pathetic. Bret talked about working so hard for Vince and how Vince never appreciated it. He said that if he was chewing gum like Vince said, this gum had enough flavor left to kick Vince’s ass.

This promo by Bret Hart was exactly what was needed. It was passionate, well scripted and well delivered. It was thoroughly believable and touched on so many real issues between Bret and Vince. It was pretty much the ideal promo you would want Bret to cut on Vince. Bret really delivered here.

Vince responded by saying Bret is pathetic. He has no personality, and without personalities like Mr. Perfect, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret would have been a footnote. He added that Bret has no charisma and no command of the English language. He said that Bret was dressed like a hobo and deserved to be screwed. He then said that he wouldn’t induct Stu Hart into the Hall of Fame because Stu doesn’t deserve it.

The scripting of Vince’s promo was fantastic. I loved the knocks of Bret and the final jab at Stu was a great way to spur Bret into physical action. With that said, I didn’t care for Vince’s delivery at all. He seemed way too pleased with himself as a performer and delivered it in a hammy and goofy manner that undermined the material in my mind. He came across like a character rather than the real Vince from Montreal. People wanted to see Stone Cold kick the ass of the character Mr. McMahon. But people want to see Bret kick the ass of the real Vince McMahon and Vince making ridiculous faces undermined the reality Bret had interjected into his promo.

Bret pulled Vince’s coat over his head and attacked Vince with punches. He went for the sharpshooter but Batista came in and took Bret down with punches. He held Bret and Vince spit in Bret’s face. I wish it weren’t true, but there’s no getting around the fact that the physicality between Bret and Vince and Batista looked awful. But WWE now has basically everything they need for a huge Bret vs. Vince confrontation at Mania. They’ve got the great Bret promo and the image of Vince spitting in Bret’s face is a tremendous visual they can air a million times between now and then. Overall this segment was a big success.

Final Thoughts:

The main section of this report is particularly heavy with analysis of this show, but I wanted to close with one final point on what was generally a very strong build for WrestleMania.

There was a lot of good stuff on Raw, but I think the best stuff was Michaels’ performance in building a match with Undertaker. I criticize Raw a lot, because I think frequently it’s a very poorly written show. But this Michaels-Taker feud is being masterfully put together.

Thinking about a Michaels-Taker rematch, the logical thing to do to build the match would be to push Michaels really strong. Michaels wins a whole bunch of matches and is booked really strong so you think he just might be able to beat Taker. What WWE has done is pretty much the opposite. I never would have thought to do it that way, but it is working so much better than if they had just pushed Michaels strong.

By booking Michaels to fail repeatedly and sink into a state of depression and despair, it makes him such a sympathetic character. You see just how much he wants to beat Undertaker. He isn’t just saying it but showing it through his actions. It seems to mean more to him than Taker’s streak has ever meant to Taker. And the effect of that emotion is that by the time Mania comes, so many people are going to want to see Michaels accomplish this goal.

Watching this show, I found it hard to imagine Michaels failing at his goal to defeat Undertaker. It felt like Michaels would just leave forever and never show his face again if he couldn’t do it. That emotion has injected so much energy in this match and I think the Michaels vs. Taker Mania rematch is shaping up to be the best built WWE program since Batista vs. HHH.


Anonymous Bob said...

Good show for a change.

Maybe this happened a few weeks ago and I'm just the last to notice, but they ripped Hulk Hogan out of the opening montage (the short WWE montage that plays at the beginning of all shows, not the Raw opening). I believe they replaced him with the Million Dollar Man. Kind of seems silly, as Hogan is a huge part of their legacy and I don't think showing a split second of him in his prime is going to make people switch to TNA.

Since I don't watch SmackDown, I haven't been following Batista at all, so it was weird to me that he intervened on Vince's behalf. Maybe it seemed like less of an oddball choice for those who have followed Batista's career the last few months. For me, it just didn't seem to fit.

Minor complaint: It annoys me when they have things happen just because the plot requires it without coming up with a reasonable device to make it happen. The two examples here were Kofi disappearing so Big Show could have a LONG confrontation with the refs, even though when we last saw him he'd merely slid out of the ring after taking a hip toss. Surely that hip toss didn't kill him. The other example was Batista holding Bret forever for Vince with nobody intervening. The crowd even started chanting for Cena, since it would only make sense that at least he would get involved, but, no, they were scripted to be uninterrupted, so that's how it illogically played out.

1:13 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

Bob: I think you're one of the last people to notice the change from Hogan to the elder DiBiase in the montage. They have since gone from Jeff Hardy to Kofi Kingston to, as of last night anyway, Bret Hart (don't know about the Rumble) in that same package.

Batista turned heel and has had a feud with Rey Mysterio the last 3 months. Having him on Vince's side tells me Vince & Bret might not fight each other after all, but we'd get Cena-Batista instead with the other two in the corners, a la Lashley-Umaga 3 years ago.

The Divas finals have been delayed again, but this was the best skit Maryse has ever done, presenting herself as a spokesperson for the Raw women being classy (as exemplified by Maryse, Gail, & Kelly all wearing dresses) as opposed to the schoolyard trash that Michelle McCool has become on Smackdown. I had the volume turned down so I didn't catch Maryse's French half of the promo. We'll probably get Maryse-Gail next week.

