Tuesday 31 January 2012

That RAW Recap 30.01.12

Last night’s RAW, a free show, was far better than the previous evening’s Royal Rumble, a pay-per-view event. That says a lot about the way WWE’s creative team currently approaches their job. That the two highlights picked from the PPV were a shot of the Rumble winner celebrating and a man doing a handstand tells you all you need to know about the levels of excitement that were achieved on Sunday evening.
RAW, on the other hand, was packed with exciting moments. It was the show the Rumble should have been.
The opening segment, which kicked off the show-long story of John Laurinaitis’s performance review, was a rare example of a promo segment starting the show the right way. Laurinaitis stumbled even more than usual (the highlight was when he referred to Daniel Bryan as “Dangly Bryan”) but that only added to the fun. The interim RAW GM is at his best when making us laugh unintentionally.

He was joined by CM Punk, who sang the “na-na na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye” song and encouraged the fans and ringside staff to join in. He then went through his usual routine of trying to sound cleverer than he actually is by being sarcastic and smug at his on- and off-screen boss’s expense. Thankfully Daniel Bryan came out after a few minutes. He told Punk that he was the better champion as he had gone through bigger challenges than his straight edge counterpart.
Whether or not they end up continuing this storyline it was nice to see Bryan and Punk interact in such a believable, relatable manner. Their exchange was one of the show’s many highlights.
Just as Bryan and Punk had agreed to give viewers “the best match in the world” by facing each other in a champion versus champion bout (title defences were not brought up and won’t be for some time if the story gets going) they were joined by Sheamus. He was basically there just to remind people that he’d won the Rumble and establish that he hadn’t yet made up his mind as to whom he’d face at WrestleMania XXVIII.
The show featured five matches. Divas’ champion Beth Phoenix v Eve Torres was kept short, existing mainly to set up a brawl between Kane and John Cena. For what it was the match was fine. The brawl between Cena and Kane was spirited and engaging, but ate up such a large chunk of air time I ended up hitting fast forward. I imagine I’m not the only one who did that. I will say that the brawl was more entertaining than their match at the Rumble and a strong argument for any further matches they have (and presumably they’ll have one at Elimination Chamber) being fought under a gimmick that lets them roam around the arena.
Bryan and Punk hsanke hands, just as they used to in Ring of Honor
The other filler match was Brodus Clay’s win over Tyler Reks. It was the usual Funkasaurus routine, which I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. WWE are doing a good job on the character. I expect he’ll keep being fed enhancement talent for the next few weeks before getting into his first meaningful feud. I think he’d be a good choice to take the Intercontinental title from Cody Rhodes. The two could have a very good match and it would be nice for Rhodes to elevate somebody to the mid-card level before his promotion to the main event happens.
The other three matches were Miz v Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler v Randy Orton and CM Punk v Daniel Bryan. All three were great matches. The only match that bettered any of them from the Rumble was Punk v Ziggler. Kingston and ‘The Viper’ both won clean. In the case of Kingston that could indicate a renewed push as a singles star. WWE could do far worse if they’re looking for new men to elevate: ‘The Dreadlocked Dynamo’ works hard, is over and looks the part of a WWE superstar.
Although the Punk v Bryan match was good it’s ending left a little to be desired. Just after Punk had catapulted Bryan into the ring post (which seems to be his new favourite trick) Bryan was pulled from the ring and thrown into a barrier by Chris Jericho. ‘Y2J’ then slid into the ring, hit a Codebreaker on Punk and left. He did his creepy smile at the top of the ramp as Bryan was announced as the winner by disqualification (because he’d been attacked first).
It looks as though the Punk v Jericho feud is going to happen. That’s a very good thing.
There was also big news on RAW: WWE champion CM Punk will defend his belt against Dolph Ziggler, the Miz, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth and Chris Jericho at Elimination Chamber. That’s a very impressive line-up that shows WWE’s focus on younger talent isn’t going to fade away as WrestleMania gets closer (not yet anyway). It’s easily my favourite EC gang for years. There are only two guys I can imagine leaving the Chamber as champion (Punk and Jericho) but that won’t detract from match quality, and the fact that Sheamus won the Rumble shows that WWE aren’t afraid of doing the unexpected. Perhaps Miz or Ziggler will capture the gold on February 19th.  
In the main event spot was the John Laurinaitis performance review. Yes, two men talking about a fictitious job went on after a champion versus champion match. You can tell this is WWE can’t you? In fairness both Triple H (who made his first appearance on camera since TLC in December) and John Laurinaitis were on top form. Laurinaitis has become a far more reliable promo man than I ever would have expected. Even when he bungles his lines (which is often) it’s not bad because it’s been made part of his character.
Both men presented their cases: Laurinaitis said he’d done a good job, been creative and achieved higher ratings than RAW was getting this time last year. Tripper said that Laurinaitis had used the position to accomplish what he’d never managed during his active wrestling career: become a superstar. His numerous All Japan tag title reigns were not acknowledged.

‘The Game’ tricked the former Johnny Ace into getting onto his knees and puckering up to become the first member of the Triple H Kiss My Ass Club. The audience (and Vince too, I would imagine) found that hilarious. I found it tedious, partly because the PG rating meant it was never going to happen and they were clearly wasting time.

Back on his feet Laurinaitis was about to be wished “all the best in his future endeavours” when a gong rang out and the Undertaker (wearing a shoddy wig) made his return to TV. That I was not expecting. While it made for great television I can’t help but wonder why ‘The Phenom’ wasn’t brought back one night earlier at the Royal Rumble. That would have made the show far more memorable and given it the dash of spectacle that it sorely needed.

Having ‘Taker return, unadvertised, in the overrun of RAW didn’t improve buy rates or ratings because nobody knew it was going to happen. The argument will be that WWE advertised the return of Triple H, but he’s never going to create the ratings spike a properly advertised Undertaker return can.

Predictably ‘The Dead Man’ looked purposefully at the WrestleMania sign hanging from the rafters and then to Triple H. Yes, he wants a rematch at this year’s show! What a shock. Tripper, surprisingly, just touched ‘Taker on the shoulder and left the ring. There was no confirmation of a match. That will come in the next few weeks. It looks as though ‘Taker will go on a quest to have ‘The Game’ accept his challenge, just as Shawn Michaels did with the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI in 2010.

With free television shows this good who needs pay-per-views?

