Monday, April 30, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/30/12 from Dayton, OH.

The Big News: John Cena will wrestle John Laurinaitis and CM Punk will wrestle Daniel Bryan in three weeks.

Show Analysis:

John Laurinaitis came out to start the show. He claimed to have revolutionized WWE and introduced Brock Lesnar as the man who beat up John Cena so badly that Cena will never be the same. Lesnar came out and said he brought the pain, before being interrupted by HHH.

HHH told Lesnar that the days of Lesnar holding up WWE are over. He announced that Lesnar won’t get his jet, limousine, raise, special treatment or renaming of Raw any more. He noted that Lesnar can stay under the original terms of his contract but not what happened last week.

Laurinaitis argued with HHH about this repeatedly until HHH told him to shut up. Laurinaitis kept arguing until Lesnar attacked HHH from behind.  A brawl broke out. Lesnar applied a kimura from bottom and cranked it a little and they acted like Lesnar broke HHH’s arm. A bunch of wrestlers ran out to break Lesnar and HHH up.

Eve Torres announced that the next WWE title contender would be determined by another beat the clock challenge.

Miz beat US champion Santino in the first beat the clock challenge match. Miz worked Santino over. Santino went for the cobra but Miz avoided it and hit the skull crushing finale in 4:18.

Layla won a triple threat match over Nikki Bella and Brie Bella in seconds. The Bellas argued at the start of the match, Layla rammed them into each other, and rolled up one for the pin.

Chris Jericho and Big Show went to a 4:18 no contest in the next beat the clock challenge. They went back and forth and the match ended when the 4:18 time limit elapsed. Big Show was on the outside and was almost counted out.

Brodus Clay beat JTG in a very short match with a body slam, elbow, head butt, avalanche, exploder and splash. Hornswoggle wasn’t out there. Clay danced with children after the match.

Eve Torres tried to calm Laurinaitis down backstage. She told Teddy Long to leave and then gave Laurinaitis a pep talk about being a leader. Laurinaitis said he knew John Cena’s next opponent and Cena wouldn’t like it.

Randy Orton beat Jack Swagger in 4:16 in the third beat the clock challenge. Swagger had Orton in the ankle lock but Orton got out and hit the RKO just in time to top Miz’s time.

Kofi Kingston and R. Truth beat Primo and Epico in a short match to win the tag titles. The heels worked over Truth. Kingston got the tag and hit dropkicks, clotheslines and the boom drop. He was diverted from trouble in paradise but hit it moments later for the win. Backstage, Primo and Epico spoke to Abraham Washington and seemed receptive to taking him on as their manager.

Kane and Great Khali went to a 4:16 no contest in the fourth beat the clock challenge. They were choking each other when the time limit expired. Kane hit a choke slam after.

Daniel Bryan beat Jerry Lawler in the final beat the clock challenge match. Lawler hit his second rope fist drop but Bryan kicked out. Bryan then hit a kick to the head and applied the yes lock for the submission with 2 minutes left on the clock. CM Punk came out after the match. Bryan vs. Punk should be fun.

John Cena came out with his arm in a sling for the final segment. He said it was strained by no breaks or tears. He noted there is a difference between being hurt and being injured, and thus he is on Raw. John Laurinaitis came out. He said that he brought in Lesnar to motivate Cena. Cena didn’t buy it. Laurinaitis started to announce Cena’s opponent for Over the Limit and Lord Tensai’s music played.

Tensai and his second circled Cena, at which point Laurinaitis hit Cena from behind with a microphone. All three beat up Cena and Laurinaitis stomped on Cena’s arm on the steps and hit it with a chair.

Final Thoughts:

It is what it is.

Monday, April 23, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/23/12 from Detroit, MI.

The Big News: Brock Lesnar made demands and CM Punk played drunk.

Show Analysis:

The show started with a false tease of a contract signing. Teddy Long introduced John Cena first but when Brock Lesnar was supposed to enter, John Laurinaitis came out instead. Laurinaitis said that Lesnar wasn’t there yet and the contract signing would occur later. He added that this might be Cena’s last night on Raw and Cena should enjoy it. Laurinaitis told Long to order Cena from the ring. He was then interrupted by Edge, who got a really big reaction.

Edge told Cena that he wasn’t supposed to be there and he will soon no longer be under WWE contract. A TNA chant broke out. Just kidding. Edge pointed to Cena and said that he wasn’t there to talk to “this Cena” and he doesn’t know who this Cena is. The crowd took this as a remark about Cena being a corporate billboard and began to chant Fruity Pebbles. But that wasn’t the story.

