Monday, June 27, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 06/27/11 from Las Vegas, NV.

The Big News: CM Punk produced the single most captivating segment on WWE television in the past decade. If you didn’t see this segment, seek it out now.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels came out to start the show. Michaels said he tried to stay away but couldn’t do it. Lawler asked on commentary whether Michaels is coming back. Michaels said he has missed the crowd. He noted he was not the guest host. He plugged his new TV show by pretending not to. That brought out CM Punk, Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga. Mason Ryan wasn’t there and the announcers said Ryan was injured over the weekend.

Punk accused Michaels of having an addictive personality that won’t let him stay away. Punk said he is leaving and unlike Michaels he will go out a winner. Punk reprimanded the people for cheering the past in Michaels over the future in Punk. Michaels responded that people cheer him because they know he is better than Punk. Punk said Michaels was better at one point but isn’t now. He asked Michaels if this was a challenge and said they are a lot alike in their brashness.

Michaels said they have similarities but he has his own style. Michaels then gave Otunga sweet chin music. Punk told Michaels he just made a big mistake. The GM then popped up and announced Punk would have his Raw roulette match immediately. Booker T spun a question mark and said this meant Punk would have to face a mystery opponent, Kane. Some mystery. Kane was standing right there next to Booker. Good thing mystery came up on the first spin. Michaels then gave McGillicutty sweet chin music.

Kane beat CM Punk via count out. There were loud chants for Punk early. Punk tried a springboard but was caught by the neck. Punk avoided the choke slam and took over with punches and kicks. Kane responded with a big boot and went to the top. Punk cut him off and tried a superplex but Kane threw him off. Punk then just walked off for the count out. This was a terrible finish and a terrible way to build up a title challenger.

Sin Cara beat Evan Bourne in a no count out match from the wheel. They traded kicks. Cara hit a tope. Bourne used a spinning head scissors on the floor. Cara used la magistral for two. Bourne hit a flying knee for two. Bourne used a standing moonsault but missed the shooting star press. Cara then hit la mistica and rolled Bourne over for the pin rather than applying the Fujiwara armbar. This was a fun match.

Kofi Kingston beat Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match. Kingston was supposed to spin the wheel but Vickie Guerrero spun instead. It came up “player’s choice” so Kingston got to choose the match and had Vickie barred from ringside. Ziggler started to leave at the start of the match but Kingston chased after him and brought him back in. Ziggler worked over Kingston and used the famouser for two. Kingston started to come back with punches when Ziggler tried to throw him out of the ring. Kingston bounced off the ropes with his head and hit trouble in paradise for the win.

They announced a Raw Money in the Bank ladder match for the pay-per-view featuring Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio, Evan Bourne, R. Truth, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Alex Riley and Miz. It’s too bad they didn’t set up qualifying matches, but that lineup does sound really good.

Booker T and Maryse were hanging out by the wheel. Alberto Del Rio wanted to know why he had to face Big Show again after beating him at Capitol Punishment. Maryse agreed with him. Booker was going to spin for Del Rio but Del Rio had Maryse spin instead. It came up on steel cage match.

Alberto Del Rio beat Big Show in a cage match. Del Rio used kicks to the head repeatedly and went after Show’s leg. Mark Henry came to ringside. Show hit clotheslines and went for the choke slam but Del Rio kicked out his leg and hit a DDT. Show followed with a superplex. Henry then ripped the door off the cage and attacked Show. Del Rio crawled out the door. This was a garbage finish, both in terms of making matches seem like nothing and in terms of making cage matches seem like nothing. Afterwards, Henry ran at Show with the door and the side of the cage broke apart as Show fell through it. That was a very cool visual.

Kelly Kelly beat Nikki Bella in a submissions match from the wheel. Nikki used a Fujiwara armbar. Kelly didn’t submit. Kelly put on a Boston crab. Nikki did submit. These women’s matches where they just go to a finish immediately are so damaging to the basic goal of making matches seem like believable, meaningful competition. After the match, the Bellas attacked Kelly until Eve Torres made the save. They aired a video package on Andy Leavine.

After Rey Mysterio spun the wheel for his match backstage, DDP showed up to plug the WCW Nitro DVD with Booker T. Drew McIntyre came in to announce that he is still alive. He said that Booker and DDP were taking his TV time. Shawn Michaels then knocked out McIntyre with sweet chin music and they all laughed at McIntyre. This was one of those comedy burials WWE loves. Shawn Michaels said he hasn’t seen any of the Nitro DVD but he is sure it is exciting.

Rey Mysterio and Alex Riley beat Miz and Jack Swagger in a tornado tag from the wheel. Swagger gave Mysterio a Vader bomb and set up for the doomsday device with Miz. Mysterio escaped and sent Swagger into Miz. Mysterio hit a senton off the apron onto Swagger on the floor. Riley used a hip toss off the top on Miz. Swagger threw Mysterio over his head onto the legs of Miz for a stomach breaker.