Monday 30 January 2012

Royal Stumble

Was WWE’s twenty-fifth annual Royal Rumble event a hit or a miss? Broadly speaking I’d say it was a hit, mainly thanks to the two excellent world championship matches on the undercard. The Rumble match itself certainly wasn’t as memorable as previous instalments have been.

The show kicked off with the triple threat cage match for Daniel Bryan’s World Heavyweight title. All three men received healthy reactions from the St Louis crowd, with the champ originally getting heavily booed before a “Daniel Bryan” chant broke out at the start of the match. Surprisingly even Mark Henry got some cheers as he waddled out to the ring.

The match lasted for around ten minutes and was very smartly booked. Henry (who has a ridiculous number of injuries and deserves praise for being involved in the bout) spent most of his time selling, only getting involved at key moments. The bulk of the match was carried by ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ and the champion. Bryan took numerous big bumps to make his opponents look like monsters, while Show displayed his strength by manhandling both the champion and his fellow challenger.

The finish saw Bryan desperately trying to scrabble over the top of the cage as Show chased him. The champion was caught by the throat and dangled above the ringside mats. After a few attempts Bryan managed to wriggle himself out of Show’s paw and fall to ringside, retaining his title.

Daniel Bryan: still the World Heavyweight champion.

It was a simple exchange that succeeded in making Show look like a monster and Bryan look like the cowardly heel. Considering the limitations (and injuries) of the challengers and the size difference the talented champion was facing this match couldn’t have turned out much better. It was a solid and enjoyable opener.

That was followed by a lengthy video looking at John Cena’s WWE career and his charity work. There was a similar video later on that focused on The Rock. These were clearly there to hype the Cena v Rock match at WrestleMania XXVIII. They were well made, as all WWE video packages are, but there was no reason they had to be debuted at the Royal Rumble. They could have been saved until RAW. They’re clearly going to be played repeatedly between now and WrestleMania so holding off on them for one night wouldn’t have been an issue, and it would have allowed more time to be distributed to other matches on the show.

Match two was a previously unannounced eight Divas tag match pitting Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, Tamina and Eve Torres against the Bellas, Natalya and champion Beth Phoenix. Because there were so few other matches on the card the women actually got a decent amount of time for once. They proved that when they get more than two minutes for their matches they can put on compelling performances. This was the best Divas match I can remember seeing in a while.

The only criticism I have is that no new storylines seemed to begin. The heels won, which meant no new challenger was created. This match would have been the perfect way to set up Tamina or Alicia Fox for a program with ‘The Galamazon’. Babyface wins are also preferable in throwaway, unannounced matches and we didn’t get that here.

Following that we saw Zack Ryder being wheeled about backstage. John Laurinaitis rocked up and showed him a private dressing room he’d had constructed. Eve appeared, knocked Laurinaitis for being bad at his job, and then purposefully wheeled ‘Long Island Iced Z’ into his private quarters. Lucky Zack.

Back in the ring it was time for Kane v John Cena. Had they been granted a gimmick match (no disqualifications or falls count anywhere perhaps) they could have had a far more enjoyable encounter. As it was they had to try and engage fans in a straight wrestling match. That’s neither man’s forte and it showed.

After several minutes of boring action (which the live crowd did get into it has to be said) the two tussled on out to ringside where they were both counted out. Yes, the match that had been granted the most amount of TV time prior to the pay-per-view ended on a double count out.

The post match angle saw Kane and Cena head backstage hitting each other. Kane got the upper hand and then walked into Zack Ryder’s private room (which Eve was mysteriously absent from). The former US champ received a few smacks to the face and was the wheeled to the ring. Eve then reappeared and begged Kane to stop. He didn’t. Instead he laughed and tombstoned Ryder. Before he could turn his attention to Eve, Cena made the save and got a well executed choke slam for his trouble. Satisfied, Kane left.

The match itself wasn’t as awful as it could have been, but the double count out finish was cheap. Cena should have been booked to get the clean victory to keep him looking strong for his match with The Rock. Kane wouldn’t have been harmed by a loss to such a well established main event star and the post match sequence would have set up a rematch if one is desired (presumably the non-finish was done so that WWE can present a rematch at Elimination Chamber).

The second filler bout of the night was Drew McIntyre v ‘The Funkasaurus’ Brodus Clay. Clay’s routine was well received by the crowd and he continued to look like someone who belongs on WWE programming. The same cannot be said for McIntyre. His look has not evolved since he first appeared for the promotion in 2009. He needs to do something to encourage the creative team to give him more than the dreaded losing streak gimmick he’s currently saddled with. Get a haircut or new tights, pitch an outlandish gimmick. Drew needs to do something because at this rate he’s going to get released.

On a side note, while this match was enjoyable both men would have been better served being in the Rumble match. Brodus could have been booked to eliminate several men before getting tossed out by an established wrestler. He would have looked like a dominant rising star had that happened. Meanwhile WWE could have added to Drew’s losing streak gimmick (I don’t agree with it but that doesn’t mean I can’t think of ways to make it work) by having him get eliminated as soon as he stepped foot into the ring.

Following an advert for the following evening’s RAW, centring on an appearance from Triple H regarding the future of John Laurinaitis, it was time for the WWE championship match between CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. Laurinaitis was smartly booked to stand at ringside during this one, another referee taking care of the actual officiating.

Without the baggage of the special guest referee gimmick to contend with Ziggler and Punk were able to put on an amazing match. They got fifteen minutes, the first ten being packed with tremendous wrestling before the final five minutes went back to storylines: Punk accidentally bashed the ref as he took Ziggler up for a GTS, sending the official sprawling to the outside. Laurinaitis, instead of getting into the ring to officiate the match, checked on the wellbeing of his employee.

Punk shouted at the interim GM to join him in the ring to count the three, at which point ‘The Show Off’ struck with a sneaky rollup. Punk countered that and had the challenger beaten again. There was still no three count though. Following a third instance, Punk scooped Ziggler up for another GTS but it was countered into a Fameasser for a convincing near fall from the freshly-recovered ref moments later.

Punk needn’t have worried: he got the win shortly thereafter with a second GTS, which ‘The Heel’ took as well as anybody (Punk can be sloppy giving the move at times). Laurinaitis counted along with the referee in the ring (presumably to show how unbiased he is) before attempting to roll to ringside. That didn’t work: he found himself in the centre of the ring and had to shuffle awkwardly to the outside from there. It’s ring skills like that that made him an All Japan tag champ.

