Monday, January 30, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/30/12 from Kansas City, MO.

The Big News: CM Punk and Daniel Bryan had a great match, Undertaker returned and John Laurinaitis’ fate hung in the balance on an eventful edition of Raw.

Show Analysis:

John Laurinaitis came out to start the show, circling the ring and shaking hands with fans. Laurinaitis said he was looking forward to his performance review because he has done a good job. He admitted to making mistakes but said that is okay because everyone makes mistakes and he has never made the same mistake twice. Laurinaitis put over HHH as a friend and said he was confident he would be retained as GM.

Laurinaitis announced a number of matches. For Raw, he announced Beth Phoenix vs. Eve Torres, Kofi Kingston vs. Miz, Dolph Ziggler vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk in what was billed as a first time ever match. That of course isn’t true. I was expecting that to be an opening for Punk to call him a liar and acknowledge their history, but instead Bryan and Punk just pretended that was true. Laurinaitis said that at Elimination Chamber, CM Punk will defend against Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Miz, R. Truth and Chris Jericho. They later announced Daniel Bryan will also defend in an elimination chamber.

I seem to make this point every year, but I so dislike these title elimination chambers. I dislike the idea of champions defending in six way matches in the first place because it undermines the point and prestige of being the champion going into the show when the top 10 challengers all get shots in a match with no championship advantage. But it is particularly pronounced at this time of year in undermining the Rumble, when a third of the Rumble gets a title shot the next month anyway.

This to me is a perfect example of less is more. One chamber, with a shot at the title the Rumble winner doesn’t elect to challenge for would be so much more effective in making everything feel important. The championships would mean more because it would be so much harder to get a championship match. The Rumble would mean more because the title shot would be a bigger deal. WrestleMania would mean more because the basic title picture would be clearer earlier and there would thus be more time to focus on the key players. In turn, I really think the chamber would mean more, even if one chamber without the title sounds like so much less than two chambers with two titles.

CM Punk interrupted Laurinaitis He went around the ring singing goodbye. Laurinaitis said that Punk owed him an apology, as Laurinaitis didn’t screw Punk out of the title. Punk responded that Laurinaitis isn’t a man of his word. Punk added that he wanted to see Laurinaitis one last time before HHH fired him. Punk belittled Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis said he wouldn’t take it personally. He suggested they put their differences aside and start over. Laurinaitis offered a handshake which of course Punk declined.

Daniel Bryan was next out. He said that nobody cares about the dispute between Punk and Laurinaitis. Bryan again referred to his match with Punk as a first time match and said that Punk wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Punk said he is the best wrestler in the world. Bryan said he is more than a wrestler; he is a role model. He brought up being a vegan. Punk pointed out they have known each other for a decade and suggested they give Kansas City a show.

Sheamus was the last man out. He noted that he won the Rumble and basically just pointed out that he can challenge for either Punk or Bryan’s title at WrestleMania. This segment went a while but was generally pretty good. They really played up Laurinaitis’ character as just the most disingenuous, self-serving boss ever. It’s a relatable character.

Randy Orton beat Dolph Ziggler. Wade Barrett watched from the luxury box. Ziggler dominated early. Orton gained momentum briefly with a superplex but Ziggler took back over with a sleeper and famouser. Orton avoided the zig zag and hit a draping DDT and RKO for the pin. This was a fun match. I would be protecting Ziggler a hell of a lot more these days but clearly that’s not a priority to WWE right now. They did brief WWE style comedy backstage revolving around Laurinaitis not knowing that William Regal has conjoined twin daughters.

Brodus Clay beat Tyler Reks with a belly to belly, clothesline from behind and flying crossbody. The crowd is starting to get behind Clay. Hopefully if they view the character as a success it will encourage them to introduce more guys with a bunch of wins.

Backstage, Punk told Bryan that he doesn’t think people look at either of them as role models. Punk said people don’t even know what a vegan is. Really? Bryan sermonized about animal cruelty and basically did Punk’s heel straight edge gimmick only as a vegan. Get ready for “Vegan means I’m better than you.” Punk said he never claimed to be a role model with the straight edge.

Daniel Bryan beat CM Punk via DQ. Bryan opened the match with an old spot I seem to recall him using on the indies where he teased a Rito Romero Special but instead just stomped down on Punk’s legs. He traded European uppercuts with Punk. Bryan sent Punk into the barricade, but Punk came back with a belly to back suplex and springboard clothesline. They did a double crossbody spot where each man was knocked down.

Bryan took control and worked over the arm for a bit. Punk came back with clotheslines, a swinging neck breaker, a high knee and bulldog. Punk went for the GTS but Bryan escaped to the outside. Bryan hit a top rope dropkick for two. Bryan used a series of kicks and hit a huracanrana that Punk rolled through on for two. Bryan hit a kick to the head for another near fall. Bryan went for a superplex but Punk knocked him off and hit the top rope elbow for two. Bryan went for the LeBell lock but Punk escaped and hit a kick to the head.

