Tuesday 9 April 2013

That RAW Recap 08.04.13

In the words of JR, it was a setup all along.

When Ryback lost to Mark Henry I was shocked. Genuinely, honestly shocked. There's no irony here. Going into the show it seemed obvious that Ryback was going to flatten 'The World's Strongest Man', grabbing himself a match-winning Shellshock that would give him a WrestleMania Moment™ and rehabilitate him for a main event run. Instead he lost and it was Henners that left looking like the next number one contender.

That continued to be the case during the post-WrestleMania RAW's opening segment. New WWE champion John Cena came out (sporting his new "The champ is here" shirt) and cut what was, by his standards, a darn enjoyable slice o' promo. He did a dance (which wasn't enjoyable) and a literal heel turn (which was). The fans amused themselves by pelting the new champ with chants, including “Boring!” and “Same old shit!” The rambunctiousness of the audience would become a trend for the evening.

Getting back to my point about setups, Mark Henry waddled out (he got himself some “Sexual Chocolate!” chants) as soon as Cena said he intended to defend the title on RAW. Mr WSM said he should wrestle Cena as he'd won his WrestleMania match. Cena accepted this logic as fine, even though it should also entitle Triple H, Undertaker, Kane, Daniel Bryan and Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo to title matches too. Cena v Henry was on.

Or so we thought. Booker T came out to remind everyone making matches is his job. He said Cena v Henry was fine, but not for the title. Henners would need to beat the champ in a non-title setting to earn a match for the belt.

Mark Henry versus John Cena was the main event. It was my assumption that Henry was going to win. I didn't necessarily expect a clean win, but a DQ or count out deal to setup a match at Extreme Rules seemed liked the direction WWE was going to take. The match did finish on a count out but it was 'The World's Strongest Man' who was on the losing end.

There's a pretty similar photo below
After the match Henry barrelled his way back into the ring and destroyed Cena with punches and a World's Strongest Slam. Cena was done for. There was no way he could escape the clutches of the villainous powerhouse that is Mark Henry. Luckily for him and the children of the CeNation Ryback stormed out to make the save, dispatching Henry with a Meat Hook clothesline. He then took up a "Feed me more!" chant which the audience were more than happy to get in on.

Cena was confused so posed on a turnbuckle to gather his thoughts. When he got down 'The Human Wrecking Ball' dropped him with a Meat Hook clothesline and a Shellshock. The crowd roared their approval as The Ryback posed over Cena with the title before chanting us off the air.

I will give my thoughts on this below. But do you see what I mean about Ryback's loss at WrestleMania serving as something of a red herring for WWE's long term booking plans? That makes the move slightly more palatable.

Back to the start of the show.

Match number one was Big E Langston's RAW debut. He faced Daniel Bryan. Fans were predictably hot for this, what with Bryan wrestling and Dolph Ziggler being at ringside. 'The Show Off' and AJ caused some shenanigans at ringside which allowed Big E to grab a dazed Bryan and blast him with his Big Ending finisher for a victory. His RAW debut went considerably better for him than his WrestleMania debut did.

Miz defended his newly won Intercontinental championship in match number two. It was okay, but no better than you'd expect. Barrett pinned 'The Awesome One' clean after the Bullhammer elbow to become a three time IC champ. I think he's a better choice to have the title than Miz. I like there being multi-time champions for the mid-card belts too.

Backstage Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero granted Sheamus a match with Big Show but told him he'd owe them for it. Shaymo said he didn't care. I dread to think where that storyline could be heading. After a break Booker T granted Randy Orton a match with Show, overruling Vickie because he's a GM, she's not, and that's how Booker rolls.

Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter came to the ring for a handicap match against that awful non-American citizen, World Heavyweight champion and fairly over babyface Alberto Del Rio. The champ entered wearing his new gaudy green shirt. It looks like a piece of failed Cena merch.

Zeb did very little in this match. Which is odd, really. He's a trained wrestler so he could have contributed something, and I'm sure the crowd would've reacted well to him getting some kicks from ADR. What we got was more of the humdrum Del Rio v Swagger action we were treated to at WrestleMania. 'The Real American' worked on Del Rio's leg while Del Rio worked on his foe's arm. Both setting up their submission finishers, y'see?

Eventually ADR locked in the cross arm breaker and big Swaggalag tapped out. Following the match the heels mysteriously disappeared and Del Rio sold his leg as EMTs checked on him.

Ziggler's music hit. He, AJ and Big E came out to one of the loudest reactions of the entire weekend. He handed his briefcase over and went on to have a surprisingly competitive bout with the defending champion. Del Rio kicked out of the Fameasser and eventually managed to lock 'The Heel' in a cross arm breaker. Ziggler battled out by punching away at ADR's injured leg, following up with a Zig Zag for the win and the gold.

It was a great moment. Ziggler has deserved the WHC for quite some time now. I'm pleased he's finally getting a reign that'll last longer than a SmackDown recording to show what he can do.
The (World Heavyweight) champ is here!

Undertaker made a rare RAW appearance next. He told us he dedicated his WrestleMania win to Paul Bearer and then got interrupted by The Shield. Before 'The Hounds of Justice' got into the ring Team Hell No dashed out to make the save. Been wanting to see 'Taker and Bryan in the ring together? This is about as close as you're likely to come I think.