Mysterio came back with a senton off the top on Miz and went for the 619 but Swagger tripped him. Riley gave Swagger a spine buster but Miz broke up the pin attempt. Miz hit a scorpion death drop on Riley for two. Mysterio ran into a Swagger big boot for two. Mysterio went for the 619 but was caught and Swagger put him in the ankle lock. Riley broke it up and kicked Swagger in the head. Mysterio hit the 619, Riley hit an implant DDT, and Mysterio hit a top rope splash for the pin. This was a very exciting match.

R. Truth beat John Cena in a tables match. Truth now speaks to imaginary people. Truth worked over Cena early. Cena sent Truth into the steps. Cena went for the FU through a table but Punk pulled the table out of the ring. Punk went into the ring and Cena lifted him up for the FU at which point Truth speared Cena through the tale for the win. This fluke win over Cena formula has worked so well for WWE on PPV, so why not continue?

Then, with Cena lying in the ring, CM Punk walked up the ramp and sat down on the stage. I’ve never done this, but here’s the promo verbatim:

“John Cena while you lay there hopefully as uncomfortable as you possibly can be I want you to listen to me. I want you to digest this because before I leave in 3 weeks with your WWE championship I have a lot of things I want to get off my chest.

“I don’t hate you, John. I don’t even dislike you. I do like you. I like you a hell of a lot better than most of the people in the back. I hate the idea that you’re the best. Because you’re not. I’m the best. I’m the best in the world. There’s one thing you’re better at than I am and that’s kissing Vince McMahon’s ass. You’re as good at kissing Vince’s ass as Hulk Hogan was. I don’t know if you’re as good as Dwayne, though. He’s a pretty good ass kisser. Always was and still is. Oops, I’m breaking the fourth wall (waves at camera).

“I’m the best wrestler in the world. I’ve been the best ever since day one when I walked into this company and I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right; I’m a Paul Heyman guy. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar, and he split just like I’m splitting. But the biggest difference between me and Brock is I’m going to leave with the WWE championship.

“I’ve grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon’s imaginary brass rings that it’s finally dawned on me that they’re just that. They’re completely imaginary. The only thing that’s real is me. And the fact that day in and day out for almost 6 years I’ve proved to everyone in the world that I’m the best on this microphone, in the ring, even on commentary. Nobody can touch me.

“Yet no matter how many times I prove it I’m not on your lovely little collector’s cups. I’m not on the cover of the program. I’m barely promoted. I don’t get to be in movies. I’m certainly not on any crappy show on the USA Network. I’m not on the poster of WrestleMania. I’m not on the signature that’s promoted at the top of the show. I’m not on Conan O’Brien. I’m not on Jimmy Fallon. But the fact of the matter is I should be and trust me this isn’t sour grapes. But the fact that Dwayne is in the main event of WrestleMania next year and I’m not makes me sick.

“Let me get something straight. Those of you who are cheering me right now, you are just as big of a part of me leaving as anything else. Because you’re the ones sipping out of those collector cups. You’re the ones who buy the programs that my face isn’t on the cover of and then at 5 in the morning in the airport you shove it in my face so you can go sell it on E-bay because you’re too lazy to get a real job.

“I’m leaving with the WWE championship on July 17 and who knows, maybe I’ll go defend it in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Maybe I’ll go back to Ring of Honor. Hey Colt Cabana, how you doing? (looks at camera and waves)

“The reason I’m leaving is you people, because after I’m gone you’ll still pour money into this company. I’m just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel’s gonna keep turning and I understand that. Vince McMahon’s going to make money in spite of himself. He’s a millionaire who should be a billionaire. Know why he’s not a billionaire? It’s because he surrounds himself with glad-handing, nonsensical douchebag yes men like John Laurinaitis who’s going to tell him everything he wants to hear.

“And I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon’s dead but the fact is it’s going to get taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family. Let me tell you a personal story about Vince McMahon. We do this whole bully campaign…”

At that point the microphone cut out. Punk began yelling that he is the best of the world and he is being silenced. The picture then abruptly cut to black.

Final Thoughts:

Raw was your usual edition of Raw. The booking was bad although there were a couple of very good matches. Then CM Punk came out and his promo was a gigantic breath of fresh air the likes of which we haven’t seen on WWE television in ages. It was a tremendously entertaining and captivating segment. That’s not just because he said all the things so many longstanding wrestling fans think about the WWE product and it’s cathartic to hear that on WWE television.

Putting aside the agreement so many of us have with what Punk said, it was an enormously effective segment in making things feel real, different and important. WWE programming long ago lost the feeling of reality and unpredictability. The promos all sound the same. The matches are all the same. The booking is the same and there’s a very tightly defined formula for what happens. It doesn’t feel like any of the wrestlers have individual agency; they’re just doing what they’re told.

