WWE Raw Report
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.
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.
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.