Edge basically said that Cena was once Edge’s biggest rival who put Edge through tables and threw him into the Long Island Sound, but this isn’t that Cena. He implied Cena has lost his confidence. Edge said he is a different person than Cena but that they both love wrestling and Lesnar doesn’t. He said that Lesnar doesn’t care about wrestling or the fans, so Cena needs to wake up and rise to the occasion for the people that love the business. Edge yelled at Cena and said he is not asking but telling Cena to beat Lesnar.

Edge’s delivery here was superb and reminded me of a great Mick Foley motivational speech from a few years back selling a big match at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, the segment didn’t work on a very basic level in that Cena hasn’t been acting any differently than ever. Even in the few minutes before Edge came out, Cena was smiling and playing to the crowd like nothing was on his mind. So the whole promo felt manufactured rather than a logical extension of what has been happening on the show.

Chris Jericho beat Kofi Kingston in a relatively long match. Jericho worked over Kingston for quite a while. Kingston came back with the S.O.S. and boom drop but had trouble in paradise countered. Jericho went for the walls but Kingston escaped that. Kingston went for a springboard but had that countered into the code breaker. Jericho then applied the walls for the submission. Jericho said after the match that he will take CM Punk’s title and again put down Punk’s family.

Backstage, John Laurinaitis offered Eve Torres a job as executive administrator. Eve accepted. Laurinaitis wanted a hug but Eve subtly shook his hand instead. Elsewhere, CM Punk showed Josh Mathews a liquor basket that Jericho sent him as a gift. Punk gave it to an appreciative Josh Mathews, keeping one bottle for revenge on Jericho.

Lord Tensai beat R. Truth. Tensai did an inset promo entirely in Japanese. The crowd starting mockingly chanting Albert from the beginning. Tensai won with head butts, a butterfly suplex, a senton, the baldo bomb and the claw.

Kane came to the ring and said that extreme rules will mean bad things for Randy Orton. Orton couldn’t beat Kane with rules, much less without them. Kane said he saw fear and suffering in Orton when Kane attacked Orton’s father. That made Kane disappointed, because he recognized Orton is a scared little boy praying the nightmare ends and the monster goes away. However, Kane concluded that he is a monster Orton will never wake up from.

Orton appeared on the screen and said that when you mess with his father, there’s no turning back. Orton had Paul Bearer tied up. Hasn’t he died multiple times already? He threw Bearer in a freezer and dared Kane to come save him. That was dumb. Kane just laughed and said he didn’t care. So Orton came out and attacked Kane with a pipe. Kane escaped through the crowd.

Alex Riley backstage told Chris Jericho that CM Punk kicked him out of the locker room because he saw Punk drinking out of the bottle from the gift basket. Jericho thought this might be a setup and had Riley lead him there. They cracked open the door and Punk was drinking from a plastic cup next to the liquor bottle while talking on his cell phone. Jericho’s reaction was tremendous. Rather than just acting overjoyed, he seemed half happy but also half concerned that he had driven Punk this far.

Big Show and Great Khali beat Cody Rhodes and Alberto Del Rio. The heels worked over Show for a while. Show finally made his own comeback. Rhodes went for the tag, but Del Rio refused it and left. Khali gave Rhodes a chop and Show hit the choke slam for the win. They announced Santino vs. Miz for the US title on youtube as a pre-show match for Extreme Rules. That would seem to suggest televised pre-show matches may become a regular thing.

Backstage, Chris Jericho told John Laurinaitis that CM Punk should be stripped of his title. Laurinaitis wasn’t sure if he could, but Eve said she had been reading up and wrestlers are prohibited from drinking within 12 hours of an event. Thus, Laurinaitis could strip Punk of the title. Laurinaitis said to avoid legal action there would need to be proof. Jericho suggested a sobriety test. Laurinaitis told Long to go conduct one.

Brock Lesnar arrived at the building and refused to answer questions. Josh Matthews said he was just trying to do his job so Lesnar threw him into a metal structure. Mathews was then carted off on a stretcher.

