Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favorite Movies of 2010

I’ve done this every year for a number of years now, and as usual it took me a while to watch all of the key movies.

10) The Town

I don’t know what it is about gritty Boston crime dramas, but there have been a number of really good ones now in the last decade. The Town takes its place with The Departed, Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone as the best of the bunch. The action scenes are gripping and the relationship between the Ben Affleck character and the woman whose bank he robs works very well.

9) True Grit

I’m generally not a big fan of westerns, generally not a big fan of the Coen brothers (yeah, I’m the one), and wasn’t a big fan of the original True Grit, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting a lot from this. But I ended up really liking it. Jeff Bridges created one of the most memorable characters of the year and the movie nicely mixed comedy and drama.

8) Ghost Writer

This was a very well done political thriller released earlier in the year. It’s kind of a fictionalized version of Tony Blair’s involvement in the Iraq war. Roman Polanski sets up great mystery and intrigue and pays it off well.

7) Shutter Island

It probably doesn’t deliver as well as it could, but Shutter Island is still an awfully fun little genre film. The greatest strength of the movie is its atmosphere and setting, and you can’t go wrong with Leonardo DiCaprio as your lead.

6) Megamind

This was to me the funniest movie of the year. I think it suffered from coming after a similarly themed (but vastly inferior) Despicable Me and seeming a lot like The Incredibles. The jokes are very funny, the pacing is perfect, and the lead character is ultimately very likeable. I really enjoyed this one.

5) The Fighter

I don't know what it is about boxing movies, but they usually work so much better for me than other sports movies. Maybe it's that individual sports work better for character studies than team sports. Whatever it is, this was another really good boxing movies. There were great performances from all the key actors and actresses and the movie feels authentic to its subject.

4) Black Swan

Forget the ballet. This is one of the best horror movies in recent years. It's a completely unsettling watch from beginning to end, with the sense at all times that something horrible is about to happen. It's kind of weird to me that it is viewed as kind of an art house movie since I don't view it like that at all. I loved it, though.

3) Toy Story 3

Pixar delivers again. It's amazing they have done three Toy Story movies now with mostly the same characters and each film is not just different but very different from the others. This may be the best of the group, with a touching nostalgia for childhood. It's the most emotionally touching movie of the year.

2) Social Network

When I first heard there was going to be a Facebook movie, it sounded like an uninteresting premise to me. I saw the previews and was similarly unimpressed. They didn't grip me. But the movie got great reviews and was directed by David Fincher, so I figured it would deliver. And boy did it. I think the comparisons to the Godfather are sound. Both movies are basically about relationships being tragically torn apart in the pursuit of power, money and control.

1) Inception

This was my favorite movie in years and one of my favorites of all time. It's a masterpiece in my opinion, Christopher Nolan's best film (and that says volumes given the run of great filmmaking he's on). It's thought provoking, emotionally engaging, phenomenally acted and directed, and completely gripping from beginning to end. It succeeds on every level. And the ending is absolutely perfect. I loved this movie with all my heart.

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/28/11 from Chicago, IL.

The Big News: Rock made his presence known on Raw, giving Miz the people’s elbow before receiving the FU from John Cena.

Show Analysis:

The show started with CM Punk in the ring. CM Punk chants started. Punk said he doesn’t expect the people in Atlanta to receive him like his people in Chicago. Punk said that the members of Nexus were also his people and he watched Randy Orton take them out. Then he switched and said he doesn’t care what happens to them because he can always get more sheep to do what he wants. Now why on Earth would a clever, manipulative character ever in a million years say that, other than to get cheap heat for one night? Punk said that what he did last week cost Orton the respect of his family and he is just getting started. He concluded that the chapter closes at WrestleMania.

Randy Orton walked to the ring selling his leg from last week. He gave Orton a European uppercut and draping DDT. Then he went to punt Punk and miraculously his leg gave out at just that moment. Punk kicked Orton’s leg and gave him go 2 sleep as the crowd chanted for Punk.

Edge and Christian arrived. Edge said that Teddy Long decried he could fight Alberto Del Rio on Raw despite not being able to do so on Smackdown. Edge basically pointed out this makes no sense and it doesn’t.

