Monday, January 31, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/31/11 from Providence, RI.

The Big News: Jerry Lawler will wrestle Miz for the WWE title at Elimination Chamber.

Show Analysis:

Ricardo Rodriguez, some dancers, a mariachi band and balloons celebrated Alberto Del Rio’s Royal Rumble victory. Del Rio said that he told people he would win the Rumble but that nobody listened. Now he would celebrate. He added that he would announce whether he would wrestle for the Raw title or Smackdown title at WrestleMania. At that point he was interrupted by Miz.

Miz congratulated Del Rio. Miz said that he hoped Del Rio would choose to face him at WrestleMania. Miz said that he would remain champion through WrestleMania while Edge would lose his title at Elimination Chamber. Hopefully that doesn’t mean in an Elimination Chamber match. Miz claimed that Edge has been mocking Del Rio behind Del Rio’s back. Del Rio saw this as a ploy and suggested Miz was lying.

Edge came out and said that he doesn’t like or respect Del Rio but that he will say that to Del Rio’s face as opposed to behind his back. Edge said he will beat Del Rio if Del Rio challenges him. Del Rio then announced he would beat the Smackdown champion at WrestleMania. Edge attacked Del Rio in response but Del Rio hit Edge in the shoulder with a guitar and applied his armbar. This was a solid start to the show.

The anonymous GM announced a Raw Rumble with Randy Orton, CM Punk, John Morrison, R. Truth, King Sheamus, Jerry Lawler and John Cena competing for a title shot at the Raw champion for Elimination Chamber. The other six will then wrestle in a Chamber match for the title shot at WrestleMania. I’m so glad they’re doing it this way again. I’ve always felt strongly that putting up the title in a six person Elimination Chamber demeans the whole point of earning the title and it’s the perfect opportunity to have a bunch of challengers go through hell for the shot at the all prestigious belt.

Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov beat Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty. The heels worked over Santino. Kozlov tagged in and hit head butts and clotheslines. Santino then tagged back in and gave Harris the cobra for the win. There was a lot of speculation Nexus would take the tag titles but I think Santino and Kozlov are working great for the time being as tag champions.

After the match, Randy Orton ran out and gave Harris and McGillicutty an RKO. He set up to punt Harris. CM Punk came out and told him not to. Punk threatened there would be serious repercussions. Orton deferred for about 20 minutes before finally punting Harris. Between getting pinned clean and being punted, I hope that isn’t it for Harris.

Ted DiBiase came out and told Jerry Lawler to step aside for the future and give DiBiase his spot in the Raw Rumble. Michael Cole said that Lawler is too selfish to do that. Lawler noted that he has been in WWE 18 years and has never been in a match at WrestleMania. Lawler said his road to WrestleMania would start later in the show. He added that he knows he can beat the Miz and that he would win the Raw Rumble.

DiBiase slapped Lawler and walked away. Lawler went after DiBiase but DiBiase held Maryse in front of himself. Maryse was offended and slapped DiBiase. Lawler then punched DiBiase and teased punching Cole. This was another really good segment. It’s nice to see them utilizing Lawler’s talents in such a major way.

They aired a vignette twice that involved a scary looking man walking into an old house. It gave the date February 21, which is the day after Elimination Chamber. One would assume that’s a tease for either the return of the Undertaker, the debut of Sting, or the introduction of a new character.

Daniel Bryan beat Tyson Kidd with the LeBell lock. The match was just a very brief backdrop for the Bellas acting as heels and badmouthing Bryan and Gail Kim on commentary. The story is they had a bet about who would sleep with Bryan first. After the match the Bellas and Gail Kim brawled. It felt like they gave the brawl about as much time as the match, sadly.

Edge beat Miz in a match with a predictable distraction finish. They announced there had to be a winner. Miz worked over Edge’s shoulder and arm. John Cena distracted Miz with a microphone in the crowd and Edge hit a spear for the pin. If you want to look at the top reasons why match results don’t matter, titles don’t matter and PPVs don’t draw, these incessant distraction finishes are very high on the list.

Vickie Guerrero announced a new type of title defense for Edge on Friday. It will be a three on two match with Lay Cool and Dolph Ziggler vs. Edge and Kelly Kelly with Edge’s title on the line. So if Michelle McCool pins Kelly Kelly, Dolph Ziggler is the new champion. That’s about the dumbest development in TNA in recent years and WWE stole the concept. Maybe next week they can put the titles in boxes on polls.