After the final airing of the “by the numbers” hype video it was time for the Royal Rumble itself. We had been told before the event that every superstar was eligible to enter. That statement was never clarified and only seemed to confuse matters going into the match. As it turned out there were fewer surprises in the match than normal, which makes you wonder what WWE intended the eligibility line to mean.

This man has a match at WrestleMania XXVIII. It won't go on last though.

To be clear, it was the Royal Rumble more than any other match that stopped this show from being all it could be. Part of the problem was the lack of surprises. Fans have become accustomed to seeing surprise entrants enter the Rumble, and this year they were presented only with ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan and Road Dogg. I’m a big fan of the former New Age Outlaw but I appreciate he’s not really the biggest star the company could have brought in.

All three members of the announce team (Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, Michael Cole, and Booker T) entered the match. While it was funny to see their reactions to one another entering (and to see Booker and Lawler pull Cole down from the apron) I can’t help but feel it would have been better to get some more genuine surprises for those spots.

I was expecting more returns too. The obvious man to mention here is Christian. ‘Captain Charisma’ has been off television for a couple of months now. It was originally rumoured he’d be back in time for the Royal Rumble. Unless something has gone very wrong with his recovery I can’t see any reason why he was omitted from the show. There’s also Skip Sheffield to consider: he’s been off television for close to eighteen months now. He’s been working dark matches lately, under the name of Ryback, and I thought he’d benefit from an appearance in the Rumble match. Apparently WWE disagrees.

On the plus side we did see the return of Kharma. Working as a face she scared Michael Cole into eliminating himself before giving bump king Dolph Ziggler a monstrous Implant Buster (that’s what it was called in TNA anyway, WWE will likely rename it). It was nice to see her back, and the pop she received was very encouraging. You do have to wonder why her return wasn’t linked to the Divas tag bout though, especially when you remember what I was said above about starting new feuds.

Foley and Ziggler were both in the Rumble but they failed to interact. That surprised me. Their segment together on RAW a couple of weeks ago seemed to hint at a WrestleMania feud between the two. There’s still plenty of time for that to happen, but it’s odd that it wasn’t started at the Rumble.

Most worryingly the match highlighted WWE’s current lack of roster depth. That no-hopers Jinder Mahal, Alex Riley, Epico, Primo, and Jey (but not Jimmy) Uso got into the match shows that WWE really needs to start rebuilding its battered mid-card.

The order of entry was another concern: too many big names were held off until the final stages of the match. Chris Jericho, if he wasn’t going to win, should have entered far earlier than number twenty-nine to show him blasting through the competition in order to convince people he was on course to win. Similarly Randy Orton could have entered at number twenty-seven, which is considered lucky because it’s produced four winners, instead of David Otunga. Doing that would have encouraged more people to believe that ‘The Viper’ was going to leave victorious. Both are simple changes that would have played up to Orton and Jericho’s status as the favourites. It would have made the Rumble far more enjoyable.

In the end it was Sheamus who was victorious. I didn’t see that coming at all, but it was a pleasant surprise. ‘Great White’ is a likeable, talented man, who should be one of WWE’s biggest stars for several years to come. He’ll benefit from the Rumble win and two month push into WrestleMania. Presumably he will be tackling Daniel Bryan on the big show, leaving Punk to battle ‘Y2J’.

The main problem I have with this year’s Rumble is that it didn’t feel like the start of WrestleMania season. It felt cobbled together, rushed. It felt as though WWE was more concerned with preparing video packages for Rock and Cena than utilising the Rumble format and high buy rate to make it rising stars look good.

Congratulations to Sheamus, his win is deserved and I’m sure he and Daniel Bryan will put on a great show in Miami. It’s nice that the two will finally get to face each other at WrestleMania after last year’s debacle. Unfortunately, the rest of ‘Mania may not receive as much attention as it needs if the Rumble (and its video packages) was any indication.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Embrace the Hate

It’s taken over five years of mixed reactions for WWE to finally begin teasing a John Cena heel turn. The main reason they’re (finally) taking this approach is because they know Cena is going to get some very rough treatment when he walks into Miami to face hometown hero The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII. He is unlikely to officially turn anytime soon. WWE are simply giving themselves more creative freedom with the Cena character, which is a good thing. ‘The CeNation Commander in Chief’ is going to need an edge to him if he’s going to be working with ‘The Great One’ over the next couple of months.

Not only does it give the creative team some freedom but it allows Cena to change his character a little and give a more serious performance. Anyone who’s been paying attention to his performances over the last few weeks will have seen evidence that he’d make a very convincing heel. His facial expressions have become far less cartoony, more focused, since he was first encouraged to “embrace the hate” by Kane on the December 26th RAW.

His treatment of Josh Mathews on the January 23rd RAW was noteworthy too. When asked for a response to Kane’s vicious assault on ‘Long Island Iced Z’, Cena knocked the microphone from Mathews’ hand and gave him a menacing stare. That was not the standard Cena response.

The beating he gave Jack Swagger the week before was a good example of Cena’s ability to work as a heel too: had the face-heel dynamic been switched during that squash match Cena would have been booed out of the building and ‘The All American American’ would have been an incredibly sympathetic character. If Cena were to turn tomorrow and give one-sided beatings like to that on a weekly basis he’d be one of the most detested men in wrestling (for the right reasons).

Of course, Cena’s heel potential should be clear to anyone who remembers the beginning of his WWE career. After he’d killed a few months working as a bland babyface in the lower mid-card the future WWE champion was given the chance to reinvent himself as an antagonistic, baseball shirt-loving rapper on a Halloween episode of SmackDown. The character was different to anything else WWE was doing at the time, and Cena’s crisp promos and amusing putdowns helped establish him as “cool heel”.

Eventually Cena became so cool that he had to be turned face. That may sound surprising now (even to those who were watching WWE at the time it happened) but there was a time when Cena was so popular he simply wouldn’t work as a heel. His character has softened over the years (partly because of the PG rating, partly because the material Cena was using just couldn’t be used by a babyface) but he is still essentially playing the same character.

Will we see Cena stick to rising above hate at tonight’s Royal Rumble? Or will he embrace it and batter Kane? As I said above, I can’t see him officially turning. At most we’ll get Cena edging slightly closer to the dark side, getting himself disqualified and then standing around afterwards doing his usual “heavy breathing/confused look” selling. Anyone who knows Cena should know the sort of thing I mean.