At that point, Chris Jericho ran in for the DQ. He threw down Bryan first and then gave Punk the code breaker. Bryan was announced as the winner and celebrated. This was shaping up to be one of the best Raw matches in a long time. The finish took it down some but it was still a tremendous match and I’m glad they gave them so much time. They announced Mike Tyson for the WWE Hall of Fame. They acknowledged it got out earlier in the day.

Kofi Kingston beat Miz. R. Truth did commentary, although he didn’t say much. Miz before the match bragged about lasting the longest of anyone in the 2012 Rumble and mocked Kingston’s handstand to stave off elimination. Miz said he will win the chamber and headline WrestleMania again. Good luck with that. Miz worked over Kingston briefly before being caught with trouble in paradise out of nowhere for the pin.

Backstage, David Otunga told Laurinaitis that he tried to influence HHH’s decision. Laurinaitis thought this meant that Otunga might be trying to take his job. Otunga denied that and said that he is happy in his current position.

Beth Phoenix beat Eve Torres immediately with the glam slam for the clean pin. That would seem to suggest they are setting up a Beth Phoenix-Kharma program, which could be fun. After the match, Kane appeared on the screen. He said that what happened to Zack Ryder could have been avoided. Kane said that until John Cena embraces the hate, Cena can’t beat Kane or the Rock. He vowed to keep hurting Ryder until Cena gets the message. So in summary, Kane is trying to get Cena to do the one thing that Kane thinks will allow Cena to beat him.

Kane then appeared behind Eve. John Cena made the save and had a big brawl with Kane. Cena hit Kane with the ring steps repeatedly and hit him with a microphone as well. Cena went for the FU through the announce table but Kane escaped and left through the crowd. The crowd seemed more behind Cena when he was more intense.

John Laurinaitis came out for the final segment. He claimed that Raw ratings have been up from a year ago under his control. He added that he gave himself high marks in his WWE self-performance assessment.

HHH made his entrance and immediately it was clear that he still strongly dislikes Laurinaitis. He accused Laurinaitis of using his power to make himself a star. Laurinaitis said that he respects HHH’s opinion but that he hasn’t done that. HHH accused Laurinaitis of repeatedly putting himself on the show to the detriment of others. HHH said that Laurinaitis, like Vince McMahon and HHH himself before, has let personal issues cloud his judgment.

Laurinaitis said he would do anything to keep his job. HHH was enticed by this. So at first he coerced an apology by Laurinaitis to the fans. Laurinaitis got a ton of heat delivering the apology. HHH said that wasn’t good enough and teased he might put Laurinaitis in a gauntlet match against all the wrestlers that dislike him, but then decided that would be unfair.

That led to HHH teasing that he would induct Laurinaitis into the Kiss My Ass Club. Laurinaitis should have known better than to fall for that, given Road Dogg couldn’t even say “your ass better call somebody” the night before. But Laurinaitis went ahead and put on some chap stick. He got on his knees and puckered up. HHH laughed at him for being willing to do that. HHH said that the board is fine with HHH returning to run Raw any time. He started to wish Laurinaitis well in his future endeavors when Undertaker’s music hit.

Undertaker came to the ring. He stared at HHH. Then he looked up at the WrestleMania sign. Then he looked back at HHH and slashed his throat. HHH patted Undertaker on the shoulder and left. The implied message seemed to me that HHH admires Taker’s valor but doesn’t think he has another match left in him. I guess we’ll see. Undertaker looked at the Mania sign again and then looked back at HHH to close the show. Looking at the Mania sign is so beyond played out by this point but other than that this was a compelling close to the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was an entertaining show, a promising sign leading into the key WrestleMania build period. It had two excellent matches along with a nice closing angle. There weren’t any real lows, either. All in all, I hope most of the shows over the next two months are like this one.

Monday, January 23, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/23/12 from Phoenix, AZ.

The Big News: WWE is revolutionizing the concept of a go home show.

Show Analysis:

CM Punk came out to start the show. He said that Dolph Ziggler’s wins over him were giftwrapped by John Laurinaitis. He labeled Laurinaitis a failure and said that he was surprised Laurinaitis told the truth about planning to screw Punk Sunday. Punk told Laurinaitis to come out and say that to his face. Laurinaitis didn’t appear so Punk said he would go find Laurinaitis. John Cena came out instead. Punk said he wanted a different company man named John.

Cena said that he was tired of hearing Punk ramble. Cena added that Punk was out there to talk while Cena was out for business. Cena told Laurinaitis to give Zack Ryder a US title rematch, give Cena a match with Kane on Raw, and resign as interim GM. That finally brought out Laurinaitis, who said he stood by what he said last week and that he won’t be intimidated. Punk invited Laurinaitis to the ring. Laurinaitis declined and announced Kane vs. Ryder in a falls count anywhere match. He added that if Cena got involved, Ryder would never get a US title rematch. He then announced Cena and Punk would be teaming up next.

Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger beat John Cena and CM Punk. The heels worked over Cena. Punk tagged in and hit a springboard clothesline, swinging neck breaker, high knee, bulldog and high kick on Ziggler. Swagger broke up a pin attempt. Swagger went for an ankle lock on Cena on the floor, but Cena reversed into the STF. Punk was going to the top when Laurinaitis got up on the apron. Punk went after Laurinaitis, but Ziggler used the opportunity to roll up Punk with a handful of tights for the win.

There was a time when you could get heat and build matches with this sort of thing, but they have so destroyed the meaning of match results that it means absolutely nothing. They’d be much better off having Ziggler actually beat other people rather than giving him these fake wins over Punk.

After the match, Punk said that Laurinaitis may plan on screwing Punk but Punk plans to beat up Laurinaitis. Punk then challenged Laurinaitis to a match later on Raw. Laurinaitis smiled and accepted.

Chris Jericho came out for the Highlight Reel. They announced he is in the Royal Rumble. He smiled and played to the crowd again. He received some boos this time, but still mostly cheers and Y2J chants. He teased saying something into the microphone but instead went backstage and brought out a t-shirt gun. He had the crowd going crazy screaming for t-shirts. He didn’t shoot a t-shirt out and instead put down the gun. He grabbed the camera in the ring and panned around to the cheering audience. He showed a short video package. Then he finally spoke. He said that this Sunday at the Rumble it will be the end of the world as we know it. And that was it.

Backstage, Zack Ryder told Eve not to worry. Mick Foley asked Ryder if he would be okay. Ryder said yes. Foley reminded Ryder that Kane deep down is just a human being. Eve told Ryder not to do the match. Ryder said he had to. Cena came in and said he would be there if Ryder needed him. Ryder told Cena to stay out of it.

Kane and Zack Ryder’s match had no ending. Kane beat up Ryder forever. Ryder basically just sold. Finally, Kane choke slammed Ryder through a gimmicked section of the stage. They didn’t bother to do a pinfall. Kane went after Eve. Cena came out, so Kane just left. They acted all serious. Ryder was loaded onto a stretcher and then into an ambulance. As Ryder was being loaded into the ambulance, Cena told Ryder he would take care of this. Eve said this was Cena’s fault. Josh Mathews tried to ask a question but Cena knocked the microphone out of his hand and then looked at the camera with this unintentionally hilarious angry face.

If the Kane-Ryder match didn’t have me struggling to stay awake, the conclusion of this angle would have been really funny. The gimmicked stage looked so unbelievably fake, which completely killed any seriousness of the rest of the angle. Why they do these stunt bumps given they always look fake and don’t get over is beyond me. Eve’s terrible acting added to the comedy as did Cena’s absurd angry facials. They later announced Ryder had a broken back for good measure. I predict a miracle recovery.

Sheamus beat Jinder Mahal with the Brogue kick. Wade Barrett did commentary. After the match, Sheamus said he will win the Rumble and jawed with Barrett. Backstage, Miz tried to argue that all his former tag team partners have had their careers disintegrate while he has succeeded. Truth came in for some WWE style comedy and argued with Miz. John Laurinaitis broke them up. Laurinaitis was angry that they were arguing loudly while he was trying to prepare for Punk so he said that whoever lost their match would be the first entrant in the Rumble.

Brodus Clay beat Heath Slater with a head butt, corner avalanche and flying crossbody. William Regal did commentary and was very amusing.

R. Truth beat Miz. Miz did better for most of the match. He used his back breaker/neck breaker combination and a bunch of punches and kicks. Truth hit the leaping downward spiral out of nowhere for the pin. Backstage, David Otunga had a fax for John Laurinaitis that he said Laurinaitis wouldn’t like.

The match between John Laurinaitis and CM Punk didn’t take place. Laurinaitis had Otunga read the fax he received from the WWE board of directors. The board said they were concerned by his judgment and his declaration that he planned to screw Punk. Thus, his status as interim GM is under review and next week HHH will conduct a formal job evaluation. David Otunga was great reading this statement, selling that he was so sad and upset.

Punk was happy and said that if Laurinaitis screws him now, Laurinaitis will be out of a job. Laurinaitis apologized for any wrongdoing and said he was always going to call the match down the middle. He claimed that he just said otherwise because Punk made fun of him. Punk said he hopes HHH fires Laurinaitis next week. Laurinaitis said that won’t happen because he took over talent relations after the dark age under Jim Ross and made it a corporate entity. That was an amusing line.

