Wednesday 1 June 2011

That RAW Recap 30.05.11

WWE is not known for having technical difficulties, but when it has them it has them in a spectacular fashion.  This was the case on Monday when a large portion of RAW’s opening segment was broadcast without sound. You’d be hard pressed to find a more puzzling opening to RAW than R-Truth mouthing into a microphone whilst destroying a merchandise stand.

The problems were fixed long enough for Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and Michael Cole to acknowledge them and welcome us to the show, but then Truth made his way into the seating area and the sound cut off again. It’s a shame the sound went during this segment because when it came back on it was clear Truth had done a great job of riling the fans. Particularly noteworthy was his treatment of a father and his two sons for wearing Cena T-shirts. The clip was replayed later in the evening with audio and it was great heel mic work.

Eventually Cena came out to confront Truth. I missed his first few sentences but when the sound came back on (for good this time) the crowd were solidly behind him. Last week I felt that the positive response Cena got was partially due to the effectiveness of Truth as a heel and I feel the same this week. The mentions of “little Jimmys” and roaring at the crowd to shut up are great ways of establishing a heel act.

While I enjoyed everything about the Cena and R-Truth interaction I was less impressed with Michael Cole. Was having him answer an email from the RAW General Manager really necessary? No. Lawler could have done it. Even if they were determined to have Cole do it he didn’t need to use his heel catchphrases just one week after what was essentially the end of his push.  The inclusion of the line about no little Jimmys being at ringside felt like an attempt at a joke, perhaps to signify the GM is now a face and to ease the heat on Cole, but it backfired because nobody laughed.

Cena v R-Truth was announced as the evening’s main event. As the championship was not mentioned once throughout the course of the show I have assumed that is wasn’t on the line.

Coming back from the first commercial break we were treated to a bunch of elderly gentlemen sitting around in a car park with their feet dipped into a children’s paddling pool. They were eating hotdogs and burgers and generally seemed to be having a fairly jolly time. These vignettes took place because it was Memorial Day. It was a nice thought, but slightly random. It didn’t help matters that one man looked like Dusty Rhodes, making me think they were wrestlers (they weren’t).

The first match of the show was Dolph Ziggler v United States champion Kofi Kingston in a non-title match. As is customary with non-title matches on WWE television shows the champion lost. I imagine that will set up a US title match at Capitol Punishment on June 19th. The match was very enjoyable. The two have good chemistry and would make a good addition to the undercard of the DC show.

Next was an Alberto Del Rio promo. I can’t remember the last time he wrestled on RAW. It has to have been a few weeks ago now. He’s one of the company’s best wrestlers so he should be wrestling every week. The way he’s being used is only convincing me that it was a mistake to move him from SmackDown. Cole claimed that he had been driving around town all day with Del Rio. That was clearly not true and just an odd thing to say. It used to work when ‘King’ did it in the late 90s, but it suited his character more than it does Cole’s.

Del Rio introduced a video package recapping Big Show clumsily stumbling in front of his car last week and then announced that Show owes him money for damaging the car. Yes, Alberto Del Rio, one of WWE’s hottest prospects, and Big Show, the comedy giant who has lost to everyone, are being set up for a feud later in the year centring on ADR’s personal ring announcer knocking Show over with a car. This feud is a waste of Del Rio, but if it needs to happen he should at least be credited for taking Big Show out without the aid of a car. An in-ring angle could have happened with Del Rio using his arm bar submission and chair shots to take Big Show out. That would have been more effective.

Del Rio saved the segment (and I imagine he will save the feud when it happens) with his solid verbal skills and impressively sleazy wink.

A random seconds-long shot of Eve Torres and Kelly Kelly stretching in preparation for their match was shown, and the Kelly action continued after a break with a video package telling fans who have somehow managed to dodge the information that Kelly was featured on Maxim’s Hot 100 list. It’s a nice achievement for her and helps the company so it makes sense to highlight it. What doesn’t make sense is showing the entrance of Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres whilst having the Bella twins enter the arena during a break. It’s not that I’m a particular fan of the Bellas, it’s more that as Brie is the Divas’ champion having her entrance cut from TV devalues the title. WWE doesn’t care about things like that, but it should.

The match itself was the standard WWE women’s bout, most notable for being refereed by James ‘Little Guido’ Maritato. Kelly Kelly got the win for her team when she pinned one of the Bellas following a Fameasser. Sadly the move went unnamed.

The elderly folks were shown again. They were still enjoying themselves.

Back in the arena Michael Cole entered the ring and reverted back to his heel persona to call out Alex Riley. This is how Cole should have been used all along, rather than becoming the overexposed windbag he ended up as. By allowing Cole to do the majority of the talking it ensured fans reacted better when Riley did finally speak, because by that point they wanted to hear want he had to say.