Punk’s promo, by contrast, felt like the genuine beliefs of an actual person. He was saying what he felt, not what he was supposed to say. If the company is doing a good job, it ought to feel like everyone is saying what they feel. But that feeling has been lost. Punk’s promo brought back a jarring feeling of authenticity to the show. Now, of course, WWE is on board with everything Punk said. But the nature of the promo was so inside and unique to Punk that it was clearly guided by him as opposed to handed down to him. As a result, the stakes for Punk seem much higher than for other wrestlers. Even better, it’s tied into his quest for the title.

Most of the WWE audience isn’t going to understand many of the things Punk said. But that’s fine. The broad strokes are clear and it encourages the fans to engage more. I don’t think this is an angle that’s doomed to short term, internet interest. I think it’s something that could have a lot broader positive impact. Most fans didn’t know the behind-the-scenes background of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash signing with WCW. But they understood there were two very different sides to take and that division and passion ignited the business.

There are a lot of people very frustrated with the WWE product. They feel like it’s not aimed at them as longtime wrestling fans. Punk, by expressing what he did in such strong terms, gives voice to that emotion. That in term invites those people back by acknowledging their complaints and giving them someone to support. There are a lot of obstacles to making this angle work as well as its potential. But there hasn’t been a better opportunity in a great many years for WWE to turn around its key business indicators.

Monday, June 20, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 06/20/11 from Baltimore, MD.

The Big News: CM Punk will attempt to win the WWE title from John Cena and then take the title with him out of the company.

Show Analysis:

The show began with CM Punk. Punk said he doesn’t trust the people with making decisions. He would prove prophetic. Punk said he is the best wrestler in the world, actually using the W word. He claimed to have soundly defeated Rey Mysterio and John Cena and said that wins and losses still mean something. Hopefully Vince doesn’t recognize that’s internet type talk. Punk said he is the number one contender and asked the GM to give him a title match at Money in the Bank. He threatened to do a sit in until granted the shot.

The GM said that would be taken under consideration and asked Punk to leave the ring. They did the same thing from last week filming right behind the computer as the lights blink to signal an e-mail and it’s the exact same text on the screen with no change. I have no idea why they shoot from that angle. Punk refused to leave. The GM said Punk was going to be number one contender but because of Punk’s disrespect, Punk would have to wrestle Alberto Del Rio for the number one contender spot later in the show. Punk started to complain and the GM announced it would now be a triple threat number one contender match with Punk, Del Rio and Rey Mysterio. Punk finally left. Punk was great here.

Kelly Kelly beat Brie Bella to win the women’s title. The choices for Brie’s opponent were Kelly with 53 percent of the vote, Beth Phoenix with 36 percent and Eve Torres with 11 percent. That’s not good for Eve. Brie choked Kelly. Kelly hit a Thesz press and bulldog. Kelly went for a victory roll but Brie dropped down like Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart at WrestleMania X. Kelly, however, rolled through for the pin. Kelly cried after winning. Jerry Lawler came into the ring to briefly interview her after the match. That’s apparently a regular new thing or maybe they have an angle planned but don’t want to telegraph it too much.

Mason Ryan beat Evan Bourne. The choices for Bourne’s opponent were Ryan with 51 percent, Sin Cara with 30 percent and Jack Swagger with 19 percent. The live crowd booed the choice of Ryan and it sure sucks we got a bad match when either of the other two options would have been much better. The poll seemed set up for Cara to win, although I seem to recall this sort of thing happening before back when WCW Saturday Night did interactive voting (via a hotline back then) and fans didn’t want to choose face vs. face matches.

Bourne hit some dropkicks on Ryan. The crowd began chanting “Batista” pretty loudly. Ryan used a clothesline, back breakers and a press slam. Bourne hit a head kick and used a horrendous looking small package for two. Bourne came off the ropes but was caught with the side effect for the win. Booker T was strangely calling the match as if Ryan was a face. I’m not sure if he thought Ryan was based on the voting or if he just decided to randomly cheerlead for Ryan like he does for Sheamus on Smackdown.

Kane beat Mark Henry in an arm wrestling match via DQ. Yes, they couldn’t even provide a finish to an arm wrestling contest. The fans selected an arm wrestling match with 52 percent of the vote instead of an over the top match at 35 percent or body slam challenge at 13 percent. I was hating the voters at this point and the live crowd booed again. They then started chanting “this is stupid.” They stalled forever, then arm wrestled forever, then Henry just punched Kane and that was that. Afterwards, Henry laid out Kane with the arm wrestling table, smashed Kane into the post, and slammed Kane through the announce table.

R. Truth came out and criticized the crowd. He said he got okeydoked by little jimmy at Capitol Punishment. Christian came out and said he feels where Truth is coming from. Christian complained about the people costing him the title when he had just won it. He complained about the referee at Capitol Punishment counting the pin when his foot was under the ropes and demanded justice. Truth said at least Christian had the title but little jimmy cost him his shot.