Laurinaitis said his match with Punk wouldn’t happen but that he had an adequate substitute. Otunga jumped Punk but Punk quickly put him in the anaconda vise and he tapped. Punk went after Laurinaitis but Otunga came in from behind. Punk took him out again with a head kick. Laurinaitis offered a handshake to Punk. Punk shook hands but then gave Laurinaitis the GTS. Ziggler then came in and gave Punk a zig zag from behind to close the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show itself wasn’t that bad from an entertainment standpoint, but the booking was atrocious. I don’t exactly have tremendous confidence in the WWE creative team these days, but I was shocked by the conclusion to this show. The match they have built the most for this show is Punk vs. Ziggler for the title with Laurinaitis as referee. The Rumble is the usual draw, but they haven’t spent much time at all building that up or getting you interested in the various possible winner.

Punk vs. Ziggler has had an actual prolonged build. Granted, that build had little to do with Punk and Ziggler. Ziggler has won by nothing by fluke and they’ve done nothing to make anyone think Ziggler is a real threat to Punk or the title. The whole build was for Laurinaitis screwing Punk and Punk finally beating up Laurinaitis. Then, in the final segment of the go home show for the Rumble, Punk does just that and gives Laurinaitis the GTS. They literally gave away the biggest hook for the PPV in the final segment building the show.

Usually, when I’m critiquing booking this dumb, I’m kind of annoyed. This time, I’m just amused. That’s so stupid it’s hilarious. It’s like the show isn’t even being booked to sell PPVs but rather is some sort of meta parody of incompetent booking. So Bravo, WWE. In an era where your storytelling is so atrocious that we’ve all come to expect the worst, you managed to genuinely surprise. Lay out the heel fans have been waiting six months to get his as the last thing you do before the show fans are supposed to pay to see him laid out? Sure! Why not?

Monday, January 16, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/16/11 from Anaheim, CA.

The Big News: Mick Foley made his return to in ring competition and John Laurinaitis revealed his true intentions.

Show Analysis:

Mick Foley came out to start the show. He said he was happy to return to Raw in a nostalgic, non-wrestling role because he has already lived out his WWE dreams, including headlining WrestleMania in Anaheim. However, he now has one more dream. Foley noted two of his kids were too young to see him wrestle and he wants them to. Thus, he announced his intentions to enter the Royal Rumble this year. The second he mentioned that, Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero immediately walked out to react to this decision.

Ziggler criticized Foley for trying to take a spot in the Rumble from someone else. Ziggler did some WWE style comedy and said Foley would be eliminated pretty much immediately. Foley said that could happen, or he could draw a good number and win. Foley said he was in the Rumble not to be in it but to win it. Ziggler responded that he has beaten John Cena and CM Punk and after winning the title at the Rumble it would be a letdown to wrestle an out-of-shape walking punch line like Foley at Mania. Ziggler told Foley to go away.

CM Punk at that point joined the festivities. Punk said it was good to see Foley. He said that they are a lot alike. They’re unconventional, don’t fit into a mold, and don’t hide behind a woman. Punk said they have earned what they have achieved unlike Ziggler and John Laurinaitis. Punk vowed to be champion at the end of the Royal Rumble because he is the best wrestler in the world.

John Laurinaitis came out and said he would be a fair referee at the Rumble. He added that he would not put Foley in the Rumble. Vickie Guerrero then laughed at Foley. This was a strong opening segment, particularly the Foley/Ziggler interaction. I like this usage of Foley.

Epico and Primo beat Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston to retain the tag titles. They showed highlights from Epico and Primo’s house show title win in Oakland. The heels very briefly worked over Bourne. Bourne hit a huracanrana on Epico that sent Epico into Primo. Kingston got the tag and came in with a springboard clothesline, boom drop and trouble in paradise on Epico. Rather than covering, Kingston tagged Bourne. Bourne was set up for the shooting star press but decided to watch Kingston and Primo fight on the outside instead. Epico knocked Bourne off the top rope and hit the back stabber for the win.

Backstage, David Otunga gave John Laurinaitis an envelope. Laurinaitis then told Chris Jericho that he would be in the main event six man tag team match. Jericho turned off the lights in the office and showed off his sparkly jacket. Elsewhere, Zack Ryder said he hadn’t been cleared by a doctor. Eve said he was in no condition to perform and should be home recuperating. Ryder said he wouldn’t forfeit his title. Eve said she would go to the ring with him.

Jack Swagger beat Zack Ryder to win the US title. Swagger just squashed Ryder. He hit a side slam, back breaker, Vader bomb and three gut wrench power bombs for the pin. This is awfully dumb booking. Swagger has been treated like a total joke of late, so him winning the title just buries the title. And that’s precisely what they just did with Ryder, treating him as a total joke and then giving him the title. Plus, Ryder made it his big goal to win the US title and he didn’t even make it a full month. And the burial of these guys and the title wasn’t over yet.

Backstage, John Laurinaitis apologized for letting Ryder compete when he wasn’t cleared to wrestle. Laurinaitis said he had just seen the medical report. Eve reprimanded him for that. Laurinaitis told her to shut her mouth and left. That line got a nice reaction from the crowd.

