Tuesday 28 February 2012

That RAW Recap 27.02.12

You would be forgiven for thinking that an appearance by The Rock would automatically make any episode of RAW memorable. Sadly that’s not the case. While ‘The Great One’s’ latest return was highly anticipated and delivered the catchphrases, laughs and animosity we’d all wanted and expected it’s not going to go down in the history books as one of his best ever promos. It’s not that it lacked anything, it’s more that nothing was said that we haven’t heard before.

Since last year The Rock and his WrestleMania XXVIII opponent John Cena have been trading barbs with one another. As time’s gone on those barbs have become increasingly vicious. But a pattern has emerged. Cena will talk about how he appears on RAW and at live events every week, The Rock will reveal his latest absurd jibe and then arrogantly proclaim it’s “trending” worldwide, then Cena will smirk and Rock will give an icy stare and the process will be repeated a few weeks later.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It clearly works well for both men and WWE as an organisation. It will deliver the pay-per-view buys the company wants when WrestleMania rolls around. It’s just that aside from a few funny lines (from both men) nothing about this feud has been especially memorable so far.

That said it did seem that the former ‘Doctor of Thuganomics’ struck a nerve when he mentioned Rock having promo notes on his arm. That could have been arranged to make it seem that the rivalry is finally heating up or it could have been a genuine moment of Cena saying something Rock didn’t know was coming and the movie star being unable to fully hide his annoyance. It doesn’t matter which it is really. It was an enjoyable moment and we need to see more like it over the next few weeks if the two men are going to keep their story moving forward.

Work or worked-shoot?

Below the main event promo we got a standard hit-and-miss RAW. Highlights were provided by a solid CM Punk v Daniel Bryan opener and a triple threat tag team championship match. The tag title bout got a surprising amount of time and was very enjoyable. Refreshingly, Cole and Lawler mostly concentrated on the action throughout the match. Naturally Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston were the stars but champions Epico and Primo got to shine too. It just goes to show that with a little work WWE could have a very enjoyable tag team division again.

Sadly that good work was undone after the match when Kane strolled to the ring and obliterated not only R-Truth and ‘The Heel’ but the champions too. That felt like somewhat of a waste considering how hard everyone had just worked to put on a good match. Did Kane really need that treatment?

The champion versus champion match was of predictably high quality and it’s a testament to both former ROH stars that they were able to put on such a good match in spite of the ruckus at ringside. Yes, WWE decided to shift the focus from the great match that took place in the ring onto John Laurinaitis, Teddy Long, Santino, David Otunga and AJ, who had all crowded ringside to advance their storylines. AJ was there to be used as a shield by her cowardly boyfriend while the other four were there to advance the unified General Manager arc. It was a lot to cram into one segment but WWE pulled it off well and gave us a tremendous match too.

We were once again denied a decisive finish. I’m beginning to think that the plan is to start a champion versus champion feud over the coming months, with the solitary GM (almost certainly Johnny Ace) eventually booking a title versus title match to unify the belts. I’m not against that. There’s not enough roster depth for two world champions and there hasn’t been for some time.

This week’s excuse for not giving us a winner was a repeat from last Tuesday’s clash on SuperSmackDown: Bryan went to leave the arena with his belt only to be tossed back into the ring by his WrestleMania opponent Sheamus. Laurinaitis disqualified Punk for this (technically it was outside interference against Bryan, you see) and then got into another shouting contest with Teddy Long. That’s always quite the sight: ‘Mr Excitement’ has to be a good foot taller than his SmackDown counterpart.

Despite having lost Punk decided to celebrate and pose at the top of the ramp. That’s never a good move for babyface wrestlers and this was no exception. Chris Jericho attacked the WWE champion from behind, knocking him to the ground before smashing his head repeatedly into the top of the metal ramp and locking him into the Walls of Jericho. Despite it being a clichéd routine the fans got impressively worked up and Jericho left to a good amount of heat.

That wasn’t the first time we’d seen Jericho: he’d opened the show by interrupting Daniel Bryan’s entrance. He and Punk had a passionate exchange about their respective histories in the business. They opted for a realistic approach that suited their feud well. When accused of stealing Jericho’s lines Punk asked Jericho if he’d given Bret Hart his “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be” line when he was two, following that up by facetiously asking if ‘Y2J’ had invented Canada. ‘The Second City Saint’ had a point: wrestlers are continually influenced by past generations and neither of them are an exception, but Punk hasn’t (at least to my knowledge) outright stolen anything from anyone else.

Jericho retaliated by saying he was a different breed to Punk and other modern wrestlers. ‘The Ayatollah of Rock and Roll-ah’ said he was from a generation of grapplers who didn’t care what spot they were supposed to fill, where they were placed on the card or what management told them to do, they just wanted to have the best match of the night. That’s an admirable quality and something that Jericho has intimated before in interviews when asked about TNA’s X Division. That meant both men had valid arguments.

This was a focused, believable promo that set the scene nicely for their continued rivalry and eventual clash at WrestleMania on April 1st. In a way I’d say it was better than The Rock’s promo. At least we got plenty of fresh material.

The rest of the show was forgettable. John Cena made Miz tap out to his credibility-killing STF submission hold and Kelly Kelly scored a nippy victory over Nikki Bella. Big Show teamed with Sheamus (he won the Royal Rumble remember, when is WWE going to start doing something with him?) to get a victory over Cody Rhodes and Mark Henry in an incredibly short contest which was preceded by Cody poking fun at Show’s loss to Floyd Mayweather at WrestleMania 24. A Show v Cody clash at this year’s event is looking more and more likely. That’s a real pity.

So where were Randy Orton and Brodus Clay? Both were confirmed for the show and neither appeared. It’s difficult to believe they were omitted due to time constraints when you consider that Eve was booked to wander to the ring and cut a promo about how men should be blamed for being easy to manipulate. Surely WWE would have cut that, or some of the dross I mentioned in the previous paragraph, in favour of an appearance from Orton.

Right now WWE is plodding towards WrestleMania. I’m confident that Rock v Cena, Triple H v Undertaker and Jericho v Punk are all going to ensure it’s a creative and commercial success, but if things carry on the way they have been it will be in spite of WWE’s writing team, not because of them. Things need to start happening on RAW and SmackDown if the casual viewers who tend to watch a little more often at this time of year and going to be convinced to keep watching form April 2nd.

In short: do something truly memorable next week!

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