Monday, February 27, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/27/12 from Portland, OR.

The Big News: Raw delivered again, with Rock’s big answer back to John Cena and an excellent verbal duel between CM Punk and Chris Jericho.

Show Analysis:

The show was going to start with Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk, but Chris Jericho interrupted before Bryan made his entrance. Jericho said he is part of a special dying breed of performers who toured the world and became stars before they arrived in WWE. They cared more about having the best match than politics or slots and were given nothing while taking everything. Jericho acknowledged developing a chip on his shoulder and getting a bad reputation backstage because of it, but said he didn’t care because he knew he was the best. Jericho admitted that Punk is like him: a maverick who went against the grain and became more than anyone thought he would. However, that’s just because Punk wants to be Jericho.

Punk responded that Jericho didn’t invent saying that he is the best. Punk noted Bret Hart used to say that before Jericho and mocked the idea Jericho invented the phrase. Jericho said Punk needs to take Jericho seriously because Jericho is the best in the world. Jericho said he has faced every legend and beaten them all. Jericho purported to create legendary matches and moments which will be around long after Punk is gone, because he is the best in the world at everything he does.

Punk picked up on the tone of Jericho’s comments and said that Punk has an inferiority complex. Punk asked whether Jericho is trying to prove something to the people, Punk or to himself. Punk said Jericho’s confidence has been replaced by jealousy. He agreed that he came from a similar background as Jericho, but said that he passed Jericho. Punk argued that Jericho was never the man like Punk is now the man and Jericho has a Napoleon complex. Punk said that Jericho went off to be a Hollywood celebrity and dance with the stars while Punk was swimming with the sharks.

Jericho said when he was becoming a bigger star than Punk ever has been, he could only think about Punk ripping him off. Jericho said the vignettes, jacket and such are just window dressing and he’s back to embarrass Punk on the biggest stage, take back what is his, and prove he’s the best in the world at what he does. Punk responded that Jericho just had to ask for a shot.

Punk added that they don’t need celebrities, pageantry, pyro or jackets; they just need the two of the in the ring. They’ll find out who the best in the world is and they might have the greatest match in WrestleMania history. Punk said that when he celebrates at the end of the night, it won’t be the end of the world but just the end of Jericho’s. This was a tremendous opening segment as both guys did a great job making their match seem like a meaningful event and big deal.

CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan ended in a no contest. The match was basically a backdrop for Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis arguing on commentary. Bryan worked over Punk including throwing him into the steps. Punk came back with a high knee, body slam and top rope elbow. Punk signaled for GTS when David Otunga got on the apron. Punk knocked him off but Otunga moments later got back on the apron. Santino knocked Otunga off with the cobra. Laurinaitis then pulled Santino off the apron.

This led to a big argument on the outside. As this was going on, Bryan went to leave. Sheamus threw Bryan back into the ring and Punk gave Bryan the GTS. The referee went to count but Laurinaitis called that off and another big argument transpired. As Punk was leaving, Jericho attacked him from behind, slamming him on the stage and putting him in the walls. Making your champions secondary to a pointless feud between general managers is dumb.

Kelly Kelly beat Nikki Bella in a typically short women’s match. Brie got up on the apron and Kelly knocked her off. Nikki then rolled up Kelly from behind but Kelly rolled through for the win. They were playing up that Kelly is angry at Eve Torres now.

John Cena beat Miz. Before the match, Miz again complained about his decline and not having a spot at Mania this year. I’m so sick of Miz complaining about the death of his career. It’s not the right kind of heat, either. Miz briefly was in control with a back breaker/neck breaker combination and knee lift. But Cena then made a quick comeback with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam, the five knuckle, the FU and the STF for the submission. They showed Rock watching backstage afterwards.

Epico & Primo retained the tag titles beating Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger and R. Truth & Kofi Kingston. The rules here were one man from each team was legal at any time. Kingston hit a boom drop on the two other guys. Ziggler gave Kingston a zig zag and Swagger covered for two. Swagger applied the ankle lock to Epico. Kingston hit trouble in paradise on Swagger but Primo gave Kingston the back stabber and Epico covered for the pin. After the match, Kane laid out everybody to make sure you knew they aren’t to be taken seriously. Kane needs no help at all and here he’s laying out six guys who do one on six, including the most talented young star in the entire company.