Kelly Kelly and Alicia Fox beat the Bella Twins. They brought out Perez Hilton to be ring announcer and they put him over big in a positive manner. It was annoying given what a scumbag Hilton is, and the crowd loudly booed him. The Bellas tried their switch but Hilton stopped them. Kelly then rolled up a Bella for the win. The faces celebrated with Hilton afterwards. Then one of the Bellas shoved him and he took this terrible looking contrived bump.

R. Truth came out to a mixed reaction. He was interrupted by Wade Barrett. Barrett said both he and Truth are in the Rumble, but that Barrett is going to win. Truth did some dumb Photoshop WWE comedy, involving him with Disney characters. It built to Pinocchio’s nose expanding when Pinocchio said Barrett would win the Rumble. Good thing Barrett interrupted Truth to start the segment, then. Truth said Barrett won’t win the Rumble. Miz attacked Truth from behind and Sheamus made the save. Teddy Long then came out to make an over the top rope challenge.

R. Truth won an over the top challenge. Miz, Sheamus and Truth teamed up to dump out Wade Barrett first. Sheamus was trying to throw out Miz when Truth dumped both Miz and Sheamus for the win. Sheamus gave Miz the Brogue kick after the match.

John Cena was furious at John Laurinaitis backstage. Cena accused Laurinaitis of intentionally screwing Ryder out of the title. Laurinaitis said he made a mistake. Laurinaitis added that Cena would be wrestling Kane at the Royal Rumble and Swagger next. Good thing Cena went to his office at that moment, then.

John Cena and Jack Swagger didn’t have a match. Instead, Cena just beat the hell out of Swagger all around ringside. Swagger after squashing Ryder to win the US title literally got no offense in on Cena. Cena threw him into the post, the steps and was about to drop the steps on his head when Kane made the save. Kane appeared on the screen. Kane said Cena is getting it and by the Rumble Cena will have fully embraced hate. Isn’t there anyone else Cena could beat up other than the guy who just won the US title and needs all the help he can get?

Brodus Clay beat JTG. He hit a head butt, corner avalanche and flying crossbody for the pin. He mixed in a lot of comedy as well. The crowd isn’t reacting much to Clay yet, but I think he has an amusing act.

Prior to the main event, Daniel Bryan called Big Show a cruel freak who ran over his girlfriend. Bryan said A.J. will never be the same. He added that Show intentionally ran her over just to get to Bryan. He called Show pathetic. Bryan said that Show didn’t even apologize; he just cried fake tears. Bryan concluded that he appreciates A.J. saying she loves him and he will show her how much he appreciates that Friday. I love the dynamic of the heel saying that he appreciates his girlfriend saying she loves him.

Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler and David Otunga beat CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho/Mick Foley via overturned decision. As that description indicates, a lot happened in this final match. Jericho did the same gimmick circling ringside and encouraging cheers. The crowd chanted Y2J loudly in response. Bryan and Punk both came into the match in the early stages, but Jericho did not. Finally, after Punk was worked over for a bit, he tagged Jericho. Jericho proceeded to lead the crowd in more cheers, then tagged Bryan back in and left celebrating.

The heels took over on Bryan and worked him over. Bryan got the tag to Punk and a brawl broke out. Henry fought with Bryan to the back. That left a two on one situation. Mick Foley came to the ring and said that Laurinaitis had put him in the match. Punk tagged Foley in. Foley hit punches, sweet shin music, a double armed DDT and applied Mr. Socko on Otunga for the win. Laurinaitis then came out and said that since Foley wasn’t a participant, he was reversing the decision.

This led to a show closing angle. Punk cut a promo on Laurinaitis. He said that Laurinaitis doesn’t like Punk because Laurinaitis had the look but not the talent. His brother was half the Road Warriors but he was boring and unsuccessful. Punk said it kills Laurinaitis that Laurinaitis never made it to WWE as a wrestler. So he traded in his tights for a suit and went from someone that sucked to someone that sucks up.

Punk said Laurinaitis is angry that Punk achieved more in the last year than Laurinaitis did in his entire life. Thus, Laurinaitis will try to screw Punk out of jealousy. Punk said it doesn’t matter, because he will still be better than Laurinaitis. Punk promised to kick Laurinaitis’ ass if he gets screwed. Punk pulled back like he was going to punch Laurinaitis and Laurinaitis flinched badly. Punk called Laurinaitis pathetic and left.

With Punk gone, Laurinaitis said he isn’t pathetic and won’t be intimidated by Punk. Foley told Laurinaitis to admit he is going to screw Punk. Foley further called Laurinaitis a kiss ass. Laurinaitis said he will screw Punk. He said he is sick of being disrespected and pushed around. He added that he isn’t appreciated and won’t take it anymore. He hit Foley with a microphone and left.

This was a strong close to the show, based mostly on the strength of Punk’s promo. Punk cut his best promo in a little while, albeit kind of a heelish one. He’s a more natural heel, anyway. Laurinaitis isn’t very good as a performer, but it kind of plays into the role he’s playing and that masks it to some degree for now.