Lay Cool beat Eve and Natalya. Layla hit diamond dust on Eve for the win. They showed Lay Cool arguing backstage earlier in the day. In the end, they blamed the referee for their struggles and hugged.

Usos were supposed to wrestle Mark Henry and Great Khali. However, the GM said that the Usos didn’t stand a chance in the match so this would be a dance off. The two teams danced. The Usos then attacked and were laid out by the faces. This was an idiotic waste of time that wasn’t entertaining and only served to bury the Usos for no positive reason.

Jerry Lawler won the Raw Rumble. John Morrison, King Sheamus, John Cena, CM Punk and R. Truth were the first five wrestlers out. Truth threw Morrison out but Morrison skinned the cat and pulled Truth out. Truth and Morrison then both tried to skin the cat but Truth botched the spot. Lawler was out next and went to town with punches for everyone. Orton was the last man out and Punk hid under the ring. Orton pulled him out and went after him.

Orton clotheslined out Punk but Truth immediately dumped Orton from behind. Cena tried to throw out Truth and Morrison together. Truth went out but Morrison avoided elimination and pulled Cena out onto the apron. Sheamus charged and also went over onto the apron. It looked like a setup for Lawler to take out all three together but they all got back in. They did a phony looking spot where Morrison scooted himself off the apron so he could do the visual of catching himself by his feet on the bottom rope. Then he did a spot where he landed with his hands on the floor and pushed himself back in. At this point, it came across as Morrison showing off in a fake match as opposed to achieving impressive feats in a believable athletic simulation.

Cena put Sheamus in the STF. Morrison went for starship pain on them but it mostly missed. Sheamus eliminated Morrison with the Brogue kick. Cena was on the apron and Sheamus threw Lawler into Cena to eliminate Cena. Sheamus then went for the Brogue kick on Lawler but Lawler ducked and Cena pulled down the top rope. Sheamus flew over and Lawler won. Cena raised Lawler’s hand while Cole repeatedly screamed at Lawler.

Final Thoughts:

This was a real sink or swim edition of Raw. The first hour was strong. The next 40 minutes were terrible. And the final match was great. I really like what they’re doing with Jerry Lawler and given how compelling it is I hope they have a plan to keep him involved in a major way through WrestleMania. Maybe he can wrestle Alex Riley or Michael Cole at WrestleMania with the winner getting to ref the likely Miz-Cena title bout. Regardless, he has been so great in recent months that they should find a way to make his involvement at Mania a crescendo rather than an anticlimax.

Monday, January 24, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/24/11 from Detroit, MI.

The Big News: The Royal Rumble is Sunday.

Show Analysis:

Edge started the show by saying he didn’t want to wait for his match with the Miz. He told some jokes and made no reference to his title match with Dolph Ziggler. The GM popped in to say that match would take place later but that Edge would have an additional exhibition immediately.

Edge won a four man battle royal. The stipulation announced by the GM was that whoever eliminated Edge would get spot 40 in the Royal Rumble. Jack Swagger ran in and received an immediate spear. Tyson Kidd went for a springboard but was caught by an Edge powerslam. Edge then threw Kidd out. Drew McIntyre hit a yakuza kick on Edge and tried to throw him out but Swagger attacked McIntyre from behind. Swagger went after Edge but Edge dumped him over the top. McIntyre then went for the future shock but Edge eliminated him.

I’m not sure as to the wisdom of a superfluous match with a guy not in the Royal Rumble easily dispatching middle of the line guys in the actual Rumble (McIntyre, Swagger). After the match, Edge went after the computer. Michael Cole tried to stop him and then Nexus came out. Edge just kind of disappeared at that point.

CM Punk said that only the strong survive and they survive because they evolve. He said that Nexus is expanding and evolving with Mason Ryan. Mason Ryan said, “Faith.” Punk said they are bonded by faith, unlike Cena and the Core (I’m not misspelling the word to help WWE merchandising, sorry). Punk said that Nexus will see to it that he wins the Rumble.

The Core came out. Wade Barrett said the Core isn’t like Nexus. They’re not brainwashed by one man but are four equals. Okay, so the angle is apparently communists vs. cult. I guess that would make Barrett Lenin, Jackson Trotsky, Punk L. Ron Hubbard and Otunga Tom Cruise. At long last that explains the A-List gimmick. Well, it would have in 1996, anyway. I just hope this doesn’t end with Alberto Del Rio stabbing Jackson in the head with an icepick.

