Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/25/11 from Raleigh, NC.

The Big News: John Cena was drafted to Smackdown.

Well, he was.

Show Analysis:

Big Show and Kofi Kingston won a battle royal. They started the show with this match in progress. Everyone wore those lame blue and red shirts in the battle royal and throughout the show. Kane and Great Khali were two of the first out. It came down to Mason Ryan, Kofi Kingston, Big Show, Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Evan Bourne. Ryan threw out Rhodes. Kingston pulled out Bryan. Bourne and Kingston did a bunch of cool spots trying to eliminate each other. Bourne came off the top on Show but was caught and thrown out. Show then threw out Ryan to end the match.

This led to the first draft pick of the night, John Cena. It seemed highly unlikely Cena would end up on Smackdown, and indeed, this didn’t last long. Cena did an interview and put it over as a huge move. He said he would bring the WWE title to Smackdown. Miz then came in and said he won’t have to see Cena anymore after Extreme Rules.

R. Truth came out with no music. He spent the entire promo kind of distracted by “what” chants but did a good job handling it and cutting a solid heel promo. Truth said he accepted the match against John Morrison and lost because of the fans. He spent his career trying to please the fans and it got him nowhere. He said that he rapped and danced so people could dance along and some people need to get some rhythm. That was amusing.

Truth vowed to give the people the boot. He said that he is letting go of years of frustration and disappointment and it feels great. Truth has set him free, he concluded. At that point, Morrison jumped Truth from behind. It was nice of him to wait for Truth to finish his ten minute promo. Morrison beat up Truth, was pulled back, and beat Truth up some more. I’d have let Truth keep his heat for a week.

Throughout the show they ran commercials saying next week will be the “biggest birthday party in the history of television” for the Rock. Really, I’d say it’s the biggest birthday party in the history of birthdays and the history of parties. This week’s Awesome Kong vignette showed her face clearly and debuted her new name of Kharma.

Eve Torres beat Layla. They went about 20 seconds and horribly botched their only spot, at which point Michelle McCool distracted Layla and Layla slapped Michelle. Michael Cole got up and started talking about how he needed to go train for Jim Ross. In the midst of all this, Eve rolled up Layla for the win. It really is time to dump the women’s division already. It serves absolutely no positive purpose. Lay Cool fought each other on the outside after the match with an upset Layla getting the best of it.

Rey Mysterio was drafted to Raw. Cody Rhodes backstage said he would give Rey a going away present after their match at Extreme Rules, a new mask that Rey can wear to the hospital.

Kofi Kingston beat Sheamus. Sheamus was in control until he accidentally ran into the post. Kingston hit a frog crossbody and avoided the razor’s edge and Brogue kick. Kingston hit trouble in paradise twice for the clean pin. It’s weird to book a champion to lose clean to a midcarder on the other show, but maybe one of these guys will be moved in the supplemental draft at Noon Eastern tomorrow. Randy Orton was drafted to Smackdown.

Jim Ross beat Michael Cole via DQ. Cole made fun of Ross’ weight and stalled forever. They stalled more time here than the average Raw match lasts. Eventually, Cole went for a body slam but Ross fell on him and got mount. He threw punches down on Cole and in the process busted open his hand and Cole’s lip. Cole was bleeding from the mouth.

Cole ran to the outside but Lawler threw him back in. Swagger took out Lawler and ran in for the DQ. He applied the ankle lock on Ross and Cole whipped Ross with a belt. Lawler made the save and whipped Cole with the belt a couple times before Cole ran away. The GM announced a tag team country whipping match for the PPV. Miz backstage said he will keep his title and that if he is drafted to Smackdown, Raw will be cancelled.

Randy Orton beat Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler used a neck breaker, fireman carry and dropkick. Orton came back with clotheslines, a power slam and an Angle slam. He went for the RKO but was distracted for a moment by Vickie Guerrero. He regained his concentration and hit the RKO for the pin. Punk interrupted the pick announcement to basically say he’s wrestling Orton in a last man standing match at the PPV without actually saying that. The match was worth two picks and Mark Henry and Sin Cara are headed to Smackdown.