Final Thoughts:

This show had a good beginning and a good end. Much of the middle wasn’t so hot. By recent Raw standards, that’s very good.

Monday, January 09, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/09/11 from Corpus Christi, TX.

The Big News: Brodus Clay finally arrived.

Show Analysis:

Kane started out the show. He said that he notices people questioning why he embraces hate. Kane said people are in denial. They hate their families and their jobs but they don’t embrace that hate. John Cena is successful and represents the things people aspire to achieve but cannot. Thus, when the crowd says Cena sucks, they are saying that they suck. Kane said that cheering for an underdog like Zack Ryder doesn’t make you a good person and he was close to dragging Ryder to Hell. Cena stopped that but just delayed the inevitable. Cena ran out and fought with Kane. They fought outside until Kane randomly left.

Sheamus and Santino beat Jinder Mahal and Wade Barrett. The heels worked over Santino, who got the tag to Sheamus. Sheamus came in with clotheslines, a powerslam and a Brogue kick on Mahal. He then tagged Santino back in and Santino hit the cobra for the pin.

Backstage, Miz complained about R. Truth to John Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis said Miz brought the trouble upon himself. Laurinaitis added that he had a lot on his plate including the debut of Brodus Clay. He concluded that he’s not the problem. He’s not little Jimmy, but big Johnny. They then announced Edge for the Hall of Fame. Obviously he is deserving and the timing is right. Elsewhere backstage, Miz unsuccessfully tried to recruit Mason Ryan to help him.

Zack Ryder was talking with his dad on the phone. Ryder said he is scared of Kane. Then Eve Torres walked in and Ryder pretended to be tough and said he would take out Kane. Ryder suggested Eve go out with him. Eve hesitated forever and then said okay reluctantly, after her match with Beth Phoenix was over. After Ryder left, Kane appeared from behind a door.

Daniel Bryan beat Kofi Kingston. Unfortunately they didn’t give them any time and Bryan just won quickly with the LeBell lock. Bryan did another over-the-top celebration after the match. Big Show came out. Bryan told Show that he hated the way their match ended. Bryan labeled himself a fighting champion and offered Show a title shot any time. Show said Teddy Long already signed a no count out, no disqualification title match for Friday. Bryan acted nervous but shook hands with Show.

Brodus Clay beat Curt Hawkins. Clay was billed as the Funkosaurus from Planet Funk. He had two women with him and they were dressed like Flash Funk and the Funkettes. They came to the ring dancing. This was pretty much a recreation of the Flash Funk gimmick only with music singing “somebody call my Momma” like Ernest Miller. It was played for total comedy and Cole was going nuts with the fake laughter. Clay hit a head butt, over the head throw, corner avalanche and flying crossbody for the pin. The crowd didn’t know what to make of this. It seemed designed to be intentionally bad for comedy but Clay actually made the most of it.

Backstage, Zack Ryder was celebrating going out with Eve. He was brushing his teeth in the bathroom. Kane appeared in the mirror behind him but was no longer there when Ryder turned around. This was reminiscent of that ridiculous Hogan/Warrior angle in 1998 WCW. Elsewhere, Miz tried to get Epico and Primo to help him unsuccessfully.

CM Punk beat Jack Swagger. John Laurinaitis prior to the match said that if Punk won, Swagger and Vickie Guerrero would be banned from ringside at the Royal Rumble. He added that Dolph Ziggler would wrestle John Cena later on Raw. Swagger went after the leg. Punk avoided the ankle lock. Laurinaitis stopped Ziggler from interfering. Punk hit a tope, swinging neck breaker and knee, but had a bulldog attempt countered. Swagger hit a Vader bomb and countered a springboard clothesline into a powerslam. Swagger avoided the GTS and hit a belly to belly throw for two.

Punk then hit a top rope elbow. Swagger clearly kicked out but the referee counted three. Punk couldn’t hide his irritation at this despite winning. The match was really clicking and was shaping up to be a tremendous match before the referee completely blew the finish. Assuming this wasn’t some bizarre angle, this was as terrible a job I’ve ever seen a wrestling referee do on a national stage.

Zack Ryder thanked John Cena backstage. Elsewhere, the Bellas were bickering. Ricardo Rodriguez showed up and wanted to know why they had him fly all the way out to the show. They said they had a message for Del Rio. He asked why he needed to fly all the way out for that. Dude, you’re the one that hopped on a plane without figuring that out. Miz interrupted and told Rodriguez to go to the ring and call out Truth. Rodriguez didn’t want to but Miz threatened him with violence. They then announced additional inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame: the Horsemen (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham and J.J. Dillon). It will be interesting to see whether TNA lets Flair go.