The Elimination Chamber matches were fine up until the last one. I get Big Show losing because of the tag 3-way next week and the prospect of him & Miz winning instead of Brother Punk's Traveling Salvation Show, but this was lamely scripted, worse than the Shatner skits (which was mostly parodies of his Priceline ads). With Santino away, they couldn't do the most obvious skits (Star Trek or TJ Hooker parodies), though they would've been DOA anyway.

It's been more than 5 years since Edge turned heel, so he's way overdue for a face run. We'll see how this plays.

Bret's promo was fabulous. Unfortunately, it was like John Madden (Bret) standing up to Al Davis (Vince) and having the old man no-sell. Todd, I think you can understand where I'm coming from with that.

5:51 AM  
Blogger brian said...

It's still kind of surreal talking about Bret back in WWE. It's a real shame he can't wrestle anymore, when you look at Shawn Michael's career renaissance in recent years, Bret could have been having some equally amazing matches.

The Legacy split is tricky. They can't force DiBiase as a face and risk the fans rejecting him like the Rock all those years ago. Unless they then use that reaction to turn him into a cocky "You never appreciated me" heel who the fans might then get behind. But the Orton face turn will be huge, when it arrives.

Looks like Vince got his win back for the Montreal spit. Mark my words one day they'll bring back Warrior so Triple H can pin him clean in the centre of the ring.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I can see this HBK story going three ways:

1. he puts his career on the line to get a match against Taker at Wrestlemania.

2. Taker loses the title somehow at the Elimination Chamber to set up Edge's opponent and leave Taker open for HBK.

3(my favorite idea). HBK wins Money in the bank at wrestlemania and uses it right after Taker's match.

10:30 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

We know this much. DX will lose the tag titles next week, as the HBK angle rolls forward. Beyond that, I can't really be certain of anything at this point.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous SteRDLK said...


I marked out simply by reading your comment! It was that good!

I thought Raw was shite this week, so predictable aside from the opening and final segments. Shatner was dreadful, to me.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Brian, keep in mind that Shawn Michaels is 8 years younger than Bret Hart. So while Bret's career was definitely cut short, he probably wouldn't be hanging with Shawn at this point (turning 53 this year) regardless.

Patrick, I love the Money in the Bank idea. It would be kind of tricky to do without hosing both the Money match and the Undertaker's real match. I suppose Michaels could let the other five guys do the bulk of it and then jump in for the win, so it could still be the expected great match, and who really cares about the Undertaker's "real" opponent if we get an Undertaker-Michaels match comparable to last year.

I'm wondering if they're going to go the retirement route. Michaels spoke about wanting to retire after WM26. He's been publicly backtracking lately, but that could be to create a surprise.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Alex "Munchie" Avila said...

Interesting response to Raw. I just stumbled upon your blog from my own. After reading your thoughts I say this: Shawn Michaels v. Triple H at Wrestle Mania.

Shawn caused Triple H to be pinned in their triple threat match at Survivor Series and he also eliminated him from the Rumble. That's twice that HBK has caused Hunter the chance to regain the championship - this will not sit pretty with Hunter if HBK causes him to loose a Mania title match spot a third time.

Which I originally thought would be at the Elimination Chamber - but after Randy Orton got in and HBK didn't. I'm leaning towards DX loosing the tag titles because HBK messes it up for them causing the third time HBK screws over Hunter.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

At 1 hour and 56 minutes into Raw, we see Lawler in the ring INTRODUCING the guest host. If this doesn't tell us that the entire company is insane, nothing does.

I'm fairly certain HBK will end up with UT at WM. To me, it's silly the way the are promoting it, keeping HBK out of the running with each passing Raw, when it's pretty clear that will be the big match at that event. Surely, it's only the kids who don't see the predictability of the WWE.

I'd predict HBK to win, too, not because I like him. I don't. I just don't see them going anywhere with a retiring UT - and they can probably talk HBK into hanging out longer and get some residual income from an HBK win. It'll be ahame to break the UT's streak by heaping more praise on the now over-rated HBK.

I think HBK was once great, but know he's a caricature of his former self. He's a terrible actor now (worse than he ever was); he has two expressions: comatose and cross-eyed. Every so often he does a poorly executed tantrum and that's about it. None of it is remotely believable, in my opinion - you have to look to somebody like Orton to really fire up the ring and the tv screen. HBK's backstage scene with Triple H and his "drama" after the Orton match were good examples of how bad an actor he has become. (Actually, I'd like to ask why he was even in the ring at the end of his match - he lost! Did Swagger remain in the ring after he lost to Trips?) Time for HBK to retire before he destroys the legacy he built up in his younger years.

Oh yes, and what's up with the WM poster with Cena flanked by a bunch of 40 year old men? What the hell happened to the young talent?

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Mike Awesome said...

I agree with DW regarding Michaels. But I'd add that Taker also needs to move on. He can harldy move anymore and listening to him talk about salvation and taking people's souls is beyond silly.

It's not Raw but how great was Punk in the Rumble. It was pure gold, then HHH's music hit and you knew where that was headed.

John Pollock made a good point in his Rumble recap.
"The final four are Michaels, Cena, Edge and Batista - speaks volumes about the new stars created in the last year"

And now for Mania the main events are Vince/Hart and Michaels/Taker. What year is this?

11:39 PM  

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