Monday, March 01, 2010

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/01/10 from Oklahoma City, OK.

The Big News: Raw was again heavily focused on building WrestleMania, and that focus again led to a quality show.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels came to the ring and said that the locker room thinks he’s crazy and doesn’t believe he can beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Michaels said that he knows he is Mr. WrestleMania and that he can end the streak. He invited anyone to come out and tell him that he can’t win.

HHH joined Michaels. He said that he doesn’t think Michaels can win, but then quickly added that he knows Michaels can. HHH pointed out he has wrestled all the top stars of the past 15 years (North American, certainly) and that Michaels is the best he has been in the ring with. HHH said that he invoked DX’s tag title rematch clause against Big Show and Miz for Raw. He said they wouldn’t have to defend for 30 days and that they could celebrate together after WrestleMania. He told Michaels that he believes Shawn will win. Michaels agreed to the tag title rematch.

This was a great start to the show. Both Michaels and HHH were tremendous in their roles, particularly HHH. Their long time real life affiliation also added to the effectiveness of the segment.

They did a series of backstage “comedy” vignettes involving Hornswoggle giving Cheech and Chong Lucky Charms with hallucinogenic properties. They made a diva pajama pillow fight. One of them was rubbing what he thought was Eve’s hair but it was actually William Regal. The other thought Chris Masters was Kelly Kelly.

Later, Cheech and Chong dressed up Chavo Guerrero, Primo Colon and Carlito Colon in stereotypical Mexican attire and fake moustaches. None of them were feeling this. Katie Lea and Yoshi Tatsu were also dressed up with fake moustaches and then a rooster came into the room with Santino Marella’s voice. This was your typical poorly written WWE comedy. It reads dumb but they’ve done much worse.

Randy Orton beat Ted DiBiase via DQ. Orton was booked seemingly like a face here but the crowd wasn’t with him at all. DiBiase worked over Orton with a million dollar dream. Orton came back with a power slam and Garvin stomp. He went for the RKO but Cody Rhodes ran out and Orton went after him. DiBiase rolled up Orton for two. Orton reversed for two.

At that point Rhodes attacked Orton for the DQ. The two on one beatdown by Rhodes and DiBiase on Orton received a decided mixed reaction with some fans cheering and some fans booing. Orton fought back with a dropkick on DiBiase and back breaker on Rhodes. Orton went for the DDT on Rhodes but DiBiase saved Rhodes.

While WWE has done a great job building the main programs for WrestleMania, they have really dropped the ball on this Legacy feud. I outlined what I thought were the problems with the program a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t apparent until this week just how dire the situation has gotten. Orton is seemingly supposed to be a face, but he is so ice cold that the only comparable recent WWE face turn I can come up with is Chris Masters.

That’s even more remarkable given that Orton is a top star and there were points in the past year when a face Orton would have been the hottest wrestler in the company. The goal originally should have been to get over Rhodes and DiBiase but at this point they just need to find a way to salvage Orton. And I’m not exactly sure what you do. It’s a big problem with no easy answers.

Jack Swagger beat Santino Marella in a Money in the Bank qualifier. Swagger hit the gut wrench power bomb immediately and scored the pin. Hopefully they have decided to get behind Swagger again.

Next up was the best segment of the show. John Cena came out and said that what happened with him and Batista at Elimination Chamber was just business. However, the next night on Raw it became personal. I would have thought it was already personal when Batista beat the hell out of Cena two weeks prior, but that’s okay. Cena said that he never had a problem with Batista but that now Batista has trouble with him. He vowed payback.

Batista came out with a bunch of security. Cena made a comment about the security, and Batista told him that the security was there to protect Cena from Batista. God I love heel Batista. Cena responded by calling Batista a “pansy.” Maybe next week Cena will call Batista a chicken and go “cluck cluck cluck.”

Batista said that he wants to wrestle Cena at WrestleMania, and that’s why he did what he did last week. Batista noted that he started at the same time as Cena, and that they are the biggest stars since the Attitude era. However, Cena is the guy that is the name and face of WWE. Batista said that at Mania he needs to prove he is better than Cena, and added that he can’t stand Cena.

Cena responded that Batista needs to be focused because Cena is coming for his title. Cena said that he has worked his butt off for the company and given his life for the business, while Batista shows up late and expects to be handed everything. He called Batista selfish and said that’s real talk.

Batista agreed with Cena. He said that he is out for the money and the titles and doesn’t care about the people. He added that when he is in the ring with Cena bad things happen to Cena. The last time he broke Cena’s neck. Batista said Cena is all talk while Batista is good at the physicality. Batista said Cena can’t beat him and deep down Cena knows it.

