Monday, November 28, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 11/28/11 from Columbia, SC.

The Big News: CM Punk retained the WWE title by defeating Alberto Del Rio.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Piper’s Pit. Roddy Piper said his career was driven by crowd energy and introduced John Cena. They both kept saying WWE Universe for no apparent reason. Piper brought up the names of Steve Austin, Bret Hart and the Rock and everybody cheered. Then he brought up John Cena’s name. Cena got a mixed reaction with a few more cheers than boos and then chants for Cena. The scripted idea was clearly that they would boo, which completely stalled the promo with Piper losing track of what to say next.

Piper ended up bringing up people cheering when Rock attacked Cena at Survivor Series. Cena admitted some people don’t like him and tried to frame this as a good thing. Piper said the boos are getting louder and if Cena doesn’t tell the crowd how he actually feels, he will lose at WrestleMania. I’m not sure how exactly those two things relate, but that’s okay.

Cena brought up people hating him in the past, such as WrestleMania against HHH, MITB against Punk, against Edge in Toronto, and at Hammerstein Ballroom. Cena said MSG wasn’t a big deal compared to those and it was just people having fun. He further brought up Make-a-Wish, children and the armed forces to babyface himself. He said the boos will never get to him. He added that in Miami, regardless of what people say, he will be fine with himself and he knows he can beat the Rock.

Piper said that from Hall of Famer to future Hall of Famer, if Cena doesn’t get his feelings off his chest and get rid of the denial, he won’t win. Piper handed Cena his Hall of Fame ring. Cena said that he is in a good place. Piper said he would help Cena win and slapped Cena. Cena acted like he was going to respond but then just handed back the ring and left.

There were some good ideas mixed in here, but the overall segment was rambling and confusing. They clearly had a script and when crowd reactions didn’t go as the script planned, it made it harder for Piper and Cena to adjust.

The big positive is I very much like the introduction of the idea that Cena isn’t being authentic when he acts like he is cool with being booed. I actually think that’s one of the least appealing features of Cena’s character and bringing it up has two positive purposes. It lays the groundwork for a Cena turn down the line, with Cena eventually snapping and explaining that the resentment has been festering for year. Plus, it makes him more likeable until then, as he is actually addressing and trying to explain why he doesn’t react negatively to fans trashing him when it’s only human to feel differently.

Miz beat John Morrison in a falls count anywhere match. Before the match, Miz attacked Morrison’s leg with a pipe from behind. He worked over Morrison’s leg. Finally, he hit a skull crushing finale on the stage. Rather than Miz covering, the referee stopped the match and they carted Morrison off. Miz took the microphone. He said last week was Truth, this week was Morrison and next week, we’ll see. Miz said he is the only one who can make this kind of impact. The clear goal of this segment was to get over Miz as a threat.

Kelly Kelly and Alicia Fox beat the Bellas. In a cool little touch, they had a quick flash in the corner of the screen directing people to a youtube clip following up the little hidden video from last week. The video said that on the second day of 2012, it will be the end of the world as you know it. Eh, I feel fine. Natalya and Beth Phoenix jogged around the ring during this match and left. Alicia pinned one of the Bellas with a somersault leg drop. The match was short and sloppy like a…never mind.

Backstage, John Laurinaitis on the phone said he would see Brodus Clay next week. David Otunga wanted to know why Laurinaitis was jerking Clay around. Laurinaitis said he is getting Clay angrier and angrier so he will be really dangerous when he finally does compete. Laurinaitis added that he is doing Clay a favor. Alberto Del Rio came in and Laurinaitis wanted to make Del Rio was ready for his title shot. Del Rio said yes and Survivor Series was a temporary setback.

CM Punk came in and did some lame comedy making fun of Laurinaitis and Del Rio. He did get in a clever line about googling David Otunga and just getting back a bunch of results for Jennifer Hudson. Punk said the WWE title wasn’t going anywhere. When Punk left, Otunga suggested that Punk might get himself disqualified on purpose. Laurinaitis said that if Punk did that, he would lose the title.

Dolph Ziggler beat Randy Orton. This was pretty good and they gave them some time, but it didn’t come close to last week’s Ziggler/Punk match. Orton was in control for a little while at the beginning. Ziggler took control. Orton came back with a draping DDT but Ziggler rolled out of the ring when he went for the RKO. Wade Barrett, who had been doing commentary, got on the apron. Orton knocked Barrett off, but Ziggler rolled back in and hit the zig zag for the pin. Ziggler did a headstand on the floor in celebration. They treated this like a big win on commentary but the distraction finish has been used to death and means next to nothing getting over the winner at this point.