Rey Mysterio beat Wade Barrett. Barrett worked over Rey. Rey came back with a top rope spinning head scissors, 619 and top rope splash for the win. This match was for two picks, and Big Show and Alberto Del Rio were drafted to Raw. They showed Del Rio backstage talking to Ricardo Rodriguez about his destiny and blowing off Brodus Clay.

CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and Miz beat John Cena, Christian and Mark Henry. The heels worked over Christian. Cena got the tag and hit the Cena slam on Miz but was immediately cut off by a clothesline from Henry. Henry press slammed Christian onto the steps and left. Miz gave Cena the skull crushing finale and got the pin. They then announced the final pick, which was Cena returning to Raw. Cena attacked and laid out the heels.

Final Thoughts:

I really didn’t like the Cena to Smackdown and then back to Raw story that dominated the show.

First, it’s unfulfilling storytelling in basically any medium to take a character through a fake journey only to have them end up exactly where they started. It makes the audience feel like the two hours were a pointless waste and that they were cheated if they bought into it.

Second, the idea of the draft ought to be to get fans excited about the new landscape and various possibilities going forward. But by instead beginning and ending with Cena, it left the impression that everything is the same as always, which is the exact opposite of what the draft ought to be doing. They would have been much better off focusing on the moves that are actually going to matter like Del Rio and Orton.

Third, the move had basically no positive purpose. It didn’t build up the pay-per-view on Sunday. It didn’t build interest in Smackdown. I don’t see it having any positive effect on the one night’s rating, and even if it did, that’s basically insignificant. It felt like the goal was just to “swerve” fans, and if they were thinking in terms of their own interests they would have come up with a completely different scenario.

Finally, everyone knows Cena is the franchise player for WWE and Raw is the flagship show. I think the vast majority of the audience watching knew Cena wasn’t going to Smackdown. So it just left the audience thinking, “How are they going to get out of this?” That’s the sort of detached attitude and emotion that makes it so hard to invest in storylines and matches. And then when they do the obvious thing and move him right back it makes the whole thing feel contrived and fake.

Monday, April 18, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/18/11 from London, UK.

The Big News: R. Truth lost his pay-per-view title shot after only a week, but appears in better shape now than he was after getting the shot.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole on commentary. With Cole toning down his act and Lawler and Ross controlling the commentary, the angles and matches got over so much better than usual. They would be so much better off if they just let Ross and Lawler do the commentary and made Cole the top heel manager.

R. Truth came out and said that he would win the triple threat title match and be the most fighting champion ever. His delivery was weak and he got a negative reaction from the crowd. John Morrison then came out and said Truth got lucky last week. The crowd booed Morrison too. Morrison then showed video of Truth drinking a little water between falls last week and ridiculed Truth for it. The crowd again booed Morrison.

Morrison laughed at Truth for being out of shape. Truth asked the crowd if he was in good shape and the crowd reacted negatively to him too. Morrison continued by mocking Truth for smoking cigarettes. Truth said Morrison was trying to get in his head to force a match between them for Truth’s title shot. Morrison responded by saying he accepted the match.

Truth said that the people didn’t want to see Morrison vs. Truth. The crowd half-heartedly indicated they did. They joked back and forth about the idea of drinking water during a match and basically agreed to wrestle.

This segment was a disaster. The material was awful, the interplay was unbelievably awkward, and both guys came across as unlikeable losers. I was waiting for Steve Austin to come out, cut a promo on both of them, and tell them to go home. The focus on shaming R. Truth for drinking water was particularly bizarre, as if world class athletes in every sport don’t drink water during games. Keeping hydrated is not in fact a sign of weakness.