That brought out Miz, who called the other two whiners. Miz said his gripes are legitimate and complained about the referee stopping him from using the belt against Alex Riley at the PPV. They all started bickering. They all started saying “really?” Then they started arguing saying “Riley,” “Randy,” and “Jimmy.” Teddy Long came out and told them all to shut up. He announced Christian, Miz and Truth vs. Cena, Riley and Orton for the main event with people picking the stipulations. They didn’t explain why Long would have that authority. This segment was great, one of the best WWE comedy segments of the year.

Kofi Kingston beat Dolph Ziggler via DQ in a 2 of 3 falls match. 2 of 3 falls got 51 percent of the vote, Vickie Guerrero banned from ringside 31 percent and submission match 18 percent. Finally we got a good decision from the fans. Ziggler won the first fall after a zig zag on the floor during a commercial break. Ziggler gained control and nearly got a pin with the famouser before Kingston abruptly hit the S.O.S. for the win.

Ziggler took back over with offense to start the third fall. The two men traded pinning opportunities. Kingston hit a crossbody to the back for two. Ziggler tried to hit Kingston with the title but missed. Kingston hit trouble in paradise on the floor and brought Ziggler back into the ring but Ziggler grabbed the bottom rope on the pin attempt. Ziggler then hit Kingston with a microphone on the outside for the DQ. That was such a terrible finish after a relatively long match.

They announced Raw Roulette next week and that Shawn Michaels will be on the show. Plus, it will be two hours rather than three. These are positives all around.

CM Punk beat Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio in a triple threat falls count anywhere match to become number one contender. This was a great match, better than anything on the PPV last night and one of the better WWE TV matches of the year. Falls count anywhere got 66 percent of the vote, no disqualifications got 23 percent of the vote, and submission match got 11 percent of the vote. Ricardo Rodriguez was still not back, and the announcers said he is recuperating from injuries suffered at the hands of Big Show. Del Rio before the match cut a brief promo saying everything is setting up his destiny.

Punk power bombed Del Rio off the apron onto the floor for two. Mysterio then hit a senton off the apron onto Punk on the floor for two. And that was most of the falls count anywhere content of the match. Mysterio went for a double 619 but Del Rio got out of the way and Punk caught Mysterio. Del Rio went for the armbar on Mysterio but Punk kicked Del Rio in the back of the head. Punk covered Del Rio but Mysterio broke it up.

They did a tower of doom spot with Del Rio power bombing Punk and Punk simultaneously superplexing Mysterio. Del Rio tried to cover Mysterio and then Punk but couldn’t get either. Del Rio used a bridging German suplex on Mysterio but Punk broke up the pin. Del Rio charged at Mysterio but posted his shoulder. Mysterio hit a somersault senton on Mysterio and then ran across the ring for a tope onto Del Rio on the floor. Mysterio followed with a seated senton off the top on Punk for two.

Mysterio went for a top rope huracanrana on Punk but Punk avoided it and Del Rio caught Mysterio in the armbar. Punk broke that up with a leg drop off the ropes but only got two on Del Rio. Del Rio used a running enzuigiri on Punk, who fell to the outside. In the ring, Mysterio hit a 619 and top rope splash on Del Rio. However, Punk ran in, threw Mysterio into the post, and stole the pin. This was a tremendous match.

After the match, Punk said he will take the title from Cena at Money in the Bank. He then said that is also the day that his WWE contract ends. Punk vowed to leave the next day and said he will leave with the WWE title. Sadly, he didn’t threaten to take the WWE title to ROH.

Daniel Bryan beat Cody Rhodes in a no count out match. No count outs got 51 percent, a “paper bag match” 43 percent and collegiate rules 6 percent. Bryan hit a tope, kicks to the body and a suplex on the ramp. Back in the ring, Bryan hit a dropkick off the top. They traded rollups with Bryan getting one successfully for the win.

After the match, Bryan tried to put Rhodes in the LeBell lock but Ted DiBiase made the save. Rhodes hit the Alabama slam and roll of the dice on Bryan. They put a paper bag on Bryan’s head. Michael Cole was just burying Booker T and Jerry Lawler’s commentary during this match. It certainly seemed like Vince McMahon getting his jollies, but I think undermining the credibility of your face commentators isn’t smart.

Michael Cole won a dance competition over Vickie Guerrero. Cole got 47 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Lawler and 14 percent for Booker. I’m not sure what to make of that. Guerrero did a little dance that wasn’t bad and kissed Matt Striker. Michael Cole then came in the ring and was completely over the top doing goofy dances. He did a bad worm and spin-a-roonie. Guerrero received all boos from the crowd. Cole got some cheers mixed in with boos and was labeled the winner. Guerrero then slapped Cole. This wasn’t good, but it was better than I would have expected.

Randy Orton, John Cena and Alex Riley beat Miz, R. Truth and Christian in an elimination match. Elimination match received 79 percent of the vote compared to 15 percent for one fall to a finish and 6 percent for 20 minute time limit. Those other two options are so unappealing that it would seem WWE really wanted the elimination match for whatever reason. They blocked away a lot of time for this match so the elimination aspect made sense.