Daniel Bryan came to the ring for a segment with Michael Cole. Cole said that Bryan was given a steel cage match for the title against Mark Henry Tuesday on Smackdown. Bryan replied that he earned that by winning a fatal four way. He labeled Cole the worst announcer in the history of WWE and told Cole to show him a little respect. Cole said he couldn’t respect a man who tried to cash in Money in the Bank against a defenseless champion. He called Bryan a liar who said he would cash in at Mania but then didn’t. He added that it was hilarious Bryan thought he won the title on Smackdown but didn’t get it. He went even further, saying Bryan is a disgusting hypocrite and he hopes Henry tears him apart.

Bryan admitted to being a hypocrite. He said he had plans to cash in at Mania but those plans changed when Henry tried to end his career. Bryan said he realized MITB didn’t guarantee him anything and he saw the opportunity and took it. He added that tomorrow he would have an opportunity and he will follow his dream to become WWE champion.

Mark Henry came out limping. Henry said Bryan should be ashamed of himself trying to take advantage of an injured man and Teddy Long should be ashamed booking Henry in a match when he is injured. Henry said that’s okay, because he is the world’s strongest champion and he will successfully defend his title. Henry told Bryan that Bryan can’t beat him, injured or not. Bryan stomped Henry’s leg and said that we will see tomorrow night. The Bryan character is interesting right now, although unfortunately it’s hard to see where he would fit in as a heel given WWE’s continued fixation with size.

Zack Ryder beat Jack Swagger. Swagger hit a belly to belly throw and a back breaker. He went for the Vader bomb but Ryder countered with his feet to Swagger’s face and hit the Rough Ryder for the win. Mick Foley came out in a Santa outfit to plug Smackdown. Elsewhere, Punk told Laurinaitis to kiss his ass.

CM Punk beat Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio worked over Punk’s shoulder for a while. Punk came back with a leg lariat, neck breaker, knees from the clinch and a high knee. Del Rio countered a bulldog attempt into an arm breaker. Del Rio then hit a bridging German suplex for two. Punk went for GTS but that was countered into a DDT for two.

Del Rio removed the turnbuckle pad and as the referee went to replace it, Ricardo Rodriguez threw a chair into the ring. Del Rio threw it to Punk, trying to get Punk disqualified, but Punk threw it back and went down. The referee turned around to see Punk down and Del Rio standing with the chair, but Del Rio was able to talk the referee out of disqualifying him.

Punk used a rollup for two. Rodriguez got on the apron and Del Rio tried to throw Punk into the exposed turnbuckle. Punk countered that and hit the GTS on the exposed turnbuckle for the pin. Rodriguez complained afterwards and Punk gave him the GTS too. This was a good match.

Final Thoughts:

This was the second straight improved edition of Raw, so hopefully that trend will continue. Last week’s show was carried by good wrestling, while I thought this show’s strength was more improved booking.

Monday, November 21, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 11/21/11 from Hershey, PA.

The Big News: Miz and R. Truth’s partnership appears to be over.

Show Analysis:

CM Punk came out to start the show. He reminisced about sitting in class as a child and saying he wanted to be a pro wrestler. He specifically noted that he said pro wrestler and not sports entertainer. Punk said it was a really big deal for him to win the WWE title at MSG and do it on his own terms. Punk said the game of WWE title hot potato is over. Good luck with that. Punk said the title is where it belongs and will stay there. Punk asserted that he will bring back an air of danger to Raw and be an agent of change. He specifically said he wanted to make John Laurinaitis a former Raw GM.

Laurinaitis conveniently walked out at precisely that second. Laurinaitis claimed they both want to make the WWE Universe happy. Laurinaitis said he would take the high road and doesn’t know what Punk’s problem with him is. Punk responded that Vince McMahon is a soulless bastard but at least he admits it while Laurinaitis is a middle manager who smiles in your face but undermines you behind your back. That’s a very familiar archetype that people can relate to. Punk said Laurinaitis references the WWE Universe but they’re not a universe, they’re fans, and that’s just a buzzword Laurinaitis uses to keep his bosses happy. That’s a very encouraging sign that they’d acknowledge that on camera.