The Shield retreated. The segment was fine for what it was. I think it's more likely to lead to a tag title match than a six man that also involves 'The Dead Man' but either is plausible.

R-Truth, Santino and Zack Ryder dropped 3MB in a nothing match. The highlight was the audience.

That was followed by another nothing match that took an age to get started: Randy Orton v Sheamus. Before a commercial break Michael Cole told viewers they could pick who faced Big Show by voting on Twitter. That already fairly pointless exercise was rendered even more pointless following the break when Vickie and Booker came out to announce that ‘The Celtic Warrior’ and 'The Viper' would face... each other!

What followed was one of the dullest matches imaginable. The highlight was the crowd. Bored, they amused themselves with a wide variety of chants and a Mexican wave (which I imagine infuriated Swagger and Colter backstage). We heard chants for JBL, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, ECW, and Randy Savage. To cap off the utter needlessness of it all of Big Show came out and punched both Sheamus and Orton in the face, causing a no contest and a chant of "Thank you, Show!" Yep, they may as well not have wrestled at all.

If this match is indicative of a Sheamus v Orton feud you can keep.

The crowd's hijinks continued into the next match, pitting Kofi Kingston against... Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo! It wasn't too bad a showing but the highlight was unquestionably the audience singing Fandango's entrance theme. That really needs to catch on.

We got another DQ finish as Jericho came out, to a loud roar of positivity, to batter the man who'd beaten him (clean, I might add) the previous evening. 'Y2J' dropped Fandango with a Codebreaker and then applied the Walls of Jericho until two referees forced him to break it. Yeah, two referees. Jericho is that buff.

Topping the segment off was a humorous moment. Justin Roberts announced Fandango had won via disqualification, prompting a still limp Fandango to grab a mic and correct him with "It's... Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo..." The fans, and I, loved it.

Paul Heyman was interviewed by Josh Mathews backstage. Heyman said Lesnar got KOed ninety seconds into his fight with Triple H but it still took 'The Game' twenty minutes to get a win. Michaels got his face smashed and H3 spent his evening getting MRIs and x-rays. Heyman teased bringing Punk in so he could be asked how he feels after his match against the Undertaker, then revealed he won't be on RAW until next week. This strikes me as something that's going to run for weeks before CM returns to television.

The eight person tag match originally advertised for WrestleMania was the penultimate bout of the show. The fans were fired up for it, making it far more enjoyable than it would've been on the pay-per-view. Clay, Sweet T and the Funkadactyls won a fun match when Sandow got flattened by splashes from both Tensai and 'The Funkasaurus'.

Which brings us back to the main event mentioned above. I think a Ryback versus Cena feud could be pretty enjoyable. It comes as a surprise though, mainly because The Ryback has suffered a loss of one form or another on three of the last four WWE pay-per-views. The one on which he didn't lose (Survivor Series) also didn't see him win: Cena got pinned by Punk a three-way also involving Ryback. You have to go all the way back to Money in the Bank in July to find Ryback's most recent PPV win, and that was over the Mid-Card Mafia. Wins and losses don't tend to mean much in WWE but even they're pushing it here.
Next WWE champion?

Like I say I think this feud will be good. I get the feeling what we saw was supposed to be a heel turn from Ryback. The fans were so against Cena that it didn't come across on TV. Most of us just want someone else at the top.

What will allow this feud to be great is not having Ryback play a bad guy. I've said this before and I stand by it. Put them in a match opposite each other at Extreme Rules and let people cheer for who they want. Let Cena spend the next five weeks cutting his normal promos and keep booking Ryback to dominate expendable mid-carders. Don't have him talk. If he has to interact with Cena have him get the better of every single physical exchange. The women and children that make up the bulk of Cena's fanbase should see Ryback as a threat to be overcome. People already supporting 'Big Hungry' need to be convinced he can win.

In short, the formula's fine as it is and doesn't need changing.

RAW was a good show. A lot of that is thanks to an audience that reacted to everything. They saved what would otherwise have been dire matches and segments and made the big developments (such as The Shield's attempted assault on the Undertaker and everything involving John Cena) seem genuinely important. You're obviously not going to get crowds like this every week, it's a happy by-product of WrestleMania.

That said I do think WWE could get more audiences like this if they stopped doing everything at the last minute and gave us things to look forward to. The obvious thing to do is build up SummerSlam into a huge show. That wouldn't take anything more than a must-see card with fresh matches involving big names. Do it this year and people would be more readily convinced it’s an event that’s a cut above the rest in 2014. Sounds a lot but it’s not like WWE doesn't have the resources to pull it off.

Speaking of the company's resources I thought they did a commendable job putting together a RAW without access to some of their big names. The Rock, CM Punk, Triple H and Brock Lesnar were all notable by their absence, all but Lesnar because of injuries (Lesnar wasn't used because WWE don't want to waste his limited appearances). The show could have been terrible. Thanks to some very solid writing and a great crowd it wasn't.

The lack of Antonio Cesaro is still unforgivable though.

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