Nikki Bella beat Beth Phoenix in a lumberjack match to win the women’s title. Eve Torres announced this would be a lumberjack match right before it started. Phoenix worked over Bella but Bella escaped to the outside when Phoenix went for the glam slam. Phoenix sold that she injured her ankle jumping from the apron to the floor. A brawl broke out and both women were thrown back in the ring. Phoenix continued to sell her ankle and Bella rolled her up for the win. Phoenix was upset and seemed in a lot of pain after the match. This was one hell of a sell job, as it had me completely convinced of a legitimate injury.

Next up on the show was a segment that seemed to go on forever. Teddy Long was in the ring with two police officers. Chris Jericho came out to watch as well. Punk came out staggering and said this was ridiculous. He was totally unconvincing playing drunk, which theoretically isn’t a big deal given he wasn’t drunk in storyline. The problem was Punk was so completely unconvincing that it was hard to believe that Long, the police officers and the announcers couldn’t see through it instantaneously. And then the segment dragged on forever with the outcome completely obvious from the beginning.

Punk failed to spell the alphabet backwards. He then failed to walk in a straight line. They teased Jericho was going to be awarded the title, but Punk asked for one more chance. He was supposed to say the alphabet backwards while walking back and forth on the line to prove he was sober, but he actually screwed up the alphabet. He then attacked Jericho.

Mark Henry beat Sheamus. Daniel Bryan was the special guest referee and was really over with the crowd again. Bryan taunted Sheamus and tried to get Sheamus to hit him. Sheamus didn’t do it, but Henry used the opportunity to hit a clothesline and Bryan used an extremely fast count for three. Sheamus went after Bryan after the match but was briefly diverted taking out Henry with a Brogue kick. Bryan hit a kick to the head and applied the yes lock. Backstage, Sheamus called Bryan a snake in the grass and alluded to what happened to snakes in Ireland.

Santino and Zack Ryder beat Primo and Epico. The heels worked over Ryder briefly. Ryder got the tag to Santino and Santino hit the cobra for the cover.

Backstage, Kane walked by the freezer. He went in and found Paul Bearer, who remarkably was merely shivering from being in subzero temperature for two hours. Rather than save Bearer, Kane put him back in the freezer. Those production people are awfully callous not bailing out the poor guy.

Abraham Washington bumped into Primo and Epico backstage. He said that they are being treated like jokes and he gave them his card.

Brodus Clay and Hornswoggle beat Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger via DQ. Ziggler briefly beat up Hornswoggle. Hornswoggle hit a spinning head scissors on Clay and made the tag. I’ve come to accept Ziggler is in a holding pattern, but taking bumps for dwarfs is so incredibly dumb for a guy that talented. Clay was running wild when Vickie Guerrero came in the ring to stop Clay from attempting a splash. The referee called for a disqualification.

The faces circled Guerrero after the match and she tried to make peace by dancing with them. Hornswoggle bit her on the ass and she ran away. This is one of those segments that make so many people refuse to consider wrestling as a halfway respectable form of entertainment.

The show ended with the contract signing. Brock Lesnar came out. John Cena’s music played but Cena didn’t show up. Lesnar concluded Cena was scared and said he had business to discuss with Laurinaitis. Lesnar told Laurinaitis that in order to agree to the match at Extreme Rules, he wants his contract redone. He demanded that any major decisions go through him, that he gets Vince McMahon’s jet for Raw appearances, that he will show up on Raw when he wants, more money, and the name of the program changed to WWE Raw Starring Brock Lesnar.

I’m sure this portrayal of Lesnar is satisfying for WWE, given Vince McMahon probably views Lesnar in this light and Lesnar is sort of affirming that view. However, I just don’t see it being productive in terms of making Lesnar a drawing card. Fans want to see Lesnar on TV and PPV as a monster, not making contract demands.

Laurinaitis verbally agreed, at which point Lesnar signed the contract for Extreme Rules. Cena then made his way out with a chain. He wrapped the chain around his hand to defend himself and hesitated to sign the contract. Lesnar called him scared. Cena signed the contract and threw it at Lesnar. Lesnar laughed and left.

Final Thoughts:

I’d call this show mediocre. There wasn’t a lot of bad stuff on it but there was very little good either. I don’t think the Cena-Lesnar stuff is going to dissuade anyone from ordering the show, but I can’t imagine it building much interest either. Cena basically came off as a coward and Lesnar was more of a manipulative businessman than a destroyer. Neither seemed all that concerned about beating up the other.

