Tuesday 19 June 2012

That RAW Recap 18.06.12

This week’s episode of RAW opened with the news that Cyndi Lauper would be making her first appearance for WWE in close to twenty years. That did not fill me with confidence. Nor did the sight of Mick Foley shuffling out to the ring. Don’t get me wrong, Foley has had some great matches with some great (and not so great) guys and is one of the best promo men ever in wrestling. He could and should be regarded as one of the most entertaining and influential wrestlers ever.

Can you feel a “but” coming?

Sadly, Foley has done a lot of harm to his own image over the years. His numerous retirements (the first of which occurred in 2000) make it difficult to believe he means what he says while some of the promos he’s produced over the last decade have veered dangerously close to mid-life crisis territory (in particular when working with Ric Flair). Meanwhile his “deliberately awful” This Is Your Life segment for John Cena upon his return to WWE last year harmed his reputation as a guy who helps out youngsters: it ate up a preposterous amount of air time, wasn’t entertaining and failed to elevate anybody except perhaps Foley himself.

With all of this in mind you should be able to understand why I had mixed feelings when Foley opened up RAW. In the end it wasn’t a big deal. His role was to inform us of the new storyline approach to General Managers now that Laurinaitis has been fired (the mysterious Board of Directors will appoint former GMs and commissioners to run RAW and SmackDown on a weekly basis until a permanent candidate is found for the role) and then introduce the former Dynamic Dude for his farewell address.

What followed was the typical Laurinaitis promo, complete with the inevitable interjection from Foley to get some extra heat on the villainous former talent boss. The only thing he said that was worthy of note was that his final official act as GM had been to book himself, David Otunga and Big Show in a handicap match against John Cena. Why he decided to do this, having failed to defeat Cena so many times before, was not explained.

As Laurinaitis headed backstage Sheamus and CM Punk made their entrances. They predictably mocked their former boss before sharing a laugh in the ring. All WWE babyfaces are great mates.

The opening contest was CM Punk and Sheamus teaming to take on Kane and Daniel Bryan. It was talked up as a huge match but there was a very similar match on Friday’s SmackDown (Ziggler teamed with Bryan in place of Kane) so it was difficult to get too excited about. It was a typically good match until the obligatory storyline advancement took place.

AJ came skipping out to ringside in a makeshift Kane costume. After performing a circuit of the ring she returned to the locker room, with ‘The Big Red Machine’ following her halfway up the aisle doing his best to convey bemusement with body language alone. Bryan was no match for Punk and Sheamus by himself and swiftly fell victim to a GTS and Brogue Kick combo.

The entire Punk, AJ, Bryan and Kane story is incredibly frustrating. Punk and Bryan are two of the best wrestlers in the company and the best bet for creating a new rivalry that could thrive on WWE for years to come. There will be plenty of time for an addition like AJ in the future but for now the two men should be allowed to just concentrate on producing classic matches.

This time last year WWE put everything they had into a Punk push, over the last several months Bryan has turned himself into a highly successful tweener character, and not three months ago Kane was cutting promos about how he wanted to be seen as a monster again. I don’t see why WWE has decided to draw these three men together and use them to get AJ over.

Back to RAW…

Backstage Swagger and Ziggler bickered over who was riding whose coattails. Vickie rocked up and said they’d find out who was best in a singles match and the winner would get her managerial services.

Elsewhere in the arena David Otunga and John Laurinaitis were being smug about their main event tussle with John Cena. Big Show was there but he looked disinterested in proceedings. I imagine most viewers felt the same.

The Jack Swagger v Dolph Ziggler match was enjoyable. ‘The Show Off’ was subtly booked to play a babyface, besting Swagger and playing to the audience before hurting his ankle and valiantly battling back against his larger opponent. It’s a WWE classic, but it’s a classic for a reason: it’s a simple story to perform and follow and usually gets the desired effect.

This week’s RAW was no exception. Fans rallied behind ‘The Heel’ and cheered him on in his victory over ‘The All American American’. They only turned on him after the match when he kissed the loathed Vickie Guerrero and exited with her. I’d like a Ziggler face turn soon. The reception he got on RAW and at No Way Out proves that it could work.

Next up was a Paul Heyman promo. The previous evening at No Way Out storyline COO Triple H challenged Brock Lesnar to drop his lawsuits and fight him at SummerSlam. Heyman was there to issue a response on behalf of his business acquaintance. That answer was no.

Heyman told us that Lesnar had no interest in returning to WWE or facing Triple H. ‘The Game’ interrupted to inform the former ECW boss that if Brock did accept then SummerSlam would be built around their match, revealing a poster for the event that featured a shot of Lesnar gaping into the camera.

