WWE Raw Report
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.
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.
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.