I don’t expect a double turn and I’m not really even advocating it right now, but I did find it interesting they have set up an angle that lends itself to that so naturally. Cena is struggling and seems to lack confidence he can beat Lesnar in a fair fight, while Laurinaitis is having trouble dealing with Lesnar’s demands as well. Cena and Laurinaitis teaming up to screw Lesnar seamlessly flows from what they’re doing, and the follow-up would seem to flow pretty naturally as well (heel Cena and Laurinaitis feuding with face Punk over the summer and taking the title, leading to face Lesnar’s big return challenging for the title at SummerSlam).

Monday, April 16, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/16/12 from London, UK.

The Big News: It was the best of times and the worst of times when it came to Lesnar-Cena build.

Show Analysis:

CM Punk retained the WWE title by defeating Mark Henry in a back and forth no DQ, no count out match. Punk hit a tope at the start and ran off the barricade into a bulldog on the floor. Henry caught him diving off the apron and slammed him into the barricade. Punk hit Henry with a chair but Henry got the chair and hit Punk with it. Punk hit a DDT but was caught diving off the top rope. Punk escaped the world’s strongest slam attempt and hit a kick to the head and high knee. Henry countered the bulldog but ran into a chair. Punk then came off the top driving a chair into Henry for the pin. That finish looked great and the match was very good.

Chris Jericho appeared on the screen after the match in what was supposed to be a bar. He said that he has a Chicago street fight title match against Punk for Extreme Rules. Punk was happy about the opportunity to kick Jericho’s ass in front of his friends and family. Jericho told Punk to show up sober and had footage of Punk going into a pub that morning. Punk said he was just meeting a friend and Jericho was free to smell his breath. Jericho said Punk is now drinking and straight edge is a façade.

Santino Marella beat David Otunga. Santino hit some punches but when he did the gag splits Otunga backed off and kicked him in the head. That was an amusing spot. Otunga hit a spine buster and covered. The referee counted three but then noticed Santino’s foot on the ropes. Otunga argued but the match was restarted and Santino hit a head butt and cobra for the win.

Lord Tensai cut a brief promo backstage. He said that you fear the unknown and he knows what you should fear. He didn’t elaborate what that is.

They aired a package with Brock Lesnar talking and footage from throughout his career. He said he is not a superstar but an ass kicker. He said nobody ever in WWE has his accolades. He noted he didn’t come back for the fans and this is strictly business. He said WWE needs to be legitimized and he is the guy to do it. He continued that people are tired of John Cena’s bullshit, Cena’s not real and he’s only there because Lesnar left. If Lesnar never left, Cena would be carrying his bags.

Lesnar said nothing about him is fake as he showed last week. He’s real. He said Cena is pissing and shitting himself in fear. Lesnar said Extreme Rules isn’t a wrestling match but extreme rules and his objective is chaos. Lesnar concluded that beating people up makes him happy.

This was a perfect segment in every way. The tone was perfect. It made the match seem important. It made Lesnar seem like a huge star. It felt like Lesnar speaking as opposed to a script. And there was no goofiness, comedy or bullshit. If I had to pick one segment WWE has produced in the last 10 years to illustrate what the company needs more of, it might very well be this one.

Of course, after that, we cut to Zack Ryder’s entrance. He was going to wrestle Kane but the match never got started. Kane kicked Ryder off the apron into the announce table and threw him into the steps. Kane then gave Ryder a choke slam and cut a promo. Kane said he expected Bob Orton Jr. to go down without a fight on Smackdown but Randy Orton was surprisingly easy as well.

Daniel Bryan backstage told Kofi Kingston that he’s better than Gene LeBell ever was. “Who’d he ever beat,” Bryan added. Thus, the LeBell lock is now the yes lock. Bryan kept yelling yes over and over right in Kingston’s face to where it kind of made Kingston look bad for not punching him.

John Cena came to the ring with his completely counterproductive goofy grin. He then turned his sights to his adversary: John Laurinaitis. He called Laurinaitis a coward. He talked about how WrestleMania might have been the end of his era because now Laurinaitis is in charge. He did a Laurinaitis impression and smirked.

Finally Cena got to Lesnar. He said that after all the talk of entertainment and shows, Lesnar stands for destruction. Cena said Lesnar isn’t coming to win but to replace Cena. Cena acknowledged being afraid but said he will fight. He then screamed that he will fight again. John Laurinaitis came out and said this is the beginning of the people power era. He added that the WWE Universe wants to see Cena fight and put Cena in an extreme rules match later in the show. He noted there will be a contract signing between Lesnar and Cena next week.