John Morrison beat R. Truth to take Truth’s spot in the Extreme Rules title match. Truth was in control for about three minutes before Morrison hit starship pain out of the blue for the win. This was not good and felt like a burial of Truth.

Things turned around, however, with the post-match angle. Truth pulled Morrison off the ropes as Morrison was celebrating. He then hit a great looking running knee to the head and another spectacular looking running to the head that sent Morrison’s head into the barricade on the outside. Truth seemed conflicted and sorry about this, so he hugged Morrison and helped him up. Then he shoved Morrison back down.

Morrison grabbed a water bottle and his Morrison with it. He said Morrison did this to himself and gave Morrison a downward spiral on the floor. Truth then grabbed a cigarette and lit up. The crowd chanted “That’s illegal.” He blew cigarette smoke on Morrison and threw the butt on Morrison. Even after all the problems leading up to it, this was a great turn. Truth’s growing frustration and anger throughout was handled very well and the little touches worked well, particularly the cigarette bit.

Dolph Ziggler beat Evan Bourne in a short match. Ziggler has a new look with a haircut and no more dyed hair. That’s a really good move. The bleached blonde look just didn’t work that well for Ziggler and I think he’s got a better chance of getting over now. Ziggler worked over Bourne. Bourne came back with kicks, knees and a double foot stomp but missed the shooting star press. Ziggler then hit the zig zag for the win.

Miz and Alex Riley came out for a brief promo. In a very positive sign, Miz got a big star reaction with lots of cheers. Miz was annoyed about having to face not only John Cena but also John Morrison, and in a steel cage. I really don’t understand the reason for making that a cage match. It just seems like the prostituting of stipulations with no positive gain. Miz vowed a sit down strike until he was interrupted by Sin Cara and John Cena. The GM made a tag match.

John Cena and Sin Cara beat Miz and Alex Riley. The heels worked over Cena, who received dueling positive and negative chants. Cena used a body slam on Riley and tagged Cara. Cara came in with punches and kicks, then a springboard huracanrana, dropkick and enzuigiri. Riley took out Cara from behind and the heels worked over Cara. Cara finally got the tag to Cena, who came in with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and five knuckle on Riley. Miz left while Cena in the ring hit the FU. Cena then tagged Cara and Cara hit a springboard second rope moonsault for the win. This was a very good match and was perfectly laid out to showcase Cara while building Cena vs. Miz.

Eve Torres beat Nikki Bella in a brief expose of the business. Eve hit punches, kicks and an arm drag on Nikki. Eve missed a baseball slide and Brie Bella slammed Eve’s leg into the apron. Eve came back with a cradle for the win. Just about every move in this match ranged from bad to terrible.

Michael Cole introduced Jack Swagger as his trainer and friend. Cole put on a cape and Swagger read from a goofy scroll proclaiming him Sir Michael Cole. They announced a knighting ceremony and Queen Elizabeth came out. It didn’t appear to be the real Queen Elizabeth. They cut to Lawler and Ross looking completely disgusted. The Queen knighted Cole and Cole kissed her on the lips.

The newly knighted Cole then told Ross to come in the ring and kiss his feet. They made up Cole’s feet to look disgusting. Lawler and Ross came into the ring together but Swagger jumped Lawler and took him out. Swagger and Cole then went after Ross. Cole told Ross to kiss his feet. Ross told Cole to go to hell. Swagger put Ross in the ankle lock and made Ross kiss Cole’s disgusting feet. We’re at the point where Ross has been humiliated so many times that it doesn’t get heat on the heel but rather just makes you roll your eyes at Vince McMahon.

Sheamus beat Santino. Josh Mathews did commentary the rest of the show with Michael Cole. Sheamus dominated the match. Santino tried to go for the cobra but was too weak and was hit with the Brogue kick for the pin.

Randy Orton beat CM Punk. There were dueling chants for Punk and Orton throughout the match. Orton hit some stomps and then Punk some knees. Orton hit a powerslam but Punk avoided an RKO attempt. Punk took control and beat down Orton for a while. Punk hit a running knee but Orton countered the bulldog attempt. Orton went for the Angle slam but Punk escaped and hit the bulldog.