An official heel turn before WrestleMania? I can’t see it happening. A heel turn before next year’s supershow is a far more real possibility.

Rise Above Hate: how much longer can John Cena keep on doing that?

Turning Cena will create fresh matches and change the dynamic of WWE’s TV and pay-per-view output. Cena’s been the number one face for so long that RAW would feel incredibly different with CM Punk or Randy Orton being presented as the company’s lead star. It would be a move for the better though: Cena would have something new to do and his replacement would have new matches and feuds to experience. Theoretically new talent would have the chance to rise up the card. Star building is something WWE needs to be getting on with in a big way.

When the time comes for Cena to finally stop being the good guy I think the best way to do it would be to pit him against the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Cena has been presented as unbeatable for so long and has beaten everyone there is to beat. If WWE were ever going to end ‘Taker’s ‘Mania streak Cena would be one of the favourites to get the win. If that match were to be announced most fans would instantly realise that Cena is a genuine threat to the streak. Anyone who thought otherwise could be convinced with some strong booking.

If Cena were allowed to dominate the Undertaker in the weeks leading up to a WrestleMania match WWE could convince people Cena was going to win. It wouldn’t be a stretch to have Cena dominating an opponent, even somebody on the level of the Undertaker. He dominates everyone, no matter their position on the roster.

 A match in which Cena went to increasingly heelish lengths to beat ‘The Dead Man’ would draw amazing heat. Have ‘Taker kick out of the AA. Then kick out of a second and survive the STF. Cena could survive choke slams, Last Rides and even a Tombstone without a single change to his character: he already survives everyone’s finishers anyway.

The reason that match would work so well is that both men survive so much in their matches. With Undertaker it’s the character’s gimmick, and people love and respect him for it. With Cena it’s because he simply doesn’t grasp the concept of selling, which makes people hate him. These facts would make a WrestleMania encounter between the two magnificently heated and a fitting addition to ‘The Phenom’s’ legacy. It wouldn’t be the most technical match of the legendary streak, but it would have an amazing “big fight” feel to it.

This match obviously isn’t going to happen this year. This year Cena will tackle ‘The Great One’. But when the time comes for him to turn heel a slow burn storyline between Cena and the Undertaker, two of the company’s most successful and memorable characters, would be a great way to kick off Cena’s run as the most hated man in wrestling.

SmackTalk 27.01.12

A week or so ago I experimented with a different approach to recapping RAW. Instead of simply writing what happened and giving my thoughts on it I posted up what I’d tweeted during the show with some extra thoughts afterwards (read that here). It’s not an approach I want to repeat for RAW, but I will try it again for SmackDown.

That’s what this blog is.

I think this approach works better for SmackDown. It’s a show taped on a Tuesday and aired on a Friday. That means there are spoilers out there for several days before it airs, meaning there’s a good chance anyone reading a SmackDown recap is already familiar with what happened on the show. There are enough ways of finding out what happened on the show without me providing one more. View this as a companion piece to enhance viewing of the episode should you be watching it for the first time.

Opening segment, featuring a Big Show, Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry

Tweet 1: It's SmackDown time.
Tweet 2: How many times must we sit through the AJ Death Bump?
Tweet3: Lot of fat lads in the audience sporting Big Show T-shirts. What does that say about how he's perceived?
Tweet 4: Big Show has a "career"?
Tweet 5: D-BRY!!
Tweet 6: "You are no Andre the Giant" - Daniel Bryan to Big Show
Tweet 7: Just when it was going so well... Mark Henry came waddling out.
Tweet 8: Mark Henry's being used as a tweener and he's getting over? What fantasy world have I woken up in?
Tweet 9: Just for once can Daniel Bryan face someone of his size on SmackDown?

Cody Rhodes v Justin Gabriel and backstage segments

Tweet 10: Did Cody just do a jig at the top of the ramp?
Tweet 11: Cole's picking Cody to win the Rumble. We know one guy who's not winning then.
Tweet 12: That match could've been great with another four minutes to play with.
Tweet 13: Yoshi Tatsu booked to bicker with Santino backstage. Why not have him wrestling Bryan?
Tweet 14: This Henry v Big Show feud has been going for six months. That is ridiculous.

Drew McIntyre v Sheamus and thoughts on video packages

Tweet 15: Drew McIntyre needs to get a haircut and some new trunks, maybe introduce a new move. That'd help him stand out. He needs to do something.
Tweet 16: Did Sheamus shout "FELLAAAAAA" after he won?
Tweet 17: This Rumble statistics video manages to be both interesting and tedious at the same time.
Tweet 18: There's so much filler on SmackDown it's ridiculous.

Santino and Yoshi Tatsu v Epico and Primo

Tweet 19: Tatsu will be wasted in this tag team.
Tweet 20: Which one is Epico and which one is Primo? Do the decent thing and write it on your tights, guys.

Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry backstage

Tweet 21: Is Mark Henry supposed to be shadow boxing?
Tweet 22: Mark Henry doesn't like to be touched. He's got father issues.

Randy Orton v Wade Barrett

Tweet 24: That Orton v Barrett brawl was absurd. Security footage. C'mon...
Tweet 25: I did like the ending though, where Barrett thought he'd KILLED Orton and ran off.
Tweet 26: Why are we seeing footage of Orton striding purposefully through a car park? Does he get ready in a production truck?
Tweet 27: Three man job squad holds back Orton. They are RKO fodder.
Tweet 28: Yep. Orton's going to blaze through them all.

 Hunico v Ted Dibiase

Tweet 29: Hunico on a bike!!
Tweet 30: That Hunico wrestles in street clothes is a good thing. Helps him stand out.
Tweet 31: Stand back, here comes charisma vacuum Ted Dibiase.
Tweet 32: Injured wrist on Dibiase? I won't ask how...
Tweet 33: Orange boots, Ted? Not a good choice.
Tweet 34: Hashtag Hispanic heel beatdown.
Tweet 35: I hope they ride the bike up the ramp.

Aksana, Teddy Long and Natalya backstage, DX v Hart Dynasty (From the Vault)

Tweet 36: They're still doing Aksana's random saxophone thing? Dedicated.
Tweet 37: WWE should have kept the Hart Dynasty together. They could have got years of tag work out of them.
Tweet 38: Natalya throws a mean-looking worked slap.
Tweet 39: DX v Hart Dynasty dragged.

