Monday, August 29, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 08/29/11 from Tulsa, OK.

The Big News: CM Punk will wrestle Triple H at Night of Champions.

Show Analysis:

HHH came out to start the show. He said that he’s there to make WWE the best it can be so for the foreseeable future Raw and Smackdown wrestlers will all be on Raw. They’re billing these as Raw supershows. That got a mild cheer from the crowd. HHH said Kevin Nash has been lying and told Nash to come out and tell him why he has been lying.

CM Punk came out instead. He wanted HHH to admit that HHH and Nash were in it together from the beginning. Kevin Nash then came out to the old NWO music. Nash admitted he lied, but only in that he had his driver call John Laurinaitis and tell him he was in a wreck. Nash explained he did it because HHH wouldn’t let him take care of things with Punk. Nash said Punk has been trying to make a fool out of Nash, HHH and Stephanie. Nash asked HHH what kind of man HHH is.

HHH responded that he is the kind of man who doesn’t expect to be lied to by his best friend. He added that he can’t trust Nash any more. He told Nash to leave and not come back. Nash said he lied about the accident but not about the text. He then said that while HHH was out last week, Laurinaitis signed Nash to a lucrative contract. Nash said that if HHH fires him he will sit at home and get paid. HHH said he wouldn’t fire Nash but that the lying would stop immediately.

Punk interrupted by pretending to throw up. He said he was acting just like they are and nobody believes what they are saying. Punk accused Nash of doing HHH’s dirty work. He said the clique is back, just like the click of remote controls changing the channel when Nash is on TV and the click of Nash’s knees when he walks. Nash suggested Nash vs. Punk. Punk was fine with this but said HHH would have to ask Stephanie first. He added that HHH doesn’t wear the pants in the family but does wear Stephanie’s panties. Punk was quite heelish and annoying in this segment. I’m not sure if that was intentional. HHH made Nash vs. Punk for Night of Champions.

Randy Orton beat Dolph Ziggler. Orton went for the draping DDT but Vickie Guerrero distracted Orton and Ziggler back dropped Orton to the floor. Ziggler then hit the zig zag on the floor and worked Orton over. Orton came back with a superplex. Ziggler took back over with a famouser. Orton responded with a slingshot and neck breaker. Orton went for the punt but was caught with a superkick for two. Orton hit the draping DDT but Ziggler countered an RKO attempt into a sleeper. Orton spun out, pressed Ziggler up and down to the canvas then hit the RKO for the win. This was a very good match.

John Cena came out and said that Alberto Del Rio’s actions speak louder than his words. Cena said Del Rio claimed he would be a champion with honor and dignity but instead has acted like a coward and douchebag. Cena threatened to kick Del Rio’s teeth so far down his throat that Del Rio’s mouth will become his anus. I’m not sure that’s physically possible.

Cena called Del Rio out but Mark Henry came out instead. Henry said he has destroyed a bunch of people, will destroy Cena too, and will take the title at Night of Champions. Christian then came out and said Cena makes him sick because he can’t stand someone whining and complaining until they get what they want. The idea, obviously, is Christian is projecting on Cena.

Cena responded with his annoying, obnoxious humor and then said Christian and Henry could come get some. Christian tried to set up a two on one but then Sheamus ran out to even the odds. I don’t know about this “Great White” moniker they are starting to use for Sheamus. Christian left with the odds even. Henry then thought things over and left as well. Backstage, Laurinaitis was going to make Cena and Sheamus vs. Henry and Christian but HHH said he already made that match and reminded Laurinaitis that HHH is the boss.

CM Punk beat Miz via DQ. Prior to the match, Miz said he has been fearlessly speaking his mind long before Punk and vowed to make an example of Punk. Miz worked over Punk with a knee lift, neck breaker/back breaker combination and threw Punk into the post. Lawler is really degenerating as an announcer. He was terrible on this show, earlier running down Punk again and talking about how Lou Albano wouldn’t get involved in matches when Vickie Guerrero did. And here, after Miz beat down Punk an unusually long time for a Raw midcard match, Lawler became incredulous when Michael Cole pointed out Miz was dominating. It was like Lawler wasn’t even watching the match.

Punk came back with the Savage elbow and set up for go 2 sleep when R. Truth ran in for the DQ. Punk fought them off and gave Truth the go 2 sleep. Kevin Nash then came out lumbering to the ring (Cole actually used that term, too, right as I was typing it). Punk was ready for him but Miz jumped Punk from behind. Nash then gave Punk the jackknife.

Sin Cara (Jorge Arias) beat Jack Swagger. Cara hit an Asai moonsault early. Vickie Guerrero came to ringside as Swagger took over, but Ziggler then came out to argue with Guerrero. Ziggler distracted Swagger and Cara hit a springboard DDT, springboard somersault senton and springboard moonsault for the win. Cara kind of botched a few moves early but the finish looked great.

Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston beat David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty. They are now billing Bourne and Kingston Air Boom. Lawler went back to burying Otunga and McGillicutty during this match, calling them boring. This was close to a squash. Kingston hit a springboard crossbody, Bourne hit a springboard crossbody to the outside and Kingston used trouble in paradise on McGillicutty for the pin. After the match, McGillicutty and Otunga confronted Lawler. Otunga took off Lawler’s headset and threw in at Lawler. It’s hard to take Lawler’s side in this given how disrespectful he is towards them.

Brie Bella beat Kelly Kelly. Backstage, Natalya and Beth Phoenix were shown running down both women. Kelly hit a whirlybird. Brie went for a baseball slide but caught Eve Torres. As Kelly checked on Eve, the Bellas did the switch and Nikki got the pin on Kelly. They then aired a video package on Alex Riley.

Sheamus and John Cena beat Mark Henry and Christian. The heels worked over Sheamus. Cena got the tag and came in with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle on Christian. He went for the FU but Christian escaped. Christian went for a tornado DDT but Cena got out. Cena hit a powerslam and knocked Henry off the apron. Christian went for a springboard crossbody but was caught and Cena went for the FU again. Christian grabbed the ropes so Cena countered into the STF. Henry broke that up.

Henry clotheslined Sheamus and went for the old Big Bossman move jumping on Sheamus hanging on the ropes. Sheamus moved out of the way and Henry flew through the ropes to the outside, which looked crazy. Sheamus hit a shoulder block off the apron onto Henry. Christian hit a spear on Cena in the ring for two. Christian went for the kill switch but Sheamus gave him the Brogue kick and Cena hit the FU for the win. It doesn’t matter since it’s just a TV match, but it was weird to see a title challenger get pinned the night before a title cage match blowoff.

Speaking of weird, they cut backstage. HHH proceeded to inform CM Punk that his match with Kevin Nash had been cancelled by the board of directors and that instead Punk would be wrestling one-on-one with HHH. Huh? Did they change their minds in the middle of the show?

Final Thoughts:

This was a solid, entertaining show. With twice the wrestlers available, there is a temptation to cram too much stuff in, but they wisely elected to give matches and promos time to breathe and it paid off. The Punk/Nash/HHH thing is weird but I guess we’ll see what they have planned. I tend to think they did it for some specific reason but it’s certainly not something you see very often.

The biggest news item was the decision to make Raw shows (and maybe Smackdown shows) dual brand. I think it’s a bad, shortsighted decision. One of their biggest problems is lack of depth and this is going to lead to more focus on the same guys and less depth. Plus, the show already feels too much like the same guys and this is likely to give more TV time to the Cenas and Ortons of the world.

With that said, they’ve done dual brand Raws more often than not the past few years, so it’s not like it’s a big change. They’re more just codifying the status quo, although they had kept the brands pretty separate the past few months. A potential big positive that could come out of this is that they have too many titles and hopefully this will encourage them to reduce the number of them. I think merging the WWE and world titles in particular could be a huge positive. If all the guys are on each show, there’s really no reason left for two main titles except for house shows and I don’t think that makes a difference at all on house shows anyway.

Monday, August 22, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 08/15/11 from Edmonton….Alberta, Canada.

The Big News: John Cena beat CM Punk with help from Kevin Nash to earn a title shot at Alberto Del Rio for Night of Champions.

Show Analysis:

Alberto Del Rio came out to start the show and they said that Rey Mysterio will be out of action for months because of Del Rio. Before Del Rio could even introduce himself, John Cena interrupted. Cena said he will take the title from Del Rio and hurt Del Rio. Cena made fun of the idea that Del Rio owns all these cars. He added that there’s only one guy who can go toe to toe with him and Del Rio isn’t Punk. At least Cena’s goofy joking is mostly gone at this point.

CM Punk came out and said this was a rerun with Cena wanting another title match. Punk said he beat Cena twice so he should get the title shot. He dropped a Jack Tunney reference. Punk noted that both he and Cena have had trouble with HHH in the past. He said that if Cena won, Nash would have gone after Cena. Both Punk and Cena wanted to cash in their title rematch clause. Del Rio said he wouldn’t defend against either because he defended last week. He told Punk to stop crying.

That brought out HHH. HHH said Del Rio would be wrestling next and that Cena and Punk can’t just use their rematch clauses whenever they want. HHH said that Punk and Cena would get to decide who gets their shot first. He announced Del Rio will defend at Night of Champions against the winner of a Punk vs. Cena match in the main event of Raw.

Alberto Del Rio beat John Morrison. Del Rio worked Morrison over. Morrison missed an Asai moonsault and Del Rio threw Morrison into the barricade. Morrison back dropped Del Rio to the floor and Del Rio took a scary bump on the back of his head. Del Rio hit a bridging German suplex for two. Morrison hit a twisting DDT for two. Morrison used a huracanrana for two. Morrison hit a springboard kick but Del Rio rolled out of the way of starship pain and threw Morrison into the post. Del Rio applied the armbar and they did the dumb spot where Morrison just sits in the fully extended armbar for a long while before finally tapping. This was a good match.

