WWE Raw Report
The Big News: WWE concluded what had been a very good WrestleMania build with a perplexing go home show that fizzled in front of an underwhelmed audience.
Daniel Bryan and Kane beat Sheamus and Randy Orton. The heels were in control for a bit on Sheamus when Orton got the hot tag. He hit clotheslines, a powerslam and a draping DDT on Bryan. He set up for the RKO but Kane pulled Bryan out of the ring. Orton went after Kane and posted him on the outside, but Bryan then cut off Orton with a baseball slide. That allowed the heels to work over Orton, who eventually got the tag back to Sheamus.
A brawl quickly broke up. Sheamus set up for the Brogue kick but A.J. got in the ring to stop Sheamus. When A.J. was finally removed, Sheamus missed the kick and Kane gave Sheamus a choke slam. That allowed Bryan to cover for the win. That finish suggests they may be switching directions. Bryan bullying the sympathetic A.J. isn’t going to work very long as a dynamic if A.J. is interfering in matches for no good reason.
Santino beat David Otunga. Michael Cole and Booker T are now the official commentators for John Laurinaitis’ team and Teddy Long’s team, with Vickie Guerrero and Hornswoggle the flag bearers. Otunga was waiving the Laurinaitis flag in the match when Hornswoggle came in and waived the Long flag. Otunga took it and tried to hit Hornswoggle with it but the flag bounced off the ropes and hit Otunga in the face. Santino then hit the cobra for the pin.
After the match, Long shoved Laurinaitis down. Miz then ran in with a skull crushing finale on Santino. Laurinaitis congratulated Miz on being the final member of Team Teddy. He immediately had to correct himself and say Team Johnny. So that’s the culmination of the Miz angle. Everything about this segment was complete and utter shit.
Kelly Kelly beat Eve Torres. Jerry Lawler wondered what Rush Limbaugh would say about Eve Torres, which was quite the line. Torres missed a moonsault and Kelly rolled her up for the win. That was a little surprising since Torres had Beth Phoenix and Kelly didn’t have Maria Menounos.
Christian was going to wrestle CM Punk, but the match didn’t take place. Chris Jericho appeared on the screen to say that he will beat Punk and expose Punk’s character at Mania. Jericho said Punk’s parents married after his birth so he is a bastard. That doesn’t exactly feel like the most sensitive of subjects in 2012. Christian jumped Punk from behind, but Punk flipped out and beat the hell out of Christian. Punk slammed Christian into the announce table, gave him a head kick, repeatedly elbowed him, dropped him on the steps and applied the Anaconda vise on the floor. Punk refused to break the hold and yelled that this was what he would do to Jericho. They later announced Christian wouldn’t be able to compete for Laurinaitis’ team at WrestleMania.
Brodus Clay beat Curt Hawkins with an overhead throw and splash.
Big Show beat Primo with a choke slam. He gave Epico a choke slam after the match as well. Cody Rhodes then came out and made fun of Show. He basically tried to link Big Show’s name to failure, like the pulling a homer episode of the Simpsons in 1991.
Backstage, the Bellas and Zack Ryder argued about Laurinaitis and Long. Eve came in and asked what hotel Ryder is staying at for Mania. Eve suggested he stay at her hotel. Ryder was smitten. Elsewhere, CM Punk said he’s not off limits but his family is. Punk said he is not a bastard but the best wrestler in the world. Good thing too, because I can’t associate with anyone who was born out of wedlock.
Mark Henry beat Great Khali clean with the world’s strongest slam. After the match, Laurinaitis threw Long into the ring. Laurinaitis’ team blocked off the ring, with Drew McIntyre apparently taking the final slot. Mark Henry teased attacked Long for seemingly 10 minutes, nicely deferring until finally Booker T made the save. Teddy Long asked Booker to join his team.
Rock came out for the final segment of the show. He said that since WrestleMania 20, everyone always asked him when he would come back. He waited a while for a boots to asses chant to take off but it was just a few people and it eventually fizzled out. Rock said the answer was Survivor Series. No, wait, he didn’t say that. He said he was just waiting for one guy, John Cena. Rock put over Cena, saying that Cena has transcended the business, become the heartbeat of WWE and one of the biggest stars in the industry ever. However, he said that Cena has never faced anyone like Rock.
John Cena came out smiling. He joked that Rock is his movie star arch nemesis. He said that Rock has never faced anyone like him. He was in his smarmy, joking mode. He said that he is here every week unlike Cena. He noted Rock isn’t the first to go after him, because whenever anyone wants to make a name in the business now they go after Cena. He cut a corny promo about rising above hate and winning. He smiled obnoxiously and pointed out that everyone hates him and he wins anyway. He said that even the people who hate him know he’ll win at Mania.
Cena said that this is what he loves and people know that regardless of whether they like his character. And yes, he said that in precisely those words, referencing his character. Cena said Rock will be in G.I. Joe this summer and Cena will be in WWE so Cena has to win. Rock can’t come in and take Cena’s life.