Laurinaitis said he is upper management and Punk has him wrong. Laurinaitis said he can be just as creative and dynamic as Punk and announced the Punk vs. Del Rio title rematch for next week on Raw. Punk mocked this as not exactly being radical and suggested they have the match immediately. Laurinaitis retorted that Punk would be wrestling Dolph Ziggler instead. Punk said the people didn’t want to see that. “We want Ryder” chants started and Punk said they wanted to see Ziggler vs. Ryder. Laurinaitis said Ryder would be wrestling Del Rio. Punk concluded by saying he would beat Ziggler and then Del Rio and someday someone would beat some sense into Laurinaitis. Punk did an excellent job on the microphone here.

Alberto Del Rio beat Zack Ryder. Before the match, they showed video of Rock putting over Ryder after the Survivor Series. Then, Del Rio basically squashed him. Del Rio immediately attacked the arm. Ryder briefly made a comeback but missed the rough rider and Del Rio used an enzuigiri and armbar for the submission.

I disagree with this booking. Just stick someone else in Ryder’s spot. Even if you don’t think Ryder has that much potential, this constant burying of midcard guys at the precise point fans are starting to show a little interest in them completely undermines the ability of WWE to get over anyone except the top guys. That’s a large part of why depth is so weak right now and it’s so hard to make new stars.

Sheamus beat Jack Swagger. Swagger hit a clothesline and Vader bomb but Sheamus kicked out. Sheamus hit punches and a powerslam but Swagger kicked out. Sheamus missed the Brogue kick and Swagger applied the ankle lock. Swagger escaped and hit the Brogue kick for the win. This was fun while it lasted.

Kevin Nash came out and said he was sitting in MSG at Survivor Series and thinking about things. He noted that MSG has been good to him and referenced winning the title from Bob Backlund and the Clique curtain call. He said it should have been HHH and Nash headlining at Survivor Series but that didn’t happen because HHH was taken out by his own sledgehammer. Nash claimed he is the real survivor.

Cody Rhodes beat Santino. Rhodes before the match said the restraints have been removed on a rabid dog. He said he is unmasked, uninhibited and unbeatable. He was interrupted by Santino and they had a very brief match with Rhodes using the roll of the dice for the win. Afterwards, Rhodes badmouthed Booker T and threw water on him. Booker did commentary with Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole, with Lawler not saying much because apparently he lost his voice.

CM Punk beat Dolph Ziggler. Prior to the match, Ziggler claimed to have won twice at the Survivor Series (since his team did win even though he was eliminated immediately). Ziggler said he is the new face of the WWE. They started with some chain wrestling and then Ziggler took over. Punk tried to come back with a high knee but Ziggler sent him over the top rope to the floor and celebrated by doing a handstand and gloating. That was a great spot, just for the sheer obnoxiousness of the gesture.

Ziggler caught Punk in a sleeper. Punk tried to counter into the GTS but Ziggler escaped and tried to pin Punk with his feet on the ropes. The referee caught Ziggler. Punk then tried the same trick but the referee caught him too. Punk missed a high kick but then landed the high knee and bulldog for a two count. Punk set up for the top rope elbow but Ziggler rolled out of the way and hit one of the best dropkicks you’re ever going to see for two.

Moments later, Punk nailed the top rope elbow for two. He went for GTS, but Ziggler countered again. Ziggler hit a bunch of punches and kicks and they teased a DQ spot but it didn’t happen. Punk then avoided the famouser and hit the GTS for the pin. This was a really good match. It’s no secret, but Ziggler is really clicking right now. I’ve been slower to warm up to him than many, but it’s unmistakable at this point.

They aired a brief video in the horror mold featuring Kane’s mask dropping at the end. It would appear Kane is coming back as a heel. Big Show then came out and said he proved he is stronger, tougher and better than Henry. He said Henry took the easy way out and left as champion but was carted out. Show said he heard Henry’s leg may not be broken and when Henry gets back, Show will be waiting for him. They then showed Natalya and Beth Phoenix bullying Kelly and Alicia Fox backstage.

Wade Barrett beat Kofi Kingston. Barrett went for wasteland early but Randy Orton came out to distract him. Orton took a seat at ringside and Kingston escaped wasteland. Barrett went back to work. Kingston came back with a tope, frog crossbody and boom drop. Kingston missed trouble in paradise and Barrett hit the wasteland for the pin. Barrett starred at Orton with great intensity at the close and it was nice to see the clean finish rather than the distraction finish. After the match, Orton teased attacking Barrett and Barrett quickly jumped back in concern.