Punk then used a springboard clothesline. Orton kicked out of the pin attempt and came back with a superplex. He went for the draping DDT, which was countered into a GTS attempt, which was countered into an RKO attempt, which was countered into a Punk kick to the head for two. Punk went for the GTS again. Orton escaped but Punk went for the high kick again. Orton ducked under that and rolled up Punk for the pin. This was a very good match.

After the match, Nexus ran in. Mason Ryan was shoving other members of Nexus like he was out of control going after Orton. He gave Orton the side effect. Ryan went to punt Orton, but Punk wanted to punt Orton himself. They argued back and forth until Punk finally convinced Ryan to get out of the way. By the time Punk finally went for the punt, Orton got up and gave Punk an RKO.

Final Thoughts:

This show got off to an inauspicious start, but it really picked up from there. It had some good wrestling, good angles, and focused on showcasing and putting over specific rising stars.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/11/11 from Bridgeport, CT.

The Big News: In a very surprising development, an emotional Edge announced his retirement on Raw. Wrestling retirements tend not to last, but even if he never wrestles again he had an excellent career.

Show Analysis:

After Michael Cole’s heel entrance, John Cena came out for a show opening promo. He received a more positive reaction than he has been receiving. He immediately started with a bunch of lines that seemed written solely to use the phrase “WWE Universe.” It seemed like they were on a kick this week with that because they kept saying it over and over again throughout the show for no apparent reason. Cena said that his match with Rock at next year’s WrestleMania will be for the title and challenged the Miz to a title match.

That brought out Randy Orton. He pointed out Cena lost at WrestleMania and said Cena should step aside and give the opportunity to someone else who actually won at Mania. John Morrison then came out and said we’ve seen this all before. I’m not sure if he was referencing Orton and Cena challenging for the title or the scene where everyone comes out and says they want a title shot to set up some sort of multi-person title eliminator for later in the show, but he was certainly right either way.

Next out were Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler. Vickie said that Ziggler should get the shot and Ziggler said he shouldn’t be wasting his time with people like Snooki. R. Truth then joined the mix and said he has never received a one-on-one WWE title match. That was it for people coming out. I’m not sure why the locker room doesn’t empty whenever they do these segments, because everybody who comes out always gets an opportunity at the title shot. The GM announced a five person gauntlet match for the shot at Miz for Extreme Rules.

They aired a video package with Awesome Kong not totally visible in shadows flicking the head off a Barbie doll and laughing. It’s always a good sign when WWE airs video packages before your debut, and WWE can use all the potential attractions they can get these days.

Brie Bella beat Eve Torres to win the women’s title. Eve had the referee mark one of the Bella’s hands with a marker prior to the match to prevent a switch. Why not order them to wear different outfits? Eve was getting the best of Brie and they did the switch. Nikki was covering her hand but the referee saw the mark. He just allowed the match to continue anyway and Brie came back in with a rollup for the pin. Both Eve and the referee looked like fools here.

Backstage, Eve blew off Natalya and Gail Kim when they tried to console her. Eve said that all the women just care about themselves. Tamina then walked in and gave Natalya and Gail what seemed to be a dirty look. This seemed like an Eve Torres heel turn until the Tamina thing.

Sin Cara beat Primo Colon. The crowd reacted very well to Cara and there were Sin Cara chants here. That’s a great sign and it shows the benefits of building someone up rather than making it a point to slot them at a low level early. Cara used a monkey flip, dropkick and pescado into a huracanrana. Primo came back with a dropkick of his own and cobra clutch. Cara took back over with a springboard flying head scissors and flip power bomb.

Cara hit an enzuigiri and set up for a top rope finisher but Primo slipped off and Cara fell to the outside. The crowd didn’t turn on that at all, which was another great sign. Cara then went back up and hit what was basically Frankie Kazarian’s flux capacitor for the pin.