David Otunga and John Laurinaitis were chatting backstage about The Wire and The Artist when Teddy Long came in and said he heard a rumor that Laurinaitis won’t be running next week’s Raw. Laurinaitis responded that he heard Long has been fired. Long called Laurinaitis a horse’s ass and left.

Eve Torres came to the ring and said that she uses men but that there isn’t a man who wouldn’t love to be used by her. She said she can’t help it that men are like puppies begging for her attention. She added that men shouldn’t blame her for her strength but blame themselves for their weaknesses. She blew a kiss and left. This is such a cartoonish character. Backstage, Kelly wanted to know why Eve has changed. Eve did a fake laugh and left. Kelly was mad. God was the acting from these two wretched. It was like the Haggler-Hearns showdown of bad acting.

Sheamus and Big Show beat Cody Rhodes and Mark Henry. They may have been running long because they wrapped this up in a hurry. Rhodes before the match brought up Floyd Mayweather beating Big Show. Show was going to wrestle Rhodes but Rhodes left. Show speared Henry and Sheamus hit the Brogue kick for the win. They announced Shawn Michaels for next week.

Rock came out to close the show. He acknowledged that he isn’t on Raw every week but said he was on Raw every week for years and loved it. He noted the Rock was born and created in WWE and there wouldn’t be a Rock without WWE. He said that when he said he would never leave, he meant it. It didn’t mean he would be back every show but if John Cena wants to take that literally, he can. Rock said he respects the audience’s intelligence and is in the ring for no other reason than because he loves WWE. He said that he will always be part of WWE and WWE will always be a part of him.

Rock said that he used to think Cena was a phony who went to private school and then became doctor of thuganomics. He said Cena has his cell number but Rock doesn’t want to talk to Cena because he would rather slap his lying face with Kung Pao chicken in catering. He said Cena isn’t a phony or a bad guy but a Kung Pao bitch.

Rock noted Cena saying that Cena would fight for the people in the back who want to be a wrestler. Rock responded that he always fought for himself and other people didn’t fight for him. He said when he was supposed to be a face and was getting booed, Austin wasn’t fighting for him and that’s true for all the greats. But if Cena wants to fight for the boys in the back, Rock will fight for the fans. He will fight for the people who are tired of having a bitch shoved down their throats every single night. Rock then led the crowd in different chants for a while. He mocked Cena switching from jean shorts to camouflage shorts and said that worked because Cena’s balls can’t be found.

At that point, Cena interrupted. He mocked the Kung Pao chicken line. He said that he’ll run Rock down when Rock is there. He said that he was a fan of Rock until he got the chance to meet Dwayne Johnson, who is a self-centered, egotistical son of a bitch who wouldn’t care if WWE closed tomorrow. Cena mocked Rock for having notes written on his wrist (he did). Cena said at Mania Dwayne will be afraid because Cena is going to beat the hell out of him. Cena then left.

Rock said that is just like Cena to come out, run his mouth and leave before getting smacked. He said Rock and Dwayne Johnson are the same person. He added that Cena can talk about being tough but Cena’s isn’t tough. He vowed to kick Cena’s ass at Mania.

Final Thoughts:

This was a strong show, carried by great build for Mania at the start of the show and great build at the end. Both feuds infused reality into the programs and made the matches seem very meaningful, all while providing great entertainment. It’s precisely what pro wrestling ought to be.

Monday, February 20, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/21/12 from Minneapolis, MN.

The Big News: John Cena for the first time in a great many years came off as a genuinely likable personality.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Eve Torres chatting in front of the camera with the Bellas. The Bellas asked how Zack Ryder is doing. Eve laughed and said she isn’t friends with Ryder. Eve explained that she was just using Ryder to get people to talk about her and that he didn’t even get to first base because he wouldn’t know what to do with a woman like her. She said she used Ryder and now she’ll use John Cena to advance herself. Unfortunately, John Cena was right there listening. This whole thing had a Scooby Doo feel to it, with the villain doing a 180 personality switch and explaining her whole devious plan for no apparent reason. But it set up something positive.

John Cena came to the ring. Eve Torres followed him, crying. She said that was taken out of context and that they have been friends for a long time. Cena said that because of her he lost a good friend, a broski for a hoski. That led to hoski chants. Cena said Eve shouldn’t be wasting her time with him and instead should hold out for Rock. Cena labeled her disingenuous, egomaniacal and willing to use anyone, which is perfect for Rock as they are both scandalous bitches. Eve got on her knees crying then tried to make out with Cena. Cena resisted, saying he is disease free and would like to keep it that way.