The heels worked over Orton to start. Orton caught Christian with a powerslam and tagged Riley. Riley came in and hit a spear and spine buster on Christian. He knocked Miz off the apron, but Miz came back in and attacked Riley. A brawl broke out with Miz hitting the skull crushing finale on Riley and Christian covering Riley for the pin.

The heels went back to work on Orton for a bit before he tagged Cena. Cena hit shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle on Miz. He went for the FU but Miz escaped and hit a back breaker/neck breaker combination. Miz then came off the top but Cena countered into the STF. Truth broke that up.

The heels once again got the heat on one of the faces, this time Cena. However, when Miz went for the skull crushing finale Cena escaped and hit the FU for the pin on Miz. Christian then missed a splash off the top on Cena and Cena finally got the tag to Orton. Orton hit clotheslines, a powerslam and a draping DDT on Truth. Truth missed the ax kick and Orton hit the RKO on Truth for the pin.

The last two falls came very quickly. Christian immediately came in and hit a spear on Orton for a pin, so that program appears as if it isn’t quite finished. Christian celebrated but Cena tried to get him in the FU. Christian escaped that but caught an RKO and Cena applied the STF for the submission. This was a good main event.

Final Thoughts:

This show was a big turnaround from last week’s effort. There still was some bad stuff, particularly in the first hour, but it was outweighed by plenty of good stuff. There was a top notch match, a top notch comedy segment and very good wrestling in general. But the clear highlight was CM Punk, who was tremendous on the microphone and in the ring. With Punk potentially taking some time off, it will likely have the effect of getting people thinking about just how great he is. He may be the best overall performer in the business right now. It’s not like Raw isn’t stacked with great heels in general, though, with Miz, Del Rio and Truth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 06/13/11 from Zack Ryder Country, USA.

The Big News: WWE celebrated the WWE All Stars video game with a nine hour extravaganza featuring 1 decent finish every 95 minutes.

Show Analysis:

Miz came out to start the show and labeled himself the all-time WWE All Star. He called Alex Riley a fraud and vowed to expose him. He then asserted Steve Austin is jealous of him and owes him an apology. Steve Austin came out and said Miz can talk but when it is time to fight he runs away. Miz started to say something but Austin told him to shut up. Austin said Riley has more guts than Miz and might be a bigger star than Miz someday.

Miz asked for permission to speak like a child but Austin told him he couldn’t and continued on. Austin grabbed Miz by the tie and said Miz and Riley would be in Piper’s Pit later in the show. Austin then told Miz to get out of the ring if he knows what is good for him. So Miz just backed off and left. Miz got completely punked out and treated like a joke here, for no good reason.

Alberto Del Rio then came out. Del Rio said Austin would pass the torch from the greatest superstar of Austin’s time to the greatest superstar of all time. Del Rio started talking about destiny and Austin replied that Del Rio’s immediate destiny was an ass whipping. He announced an immediate match between Kane and Del Rio.

Kane beat Alberto Del Rio via DQ. Kane missed a clothesline off the top. Del Rio got him in the armbar. Kane got to the ropes but Del Rio refused to break and was disqualified. This was an awful start to the show and terrible finish.

Big Show then literally ran out after Del Rio, which was quite the spectacle. Show demonstrated great intensity and wasn’t selling any injury from having his leg run over with a car. He started beating up Del Rio but Del Rio ran off. Show then beat the hell out of Ricardo Rodriguez until Kane had to pull Show off. Rodriguez sold this big. Austin announced Show vs. Del Rio for Capitol Combat. It seems to me that if you book an angle where a guy gets run over by a car, he ought to be gone for longer than three weeks.

Sin Cara, Daniel Bryan and Ezekiel Jackson beat Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase and Wade Barrett. They used the Sin Cara lighting for the match. Cara hit a springboard elbow and tagged Daniel Bryan. The heels worked over Bryan until he got the tag to Jackson. Jackson came in with shoulder blocks, the body slams and went for the torture rack. Jackson’s comeback got no reaction. Rhodes and DiBiase prevented the rack but Jackson sent them to the outside and pressed Bryan onto them on the floor. Jackson then tagged Cara and Cara used a springboard crossbody on Barrett for the win.

After a break, Hornswoggle was shooting t-shirts out to the crowd. Memo to people shooting t-shirts to the crowd: if they come back from commercial and show you shooting the shirts live, run away immediately because something horrible is about to happen to you. R. Truth came out. He thought the t-shirt gun looked like fun and wanted to try it. Then he started to threaten John Cena and Hornswoggle so Hornswoggle shot him with the gun.

Truth no sold the attack and grabbed Hornswoggle. Truth teased that he wouldn’t do anything but then kicked Hornswoggle in the head. Steve Austin on the screen said that Truth should pick on someone his own size and announced Truth vs. Morrison for later on Raw. Truth stomped Hornswoggle again for good measure. This was a good angle.

