Due to the live episode of Tough Enough that aired before RAW this week (in which Andy Leavine was announced as the winner of the show) it was difficult to find a true starting point on YouTube. Most of the videos I found began around the point where R-Truth came to the ring, and as that clearly wasn’t part of Tough Enough I’ll start the recap from that point.
Truth interrupted ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Vince McMahon’s interaction with a song about conspiracies and Little Jimmys. It didn’t seem like it had been rehearsed and it’s possible (maybe even likely) that Truth was making it up on the spot. Because he’s a heel who’s supposed to be mentally unstable it worked out okay. It should also be noted that he was wearing a Confederate States of America uniform. This tied into a point he’d make about the CSA and its one good idea.
Vince introduced a recap of last week’s water incident between an actor portraying a fan and R-Truth. The General Manager had informed Truth that if he didn’t apologise on RAW this week he’d lose his title match at Capitol Punishment. This is a title match that was unconfirmed as RAW went off the air last week, and a title match Michael Cole said Truth would earn by apologising this week. These are small inconsistencies, but a company of WWE’s status should be capable of getting such minor things right.
Truth did apologise, and in amusing fashion. He apologised to Big Jimmy, Little Jimmy, and the soda that he threw. He then went on a ramble about the CSA, noting Richmond was the country’s capital. Astonishingly that got a pop from the audience. Truth said that the one good idea the South had was that secession. He had been inspired by it so much that he announced his own secession from “the WWE Universe”. This development was both amusing and logical: he didn’t want a company that had held him back to be able to make money from his likeness. He made a point, as any good heel would have done, of retaining his WWE championship match on June 19th.
Vince made a few attempts at comedy, which fell utterly flat with the crowd. Luckily Miz came out (looking ludicrously orange even by his standards) to liven things up. Predictably he trashed Alex Riley and said if it weren’t for him he’d still be champion. Sadly nothing was going to keep the title on Miz once Vince got it into his head to put the belt back on John Cena. As we were reminded a few weeks ago, Cena went nearly an entire year without a world title. We’re lucky we got that long away from his stolen “The Champ is here” line.
A highlight of Miz’s speech was Austin laughing at the “most must-see WWE champion in history” moniker. As good as I think Miz is he’s clearly not the draw Austin, Rock, Hogan or Sammartino were. But that’s the joke of it.
Miz said he deserved one more shot at Cena and the WWE championship because he no longer has Riley holding him back. Before Vince, the GM or anybody else could answer Riley came out and said that he’d like to beat on the Miz for the third week in a row. That got Riley a pop and continued building him as someone fans can support.
The last man out for this segment was John Cena. His continued appearances at the start of RAW make me long for the days of Triple H’s twenty minute promos. At least he put a bit of thought into what he said and played to the adults in the audience: this week’s RAW saw Cena in full on Kiddy Mode™. He ran through his usual nonsense and I switched off until the GM emailed in. Before Cole could answer it Vince told him to shut up. We never found out what the email said as Vince decided to announce Alex Riley and John Cena v The Miz and R-Truth as the evening’s main event with Austin as the guest referee. That was probably what the GM was emailing in to do anyway.
As opening segments go it could have been far worse, but it was very similar to one we had a week or two ago in which CM Punk and R-Truth were announced to face John Cena and Rey Mysterio. It could have done with being trimmed down by three or four minutes too. On the plus side we got to hear Vince’s entrance music. That’s rare on TV these days.
Following a break we saw our first match of the evening: Santino v Michael McGillicutty. It was the standard Santino victory: barely worth watching. I imagine he’s of great value to the company at untelevised events where he can get a good reaction and warm the crowd up in the opening match, but his act is stale for TV audiences. On the subject of new tag champion McGillicutty: he didn’t get an entrance, his belt wasn’t shown, and his famous and successful father, Curt Hennig (McGillicutty’s real name is Joe Hennig) still hasn’t been acknowledged on television. He won’t be getting over any time soon.
Tough Enough was recapped and ‘King’ and Cole spent a moment or two wittering to each other before Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix came out for match number two. Their opponents were the Bellas, who were denied an entrance again, despite one of them being the Divas’ champion. The match was instantly forgettable. Even Beth Phoenix, one of the company’s best female workers, couldn’t drag the Bellas to a decent match in the limited time they had. We did at least get a babyface win.
Backstage Trish Stratus and Booker T were enjoying a massively scripted conversation when Jack Swagger rocked up for an equally scripted interruption. Swagger said that if he had been a trainer on Tough Enough all the contestants would have been winners, though he neglected to explain how that would work (and also didn’t acknowledge the distinctly communistic undertones such a claim carries). Naturally Booker took exception to this and the two were suddenly agreeing to a match later on the show.
Punk came out with Mason Ryan in tow, sitting down cross legged at the top of the entrance ramp for a promo. As ever he was one of the most entertaining aspects of the entire show, claiming that he’d beaten Rey Mysterio at least 600 times and that Rey had never once beaten him (neither of these claims is true, if you’re wondering). Punk revealed he had agreed to Mysterio’s request for a rematch as beating him again would be the perfect way to show the superiority of the Nexus. No, I didn’t really understand that claim either.
The match between Punk and Mysterio was, for the second week in a row, RAW’s most entertaining match. The two men are very well suited as opponents and I’m hoping they’ll get to wrestle one another at Capitol Punishment. That will make me far keener to watch the show than I would be otherwise. Anyway, as Punk won last week it was Mysterio’s turn this week: he took out Mason Ryan whilst DDTing Punk and then got the win following a top rope splash.
