Thursday 26 May 2011

The Blow by Blow: RAW 23.05.11

I’ve been considering doing a blog on an episode of RAW for a week or two, and this week’s episode taking place the night after a pay-per-view made it seem like the perfect time to try it. This isn’t intended as a report on the show, more views on what was shown and where things may lead.

The show opened with a promo segment involving Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, Bret Hart, R-Truth and John Cena. Lawler and Cena both got very nice responses from the crowd (surprising in Cena’s case), whilst Hart got what was probably the pop of the night. Truth was loudly booed. He’s surprised me by being great as a heel. Giving Bret’s glasses to a “little Jimmy” at ringside then snatching them back was amusing, as were his “Help me, help you, help me” and “Use’ta is a rooster from Brewster” lines. The latter made no sense, and I hope spouting such nonsense develops into a Truth trademark.

The sign that Truth is really being accepted as a heel by WWE fans is that Cena did not receive his usual mixed response. It was all cheers for him, and at least part of that has to be attributed to Truth. If adult male fans are cheering Cena then you know the heel’s working well.

Looking back on RAW there seems very little reason for Bret Hart to have been involved. I suspect that the original plan was for him to mention the twelfth anniversary of Owen Hart’s death (which occurred on Monday), possibly to set up Owen being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame next year. But with Randy Savage having passed away on Friday those plans were changed. There’s no way to be certain, but that would be my guess. If that’s the case I think WWE and Hart made the right decision.

Once the RAW GM had emailed in to set up Truth and CM Punk v Rey Mysterio and John Cena for the main event we were treated to a backstage segment in which Big Show and Kane tried to look casual while delivering clearly scripted lines about how the Nexus would interfere in their match. It was painful. Then Show sat on Alberto Del Rio’s car and Ricardo and ADR turned up to chastise him. In Spanish. It was a weird addition to the show, but it would only get weirder later.

The first match of the night was Big Show and Kane defending the tag titles against Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga. I was disappointed that nobody mentioned that Otunga is a former tag champion with John Cena. The highlight of the match was CM Punk being on commentary. The match itself was instantly forgettable, but Punk kept viewers amused by telling Josh he’s terrible at his job (he’s not, but it was funny to hear) and referring to Big Show as King Kong Bundy. New tag team champions were crowned, but it didn’t really mean anything because WWE doesn’t try to present a competitive and worthwhile tag team division.

I got my first look at the Capitol Punishment poster whilst watching RAW. There’s nothing to like about it. It’s poorly drawn and doesn’t help to sell the pay-per-view it’s supposed to be promoting. Naturally Lawler and Josh harped on about what a great poster it was. Just when you thought RAW couldn’t get any more tedious they showed a video of Randy Orton doing a merchandise signing. There was literally no reason for this, other than to push Randy Orton as the second coming of Lex Luger and show a mindless teen sobbing about how meeting Orton was the greatest moment of their life. I’ll also point out that Orton is a SmackDown guy, and nothing related to RAW was mentioned in the video. This is more proof that the separate rosters mean nothing.

Just when I thought the propaganda couldn’t get any worse Lawler topped off the segment with the line “I’ve seen Randy Orton’s film not once, but twice!” As Lawler is not in a boredom induced coma I could only assume he was lying.

Backstage, Big Show started ranting at Scott Stanford because Stanford had the audacity to do his job and ask Show a question about losing the tag belts. Del Rio appeared, slapped Show, and then ran away, sending the cameraman flying as he did so (which was done so some obviously false static effects could be played, allowing WWE to switch to pre-taped footage). The cameraman followed Kane as he gave chase. The next thing we saw was Kane stopping and wailing, in a surprisingly camp fashion, “Show!” It was revealed Big Show had lumbered in front of the car from earlier and his leg was jammed between the tyre and the frame. It was the most unintentionally hilarious thing WWE has aired in months. It became even more amusing when the car reversed, dragging Show along the ground. Show shouted at medical personnel (more people just trying to do their jobs) and somehow managed to oversell, no mean feat when he’s supposedly been hit by a car.

This angle was presumably shot so that Big Show can take some time off. He may be injured or it could be an age issue. It looks as though he’ll return to a feud with Alberto Del Rio, which is good for him but bad for Del Rio. The way Del Rio’s been used since moving to RAW has done nothing to convince me the move was right for him. The company would have benefitted more from keeping him on SmackDown.

On the plus side it does open up new directions for Big Show’s character. He could come back and do a gimmick where he gets knocked down by a car every week but insists he’s fine and just needs to “walk it off.” Alternatively, he could feud with people just trying to do their jobs, such as ring announcers and lighting technicians. It’s an exciting time to be a Big Show fan!

