Wednesday, 21 November 2012

That RAW Recap 19.11.12

I've not recapped an episode of RAW since the 1,000th episode in July. Since then Daniel Bryan and Kane have formed a tag team, The Miz has gone babyface, Chris Jericho has been banished, Ryback has been promoted to headliner status and former ROH champ Seth Rollins (or, if you prefer, Tyler Black) has made the TV debut some of us have been waiting two years for.
More has stayed the same than changed though. John Cena and CM Punk remain the company’s most heavily promoted acts. Show opening promos are still very much in fashion too. It's a tried and tested approach which WWE aren't likely to change anytime soon. They should though, because a formulaic and predictable three hour TV show is not the best way to keep viewers happy. Perhaps most amazing of all, RAW is still three hours long.
This week's episode started with a Ryback promo. I suppose that could be considered a novelty. 'Big Hungry' has not had much talking time despite his increased standing. This segment highlighted why. Ryback is essentially a modern day Ultimate Warrior, carrying analogies far too far while barking about being hungry and at the top of the food chain and generally making as little sense as possible while still using the English language.

Uh-oh... he's got a microphone
Ryback's point (yes, he had one) was that Punk had stolen the championship for the second pay-per-view in a row at the Survivor Series. He demanded that Punk and the three NXT wrestlers that had attacked him on Sunday (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose) come to the ring or he'd destroy things. Scary.
Thankfully no destruction occurred. Vickie Guerrero, a capable woman with a microphone and a magnet for heel heat, took to the stage to inform Ryback that she was booking him in a match with Tensai. She acted as though this would be a big challenge for ‘The Human Wrecking Ball’, even though we've seen the two clash twice and the man from Japan lost both encounters. This bout was no different… except Ryback actually managed to hit his finisher this time.
Backstage we got a brief shot of Sheamus shouting at a referee about incompetence. He was angry about having missed out on the World Heavyweight championship at Survivors. He looked like a bully. John Laurinaitis was right to fine him.
Wade Barrett defeated Intercontinental champion Kofi Kingston in a good match that lasted around fifteen minutes. Before it began footage was shown of Barrett stating he wanted the IC strap back. His non-title victory makes it clear that this is the new direction for both men. They should have a good feud judging by RAW and their collisions last spring.
Kaitlyn dropped Aksans in match number three. It was nothing special. I'd only suggest watching it if you're a big fan of one or both women.
The ladies were followed by a non-title match between Antonio Cesaro and 'The Funkasaurus'. Brodus Clay has had a spectacular fall down the card recently. During his first few months as the all-singing, all-dancing funk-lover he was protected and given a very strong push. He seemed set for a permanent upper mid-card position. That push is gone and not a trace of it remains. Cameron and Naomi watched as their man got powered up for 'The Swiss Superman's' Neutralizer finish.
R-Truth was on commentary for this one. He explained he was scouting Cesaro in the hope of capturing the US title in the future. I can't see it happening. He lost at Survivor Series for a reason.
Managing Supervisor of RAW Vickie Guerrero returned to the ring for the next segment. It was a continuation of the nonsense concerning "inappropriate behaviour" between Cena and AJ (it cost AJ the General Manager job, you know). As I find this one of the most disengaging storylines of the year (it's up there with the Claire Lynch stupidity) I shan't recap it all. All you need to know is that Vickie brought two people with her who claimed to have witnessed “inappropriate behaviour” between Cena and AJ. Some of this allegedly took place in a car.
AJ and Cena cane out to deny the allegations then, for no fathomable reason, shared a long, passionate kiss. That was broken up by Dolph Ziggler. Despite 'The Show Off' having had a career highlight night the previous evening he was quickly dispatched by Super Cena. This was Ziggler’s sole appearance in front of the live crowd during the broadcast. It was a less than ideal way to build on his success as the sole survivor in the Team battle.

As the merch machine left the ring to chase his foe he landed awkwardly on his left leg and had to hobble backstage. Luckily for WWE and eight-year-olds everywhere Cena did not suffer a serious injury. He will probably be booked to face 'Mr Money in the Bank' at TLC.
Bout number five saw Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton clash in a two out of three falls match. This struck me as an odd stipulation to give them. After the wild brawl they had on SmackDown a couple of weeks ago it seemed like a step back. Two out of three fall matches should take place towards the beginning of feuds or in rivalries based around technical expertise. It was decent but nothing more. 'The Viper' won after clinching the first and third falls.