Deciding that viewers may be enjoying themselves a little too much WWE decided to slow things down with the Obama press conference video hyping Capitol Punishment. This week’s was altered to include R-Truth, but even he couldn’t make that rubbish any better. It remains a bad idea executed badly by a company that has clearly run out of ideas and should be spending its time doing something more productive. Like building new talent perhaps.
Alberto Del Rio came out for a promo. When he was on SmackDown this would have been one of the best segments on the show. That’s not the case on RAW. ADR reiterated that it wasn’t his fault that Big Show got hit by his car, then brought out Ricardo Rodriguez in what was meant to be a Big Show outfit. The trouble with this idea was that Big Show has one distinguishing feature: his size. He is well over a foot taller than Rodriguez. That meant Cole had to keep telling us it was Show (partly for heat but also so that people just tuning in knew who Ricardo was portraying).
This segment was horrendous. It’s amazing how quickly the RAW writing team are destroying Del Rio. If things carry on like this the planned Del Rio v Cena main event for SummerSlam will be jeopardised as an attraction. I’ve said this several times now, but I’ll say it again: he is being wasted on RAW and should have stayed on SmackDown, where he was being used properly and providing entertainment for viewers.
A rare RAW appearance for Zack Ryder was next, with Dolph Ziggler giving him a pep talk in the ring. Kofi Kingston, the United States champion (which means nothing), was announced as his opponent. He got a surprisingly good reaction from the crowd and followed up with a surprisingly good match with Ryder. As enjoyable as the match was the highlights were Cole referring to Ryder as “Zack Ziggler” (what a ring name that would be) and Ziggler talking about Twitter.
Ziggler did do a good job of stressing the importance of the United States title to him. By talking about the belt and saying he wants to win it he elevates the championship in the eyes of the fans. There’s still a long way to go if it’s really going to mean something though. Presumably this will lead to a title challenge by Ziggler at Capitol Punishment. I hope so: as Ziggler rightly stated, he and Kingston usually have top matches.
A graphic giving us some witless fact about Cena’s Facebook page was shown. It said “Cena Nation” at the top. I thought it was CeNation. WWE can’t even get their own marketing right now...
Possibly due to losing a mediocre match last week Jack Swagger’s entrance went untelevised. We saw him waiting in the ring. Naturally this wasn’t going to happen to Booker T. His first match on RAW in four years was going to have its entrance televised in full. Four years is a pretty long time, but it wasn’t as amazing as Michael ‘Overhype’ Cole made out. Speaking of Cole, he was pro Booker in this match, due to his fall out with Swagger. I imagine he’ll be back to antagonising the former WCW champion on Friday’s SmackDown broadcast.
The fans were into Booker T in a big way, and he looked as impressive as ever. For a man of 46 he looks great. The match wasn’t long and ended on a disappointing count out when Swagger decided he’d had enough. Evan Bourne clotheslined him from behind and Swagger gave chase. Booker laid him out with an Axe Kick in the ring and then Bourne did his beautiful Shooting Star Press. The faces then did a cringey double Spinneroonie spot. Evan’s was sloppy.
The main event tag match was the basic Cena affair. Nobody ever manages to look good when in the ring with Cena, no matter whether they’re facing him or tagging with him He is incapable of making stars, and as he was by far the most over person in the match (unless you count guest referee Steve Austin) he should have been the one to elevate people. He flattened Miz with his usual unrealistic offence, loudly called a bulldog (something a man with his experience and position on the card should never do), and performed the most ludicrously bad drop kick I’ve seen in a very long time when R-Truth came running into the ring with a chair. The fans were into it all, but it was a sloppy effort.
The finish was the same as the tag team main event from two weeks ago: the babyface guest referee interfered and cost the heels the match. It’s astonishing that WWE continues to make its faces look weak in this fashion, particularly when one of them is Cena. No matter what other faults the company has they can usually be relied on to keep Cena strong. I hope this is the last time we see that finish. As nice as it was to see Miz take a Stunner I’d prefer a well booked match.
The GM emailed in to reverse the decision because of Austin’s interference. It wasn’t popular but it made sense (although it does raise the question of why Bret Hart was permitted to interfere two weeks ago). What didn’t make sense was another email seconds later in which Austin was announced as the guest General Manager next week. Austin had just cheated, been punished for it, and then been given the job of the person doing the punishing by that person. Is there any sense involved in that chain of events?
Austin then decided, for no apparent reason, to pull Cole into the ring. He punched him, gave him a beer bath and then finished him off with a Stunner (which Cole hilariously no-sold).
This is exactly what should have happened at WrestleMania. It would have been the perfect blow off to the Cole heel character at the perfect time. That they waited two months and gave it away free on an episode of RAW shows that the company does not have the connection with its audience that it once did.
As enjoyable as Austin’s appearance and interaction with Cole was, it left a sour taste in my mouth. ‘The Rattlesnake’s’ connection with the audience after years away from the company remains unchanged, and there are no current stars, even Cena, who can match the reaction the stars of yesteryear receive. While men like Austin, The Rock and the soon to return Mick Foley will always get the nostalgia pop there should by now be a fresh batch of superstars on their way to cementing their own spots at the top of Vince McMahon’s empire. That there aren’t is worrying, but it’s nothing new.