After Cena has been unlikable for so long, they have made quite the effort to make him likable again. The video packages at the Elimination Chamber with him helping out younger wrestlers had that effect, and standing up to a manipulative woman earned him more points here. Impressively, this wasn’t even the peak of Cena rehabilitation on this show.

Sheamus beat Mark Henry. Henry worked over Sheamus initially with punches, kicks and corner avalanches. He went for the world’s strongest slam but Sheamus escaped and hit the Brogue kick for the pin.

Backstage, John Laurinaitis told David Otunga that people are talking about Laurinaitis. Teddy Long came in. Laurinaitis claimed it was Otunga’s idea for him to be GM of both Raw and Smackdown and that he didn’t know Christian and Alberto Del Rio would join the cause. Long suggested they ask the people who should be GM of both shows. Laurinaitis said he only cares about the opinion of the board of directors and pointed out he’s a lot taller than Long. Laurinaitis announced a 10 man battle royal for the WrestleMania title shot at CM Punk. Long said Smackdown would be represented and argued with Otunga. Laurinaitis said Otunga would face Long’s choice of a wrestler from Smackdown. They announced Rock will be on Raw next week.

R. Truth and Kofi Kingston beat Epico and Primo. Truth now has a little Jimmy shirt with a kid on the front, shaking hands on the way to the ring. It seems so pandering. The heels worked over Truth. Kingston got the hot tag and ran wild with dropkicks and the boom drop. Rosa Mendes distracted Kingston but Kingston avoided the back stabber and hit trouble in paradise on Primo for the win. So Kingston and Truth are the next title challengers. Have they ever teamed before?

They announced Ron Simmons for the WWE Hall of Fame. They had a nice video package which thankfully didn’t overemphasize the damn comedy gimmick. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but he did a lot more in his career. Backstage, Chris Jericho said it was a travesty he was eliminated from the elimination chamber without being pinned or submitted.

David Otunga beat Ezekiel Jackson. Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis were in the corners. Jackson was in control but he missed a corner avalanche and Otunga hit the verdict for the pin. It was nice to see them put Otunga over clean as I figured they would have some sort of chicanery.

Undertaker came to the ring and said that he has lived with the memory of the beating he took from HHH. He called it a living hell of uncertainty. He challenged HHH to end that uncertainty and never would have expected a no response. The crowd kept saying “what,” which seemed to throw him off. Taker said they are the last of their kind and the suit covers up what HHH is. Taker said HHH can lie to himself and to Shawn Michaels but not to Taker. He told HHH to come out and look him in the eyes. Taker seemed off here, repeating himself and stumbling.

Things got much better with HHH’s entrance. HHH told Taker to shut up. HHH said they need to ensure WWE continues on and Taker needs to carry the torch for the next generation. HHH said he won’t extinguish that flame. He called it bad for business. Taker asked if it would be bad for business that Taker’s gone or bad for business that HHH’s gone. HHH said he has never been as certain of anything and he knows Taker is certain too. HHH said Taker isn’t asking for redemption or salvation but for an end. HHH said he wouldn’t end it.

Taker in response called HHH a coward. That led to “you’re a coward” chants. HHH said he understood what Taker was doing, but it wouldn’t work and the answer was still no. Taker went further, saying HHH knows he can’t do what his buddy Shawn Michaels couldn’t do, because HHH knows Michaels was always better than HHH. HHH, who was leaving, took off his jacket and tie and returned to the ring. HHH said this has nothing to do with Michaels; Michaels couldn’t get the job done but HHH knows he can. The crowd chanted “prove it.” HHH agreed to the match, but said that if they do it they will do it all the way with Hell in a Cell. The Taker part started off slow but once HHH arrived this was a tremendous segment.

A couple of short matches followed. Daniel Bryan beat Santino. Bryan quickly caught Santino in the LeBell lock. Santino reached for the cobra sock but couldn’t get it and tapped out. The Bella twins then beat Aksana and Kelly win the twins used the switch on Aksana.