Eve Torres beat Nikki Bella. Kelly Kelly and Brie Bella were in the corners. They did a pre-match inset interview where Beth Phoenix and Natalya said they wouldn’t reveal their true motives. They had an ungodly amount of makeup on, particularly Natalya. That’s not a knock, as they are heels, but I wonder if it’s something intentional or just a one week oddity. Eve won a sloppy match with a standing moonsault and swinging neck breaker.

Alex Riley beat Jack Swagger. Swagger had Vickie Guerrero in his corner, so Dolph Ziggler came out and told Vickie to leave. In the midst of that, Vickie fell and hurt her ankle. Swagger went out, shoved Ziggler, and told him to leave. Swagger went back into the ring and was rolled up by Riley for the win.

HHH came to the ring and called Kevin Nash to come out. There were some Diesel chants. Nash said he got a text from HHH and thought he was doing HHH a favor. HHH was unhappy and wanted Nash to say he didn’t get a text from HHH. HHH said that Nash doesn’t work in WWE. Nash said yes, so he doesn’t have to get CM Punk over. Nash said HHH knows he would have killed Punk. HHH told Nash that Nash can call out Punk, just not in WWE. He then asked Nash to leave.

CM Punk came out and said he wanted to get to the bottom of this. He referred to Nash as Big Lazy and referenced Nash’s dyed hair. Punk suggested Nash, HHH or Stephanie McMahon might have been behind the hit, and he doesn’t believe either HHH or Nash. The way WWE usually handles these things, the clear presentation of three suspects would seem to suggest it’s not any of the three. Punk said Nash got off easy last week and this week he would be kicking Nash’s ass.

Punk went after Nash when HHH tried to stop him. Punk told HHH to get his hands off Punk and said HHH has never liked him. HHH told Punk not to make the mistake of thinking HHH isn’t the same guy he has always been. HHH threatened to leave Punk unconscious. Punk responded by saying HHH’s balls are in his wife’s purse. Nash then punched Punk. Nash and HHH left arguing. Backstage, HHH told Nash to leave and Nash said HHH has changed.

Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston beat David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty to win the tag titles. The challengers got the best of McGillicutty early before the champions took over on Kingston. Bourne got the tag and went to town. Kingston hit trouble in paradise and Bourne hit the shooting star on Otunga for the win. Backstage, they had a little celebration which is always a nice touch. Elsewhere backstage, John Laurinaitis told HHH that Nash had been in a car accident. HHH left for the hospital and Laurinaitis said he would take care of things on Raw.

Santino was coming out when he was jumped from behind by R. Truth and Miz. They destroyed him and took the microphone. Truth said Punk and Cena are in on the conspiracy. He said they sit around the conspiracy table and conspire. For some reason, that line really cracked me up. Miz agreed there is a conspiracy. He noted he was champion and beat Cena at Mania and now he’s arguing with fast food pitchmen. Miz said he’s sick of seeing Santino on Raw when Santino hasn’t won a match in five years. Miz said they are sick of being underutilized and now they will take opportunities. Truth then did a new rap over the same song. He had new lyrics and the hook is now “you suck.” This was a very entertaining segment even though it did kind of brand these two as midcard guys.

John Cena beat CM Punk. The crowd was pro-Punk and when Cena threw his shirt into the crowd it was thrown back. With the crowd behind Cena, Lawler dropped in a bizarre-o-land reference. Bizarre-o-land has conquered a lot of territory. Punk hit a springboard clothesline and went for GTS but Cena countered into an STF attempt. Punk avoided it initially but Cena tried again and applied it. Punk got to the ropes. Punk hit GTS but Cena kicked out.

Punk went for the Macho Man top rope elbow but missed. Cena hit a top rope rocker dropper but Punk kicked out. Cena went for the FU but Punk escaped and hit a running knee for two. Cena hit the FU but Punk kicked out. Punk hit a crossbody off the top but Cena rolled through and went for the FU. Punk escaped and rolled up Cena for two.

Punk hit a high knee and was going for the GTS when Nash showed up on the stage yelling that this wasn’t over. Punk did the “stop trying to win, turn your back on your opponent, and stare at the guy on the stage” move and of course when he turned around Cena of course hit the FU for the win. Punk should be making fun of that shit like Scream making fun of the dumb blondes running up the stairs, not falling for it. With that said, this was an excellent match. Alberto Del Rio attacked Cena after the match. John Laurinaitis tried to pull Del Rio off but Del Rio kept attacking.

Final Thoughts:

This was an entertaining show with good matches and good promos. Cena vs. Del Rio and Punk vs. Nash still has the limitations mentioned last week, but that’s nothing new. Perhaps the most promising sign on this show was the commentary. After the commentary was completely out of control last week on Raw and Smackdown, it felt like there was a conscientious effort to improve things this week. They let Jim Ross do a lot more in calling the action and Michael Cole was toned down so many notches as to be almost unrecognizable from what he has been recently. As a result, the commentary was much, much better. It was both significantly more listenable and effective in getting over the angles.

Monday, August 15, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 08/15/11 from San Diego, CA.

The Big News: John Cena is after Alberto Del Rio’s title.