Edge and Christian beat Alberto Del Rio and Brodus Clay. Edge and Christian double teamed Clay early. They threw him over the top. Christian went for a pescado. Clay caught him but Edge knocked down Clay with a baseball slide. The heels worked over Christian. Edge tagged in and went for the spear but Del Rio tripped him. Clay missed a corner avalanche and Edge hit the spear on Clay for the win. Meanwhile, on the floor, Del Rio put Christian in the armbar. Edge chased Del Rio to the back. However, when he returned to Christian, Del Rio jumped him from behind and put him in the armbar. This was a good match and a very well laid out segment.

Santino Marella beat Justin Gabriel. Big Show, Kane, Vladimir Kozlov, Wade Barrett, Heath Slater and Ezekiel Jackson brawled on the floor and interfered in the match. Santino then caught Gabriel with the cobra for the win.

Undertaker came out to the ring. HHH then came out and got into another staredown with Undertaker. That led to the surprise appearance of Shawn Michaels. Michaels put both men over and then asked HHH what makes him think he can do what Shawn couldn’t. HHH said Michaels got soft. He added that Michaels realized he didn’t have to win to be the showstopper, but HHH has to win.

HHH said that when he entered the WWF locker room it was filled with big stars but one stood tall over the rest. Undertaker represented everything WWE is and should be. HHH grew to respect Undertaker more every day and there’s only one guy he respects as much as Undertaker: Shawn Michaels.

HHH said that a few years ago he decided with Michaels that if either could no longer go, the other would let them know. And if the guy who couldn’t go wouldn’t accept it, the other would end it for them. HHH said he came back for one reason, to tell Undertaker it’s his time. HHH said that Undertaker will always be a legend and an icon and HHH will always respect him. However, in six days he will no longer be undefeated at WrestleMania. HHH will be the 1 in 18-1. Undertaker and the streak will rest in peace.

Undertaker replied that if there comes a time where he needs to be put down, he would want it to be HHH. However, now isn’t that time. Undertaker said the streak will live on and so will he. Undertaker said Michaels gave him his best matches at Mania and came close to beating him, but didn’t get it done. Undertaker said now he looks at Michaels and sees a man who doesn’t have the same confidence and arrogance. Undertaker said he has humbled Michaels and Michaels will go into the Hall of Fame with regrets. He noted that he ended Michaels’ career and shoved the microphone into Michaels’ chest.

Michaels went for sweet chin music but Undertaker caught it and grabbed him by the throat. HHH separated them. HHH told Michaels to tell Undertaker why HHH will beat him at Mania. Michaels just left the ring and mouthed, “I’m sorry. You can’t win.” Undertaker smirked, tipped his hat to HHH and left. This was a really good segment and I think they have peaked this angle as well as they possibly could going into the big event.

Jack Swagger beat Jerry Lawler via DQ. The GM announced this earlier in the show via an IPad in the Cole Mine. Swagger worked over Lawler and hit him with a Vader bomb. He threw him into the area with the ring announcer. Lawler then grabbed a chair and hit Swagger with it a number of times for the DQ. Lawler went after Cole but Cole ran into the Cole Mine. Lawler climbed the glass and Cole threw a drink in his face.

Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler beat Daniel Bryan and John Morrison. Prior to the match, Vickie Guerrero said that Lay Cool will do to Snooki what Vickie did to Morrison. She added that Snooki will find herself in a familiar place. That’s almost always a set up for “flat on your back,” but here she said passed out and unconscious.

The heels worked over Morrison. Bryan got the tag and put Ziggler in the LeBell lock but Sheamus broke it up. Sheamus tagged in and gave Bryan the ax handle. Morrison broke up the pin attempt. Bryan went for the LeBell lock on Sheamus but Sheamus escaped. Bryan missed a dropkick and Sheamus used the razor’s edge for the win.

Randy Orton was asked backstage if he will make it to Mania. Orton said he has serious anger management issues and he has never been as angry at someone as he is at Punk. Thus, the question is not if he will make it to Mania but if Punk will make it out. This was pretty much a perfect short promo.

They announced the Road Warriors for the Hall of Fame. They then interviewed Trish Stratus and Snooki from a bar. Some guy was coming on to them so Snooki slapped and shoved him. They then cut back to the bar and Lay Cool arrived. Snooki threw a drink at them and there was a big brawl. Everything about this was terrible and Snooki in particular was a thoroughly grating presence.

