Tuesday 21 January 2014

That RAW Recap 20.01.14

The hype for the January 20th RAW was built heavily around the return of Batista. It was expected that he would appear in the opening segment of the show, and he did. But he didn’t kick the evening off. Triple H, Randy Orton and Ms Steph McHelmsley had to be featured first. Trips and Steph were there to hype up and reintroduce Batista, which they (well, mostly Triple H) did. Orton came out to whine before Batista could appear when cued.

Once Orty had finished whining The Authority chastised him for attacking John Cena’s dad, saying it was not the sort of behaviour they expected of a champ (directly contradicting their reasons for selecting him as the new ‘Face of WWE’ to begin with). ‘The Game’ then cued Batista again.

This time ‘The Animal’ did come out. I’m pleased to say little about him had changed. He still can’t quite sync up his aisle-posing with his pyro, he still loves to milk things for everything they’re worth, and he still has a penchant for ridiculous outfits and grand gestures (kneeling down and kissing the ring, anyone?). You can tell he hold Ric Flair in high regard.

He also reminded us that he was always at his best when portrayed as a man of few words. Instead of a long-winded speech we were simply told that he intended to win the Royal Rumble and take the WWE championship at WrestleMania. Short, sweet and effective.

Modern day Ric Flair? Probs not
It’s the best way to use Batista. I’d like to think WWE knew that but it’s entirely possible he was just blown up from his pose-heavy stride to the ring and energetic turnbuckle antics. But that’s part of what I enjoy about Batista: that he’s more concerned with looking the part than anything else. That he came back wearing a tight shirt-jacket, skinny jeans a bright white trainers shows that he has not lost any of the flamboyance that makes his character so enjoyable.

The opening segment could indicate a Batista v Orton showdown at WrestleMania. There are few matches I’d like to see less. I like both men but they need the right opponents to give them some shine. For Orton that’s somebody quick and athletic. For Batista it varies, but generally it’s someone smaller and faster who can dash around and take powers moves so that he looks like a beast. It’s also a match we’ve seen before and so it wouldn’t feel particularly special.

That said I don’t think Batista would have returned to WWE for just any old storyline. I’m sure he’ll have been pitched something worthwhile, and a WWE title match at WrestleMania would certainly be that. It would also allow him to be incorporated into the Authority storyline. That’s something WWE would be stupid not to do. And I think it’s too obvious for them to miss.

The return of Big Dave was followed by a very good six man tag team match pitting The Shield against Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes and Goldust. ‘The Hounds of Justice’ won after Rollins hit Big E with the move formerly known as the Blackout.

Daniel Bryan was out after that. He explained that he had joined the Wyatt Family as part of an undercover operation designed to bring Bray Wyatt down mentally. It was an undercover operation which apparently required Bryan to lie to his friends and family. Basically it came across as something cobbled together late in the day, but Bryan did what he could with it. Bray was challenged to a match at Royal Rumble and then appeared on the big screen to accept. Whether this means Bryan will not be in the Rumble match itself was not acknowledged. I suspect it’s just so WWE can keep their options open when putting the match together.

After Fandango had pinned Xavier Woods Director of Operations Kane was dispatched to the ring to apologise to CM Punk for attacking him on the January 17th SmackDown. Yes, he’s made to apologise for attacking wrestlers but gets off scot free for See No Evil and Katie Vick. There is no justice.

The New Age Outlaws. Still got it. Never lost it
Kane called Punk out and apologised. Punk then attacked ‘The Big Red Monster’ with a microphone and sent him tumbling from the ring. Instead of retaliating Kane stood at ringside and watched as Brad Maddox appeared and announced that Punk would face Billy Gunn. The match that followed was about as good as it could have been. ‘Mr Ass’ still takes big bumps for a man of his size, and can still move at a brisk pace. What really struck me was how much larger he seems now than he did during his Attitude Era prime. I think that illustrates the average size of WWE performers decreasing over the years. Punk won with the GTS.

After the match Kane returned to the stage and informed Punk that he’d be entering the Rumble at number one. I understand why WWE puts big names in at number one (it encourages a strong initial reaction and gets the crowd interested from the start) but I’m bored of the “number one entrant trying to go the distance” approach. There are lots of stories that can be told with the Rumble format. Falling back on the same one every year is lazy. Putting a popular but relatively minor star such as Santino into the number one spot unannounced would have been a nice change of pace.

After that came two video packages. The first was the Rumble by numbers one we’ve all become very familiar with over the last couple of years. I liked it at first. Now I’m tired by it, mainly because it goes on for so long and has had a lot of the more quirky information edited out of it (probably because it’s become incorrect as more Rumbles have rolled by). The second video was a tribute to Mae Young. It mostly featured her work from the Attitude Era onwards, as opposed to her days spent as an active wrestler. It was a nice video for a woman who deserves to be remembered fondly.

Match four was Alberto Del Rio v Rey Mysterio. It was spoken of as the deciding entry in a recent and unofficial best of three series. I couldn’t take it seriously because they’ve wrestled one another so many times over the last three plus years. It was a perfectly fine match but it featured nothing they haven’t done together before. ‘The Essence of Excellence’ won with the cross armbreaker.

Batista came back to the ring afterwards. ADR told him to leave and got a spinebuster and a Batista bomb for his trouble. The crowd lapped it up. The thing that impressed me most was that Batista avoided a trouser malfunction.

A great use of TV
The final hour kicked off with a confrontation between Brock Lesnar and Big Show. It took an age for ‘The Pain’ to get into the ring. When he did he was chucked out fairly quickly by Show. That prompted Lesnar to job out the announce desk, presumably to demonstrate what a man he is. He tried getting back into the ring armed with a chair but Show just stood on it. Heyman and his charge then left, with Lesnar telling Show he’d see him on Sunday.

The crowd were excited by the exchange, which is what’s important. I wasn’t that bothered by it though. Lesnar v Big Show does nothing for me.

There were two tag matches before the main event. The first saw the Funkadactyls beat AJ Lee and Tamina when Naomi rolled up the Divas champ. I spent most of the match wondering why they’re still called the Funkadactyls when they’re no longer affiliated with ‘The Funkasaurus’. The second tag match saw the Usos, surprisingly I feel, defeat the Wyatt Family.

The main event saw Randy Orton defeat Kofi Kingston. It was a good match. Kingston is someone who can bring out the better aspects of Orton. I could have done without the disqualification finish though. Not that it was unexpected. We’d been reminded every few minutes throughout the show that Cena wanted to get his hands on ‘The Viper’ so it was no surprise when he sped in at the finish of the match.

The two fought from the ring into the crowd and then up into a skybox. Eventually they ended up backstage, where Orton jumped into a car and drove off. That’s a real heel act, right there. For his part Cena walked back to the ring and posed the show off the air. Which seemed a bit anti-climactic considering this was the final RAW before the Rumble.

The return of Batista was enjoyable. The CM Punk and Daniel Bryan segments were logical, albeit not actually directions I wanted to see WWE take. The six man tag match and the main event were both enjoyable. Everything else was just there, existing because it had to either to fill air time or to set something up for the future. But that’s normal for RAW. It could have been a lot worse and it didn’t actively put me off the Royal Rumble. I do miss the days when all the top names would spend the entire month of January talking about how they were going to win the Rumble and headline WrestleMania.

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