This was a phenomenal segment. Batista vs. Cena to me has always had more drawing potential than just about any other combination of the current top stars, and they did a great job of showing why here. There’s a symmetry between their careers. They started together. They became champions at the same time. Cena was legitimately the guy who was pushed a little harder and went a little farther. They’ve got contrasting personalities and styles. That makes them natural rivals, and unlike so many other matches, WWE recognized this a while ago and has tried to keep them apart as much as possible.

This segment was old school pro wrestling in all the right ways. You had two wrestlers (particularly Batista) explaining very clearly why they wanted to fight and why it was important that they win. This segment could serve as a basic template in a lot of ways for every championship program. You need to switch up the specifics, but the reality and gravity of it all was so effective. It was one of my favorite Raw segments in quite a while.

MVP beat Zack Ryder to qualify for Money in the Bank. This was a total squash that treated Ryder like a complete joke. MVP just hit balling and the playmaker for the pin in no time flat. This was your typical WWE of the last five years segment, where rather than giving a new act a chance you just bury them at the very beginning and make it clear to everyone that they aren’t to be taken seriously. It’s so stupid and counterproductive.

On another note, I don’t understand what they are doing with this year’s Money in the Bank. Usually Money in the Bank is a showcase for a bunch of hot midcard acts so they can push someone to the next level. This year, the field is a bunch of guys who have been repeatedly buried (MVP, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger) or are moving in place (Christian, Kane, Shelton Benjamin). Hopefully they have two strong additions to the match in mind.

Eve Torres won a diva pajama pillow fight over Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, Jillian Hall, Maryse and Alicia Fox. They were all wearing little girl outfits and hitting each other with pillows. It’s strange that they consider women wearing skimpy attire to be problematic family programming but that they consider the fetishizing and infantilizing of women to be fine. If I were a parent I’d be more concerned with the latter. In any event, everyone went after each other. Gail hit eat defeat on Alicia but Eve knocked Gail from the ring and hit a somersault leg drop on Alicia for the pin. Eve is apparently the next challenger for Maryse’s title.

They announced Mad Dog Vachon for the Hall of Fame and aired a good video package on his career. It’s a little strange they would do his induction in Phoenix, but he’s certainly deserving of the honor.

Vince McMahon introduced Bret Hart. Bret came out walking with a crutch and a cast on one leg. It looked kind of comical, actually. He angrily told Vince to leave the ring so he could say goodbye. Vince said he didn’t invite Bret back to say goodbye and challenged Bret to a fight. Bret pointed out his leg is broken. Vince said that Bret has no heart and is a coward. He kept yelling at Bret like a total cartoon character and kicked out Bret’s leg. Bret finally accepted the match. Vince then said that next week he will show what kind of shape he is in when he takes on John Cena.

This leg injury isn’t helping the Bret/Vince program at all, but equally as problematic here in my opinion was Vince’s acting. Again he was way, way over the top with his goofy, hammy acting. That stuff worked with Steve Austin because the program there was in general more over the top. But with Bret being more subdued and natural in a program with serious real life issues, this segment came across like an argument between Ricky Steamboat and Daffy Duck.

I’m sure this segment worked for some people, but to me the program is moving in the wrong direction. Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker and John Cena vs. Batista felt more “real” on this show than Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon. Vince needs to start working with Bret rather than trying to outperform him. They announced Criss Angel as the guest host next week as well as Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase.

Big Show and Miz beat Shawn Michaels and HHH. Show Miz worked over Michaels. HHH tagged in and hit punches, a face buster and a spine buster on Show. He went for the pedigree but Miz ran in and was caught with a spine buster. Show used the distraction to hit a choke slam on HHH but Michaels then nailed Show with sweet chin music. Michaels got the tag and hit a flying forearm, inverted atomic drop, slam and elbow off the top on Miz.

Michaels set up for sweet chin music, but Undertaker appeared the screen. The idiot Michaels rather than just going for sweet chin music stopped what he was doing to stare intently at the screen. And not content to just stare at the screen from where he was, he proceeded to walk across the ring past the Miz so he could watch the screen from a slightly closer position. Miz of course was now behind Michaels and rolled up the moron from behind for the pin. I really wish they would retire the distraction spot. It’s so unbelievably stupid and unrealistic, and they use it incessantly. Used sparingly it could help to build programs but used so often it makes matches look fake and wrestlers’ actions look like contrivances.

After the match, Sheamus attacked HHH. He laid out HHH with a clothesline and ax handle. He kicked HHH into the announce table and kicked him again over it. This was just a brief little angle, but it was smart to stick it at the end of the show to try to give it a little extra resonance when there were so many big angles at other parts of the show.