Rock replied that he helped build Cena’s house. Rock said Cena has never had an opponent he couldn’t overcome until Rock. Rock said he has come back to beat Cena because if he beats Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and John Cena at Mania he will be the greatest WWE superstar of all time. He added that on a personal level he doesn’t like Cena. He thus vowed to give Cena the ass kicking of a lifetime. Cena said it doesn’t matter what Rock thinks because at the end of the night his hand will be raised over Rock’s body. And with that, the show cut out.
It appeared as if the mentality for this show was that they only wanted you to remember the Rock/Cena build at the end, so basically everything else was filler. To me, that’s a mistake. You want people to be excited about various different issues, so that throughout the show fans are thinking, “Wow, we’re going to get to see that! And we’re going to get to see that! And we’re going to get to see that!” Plus, if you deliver 100 minutes of monotony, you run the risk of having people lose interest by the end. That certainly seemed to be the case with the live crowd.
It’s not like that approach can’t work, however. The benefit of planning one big crescendo at the end is that it will stand out even more and can feel particularly important. It is imperative, then, that the final segment has to deliver big. And unfortunately, I just don’t think it did.
The dynamic between Rock and Cena has been well established for over a year. Cena represents his fans who love him and the wrestlers who stick around all year against the Hollywood interloper. Rock gives voice to a lot of fans who like wrestling but don’t like John Cena and the wrestling landscape he symbolizes.
Rock beating Cena isn’t about one wrestling icon beating another wrestling icon. It’s about the type of wrestling a lot of people love beating out a type of wrestling a lot of people hate. That is a real life situation, as Ric Flair once said. Thus, the go home segment for WrestleMania should have featured Rock and Cena making their final go home point of why people need to pay to see their match at WrestleMania. But they only let one guy do it.
Cena made the same basic point he always has. He sticks by wrestling. He needs to win because wrestling is his life and it isn’t Rock’s. But when it came time for Rock to cut his promo about why he wants to kick Cena’s ass, they got gun shy. They didn’t let him do it. He spent more time putting over Cena than knocking him. He in fact didn’t voice one substantive criticism of the man. He said he doesn’t like Cena but didn’t spend a word explaining why.
The fun of Rock-Cena for a lot of lapsed fans is that they can tune in to see a guy they always liked beat up the guy who symbolizes what they don’t like. But if Rock won’t even put into words why he dislikes Cena, he isn’t fighting for any such cause. He’s fighting for some sort of amorphous sense of legacy, which would have worked in another generation when fans were seriously invested in wins and losses but means little in today’s WWE where everyone has wins over everyone else. Rock was respectful towards a man his fans don’t want him to be respectful towards. A repudiation of Cena himself was taken off the table.
It’s understandable why WWE wants that off the table. They ultimately want fans to be behind Cena and Vince McMahon thinks that he can get his audience to believe anything if he tells them enough times. That lack of respect for the audience is a big reason why WWE draws such an undesirable demographic and why it has such a negative stigma with so many people. Rock laid off what has been the heart of the Rock-Cena feud on the go home show for the match because Vince felt if Rock didn’t get to make his point the people would be more likely to side with Cena in the end.
I disagree. I think at the end of the day if you want to draw any sort of broad based, discerning audience, you need to let them make the decision for themselves. Let Rock say his piece and let Cena say his piece and if Cena is ultimately right, fans will over time gravitate towards him. But only letting one guy at the end speak to the real issue underlying the feud is dishonest and isn’t going to win Cena any fans. Worse, it held back on the biggest hook for the match at the time it was most needed.
Rock rather than saying “Cena, you’re a corny, annoying phony dressed like an idiot and at WrestleMania I’m coming back to finally give you the ass beating you’ve had coming for years and for all the people who can’t stand you” said “Cena, you’re a transcendent star and the heartbeat of WWE who’s beaten them all but I don’t like you and I need to beat you to prove how great I am.” It’s not what supporters of one person want to hear in a heated grudge confrontation. He has spent all year talking about how Cena is the worst thing in wrestling and now the week before the payoff he’s putting over Cena as the best thing in wrestling. It’s completely backwards.
The response to this point is obvious. “Well you can’t have Rock say that, because Cena’s your top star and you’d be burying him.” But I’m sorry, that’s not much of a justification. For one, Rock has already said those bad things about Cena over and over again. If you didn’t want to make that point, you should have decided that a year ago. Deciding it now when the cat’s already out of the bag and this is the time to capitalize on the sentiment to get people to pay to see Cena get his ass beat is foolish. If there were ever a week Rock shouldn’t have been backtracking and putting over Cena, it was this one. Moreover, that negative view of Cena is what people are thinking anyway. So let those people get excited about how at Mania Rock is fighting for them. The week before the match is not the time to drop the real hook for the angle.
Ultimately, WWE has built up Cena vs. Rock long enough and well enough that one week isn’t going short circuit everything else. But this go home show was not at all what it should have been. Too bad.