There was a little back-and-forth. Heyman said ‘The Pain’ couldn’t be won over because he wasn’t motivated by ego, ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ reminded him that Lesnar had previously demanded RAW become known as Monday Night RAW: Starring Brock Lesnar. The segment finished with Hunter punching Heyman in the face (which may have been more impactful had RAW not ended on John Cena punching out Laurinaitis a week or two ago) and opining that if Lesnar doesn’t accept his challenge the world will assume it’s because he’s scared of getting the same treatment.

Forget what was said on RAW, Lesnar v Triple H will headline SummerSlam

A brief battle between Alberto Del Rio and Santino followed that. It ended in a loss for ‘The Milan Miracle’. After the match Ricardo Rodriguez gave the US champion an arm breaker. I suspect this is the next feud for ADR. If it is I’m not looking forward to it.

The next segment was utterly bizarre. It opened with Layla introducing Cyndi Lauper and Wendi Richter. Lauper churned out some of the stock pleasantries guests on WWE television always do before she was interrupted by Heath Slater. Slater told the “broads” to quieten down and stand in the corner while he sang his “future number one single.” The women laughed and Lauper kept talking as ‘The One Man Rock Band’ launched into a deliberately awful solo.

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper then randomly joined the fun and buried the hatchet with Lauper. There was some sort of angle-feud between them twenty years ago and it should be noted that WWE now markets itself primarily to people half of that age so why they thought referencing that ancient rivalry would be a good idea I have no idea. Roddy then presented Lauper with a plaque acknowledging her work establishing Rock ‘n’ Wrestling (or something).

Slater got himself back into the mix, telling ‘Hotrod’ and Lauper that nobody cared about what happened between them years ago (a valid point in my opinion) and then starting his song again. Piper punched him and Lauper smashed her plaque over his head. The faces then laughed amongst themselves in the ring.

I think this segment would have been better used reintroducing Kharma to television. She could have destroyed the Divas’ champion, a (sort of) legendary female wrestler, and a woman who helped to launch the first WrestleMania and in one night established herself as the company’s most dominant female performer (which I admit isn’t really saying much right now). Alternatively Layla could have been booked to fight the returnee off or Beth Phoenix could have been booked to do a run-in and tackle Kharma herself in an attempt to set up a marketable Divas feud.

I understand why this didn’t happen (WWE wanted Lauper’s return to be a feelgood segment and she was there to promote a new record, not put over new talent) but bringing back Kharma would have helped the promotion prepare for the future.

A recap of AW’s shenanigans at No Way Out was shown. For those unaware he turned on his clients Epico and Primo and helped Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, the Prime Time Players, become the number one contenders to the WWE tag team titles. That guarantees Young and O’Neil a tag team title shot at some point and presumably makes Epico, Primo and Rosa Mendes good guys. Why not? With Rosa as their valet they should at least be assured a pop from crowds and they weren’t exactly doing anything interesting as heels.

For the record the Prime Time Players took a count out loss rather than try to beat E&P fairly.

A vignette was shown advertising the return of Chris Jericho on next week’s RAW. That ‘Y2J’s’ comeback is being advertised in advance makes me think he will be reintroduced as a babyface. The video included footage of a recent Fozzy performance in Britain. I spied a Brazilianflag in one of the crowd shots. That amused me.

John Laurinaitis, David Otunga and John Laurinaitis came to the ring for their match against John Cena. Before that match begun Show announced that he would not be participating and left the ring. What odd stipulations have been added to Show’s contract that allow him to refuse to wrestle? Surely wrestling when and where he’s told is his sole contractual obligation while being employed as a wrestler.

The match was the same sort of stuff we’ve seen from all three men before. Otunga eventually tired of the affair too, leaving Laurinaitis to tackle ‘The Leader of the CeNation’ alone. He took three AAs and then immediately tapped out to a sloppily applied STF. Teddy Long, who’d been sat at ringside doing absolutely nothing of worth, celebrated along with Cena as the show went off the air.

There were no worthy developments with regards to Money in the Bank, WWE’s next pay-per-view on July 15th. World champion Sheamus currently seems to have no opponents lined up for the immediate future and the WWE title picture will apparently continue to revole around AJ for at least another month. The light at the end of the tunnel was the Triple H and Paul Heyman segment, which made it very clear that SummerSlam will be headlined by ‘The Game’ versus ‘The Pain’. Next week will need some time dedicated to Money in the Bank if WWE wants that event to be even a moderate success.

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