I don’t know if this segment completely undermined what was accomplished with the Lesnar segment earlier, but it made a heck of an effort in that direction. This was just terrible from start to finish. Nobody gives a shit about Laurinaitis in any serious way. Cena talking more about Laurinaitis than Lesnar is beyond moronic. Cena himself felt completely phony. One second he’s happy. The next second he’s serious. The next second he’s telling jokes. The next second he’s yelling. The verbiage feels wholly inauthentic and it seems like an obnoxious bipolar character reading lines rather than a halfway plausible human being. And the match which had felt like something really important and different minutes before was in this segment just more WWE bullshit.

Daniel Bryan beat Kofi Kingston. The crowd was behind Bryan and went crazy with yes when he entered. Kingston did well for most of the match. He hit chops, dropkicks, clotheslines and the boom drop. Bryan looked for the yes lock but Kingston escaped and hit S.O.S. for two. Kingston missed a frog crossbody and Bryan applied the yes lock for the submission. Bryan applied it again after the match and Sheamus made the save. Sheamus missed the Brogue kick and Bryan left.

Brodus Clay beat Dolph Ziggler via DQ. Jack Swagger got involved at the very beginning for the DQ. Vickie Guerrero got on the apron to yell at Clay. Clay’s dancers tried to get her off. The apron, that is. Vickie knocked one down but the other shoved her down.

John Laurinaitis backstage said that if David Otunga focuses on his in ring career like he focuses on everything else he does, the sky is the limit. Eve Torres reminded Laurinaitis that they hadn’t had their one on one meeting so she went into the office with Laurinaitis and Otunga for a presumable double team effort.

They aired a nice video package for Chief Jay Strongbow. They then aired three dumb segments throughout the show for no discernible reason. R. Truth launched an investigation into a new job for Teddy Long and concluded here by suggesting Long be the Smackdown GM.

Big Show and Great Khali beat Primo and Epico. Abraham Washington came out to scout this match. Khali basically just beat up both Primo and Epico for a little while. Khali hit the tree slam and Show the choke slam for a double pin. This was one of those WWE matches where it felt like the goal was not to get over the winners but to bury the losers.

Lord Tensai beat John Cena in an extreme rules match. Tensai worked Cena over for a while. Cena came back by hitting Tensai with the steps, but Tensai’s second attacked Cena and Tensai took back over. Tensai continued to beat up Cena until he missed a corner avalanche. Cena hit shoulderblocks and the Cena slam but when he went for the five knuckle shuffle Tensai got up and gave Cena a chop. Tensai followed with a senton and Fujiwara armbar. Cena countered into the STF, but David Otunga ran in to break the hold. Cena gave Otunga the FU but Tensai blew mist into Cena’s face and hit the baldo bomb for the win. The focus here again was pretty much exclusively on Cena and Laurinaitis rather than Cena and Lesnar.

Final Thoughts:

This show was a rather bizarre mix of good, bad, very good and very bad. It really is perplexing that the same company that produced the awesome Brock Lesnar video package also produced the John Cena/John Laurinaitis stuff.

Monday, April 09, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/09/12 from Washington, DC.

The Big News: Brock Lesnar’s in ring WWE return is set for Extreme Rules against John Cena.

Show Analysis:

John Laurinaitis came to the ring and introduced the new face of WWE. He put over Brock Lesnar as someone who is not about catchphrases or entertaining but rather a ruthless real athlete bent on domination. Laurinaitis announced out of the blue Lesnar will face John Cena at Extreme Rules and bring legitimacy back to WWE. Lesnar came out to a much more tepid reaction than last week. Michael Cole acknowledged him as the former UFC heavyweight champion.

Lesnar thanked Laurinaitis and put him over for bringing legitimacy back to WWE. John Cena then quickly interrupted to loud boos. He’s back to grinning and smirking. Cena slapped Lesnar and Lesnar immediately took Cena down. Lesnar threw a punch on the ground that busted up Cena’s lips and Cena was badly bleeding from the mouth. That made for a great visual, particularly since WWE is so squeamish about blood these days. The whole roster came out to pull apart Cena and Lesnar.

John Laurinaitis yelled at Teddy Long backstage. Laurinaitis said Long was supposed to contain John Cena and did not. Laurinaitis demanded Long go get an explanation from Cena as to his actions. Eve Torres came in and told Laurinaitis to call her.