John Cena came out for a great WrestleMania promo. He said Rock wasn’t there but will be there next week. Cena said he used to like Rock until Rock became Dwayne Johnson and now Dwayne has his entourage. Cena said he doesn’t respect Rock. He respects what Dwayne has accomplished but has beef because Dwayne always goes back to Hollywood. Cena said there won’t be Reunion 2 and 12 Rounds should have gone 3 but he always showed up to wrestle and never left.

Cena contrasted that with Rock, who got a taste of the bright lights and left faster than Cena could say “Rock don’t go.” Rock came back, but then quickly left again. Cena claimed Vince would probably fine him (wasn’t Vince removed from power?), but Dwayne only came back to launch Fast Five and plug his Twitter account. Cena said he fights for the people who dream to be a WWE superstar and stay a WWE superstar. He does it for the people who are proud to be a professional wrestler.

Cena concluded by saying the great thing about April 1 will be the Monday after when he is still on Raw and Dwayne is on a movie set laughing at his stunt double. Cena said Rock will be on Raw next week entertaining all the people, but Cena will always be here and Rock will have to kill him to beat him. “See you next week superstar,” he concluded.

This was a phenomenal segment. Cena made this issue feel real and the result feel important. He seemed like he cared and he took shots at Rock without winking and making silly faces. It was like they finally figured out Cena’s act needs some serious refurbishing.

Chris Jericho won a brutal battle royal of doom to earn a title shot at CM Punk. Everyone teamed up to dump Great Khali first. Kofi Kingston and R. Truth eliminated Miz next. Punk did commentary and observed it’s a good thing Miz isn’t headlining Mania again. They did a series of finishers, culminating with Santino eliminating Wade Barrett and Truth. Ziggler hit a dropkick on Ziggler and celebrated, but Big Show grabbed Ziggler and hurled him over the top onto Barrett and Truth.

That started the trouble in the battle royal. It looked like Ziggler crashed and burned into the announce table, with Truth taking a bad bump too. Worse, Barrett in trying to catch Ziggler appeared to seriously injure his left arm. Barrett immediately pounded the floor with his other arm in frustration. Next, Jericho knocked Kingston off the top rope and Kingston tumbled down the ring steps to the floor taking a terrible spill. The EMTs came out to immobilize Barrett’s arm, with Punk remarking that one of the EMTs looked like Rock N Roll Buck Zumhofe. It was an amusing line but seemed kind of callous under the circumstances.

Chris Jericho threw out Santino, but Santino skinned the cat and hit the cobra on Jericho. Cody Rhodes then threw out Santino, who almost landed right on Barrett’s immobilized arm. The hits just kept on coming. Show eliminated Rhodes next, leaving Jericho and Show. Rhodes helped Jericho eliminate Show. After the match, Punk came into the ring and offered a handshake to Jericho. Jericho smirked and left without shaking.

Final Thoughts:

This show was an excellent show in general, with clean finishes and great build for Undertaker vs. HHH and Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk. But what really distinguished it was how much better John Cena came across than at any other point in a great many years. Cena’s smarmy, insincere jokester character as top babyface is one of the single biggest problems with the product, and switching up Cena in a positive manner has a hugely positive effect on the show in and of itself.

I found John Cena on this show very likable. He seemed more genuine and he acted like he cared. What was most impressive about the transformation is that it wasn’t achieved through cheats. It wasn’t about simply trying to pair him with a popular face or feuding him with an unpopular heel. Rather, they did real work and altered his persona in a positive manner. If Cena is more like this guy going forward, the crowds will eventually turn around even without a turn.

Rock’s answer back will be very interesting. Cena landed some punches squarely on Rock’s chin without opening himself up for counters. This is the model, WWE. Book Cena like this and it will pay dividends.

Monday, February 13, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/14/12 from San Diego, CA.

The Big News: At last, a show for true connoisseurs of unintentional comedy. Also, masochists.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Kane backstage saying that he will do anything to get John Cena to embrace the hate. He added that by the end of the show, Cena will embrace the hate and someone will take a ride in an ambulance.

We then went to a debate with the wrestlers in the Raw chamber. John Laurinaitis interrupted CM Punk at the onset to thank the WWE board of directors for their support and leave. Punk said the debate wouldn’t end in violence. He suggested that a lot of people assume Laurinaitis has something over the board, but really Laurinaitis has just done a lot of begging. Punk said he will win because he is the best wrestler in the world.