Rock came out for the final segment of the show. The crowd went nuts. Rock said Chicago is a special place to him because it’s where he had his first WrestleMania match. Rock admitted he was nervous but decided to bring it and that was the birth of Team Bring It. He said Team Bring It goes after its dreams and recently he had a dream of his own. Rock dreamed that he came to the ring and called out Cena. The crowd began loudly chanting Cena sucks. Cena came out looking like a homeless Power Ranger and Rock stuck his boot up Cena’s ass. Then Rock woke up and the dream was over. Rock said now it’s reality and he is here.

Cena came out smirking, grinning and playing to the crowd. The crowd chanted Rocky. Cena said he wanted Rock to come back because of the power Rock has over the people. Cena said he listened to what Rock had to say about him and it has merit. Cena sucks chants started up again. Cena said that Rock has a problem with his colors, the way he talks and his kids’ audience.

Cena said he is proud of the kids’ audience. Cena said that if Rock has a gripe about him not working hard to bring it up. Otherwise, he asked Rock who he is to judge him. Cena said he is himself and some people like it while others don’t. Cena said he will be judged but not by Rock. Rock said the good lord will judge but that he can’t save Cena from getting his ass whipped all over Chicago by the Rock. Cena said that if Rock wants a fight to bring it.

That brought out Miz. Miz said Cena will lose at Mania but at least he will go down swinging, unlike the Rock. Miz said that the Rock’s movies have grossed over a billion dollars and he is not going to risk getting beat up and embarrassed. Miz told Rock he won’t do anything to Miz. Rock responded that it doesn’t matter what Miz thinks. Miz and Riley attacked Rock. Rock beat up Riley and threw him out of the ring. He gave Miz a DDT and the people’s elbow. He threw Miz out but Cena then came in the ring and gave Rock the FU.

Final Thoughts:

This was overall a good go home for Mania. Cena’s promo at the end seemed designed to get the crowd back behind him and to refocus on Miz as the real antagonist in the angle. It will be interesting to see if that has any effect on the crowd reactions Sunday. I think at this point if Rock and Cena make up at the end it won’t be well received, but I do expect that to be the basic conclusion.

It will be interesting to see how Mania does on PPV. Rock/Cena is an intriguing feud, but it’s kind of weird in that it’s not clear what you’re supposed to want. Are you supposed to want Cena to beat up Rock? Are you supposed to want Rock to beat up Cena? Are you supposed to want Cena and Rock to make up and beat up Miz? I think it’s easier to sell a match like Lawler vs. Cole where everyone is tuning to see one guy beat up the other.

Monday, March 21, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/21/11 from Pittsburgh, PA.

The Big News: Randy Orton’s wife stole the show this week from another strong Lawler-Cole segment.

Show Analysis:

Jim Ross was announced to start the show and they played his music. Of course, Michael Cole came out instead. Cole had BBQ sauce, a pillow for a stomach and a bandage on his ankle. Cole antagonized Jerry Lawler and fled to the Cole Mine.

HHH was out next. He said that he has been in the business a long time and wondered if this could be the last time he worked in Pittsburgh. He called the match with Undertaker a defining moment for both their careers. He added that the streak is bigger than titles. He then invited Undertaker to come to Raw next week so HHH can tell Taker what’s going to happen at Mania. He reiterated the line about the streak and Undertaker will die or HHH will die trying. He said Undertaker will be 18-1 and rest in peace.

Neither HHH nor Undertaker has had anything new to say for weeks, so this felt boring and redundant. Still, sometimes it’s better to just stick with the basic issue rather than throwing in additional confrontations and angles each week.

After HHH finished, Ted DiBiase came out. He said that last year he was a rising star and now he is an afterthought. Okay, you’ve correctly identified the problem, Ted. He continued that he will make his own opportunity by taking out HHH. Danger! Danger! Abort mission! DiBiase got in a surprising 15 seconds or so of offense, but then HHH destroyed him. He threw DiBiase into the steps repeatedly, hit him a bunch of times with a chair and then gave him the pedigree on the announce table.

Sheamus beat Evan Bourne. Sheamus hit a few punches. He missed a dive into the corner. Bourne hit a kick but missed the shooting star press and Sheamus used the Brogue kick for the win. This was way too short, which was a trend on this evening. After the match, Daniel Bryan came out and said he wanted to invoke his rematch clause for WrestleMania. Sheamus kicked him in the head.

Randy Orton arrived in his tour bus. He put over the tour bus and how it is a home away from home that allows him to bring his family on the road. Angle alert. Orton noted that he has taken out the rest of Nexus and said that CM Punk has no idea what sick and twisted is.