Ricardo Rodriguez came to the ring and lobbed half-hearted insults at Truth for comedy. Truth came out and said he didn’t know why Rodriguez was picking a fighting with him. He was going to let Rodriguez go but the crowd didn’t want him to. So Truth had Rodriguez sing la cucaracha. They already did that, but there’s apparently something timeless in the humor of Mexican-Americans singing la cucaracha.

Rodriguez really got into it and almost managed to save what had been a dreadful segment. The crowd even applauded Rodriguez. Truth was pleased and wanted him to do it again but Rodriguez knocked the microphone from his hand so Truth gave him the downward spiral. Miz attacked Truth from behind but Truth beat him up yet again and Miz ran away through the crowd.

Chris Jericho came out again. He got a big introduction with the old thing about beating Rock and Austin the same night. He basically did the same thing as last week. He had the jacket and pandered to the crowd forever. This time when he took the microphone, he teased that he was going to cry. Then he did actually break down into tears. He eventually put down the microphone without saying anything and instead left crying. This time, the crowd just kept cheering the entire time. Either at this point the WWE has cultivated an audience too stupid to grasp the simplest of psychology or these people really, really don’t want to boo Jericho. Either way, I really enjoyed Jericho again.

Eve Torres came out to wrestle but instead Kane’s music hit. Zack Ryder came out to grab Eve and they went to leave. However, in the parking lot their car had a flat tire. So Ryder went to work on changing the tire.

Dolph Ziggler and John Cena wrestled. Ziggler did a headstand while applying a chinlock, which was amusing. As the match was going on, they showed Kane attacking Ryder in the parking lot on the screen. Kane choke slammed Ryder down a couple feet. Cena, not caring about winning the match, simply left. They showed Vickie Guerrero encouraging Ziggler to get back into the ring so he would win by count out, but they never even bothered to show if he did get back in, because who could possibly care about something like match results? John Cena arrived in the parking lot and Kane suffocated him to end the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was another of those terrible WWE shows where they beat you over the head with the idea that absolutely everything is a joke that you can’t possibly take seriously or invest in on any level other than laughing at it. WWE is slowly but surely morphing into Hustle. Generalissimo Takada and Kane vs. Funkosaurus and Razor Ramon HG would fit in perfectly.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

ESPN's Fighting Next

New ESPN the Magazine is their "Next" issue where they pick the "Next" stars of each sport. They profile Phil Davis as "Next" in MMA. They also had fans vote (merging MMA and boxing to create confusion and hostility), with Junior Dos Santos winning with 41 percent to 18 percent for Amir Khan, 17 percent for Phil Davis, 15 percent for Canelo Alvarez and 9 percent for Gary Russell Jr.

What I found most amusing out of the whole thing, though, was that they profiled fans' opinions and selected three opinions from boxing fans (none from MMA fans). The highlight:

"These MMA guys are 5-0, but that's not even out of the starting gate in boxing. Let's see if they can prove themselves and get to 15-0."

Yes, seriously, they selected THAT out of hundreds if not thousands of comments to put into ink and paper form.

Next year's version will mix college football and pro football and have a fan write in that if the pro teams really want to prove themselves they'll win more games 66-0.

Monday, January 02, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 01/02/11 from Memphis, TN.

The Big News: Chris Jericho is back and he is in a jovial mood.

Show Analysis:

The show started with John Cena. He wished the fans a happy new year. They chanted “you suck” back. He smiled. Cena said he’s going to make some changes in 2012, but it was just stupid comedy. He did say he would slap the Rock’s face and show he has lost his lady parts. Cena said he will remain who he is and keep his convictions true. He added that people pay their money and earn the right to say what they want.

Cena said that Kane wants him to turn his back on the people but he won’t. He said that there is no better feeling than being in the ring in front of all the fans. The fans booed. Cena said he will continue to enjoy any emotional response he gets, so feel free to scream in his face and give him the finger if you see him in the airport. Kane’s voice then appeared, saying that Cena can try to hold off the inevitable but he will come to embrace hate. This was among Cena’s all-time most annoying promos. It mixed in all the worst elements of Cena’s character: dumb comedy, disingenuous pandering and clichéd sentimentality.

Daniel Bryan beat Cody Rhodes. Bryan hit a knee off the apron onto the floor. Rhodes came back with a springboard kick. Bryan then used a small package out of nowhere for the pin. This was good while it lasted. Bryan then did a weird over-the-top celebration after the match. I’m not sure where they are going with Bryan and Big Show but it is intriguing,

John Laurinaitis told Miz that what R. Truth did to Miz was unprofessional. Miz was outraged Laurinaitis wasn’t taking action against Truth. Laurinaitis pointed out Miz attacked Truth first and told Miz he would be wrestling Sheamus on Raw. Miz stormed off muttering that he would be a sitting duck. Truth walked into the frame and quacked.