Show Analysis:

HHH came out to start the show. He said people are upset about what happened at SummerSlam. He apologized to John Cena for the mistake. He acknowledged that Cena’s foot was on the rope when the pinfall was counted. HHH said he had no problem raising Punk’s hand and that he had nothing to do with what happened afterwards despite being friends with Kevin Nash. HHH said he left tickets for Nash but had no knowledge that he’d attack Punk. He said he invited Nash to Raw and Nash would be there to explain what he did.

HHH introduced Alberto Del Rio as the undisputed champion. Del Rio said it was his destiny to be champion. He vowed to represent the people with honesty, respect and passion. He said he would in the lobby signing autographs and taking pictures, which was an amusing line. For his first title defense, he announced he would be wrestling Rey Mysterio. Del Rio said he started his WWE career beating Mysterio and when he wakes up in the morning he always feels like beating Mysterio.

John Morrison beat R. Truth in a falls count anywhere match. Truth now comes out to the instrumentals from his What’s Up song. Michael Cole said Morrison had been waiting months for this match and Morrison in an inset interview said he hadn’t gotten to Truth yet, so apparently they are just pretending these two didn’t wrestle in a singles match last week. Morrison hit a twisting plancha to the floor and then a springboard kick off the barricade on the floor. Truth took control brawling into the crowd. Morrison suplexed Truth onto an office chair and then hit a running knee for the pin. This was a good match.

They did an “angle” with Miz that was just a superficial excuse to spend a segment plugging a corporate sponsor. Miz said he’d be a better spokesman for the sponsor while fans booed the current spokesman.

Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres beat Brie and Nikki Bella. Kelly used the stinkface on a Bella. The Bellas worked over Kelly’s leg briefly. Kelly got the tag to Eve. Eve hit some kicks but was tripped by the other Bella. Eve then countered a suplex into a neck breaker and hit a moonsault for the win. After the match, Beth Phoenix and Natalya came out on the ramp. They reiterated their group name of the Divas of Doom. They need to raise Curtis Iaukea from the dead so he can explain that Beth has drank from the goblet of darkness and Natalya has crossed the burning sands of the Sahara desert and slayed the beast on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Kevin Nash came to the ring and thanked HHH for the time. He noted HHH as a longtime friend and godfather of his son. Nash said he got a text from a friend at SummerSlam saying, “Hey big man, no matter what happens in the main event, stick the winner after the match.” Nash said that came from a friend and told Punk it’s just business. Nash said HHH is claiming to not know anything about it, and Nash told HHH they need to get on the same page. Nash didn’t seem to explicitly say HHH told him to do it, but it was certainly strongly implied.

Punk came out and said he didn’t believe that Nash and HHH aren’t on the same page. He asked Nash whether he would jump off a bridge if HHH told him to and added he thought that would be good for business. Punk said what Nash did proof Nash has no idea what’s good for business. Nash told Punk to watch his mouth. Punk told Nash to watch the show because Punk says whatever he wants to whoever he pleases. Nah responded that Punk’s world has just changed.

Punk said that the story Nash is telling paints HHH as a liar, but maybe Nash is the liar. Nash asked if Punk wanted to see the text. Punk read what he said was a text from his niece where she thought Nash was dead. Punk said Nash isn’t dead, just his career. Punk added that he is pissed at a lot of people. He said Del Rio isn’t one of them because Del Rio picked the right spot but that HHH is running amok and bringing his cronies back.

Nash responded by saying HHH shook things up. Punk said he’s the guy who shook things up. Nash called Punk an indy-riffic wannabe who has been in WWE five years with only two main events. Punk said that Nash called Eddie Guerrero a vanilla midget and asked what Nash knows about main event talent. Punk noted it is not 1994 but 2011.

Nash said that in 1996 with Scott Hall he changed the business and got everyone including Punk guaranteed money. Nash said Punk should be thanking him. He called Punk a guy who looks like a short order cook from a Pikeville waffle house. Nash told Punk to take a shower, hit the weights, and get a clue.

Punk responded that he would rather walk into a company as CM Punk and leave as CM Punk than show up as Oz, Vinnie Vegas or Big Daddy Cool Diesel. Punk was ready to fight when a ton of security came out to block him. Punk said that with all the security out here maybe HHH would be free and that he would go try to find out what’s going on from HHH.

This segment was entertaining, but too inside with tons of burials going both ways. The previous Punk promos have dealt with very understandable big picture themes about WWE. This, by contrast, was about a bunch of subjects that I don’t think a lot of audience knows about or understands.

John Laurinaitis met with Kevin Nash backstage. Laurinaitis said the way Punk spoke about him and Nash was uncalled for. He said he wanted to speak with Nash about something and they walked off. Later, the announcers also read a tweet from Shawn Michaels and speculated he might be involved in all this.