Eve Torres beat Maryse in a typically short, sloppy and pointless match. They should have just cut this segment and given the time to another match. Maryse was working over Eve when Michael Cole got on the announce table to bury the match. Eve went for a standing moonsault but landed on Maryse’s knees. Maryse went for a neck breaker but Eve countered with a neck breaker of her own for the pin. After the match, Eve went after Cole while Cole badmouthed her on the microphone from the Cole Mine.

Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater beat Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov in another short match. Santino immediately went for the cobra but was distracted by Slater and caught with a Gabriel kick. The heels worked over Santino for a few seconds and then Kozlov came in with terrible looking kicks until Slater caught him with a scorpion death drop. Gabriel then hit the 450 for the pin. After the match, Big Show and Kane came out to beat up the Corrrrrre. They gave Ezekiel Jackson a double choke slam.

They announced Rock will be live on Raw next week. John Cena appeared “via satellite” and said next week will be serious with no jokes as he goes face to face with Rock. Cena said that if they have a problem it will get settled. He added that he underestimated Miz and that caused problems. Cena said that if people doubt Miz, Cena sitting at home is proof that Miz deserves to be champion. There were loud Cena sucks chants in the building. Cena said he plans on making history at WrestleMania.

Michael Cole spoke in the ring with Jack Swagger guarding him from Jerry Lawler. Cole showed some pictures of Lawler’s family. He made fun of Lawler’s father in particular and family in general. Lawler threw down his headset and went after Cole. Swagger punched him but he recovered and got the best of Swagger.

Lawler chased after Cole until Swagger cut him off with a clothesline. Swagger pressed Lawler against the glass of Cole’s box while Cole stood on the other side running him down verbally. Swagger put Lawler in the ankle lock and then Cole put Lawler in the ankle lock. This was another really good segment from Lawler and Cole and I give WWE a lot of credit for integrating Swagger into the story in a way that makes him look good and doesn’t detract from Lawler and Cole at all.

Dolph Ziggler, Vickie Guerrero and Lay Cool defeated John Morrison and Trish Stratus. This started as a quick singles match between Morrison and Ziggler. After Lay Cool and Trish got involved, the GM made it a tag match. Trish beat down Layla early and used the Stratusphere and chops. Trish looked good. Lay Cool took over on Trish until Vickie came in and missed a leg drop. Trish got the tag to Morrison.

Morrison hit a springboard kick but was distracted by Layla going after Trish. He missed starship pain and Ziggler gave him the zig zag. Vickie then tagged in and covered Morrison for the pin. I didn’t get that at all, because at the beginning of the match they made it a big point to note that Morrison had to leave the ring when Layla tagged in then at the end of the match they made it a big point to say the men and women could be in together. It seemed so illogical and contradictory I was left wondering whether I missed something. They then aired a video package with a bunch of wrestlers talking about the Undertaker vs. HHH match.

Rey Mysterio beat Randy Orton via count out. This was billed as a WrestleMania rewind, which was a weird choice given they didn’t wrestle in a singles match but rather a triple threat with Kurt Angle of all people. Maybe Kurt has been erased from history now. This was another match that was way too short and ended with a non-finish just when it was getting started. Orton hit a European uppercut and powerslam. He avoided the 619 and hit a draping DDT. At that point, Punk appeared on the screen by Orton’s bus and said he couldn’t wait to meet Orton’s wife. Orton ran off.

This led to the highlight of the show. Orton arrived at his bus. Punk attacked Orton’s leg from behind. That led to the appearance of Orton’s wife (not sure if this was wife #2 or #3), and this was quite the appearance. Orton’s wife opened the bus door and began screaming in a ridiculous, comical and nearly indecipherable manner. Punk responded by mocking her screaming and telling her to shut up.

Orton’s wife immediately stopped saying anything and calmly closed the bus door. Punk kicked Orton, at which point they panned back to Orton’s wife behind the bus door. She looked concerned for a moment. Then she adjusted her hair. Then she stared blankly. Then she made an expression towards Punk. I assume she was trying to communicate fear but what I got out of it was that she was extremely horny and wanted to seduce Punk on the spot. Punk evidently picked up on this and blew her a kiss.

This segment was the best unintentional comedy on Raw in ages, a hilarious gem. And this woman seriously may have been the worst actress in the history of Raw.

