Sunday 22 July 2012

RAW 1000 preview

It’s interesting to note that although this is WWE’s first regular three hour episode of RAW and there’s a fairly hefty card announced there are only two matches confirmed to be taking place. One of those is an Intercontinental championship defence by Christian against an as yet unnamed opponent. The other is a WWE title match between champion CM Punk and challenger John Cena.

A three hour wrestling show with only two matches announced? That’s a worrying sign for the future.

I’m expecting Punk to successfully retain the gold in St Louis. As I’ve said before I believe Cena will be the first man to cash in a Money in the Bank title shot and lose. He would allow a memorable name to be given that dubious accolade and wouldn’t harm his credibility at all. Can you imagine Dolph Ziggler, or the majority of other former MITB winners, cashing in, getting beaten, and not losing some of their shine? No, me neither.

CM Punk enters RAW's 1000th episode as champion. Will he leave it with the gold? 

It’s possible this match will mark the beginning of a Cena v Punk programme and lead to their rumoured match at SummerSlam. I hope it doesn’t. I’d rather see both men pitted against fresh opponents at SummerSlam. Tensai would benefit from a proper programme with ‘The CeNation Commander in Chief’ while Cody Rhodes would be a nice fit for Punk.

Speaking of Rhodes I’m expecting him to be the challenger for Christian’s Intercontinental championship. The two have been booked in a half-hearted feud for a few months now and the 1000th instalment of RAW is the sort of landmark event WWE likes to book a title change at. As I’m not expecting the WWE title to change hands and there are no announced defences of the Divas, tag team, US or World Heavyweight belts the IC belt seems the likeliest to switch holders.

Whether it’s Cody taking it from him or not I do not think ‘Captain Charisma’ will be heading into Tuesday’s SmackDown tapings with the white leather strap.

One of the biggest segments of Monday’s RAW is going to be the Brock Lesnar and Triple H segment. This match will happen at SummerSlam and so I expect ‘The Pain’ to officially accept the challenge when WWE’s biggest TV audience of the year is watching. It’s possible Lesnar will say no and then backtrack on that decision in a few weeks. But what would be the point in that? It would be wasting the chance to confirm to a larger than average audience that a first-time-ever match is going to happen at one of the company’s biggest annual events.

I will be interested to see whether or not this segment bleeds into the DX reunion that has been announced. It would make sense. There’s not really much ‘The Game’ and his old pal Shawn Michaels can do together that hasn’t been done to death already. Lesnar and Heyman putting themselves in the middle of what has been confirmed as the show-opening segment would hook people straight away and allow the show to kick off with a huge announcement regarding a pay-per-view main event.

It would also allow the commentary team to hype the SummerSlam headline bout throughout the entire show. That’s something I’m sure management will be very keen on.

It will be interesting to see whether the reunion is limited to just ‘HBK’ and ‘The Game’ or whether the faction’s other members will finally be acknowledged too. Yes, I’d like to see the New Age Outlaws make and appearance (and X Pac too, I suppose…). D-Generation X didn’t die when Michaels left the company after WrestleMania XIV. Some of the gang’s most memorable segments actually occurred after Michaels had left. The 1000th RAW is a nice time to allow the Outlaws and X Pac some time in the spotlight.

For clarity I should state that I think a Chyna appearance is pretty unlikely.

‘The One Man Rock Band’ Heath Salter’s feud with the legends of WWE will come to a head on this show. I’ve really enjoyed the storyline and think it’s made good use of nostalgia acts and a fairly limited performer in Slater. He has found his niche as a comedy jobber and I hope he is kept in a similar role from show 1001 onwards.

I’ve no idea what the payoff to this will be. The most realistic options I can think of are The Undertaker returning to Tombstone Slater (which is only realistic if WWE has no plans for ‘The Dead Man’ at SummerSlam), a surprise appearance from ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (who has been conspicuous by his absence in the hype for this show) or a legends battle royal being held with Slater entered. If the latter happens I would expect Slater to win the thing and then take numerous finishers or punches from the stars of yesteryear afterwards.

Personally I hope WWE finishes this story with a Stunner and a beer bath to Slater.

On 9th July The Rock tweeted the following:

RAW's 1000th episode. The People's Champ returns.. As promised, my goal: THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP. #RELENTLESS

A mere three months after first announcing his goal to regain the WWE championship ‘The Great One’ is coming back to RAW. There’s a slim chance a SummerSlam match will be set up for him. WWE seems serious about trying to make this year’s August pay-per-view into something special. A bout involving ‘The People’s Champion’ would certainly help there.

We'll be seeing this sight on Monday evening

Realistically though I think The Rock’s next excursion into a wrestling ring will occur at Survivor Series at the earliest. SummerSlam seems a little bit short notice for a man juggling a Hollywood career, and if they knew they had him for the show wouldn’t WWE have made much more of it by now? I will elaborate on the possibility of Rock wrestling at SummerSlam below but it’s not that likely.

I think RAW 1000 will see the first on-screen interaction between The Rock and CM Punk. The above tweet and his comments the nights after WrestleMania make it very clear that a WWE championship match is in Rock’s future, and even if the title switches hands by the time Rock finds himself challenging for the gold (and he will) the champion right now is CM Punk. A confrontation between the two is a natural thing to book considering the goal Rock has and Punk’s character, and would make the 1000th show that much more memorable.