Jack Swagger beat Alex Riley. Dolph Ziggler did commentary with Vickie Guerrero and the focus of the match was mostly on the commentary. Everyone was burying everyone else back and forth. When Lawler was ragging on Vickie, Ziggler retorted that she’s in better shape than Lawler. As Riley was making his comeback on Swagger, Vickie took Jim Ross’ hat and got on the apron. Riley had the cover but the referee was distracted. Swagger took advantage of that to try to hit the gut wrench power bomb. They badly blew the spot twice before Riley finally got up for it and Swagger covered for the pin. Ziggler then stomped on Ross’ hat after the match.

This segment was a disaster on every level. It was so mean spirited in a bunch of different directions and a number of the participants seemed uncomfortable about that. The commentary is just out of control these days and seems much more about Vince McMahon burying and bullying than getting the product over. And then there’s the subject of the finish of the match, which may have been the worst looking non-female Raw finish in years.

Backstage, Jack Swagger thanked Vickie Guerrero for her help. He said that Vickie doesn’t need to prove anything to Ziggler after what she has done as a manager. He said Vickie looks great and is a great manager. He noted that great managers in the past have had multiple clients and suggested Vickie expand her roster. Elsewhere, Punk ran into Stephanie McMahon. She said she was sorry Punk lost the title but that in the end people always get what they deserve.

Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston beat David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty. The commentary was again the story in this match. Michael Cole buried Swagger for the previous finish. Lawler buried McGillicutty and Otunga and called them the bland leading the bland. Cole then went back to burying Jim Ross. WWE’s commentary tells you such a story about the company. Anyway, the heels worked over Bourne. The faces made their comeback with Kingston hitting trouble in paradise and Bourne hitting the shooting star for the win.

Alberto Del Rio beat Rey Mysterio. Del Rio worked over Mysterio. Mysterio hit a senton off the top and went for 619 but was caught with a clothesline for two. Del Rio hit an enzuigiri for another two. Mysterio countered an armbar attempt into a rollup for a very close two. Mysterio hit the 619 but Del Rio got up his knees on the top rope splash and covered for the pin. This was a very good match.

Del Rio attacked Mysterio after the match until John Cena made the save. Cena was heavily booed despite saving the hometown hero from the now top heel. Cena said he is angry, particularly at Del Rio for capitalizing after Cena and Punk left everything in the ring. He said Del Rio is a target who got lucky cashing in the briefcase. Cena said that if Del Rio defends against him, Del Rio won’t be so lucky. Cena concluded that Del Rio’s destiny is Cena whipping his ass.

Final Thoughts:

For quite a while now, I’ve been giving WWE the benefit of the doubt on booking direction, because I liked the potential of the story they were telling so much. I should have known better. All signs point to the WWE booking team being as inept as ever, with no clue on how to capitalize on a great story that’s easy to tell.

The CM Punk storyline was really smart for a number of big reasons. For one, it felt real. The story of wrestlers who don’t like today’s corporate WWE against the forces who like that WWE just fine had the potential to involve disillusioned fans and infuse real stakes into the product. For two, it was fresh. Rather than the same guys feuding in the same way, it offered something that felt genuinely different. Yet here we are just two months later, and where are we?

Well, the title’s now on Alberto Del Rio, an 80s style cartoon character without any semblance of reality and who doesn’t fit into the story of fresh, rebellious newcomers into the established status quo at all. He’s fresh but his whole character is that he has been gifted all the advantages in the world. He’s clearly what WWE looks for, but isn’t associated as one of their most favored acts. The story they are teasing is he’s the chosen corporate champ feuding with the upstarts Cena and Punk, and that dynamic is all wrong. It’s the same idea, but the wrestlers are miscast in roles that don’t have the reality that made the angle interesting. And Del Rio’s immediate adversary? Why, John Cena of course. It’s Cena vs. Generic Heel for the title part 82,347.

Then there’s the matter of CM Punk. They’re kind of playing with the idea that Punk was screwed by the establishment at SummerSlam, but really it’s not much of a claim given that he only beat Cena because of HHH. Cena, who doesn’t fit as an anti-authority figure in the slightest, has the strongest claim to being screwed by the authority. Punk, meanwhile, is trading insider jabs with a 52-year-old man with a broken down body and a long established history of burying the guys he’s supposed to be getting over. Punk’s back in the middle while they try to transfer what he has to Cena, which isn’t going to work.

With the battle for the future direction of the WWE pretty much settled (status quo wins), we’re left with titles as the main hook for the top programs. That’s a shame, because after a period of hotshotting on top of hotshotting, they’ve changed their two top titles seven times in the past month. Week-to-week booking and individual “surprises” trump a focused, long term direction.

So, we’re back pretty much where we started. This show wasn’t bad from an entertainment standpoint. It had a couple good matches and the Punk/Nash segment was interesting if nothing else. WWE has enough talent that they aren’t going to produce terrible shows week in and week out. But my hope that WWE could get people genuinely invested in the product again and turn around the steady long term declines in their key business indicators is pretty much gone. It’s the same old shit and I was a fool to have expected any different.

Monday, August 08, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 08/08/11 from San Jose, CA.

The Big News: HHH announced he will be the special guest referee for the CM Punk vs. John Cena title match at SummerSlam.