Alex Riley in the ring said that he was fired by Miz but now rehired as vice president of corporate communications. I do enjoy the amusing fake VP title. He introduced Miz. Miz said that he has re-written history. He claimed to have more charisma than Shawn Michaels, more physical dominance than Andre the Giant and more intelligence than Cena and Rock combined.
Miz declared himself the greatest WWE champion in history. He turned the WWE logo on his microphone upside down and said the M stands for Miz. He then debuted a title belt with the WWE logo turned upside down. It’s kind of dumb, but it isn’t going to last long so I think it’s a fine short term gimmick to make Miz more annoying.

John Cena appeared on the screen clapping. He told a few jokes and then said Miz has targeted the wrong individual. Workers in the background pulled back the walls to reveal that he wasn’t at home but backstage in the arena. He came out to attack Miz and Riley. Miz and Riley got the best of it for a little while and when Cena gained control, Miz ran off. Cena put Riley in the STF to close the show. They’ve done this sort of angle many times over the years, and it pretty much always works well.

Final Thoughts:

This was just a basic week of WrestleMania build. They didn’t try anything big but basically just stayed the course with all the major angles. The short and low quality matches diminished the entertainment value of the show.

Monday, March 14, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/14/11 from St. Louis, MO.

The Big News: Jim Ross and Brian Christopher entered into the Michael Cole-Jerry Lawler feud in Raw’s most memorable segment.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Rock on the screen talking on the phone with someone. He said that nobody laughed at John Cena’s promo last week because it sucked. He added that he tried to talk to Cena like a man but Cena acted like a child. Cena’s music played and Rock acted like Cena was in his house. Instead, it was a kid in Cena merchandise. Rock raised his eyebrow. The Cena kid did a short rap.

Rock told the kid that when Rock left, Cena took the ball and ran with it. He didn’t run very far, Rock said, but he ran. Rock said that Cena owns the 2-5 year old demographic and they had goofy comedy sound effects mixed in. Rock said that Cena will never be as good as the Rock and asked the kid if he knew why. The Cena kid replied it’s because he’s not that talented. Rock agreed that Cena is not that talented.

Rock asked the kid how that feels and then said it doesn’t matter how it feels. The child cried. Rock said people have seen Cena’s movies and they’re not crying. Rock noted he didn’t have toilet paper but did have the next best thing and gave the Cena kid a Cena t-shirt to blow his nose. He then offered the kid Fruity Pebbles and the Cena kid was happy and left.

Rock next looked into the camera and they started playing this goofy dramatic music in the background. He spoke to Miz and said that Miz made the mistake of a lifetime mocking Rock and his family. Rock said he will bring it live at Raw some time before WrestleMania. He vowed to lay the smack down on both Cena and Miz.

Rock’s delivery was good as always but there was a lot to not like about the way this was put together, from the stupid music and sound effects to some of the goofy verbiage. It certainly seems like they’re trying to make Rock more of a heel given he’s making kids cry and the biggest focal point of the feud now seems to be that Rock doesn’t come to the shows.

Throughout the show, Michael Cole commentated from a glass box he labeled the Cole Mine apart from Jerry Lawler and Josh Mathews. It was amusing but goofy.

Miz came to the ring for a promo. He said that Rock’s shirt says bring it and Rock brings out-of-date catchphrases, bad tattoos, horrific movies, empty promises and pointless 20 minute diatribes like only a has-been can. Miz said Rock’s father and grandfather were good but never WWE champion which means he is better than both of them. He observed that Rock likes to make six year olds cry and said that if Rock steps into the ring Miz will make Rock cry. He said Rock doesn’t own Cena; Miz does. He concluded that he hopes Rock does bring it to Raw because he’ll be overshadowed by the Miz. This was a good promo.

Great Khali beat Miz via DQ. The GM announced this match and John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio as two first time matches for Raw. Both Lawler and Cole went to announce the GM e-mail but Lawler took it himself. Miz hit a few punches which Khali did a terrible job selling. Khali hit chops and applied a head vise. Miz got to the ropes and Alex Riley ran in for a DQ. Miz then hit Khali with a chair repeatedly and opened a cut on Khali’s back.

This finish was ridiculous given Miz is in one of WrestleMania’s top matches and Khali rarely appears and means nothing. Having Riley return two weeks after losing a must leave stipulation match was equally ridiculous. I mean, what on Earth was the point of that? Oh well, at least he’s more a man of his word than Cena.