Final Thoughts:

WWE is at its best when it is focused on building specific matches on a major PPV, and it is honed in on building this WrestleMania the right way. While I didn’t like this edition of Raw as much as some other recent weeks, it was still a good program highlighted by a great segment building the John Cena vs. Batista match.


Blogger Patrick said...

That Cena/Batista segment showed what the writers can do if they actually try. Maybe it's not them after all. I think the issue with Bret and Vince is that Vince is trying to outperform Bret in order to make himself feel better. Like an ego thing.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

It's incredible how fresh Batista has become in the last couple of weeks. Right before his feud with Rey I really couldn't have cared less about him, but ever since then he has gotten stronger and stronger into this newer Batista character and for my money he's the most entertaining act in the company right now. The segment on SD! where he was going to answer to Cena, only say nothing and kick the mic away was tremendous. I really hope he retains at 'Mania, both because I'm dead tired of Cena and because I want to see where they can go with Big Dave.

1:14 AM  
Blogger hobbyfan said...

This is what I took from this show:

The Cena-Batista seg was the best part, by plenty. The way Bats was dressed, though, reminded me of the Rock, circa 2003, when he feuded with Goldberg. Of course, Batista isn't about to pick up a guitar and sing, but we'd love it if Cena went back to the freestyle raps to answer him.

Bret & Vince was on the opposite end of the scale, and the reason this angle is failing is Vince himself. I talked about this on my own blog (The Land of Whatever--you should really check it out), but the bottom line is that this should be Vince's last feud. Ever. We know what's going to happen next week. Vince will change his match vs. Cena to a No-DQ at the last second, enabling Batista to interfere and help Vince get a cheap pin. We've seen this before (see: Hulk Hogan, HBK, Lashley), and we don't need to see it again. Give it up, Vince. You have TNA going head-to-head next week, and all you're doing is giving Hogan & Bischoff plenty of cannon fodder. Real stupid.

The writers know this may be the last Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania if they go ahead and make a PPV built around that match, as has been rumored. Of the six already in, 2 (Swagger, Ziggler) are 1st-timers in this match. Worse, Swagger & MVP weren't given a lot of time for their matches (Thanks, Vince). How does that make them, along with Santino & Zack Ryder, feel? Like a change purse full of pennies.

With Criss Angel hosting next week, maybe he can do us all a favor and make Vince disappear.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EGM3 says:

Did HHH say that he's 'beaten' all the top stars of the past 15 years or that he's 'buried' them?

Don't blame the WWE's writers for C&C's 'humor'. I'm old enuf to remember them from the 70's and trust me, they were never funny in the least.

If you were General Mills would you file a complaint for WWE implying Lucky Charms cerial causes hallucinations?

7:39 AM  
Blogger AKFooFighter said...

"Old School" is exactly what I muttered while watching the Cena-Batista segment, and I'm not talking about "Frank the Tank". It was fun.

BTW, how pimp was Vince's black suit with purple pinstripes - another highlight of the show.

- Matt in Anchorage

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Quick correction: The joke was the there was actually nothing hallucinogenic in the Lucky Charms, but Chong was diabetic and started hallucinating from the sugar, and Cheech was allergic to the marshmallows and starting tripping based on that.

I actually thought it was a pretty clever joke, as it initially appeared to be a classic Cheech & Chong drug joke but it actually ended up being more a joke about their age.

Of course Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler didn't get the joke either, as Lawler wanted to eat the Lucky Charms to get high and Cole was yelling at him that he still had the main event match to call, which makes no sense unless Lawler is also diabetic or has a marshmallow allergy that causes him to hallucinate.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Steve Khan said...

I'm surprised Big Dave didn't no-show so we could hear the hosts tell Cena, "Dave's not here, man."

2:48 PM  
Anonymous F.Leghorn said...

First off...bravo to Steve Khan. That was very funny.
For what was essentially a talk show, I thought it worked okay. I share everyone's enthusiasm for the work that Big Dave is doing. He is, in a word, stupendous. He's always been a decent talker, with a dry sense of humour, but the stuff between he and Cena last night was just superb. When Cena is doing mic work like this, he's damn good at it, and it would help if they remembered that more often.
I thought the exact same thing as y'all did when it was over: This is how it's done. Pure. Simple. Right to the point. Dave's rationale was absolutely logical. I do think that Batista retains at Mania, because he's just too good right now to take the belt off of. This is a feud with real legs to it, and by far the freshest thing they could do with Cena.
Orton/Legacy I don't get at all. I don't think they've actually ever decided who was face and who was heel. Originally, it was likely meant to be DiBiase, but they've given him nothing. Orton is too good to have a year's worth of storylines bungled like this. I have no idea what he's going to do at Mania. I wonder if WWE does.
Vince is, I agree, way too over the top in this stuff with Hart. Especially since Bret just stands there and stares at him. It's not a match I would ever want to see, anyway, but if they just scrapped the whole thing now, I don't think anybody would care.
Cheech & Chong really have never been funny. I'm old; I remember their shtick, and it was corny in 1978, and certainly is now.
I agree, the bit with Michaels stopping mid-kick to stare at a screen is a little too much to buy. It's a fine build-up, and will no doubt be great, but they looked a bit dopey on this. But, if it means no more DX, then alls the better. I also liked the way it looked when they followed HBK up the ramp, and in the deep background, you saw Sheamus creeping up behind the Game. It looked like a monster movie. Their feud should, however, be lousy.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous DW said...