Wade Barrett came to the ring. Barrett said he doesn’t care about people having a good new year but it has been a fantastic 2012 for him, devoid of Randy Orton. Barrett said he didn’t plan to throw Orton down the stairs but it was either Orton or him. Barrett said he is looking forward to winning the Royal Rumble and main eventing WrestleMania.

Wade Barrett beat Santino Marella. Santino interrupted Barrett’s promo and said he would run over Barrett. Barrett hit him with a kick to the head, punches, superkick and Bossman slam for the pin.

The Bellas were bickering backstage. Miz asked if they had seen Truth. They said no but that they had seen little Jimmy. They were really pushing the Little Jimmy thing throughout the show. Miz then stalked around paranoid about Truth. Truth walked out when Miz left.

A match between Sheamus and Miz didn’t really take place. Sheamus repeatedly hit Miz until Miz ran away through the crowd. Truth appeared right where Miz happened to walk. Truth did some comedy. Miz went back inside the barricade and was hit with a Brogue kick on the floor. Truth then hit Miz with a water bottle again and did some more comedy with a kid. They’re booking Miz as if he is leaving the company and they need to bury him on the way out.

Dolph Ziggler said that we are a debt society and he has a surplus of everything except the WWE title. Elsewhere, Zack Ryder was coming onto Eve Torres. She basically blew him off. Jack Swagger came in and said an impostor is wearing the US title. Ryder was oblivious as to what he meant. Ryder said that even though they both have names that end with “er”, he’ll still send Swagger to the ER. That was written to be a lame joke and Torres sold it as such. They argued and Laurinaitis announced they would participate in a six man elimination match.

Dolph Ziggler beat CM Punk via count out. Punk did well at first but then Ziggler took over. Punk hit a powerslam for two. Ziggler hit a famouser for two. Punk pulled the turnbuckle off the top rope (it was supposed to look accidental but didn’t in the slightest). Punk hit a high knee and bulldog. Laurinaitis came out to make sure the referee put the turnbuckle back on. Punk went for the GTS but Ziggler escaped. Punk then applied the anaconda vise and Ziggler tapped. The referee wasn’t paying attention but Punk released the hold anyway. I’m not sure why they did that given it undermined Ziggler as a challenger and made Punk look like an idiot with no positive consequences.

Ziggler charged Punk but ran into Laurinaitis. Punk went for the GTS but Ziggler got out and pushed Punk towards Laurinaitis. Punk tumbled over the top rope and they told the story that Laurinaitis pulled down the top rope. For some reason this killed Punk and he was counted out. This whole scenario was completely overbooked. Ziggler celebrated with the title after the match.

The Bellas beat Kelly and Eve Torres. Kelly used a stinkface and a jaw breaker. Torres hit a clothesline, dropkick and moonsault. The other Bella broke up the pin attempt. Kelly distracted the referee so they could do the twin switch and the other Bella used one of the worst cradles ever for the pin.

Punk confronted Laurinaitis backstage for almost costing him the title. Laurinaitis said that Punk’s problem is with Ziggler, who has defeated Punk twice. He announced Ziggler will receive a title shot at the Royal Rumble with Laurinaitis as special guest referee. Punk vowed to beat up Laurinaitis if Laurinaitis screws him.

They played one last vignette with the boy and the girl. The camera shook. The lights went out. The crowd chanted Y2J. Chris Jericho then appeared in an intentionally preposterous sparkly vest. He was smiling broadly and happy. He teased he was going to say something but instead just milked the crowd reaction forever to comedic effect. He literally just kept encouraging people to cheer for around 10 minutes. He kept teasing he would speak but then went back to encouraging cheers again. He ran around the ring slapping hands and played with the camera. Finally, as he started to leave, some people started booing. The crowd took longer to turn on him than expected, probably because they were so happy to see him.

This was a great segment. It was entertaining and funny, while setting the stage well for him to play a full of himself heel again. It looks like he’ll be more like his 1998 heel character than his 2008 heel character but there is still plenty of time for the character to be laid out. It also seems like Jericho has taken some inspiration from what’s so unbearable about Cena’s character.

John Cena, Zack Ryder and Big Show beat Mark Henry and Jack Swagger. Kane was supposed to be on the heel team but in a weird deal they announced he wasn’t participating and just did a handicap match with the faces having an advantage. Henry tried to hit Show with a chair. Show knocked the chair out of his hand and hit him with the chair. It was announced both Henry and Show were eliminated.

Ryder hit the kick to the face and went for the Rough Ryder on Swagger but Swagger countered into the ankle lock. Ryder struggled and got the tag to Cena. Cena came in with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam, five knuckle and FU for the win. After the match, Kane came out from under the ring. He suffocated Cena and went to drag Ryder under the ring to do something terrible. Cena pulled Ryder out and fire came out of the hole. That was a goofy conclusion to the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show was largely not very good. There are way too many goofy, annoying comedic faces and way too little seriousness. The overall atmosphere is just not conducive to getting people invested in the product. On the plus side, I did like Chris Jericho’s return.