Sheamus beat Santino. Santino avoided the razor’s edge and used a judo throw. He hit the cobra but Sheamus kicked out quickly with a knee to the head. He followed with the Brogue kick and then applied the Texas cloverleaf for the submission. Cloverleaf kind of fits with the Irish identity, although Texas doesn’t quite so much.

Randy Orton came out and said it was good to be back on Raw. However, he said he wasn’t satisfied because Christian was in the building. He invited Christian to come out for a conversation. When Christian didn’t show up, Orton admitted he was lying and was looking to hurt Christian. Christian appeared on the screen and wanted to know why Orton is so angry when his whole career has been handed to him on a silver platter and Christian has had to fight for everything he has earned. The crowd reaction to Christian seemed to indicate a lot of people didn’t know he turned heel.

Christian said he wouldn’t come out there. Orton responded by saying that it was too bad Edge wasn’t there to carry Christian to the ring like he carried Christian throughout his career. Christian teased like he would come out but of course he stopped at the stage and security came out to stop Orton from coming after him. The anonymous GM said although Steve Austin was in charge, Orton had a concussion and couldn’t compete. The GM told Orton to leave or be stripped of the title. Orton left and Austin announced Christian vs. Rey Mysterio.

Rey Mysterio beat Christian via DQ. Coming back after a break, Christian was choking Mysterio in the ropes. He broke right at five and was disqualified. Yes, they did a DQ for not breaking a hold twice in the same show. And the second finish managed to be even more dreadful than the first.

Afterwards, Christian was going to hit a splash off the top rope. However, Mysterio got up and stopped him. Mysterio was going to give Christian a top rope splash but CM Punk ran out. Mysterio took him out but then like an idiot went back into the ring to stare at Punk with his back turned to Christian. Christian tried to take advantage with the kill switch but Mysterio got out and knocked the members of Nexus off the apron.

Mysterio went for the 619 on Christian but was caught by Mason Ryan and sent into the post. Ryan threw Mysterio back into the ring. Mysterio was finally beat up enough for the title challenger to do something against him, and Christian gave Mysterio the kill switch. This segment did nothing for Christian going into the pay-per-view.

Backstage, Steve Austin was on the phone. Vickie Guerrero screamed at him to get his attention. She then asked Austin to give Dolph Ziggler a US title match on Sunday. Austin said he would make the match but only if Ziggler dropped Guerrero as his manager. After much delay, Ziggler said he would drop her. Guerrero was furious but Austin then said he was just having fun with them and he already made the match earlier in the day. This was an amusing segment.

The match between R. Truth and John Morrison didn’t take place. Morrison didn’t come out when his music played. Truth went backstage and found Morrison selling his neck on the ground. Obviously, the idea was Truth attacked him before the match and Truth kind of implied that. Truth slammed a heavy container into Morrison, which looked good.

Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne beat Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger. The heels worked over Kingston. Kingston got the tag to Bourne. Bourne used a head scissors, double knee to the face and high knee on Swagger. Swagger applied the ankle lock but Bourne escaped. Kingston gave Swagger trouble in paradise and Bourne hit the shooting star press for the win.

Piper’s Pit began with Roddy Piper bringing up his boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania 2 in Long Island. Miz came out and said people tell him he’s the next Roddy Piper. Piper said there will never be another Piper and Miz is just a Piper wannabe. Miz retorted that he’s not like Piper at all. He noted he has been WWE champion and Piper hasn’t. In fairness, if Piper were around now he’d be a 14 time champion.

Miz said his time on the Real World was much better than They Live. Piper said he never saw the Real World and introduced Alex Riley. Riley said he decided to stop helping Miz when he realized he could beat Miz. Miz pointed out that he fired Riley. Piper did this silly, dated routine about Riley changing the questions on Sunday.

Miz suggested Piper bet with him on the result of the Riley-Miz match. Riley said Piper could beat Miz on Raw. Miz said he would put up $1,000 against Piper. What is this, 1972? Piper suggested $5,000. Austin on the screen then made the match with $5,000 on the line and Alex Riley as referee. Hold up. That fundamentally changes the previous agreement. Miz really ought not to be on the hook for that bet.

Roddy Piper beat Miz. Miz beat up Piper early. Alex Riley tried to stop him. Riley and Miz traded punches. Piper then rolled up Miz and Riley used a fast count for the fall. This was yet another crap finish.

Kelly Kelly, A.J., Eve Torres, Natalya, Beth Phoenix and Kaitlyn beat Maryse, Alicia Fox, Melina, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Rosa Mendes and Tamina. It started with Kelly and Brie. Brie immediately tagged Rosa. Kelly hit a Thesz press, stinkface and bulldog. She went to cover but Brie broke up the pin. A neatly organized brawl ensued with everyone leaving the ring in about 10 seconds. Kelly then hit the famouser on Rosa for the win. So, in summation, they booked a 14 person match that lasted one minute with only two people actually wrestling. The faces celebrated their win by doing the Rockettes thing to no audience reaction.