The show concluded with John Cena. He was in a jolly mood. He put over CM Punk and Zack Ryder and said he coexisted with Rock in the tag team and they won. He noted Rock attacking him after the match but said that this established WrestleMania will be what it needs to be. This was a weird tact. Miz and Truth came out. Miz said Cena’s ego wouldn’t let him acknowledge that the people hated him and loved Rock. Miz brought up the “don’t tag Cena” chant and the crowd chanted that again. Miz said nobody wanted to see Cena and the crowd mostly cheered that. Truth taunted Cena some more.

Cena responded by saying nobody cares about either Truth or Miz. He said that Miz thinks Truth is a wacked out nut job with no talent riding his coattails and Truth thinks Miz is a pompous, arrogant, attention-stealing D-lister whose biggest accomplishment was being on a crappy reality show. Nice to know being on the Real World is a bigger accomplishment than headlining WrestleMania and holding the WWE title.

Cena left, at which point Miz and Truth began bickering over what Cena said. They shoved each other and Miz backed off. Miz said that Cena was turning them against each other. They acted like they were going to make up and left the ring, but Miz attacked Truth from behind on the stage and gave him the skull crushing finale. This was not a good finish to the show, with everybody burying each other in the wrong way.

Final Thoughts:

I liked this show a lot better than most recent editions of Raw. The wrestling was good, the angles straightforward and logical, and they didn’t do a bunch of counterproductive stuff. In particular, it was very nice to see a WWE TV show where literally every match ended cleanly with one man proving to be better. Clean finishes help to get over match results and getting over match results has all sorts of positive dividends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 11/14/11 from Boston, MA.

The Big News: Rock appeared on Raw to build Sunday’s PPV.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Michael Cole’s challenge to Jim Ross. Ross had to win three events. First, Ross beat Cole in arm wrestling immediately. Second, they had a dance contest. Ross did a goofy dance, shook his ass, and won. The final contest was who weighs less. They stepped on a scale and Cole won. So Cole started to celebrate.

CM Punk came out. He said Ross didn’t have a real shot so this was a waste of time. No kidding. Punk said Ross is a better announcer than Cole. No kidding. Punk said it’s time Cole left and the show is becoming unbearable. No kidding. He said that people want to fast forward Cole segments and it felt like Cole had been out there for six hours. Punk said as champion he will try to make the show the best it can be and he would start by getting rid of Cole.

John Laurinaitis came out and said his twitter page didn’t want to see the Cole-Ross competition broken up. Laurinaitis said he cares about his twitter followers like he cares about the WWE Universe. I projectile vomited across the living room. Laurinaitis made Big Show and CM Punk vs. Mark Henry and Alberto Del Rio. Cole wanted an apology from Punk, but Punk instead put Cole in the anaconda vise. So Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler did commentary for a few minutes. This segment seemed designed simply to weigh Jim Ross and make him dance on national TV.

A limousine pulled up and they teased the Rock had arrived. Instead, Mick Foley got out. Foley said he wouldn’t miss the Rock’s return for anything.

Cody Rhodes and Hunico beat Sin Cara and Kofi Kingston. The removal of Rhodes’ face mask is a positive. The heels worked over Cara, who made the tag to Kingston. Kingston hit a springboard crossbody on Rhodes. Kingston avoided a roll of the dice attempt but Rhodes hit it a moment later for the win. This was a good short match and I’m in favor of a Rhodes push.

Zack Ryder wanted Santino to sign his petition for a US title match. Santino signed despite being more of a Rock fan and Ryder being a Cena fan. Vickie Guerrero then announced Christian is off Team Barrett and Dolph Ziggler said he is the replacement. Michael Cole came back out with John Laurinaitis and replaced Jim Ross at the announce table.

Mason Ryan beat Dolph Ziggler via DQ. Ryan was greeted with overwhelming crowd apathy. Ryan hit a big boot and press slam. Vickie Guerrero slapped him and they called a DQ for that. That was an off the charts terrible finish. After the match, John Morrison threw Ziggler back into the ring and Ryan gave Ziggler a full nelson slam. Backstage, Mick Foley signed Zack Ryder’s petition.

Next up was a John Cena, This is Your Life segment with Mick Foley. This was playing off the famous Rock, This is Your Life segment that Vince Russo likes to claim was the highest rated segment in Raw history. Mick Foley said it’s good to be home. He tried to put over the Cena/Rock team and was booed. He called Cena a great performer and was booed. He introduced Cena as his friend and they were both booed.