Brodus Clay v Alex Riley and Kane v Zack Ryder (from RAW)

Tweet 40: Regal dancing. #thatscans
Tweet 41: SOMEBODY CALL MY MAMA!! #Funkasaurus
Tweet 42: This gimmick is great. #Funkasaurus
Tweet 43: They need to film more content for SmackDown. Recapping RAW is a waste.
Tweet 44: Choke slam through the stage. Why not?
Tweet 45: I've just noticed Kane has gone back to wearing one glove. I was always a fan of that.
Tweet 46: Another Kane opinion: he should have tombstoned Eve. For lols.
Tweet 47: Children are crying because Zack Ryder has been choke slammed on to a crash mat. Meanwhile viewers are turning over because they're bored.

Aksana v Natalya

Tweet 48: Aksana beating Natalya? Another solid piece of business for WWE's women's division.
Tweet 49: Is Tamina face or heel? It really isn't clear.

Big Show v Mark Henry with Daniel Bryan sitting at ringside

Tweet 50: Main event time. Big Show got the "in the ring" jobber intro.
Tweet 51: AmDrag alert.
Tweet 52: Lots of heat for Bryan. He's great in the smarmy heel role.
Tweet 53: I don't understand why Bryan's out there and not on commentary. That would really add to his character.
Tweet 54: Maybe it's to get heat with "internet fans."
Tweet 55: I love Bryan scampering around ringside. I don't love the finish to the match not being televised. That's bordering on a TNA move.
Tweet 56: SmackDown had a fairly poor ending. It hyped the Rumble match well but not showing the match finish on TV was weak and cheap.

As is usually the case SmackDown was a competent show that accomplished everything it set out to. Ted Dibiase’s babyface push continued, and Yoshi Tatsu made a rare appearance on a main TV show. While the Dibiase push is ultimately going to prove a waste of time (because Ted doesn’t have the charisma to get over as a face) it at least shows that the SmackDown writing team can and will allow mid-card talent the chance to get over. That’s something we rarely see on RAW.

‘The Funkasaurus’ Brodus Clay was used well again. Concentrating on his entrance and booking him in short, decisive matches is going to help him get over. He, unlike Ted Dibiase, has the charisma and presence needed to make people want to see more of him.

WWE has so few babyface prospects that if Brodus can demonstrate the character can work in longer matches against fellow rising stars (such as Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett and Dolph Ziggler) he should be able to ensure the character doesn’t have the short shelf life many have predicted. I like Brodus and the gimmick and think he’s someone WWE should be thinking of as a future main event star.

The return of Randy Orton was another large part of this week’s SmackDown. Aspects of it seemed odd, particularly that it wasn’t advertised (as far as I’m aware) the previous week. A big star like Orton returning to TV after a hiatus (no matter how brief) should be mentioned in advance as it can help ratings. Seeing ‘The Viper’ walk through a car park directly before his match was peculiar too.

Those are minor quibbles though. The way both Barrett and Orton were booked helped their feud (which I assume will culminate at Elimination Chamber or earlier to free Barrett up to face Daniel Bryan for the World title at WrestleMania) and made Orton look like a favourite to win the Rumble. He was already considered a favourite but reinforcing it doesn’t hurt, especially when nobody else has really been made to look dominant before this year’s show.  

The Mark Henry v Big Show match was the most disappointing aspect of the show because we were simply told Henry had left ringside and been counted out during a break. No footage was shown. ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ was actually injured early on in the bout and had to head backstage because he couldn’t continue working. That’s nobody’s fault but considering the editing technology at WWE’s disposal they could have put something together to excuse Henry form the match for viewers at home. They did record him going backstage after all.

The end of the show saw Daniel Bryan wallop Big Show with a chair before ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ made a comeback and got the better of the World Heavyweight champion. The original plan was apparently for Mark Henry to come in and splash ‘D-Bry’ after he’d absorbed a Big Show choke slam. Obviously that couldn’t happen. That’s a shame because Mark Henry has grown on me as a tweener. It’s unlikely we’ll see him compete in Sunday’s triple threat cage match so we’ll likely have Show and Bryan one-on-one instead. That’s still not likely to be the best of matches, but Bryan’s talented enough (and Show’s sympathetic enough) to make it work.

For more on this evening’s Royal Rumble read my preview here.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Insert Joke Here

Insert your own jokes. There are so many to choose from.

Sting still makes prank calls to this day. Usually to Jim Duggan...

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Don't Pay, Just View

Stop the presses! The launch of the WWE Network has been put back from its original April 1st date!

What do you mean you all saw it coming?

The WWE Network is due to launch this year (some time, they promise and they really, really mean it) and there are currently very few shows confirmed for it. We know we'll be treated to Legends' House (WWE's take on the decade old Big Brother format) and various documentary series on subjects ranging from the Monday Night War to the travel schedule of the promotion’s current batch of Divas. There's a good chance Superstars and NXT (if that’s still around when the Network launches) will be aired there too.

So far, so underwhelming.
There is interesting news though. WWE is considering moving away from the monthly pay-per-view format they've been using since 1995. Firm details on this decision haven’t yet surfaced but it's been hinted that only the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series will be sold as pay-per-view shows when the channel launches, with the rest of the company's PPV offerings moving to the Network as part of its regular, free, programming.

The original rumour was more ludicrous still: WWE planned to give away the Big Four shows and charge for the “filler” pay-per-views. WrestleMania alone routinely gets around one million buys, with the other three approaching that combined. That WWE were considering giving away shows that perform that well for free is distressing.
I personally think any change to the company’s pay-per-view product would be a huge mistake until the Network is firmly established. Numbers have been declining on pay-per-view buy rates for several years now, but giving them away free in order to entice people to buy a television channel isn’t the answer. The best approach WWE could take is spending more time preparing for these events and offering matches people want to see. Ironically, part of the reason this doesn’t happen is that so many people within the company are preoccupied with launching a TV channel.

Vanity projects like the WWE Network are not going to help bring in extra cash. The Network will undoubtedly get viewers, but I suspect it will take a long time to attract enough to offset the costs WWE is racking up setting the thing up. It will take even longer if WWE voluntarily cuts its PPV revenue stream. TV ratings are another distraction. They do serve a purpose (indicating what acts are popular, which storylines are working and which aren’t) but WWE seems to have forgotten that RAW and SmackDown primarily exist to provide a platform to sell live event tickets, merchandise and, yes, pay-per-views.

That’s the theory at least.