With Cena being Punk’s opponent for the night it’s possible he’ll be involved in a confrontation between ‘The Voiceless of the Voiceless’ and ‘The Brahma Bull’. Personally I’d prefer it if he wasn’t because his presence would overshadow Punk, but providing aid to other performers is rarely taken into consideration when Cena is concerned. Lesnar could be involved too, setting up a clash between him and The Rock at next year’s WrestleMania. They are WWE’s two biggest drawing cards at the moment so it would be natural to pit them against one another at ‘Mania XXIX.

It’s impossible to tell what exactly is going to happen during the wedding of Daniel Bryan and AJ. The Peep Show segment on SmackDown makes me think that Kane is heading into a feud with Bryan and as there’s nothing else for him to do on Monday night I wouldn’t be surprised if he made an appearance during the ceremony.

It feels like there’s a swerve turned coming in all this. Perhaps Bryan has only gotten back together with ‘The Diva Next Door’ in order to jilt and embarrass her for costing him the WWE championship. Maybe Bryan will be asked the question and instead of answering with the predictable “Yes!” he’ll say “No.” After a moment or two of Bryan ridiculing AJ ‘The Big Red Monster’ could come out to make the save and set something up for SummerSlam.

The final confirmed segment for the show is the announcement of a new General Manager. Well, I assume it’s still going to happen. WWE haven’t mentioned the new GM for a couple of weeks now, and last week’s RAW and SmackDown didn’t feature anybody in the role. I can’t see them dropping the idea completely. The promotion has become accustomed to having an on-screen authority figure to include on their shows.

Who could take the role? It’s very difficult to say. Paul Heyman is a possibility. He could be written into the role as part of an “out of court settlement” in his legal battle with storyline COO Triple H. That would just be a short term deal though: Heyman is only going to be affiliated with WWE as long as Lesnar’s around. If Heyman is written into the role on Monday, which is a longshot, I do not expect him to still be in it by the end of the year.

The only other candidate I can think of is John Laurinaitis. He remains under contract and has been working dark matches and house shows against John Cena. Since being removed as Head of Talent Relations there’s little else for him to do in the company besides play a character on TV. A return from ‘Big Johnny’ would be a lazy choice, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

The new GM announcement is a good opportunity for WWE to surprise us. Hopefully the role will go to somebody who will benefit from the increased television exposure and not overshadow the actual stars of the show. Even better would be the position being dropped altogether, but as I’ve said WWE likes having someone on-screen to make the matches and further the plots.

Finally there’s the expected Big Angle. The last two years have seen WWE launch big summer blockbuster storylines. In 2010 it was the NXT invasion and last year it was CM Punk’s shoot promo and subsequent feuds with Triple H and John Cena. The 1000th episode of RAW is a landmark show and the perfect time to do something similarly surprising.

Obviously something designed to shock and surprise the audience isn’t something that can be predicted. I have some ideas of what it could be though. I’ve already mentioned the possibility of the company choosing to tease Rock v Lensar for next year’s WrestleMania. While it wouldn’t be ground-breaking in storyline terms (no matter how much name value the two have it would still just be a feud at the end of the day) it would give WWE something to work towards and fans to anticipate.

Another option for The Rock is a SummerSlam showdown with WWE champion CM Punk. It would be a little rushed and wouldn’t really feel like a huge, game-changing angle, but it could draw ratings and attract a healthy buy rate for ‘The Hottest Event of the Summer.’ Rock v Punk would be a huge match for SummerSlam, one of the few capable of knocking ‘The Pain’s’ faceoff with ‘The King of Kings’ into the semi-final spot.

Another option for involving Punk in the Big Angle is putting him into a segment with Steve Austin and having them agree to face one another at WrestleMania XXIX. A match between Punk and ‘The Great One’ seems likelier than one between Punk and ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ but it’s possible they’ll go with the latter. Punk v Austin is a match I would personally like to see very much. I think it’s unlikely for ‘Mania XXIX though.

These are suggestions for new feuds featuring big names. They’re not, strictly speaking, angles that would set WWE on a new path and guarantee viewers for the 1001st show. I think the biggest, most shocking and most memorable thing WWE could book for this show would be something that has been discussed for years: a John Cena heel turn.

I expect the Punk v Cena championship match to close the show. That would make it easy for WWE to end with a shot of the newly villainous Cena. ‘The Leader of the Chain Gang’ could turn gradually throughout the course of the match, slowly becoming more and more desperate in his quest to topple ‘The Straight Edge Superstar’ for the belt (see Austin v Rock at ‘Mania X7). Or he could be beaten clean by Punk and attack him afterwards in a fit of rage.

RAW 1000 would be the perfect time to turn John cena heel. That doesn't make it likely though

Is this likely? No. A Cena heel turn has not materialised for the last seven years because he is the face of the company and its biggest merchandise shifter. Even if it would produce a lasting memory and set up a wealth of new booking options I believe WWE would be reluctant to turn their number one guy.

Whatever the Big Angle is I hope it closes the show in the right way and goes better than the last two have done. After 1000 episodes it’s tough for WWE to create fresh scenarios and shock audiences. If ever they’re going to do it RAW 1000 will be the place. The company is putting everything they have into the booking of this episode. They need it to work out well.

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