Brodus Clay and Santino Marella beat Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. The heels worked over Santino. Clay tagged in and quickly pinned Ziggler with a head butt, overhead throw and splash. I like the pairing of Clay and Marella. I sure do wish they were treating Ziggler better, however.

Backstage, Laurinaitis told Miz they will talk last week. Long then brought in Cena. Cena still had blood on his face. Cena said he likes to hit and be hit. He accused Laurinaitis of getting a monster to take him out. Cena said he is just getting warmed up and will handle business at Extreme Rules. Cena wanted to compete on Raw and said he would take on anyone. Laurinaitis told Long to inform David Otunga that Otunga would be facing Cena with Laurinaitis in Otunga’s corner.

R. Truth beat Cody Rhodes. They did the exact same shitty finish as last week. Rhodes hit an Alabama slam 15 seconds in. Big Show immediately came out and distracted Rhodes with video, this time video of him distracting Rhodes with video last week. Rhodes was again distracted and Truth hit the leaping downward spiral for the pin. Apart from the terrible, played out finish, it’s sad to see a talent like Rhodes losing to a bottom of the barrel gimmick like the one Truth has right now. Santino did comedy with the actors playing the 3 Stooges backstage.

Lord Tensai beat Yoshi Tatsu with head butts, a corner avalanche and the baldo bomb. The referee again stopped the bout. Tensai applied the claw again afterwards. The crowd heckled Tensai throughout with derisive chants of Albert. The early returns on Tensai are not good at all.

CM Punk came to the ring and said that not everyone gets straight edge. They think that having just one drink isn’t a big deal. Punk said he didn’t choose to be straight edge because it was cool but because it was a way of life. He said he’s proud of straight edge and never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him. He claimed Jericho tried to destroy his privacy and made up lies about his sister, but those things didn’t work and Punk submitted him at Mania.

Unable to get to Punk, Jericho went a step further with the whiskey last week. Punk said that as he was left lying last week, he thought that he smelled like his father. Jericho appeared on the screen to mock Punk. He accused Punk of being hung over or tipsy and said Punk is a loser and CM Drunk. Punk responded that Jericho can’t break him. Punk said Jericho made the biggest mistake of his life because Punk will use this bad place against Jericho. He concluded that this was no longer about being the best in the world but rather about kicking Jericho’s ass. This was a really strong segment, with Punk doing a phenomenal job.

Mark Henry beat CM Punk via DQ. Punk quickly hit Henry with a monitor for the DQ. He was going to hit Henry again when Jericho came out with a lot of beer. Henry used the opportunity to take over and hit the world’s strongest slam on Punk twice. Jericho was going to pour beer on Punk, but Punk got up and attacked Jericho. Jericho quickly hit the code breaker and poured tons and tons of beer on Punk.

Alberto Del Rio beat Zack Ryder. Ryder hit his kick to the head but Del Rio countered the Rough Ryder and slapped on the armbar for the submission.

2 of the stooges came out to the ring to boos. Then the other came out dressed like Hulk Hogan to more boos. They did some stupid comedy. The third stooge did a Hogan impression. Kane came out. The Hogan impersonator hulked up but got choke slammed. Mark Henry backstage said he has a no DQ, no count out match with Punk next week and he’s taking the title.

Backstage, Lesnar said he left WWE 8 years ago and became UFC heavyweight champion. He said he built UFC’s success with his blood, sweat and tears. He added that he’s happy Laurinaitis had the wisdom to bring him back. Cena thinks he’s on top but couldn’t hold his jockstrap. Lesnar said he isn’t in WWE to make friends. He’s proud to be a war machine and ass kicker, but not as proud as the suits and fans are to have him back. This promo was pitch perfect.

John Cena beat David Otunga. Otunga had the advantage for a little while and posed. Cena came back with the five knuckle shuffle, FU and STF for the submission. Afterwards, Lesnar ran in and kicked Cena low. He gave Cena the F5 again. The crowd chanted “one more time,” but Lesnar left.

Final Thoughts:

I thought this show was a mixed bag, both in terms of the show overall and in terms of the Lesnar stuff that was most important.

On the positive side, Cena bleeding made the opening segment. It sent the signal that Lesnar is something different than everyone else, which is precisely what they should be doing. Cena showing signs of damage is also a very good thing for his character. He refuses to sell psychologically so at least he can sell physically. Additionally, Lesnar’s promo backstage was exactly what it should have been. It struck all the right chords. It wasn’t cute or wordy and sounded a lot like how Lesnar actually speaks.