I'm completely on the other side of the fence when it comes to the Orton vs Dibiase match and what the WWE is doing with them.

First, let me preview my comments with this idea: I don't get why people are so caught up in the "face vs heel" mentality as though that is a requirement for every storyline the WWE does. How about thinking out of the box for a change? Storylines and feuds can happen when the lines are blurred. And there is an element of excitement that can't be had when you know somebody is the textbook "face" and the other the textbook "heel." And to my mind, that is exactly what is happening with Orton vs Legacy.

I thought the Orton/Dibiase match was the most exciting thing on the
show - and one of the most exciting things the wwe has presented in a long time. Unlike the monotonous, overly-talked HHH/HBK segment and
Cena's endless monologue (you know you're in trouble when the crowd
starts intoning "what?"after every line of script), the Orton/Dibiase
match was fresh, it grabbed attention because it wasn't the standard format, and more importantly, it was not predictable - as is almost all of the WWE fare.

From what I could hear, the crowd was anything but dead during the match. I thought the crowd was
tremendously responsive - maybe not in the usual way because what they were seeing was different, but I could sense their interest; in fact, it was the blurred line between face and heel that made it so exciting. Instead of the mundane "face vs heel" crap that the WWE is usually locked into, here they left the crowd
wondering what was going to happen. Orton didn't turn face, but why does he have to? Why can't he be like the rest if us - exhibiting the traits of both at times? Nobody's perfect, nobody fits into a mold so why make the WWE characters so one-dimensional? I thought the crowd was into it because it was so much out of the WWE's usual box. There's plenty of other predictable face vs heel stuff out there so I say, give the crowd something to really hit them between the eyes.

Instead of criticizing, take a look at the tremendous performance Orton delivered - he was a bag of mixed emotions when he was contending with Ted, and when the double teaming transpired, his reactions were out of this world. I, for one, was glad he didn't turn and become the "central casting" face at the end. That really made it for me. I don't know what he's up to - and that makes me want to tune in next week - and also buy the WM PPV!

Kudos to Dibiase as well - he was still doing a great bit as he walked up the ramp - this trio of performers outshines anybody else on the roster, in my humble opinion.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Another strong show. It's so much better when they start building up WM feuds in December / January rather than wait until after the February PPV, like last year.

I was surprised they didn't do more about the Michaels retirement stip. It should be a big draw for the show even if the majority of people realize they ain't gonna go through with it.

The Cena / Batista exchange didn't do much for me as it did for other people.
Cena is stale, the "corporate poster boy character" is beyond lame (for me as an adult who lived through the Attitude Era). Batista has rejuvenated his character but it's still nothing amazing or exciting. He’s still a musclehead with limited charisma and a very laid-back, at times irritating character. I find the Miz to be a much better heel and a more entertaining guy. Anyway, at the end of the day, it was still 2 guys spouting out scripted semi-logical arguments to one another on a mic in a totally unnatural environment for this kind of argument. Sometimes I miss really exciting crazy angles, out-of-the-box innovative ideas, like the beer bath among other examples. Basic angles can be very effective but sometimes, you want something more than the same old, same old. This was the case for me with Cena-Batista.

Who could have ever thought that Bret Hart coming back and exacting revenge from McMahon could be as forgettable? I’m not surprised considering the awful track record from this promotion in the past 9 years in terms of can’t-miss, dream-of-every-booker, ready-made feuds. Still, if it doesn’t mean they are in dire need of a major creative overhaul, nothing will.

Weird to imagine HHH in a throwaway mid-card match on the biggest show of the year.

The rest of the show was the same formula, same old, same old. Including the guest hosts written in terrible, embarrassing “comedy” segments that bombed as usual. Nothing remarkable except that pajama party which seemed out of place in a PG environment but enjoyable because it was something other than your typical throwaway 2-minute Divas match featuring interchangeable performers and a throwback to the good old days.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What in the name of Vincent Kennedy McMahon is going on here?

2:08 PM  

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