Ezekiel Jackson vowed to eliminate Punk. Mason Ryan then got in Jackson’s face. This was a really cool, intense scene but then the goofy anonymous GM came in to completely dismantle the seriousness of the scene. I say this every week now but it’s not like it’s a minor or debatable point. The anonymous GM badly needs to go. The GM announced Punk vs. Barrett for later in the show with the loser and his group out of the Rumble match and with John Cena as the referee.

King Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio beat Mark Henry and John Morrison. Morrison was successful early but then the heels took over. They showed Michael Tarver backstage in the middle of the match. It seemed like they were re-branding him as a singles act of some sort but maybe he’ll join the Core. Hopefully for him he doesn’t end up in the Darren Young position.

Morrison eventually got the tag to Henry. Henry hit punches and head butts but was caught with the Brogue kick. Morrison took out Sheamus with a kick and corkscrew pescado. In the ring Del Rio caught Henry in the armbar for the submission.

Natalya beat Melina to retain the women’s title. Melina was dominant early including hitting the curb stomp. As she went for a leg drop to the crotch, Natalya countered with the sharpshooter. She bent Melina all the way back to a crazy angle for a submission. That was a tremendous looking finish and a great use of Melina’s flexibility.

Frequently when the women work in flexibility spots it’s counterproductive because they seem to be showing off when they’re supposed to be in pain but here it made the submission and Natalya look impressive. After the match Lay Cool made fun of Natalya and said they would use their title rematch at the Royal Rumble.

Backstage, Nexus was concerned about Punk losing. Punk said they would all sacrifice their shot at the Rumble to ensure Punk wins. Punk said that if he wins the Rumble, their lives will change. Husky Harris asked what would happen if Punk was eliminated before they came out. Mason Ryan replied that Punk won’t be eliminated.

McGillicutty said Cena wouldn’t let Punk win the match later in the show. Punk said Cena would have no choice and that the better man would win. He added that Wade Barrett has been making Cena’s life hell while he has simply been making the world a better place. That’s a great heel line. He told everyone to have faith. They all took a knee and put their fists together. Punk is so awesome in this role.

John Cena backstage said that if Punk won the main event he would eliminate all of Nexus as the Royal Rumble. He then made fun of the Core and told some jokes. Miz interrupted and said that if Cena wins he better not come after Miz or he’ll get what Randy Orton got last week. Cena challenged him to fight but Miz declined.

Edge beat Miz via disqualification. Jerry Lawler acknowledged not watching Smackdown during this match and blamed it on Vickie Guerrero’s presence. Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero did commentary at ringside. Miz went for a superplex but Edge pushed him off and hit a crossbody off the ropes. Edge hit a baseball slide on Alex Riley and an implant DDT on Miz. He was setting up for the spear when Ziggler tripped him and hit the zig zag.

I just don’t think setting up major TV matches and paying them off with screw jobs is an effective way of getting people to order PPV matches. Afterwards, Randy Orton hit the ring to go after Riley and Miz. The geeks Riley and Ziggler got quick RKOs while Miz attacked Orton’s leg and ran off with the title.

Wade Barrett backstage said that he became obsessed with the title and in the process lost Nexus. He asserted that now the Core has no leadership issues because they are all equals. He said that he hopes Teddy Long has a successful recovery and vowed to make sure Nexus doesn’t get to the Rumble. He concluded by saying that he knows Cena doesn’t like him but hopefully Cena will come to respect him like he respects Cena.

Ted DiBiase, Maryse and Alicia Fox beat Daniel Bryan and the Bellas. This was a nothing match with a terrible finish there just to set up an angle between the Bellas and Bryan. Brie was coming onto Bryan on the apron when Maryse rolled up Nikki for the win.

The Bellas argued backstage and then ran into Bryan making out with Gail Kim. Bryan said that Kim has been his girlfriend the last six months. Kim said that Bryan felt sorry for the Bellas, who have nothing to do without the guest stars appearing on Raw. The Bellas made fun of Kim for never being on television and a brawl broke out.

Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty beat Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella. This spot as undercard tag team champion getting in his comedy spots against low level guys is the perfect role for Santino. Nexus beat up Santino. Kozlov was taken out by a punch as he stood on the apron and that was pretty much the last we saw of him. Santino made his own comeback and went for the cobra but was caught by a Harris clothesline and reverse STO for the win. I like the occasional match where there isn’t a hot tag as a change of pace.