They aired Undertaker-HHH packages throughout the show. Snooki and John Morrison were hanging out backstage. Vickie Guerrero badmouthed Snooki. Snooki made fun of Vickie’s weight. Vickie went to slap Snooki but Snooki stopped that and slapped her.

Sheamus won the US title from Daniel Bryan in a match where he would have to leave WWE if he lost. Yes, they did a leave town stipulation the next segment after a guy reneged on a leave town stipulation from two weeks ago. Thankfully the king wardrobe is gone. Bryan hit a tope but then Sheamus took over. He connected with a knee to the head.

Bryan reversed a back breaker into a roll up. Bryan avoided a Brogue kick and applied the LeBell lock but Sheamus got to the ropes. Bryan then reversed a razor’s edge attempt into a rollup for two. Bryan gained control with forearms and kicks. He then came off the top but was countered with a Brogue kick for the pin. They tried to sell that Sheamus’ “curse” is now over.

Michael Cole vowed to bring someone from the past to expose what Jerry Lawler is all about and brought Lawler’s son Brian Christopher to the ring. He asked Christopher why he never used the name Brian Lawler. Christopher replied that growing up he never felt like he had a father and that he was neglected. He accused Lawler of never wanting anything to disrupt his spotlight and refusing to acknowledge Christopher as his son.

Jerry replied that Brian’s not the only one glad that he didn’t use the Lawler name, which was a pretty cold comeback for a face. Lawler called Christopher a bigger screw up than Charlie Sheen. He said that just associating with Cole says what sort of person Christopher is. Christopher said he competed at WrestleMania before Lawler and slapped Lawler a couple of times. Christopher said he didn’t use the Lawler name because he’s ashamed of Jerry.

Michael Cole said that Lawler doesn’t care about his family or anyone else and that Cole will put Lawler in his place. That brought out Jim Ross. Ross said that this had gone too far. Cole told Ross to go away because Cole is the voice of WWE now. Ross said that nobody can be the voice of WWE because the fans are the voices of WWE. Ross asserted that Lawler has been carrying Cole and called Cole a rat bastard.

Ross started to leave at which point Cole accused him of leaving the ring with his tail tucked between his legs. Ross dropped his microphone and took off his hat, jacket and tie. Cole did the same and the crowd chanted JR as they started to square off. Jack Swagger then attacked Lawler at the announce table from behind. Swagger kicked Ross and put him in the ankle lock. Lawler made the save but Cole jumped on Lawler’s back and Swagger put Lawler in the ankle lock. Finally, Cole put Ross in the ankle lock. This was a great angle.

Randy Orton beat Mason Ryan. Ryan hit a kick to the head and back breakers. He applied a bear hug and hit the side effect for two. Orton then hit the RKO out of nowhere for the win. He punted Ryan after the match. Punk ran to the ring and got into Orton’s face. Punk then backed off afraid.

They announced Drew Carey as entering the WWE Hall of Fame. He’s the worst entrant ever and that covers amazing ground. Zack Ryder showed off his abs to Snooki backstage as Snooki came to the ring with Trish Stratus. She seemed impressed.

Vickie Guerrero beat Trish Stratus. Snooki watched from ringside. Vickie told Snooki not to lay her hands on Vickie again and claimed Snooki stole her Rolling Stone cover. This led to the second leave town stipulation on the same show where someone flagrantly reneged on the same stipulation after only two weeks.

Vickie ran away and then tried to attack Trish with her shoes. Trish spanked Vickie with a shoe. Dolph Ziggler ran in and tried to stop things but John Morrison took out Ziggler. Lay Cool ran in and attacked Trish. Michelle McCool hit a kick to the head and Vickie covered for the pin. After the match, Snooki took out Lay Cool with help from Trish. Vickie issued a challenge for Trish, Snooki and Morrison vs. Lay Cool and Dolph for WrestleMania. That’s a negative to me, but to their credit the live crowd here seemed to like Snooki.

John Cena beat Alberto Del Rio via DQ. Michael Cole at the beginning of the match said that Rock was in St. Louis. Del Rio worked over Cena. They traded punches. Cena hit shoulder blocks, the five knuckle and went for the FU when Brodus Clay ran in for the DQ.

I continue to completely disagree with the philosophy that you build up a PPV by booking matches between stars with crappy, inconclusive finishes. It just undermines the idea that matches matter. It would be so much more productive to book slightly less marquee matches and have the main eventers win clean. Then when they collide it seems like a lot bigger deal. It’s not like this is some bizarre strategy. This is what pro wrestling has done for most of its history and it’s what every successful sport and pay-per-view entity does too.