Strangely, Michael Cole spent this entire match playing straight play-by-play guy and putting over Cara. Obviously, they feel the need to protect Cara early. But that really says something when they need to keep heel Cole away from characters they have serious plans for. Cole is a great heel but it’s going to do real damage if they retain him in this role over the long haul.

Corrrrrrrrrrrrrre did a promo in the ring. Wade Barrett pointed out that they failed in their attack on Rock and John Cena and blamed the other members of the group. Barrett said he used to see them as equals but if they can’t hold up their end there is no point continuing the group.

Justin Gabriel shot back that his 450 takes out everyone and he is the best of them in the ring. He added that he is a three time tag champ, so Heath Slater pointed out that they are collectively the champions. Ezekiel Jackson then spoke up and said he put them on the map by slamming Big Show.

Their argument was interrupted by Santino Marella, Evan Bourne, Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry. Santino said that if Barrett’s group is the core, they are the apple. He announced their new (perhaps one week) supergroup A.P.P.L.E.: Allied People Powered by Loathing Everything they stand for. They issued a challenge.

Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel beat Santino Marella, Evan Bourne, Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry. The heels worked over Bryan. Santino got the tag and went for the cobra but he was kicked in the back of the head by Gabriel. Slater then hit the scorpion death drop for the pin.

Jim Ross came out and Michael Cole immediately went nuts badmouthing and mocking Ross. He kept yelling about squirting BBQ sauce in Jim Ross’s bad eye, as if he had intentionally tried to do that or something. A livid Ross tried to get into the Cole Mine and began shaking it up and down going after Cole. Swagger then jumped Lawler and they did a big pull apart with all four. This was great and led into a match.

Jerry Lawler beat Jack Swagger, which meant Lawler got to pick the stipulation for a rematch with Michael Cole at Extreme Rules. Cole and Ross were in the corners. Swagger got the best of it early and put Lawler in the ankle lock but Lawler got to the ropes. Lawler made his comeback with punches but Cole got on the apron and distracted Lawler. Ross pulled Cole after the apron. Swagger went after Ross. And that allowed Lawler to roll up Swagger from behind for the win.

After the match, Cole was badmouthing Swagger. He poked Swagger in the chest repeatedly and berated him. He then slapped Swagger and escaped the ring from an angry looking Swagger. That exchange reminded me a lot of Bobby Heenan and Andre the Giant at WrestleMania VI, but Swagger showed disappointing fire in his reaction. Still, I think Swagger is one of their best options for a new main event slot and I would assume that’s the plan here. After this happened, Lawler announced a tag match at Extreme Rules with Lawler and Ross vs. Swagger and Cole.

Edge came out for his retirement announcement. He mentioned getting spinal fusion surgery a number of years back and said that he knew he was on borrowed time after that. Edge said he has been in a lot of pain of late and has been losing feeling in his arms. The crowd cheered for him and chanted “thank you Edge.” Edge said he wrestled his career on his terms and is still a fan of WWE. He added that he couldn’t dream of a better way to go out than winning a Mania main event and retiring as champion.

Edge said he feels like he has grown up in front of the fans. He poked fun of some of the silly gimmicks he had early on. He said he hopes he earned everyone’s respect. He noted that he tried to give everything he had. He joked that he doesn’t have to wear tights tomorrow so he will eat a lot of ice cream after the show. He referenced getting hired by Jim Ross and said he would do it all again in a heartbeat. This was a great, heartfelt speech and another example of how much better and more authentic promos feel when a good speaking wrestler puts together their own material.

Edge backstage shook hands with and hugged the other wrestlers. Both the faces and heels were all together and everyone applauded Edge. This was a classy gesture. With Edge leaving so suddenly, it will probably increase the appreciation people have for his career.