On the negative side, Laurinaitis announcing out of the blue Cena vs. Lesnar on the next PPV was all wrong. There were no challenges issued back and forth and no dramatic pronouncement. It just came across like they were making another match and there was no time to even think about it before it was there. Wrestling isn’t about the payoff; it’s about the build. Lesnar’s return is now in less than three weeks and that feels way, way, way too fast to properly build it. Running it on a B show rather than SummerSlam is already a gamble if you want to get bang for your buck, but doing it so quickly limits to a great degree how big it will be.

Also, linking Lesnar with Laurinaitis would work a lot better had Laurinaitis not spent the past couple months in a lame primary colors feud with Teddy Long. Laurinaitis at this point only subtracts from the Cena/Lesnar issue. Then there’s the more fundamental issue that it’s hard to build a serious feud when you’ve got actors running around the show playing the 3 stooges. It’s just dumb.

I had a few final random thoughts watching this show. First, they have noticeably toned down Michael Cole for a while now and it’s now at the point where I don’t find him irritating any more. That’s a very positive development given how abrasive he was for a while and hopefully they continue along those lines. Second, they’ve also noticeably toned down the Twitter stuff. It was out of control for a period but now it thankfully doesn’t distract from anything. Hopefully that will also continue.

Finally, if they’re going to continue with Lesnar and Cena as the focal points of the show going forward, they really need to do something about the title situation. They’ve got two world titles and I can never recall a point where they have been such an afterthought. There hasn’t even been any pretense of them being particularly important for months now. So what’s even the point? Merging the titles is long overdue. Having Lesnar do it would be perfect to build him up. And then maybe the title could become something that adds drawing power to the top program rather than being props for glorified upper midcard characters.

Monday, April 02, 2012

WWE Raw Report

Date: 04/02/12 from Miami, FL.

The Big News: A really hot crowd and really big return made WWE feel like a hot thing for the first time in a long time.

Show Analysis:

John Laurinaitis and David Otunga started the show standing in front of the entire locker room. Laurinaitis said he is in control now and won’t abuse his power. He announced Santino vs. Jack Swagger vs. Dolph Ziggler for the US title. CM Punk spoke up and said they all think Laurinaitis is a tool. The faces laughed and the heels frowned. Laurinaitis then announced Punk vs. Mark Henry for the WWE title. He said this would be a new era of people power. The heels applauded and faces frowned.

Rock came out to a huge reaction, which he milked for a while. The crowd throughout the show was unbelievably hot for just about everything, one of the best Raw crowds ever. Rock thanked John Cena and put him over for a historic match. The crowd was at first negative but then basically accepted it without booing loudly. Rock thanked fans for traveling to the event and talking about going from being cut from the CFL to where he is now. Rock said this wouldn’t be the end and in fact guaranteed it would be just the beginning. There were loud yes chants. Rock said he had a vision to be WWE champion again. Rock was absolutely tremendous here.

Santino beat Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. Swagger and Ziggler double teamed Santino for much of the match. Oddly, they went to a commercial break in the middle of this match just three minutes after the last commercial break. Santino made a brief comeback with a head butt on Swagger and went for the cobra but Ziggler cut him off with a neck breaker. Swagger and Ziggler did a double team leg drop, but they got into an argument when Ziggler went for the cover. Swagger gave Ziggler a belly to belly throw. Swagger then went for the Vader bomb but Santino got up his knees. Santino gave Swagger the cobra for the pin.

After the match, Ziggler and Swagger went after Santino. Santino pointed to the sky as a distraction and then speed walked away, at which point the heels pursued. At the top of the stage, Brodus Clay came out to protect Santino. Ziggler ran at him and took an awesome bump for Clay’s head butt. There were Funkosaurus chants and Santino danced with Clay. This was fun.

Lord Tensai beat Alex Riley. They acknowledged Tensai as a former WWE wrestler who had been in Japan. He had tattoos across his face. Tensai hit a spinning back elbow, head butts, butterfly suplex and senton bomb. The referee stopped the bout after Tensai’s old baldo bomb. Tensai applied the claw after the match.

Mark Henry beat CM Punk via count out. Henry worked over Punk, talking trash and yelling at him. The crowd got into chanting yes when something went right for Punk and no when something went wrong. Punk kept trying to make comebacks but Henry would cut him off. Punk eventually gained control with chops, a high kick and a top rope elbow. Punk hit two high knees and went for the bulldog, but Henry threw him over the top rope at that point and Punk was counted out.