Wade Barrett vs. CM Punk ended in a double DQ. Cena ejected Nexus and the Core, mocking each. He shoved down Punk and mocked Punk not being able to retaliate. Then he slapped Barrett and mocked him. He threw Punk over the top rope. He went to sign autographs when Barrett went to cover Punk. Cena then called for a double DQ for excessive profanity, seemingly eliminating both groups from the Rumble. It’s nothing new but Cena was such a dickhead here.

The GM said that this was an abuse of power. He said that all the members of Nexus and Core would stay in the Rumble. He added that Cena needed to go into the ring and apologize to both men or he would be out of the Rumble. Cena said he was sorry to both Punk and Barrett but then he attacked each. Nexus and Core ran out. A bunch of other random people ran out and they did their annual random brawl to close Raw before the Rumble.

As with the Miz/Edge match, I just don’t think that total crap finishes to advertised TV matches help build pay-per-view matches. That can work if crap finishes are the exception rather than the rule, but when they are so prevalent on television and on pay-per-view it just accentuates that the promotion makes no good faith effort to provide finishes to matches. That in turn makes pay-per-views seem less appealing. Moreover, they built up a stipulation and then just completely bypassed it when there was no point in adding the stipulation in the first place.

Final Thoughts:

This was kind of your prototypical WWE PPV go-home show from the past few years. It kept your interest and was entertaining, while seemingly having either no knowledge of how to make people interested in purchasing the pay-per-view or no interest in achieving that goal. Most disconcerting was the fact that they didn’t even bother to have different Royal Rumble participants talking about winning the match, and the few people who did interviews spent more time telling jokes than building matches.

Finally, I just want to apologize to anyone who got an unwanted e-mail from me in the past week. I was trying to send out selected Facebook friend requests and ended up sending out e-mails to my entire e-mail list instead. I hate e-mail clutter so I feel bad about that and apologize to anyone who was annoyed, even mildly.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/17/11 from Little Rock, AR.

The Big News: Everybody wants to win the Royal Rumble and Nexus has a new member.

Show Analysis:

John Cena started the show vowing to take out CM Punk, win the Royal Rumble and capture the title at WrestleMania. He told Punk to come get some. Miz came out instead. He said that nobody wants to see Cena at Mania because Cena is played out. Ain’t that the truth? Miz noted that the Rumble will be harder for Cena to win with 40 men in this year. He added that if Cena wins he shouldn’t come after Miz because he will lose. Cena responded with annoying “comedy.” Cena said Miz should have lost his title twice already because Michael Cole saved him from Jerry Lawler and Alex Riley saved him from Randy Orton.

Miz responded by calling Cena corny and put himself over. He said that he wouldn’t call himself awesome until he took out Orton. Cena said that Orton vs. Cena sounds like a WrestleMania match. Thankfully I can’t imagine that tease being anything other than a red herring. Cena said that Miz won’t get to Mania with the title.

CM Punk, David Otunga, Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris came out. Punk said that Miz doesn’t have to prove himself to Cena because Miz is champion and Cena isn’t. Punk said that Cena won’t win the Rumble with 40 competitors and all the members of Nexus looking to ensure Punk wins. The other members of Nexus attacked Cena. Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella made the save and Nexus bailed. However, they then went back to the ring with Punk joining them this time. The anonymous GM announced that if anyone in Nexus got involved in Punk-Cena they would be out of the Rumble.

Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov beat the Usos. The Usos worked over Santino. Kozlov tagged in and hit clotheslines and a powerslam on Jimmy. He tagged back in Santino and Santino hit the cobra for the win. Backstage, Nexus was trying to figure out a plan for the main event when Punk came in smiling and just said “faith.”

John Morrison beat Daniel Bryan. This was very good while it lasted and made you want more, which is pretty much the story of Bryan’s WWE career. Bryan went after Morrison’s arm. Morrison hit a side Russian leg sweep but missed starship pain and was kicked in the head. Bryan went for the LeBell lock but Morrison escaped and there was a double crossbody collision.

Bryan went for a German suplex but Morrison landed on his feet and hit a huracanrana. Bryan rolled through that for a pinning attempt. They followed with another series of pin attempts. Bryan went for the LeBell lock but Morrison reversed into a slingshot that sent Bryan into the corner. He followed with a springboard enzuigiri and shining wizard for the win.