Dolph Ziggler beat Randy Orton in the first part of the gauntlet match. Miz did commentary throughout. Ziggler was in control early. Orton came back with a powerslam but was distracted by David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty on the apron and Ziggler got a rollup for the pin. Mason Ryan joined Otunga and McGillicutty in a post-match attack on Orton. Ryan gave Orton a power bomb.

R. Truth beat Dolph Ziggler in the next fall of the gauntlet match. Ziggler dominated most of the match until Truth hit a downward spiral like move for the pin.

R. Truth beat John Morrison in the third fall of the gauntlet match. They traded a series of rollups. They then did a double clothesline spot on the floor. Morrison hit a springboard kick but missed starship pain and Truth hit the same downward spiral like move for another win.

John Cena vs. R. Truth went to a no contest. The story of the match was Cena would hit Truth with move after move but Truth kept kicking out to Cena’s increasing astonishment. Cena hit a fisherman buster, belly to back suplex, snap suplex and top rope rocker dropper. Truth kept kicking out of the pin attempts. Truth got a few kicks in and a hip toss but Cena then took over again. He hit shoulderblocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle. He went for the FU when Miz and Alex Riley ran in and attacked both men.

Miz said that both Cena and Truth are losers and can go to the end of the line because there is no new number one contender. The GM then announced two number one contenders and a triple threat title match at Extreme Rules with Miz vs. Cena vs. Truth. Cena and Truth then beat up Miz and Riley. Truth and Cena shook hands but then shoved each other at the close of the show.

Final Thoughts:

The most striking thing about this show was the dearth of talent on the WWE roster right now. With so many of the featured attractions for WrestleMania leaving, they are left with a strikingly thin roster. And that’s even with them using a number of Smackdown wrestlers on the show. The chickens once again are coming home to roost when it comes to WWE’s treatment of younger talent.

Even as WWE booked R. Truth into a pay-per-view main event on this show, the problems with their mentality towards elevating new talent were on full display. If fans are going to take Truth seriously in the slightest as a title challenger, he needs to be booked ridiculously strong. Yet, Truth was about to be defeated by Cena when Miz and Riley interfered.

Instant elevations like they what they did with Truth can provide a stopgap measure for freshening up main events, but effectively creating new star drawing cards is going to take more in the way of patience and long term planning. WWE needs to pick, say, four to six new guys they want to build around and start protecting them for a prolonged period of time before putting them in regular main events. It seems like the only guys who get protected are the long established main eventers like Cena and Orton, and they’re the ones who need that protection least of all.

Monday, April 04, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/04/11 from Atlanta, GA.

The Big News: WrestleMania XXVIII’s main event is already set a year out, The Rock vs. John Cena. Undertaker vs. HHH was very strongly teased as well. Melina vs. Alicia Fox may be third from the top.

Show Analysis:

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were commentating Raw to start the show. The show is of course much more entertaining to watch with them announcing, but I sensed trouble. Indeed, this didn’t last long.

Triple H came out for a promo. He said that he has never been a nervous or rattled person but at WrestleMania when Undertaker made his entrance he almost hyperventilated. HHH noted he has wrestled Undertaker before and wrestled Undertaker at Mania before but never like that. HHH said the streak has become everything to Undertaker and Undertaker is willing to do anything to keep it going. HHH gave Undertaker everything he had but Undertaker kept getting up.

HHH said that they both left everything they had in the ring and for HHH that wasn’t good enough. HHH observed that people have different iconic names for Undertaker but what he saw getting carried out on a stretcher after the match was a man. HHH said a lot of people think given the way he was carted off that may be the last of Undertaker. HHH said he isn’t buying that but in case it is, thanks dead man. HHH then posited that Undertaker will be back and noted that he will be waiting.

This was an excellent promo. I really like that they’re shifting the Undertaker streak story from this unstoppable phenom to a man desperately trying to hold on to his pride and legacy with every last breath he has. It’s a much more interesting, real and emotional story.