Cole did a fine job of getting heat here, and it was good for the rising star Alex Riley, but was this the wisest move for the company to make just one week after the end of the Cole’s run as the company’s most pushed heel? Shouldn’t he be working as a regular commentator for the time being to ensure that the character doesn’t begin to overshadow the wrestlers again? That was the problem in the first place after all.

Eventually A-Ri had enough of Cole and shoved him to the ground. Just before he could start a proper beating The Miz ran in to make the save and the two had another realistic brawl. Miz has been very generous with the amount of offence Riley gets and the amount he sells for him. It’s a perfect example of Miz doing all he can to help build new stars from his newly acquired spot at the top. It would be nice to see more people in his position trying to elevate others.

It was a good segment: fans reacted loudly to Riley attacking Miz again, and neither wrestler was overexposed. The key thing is that it didn’t last too long and the fans were left wanting to see more of Riley. This soon after becoming a face that’s vital.

The evening’s third match was Rey Mysterio v CM Punk, with Mason Ryan at ringside. As expected, this was the match of the night. The two of them work very well together. Mason Ryan performed all the interference required of him without messing up, which has to be considered an achievement. I did wonder why Otunga and McGillicutty weren’t featured on the show and this would have been the natural place for them. They won the tag team titles last week and didn’t appear this week. That makes them and their titles look worthless (which they are (all of them) but WWE should be doing everything it can to change that).

The Kharma segment was one of the most refreshing things on WWE television in a long time. Allowing Kia Stevens to speak through the Kharma character she’s been portraying was the perfect thing to do. She spoke from the heart and got a solid reaction from the crowd for doing so. Considering she’s only been on WWE TV for less than two months and has yet to wrestle I think WWE should be very pleased with the reception she got. This should tell them that allowing talent to put part of themselves into their TV personalities is the right direction to go in.

The Bellas came back out to get themselves some cheap heat by calling Kharma fat and trying to goad her into attacking them. She had described the pregnancy as “high risk” which Cole and Lawler informed us meant that she couldn’t do anything physical or she would risk losing her baby. High risk or not I would have thought that wrestling while pregnant is never the best of ideas. The “high risk” nonsense was fine though, it didn’t take away from a well crafted segment.

I hope Kharma’s return in around a year is handled as well as that segment was.

How do you top a brilliant segment? You don’t! WWE know this and wisely opted to show their annoying Captiol Punishment hype video featuring Obama. Once again it was introduced as a Jerry Lawler dream sequence. This video is what separates sports entertainment from wrestling.

We got our final look at the outdoor party. A game of volleyball was being played. On concrete. There was nothing entertaining about the scenario, but Cole and Lawler had a good chuckle anyway.

We got a brief match between Jack Swagger and Evan Bourne in which Bourne scored the upset with a quick rollup then ran out of the ring as quickly as he could. The win was the right gesture, but having Bourne running away two weeks in a row is not the best way to build him up.

Finally, we got the R-Truth v John Cena match. After audible replay of Truth’s rants from earlier in the evening (with audio) we got a brief glimpse of him working the crowd whilst waiting for Cena. He did a great job of that too. He has been a revelation as a heel.

The match itself was relatively short and made shorter by the stalling Truth did on the outside. That was the story of the match: Truth would briefly wrestle Cena, come off worse, and roll to the outside to stall. It got the desired reaction from the crowd but also told the story that Truth is not capable of competing with Cena in a fair match.

The constant stalling played into the finish: Truth sauntered off into the stands and began taunting the father and sons from the start of the show, which brought Cena out to defend their honour (because that’s just how Cena rolls). Naturally the two wrestlers started brawling, and then headed back to the ring. As Cena was coming over the barricade Truth knocked him back into the fans and slid into the ring, earning himself the cheap count out victory. It was a simple and effective way of furthering their feud.

Following the match Truth went to disturb the family again, this time deciding that what he really wanted to do was throw water onto the father. There was no logical reason for this beyond the fact that he’s a heel. That’s just what heels do, particularly in WWE. Cena did his hero routine again but Truth had made his getaway and the show ended with the WWE champion mopping the brow of a random man in the audience.

On the whole I think it was a solid show. On the down side we didn’t get to see Alberto Del Rio wrestle and it was once again made clear that only the world titles matter these days, but the positives more than made up for these minor shortcomings. The Kharma segment, the Cole and Riley interview, and everything involving R-Truth and (shockingly) John Cena was very watchable and got good reactions from the crowd. On top of that we got a CM Punk v Rey Mysterio match, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ve sat through far worse episodes of RAW.

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