What did RAW’s extra hour give us? Not much.
That was to be expected. When was the last time WWE presented a three hour episode of the show that warranted that extra time? It’s not happened for a long time. What they usually do, and what they did last night, is present viewers with the same selection of forgettable matches and backstage skits as usual. It’s greater quantity but never greater quality.
The matches we saw all revolved around matches announced for Survivor Series. Cody Rhodes and Hunico beat Kofi Kingston and Sin Cara in a decent offering. After it was announced that he would replace the injured Christian on Wade Barrett’s team at Survivor Series Dolph Ziggler lost to the ridiculously large Mason Ryan (surely it’s just a matter of time until he starts a feud with the Wellness Policy?) via disqualification, the result of Vickie Guerrero slapping the Welshman. Sheamus toppled Jack Swagger in the third straight Team Barrett v Team Orton preview contest.
WWE changed it up an hour and a half into the show by giving us a women’s bout in which Kelly Kelly defeated Natalya. A few months ago that would have been called an upset. Not anymore. Natalya and Beth Phoenix have lost so many matches to the less talented members of the roster that their stock has fallen. The aim was clearly to elevate Kelly and Eve but that’s backfired on WWE.
Alberto Del Rio and Mark Henry beat Big Show and CM Punk in a poor offering. The Del Rio v Punk feud, like the Del Rio v Cena feud before it, has not caught on as WWE would have liked. The trouble stems from the amount of talking being done. There are too many promos and not enough wrestling. Part of the blame has to go to Punk there. He cuts promos each week about wanting to make the show exciting and fresh and being the best wrestler in the world but it’s the abundance of promos that are the problem in the first place.
Someone who really believed what Punk says would request matches. If he’s not booked for a match he’d call someone out to face him. The Punk character has been dreadfully mishandled for months and that’s contributed to the damp squib of a feud with ADR.
The booking team aren’t blameless either. ADR’s last two feuds (both of which have involved the WWE championship, which should be portrayed as the biggest prize in the company) have revolved around him attacking people from behind, getting wins by cheating, and his rivals making fun of him. That’s not how to book a man you want to get over as a main event heel. Nor is it how to book a champion.
The final bout of the evening was Barrett v Orton, a rematch from last week’s SmackDown. ‘The Viper’ won after Barrett was disqualified when the four members of his team interfered. It wasn’t bad but their match last Friday was better.
There were three key in-ring segments on the show, only the last of which was enjoyable. The first was the Michael Cole Challenge we’ve heard about for several weeks. It lasted for far too long and despite winning two of the three portions of the Challenge JR was ruled the loser. It didn’t make sense and Lawler (who was doing a terrible job of solo commentary) didn’t question the decision, even though JR is supposed to be his pal. That’s WWE logic.
Punk came out and ripped into Cole, another fine example of his overexposure when it comes to promos. The gist of Punk’s message was that JR had beaten Cole fair and square and Cole needed to leave. Cole didn’t and Punk didn’t try to force him. Instead he trash-talked him a bit more. The segment ended when John Laurinaitis came out and made the tag team match mentioned above. That led to another exchange between Punk and Cole which culminated in an Anaconda Vice being slapped on the commentator.
JR called the first few matches of the show before Cole returned to the booth to relieve him, also mentioning he’d be suing ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ for assault. Yes, another Michael Cole storyline. WWE clearly didn’t learn anything from Cole’s overuse earlier in the year.
The second segment was a This Is Your Life skit hosted by Mick Foley for John Cena. It was patterned after the famous segment Foley held for Rock back in 1999 but it was nowhere near as entertaining. The reason the ’99 version worked so well is that there was a clear friendship between Rock and Foley that the audience had seen in previous weeks. It felt genuine. There was no such relationship between Foley and Cena, and Cena is nowhere near as popular as The Rock. It was doomed to fail from the start.
Eventually The Rock came out to give Foley a Rock Bottom. He later described the debacle as “hot garbage”. I can’t disagree.
Rock came out an hour or so later to cut a predictably entertaining promo (although I could have done without his shilling for Twitter), which eventually brought out The Miz, R-Truth and Cena. Rock and Cena went back and forth, without ever making eye contact, and then laid down some smack on Awesome Truth. Their teamwork at Survivor Series, or lack thereof, was foreshadowed nicely when Cena lifted Miz up for an AA only for Rock to pull ‘The Awesome One’ down and hit him with a Rock Bottom instead.
You can watch the segment here.
The show was always going to be built around the return of The Rock. WWE hyped his appearance heavily and satisfied fans when the show arrived by giving him twenty minutes to close the evening. Where they let their audience down is in their use of the other two hours and forty minutes at their disposal. No fresh matches were announced for Survivor Series. As the show is now less than a week away with only four bouts confirmed that was a foolish move. No attempt was made to provide viewers with an exceptional match either, and there was plenty of time to do so. If WWE is going to run these three hour shows they really need to start planning them better. The Rock’s not always going to be there to bail them out.