After the match, Rock’s music hit but Miz appeared on the stage dressed like Rock with a thing over his hair to make him look bald. There were some slow people in the crowd because they continued cheering even when it became apparent it was Miz. Miz, Clay and Del Rio beat up Cena. Miz sent Cena into the post, hit Cena with a microphone, and said he will own Cena all the way through Mania. Miz hit a suplex on the ramp. Cena went for the FU but Miz hit a DDT on the stage. He then threw Cena into a big logo and gave him the skull crushing finale on it.

Final Thoughts:

The WrestleMania build this year has felt bi-polar, with alternating effective and counterproductive segments. This show continued that trend, with some compelling and effective stuff mixed in with some head scratchers. The angles and promos that stood out the most were good ones, which helps.

Monday, March 07, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 03/07/11 from Dallas, TX.

The Big News: Michael Cole was set to make JBL the special guest referee for his WrestleMania match with Jerry Lawler, but “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had other ideas.

Show Analysis:

Undertaker came out to start the show. He said that at WrestleMania two legends will collide and there can only be one last outlaw. He claimed people think this will be the year the streak ends and HHH brings Undertaker down. I’m not sure about that one. Undertaker brought up Shawn Michaels twice trying to end the streak unsuccessfully and referred to Michaels as perhaps the best of all time. He announced that the match at Mania will be a no holds barred match with no count outs or disqualifications. Undertaker said that HHH is right and he will either kill Taker and the streak or die trying.

Nexus jumped Randall Orton backstage. CM Punk said they will send Orton to a place a lot worse than where Orton sent McGillicutty. Well, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a worse place to Florida. Punk gave Orton the GTS and told David Otunga and Mason Ryan to drag Orton to the ring.

Randy Orton beat David Otunga. In the ring, Nexus beat up Orton some more. Orton got up to his feet and the referee allowed the match to start. Otunga went back to work with punches, kicks, a body slam and a spine buster. However, Orton then caught him with the RKO for the win.

After the match, Ryan ran in but was caught with another RKO. They’ve protected Ryan up to this point and there was no need to do that, so that may be a signal Ryan is out of favor. Orton punted Otunga after the match. It’s a shame they’ve dismantled Nexus since I really liked Punk in his role as leader.

Christian beat Brodus Clay. They acted like it was going to be a match between Christian and Alberto Del Rio but Del Rio came out without his usual car and with Clay. Del Rio said that if Christian wants him, Christian has to beat Clay first. Clay hit a shoulder block and elbow drops but missed a splash. Christian hit two dropkicks off the ropes and finished Clay with a tornado DDT. Del Rio jumped Christian after the match. Hopefully this was just a one-time angle because Clay definitely doesn’t add to Del Rio’s act. I assume that’s the case.

They aired a video package of Sin Cara doing some spots. They then announced the next Hall of Fame induction. They had a graphic that Bob Armstrong is going in but didn’t air the video for him. They announced Sunny will go into the Hall of Fame. It was striking watching a short video package just how much charisma she had. She was on a completely different level than just about every woman they have now.

Eve Torres beat Nikki Bella. Gail Kim was at ringside to counteract Brie Bella. Eve threw around Nikki by the hair and did what seemed like an Anderson Silva inspired front kick. As Nikki gained control, Michael Cole stood up on the announce table and began yelling over a house microphone that the match should end already. Usually I’d be against burying the talent this badly but the women are a lost cause. The Bellas tried to do a switch right in front of the referee and were caught. Eve then hit the swinging neck breaker for the pin.

This really could be inserted anywhere, but they need to calm down with the WrestleMania sign shots. Somebody points at it every segment and WWE concluded that wasn’t enough because now they have the camera people shoot the sign in the middle of matches multiple times every segment too. WWE has issues in general with subtlety and when you overdo things they tend to come across as forced and are less effective. They announced Snooki as a guest star on Raw next week.

Next up was the highlight of the show. Michael Cole said that he decided to choose an impartial referee so Jerry Lawler has a fighting chance. They cut to a sign in the crowd that read “Autsin.” Yeah. So, Cole announced the referee would be a Texan and former WWE champion. He was of course teasing Steve Austin but then delivered JBL instead. JBL came out in his limousine. This made a ton of sense as Cole and JBL were old broadcast partners and JBL made for a nice added surprise.