After the match King Sheamus came out, talked about royalty, winning the Royal Rumble, and eliminating Morrison and Bryan. “Long live the king,” he concluded. God does Sheamus ever need to ditch this gimmick. Say the luggage with your outfit got lost and hope for the best, fella. We’re about six months from Red Rooster territory.

Randy Orton beat Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler went after Orton’s leg for a while. Orton came back with European uppercuts, a back breaker, clotheslines and a powerslam. He went for the draping DDT but Ziggler attacked his leg. Ziggler followed with a famouser for two. He applied the sleeper but Orton got to the ropes. He went for the zig zag but Orton grabbed the ropes. He then went for the zig zag again but Orton kind of countered into the RKO for the win.

This was a good match. I don’t really see the purpose of beating a title challenger repeatedly heading into a title shot but it’s not like anyone is ordering the Rumble for Edge vs. Ziggler. Still, they have this weird thing where they have to let everyone know that they’re not behind a new main eventer before the main event even comes.

After the match, Alex Riley and Miz attacked Randy Orton. Miz sent Orton into the steps. Jerry Lawler tried to stop Miz so Miz threw him into the crowd. Miz then sent Orton into the table, post and barricade. He finally said that he’s the Miz and he’s awesome. I liked the way they set that up over a few week period and booked Miz as a serious threat. Backstage, Punk preached to Nexus about faith.

Natalya beat Maryse in a short match with the sharpshooter. This was a weird segment. Eve Torres and Melina did commentary, but Melina basically just sat there and looked like she wanted to be anywhere else in the world. After the match, Maryse threw a temper tantrum in front of Michael Cole. Ted DiBiase tried to console her but Maryse wasn’t having it and left.

After the break, we got another weird segment. DiBiase said he will win the Rumble and that nobody can throw him out of the ring. So Mark Henry came out and did. Then a bunch of random undercard guys all came out and had an impromptu unofficial battle royal. They should have just booked an actual battle royal because all the guys spontaneously running out felt scripted. Darren Young finally shaved his hair. It ended up with Mark Henry throwing out King Sheamus. The descent of Sheamus continues. Alberto Del Rio then drove out and said his destiny is to be the winner of the Rumble.

They did a bizarre Derrick Bateman “comedy” vignette with Bateman acting like a scientist advertising the World’s Strongest Man cologne. Mark Henry did a voiceover warning of the side effects. They announced Miz vs. Edge for next week.

CM Punk beat John Cena via disqualification in an excellent match. Nexus came out with Punk but then left to the back. Punk gained control for a little while. Cena made his comeback with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle. He went for the FU but Punk escaped and hit a leg lariat, running knee and bulldog. He went for the GTS but Cena countered into the STF. Punk got to the ropes.

Following a double clothesline, Cena went for the FU again but Punk got out and hit a kick to the head. He followed with a springboard clothesline for two. He used a reverse STO and then applied the Koji clutch. For some reason Michael Cole called this the Anaconda vise despite it not looking remotely like the anaconda vise. Cena escaped to the ropes.

Punk went for a pescado to the outside but Cena caught him and sent him into the post. Back in the ring, Punk went for a superplex but Cena fought him off and hit a top rope famouser. Mason Ryan then came out and jumped onto the apron. He kicked a security guy off him. Cena was distracted and Punk kicked Cena in the head. Mason Ryan came into the ring. Punk extended his arms and Ryan kicked him in the head for the DQ. Ryan then attacked Cena. Nexus came out to protect Punk but Ryan got on one knee and Punk gave him the Nexus armband.

Final Thoughts:

The wrestling on this show was very strong. It seemed the show long focus was emphasizing how everyone wants to win the Royal Rumble. And they did a nice job setting up Mason Ryan’s Nexus debut. This was a solid show.

One thing that is striking about Raw and Smackdown climaxing with the Nexus debuts of Ezekiel Jackson and Mason Ryan is Vince McMahon’s undying infatuation with size over charisma, speaking ability and working ability. The new guys they push as a big deal are almost always enormous muscleheads, which is an antiquated way of thinking given there is only one top pay-per-view attraction of the past five years who fits that mold.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

For the first time in a lifetime of watching sports...

I had to turn off a game because of the playing surface.

This new Oregon basketball court has to go. I mean, has to. I felt like I was going to have a seizure watching before I shut off the UCLA-Oregon game 15 minutes in. What on Earth were these idiots thinking?