Backstage, Steve Austin was talking with Andy Leavine. CM Punk came in and Austin offered Punk a beer. They argued briefly. Punk thanked Austin for the match with John Cena later and said Austin set something in motion that will change the WWE landscape forever. Austin noted that Nexus will not be allowed at ringside.

Steve Austin came out to the ring. The anonymous GM told Austin he did a good job but the anonymous GM will be back next week. Austin said he was still the GM for this week and announced next week will be another three hour show with the fans selecting the matches and stipulations.

They blinked the lights and made the sound to indicate another e-mail from the GM. Only, the camera was right behind Michael Cole so you could see the screen remaining exactly the same as the lights blinked to signal a new message and Cole prepared to read off this unchanged screen. The e-mail sound kept going off. This made Austin mad so Michael Cole ran away into the crowd. The sound kept going out over the arena speakers even after Austin unplugged the computer. Austin poured beer over the computer and ran it over with the ATV.

This week’s WWE did you know announced that last night on USA, over 10 million viewers watched Tough Enough and Raw. That must have been quite the Sunday night lineup. The announcers quickly explained that it meant last week. If you add up Raw, Tough Enough and the Tough Enough replay last week and count each viewer on each show as entirely separate, you get almost 9.5 million viewers. So that’s basically true if you have very low standards for what constitutes truth.

CM Punk beat John Cena. Punk worked over Cena for a little while. As Cena was making his comeback, R. Truth came out through the crowd and was harassing a child. Cena was distracted and Punk hit the GTS for the win. Truth gave Cena the leaping downward spiral after the match. This completed the night’s theme of awful finishes.

Final Thoughts:

For the second straight week, WWE presented a terribly booked edition of Raw. Particularly striking is the WWE’s continued infatuation with terrible finishes. Every week they deliver one terrible finish after another, and somehow this is supposed to make you spend $50 on Sunday to see who wins additional matches. Instead, it teaches the audience that matches don’t matter, they don’t settle anything, and you’re not going to see feuds settled satisfactorily.

There are a bunch of factors for WWE’s long term pay-per-view decline, but these incessant horrendous finishes are right at the top of the list. Look at the people who draw on pay-per-view and the ratio of fuck finishes on their shows relative to the people who don’t. And at some point you ought to have the basic sense to recognize that match results have to matter again. People aren’t going to spend $50 for a show that resolves nothing and means nothing.

This is not that hard. The wrestlers in the top matches decisively win a series of matches and then they face each other on pay-per-view to settle who the best is. This isn’t rocket science. It is in fact exceedingly simple and is how wrestling has basically always been done. The whole point of protecting wrestlers with screw job finishes is so the losers can draw better in the future, but the point is completely moot because nobody in WWE is drawing.

We get a seemingly endless string of distraction finishes, interference finishes, count outs, disqualifications and assorted other bullshit. Then the pay-per-view comes, shock of all shocks nobody orders, and we’re told pay-per-view is a dying business. No, it’s not. But you have to actually give people a reason to spend their money and this incessant nonsense does not accomplish that goal in the slightest.

Monday, June 06, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 06/06/11 from Richmond, VA.

The Big News: Steve Austin announced Andy Leavine as the winner of Tough Enough at the beginning of Raw and stuck around for more action.

Show Analysis:

Raw started with the conclusion of Tough Enough in the Raw ring. The show was built around making you want to see Andy Leavine win over Luke Robinson and all the coaches said they thought Andy should win. The announcers put over Andy’s “it factor” and charisma, which I never saw watching every episode of the show. In a positive sign, the crowd reacted to the wrestlers based on how they came across on the show, as opposed to the NXT crowds where it’s often clear only a fraction of the audience knows who anybody is.

Unfortunately, Andy couldn’t grasp the simple psychology that he was the good guy against the arrogant heel Luke, and diminished his crowd reactions throughout by acting cocky and aggressive himself when questioned by Steve Austin rather than just acting like the humble, nice family guy they were trying to portray him as. Vince McMahon came out and was going to announce the winner, but Austin said it’s his show and he would pick the winner. He announced Andy as the winner.

Vince proceeded to slapped Andy and Andy took this huge bump and sold like he was shot based on this slap from a 65-year-old man. And for good measure, Austin gave Andy the stunner. You know, if I spent 10 weeks on a competition theoretically designed to create new stars, I wouldn’t bury the winner at the end in front of the largest audience he has ever appeared before. Oh well, it’s not like Andy showed much beyond being the tallest of the group.

With Vince and Austin still in the ring, R. Truth came out dressed in a confederate army uniform. Part of Truth’s charm as a heel is his zaniness, but if you want him to be a headliner it would be unwise to turn him into a clown. Truth said the GM ordered him to apologize so he apologized to big jimmy, little jimmy and the soda. Austin said he should apologize for his attire.

Truth said that he was in Richmond, the capital of the confederacy. Truth said the confederacy had a good idea, secession. He said he is seceding from WWE because there is a companywide conspiracy against him. Vince told some jokes and said Truth should come talk with him about it. Truth did a gag where he can’t spell, even phonetically. It’s funny who tends to have these sorts of jokes written for them in WWE and who doesn’t.