Michael Cole came out in his wrestling outfit from WrestleMania. He gloated that despite overwhelming odds he emerged victorious over Jerry Lawler. Cole claimed to have stolen the show and said that he will now be known as Mr. WrestleMania. Lawler retorted that Cole didn’t beat anyone and that a computer beat him. Lawler noted he made Cole tap out and Cole was crying like a little girl. Lawler said that the record book may say Cole was the winner but he will always go down as a worthless jackass.

Cole told Lawler to get over it, because Cole beat him. Cole proposed a rematch on Raw. Lawler accepted and got into the ring but of course Cole wasn’t talking about a WrestleMania rematch but rather a rematch against Jack Swagger from last week on Raw.

Jerry Lawler beat Jack Swagger via disqualification. Swagger hit a body slam but missed a leg drop. He hit a clothesline but missed the Vader bomb. Lawler used some punches and a dropkick. He went up for a second rope fist drop but Cole got up on the apron. Lawler got down from the ropes and chased after Cole. He caught Cole and was punching him but Swagger applied the ankle lock from behind and Lawler submitted. I usually hate distraction finishes but the Cole-Lawler issue has been so well developed that Lawler going after Cole rather than trying to win the match felt like a completely understandable reaction.

After the match, Swagger refused to break the hold. The referee ended up reversing his decision because of this. Michael Cole then went and found some BBQ sauce in the Cole Mine. He squirted the BBQ sauce all over Jim Ross. Ross followed Cole to the back and that was the end of Ross. Vince McMahon never misses an opportunity to embarrass Ross. Josh Mathews, Booker T and Michael Cole announced the rest of the show.

Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio beat CM Punk and Cody Rhodes. The heels worked over Rey and then worked over Orton. Rey got the tag and went for the 619 but was caught with a knee to the head. For some reason, Booker repeatedly talked about this being a kick to the sternum. The heels again took over on Rey. Orton finally got the tag and gave Rhodes a power slam, draping DDT and Angle slam. Rey gave Rhodes the 619 and Orton hit the RKO for the pin. Punk ran off at the finish. The announcers didn’t really make mention of it, so I’m not sure what they were going for there.

Steve Austin and Triple H spoke briefly backstage. Austin said that he doesn’t know if “it” will happen again but if it does, he will be there. That would seem to tease the possibility of Austin refereeing the rematch and of course Shawn Michaels is also a possibility for that position. Austin and HHH shook hands.

Steve Austin came to the ring and plugged Tough Enough. He brought out the Tough Enough competitors. He had each of them introduce themselves as the crowd jeered them. None of them came off very well. Some fans in the front row began chanting “stun them all,” which seemed to amuse Austin.

Miz then came out. Michael Cole went crazy. He stood on the table cheering and then quipped, “I wonder if he saw me?” That was funny. Miz said that when he was on Tough Enough people told him to go back to the Real World but people will never say that again after WrestleMania. Miz claimed to suffer a concussion at Mania (and his head bounced off the floor badly), but went on to retain the title. He walked around the ring and told the competitors this was the closest they would get to the WWE title.

Miz asked Austin if Austin thinks he has one more fun in him. The crowd chanted “one more match.” Miz suggested they do it right then. Austin told the Tough Enough kids to clear the ring. Alex Riley jumped Austin from behind and Miz left. Riley went after Austin for a while until Austin made his comeback with a Thesz press, punches, elbow drop and stunner. Austin looks as good as ever so it’s always tantalizing when he does a few spots and you wish he wrestled regularly.

Austin celebrated with a bunch of beers and threw beers to the Tough Enough kids. The crowd booed and heckled the ones who didn’t catch the beers. They all drank beer together. Austin then threw beer on Cole. It’s not really anyone’s fault, but something about this segment with the crowd rejecting the Tough Enough kids and nobody making a positive impression felt like a real negative in trying to sell that show. Sticking the premier at the tail end of a four hour block of wrestling is kind of risky too.