Dolph Ziggler said he is a better wrestler than Punk. He took a shot at R. Truth, saying Truth doesn’t know what state they are in. Truth said that if he is elected, he will trade Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero to Smackdown. Truth continued with an extended version of his minstrel show comedy act. Miz again pointed out he was in the main event of Mania last year and ran down the others. Kofi Kingston said he has been overlooked for too long but that will change at the chamber.

Jericho finally said that he has been in more chambers than anyone and eliminated more wrestlers in chamber matches than anyone. He said he is coming to reclaim Punk’s title. Punk took a shot at him finishing 7th on Dancing with the Stars. Ziggler said this segment was a joke and waste of time. Truth did more minstrel. Jericho got in Punk’s face and Kingston gave Jericho trouble in paradise to mercifully end this segment.

This segment was thoroughly irritating from beginning to end. It was that goofy, annoying WWE atmosphere that takes the edge off everything and actively makes you much less interested in seeing the match. Everyone except Kingston came off so obnoxious. This description probably doesn’t even read that bad, but as far as making me want to change the channel and never order another pay-per-view, this was really bad.

Chris Jericho beat Kofi Kingston. Jericho worked over Kingston briefly. Kingston came back with dropkicks but his springboard attempted was countered into the walls. Kingston got to the ropes. Jericho argued with the referee and Kingston hit trouble in paradise for two. Kingston covered but Jericho got his foot on the ropes. After a sloppy struggle and gouge to the eyes, Jericho hit the code breaker for the pin.

Shawn Michaels arrived and hugged HHH backstage. Elsewhere, Zack Ryder was in Cena’s locker room with a wheel chair, neck brace and flowers. He looked completely preposterous. Ryder said he needed to tell Eve Torres how he feels about her. Cena pointed out that whenever Ryder shows up, Kane murders him. Cena told Ryder to stay in the locker room while Cena went to get Eve. In John Laurinaitis’ office, David Otunga pointed out Laurinaitis isn’t permanent GM yet. Otunga has a plan for Laurinaitis to be permanent GM of Raw and Smackdown.

Randy Orton beat Big Show via DQ. Daniel Bryan watched from ringside. Show threw Orton on the announce table. Coming back in, Orton kicked Show in the head and hit a draping DDT on Show from the top rope. That was a cool spot. Orton went for the RKO but they botched it. Show went down but Orton didn’t, so it was like Show gave himself the move and sold it. There were audible “you fucked up” chants. So Orton went for it again and this time hit it. Bryan then ran in to hit Orton with the belt for the DQ. Bryan hit Show with it as well. This was an okay match with a terrible finish both in concept and execution.

Shawn Michaels came out. It seemed like he was losing his voice and was a bit off. Michaels pointed out it is WrestleMania season and you can’t have WrestleMania without Mr. WrestleMania. Michaels said he was waiting last week for HHH to accept Undertaker’s challenge, so when HHH didn’t, he called Laurinaitis and said he needed to talk to HHH. Umm, the story was Laurinaitis proposed Michaels’ return two weeks ago to the board of directors before HHH refused Taker’s challenge. Michaels said that he thought about it a few days and realized HHH was just baiting Taker. So he called out HHH to come say he would be ending the streak.

HHH joined Michaels and said it was great to see him. HHH said it would be nice to see Michaels more often, a sentiment I’m sure all fans would agree with. However, HHH said he won’t face Taker at Mania. He reiterated that he would have to end Taker to beat him and he isn’t willing to do that. HHH said he isn’t that guy any more. Michaels said that’s exactly who he is, ending careers and showing no mercy or compassion.

Michaels asked if HHH is just a suit now, whether he married that chick and became one of them. He wondered if HHH is a corporate sellout. HHH said he isn’t selling out, but investing in the future. Michaels responded that when someone challenges him and he backs down that makes him a coward. HHH said Michaels doesn’t understand. Michaels is on the ranch without any worries while HHH has responsibilities. The company is going to be his and that responsibility weighs a ton on his shoulders.

HHH asserted Taker isn’t just an opponent. Taker is a brand that is good for business and letting that brand end is bad for business. HHH said that HHH, Michaels and Taker are the end of an era. Their style doesn’t exist and they left it all in the ring every night. HHH said he won’t be the one to end that era because Taker’s all that is left. HHH said he won’t do it for his ego or for Michaels’ ego, doing what Michaels couldn’t.