Monday, January 10, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/10/11 from Nashville, TN.

The Big News: Shawn Michaels will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year and may be involved in the show the next night as well.

Show Analysis:

Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov came out to start the show. The announcers said there would be a tag title match but Nexus hit the ring and beat up the tag team champions. CM Punk claimed that Nexus has been the strongest force in the history of WWE and now they are even stronger. Punk told Nexus that he would give them an example to follow unlike Wade Barrett. Punk said that John Cena would return later on Raw and that he hoped Cena would deliver an encore tearful farewell speech.

CM Punk announced that he would make a sacrifice later in the show to initiate himself as the new leader of Nexus. He added that each member of Nexus needed to prove they belong in the new Nexus. David Otunga said they would be honored to do so. Punk announced Michael McGillicutty’s initiation would be to serve on the receiving end of a Nexus beatdown. The other members of Nexus then all hit their big moves on McGillicutty, culminating with the GTS. They carried McGillicutty to the back. Punk is so well suited to the role of cult leader.

Alberto Del Rio beat R. Truth via count out. Del Rio hit an inverted atomic drop, back cracker and punches. Truth hit a clothesline to the outside. Del Rio and Truth were fighting on the outside when Ricardo Rodriguez started yelling at Truth on the microphone. Truth went after Rodriguez while Del Rio rolled back into the ring for the count out.

After the match, Del Rio said that his destiny is to win the Royal Rumble and headline WrestleMania. He ran down American music and culture. He then had Rodriguez sing La Cucaracha with some goofy music in the background. The last thing this tremendous Del Rio gimmick needs is outmoded racial stereotypes.

The anonymous GM sent an e-mail announcing that he supports Michael Cole. The GM kept putting over Cole until finally Jerry Lawler told Cole to shut up. They cut to a shot perfectly exposing the paper Cole reads from taped to the keyboard of the computer. That looked ridiculous but they clearly don’t care about how goofy and counterproductive the anonymous GM thing is by this point or how badly buy rates have fallen during the period it has been in place.

Lawler closed the computer but the GM sent another e-mail. The GM announced Alex Riley and Miz vs. Jerry Lawler and Randy Orton for the main event of the show. Backstage, Husky Harris’ initiation to Nexus was three lashes with leather straps from the other members of Nexus. Punk gave him a bunch of extra shots.

Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry beat Ted DiBiase and Tyson Kidd. The heels worked over Bryan. Bryan tagged Henry. Henry missed a corner avalanche on Kidd. Kidd and DiBiase used a double dropkick on Henry but Henry responded with clotheslines. He then hit the world’s strongest slam on Kidd for the clean pin.

Big Show came out for a brief promo. He said that Wade Barrett cost him the title shot last Friday so this Friday he will knock Barrett out. He then said he is coming to win the Rumble. At that point he was interrupted by Nexus. David Otunga reluctantly went down to confront Show as his initiation. He slapped Show and then stood there as Show beat him up. It concluded with a choke slam and KO punch.

John Morrison beat King Sheamus. I figured for sure that with Morrison having lost his title match, they would get Sheamus his wins back. So this was an interesting sign of where Morrison stands (and Sheamus, for that matter). Sheamus worked over Morrison. Morrison came back with clotheslines and kicks. He went for starship pain but Sheamus pushed him over the top rope to the floor and followed with a powerslam in the ring.

Morrison fought back with some punches and sent Sheamus to the outside. However, he was caught with a knee as he went for the pescado. That looked really good. Sheamus dropped Morrison on the steps and went for the Brogue kick back in the ring but Morrison fell down as he went for it. Sheamus was going for a superplex when Morrison dropped his head on the post and hit the shining wizard for the win.

Backstage, CM Punk told Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel to hit each other with kendo sticks. They hesitated a while then teased hitting Punk instead. Finally, they just put down the sticks and left. So they aren’t in the new Nexus for now. I’m not sure whether that means they’ll be inducted with an angle next week or the week after or whether it means they will be joining Wade Barrett on Smackdown. To me, Nexus works better with a larger group. Then again, smaller groups might force them to book the members of Nexus more strongly than they have.