Cena said he didn’t pick Rock as his partner because they are friends. Foley responded he isn’t really friends with Cena either, but they have mutual respect. They put over each other. Foley said he wanted to bring Rock and Cena together so he had a music video on Cena’s life. He brought out Cena’s little league coach, who talked about Cena’s striking out and crying.

Next out was B Squared, Bull Buchanan. Buchanan said he got fired, divorced, lost all his money, and his dog gave him rabies. That was meant as comedy. He said Cena ruined his life and stormed off. Finally, John Cena’s dad came out and insulted the fans for booing his son. Cena cut his dad off and told him to leave. Cena said this segment was a catastrophe and started to leave. But Foley wanted to continue on with five more people so a jacked up Rock came out, gave Foley the rock bottom, and left. This was supposed to be car crash comedy but it was mostly just boring and awkward.

Sheamus beat Jack Swagger. Swagger had the advantage early. Sheamus made his comeback with ax handles but Swagger escaped the razor’s edge. Swagger hit a Vader bomb and applied the ankle lock. Sheamus escaped and hit a back breaker and the Brogue kick for the win.

The Bellas were going to sign Ryder’s petition for a US title shot but Alberto Del Rio showed up and they ditched Ryder for Del Rio. Del Rio invited the Bellas to party with him in New York after he beats Punk but Ryder suggested the Bellas go with him to Long Island instead. They were annoyed and left.

Kelly Kelly beat Natalya. Kelly gave Natalya the stinkface. Natalya went for the sharpshooter but was reversed into an inside cradle for the pin. This was another of those 30 second waste of time women’s matches.

John Laurinaitis was on the phone with Brodus Clay. He said they’d delay his return to Raw until next week. I wonder if Clay will ever show up. Alberto Del Rio came in. Laurinaitis said Punk has been showing Del Rio up and Punk can cause more trouble if he is champion. Del Rio said Punk might not make it to Survivor Series. He said he will be champion a long time, longer than Laurinaitis is GM. R. Truth and Miz refused to speak backstage.

Alberto Del Rio and Mark Henry beat CM Punk and Big Show. Del Rio attacked Punk from behind as he was coming to the ring, but Punk still wrestled the match. They went after Punk for a while. Punk made a comeback with a swinging neck breaker on Del Rio and high kick on Henry. He went for a springboard on Del Rio but Henry caught him with the world’s strongest slam. Show went after henry but collided with the post outside the ring. Del Rio covered Punk for the win. He then put Punk in the armbar after the match. Man, they have done a great job booking Punk for a title shot.

Santino came out and brought up finishing second in the Royal Rumble in Boston. He vowed to be champion next time WWE comes to Boston. Good luck with that. Kevin Nash came out. Santino was concerned and didn’t want to fight. Nash said he is a fan of Santino and wanted Santino to do the trombone. Santino did but then was greeted with a big boot. Nash brought up his Rumble pop yet again. He said HHH didn’t have the sense to bring him back and now Nash is on Raw and HHH isn’t. He gave Santino the power bomb.

Randy Orton beat Wade Barrett via DQ. Barrett and Orton had their Survivor Series teams with them. Barrett before the match said he has conquered Sheamus and Orton and would beat Orton again. They wrestled for a little while and then Cody Rhodes just ran in for the DQ. This was another terrible finish. The two sides brawled and the faces cleared the ring.

Rock came out for the final segment. He said that he loves Mick Foley but couldn’t stand any more of that garbage. He spent five minutes trying to get a term to trend on twitter. Is there any positive that comes from this stuff? It seems so masturbatory. Rock said he would deliver an ass whooping to Truth and Miz on Raw rather than waiting for Sunday.

Truth and Miz came out. Truth said they’re not getting an ass whooping. Miz said Rock will get beat Sunday. Cena told jokes about Rock never showing up. Rock told jokes about Cena having no fans who have gone through puberty. They again brought up twitter trending. Cena threatened Rock if Rock isn’t in it for the team. Miz said Cena and Rock were making Miz and Truth an afterthought, but the last time that happened Miz won the main event at WrestleMania. Rock and Cena ended up quickly beating up Miz and Truth. Rock gave Truth the rock bottom. Cena went for the FU on Miz but Rock pulled Miz off and gave Miz the rock bottom.

Final Thoughts:

I’m sleepy and going to bed.