Michaels said that speech works on a lot of people, but it wouldn’t work on him. Michaels told HHH to look him in the eye and say he doesn’t want to end the streak, say no. HHH looked in Michaels’ eyes and said no. Michaels was taken aback and left. They then played another Taker video. Taker again was calling for the match and they showed him cutting his hair.

R. Truth beat Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler worked over Truth for a while. He was doing sit-ups when Truth rolled him up for the win. I don’t get why Ziggler keeps losing. He ought to be the hottest rising star in the company and they just job him out week in and week out.

Santino and Zack Ryder did brief comedy backstage. Then Tamina pinned Brie Bella with a Samoan drop and superfly splash.

Backstage, a crying Eve Torres walked into an ambulance and Kane shut the doors. I’m not sure if they shot this with the wrong angle or what, but it seemed as if she just randomly decided to walk into the ambulance rather than being chased or coerced. Kane closed the door. Cena attacked Kane. Kane got away and went to drive off with Eve in the back, but Eve just opened the back door and jumped out into Cena’s arms. She then kissed Cena. Of course, Ryder was right there sitting in his wheelchair with the flowers, shocked and upset. Coming back from the break, Eve told Ryder she was sorry and wanted them to be friends. Ryder made an angry face and rolled away for comedy.

CM Punk beat Miz. Miz went for his neck breaker/back breaker combination but Punk cut him off with a head kick. Punk followed with a powerslam and top rope elbow. He went for GTS but Miz escaped and went for the skull crushing finale. Punk got out of that and applied the anaconda vise for the submission.

Raw concluded with an epic final segment. Cena came out and apologized to Ryder. He said Kane’s plan was to turn Cena’s friends against him and the fans against him. Cena tried to act like the crowd was booing him because of this goofy angle. But Cena vowed that this plan wouldn’t work! The crowd chanted “we all hate you.” Cena said that they don’t get that he rises above the hate. He told people to go on thinking he’s weak, as if that’s the central criticism people have of him. He said he will adapt, overcome, and win against Kane and Rock.

Zack Ryder wheeled himself out and then came down to the ring on crutches. He was selling in this comedic manner and making angry facial expressions. Ryder slapped Cena. Cena took off his shirt. As Ryder and Cena were having their big confrontation, the crowd began loudly chanting “throw it back” to the person who caught Cena’s shirt. Ryder went to hit Cena. Cena caught it and shoved Ryder down. A dejected Ryder went to leave on his crutches.

Kane appeared on the screen and said Cena took the true love of his only friend. Kane said that Cena will leave Sunday in an ambulance. Then for good measure he came out and pushed Ryder off the stage in his wheelchair. Why not? Cena freaked out over Ryder’s 80th demise and ran about looking for help. He did the X sign and stood by Ryder as fans heckled him and one person cried. Then Eve Torres came out and everybody booed. And that was that. I hope Ryder is okay.

Final Thoughts:

Who would order Elimination Chamber after watching this show?

Monday, February 06, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 02/07/12 from Oklahoma City, OK.

The Big News: HHH rejected a match with Undertaker, CM Punk rejected a verbal duel with Chris Jericho and Miz rejected breaking R. Truth’s fall.

Show Analysis:

HHH came out to start the show. He said that he was going to fire John Laurinaitis at the end of last week’s show. He labeled Laurinaitis a weasel with no redeeming characteristics. However, Laurinaitis flew to Stamford to meet with the board of directors and the board doesn’t want HHH to fire him until they make their decision which could come as soon as Tuesday morning.

HHH next turned his attention to Undertaker. HHH said that there was always a rush and awe for him when Undertaker entered. But last week, he didn’t feel that and instead felt bad for Undertaker. HHH said he knows what he did to Undertaker last year and he wants to remember Undertaker as being dominant rather than being carried out. Thus, HHH refused the match. He said that if they did it again, HHH would have to put an end to it. He added that maybe that’s what Undertaker wants. HHH said that everyone has their limits and he won’t be the guy to push Undertaker past his because he respects Undertaker too much. I thought this was a great promo by HHH.

As HHH went to leave, his music stopped and the lights went out. A video package played with Undertaker saying he wants vengeance and he will offer HHH one more chance at immortality. It concluded that this is not over.