They announced Shawn Michaels as the first induction for the 2011 Hall of Fame. They built it up as this huge deal throughout the show which made the announcement feel disappointing. Obviously Michaels is one of the very biggest WWE stars not in the WWE Hall of Fame, but the appeal of the WWE Hall of Fame isn’t so much the HOF itself but the chance to see big stars you haven’t seen in a while reminisce on their careers.

Shawn Michaels came out to the ring and the announcers were putting him over when Alberto Del Rio interrupted. Del Rio said that he is the present and future of the WWE while Michaels is just history. Del Rio said he will be the new Mr. WrestleMania. Michaels gave him sweet chin music. The way this was laid out certainly suggests involvement of some sort by Michaels at WrestleMania.

Backstage, Alex Riley was excited about the match with Lawler and Orton. Miz was angry that people are talking about Orton rather than his title run. He added that people think it’s a given Orton will win the title at the Rumble. I’m not too sure as to the existence of these two groups of people.

Michael Cole was introducing John Cena when CM Punk appeared on the top of the Titan Tron. He said that David Otunga, Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty had proven themselves to be strong enough for the new Nexus. He said that he would now do the same. Punk acted like he was going to jump off the screen to his death, as if anyone on Earth watching thought he would. The announcers tried to act like he would while the crowd didn’t react at all. Punk then said he wasn’t going to jump and revealed he had a harness on. He gloated like he pulled one over on the people.

David Otunga, Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty came out to the ring. Punk joined them. Punk said he doesn’t need initiations. John Cena appeared on the screen. First he was obnoxious, jokey Cena. He told stupid jokes and insulted Punk. Cena wondered why they were having initiations when he already did the same thing to them. He noted that he hadn’t had the chance to initiate Punk. Cena challenged Punk to a match next week and Punk accepted. Cena then artificially transitioned into angry, serious Cena. He issued grave threats Punk’s way. I don’t get why they think Cena can sell serious matches after telling a bunch of goofy jokes that make it seem like he doesn’t care. It literally never works.

Jerry Lawler and Randy Orton beat Miz and Alex Riley. The faces were dominant early. The heels then took over on Lawler. Lawler got the tag but the referee didn’t see it. Miz went for the skull crushing finale but Orton came in and hit the RKO on Miz. Lawler covered but Riley made the save. Riley and Orton tagged in. Orton hit clotheslines, a powerslam, a back breaker and a draping DDT on Riley.

Orton went for the RKO on Riley but Miz started to come in the ring. Orton starred at him and a scared Miz backed off. Orton tagged Lawler and stood starring at Miz as Lawler hit the fist drop off the second rope on Riley for the win. Miz refused to try to help Riley and looked terrifying of Orton. This was a fun match. They went 11 minutes past the hour, interestingly. I’m cool with Miz being booked to have chickenshit traits because it fits his character but I don’t know about a heel champion ever essentially trembling in fear as Miz did in this segment.

Final Thoughts:

Raw has generally been pretty solid in recent weeks as they build towards the Royal Rumble and this show continued that streak. There are still some glaring issues with the overall presentation of the show but the individual feuds are mostly well laid out.

Monday, January 03, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/03/11 from Phoenix, AZ.

The Big News: Miz successfully defended his title against John Morrison and will return to feuding with Randy Orton.

Show Analysis:

Michael Cole started the show by noting that John Cena would not be on Raw this week. Cole blamed it on the attack by CM Punk last week as well as a match in Pennsylvania with Wade Barrett. That acknowledgement surprised me but it ended up playing into the story for the night. Jerry Lawler was not on commentary, selling last week’s attack by Miz. Josh Matthews commentated with Cole.

Miz beat John Morrison in an excellent falls count anywhere match to retain the title. They fought on the stage at the start of the match and Alex Riley began freely interfering. Morrison hit a clothesline off the stage and did a crossbody off a big WWE logo onto Riley and Miz. They went back to the ring where Morrison hit a dropkick off the top and used La Magistral cradle for two. He followed with a springboard kick and shining wizard but Riley pulled Morrison out of the pin attempt. Morrison beat up Riley on the outside and took him out with a running knee. Riley was helped to the back and Miz looked scared.

After a break, Miz back dropped Morrison onto a steel barricade and gave him a hip toss on the stage. Morrison responded with clotheslines and a side Russian leg sweep. He went for starship pain but Miz rolled out of the way. Miz hit a back breaker/neck breaker combination but accidentally ran into the post. Morrison hit starship pain but Miz kicked out. Morrison then went to put Miz through a table on the floor with starship pain but Miz got out of danger. Morrison crashed through the table and Miz covered for two. Miz then hit the skull crushing finale on the floor for the win. This was a great start to the show and I really liked the fact they put over Miz clean to give him some credibility. Backstage, Miz bragged about the win.