The plan is likely to offer the “filler” events free to WWE Network subscribers while still charging non-subscribers as normal. That’s a move not properly thought out. Those people likely to buy every show or the majority of shows will be the ones who subscribe to the WWE Network and will end up getting a year’s worth of B level shows for the price of three or four, plus all the other content WWE’s channel will provide. In short: the company needs to come up with a new hook to entice people to sign up, especially those who would not normally consider a WWE-themed channel.

If they’re serious about making the WWE Network a success WWE need to leave tinkering with pay-per-views for a later date. 2013 at the earliest. Their focus at the moment should be on creating some truly exciting original programming for the channel’s launch and making RAW and SmackDown more consistently enjoyable than they currently are. The quality of the programming is what is ultimately going to sell the WWE Network, not money-saving offers on pay-per-views the company clearly doesn’t care about enough to book properly.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Royal Rumble preview

It’s very difficult to have a good Royal Rumble pay-per-view on paper. The most exciting thing about the shows is always the Rumble match itself and it’s impossible to predict how good they’re going to be until they happen. For the most part Royal Rumble matches rely less on talented workers and more on well-planned booking and precise timing. The promotion’s booking has been consistently good over the last several months so I’m hoping they have a clear idea for their WrestleMania line-up and how to kick off the build to it this Sunday.

In addition to the titular match there are three other matches on the show: two world title bouts and a singles matches between Kane and John Cena. A Divas’ championship match being added wouldn’t surprise me. It’s always good to get a women’s match on the Rumble card as it adds some variety allows the division (such as it is) to get some exposure on the second biggest show of the year.

The Cena and Kane story has only been for about a month and I’m already sick of it. Any feud which involves Zack Ryder frantically trying to change a tyre while Eve Torres screams at him is failing on some level. Why didn’t they just run away instead of hanging around waiting for Kane to find them? Are they that stupid?

In fairness the idea of Kane’s beating (which he inflicted to gain the Cena psychological advantage over Cena because he and ‘Long Island Iced Z’ are mates) costing Ryder the United States championship was a good one. It’s also got to be said that Kane has been great at doing creepy promos and maniacal laughter. He always is. Cena’s pulled his weight too: he was very believable when jobbing out Jack Swagger on the January 16th RAW and his trademark Sad Puppy expression has actually come in useful for showing that Kane’s words are having an effect on him.

I’m still not expecting much from their match though. It could either be a standard ten minute Cena romp or it could be Cena as he was on the January 16th RAW, giving Kane a beating in a short encounter. I’d prefer the latter. Kane’s character is strong enough to survive a quick job to an established name and it would spare us a protracted match between the two. It would also help Cena look dominant going into the final two months of his feud with The Rock.

However they book it I’m expecting a Cena victory.

The WWE championship match between champion CM Punk and challenger Dolph Ziggler should be an early match of the year contender. Both guys are incredible wrestlers and the match is likely to be given enough time to allow them to put together something special. Their match on the December 26th RAW was great. It could have been even better with more time.

The booking of the feud has been good too. I tend to prefer two wrestlers talking themselves and the match up for a few weeks before coming to blows on the final show before the pay-per-view, which is (so far) what we’ve had from both champ and challenger. I’m writing this before the pre-Rumble RAW and I’m expecting some sort of physical altercation between Ziggler and Punk to provide that final twist before the show.

The fly in the ointment is John Laurinaitis. That he’s the special guest referee means that he’s going to get involved in the match at some point. That’s the rule of guest referees. I would imagine ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ will overcome whatever nonsense Laurinatis has in store but it’s likely to detract from the pace of the match and alter the focus. Instead of the bout being about Ziggler making a name for himself and trying to take the WWE title it will be about Laurinaitis trying to take the belt from Punk and put it on Ziggler. There’s a difference there, namely that the latter doesn’t make ‘The Show Off’ look anywhere near as strong as the former.

Prediction: this will be the best singles match of the night and a highlight of WWE’s in-ring product for 2012 (despite the involvement of Johnny Ace). Also, Punk will retain and both will be involved in an Elimination Chamber match next month.

SmackDown’s World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan will defend his title in a triple threat match against the Big Show and Mark Henry. Bryan has been a latecomer to this feud (which has, astonishingly, been going since last July) and injected some much needed variety into it. Show is a likeable personality and Henry is over as a monster heel but there are only so many times they can be booked against each other without it becoming boring. Bryan has made this feud so much better since being added to it and has been great in the role of the arrogant heel (which I saw coming last month).

There still seems to be a medical issue with Mark Henry (he’s been a regular on TV but hasn’t actually wrestled in weeks) and Big Show is permanently knackered so I can’t see either of them taking the gold back from ‘D-Bry’. I’d like to see the former ROH stalwart keep the belt until WrestleMania. I think he’ll definitely have it coming out of the Royal Rumble but may wind up losing it before ‘Mania.

Can Santino make it to the Final Two in back-to-back Rumbles? My guess is "no"...

Finally there’s the Rumble match itself. The booking of the last couple of Rumbles has been very good and I imagine that’s a trend that will continue this year. There are a few things I’m fairly confident we’ll see: comebacks for hometown hero Randy Orton and ‘Captain Charisma’ Christian; Wade Barrett eliminated by ‘The Viper’; Dolph Ziggler and Mick Foley continuing work for a singles match at WrestleMania; a dominant performance from ‘The Funkasaurus’ Brodus Clay; and a lengthy showing for either Cody Rhodes or Dolph Ziggler (or both).

On the Maybe This Will Happen list are a Skip Sheffield return (perhaps under the ring name of Ryback) and a dominant performance from Kane. The return of Sheffield may be held off until a later date so that the return of ‘The Apex Predator’ and ‘The Instant Classic’ are more meaningful (assuming they happen), but if it does go ahead I imagine we’ll see him eliminate at least a couple of guys before getting chucked out by a main eventer. Kane’s gimmick of doing well in Rumble matches is one of my favourite touches to any character in wrestling. There have been dozens of monsters in the Rumble over the years but only Kane has been booked to look so good for so many years. A great example is the 2001 Rumble match.

I have a feeling either Cody Rhodes or Dolph Ziggler will enter the Rumble at number one. ‘The Heel’ was my original prediction for the number one entrant but I now think that’s slightly less likely as he’s got a WWE title match at the show. It could still happen though, especially when you remember Ziggler’s penchant of wrestling twice on pay-per-views that was started a few months ago. I’d enjoy seeing him lose the WWE title match and immediately have to go into the Royal Rumble. It would be a nice way of highlighting him as a performer and would give him something to brag about.