Show Analysis:

HHH came out to start the show. He suggested that Sunday night the WWE will change forever. He noted there has been a lot of change lately. He then announced that he would be the special referee for the John Cena vs. CM Punk match. HHH said he’s the only guy he can trust. That announcement got a negative reaction from some of the crowd. HHH announced a contract signing for later in the evening. When John Cena came out for his match, he had brief words in the ring with HHH about the special referee announcement.

John Cena beat Jack Swagger. Cena hit a snap suplex and applied a headlock and armbar. Swagger took over with punches, a Vader bomb and Irish whip. Swagger went after Cena’s leg and went for the ankle lock, but Cena countered out. Cena then hit the shoulder blocks, Cena slam, five knuckle and FU for the win.

Alberto Del Rio backstage said CM Punk isn’t the voice of the voiceless but the voice of the gutless (I think anyway, it sounded more like voice of the godless). Del Rio said Punk ran like a coward at Money in the Bank and vowed to show later on Raw what would have happened in Chicago. Elsewhere, R. Truth did a lame “comedy” promo about spiders. On the plus side, it’s better they waste this garbage on Truth than Cena.

Rey Mysterio was supposed to wrestle Miz, but Miz attacked Mysterio from behind as Mysterio was coming out. Miz threw Mysterio into the metal WWE logo repeatedly and went to the ring. Miz said he doesn’t know who he is facing at SummerSlam and there has been too much emphasis on the title match rather than him. Miz wanted to be declared the winner of the match by forfeit but HHH instead ordered a new bout.

Miz beat Kofi Kingston. Kingston was in control early but missed a pescado and was given a clothesline on the floor. Miz worked over Kingston. Miz went for his neck breaker/back breaker combination but Kingston avoided it and hit a springboard frog crossbody. Miz hit a DDT. Kingston missed trouble in paradise but then avoided the skull crushing finale. However, Miz then dropped Kingston on the top rope and hit the skull crushing finale for the win.

Backstage, Punk criticized HHH for being egotistical and said HHH should have stayed out of the Punk-Cena match. Punk said HHH needs the spotlight but the best thing for business would be to stay out. He added that his beating Cena would be good for business. That got some boos.

CM Punk beat Alberto Del Rio. This result wasn’t surprising but it was surprising to see Del Rio treated like not much of a threat. They went back and forth. Punk went for the GTS but Del Rio escaped and threw Punk into the post. Del Rio went for the armbar but Punk kicked him in the head and hit the GTS for the win.

Beth Phoenix beat Eve Torres. They botched some spots horribly and the crowd turned on the match. Like usual, it was death for Eve Torres’ ambition. Beth won with the glam slam. Beth after the match said she’s sick of women like Eve and Kelly making a mockery of the women’s division. That actually got some cheers after the way the match went. Beth said there would be no more booty popping, splits or stinkfaces. Beth said she had a question for Eve but then Kelly attacked Beth from behind. Kelly actually got some negative reaction too.

Alex Riley beat Dolph Ziggler via DQ. Riley got into it with Vickie Guerrero before the match. Ziggler applied a sleeper but Riley escaped. Riley hit the spine buster at which point Vickie came in the ring and slapped Riley for the DQ. Ziggler got angry at Vickie. There was supposed to be a spot where Riley punched Ziggler into Vickie but Vickie and Ziggler barely touched. Vickie left yelling and they teased a breakup with her and Ziggler.

R. Truth beat John Morrison. They brawled early. Morrison hit a standing one man Spanish fly and twisting plancha. On the outside, Truth dropped Morrison’s neck on the barricade. Truth went for the leaping downward spiral in the ring but Morrison held onto the ropes. Moments later Truth tried it again and hit it for the clean pin. This was an interesting finish given Morrison is just returning but Truth is the one of the two with more potential for sure.

Christian did a brief video promo. He basically plugged Smackdown and said he will make a big announcement Friday. I like the idea of doing this sort of thing regularly to try to encourage more Raw viewers to watch Smackdown.

The show concluded with the contract signing. Punk noted how contract signings are just for show and always end in physical calamity. He briefly had words with HHH, making fun of Chaperone going straight to DVD. Punk then showed a portion of Rock’s Facebook promo on Cena from the other week. Punk agreed with Rock that Cena is a phony but added Rock is just as big of a phony. That got some boos.

Cena said that with all of the success Rock has had, there is no reason for Rock to be so mad. Cena said he will never win over Rock’s fans or the hardcore fans. “I could increase my workrate, add to the five moves of doom or maybe let my heel persona shine through,” Cena said. He said that Punk was right comparing him to the Yankees, because they are both loved and hated.

Cena said that he only cares about his fans and won’t give up on them and there’s nothing phony about that. Cena added that Punk is the phony coming back as the “voice of the voiceless” after asking for a private jet. HHH noted that at the end of the day Punk was just a guy who held out for more money and a couple perks. He also said Punk didn’t have the guts to negotiate face-to-face.