Miz interrupted the scene. He said that if it wasn’t for Alex Riley, he would still be WWE champion. Miz said he deserves one last title shot. Alex Riley came out and said Miz deserves another beatdown instead. John Cena joined them and told some joke. He said Miz doesn’t deserve another shot, commended Riley for beating up Miz, and suggested Truth take off the outfit. The GM sent in an e-mail but Vince told Michael Cole to shut up. Vince then made Cena and Riley vs. Truth and Miz with Steve Austin as special guest referee. That’s the third special referee main event on Raw or Smackdown in the past two weeks. This opening segment was a debacle on a variety of levels.

Santino Marella beat Michael McGillicutty. Santino clotheslined McGillicutty from the ring and proceeded to shake the ropes and do Ultimate Warrior mannerisms. McGillicutty brushed aside a dropkick attempt and hit a dropkick of his own. He took over for a bit before Santino came back and did more Warrior mannerisms. He set up for the cobra but David Otunga pulled McGillicutty out of the ring. Vladimir Kozlov took out Otunga. Back in the ring, McGillicutty couldn’t hit his neck breaker and Santino used the cobra for the win. So it looks like McGillicutty and Otunga vs. Marella and Kozlov is the next tag title program.

Beth Phoenix and Kelly Kelly beat the Bellas. Kelly hit a huracanrana but was caught with a stun gun and the Bellas gained control. After a bit, Kelly got the tag to Beth. Beth hit clotheslines, an inverted atomic drop, a slingshot suplex and the glam slam for the win. Beth got an encouraging positive reaction for someone that hasn’t been on Raw or Smackdown a lot recently.

Backstage, Booker T was teaching Trish Stratus to do the spin-a-roonie. Interestingly, it involves channeling power from your hand more than leg and hip dexterity. Jack Swagger interrupted and said that if he was the Tough Enough trainer, all of the students would be winners. He challenged Booker to a match and Booker accepted.

Rey Mysterio beat CM Punk. Prior to the match, Punk pointed out he beat Mysterio again last week and claimed Mysterio has never beaten him. The announcers later pointed out that wasn’t true. Punk said he’d beat Mysterio again to prove the power of the new Nexus. Punk went after Mysterio’s back. Mysterio came back with punches, kicks and a crossbody but was cut off with a powerslam. Mysterio took out Mason Ryan on the apron, hit a DDT, and hit a splash off the top for the win. WWE has become heavily reliant on circular booking, but this was particularly striking in that regard.

They aired a new Capitol Punishment video with R. Truth posing questions for President Obama. Backstage, John Cena met with Alex Riley and made it clear he doesn’t trust Riley. They are billing next Monday’s three hour Raw as All Star Night.

Alberto Del Rio came out and reiterated that what happened to Big Show was an accident. He invited Show to come out for an apology. Ricardo Rodriguez came out dressed up like Show with a big fake belly and crutches. Del Rio said Show got what he deserved because bad things happen to bad people and they did some crappy comedy. Del Rio told Show not to make Del Rio his enemy. This segment sucked.

Kofi Kingston beat Zack Ryder. Dolph Ziggler was on commentary to build his feud with Kingston. Kingston hit a dropkick and Ryder responded by chestbumping and piefacing him. Ryder hit a neck breaker and kick to the face. However, Kingston responded with a clothesline, boom drop and trouble in paradise for the win. Poor Zack.

Booker T beat Jack Swagger via count out. They mostly just traded chops and punches back and forth. Booker hit a kick and Swagger just took the count out. That was an awful finish. The heel walking off can be okay sometimes if it’s a champion in trouble trying to save his title or there’s a big feud and it sells the face is out of control looking for revenge, but a wrestler just giving up on a match with an announcer three minutes in buries him with absolutely no positive benefit whatsoever.

Afterwards, Evan Bourne attacked Swagger from behind and ran away. Swagger chased after Bourne and was caught with a Booker T ax kick and Bourne shooting star press. They did a double spin-a-roonie that looked good.

R. Truth and Miz beat John Cena and Alex Riley via disqualification. Miz ran away from Riley until Truth cut off Riley. The heels took over until Riley finally made the tag. Cena came in with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle on Miz. He went for the FU but Truth made the save. Cena threw Truth out of the ring and put the STF on Miz. Miz got to the ropes. Truth brought in a chair but Cena dropkicked it into Truth. Riley brought in the briefcase and teased hitting Cena with it for no apparent reason before then hitting Miz instead. Austin gave Miz the stunner and Cena covered for the win.

The GM then announced Cena and Riley were disqualified for Austin’s actions. Another big win for Truth over Cena. The GM then announced that because of what Austin did, Austin will be guest GM next week. So apparently the GM is bipolar. Austin then attacked Michael Cole, poured beer on him, and stunned him.

Final Thoughts:

This show sucked on just about every level.