Tuesday 22 November 2011

That RAW Recap 21.11.11

You’d expect Survivor Series, one of WWE’s Big Four pay-per-views, to be followed up with an energetic, memorable episode of RAW, wouldn’t you? But the WWE writing team, in their infinite wisdom, knows better. The post-Survivor Series RAW was a competent piece of work that addressed everything it needed to but went about its business in a mechanical, workmanlike manner. It was a very average show.

Starting off with new WWE champion CM Punk was a nice touch, but his segment soon deteriorated into his now usual cavalcade of inside references. Stressing the importance of winning a WWE championship at Madison Square Garden and referring to himself as a professional wrestler were nice touches but everything else was the routine he goes through every week.

Punk stated that he wants to see the back of John Laurinaitis as interim RAW General Manager. Punk’s comment could indicate that Laurinaitis is going to be removed from this on-screen position to make way for the recently returned Mick Foley. It’s a good role for Foley, allowing him to appear on the show each week and possibly wrestle the occasional match. Meanwhile Laurinaitis could still knock about as the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations.

Anyway, Punk’s comments naturally brought out the former Johnny Ace. He announced Alberto Del Rio v Zack Ryder and Punk v Dolph Ziggler for later in the evening and then informed Punk that ADR would get his rematch for the title on next week’s show. Three matches made in five minutes? That’s productivity!

Del Rio v Ryder was up first and the former WWE champion made short work of ‘Long Island Iced Z’. Ryder was over in a big way with the Pennsylvania crowd. WWE really need to keep his push going and have him face Dolph Ziggler again at TLC to solidify him as an upper mid-card guy. The goal should be to have him as a dependable member of the mid-card by WrestleMania season.

The second match of the evening was Jack Swagger v Sheamus. Being a short TV match between two big men this one was nothing special. Both men got in their key spots and the fans rallied behind the popular Sheamus but it didn’t interest me. Big man matches aren’t really my cup of tea. The most noteworthy thing about the bout was that Swagger debuted a new pre-match taunt: instead of dropping down to amaze us all with his press-ups he scored a line with his foot at the top of the ramp and then stomped over it, presumably signifying that Swagger is willing to “cross the line”.

That was followed by a Kevin Nash promo. After fumbling his way through the opening sentences ‘Big Daddy Cool’ pulled himself together and told us that he’d watched Survivor Series on a monitor “in the back” (that’s one of his favourite phrases). He mentioned that it’s a special arena for him, as it is for many current and former WWE wrestlers. He referenced beating Bob Backlund (remember that guy?) for the WWF championship and the Curtain Call incident, then said it should have been him and Triple H in the main event facing Cena and The Rock. I actually agree with that and suggested it two months ago (read about that here).

Kev ended his ramble by telling us he was the last man standing from “that group” (the Clique). Triple H should be back in the next few weeks to begin the build-up to his math with ‘Big Sexy’. That’s not going to be an enjoyable experience.

After a standard promo and squash victory over Santino Marella Cody Rhodes officially began his feud with Booker T. Throughout the short bout Cole and Booker had reminded viewers of the former WCW champion’s dislike of Cody’s attitude. Following the match Cody reminded Booker he could hear everything that was said at ringside and asked Booker to repeat his feelings straight to his face. Book said his problem was with Cody’s attitude, not with him as a person. Cody, being the heel, wasn’t satisfied with this and tossed water over the commentator then left laughing.

This is a feud that’s been rumoured for a while and it should be an enjoyable one to watch. Booker T is still very popular with crowds and can still go in the ring. Cody is one of the promotion’s brightest prospects and 2011 has seen him improve a lot. Hopefully Cody will spend a few weeks calling Booker out on SmackDown before Booker finally agrees to a match at TLC. With his current role as a commentator he can’t be seen as too eager to return to the ring, and it makes Cody look stronger if he’s the one guy who can antagonise Booker into a match.

The show peaked with the CM Punk v Dolph Ziggler match. They got around fifteen minutes and made the most of it. This was one of the finest RAW matches of the year. Punk treated Ziggler as his equal and helped him look strong in defeat, meaning Ziggler was not harmed by his loss. ‘The Heel’ deserves to be featured prominently throughout WrestleMania season and wrestle a meaningful match on the Miami card. I’m going to make an early Rumble prediction and say he’ll be one of the first two entrants into the titular match.

Big Show waddled out after that to remind us all that he won his Survivor Series match by disqualification. He said his fist will be waiting for Mark Henry when he returns. Hopefully their rivalry will end at TLC. Henry works best with smaller, more talented men who can carry him to respectable outings.

We got confirmation of a Barrett v Orton singles feud during match five. Wade Barrett v Kofi Kingston was just another match until ‘The Apex Predator’ sauntered to ringside halfway through. Sitting on a chair Orton watched Barrett pick up a victory and then made to leave. Why did ‘The Viper’ feel the need to do this? We’ll never know. It did allow Barrett to taunt him after the match though, which the Mancunian took full advantage of. Orton faked going into the ring which caused Barrett to panic, but then he just walked off. Presumably they’ll come to blows on SmackDown.

The evening’s main event? John Cena talking. He gave us a helpful recap of Survivor Series as the audience chanted “Fruity Pebbles” and “Boots to asses” and then started to tell us what WrestleMania needed to be. Fortunately we were spared Cena’s vision of the future by Awesome Truth.

The general gist of this segment was to split up Miz and R-Truth as a unit. After mocking Cena for the treatment he received from the New York crowd Cena turned the two against one another. As is the case with most things involving Cena it was not convincing.

Cena told Truth that Miz thinks he’s crazy and stupid and told Miz that Truth thinks he’s pompous and arrogant. The two had heated words, Truth having believed Cena’s nonsense and Miz becoming frustrated with him. Eventually ‘The Awesome One’ shoved R-Truth and got a right hand in return. Begging off Miz managed to convince Truth that it was Cena playing mind games and the two set off up the ramp to find him backstage.

But it was a setup all along! At the top of the stage Miz spun Truth round and hit him with the Skull Crushing Finale. The final image of RAW was R-Truth being attended to by medical personnel.

I’m disappointed that Awesome Truth have been split up, but it was clear it was coming. Miz was headlining pay-per-views at the start of the year and Truth has found his niche with the schizophrenic gimmick. Using the two of them as a team is a waste in WWE’s eyes. I had hoped they could stay on as a combo until January and fall out at the Royal Rumble but that’s no longer an option.

The split raises a couple of questions. The first is who will play the face in their upcoming feud? I’d pick Miz there. He’s been a heel for several years and needs the change. His character would be refreshed by a face turn. The second question is who will Cena work with now? I’d assumed that TLC would play host to a rematch of sorts between Awesome Truth and Cena paired with a partner of his choice. That probably won’t happen, so who else is there for Cena to work with? I wouldn’t be averse to a Cena v Ziggler match on pay-per-view, but that seems unlikely.

So that was RAW. A by-the-numbers show that set up new feuds in the most generic way possible. Let’s hope they build on it successes next week in a more memorable fashion. Announcing some matches for TLC wouldn’t be a bad move either.

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