Punk responded that if you want to talk about gutless, it’s John Laurinaitis who does the firing for WWE. He asked if Laurinaitis fired Vladimir Kozlov, Chris Masters and Harry Smith face-to-face on Friday. He said Masters worked his ass off to get better in the last year. He said Laurinaitis does the dirty work for the front office. The crowd chanted for Punk.

Punk then turned his attention to Cena. Punk said it is easy for Cena to act noble when he has been given so many opportunities. He said Cena looks down on people. He said that when he won the ECW title, Cena congratulated him and said “I almost gave up on you.” Punk asked Cena who the hell he thinks he is. Punk claimed Cena moved to California to become a bodybuilder and then became a wrestler because he couldn’t hack it. Punk said he did hold out for perks and wanted the ice cream bar because he’s a hyena and Cena’s a lion. Punk has to fight for the things Cena is handed. Punk said Sunday he will walk out with the title.

Cena retorted that there is tons of pressure on Punk Sunday. Cena said Punk won one match in Chicago and that if Punk loses at SummerSlam, Cena will still be wrestling Rock at WrestleMania. Punk needs the match. If Punk loses, he’s a loudmouth one hit wonder like Buster Douglas or Milli Vanilli. Punk said he’d rather be a one hit wonder than a phony.

Punk and Cena exchanged threats and started to square off. John Laurinaitis got between them. Punk kicked him in the head. HHH then got between Cena and Punk. Cena went for a punch and caught HHH. HHH and Cena had words. Punk on the ramp asked if the fix was in.

Final Thoughts:

This was another good show. The highlight was again CM Punk’s promo. I also appreciated the preponderance of clean finishes, something I’ve long felt WWE would benefit from more of.

One negative is that it is apparent a few days from SummerSlam that the title vs. title stipulation means absolutely nothing. There wasn’t enough time to get over the issue and the title has bounced around too much. I think the product would really benefit from unifying the Raw and Smackdown titles and making title changes more infrequent. Punk is really hot, but it’s harder to get over a new top program when titles are viewed as trinkets. WWE seems more open to rethinking big picture issues these days, and that’s something they really ought to consider.

Monday, August 01, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 08/01/11 from Indianapolis, IN.

The Big News: John Cena and CM Punk will meet at SummerSlam to determine the true WWE champion.

Show Analysis:

CM Punk came out to start the show. He was announced as WWE champion. To me, they should have billed Cena as the official champion to fit into the story of Punk as the anti-company guy claiming to be the real champion, but it’s not a big deal. Punk said “the champ is here.” He proceeded to explain why he came back. He said he had known for a long time that his contract would expire in July and he struggled to decide whether to stay. Punk said he loves the place he works but hates the people in charge.

Punk said he had a choice to give in to the skull crushing status quo or speak his mind and cause change. Punk noted he did the latter and now Vince McMahon is out. He gave credit to the audience. He said for too long the audience has been fed scraps and he is here to make it fun again. Punk observed that he can’t make the business better sitting on his couch in Chicago so he made the call to come back. Punk said it was none too soon because the skull crushing status quo is back with Cena as champ. The crowd booed. Punk said Cena is the real champ a much as a kid in the audience with a replica belt. The crowd chanted for Punk.

HHH came out. He said that Punk coming back was good for business. So HHH put aside personal feelings and brought him back. Punk was struck by that and wanted to know HHH’s true feelings. HHH called Punk a smug, overrated, attention seeking guy who puts too much stock in his own hype. Punk replied that’s like looking in the mirror for HHH. Punk asserted that Vince McMahon screwed up the talent roster by letting guys like Batista, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar go. Punk said HHH couldn’t afford to let Punk go elsewhere.

HHH told Punk to tell the truth on why he re-signed. Punk said he wants to facilitate change. HHH said it’s that Punk loves the sound of his own voice and needed the platform. Punk said that he is the WWE champion. HHH said he is the champion but Cena is also the champion and HHH would fix that later in the night. Punk said he won’t shut up and toe the company PG line. Punk said he won’t go to promo class or media training and will do things his way.

Punk said that if HHH wanted to talk about ego, they could talk about ego. He did the old Hunter Hearst Helmsley bow from 1995 and 1996. Punk said HHH has been hogging the spotlight for so long over others who deserved it. Punk accused HHH of telling people what to do and pushing them around even when he was carrying Shawn Michaels’ bags. He asked how many times HHH said, “Well, you know he just doesn’t have what it takes” while lying in bed with his wife. Punk said whether HHH is in a suit or a poor man’s Conan attire he is still a bully who likes to throw his weight around. Punk told HHH to be careful who he pushes because Punk likes to push back.

HHH responded that he does have a massive ego and that ego was telling him to slap the tattoos off Punk. However, HHH said he wouldn’t do that because he took the job for the people and it comes with rules. HHH said he will respect the rules and suggested Punk not break them either. Punk asked what HHH would do, fight Punk or ask his wife for permission. He then left. This was a tremendous opening segment outlining the natural conflict between Punk’s character and HHH’s character.