Big Show beat Daniel Bryan via count out. Bryan brought AJ to ringside, assuring her that she would be fine. Show hit punches, heat butts, a body slam and a spear. He went for the choke slam but Bryan countered into a standing guillotine. Show escaped and kicked Bryan off the ring apron. Bryan sold his leg and Show went after him. AJ stopped Show but as Show went to reenter the ring, Bryan attacked Show’s knee from behind. Show charged after Bryan and nearly ran over AJ again. This time he was able to pull up. Bryan then just walked up the ramp with AJ and was counted out.

Bryan on the stage said that Show proved the first time he ran over AJ was on purpose, because he could have pulled up then like he pulled up this time. Bryan said that protecting AJ is more important to him than winning or losing any match. However, after the Elimination Chamber he will still be champion.

Randy Orton beat David Otunga. Otunga came to the ring and said he has never had a boss as good as John Laurinaitis. He asked for the crowd to pray that the board does the right thing by retaining Laurinaitis and he Tebowed. HHH then put Otunga in this match. Sheamus went for the razor’s edge immediately but Otunga escaped. Sheamus hit an ax handle and some punches. Otunga got off a DDT before being hit with the Brogue kick for the pin.

Chris Jericho in the ring said the end of the world has arrived because he spells the end of thievery, plagiarism and liars claiming to be what they are not. He said that all the wrestlers and all the fans are Chris Jericho wannabes. He added that he trolled and manipulated the people because they are wannabes. He said Miz ripped off his act and Punk is the worst of them all. Jericho said he is really the best in the world and Punk is just a wannabe. Jericho said he is back to claim what is his.

CM Punk interrupted. He teased saying something but instead just held up his title. He then turned his back. When Jericho didn’t attack, Punk left holding up his title and smiling. Jericho screamed at him in anger as he left. This was a good segment. It’s bizarre, but I can’t even recall the last segment that was principally built around getting over the idea that the title means you are the best. Jericho wants to be known as the best. Punk has the title. So Jericho has to beat him to prove who the real best is. That’s just perfect.

Randy Orton and Great Khali beat Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett. Khali hit chops and a clothesline on Barrett. He tagged in Orton with a very hard chop. Orton smiled but was cut off by a Barrett neck breaker. Rhodes worked over Orton briefly but Orton made his own comeback. Orton gave Barrett a powerslam and gave Rhodes a clothesline and draping DDT. He set up for the RKO when Khali tagged himself in. Khali then hit a chop on Rhodes for the pin. Then after the match Orton gave Khali an RKO. This was a dumb segment. Khali beating Rhodes is stupid enough, but then having Khali laid out immediately after made that result even dumber.

Tamina, Alicia Fox, Eve Torres and Kelly Kelly beat Beth Phoenix, Natalya and the Bellas. Before the match, Beth said she has beaten everyone and there is no competition left. I figured that was a tease for a feud with Kharma but then Tamina won with a superfly splash over a Bella. Beth and Tamina exchanged looks after that so evidently that’s the next program.

John Laurinaitis approached HHH backstage. Laurinaitis said he is still executive VP and interim GM, at least until Tuesday morning. Laurinaitis said the board is comprised of good people and they will be fair. He said that they adopted two suggestions he had: Shawn Michaels will appear on Raw next week and Kane will wrestle John Cena in an ambulance match at Elimination Chamber. HHH threatened Laurinaitis and Laurinaitis left. Laurinaitis then suggested to Josh Mathews the board will prefer someone like him to someone perceived as cowardly like HHH ducking Undertaker.

Chris Jericho won a 6 pack challenge to earn the right to enter last in the Elimination Chamber match. It’s not a big deal but I think it’s pretty dumb that winning a random match gives you an advantage in a multi-person title match but actually being the champion does not. They did a series of dives early. Truth went for a somersault plancha but Miz didn’t catch him and he took a hard bump on the floor with his head bouncing off the ground. Truth was helped to the back and didn’t finish the match. I’m glad they made that judgment call in this situation rather than just having him work through the match. Of course, it’s easier in this sort of match.

Punk hit a simultaneous neck breaker and DDT on Miz and Ziggler that looked cool. Punk put Miz in the anaconda vise but Ziggler made the save. Punk then put Ziggler in the anaconda vise but Kingston made the save. They did a tower of doom spot. Kingston went for trouble in paradise on Jericho but Jericho reversed into the Walls. Punk broke that up but Ziggler came in with a rollup on Punk for two. Punk hit the GTS on Ziggler but Jericho pulled Punk out and covered Ziggler instead to win. This was a fun match.