JBL said that Michael Cole’s match is the main event of WrestleMania and nobody has debuted in a Mania main event until now. What about Lawrence Taylor? L.T. was a mighty good man. He probably has more in common with Lawler than Cole, though.

JBL called Jerry Lawler a bully and said he hates bullies. He said he was proud of Michael Cole standing up to the bully and called Cole a world class athlete. JBL proclaimed himself an unbiased referee who can’t be bought and a man of integrity. He then announced his intention to immediately sign the contract to referee at Mania. Note to all you future wrestlers: never say you’re about to do something. It spells trouble.

Steve Austin’s music hit and he charged to the ring. He got a monster pop from the crowd. JBL and Cole began yelling at Austin. Austin of course gave JBL the stunner. He drank beer while Cole freaked out. Austin saw the contract, thought about it, and then signed it as a blubbering Michael Cole had an emotional breakdown. Austin came to the announce table. He wished Cole luck and poured two beers over Cole’s head. Back in the ring, JBL finally got back up. Austin offered him a beer but as he went to drink it Austin of course gave him another stunner. This was such a fun segment. Everyone played their roles perfectly.

Backstage, Jack Swagger told Michael Cole to focus on Lawler and that he will take out Austin. Cole had been commentating with Josh Mathews up to this point and with Cole’s exit, Lawler came out to commentate the rest of the show. They probably should just have the GM announce that Lawler and Cole each get to commentate half the show rather than doing an angle each week where one happens to be taken out and the other happens to be around backstage waiting for something like that to happen.

Daniel Bryan beat Sheamus via count out. They explicitly referred to Sheamus being on a losing streak. The match went no time at all. Bryan gave Sheamus a dropkick off the apron. Sheamus sold his ankle huge upon landing and was counted out. This seemed like an angle but Sheamus sold it well enough to create doubt. Sheamus said his losing streak will end because next week he will win the US title. Sheamus vowed to quit if he doesn’t beat Bryan for the title. Bryan accepted.

CM Punk beat R. Truth. Punk posted Truth and worked him over briefly. Truth came back briefly with a couple kicks but Punk snapped his arm over the ropes, hit a uranage and applied the anaconda vise (as opposed to the Koji clutch) for the tap. Mason Ryan gave Truth a shoulder breaker after the match.

Dolph Ziggler beat John Morrison. Prior to the match, Vickie Guerrero announced Ziggler as the newest member of Raw. Oh shit, he’s not going to ROH or TNA? Vickie on commentary said that she has a business relationship with Ziggler now. Vickie was badmouthing Snooki on commentary so they may interact next week. Ziggler was in control for a while. Morrison came back with kicks, knees and a neck breaker but Ziggler got his foot on the ropes. Ziggler then raked Morrison’s face and hit the zig zag for the win.

After the match, the GM had an announcement. Once again they cut to a perfect shot of Lawler reading off a sheet of paper placed on the keyboard. The GM said that Ziggler was hired but that Vickie wasn’t. The GM said that Vickie can have a job on Raw if she beats Trish Stratus next week. Security then escorted Vickie out of the ring. Dolph was granted the privilege of waiting to leave until the commercial break.

John Cena came out to a mixed reaction. He claimed to be amused by Rock making fun of him and said that he finds that funny. But then he said something that got Rock angry. Cena said this time he would address Rock in hip hop form rather than rap form. He proceeded to deliver some of the lamest material you’re ever going to hear. It was amazingly terrible. He basically mocked Rock for not appearing live and had a t-shirt that read “I bring it via satellite.” The material was bottom of the barrel and Cena didn’t redeem it one iota.

Miz then attacked Cena and hit Cena twice with the belt. He did a one line rap saying he’s better than a bunch of legends including Randy Savage. He then got right up in the camera and cut an intense promo. He told Rock that he’s the star and Rock is just the host at WrestleMania so Rock should know his role and be the best Ryan Seacrest he can be. He threatened Rock with violence if Rock gets in Miz’s way. He then gave Cena the skull crushing finale and did the people’s elbow on Cena. Miz was really good here.

Final Thoughts:

This was a good show highlighted by a great Cole/JBL/Austin segment. John Cena was once again a lowlight of the show. It’s amazing how a guy with such tremendous natural talent can deliver such horrendous performances during one of the biggest programs of his career.