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.
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.
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.