As I say, I now think that’s less likely and instead have a feeling Cody ‘White Belt’ Rhodes is going to enter at number one instead. At the other end of things are the Final Four. That’s almost impossible to predict but I’ll have a stab and go with Sheamus, Miz, Chris Jericho, and Randy Orton.

As for a winner I’m torn between Chris Jericho and Randy Orton. It’s Orton’s hometown but Jericho is a few years older and this strikes me as the last time he’ll be considered a genuine potential winner. He’s getting a significant push at the moment and seems to be in line for a singles match with Punk at WrestleMania XXVIII. But on the other hand it’s Orton’s hometown, he’ll be making a comeback from an injury (and WWE has been keen to have returning guys win the Rumble a couple of times in the last several years), and he’d make a great opponent for current World champion Daniel Bryan at ‘The Grandaddy of ‘em All’.

I’d love to see them as the final two, because there would be a lot of genuine suspense and I imagine the crowd would be more split than you may expect. Ultimately I’m going to go with Chris Jericho as my prediction. I think WWE will convince themselves they can always have ‘The Viper’ win in a later year. I also think Punk v Jericho can sustain a two month build-up, while Bryan v Orton would be better served by hinting at something lightly for a month before beginning a feud between the two officially at or around Elimination Chamber.

I also want to see Jericho do a ridiculous celebration on RAW the night after the show without saying a word. He could pull that off nicely.

I’d like to end by pointing something out that this won’t be the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rumble as WWE’s marketing team would have you believe. It’s the twenty-fifth instalment of the show, making it the twenty-fourth anniversary. Will it rank among the best Rumble matches of all time? It’ll certainly make the top twenty-five, but it’s got some stiff competition for the “best Royal Rumble ever” spot.

Friday 20 January 2012

ROH in Norfolk preview

Tonight ROH return to Philadelphia for a show called Homecoming. They didn’t put on a show in what is generally considered their hometown at all in 2011 so it’s nice to see them returning early in 2012.

But I’m not previewing that show. I’m going to preview their Saturday night show in Norfolk, Virginia instead. With Eddie Edwards, Roderick Strong, the Briscoes, Jay Lethal, Kevin Steen and ROH world champion ‘Prestigious’ Davey Richards on the card the Norfolk show looks like it stands a very good chance of making a far bigger impact than the average ROH “B show”.

‘Mr Wrestling’ Kevin Steen, arguably the most popular man in the company despite technically being a heel, will be in action against Adam Cole. If he doesn’t win it will be amazing: Steen is gearing up for a feud with Davey Richards sometime in the near future and he’s not likely to be losing much beforehand. It should be a typical Steen encounter, meaning that he will talk to the audience, brawl and do something that disgusts people.

Steen’s soon-to-be-opponent Davey Richards will be teaming with Cole’s former partner Kyle O’Reilly in the main event. The teacher-protégé relationship of the two is well documented and will be nicely mirrored by the House of Truth tandem of veteran Roderick Strong and his partner ‘Unbreakable’ Michael Elgin. They don’t have quite the same bond as Team Richards do but they have shown they work well together before.

All four men are familiar with one another. Strong and Richards are former teammates from the No Remorse Corps and have battled one another many times over the last two years, several times for the ROH world championship. O’Reilly and Elgin were the final two men in 2011’s Survival of the Fittest tournament and are both expected to be top singles stars for Ring of Honor in the no too distant future.

The winners will be rewarded with a title match against the ROH world tag team champions on February 17th in Cincinnati. It should be a stiff match. Classic ROH stuff.

Sticking with the former partner theme Richards’ former American Wolves cohort ‘Die Hard’ Eddie Edwards will be taking on ‘The Prodigy’ Mike Bennett on Sunday. Edwards is one of ROH’s best and makes anyone he faces look better. Bennett is a rising star still figuring out how to use all the tools he has (and he has many) to maximum efficiency. A Bennett win isn’t the most unlikely thing in the world but it’s probably going to be Eddie’s night. He’s the bigger star, so it’s only right he go over.

Kenny King will wrestle Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge in a singles match that many probably think will just be filler. It’s not going to be the most important match on the card but it certainly won’t be filler. ‘Right Leg’ has earned a semi-regular spot on the main roster by entering spirited performances every time he’s given an opportunity. Sooner or later, if he keeps being given the chance to win over fans, he will develop into a big star.

Will it come at the expense of über-talented Kenny King though? Unlikely.

One man whose star is almost guaranteed to carry on rising is Tommaso Ciampa. He will face ROH TV champ Jay Lethal in a Proving Ground match. That means (in case you’re unaware) that if Ciampa gets the victory he’ll earn himself a world TV title match with Lethal in the near future. Considering Lethal’s recent run of time limit draws it’s easy to imagine a title match between the two going the distance. I predict that’s exactly what will happen: Ciampa will beat Lethal in the Proving Ground match and then wrestle him to a time limit draw in the championship match. That will then be followed by a second title match in which Ciampa brings home the gold.

For the record I still think the idea of referring to non-title matches as anything other than “non-title” is nonsense. It’s being different for the sake of being different.

Finally, the Briscoes will defend the ROH world tag team titles against Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander. It’s the first time the C&C Wrestle Factory have had the opportunity the challenge for the tag team titles and it’s not going to be an easy match for them being in the ring against ‘Dem Boys’. Mark and Jay aren’t going to give up their belts without a fight and it will be very surprising if new champs are crowned in Norfolk on Sunday.

Quite a tidy little show on paper, especially when you remember that Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin are due to wrestle as well (their match or matches have not been announced at time of writing). Looking at the names involved and some of the matches on offer, particularly the two announced tag bouts, this could be one of ROH’s standout shows of the year.

Predictions summary:
Team Richards to defeat the House of Truth
The Briscoe Brothers to defeat C&C Wrestle Factory
Eddie Edwards to defeat Mike Bennett
Tommaso Ciampa to defeat Jay Lethal
Kevin Steen to defeat Adam Cole
Kenny King to defeat Andy Ridge

Thursday 19 January 2012

That RAW Recap 16.01.12

As RAW aired several days ago I feel that posting a standard recap is fairly pointless. Anybody reading this is likely to have watched the show by now, either live as it happened or on a recording since. I will forego posting a write-up of the show and instead try something different: collating the comments I put onto Twitter as I watched the show. There will be little insight and a lot of things that probably won’t make sense unless you’re watching the show (or remember it really well). Try thinking of this as a companion piece to the show. That may make it a slightly more tolerable read...