The second match of the evening was Jack Swagger v Evan Bourne. Both men should be a big part of the company’s plans for the future, particularly Swagger with his size, style and look. The match didn’t get too long, but Bourne was allowed to look fairly competitive in the time they got. After the match Evan kicked Swagger then ran away. If this is the start of a feud between them then it could have been done better: Evan currently looks like a weak coward, not that best situation for a babyface to be in.

Next was the Michael Cole segment. Cole apologised to the fans, the ring crew and the commentary team, and we got to see a still of him utterly humiliated at Over the Limit. This provoked a decent reaction from the crowd, but there were no others positives to be taken from the promo.

If you look back at this feud, which has been going for six months, it can only be seen as an a failure. It dragged on too long, put an unneeded spotlight onto a man who will not help WWE improve TV ratings or pay-per-view buys, and made no new stars. Cole’s comeuppance should have come at WrestleMania, with him getting a punch from Lawler or a Stunner from Steve Austin. The next night Cole should have berated Swagger for not helping him win, causing Swagger to turn face on Cole and slap on the ankle lock. A new babyface star would have been created and there would have been a reason for the storyline. As things stand now it’s all been a colossal waste of time.

Miz then came to the ring to accuse Alex Riley of costing him the WWE title on two occasions. When the RAW General Manager emailed in to deny Miz’s request for a title shot the former champion flipped out and slapped his apprentice, then fired him. Riley fought back and worked Miz over at ringside, then booted him in the head and left. It was a simple segment that accomplished what it needed to (the split of Miz and Riley), but I’m not sure where it will go from here.

A feud with Riley would be a big comedown for The Miz straight after a run as the champion. The best thing that could happen is for Riley to move to SmackDown (he was supposedly drafted there a few weeks ago) and use the momentum from attacking his former boss to become a babyface. That would leave Miz free to work a more high profile feud on RAW. I’ve got a feeling we’ll see a Miz v Riley feud though.

Eight divas came to the ring for an eight woman tag match, but about twenty seconds after the opening bell Kharma came to the ring. The divas surrounded her as she cried and a man in the audience shouted “Give her a hug!” There was no commentary during this so viewers were left to wonder what was going on. This is apparently a result of Kia ‘Kharma’ Stevens being pregnant and WWE needing to write her off of TV. If that’s the case then congratulations to her.

Maybe this will come as a lesson to WWE that they need to spend some time strengthening their women’s division using the talent they have left at their disposal. If and when Kharma returns she’d make a far bigger impact if she was demolishing divas that have shown they can compete in competitive and entertaining matches.

Kofi Kingston defeated Drew McIntyre in a match that should have been far better. Kofi was sloppy in places and McIntyre showed little charisma. The match didn’t have much reason to be taking place (although I suppose you could say that for most television matches WWE airs), and the addition of a post-match shot of Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero sitting on a couch was just baffling. On the plus side Dolph is now bleaching his hair again. This is a good thing as it helps him stand out.

WWE then aired its tribute video to Randy Savage, introduced by Jerry Lawler. As always the video was well produced, and it did a good job of paying respect to a very talented wrestler. It’s a shame that the animosity between McMahon and Savage was never sorted out, because it would have meant so much to a lot of people for Randy to attend an induction ceremony for a spot in the Hall of Fame.

The main event of CM Punk and R-Truth v John Cena and Rey Mysterio was refereed by Bret Hart. It was an enjoyable match but there was nothing fancy going on and no need for Hart to be officiating. The finish of Hart putting Punk in the Sharpshooter and Mysterio doing a leg drop on him was bizarre, as faces shouldn’t need help from other faces to beat heels. But it happened anyway. That’s modern WWE for you.

Overall, it wasn’t the best episode of RAW you’ll ever see, but it wasn’t the worst either. What struck me most was how little the RAW writing team is doing with men who were previously standing out on SmackDown. Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio were confined to backstage segments (in Dolph’s case he got about five seconds of screen time). Both men were highlights of the show when on SmackDown, and if they’re not even going to set foot in a wrestling ring they should be moved back there. While Jack Swagger did get to wrestle it’s clear there’s nothing big planned for him. He’s another man who should have stayed on SmackDown, where he could have played a more important role.

One the plus side we got to see the beginning of a fresh new feud in Truth v Cena, which will hopefully lead to a pay-per-view match between the two. The addition of Bret Hart was random but welcome, and Big Show segment provided some comedy relief. Hopefully next week’s episode will follow on logically from this and start shaping Capitol Punishment. Keep your fingers crossed.

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