Beth Phoenix won a battle royal over Tamina, the Bellas, Kaitlyn, A.J., Alicia Fox, Melina, Gail Kim, Natalya, Eve Torres and Rosa Mendes to become number one contender to the women’s title. Kelly Kelly did commentary for the match but the focus was mostly on Michael Cole going crazy. Cole was particularly grating on this show in all the wrong ways. He kept picking these ridiculous fights with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross over absolutely nothing. At one point, he went on a rant about how people apparently don’t own Persian rugs. He is completely out-of-control and totally counterproductive on commentary.

Eve, Beth and the Bellas were the final four. Eve was eliminated by a Bella. Beth then threw out the Bellas together, which looked impressive. Kelly came in and hugged Beth after the match, but Beth grabbed Kelly by the hair and threw her out of the ring. Beth threw Kelly into the barricade and said Kelly’s days as a perky, cute, little blonde bimbo are over.

Miz and R. Truth spoke backstage. Truth said they are the same. Miz disagreed so Truth tried to convince him. Truth basically pointed out they both have been treated badly and are unhappy with the direction of things.

They did short backstage interviews with HHH, John Cena and CM Punk at different points in the show. Cena said there’s something admirable about someone speaking their mind but if you live by the sword you die by the sword. He said he would be out there for HHH’s decision on the WWE title at the end of the show. HHH said it would be fine if Cena and Punk came out for the decision but that Cena should keep things strictly business. Punk said he hoped HHH would do the right thing given he wrestled Cena at Money in the Bank and won.

R. Truth and Miz beat Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. The heels worked over Mysterio. Morrison got the tag and came in with kicks. He went for starship pain on Truth but Miz pulled Truth out of the way. Mysterio then hit Miz with a pescado. Morrison set up Truth for a 619 with a kick but Miz stopped Mysterio and threw him over the barricade. In the ring, Morrison hit a springboard kick on Miz but Truth then gave Morrison the leaping downward spiral for the win. After the match, Miz hit the skull crushing finale on Morrison and Truth hit Morrison with a water bottle.

Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero came out. Ziggler said nobody in the locker room has his skills or his charisma. That reads like a comedy line but I don’t think it was intended as one. Alex Riley interrupted and basically told Ziggler to stop hiding behind Vickie. Vickie said Ziggler is US champ thanks to her. Riley wanted to know the last time Ziggler accomplished something without her and said Ziggler reminds him of Miz, hiding behind someone else. He suggested Ziggler drop Vickie or be exposed as a bleached blonde arrogant fraud.

Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga beat Zack Ryder and Santino Marella. Otunga and McGillicutty are showing increased confidence as a tag team act. They double teamed Santino and we got “we want Ryder” chants. Ryder got the tag and hit elbows and kicks. He went for the rough rider but McGillicutty escaped. Otunga and McGillicutty then hit what was basically the old Demolition finisher on Ryder for the win. There’s no justification for Ryder getting pinned here rather than Santino when Ryder is building a little momentum.

Alberto Del Rio beat Evan Bourne. Del Rio dominated the match. Bourne went to the top but was caught with an enzuigiri and Del Rio applied the armbar. Bourne did the stupid spot where he just lies there in a fully extended armbar screaming but refusing to tap. Finally he tapped. Del Rio put him in the armbar again after the match until Kofi Kingston made the save. They showed a survey where 54 percent of voters said Cena should be champ and 46 percent said Punk should be champ.

HHH came out for the final segment. He said there are two guys with legitimate claims to the WWE title. He was interrupted by John Laurinaitis, who introduced himself as the VP of talent relations. Laurinaitis said HHH has been part of the corporate structure for only a short time while he has been part of that structure over 10 years. He said he knows how Vince would want HHH to handle the situation: strip Cena of the title. That dynamic of the corporate people against Cena rather than Punk is all wrong, although I suspect they’re going to fight that natural extension of this story to the end.

John Cena came out and said Laurinaitis is the yes man Punk was talking about. He said Laurinaitis wants him stripped because he clotheslined Laurinaitis at the pay-per-view. Cena said he is fine with losing the title but he won’t have it stripped of him. He bagged on Laurinaitis and got in a Dynamic Dudes reference. Laurinaitis replied that he made the decision because Punk beat Cena. Cena threatened to attack Laurinaitis and HHH didn’t care so Laurinaitis bailed.

HHH said he wouldn’t strip Cena of the title because Cena’s claim to the title is legitimate. CM Punk came out and thought HHH was going to strip him and go back to the status quo. Cena called HHH Hunter and HHH told him not to because he is the boss. HHH then announced they will settle it at SummerSlam, Punk vs. Cena to crown one champion. Cena and Punk then alternated holding up their titles and they would keep switching the music, which was kind of a goofy finish.

Final Thoughts:

This show was fine. It wasn’t as entertaining as some recent weeks, but not every week can be equally eventful. CM Punk was again the highlight and the opening segment was the highlight of the show. It was kind of boring to focus an entire show building towards such an obvious finish, though. That’s not to suggest they should have done something other than Punk vs. Cena to crown the real champ at SummerSlam, just that it was such a foregone conclusion before the show even started that they didn’t need to spend so much time getting to that simple point. It’s like they went from fast forward to slow motion.