Opening segment, featuring Mick Foley, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk and John Laurinaitis

Tweet 1: Ooooooohhh... SHUCKY DUCKY QUACK QUACK!! It's time for me to watch RAW!
Tweet 2: Foley tries too hard these days.
Tweet 3: Foley wants into the Rumble. Fine. Great. Next segment...
Tweet 4: Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, let's hold that thought. IT'S DOLPH ZIGGLER. #heelsdoitbetter
Tweet 5: I'm watching in HD for the first time. Ziggler's eyes are incredibly blue. #nohomo
Tweet 6: Ziggler is one of WWE's best promo guys. The opening segment of RAW proves it.
Tweet 7: I love Laurinaitis correcting Punk. #EXECUTIVEvicepresident
Tweet 8: Vickie Guerrero STILL laughs like Rita Repulsa from Power Rangers.

Air Boom v Epico and Primo

Tweet 9: The Air Boom v Epico and Primo title change looked VERY sloppy. Poor effort from all four.

Talking and video packages

Tweet 10: That was a solid six seconds of Laurinaitis texting there. Doesn't get much better than that.
Tweet 11: Jerry Lawler looks old. And he needs to dress his age.
Tweet 12: Seriously, Lawler, drop the diamante.
Tweet 13: Recap of the Ryder and Eve love story? Weird.

Jack Swagger v Zack Ryder

Tweet 14: If I was booking WWE Swagger would be split from Vickie and have a comedy entourage. I like serious wrestlers with comedy sidekicks.
Tweet 15: There's some questionable selling going on from Zack Ryder.
Tweet 16: Do you think Vince promised Ryder he'll put the belt back on him "soon"? I bet he did. Didn't work out well for the Honky Tonk Man did it...
Tweet 17: Is Eve Torres made of wood?

Kelly Kelly and Alicia Fox v Brie Bella and Nikki Bella, with Perez Hilton as the special guest ring announcer

Tweet 18: Perez Hilton. What a fugly man.
Tweet 19: This should be the Brock Lesnar return segment. I'd pay good money to watch Lesnar maul this clown.
Tweet 20: Imagine the scene: Perez Hilton celebrates with KK and Alicia. Suddenly Lesnar's music hits and he comes to the ring to destroy EVERYONE.

A random recap of the 1992 Royal Rumble was shown

Tweet 21: Flair winning the '92 Rumble is one of wrestling's greatest moments. #woooooooo
R-Truth, Wade Barrett, Miz and Sheamus segment-match

Tweet 22: #LittleJimmy
Tweet 24: Barrett using "git" on US TV is gold.
Tweet 25: Gold, Jerry. Gold.
Tweet 26: "Don't what me. Okay what me."
Tweet 27: "I don't even know if that's PG."
Tweet 28: Sheamus making the save is random.
Tweet 29: Teddy Long. No dancing though... #badtimes
Tweet 30: Charles Robinson at ringside there. I remember when WCW gave him a huge push as a Flair-a-like.
Tweet 31: Truth won the over the top rope challenge so he's DEFINITELY going to do well in the Rumble.
Tweet 32: Sheamus has Truth's number apparently. Didn't Truth just eliminate him?

Jack Swagger v John Cena

Tweet 33: So there's no logical reason at all for Swagger being the designated jobber for Cena? Great. Fine. Bury new champions. See if I care.
Tweet 34: Swagger holding up the belt and shouting "What's my name?" is a meme waiting to happen.
Tweet 35: If Cena were to turn heel and work matches like this he would be one of wrestling's greatest acts.
Tweet 36: Modern Kane promos are a LOLfest. He can activate his magical fire powers from backstage nowadays. #evolution

Brodus Clay v JTG

Tweet 38: SOMEBODY CALL MY MAMA!! #ohyoudidntseethatcoming
Tweet 39: Brodus muttered "Seewha' cha" as he hit the match winning splash, @HeelBurton.

Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho and CM Punk v Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry and, for some reason, David Otunga

Tweet 40: AJ jobbed to Big Show. WE GET IT.
Tweet 41: "Cruel, inhospitable freak." #BigShow
Tweet 42: 1000 per cent fake. #AmDragmaths
Tweet 43 (a reply): @HeelBurton He danced like a dinosaur this week.
Tweet 44: Daniel Bryan as a heelworld champion is great. I hope we get "I have till five" soon.
Tweet 45: Apparently I can no longer press the space button all the time.
Tweet 46: I like Ziggler's zebra tights. #nohomo
Tweet 47: Jericho tagging out and walking off is ridiculous. But in a good way.
Tweet 48: Mick Foley randomly adds himself to the match and the ECW main event feel is complete.
Tweet 49: FAMEASSER! #BadAssBillyZiggler
Tweet 50: That's right, put Foley over Otunga. He's the future of the business.
Tweet 51: #MrSocko

CM Punk’s post match shoot segment

Tweet 52: I think Laurinaitis just mouthed the F word at Punk.
Tweet 53: John Laurinaitis is a victim of bullying in the workplace. I feel sorry for him.
Tweet 54: "Every week I put on the most entertaining show for the WWE Universe and I'm not appreciated for it!" #MrExcitement
Tweet 55: Laurinaitis versus Foley feud? One word: MONEY.

That’s what went through my mind as I watched the show. My personal highlights were Ziggler’s mic work at the beginning of the show (he’s come a long way in that area over the last year and is now one of the company’s best talkers), R-Truth’s entire segment (particularly the photoshopped pictures of himself at Disneyland and his PG joke), and the main event. Foley putting over the Royal Rumble as something of importance was nice to see as well. That approach is what will encourage people to watch.

Brodus Clay was entertaining, as he was on RAW and SmackDown last week, and Daniel Bryan was very over as a heel. I liked the use of Jericho and the way he worked the crowd only to leave seconds after tagging into the match too. I don’t know where that’s heading but ‘Y2J’s’ been very entertaining in the last three weeks without saying a word.

I’ve quite enjoyed this approach to RAW coverage. I suspect it’s not the last time you’ll see it. Feedback is welcome and actively encouraged, to my Twitter account (@ThatDaveGuy) for preference. Bottom line: good show with some good building going on. The Rumble’s shaping up nicely.