Intensity. Raw intensity
Following a handicap match that saw the Great Khali batter Epico and Primo, and also featured some shenanigans from Hornswoggle and Rosa, David Otunga and The Miz faced off. Fans gradually warmed to 'The Awesome One' throughout the contest. Miz did well playing the babyface again, and the man from Harvard was solid too. I don't think Otunga gets enough credit for generating heat. He may not be the greatest wrestler ever but he knows how to get his character across.
The Sheamus promo that followed was flat. 'The Celtic Warrior' bored the fans so much that they dusted off the dreaded "What?" response to taunt him with. He either needs to be pitted against someone genuinely loathsome or turned heel. Probably the former, seeing as WWE are determined to have him become a genuine star.
The point of Sheamus's promo was to antagonise World Heavyweight champion Big Show. 'Great White' had saved the chair he'd used to batter the champ the night before and shouted (yes, shouted: Sheamus is not a quiet man) about each dent on in representing a bruise on Show's body. Both men talked over each other, which was pretty sloppy.
Damien Sandow stopped the madness when he came out for his match with the Irishman. He proved immediately more entertaining than both WHC rivals as he told the referee that he would not compete while Sheamus was holding the chair. Sandow v Sheamus was one of the highlights of the show. They battled for fifteen minutes before Sheamus hit White Noise and a Brogue kick for three. It was a cut above the average TV match.
Cutting backstage AJ was shown confronting Vickie. Tamina was present to act as a bodyguard. She towered over AJ. That should help portray 'The Diva Next Door' as the underdog babyface during their inevitable collision.
Anyway, Ms Lee told Vickie Cena was hurt (the ankle injury mentioned earlier) and asked to know what was going to be done about it. Vickie said she would do nothing, prompting AJ to say she would take matters into her own hands. Following a break we found her striding down a corridor alongside Layla. The Brit made a wet attempt to convince AJ not to follow through on her plan and was told to go away. With that AJ strode into the men's locker room (Heath Slater could be seen dressed only in a towel). She had a bit of a shout at Dolph Ziggler who retaliated with some brutal putdowns about her being desperate and needy before Cena ran in and lumped him.
They fought and got separated. It was fairly predictable and designed to provide more clips for the Cena v Ziggler video package at TLC.
The evening's final match was a non-title encounter between tag team champions Team Hell No and Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. Despite featuring Daniel Bryan, one of the promotion's most talented wrestlers, and Mysterio, who shines with the right opponent, the highlight of the segment was Titus O'Neil on commentary. ‘The Big Deal’ was hilarious. His charisma and quick wit were a revelation. He deserves more mic time if he can get results like that.
Darren Young was also at the commentary booth.
The PTPs ran in at the end to cause a disqualification. They ruined what had been an enjoyable match but the decision was understandable: WWE wanted to protect both babyface teams. A clean loss wasn't going to happen.

RAW’s final segment was a celebration of CM Punk’s one year long reign as WWE champion. Throughout the show we had seen clips of Heyman and Punk backstage, preparing for the festivities. The in-ring stuff kicked off with Heyman berating the fans for booing him. It was solid heel microphone work. CM Punk was then introduced to the predictable mix of boos and cheers.
A Paul Heyman guy
The champ stated that holding the championship for a year is just the beginning. Apparently he won’t stop until he is the longest reigning champion ever. Good luck with that. Bruno Sammartino, who was referenced by name by both Punk and Heyman, held the WWWF world title twice, his second reign lasting just under three and a half years and his first lasting nearly eight years.

As good as Punk is and as heavily pushed as he’s been over the last seventeen months I cannot see him lasting that long as champion. The modern wrestling approach simply wouldn’t see it happen. It doesn’t matter though because the comments were made in character. I’m beginning to think there’s a chance he’ll squeak by The Rock at the Royal Rumble but I still think it’s likely he’ll drop the title by or at WrestleMania XXIX.

The party was broken up by Ryback. ‘Big Hungry’ stomped down to the ring, presumably wanting to get his hands on Punk. Unfortunately for him he was jumped by Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns. They again put WWE’s hungriest man through a table and then got into the ring to pose.

Punk acted as though he was nervous around them, leaving the ring as they entered. He overcame that pretty quickly to pose and shout about being the best in the world. The show went off the air with him making this boast while his foot was planted firmly on Ryback’s chest.

As formulaic as it was I enjoyed RAW. There were three matches of a decent length, Barrett and Kingston were given the chance to create a connection with fans through their ring work and Titus O’Neil surprised us with a personality. Even the Cena and AJ stuff didn’t seem as bad as it has in previous weeks.

Although I complained at the top of this article about Punk being overexposed I enjoyed his main event promo. As his title reign had reached such a significant milestone it made sense for a fuss to be made of him. The use of Ryback was good too. It took three guys to take him out and he still has a score to settle with Punk. Presumably that will happen at TLC.

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