This was a good match even with the finish and Henry looked like a monster again. They also gave it enough time that the finish felt like a legitimate conclusion to the conflict as opposed to a screwjob. Henry then gave Punk the world’s strongest slam on the floor. John Laurinaitis came out and said there were dark clouds in the horizon for Punk. Chris Jericho next came out through the crowd and said that he and Punk should have a drink to celebrate their great match at WrestleMania. Jericho poured what looked to be a bottle of Jack all over Punk and then hit him with a gimmicked second bottle over the head.

Sheamus came out to a ton of boos and was immediately interrupted by Ricardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez of course introduced Alberto Del Rio, who was greeted with si chants. That segued into loud Daniel Bryan chants that practically drowned out Del Rio. Del Rio said that as quick as Sheamus won the title, he will lose it. That received more si chants. Sheamus replied that people don’t want to see him talk but want to see him kick people in the face.

Del Rio said he was not looking for a fight because Laurinaitis already granted him a match against Sheamus on Smackdown. Loud chants of Daniel Bryan returned. Del Rio kept talking when the microphone cut out. As Del Rio went for a second microphone, Sheamus gave him the Brogue kick. Backstage, Bryan refused comment on WrestleMania.

Kofi Kingston beat Cody Rhodes. Rhodes hit the disaster kick. Big Show then came out and had a video of Rhodes’ embarrassing WrestleMania moment getting knocked out by Show. Of course the idiot Rhodes turned his back on his opponent to stare at the screen, allowing Kingston to hit trouble in paradise for the pin. I hate these stupid finishes.

Mark Henry spoke with Abraham Washington backstage. Henry was mad about not winning the title. Washington said it’s time for a change and Henry needs representation. Washington gave Henry his card. I’m all for more managers/agents.

Eve Torres came out and said her WrestleMania moment was manipulating Zack Ryder. She said it was easy. No shit. Eve said it’s easy for her to manipulate anyone except John Laurinaitis, who can’t be manipulated. If she helped Laurinaitis, so be it she said.

Miz beat Zack Ryder. Ryder was angry and attacked Miz at the start. Miz took over with punches. Ryder hit a face buster and kick to the head for two. Ryder went for a neck breaker but Miz escaped and posted Ryder. Miz then hit the skull crushing finale for the win. I’m glad they had Miz go over because after the way they’ve booked Ryder there is no point burying anyone else by having him beat them.

John Cena came out for the final segment of the show. They played up the sympathy card for Cena all night long and said he would call out Rock. Cena came out to boos. Cena said he never thought of losing but we all lose in life. Cena said he talked a lot heading into Mania but won’t backtrack because he meant those things. Cena said he never thought he would lose for one second because if you think like that you have already lost. There were loud “you’re a loser” chants.

Cena said people are wondering if this would be the day he finally lashed out at the audience. There were loud yes chants. Cena said that won’t happen and was booed. It was more evident than ever here how much Cena would gain from sticking up for himself against the critics. The crowd badly wanted him to just show his real human reaction to being disrespected. Cena needs less Jesus and more Truman.

Cena apologized to the people who support him if he let them down. He vowed to wipe the slate clean and try to be the best he can. Cena said he wasn’t there to call out Rock, because they settled their issue. There were then loud “we want Lesnar” chants. Cena held out the microphone to basically encourage it, tipping WWE’s hand a little. Cena said he just wanted to have Rock come to the ring so he could show respect and congratulate Rock on being the greatest WWE superstar ever.

Cena acknowledged coming up short again. That led to more yes chants and Cena started yessing along. He said Bryan owes him one and cracked up. That was a perfect illustration of why improvisation works well in wrestling as Cena came across more real and thus more likeable than in delivering a scripted speech full of clichés. Cena again reiterated he wanted to congratulate Rock.

At that point, Brock Lesnar’s music hit. The crowd went absolutely nuts. Grown people were jumping up and down and acting like giddy children. There were holy shit chants. Lesnar offered his hand to Cena but then gave him the F5. For good measure, he kicked Cena’s tacky green hat. This was an awesome segment and it was great to see the physical menace of Lesnar which is a completely different attitude than most of the rest of the show.

Final Thoughts:

This show was tremendous fun and a very promising start to WWE’s post WrestleMania period.