Eve Torres, Brie Bella and Natalya beat Melina, Maryse and Alicia Fox. They did the Bella switch spot early. Natalya went for the sharpshooter on Alicia but Melina stopped her. Natalya hit a butterfly suplex on Alicia and went after Melina. Melina snapped Natalya’s neck on the ropes and tagged in. Natalya immediately hit a twisting clothesline and tagged Eve. Eve hit a neck breaker on Melina for the win. This was way above average by WWE women’s match standards. It certainly had a strange finish though given they have been building Natalya vs. Melina for the title.

The Usos beat Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov in a very sloppy match. Tamina was in the corner of Santino and Kozlov. Kozlov horribly botched a missed clothesline over the top spot. Santino went for the cobra but was countered with a Samoan drop for the Uso win. Afterwards, Santino and Tamina gave one of the Usos the cobra together.

CM Punk cut a promo in the ring. He said that he spent the day looking for John Cena but couldn’t find him. Punk added that Cena wasn’t on the show because of him. Punk labeled himself a leader of men, which is why Nexus begged him to be their new leader. He said that Hustle, Loyalty, Respect is just a phony catchphrase for Cena but it is what he expects out of himself and Nexus. He told Cena that he can’t win this fight. He said he will take over Nexus and Raw.

Wade Barrett came out. Barrett took credit for Cena’s absence rather than Punk. He added that he is the leader of Nexus. He called Punk hypocritical, manipulative and a liar. Punk suggested they ask Nexus who was telling the truth. Nexus joined the scene and Otunga said they both made good points. The GM then rang in and announced that Barrett or Punk would wrestle Sheamus and Randy Orton in a triple threat cage match to determine a number one contender. That’s like the epitome of what people criticize TNA for, booking a big gimmick for a TV match with no build or logical explanation.

Barrett said that he would take the spot in the match as the leader of Nexus. Punk agreed and said he didn’t want to fight Barrett. Punk said that if Barrett won he would follow Barrett but that if Barrett lost he would be out of Nexus. Barrett agreed to this stipulation.

Alberto Del Rio beat R. Truth. Del Rio prior to the match said that his destiny is to be world champion and destroy everyone on Smackdown. Truth came out and threatened to send him back to Smackdown. Truth hit kicks, a pescado and a powerslam. Del Rio went after Truth’s arm with punches and kicks. Truth came back with clotheslines but was caught in Del Rio’s armbar. Truth just sat in the fully extended armbar forever before tapping. I really like that on Smackdown they recognize that looks completely fake to the people most likely to view that as a good finisher and the faces tap quickly, but Truth obviously doesn’t get it.

Backstage, Wade Barrett told Nexus that CM Punk is selfish and will use them for his own gain. Punk came in and asked if Barrett was describing himself. Punk said that they were all pulling for Barrett. Elsewhere, Orton said that sometimes in 2010 he was too nice but in 2011 he realizes nice guys finish last.

Randy Orton beat Sheamus and Wade Barrett in a triple threat cage match to be crowned new number 1 contender. Barrett had the opportunity to climb out but went for an elbow off the top on Sheamus and was caught with a knee. Orton hit clotheslines and powerslams on both. He hit an Angle slam on Sheamus and draping DDT on Barrett. Barrett regained control and went to climb out. Punk ran out and offered his hand for help. Punk then instead tore off the Nexus armband and kicked Barrett down. Sheamus hit the Brogue kick on Barrett but Orton gave Sheamus the RKO and left the cage through the door.

The match was pretty good. They gave them time and the work was solid. However, a triple threat cage match just isn’t a good gimmick for building drama and Nexus interference seemed the inevitable finish. I would have liked to see Lawler vs. Miz at the Rumble anyway. It’s a much more interesting story and they seem to have no interest in providing a conclusive finish to Orton vs. Miz.

Final Thoughts:

I liked this show. It was more focused on wrestling than usual and the opener in particular was a lot of fun. Punk is one of WWE’s best performers so it’s good to see him as a focal point of the show. It will be interesting to see what they do with Wade Barrett from here. He’s seemingly better suited at this stage as a heel so an absence and eventual move to Smackdown would seem like the best move.