Alberto Del Rio beat Evan Bourne. Del Rio was bleeding from the mouth early in the match. Bourne was caught with a big boot charging into Del Rio. Del Rio threw Bourne into the barricade on the outside. Bourne came back with kicks and a knee to the head. However, when he went up to the top for the shooting star press, Del Rio gave him an enzuigiri. Del Rio then locked in the armbar for the submission.

John Morrison and Trish Stratus beat Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero. Prior to the match, Guerrero scapegoated Lay Cool for the WrestleMania loss. Ziggler said Snooki was the most talented member of Morrison’s team. Trish and Vickie did some comedy spots. Morrison missed a springboard kick on Ziggler. Ziggler tossed Morrison over his head with a German suplex where Morrison did a full flip. Trish then slapped Ziggler and Morrison hit starship pain for the win.

Sheamus beat Daniel Bryan to retain the US title. This was basically a squash after fans complained about Bryan’s match not making the pay-per-view telecast Sunday. Sheamus worked over Bryan throughout. Bryan hit a few kicks and went for the LeBell lock but Sheamus quickly countered with a back breaker and Brogue kick for the pin.

After the match, Sin Cara made his debut. They dimmed the lights and had a cool video and music. Cara ran out and botched a dive over the ropes into the ring. Luckily it was just close enough that the fans didn’t turn on him. He then nailed all his other spots perfectly including a spectacular looking springboard crossbody off the top rope to the floor on Sheamus.

The final segment of the show started with a smiling and laughing Cena coming out. Yes, this guy gets screwed out of the world title in the main event of the biggest show of the year and even then he still isn’t angry about it 24 hours later. What is this guy thinking? Is it that hard to grasp the sort of message this sends about the importance of matches? Derek Anderson was caught laughing very briefly on the sideline of a random, uncompetitive regular season NFL game between two terrible teams and he was excoriated for months over it and will likely spend the rest of his career trying to live it down. Cena gets ripped off in the biggest match of the year and he’s as jolly as ever. Why does he even wrestle if the title is so unimportant to him?

Cena was loudly booed. He told some jokes. He said he wouldn’t complain because if Rock didn’t do what he did Mania would have ended in a draw. He told that one like a joke, too. He congratulated Miz for retaining his title. Cena said it’s obvious he hasn’t earned the Rock’s respect and Rock doesn’t like him that much. Cena said he has business to settle with Rock right now.

Rock came out. The crowd chanted “Rocky.” They then chanted “Fruity Pebbles.” Cena laughed at this. Good to know he’s cool with fans thinking he’s a joke. Rock asked Cena what he expected screwing with the Rock. Rock then said he respects Cena. The crowd loudly booed. Rock said he knows Cena loves WWE and has become one of WWE’s biggest stars. The crowd again loudly booed. Rock did add that he doesn’t like Cena. Rock said they are similar in that they want to do the best they can.

Cena told Rock to listen to the people. Cena said they want a match between Cena and Rock. Cena took off his shirt and challenged Rock. Rock proposed they do it at WrestleMania XXVIII. He offered his hand and Cena shook it.

At that point, the Corrrrrrrre ran out to randomly attack Rock and Cena. That was of course the setup for Rock and Cena to clean house. Cena did the five knuckle and rock did the people’s elbow. Cena did the FU and Rock did the Rock bottom. Finally, they shook hands again. Clearly, they want to try to undo the damage they have done to Cena’s character while building interest in a Rock-Cena match.

Final Thoughts:

This was a fun show. With so much talent it would be hard for it not to be. Announcing Rock vs. Cena a year out is a really interesting gamble. On the plus side, by the time that match comes it is going to feel like a huge deal. But on the flip side, it’s going to be really difficult to get fans interested in anything Cena does until then. Cena is in a tough position because his character has come across like such an uncool, annoying tool in his feud with Rock and it will be tricky to turn around that perception while fans are still waiting to see Rock kick his ass.