It was always going to be Chris Jericho.
Considering how big a name Jericho is, how starved for top talent the WWE roster is and how much airtime was eaten up with the return angle itself there’s surprisingly little to talk about. For those unaware (or those of you who enjoy reading recaps) ‘Y2J’ spent over ten minutes milking the fans for cheers, high fives, and chants until they gradually grew bored and quietened down. At that point he left the ring, cheered one final time, and walked backstage.
He wasn’t seen on the show again.
Jericho has been very vocal over the past six months about WWE stars “stealing” his ideas. He’s accused many current employees of copying his promo style, most notably CM Punk and the Miz, as well as lamenting the fact that so many wrestlers now appear on weekly TV in dapper suits. That’s another accusation that’s been levelled mainly at Miz. ‘Y2J’s’ also noted that many stars have been using moves he made popular, such as the Walls of Jericho and the Code Breaker. He’s also been quoted as saying that WWE’s programming lacks originality.
Based on his overtly camp, deliberately underwhelming performance on the first RAW of the year I think ‘The King of the World’ is going to embark on a storyline in which he sets out to intentionally disappoint audiences. The logic behind that would be that crowds were happy to cheer other people doing things he’d “created” and didn’t insist on his reinstatement or chant his name. It will be about how has not received his rightful acknowledgement as a trendsetter. Why should he do something for us if we’re going to cheer imitations?
I can see Jericho making a similar appearance next week and possibly the week after. In fact, it’s not difficult to see him remaining silent until the Royal Rumble pay-per-view or beyond. He will likely be involved in a WrestleMania feud with CM Punk. With that show taking place in three months time there’s no rush to get things underway. ‘The Second City Saint’ can enjoy his program with Dolph Ziggler while Jericho’s new character is established. The two men don’t need to come face to face for a while yet and by holding the meeting off and having ‘Y2J’ remain (uncharacteristically) silent Punk should get a tremendous reaction when he confronts Jericho for the first time.
It was an interesting and unexpected direction for the return to take and should ensure people tune back in next week. That’s the point of the exercise, so WWE have done a good job.
Elsewhere on RAW Daniel Bryan showed further signs of becoming an arrogant heel, celebrating his victory over Cody Rhodes by shouting “Yes!” over and over again in a fairly obnoxious manner. It may not seem like much but it’s a more arrogant reaction than we would have seen from him before he won the World Heavyweight championship a few weeks ago. I’m confident the former American Dragon is on track for a heel turn at or around the Royal Rumble. That would be no bad thing.
The other highlight of RAW was the WWE championship match between challenger Dolph Ziggler and champion CM Punk. It was a predictably superb match that not only provided great action but also advanced the feud between CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler and got John Laurinaitis strong heel heat: the interim RAW General Manager made his way to ringside for the conclusion of the match, distracting Punk and yanking down the top rope to allow ‘The Heel’ to toss the champion to the outside, where he was counted out.
For picking up his second victory over the champion in as many weeks Ziggler was awarded a WWE championship shot at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. John Laurinaitis will act as the referee.
The rest of the show was a little disappointing. There was the standard lackadaisical women’s tag match; a dire six man main event that saw Mark Henry team with Jack Swagger to take on Zack Ryder, John Cena and Big Show; another beatdown of Miz from R-Truth; and a ridiculous, suspension-of-disbelief-killing angle in which Kane tried to drag ‘Long Island Iced Z’ through the mat of the ring to end the show (presumably he was trying to take him to Hell).
There have been better episodes of RAW, and there have been worse. Ultimately I imagine this serves as a good indicator as to what the show will be like throughout 2012: mostly forgettable with sporadic patches of enjoyment and lengthy periods of irritating drivel.