After the match, they cut to Kane and Eve Torres backstage. Kane yelled at Eve while she overacted. Kane said that he is afraid of himself. Interestingly, Cena never appeared live on this show. If they mentioned why, I missed it.

Final Thoughts:

This was a second straight solid show. The standout segments were those building up HHH vs. Undertaker and Punk vs. Jericho, as well as an entertaining main event.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Favorite Movies of 2011

I've been doing these lists for a number of years now and I cared for this year's crop less than any other in a while. In particular, most of the year's "prestige" films didn't resonate very much with me. As a result, most of my favorite movies were decidedly mainstream fare. I've seen most of the movies I think might have made the list. The key ones that I didn't were Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Adventures of Tintin and My Week with Marilyn.

10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This was just a fun summer movie. The characterization of Caesar was strong and there was plenty of heart and emotion between a CGI ape. The source material ended up being a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing in that the Planet of the Apes name drove box office. But it also limited the film, as the apes ultimately have to win. Not only was that entirely implausible, but I think their defeat would have been a more emotionally poignant conclusion. Still, a well produced and fun movie.

9. Margin Call

This was an overlooked but taut little thriller set at the scene of the financial collapse of 2008. Most of the films dealing with the economic downturn are kind of depressing but this didn't depress and kept you glued on the drama. It kind of reminded me of Michael Clayton, another great movie with a similar feel.

8. Drive

The direction and plot of Drive was pretty bare bones and the tight focus and direction worked to its advantage. It sort of had the feel of a high quality Mel Gibson revenge film. It also had easily one of the best soundtracks of the year. I'm conflicted on the level of violence, which I think hurt its reception with some. The graphic violence was jarring and unpleasant, making it harder to relate with the protagonist. But I can't criticize it too much for that, because I think that was pretty clearly the intent of the director and too many films try to whitewash the nature of violence.

7. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

I thought this was just hilarious. It's a parody of a horror film with a group of college students who think two rednecks are trying to kill them. Hilarity ensues with plenty of tongue in cheek violence. It's very much in the mold of Shaun of the Dead, but I think it's even better. Unfortunately, not a lot of people have seen it, but I highly recommend checking it out.

6. 50/50

Ah yes, the Seth Rogen cancer comedy. This was a ballsy movie to make and it could have backfired. But it didn't. It's funny while also retaining the gravity of the situation. The Descendants received much more praise for similar themes, but to me the quirkiness of the Descendants felt inauthentic to what was going on. By contrast, 50/50 added levity while not feeling phony.

5. X-Men: First Class

When I heard there was an X-Men prequel with lesser known actors, it sounded like a terrible idea. The third X-Men movie and the Wolverine movie were bad and the likes of Son of the Mask and Dumb and Dumberer were worse as recast prequels. But this succeeded wonderfully. The action didn't look cheap in the slightest. The young actors carried the load. And if anything, the property was reinvigorated. Big success.

4. The Artist

This is rightfully the frontrunner for best picture. It's clearly the best of the nominees. The protagonists are eminently likable and a silent film doesn't feel like a gimmick. It's an old fashioned movie that relies on its storytelling. And it once again demonstrates that if you want audiences to love your hero, give him a loyal dog.

3. The Muppets

When I read a feature in EW about this movie, my expectations were markedly raised. It was clear that writer and star Jason Segel had a great affinity for the Muppets and was determined to make a fun, nostalgic ode to them. The movie succeeds big time. It's silly, lighthearted fun and even if you aren't particularly familiar with the Muppets, I can't imagine you not enjoying the trip.

2. Ides of March

This had early Oscar buzz but then fell off. That's a shame because I liked it a lot better than the films that passed it. The cast is first rate. The screenplay is excellent. It's a movie about politics but it's not a political movie. I think it's just tremendous and I'm disappointed there don't seem to be more people that feel this way.

1. Bridesmaids

This was just hilarious and had plenty of heart as well. There's a good reason it did so well at the box office. The laughs flow throughout, while also keeping you invested in the main character. The conflicts are completely relatable and any discomfort in what happens just adds to the humor. And props to Kristen Wiig for resisting an unnecessary sequel.