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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Playing Wrestling Nostradamus

Sitting here of a Sunday night having just watched Smackdown, I thought I’d have a little look at the WWE landscape and offer some thoughts and predictions.

I cannot believe that The Great Khali has been promoted into another main event slot. Obviously the recent publicity tour over in India by the Punjabi superstar has done good business and India appears to be a thriving WWE market. I expect that Vince and co. like the fact that the Indian press seemed to report that the people over there think that Wrestling is real. I would highly doubt that Indian WRESTLING fans think that it is real, but if the media do then WWE will try to capitalise.

If India is loving the WWE right now, why not put Khali into a position to challenge for the title? Makes sense.

However, for the rest of us, it’ll be torture. As much as I respect the Game, and as good as Paul Levesque has been for many years, Triple H matches are no longer something I eagerly anticipate. Not saying they are not satisfactory, but they don’t get you excited the way that matches involving the likes of Edge, Jericho, Michaels and Jeff Hardy do.

Triple H will surely win, and I guess it’s just something for him to do while Edge has to deal with the Undertaker. Look at it this way – Edge has been THE story of Smackdown for the past couple of months, and of the Undertaker transcends titles, so HiaC will be top billing - at least from Smackdown’s point of view. (Although, saying that, they aren’t exactly piling all their stock on Punk, so I’d think that Edge v Taker would headline the whole show)

I guess we should be relieved, because this could be an opportunity for them to put Jeff Hardy or Mr Kennedy into a top spot only to have them lose to Triple H. At least Khali getting squashed isn’t much of a loss. Hardy or Kennedy getting the shot and losing would enable the opportunity for their doubters to argue to their fans that they had a chance and blew it – that the match wasn’t important and the reaction very little.

By the way, how many times did JR and Mick call Jeff Hardy “the Charismatic Enigma” on Smackdown? Surely they haven’t ditched the Rainbow Haired Warrior epithet and nicked a TNA one.

Elsewhere amongst the bigger names on Smackdown, we are looking like heading towards Umaga v Big Show and Jeff Hardy v MVP, although whether we will see all the matches at Summerslam is unknown.

Over on Raw, it’s Punk v JBL at Summerslam, which will have precisely no-one excited. I’ve talked on the Sun website about how Punk having the belt isn’t necessarily the best thing for the Straightedge Superstar. I think Punk will beat JBL, as there as even less point in Bradshaw having the title, but I’m doubtful it will be clean.

Other matches are unclear, as Chris Jericho has laid up Shawn Michaels once again in the storyline almost unanimously considered to be the best of the year – by miles. We may see another match between these guys, but I think more likely is that they’ll let HBK sell the eye injury a bit more, and then have a blow-off down the line. Also, backing up that theory, a blow-off match is already taking place at Summerslam, between Edge and Taker. It would be wrong for Jericho and Shawn to go under the radar in that fashion.

Then there is Cena, Batista and Kane. If they do the slow burn then Cena v Batista is a possible Wrestlemania encounter. (more on that in a minute) For now, I’m not sure where they are going to go. Kane’s insanity has lost a bit of momentum, but he is still in the mix. The biggest problem with Raw right now is that although having JBL, Punk, Batista, Cena and Kane featured prominently and in each other’s business keeps them strong and promotes the belt, because that’s what they are all aiming for, you cannot get excited about many matches between them. The only match two matches I’d like to see out of that group would be Cena v Batista (but only with the right build up) and Punk v Cena.

I mentioned Mania just then – I’d suggest three contests that you could get hold of and build Wrestlemania around.

John Cena v Batista
Triple H v Undertaker
Shawn Michaels v Rey Mysterio

What do you think?

Cena and Batista are modern day Sports Entertainers, with the package of the look and character being more important that the wrestler, but while I’m not a fan of Batista and don’t go crazy over Cena (although I respect the hell of out the guy for his work rate and what he has achieved) even I’d be interested in them building this one and manipulating the fans. I’d have the belt involved, too, because without it I don’t think you’d generate the right kind of dislike between the two men.

Over on SD, I think there is enough of a roster to sustain Triple H repelling contenders and Taker having some fun as well, without them needing to meet. Edge could step up and meet The Game again somewhere down the line. It wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. I make it eight Pay Per View events before Wrestlemania. A combination of matches with Khali, Jeff Hardy, MVP, Kennedy Big Show, Umaga and Edge again would sustain Triple H and Undertaker before Mania. With perhaps the odd hint dropped between Taker and Game that their paths will cross at some point.

I can envisage Undertaker and Big Show locking horns a couple of times, certainly, and Triple H having another little episode with Jeff Hardy could help Jeff out.

Mysterio v Michaels is a match I can’t recall seeing, and one which would whet the appetite like Angle and HBK did a few years back. I think Michaels is the best in the business right now, which is amazing considering he has just turned 43 and basically retired in 1998.

I’m not as crazy about Rey Mysterio as a lot of people are, but I think the anticipation of these two locking up would be mouth-watering, and the match would likely steal the show.

Finally, the GM situation on Raw. And another Mania match I can foresee.

Apparently Shane McMahon will be on Raw this week, and I’d like to lay a marker right now that this is step two of the Mr McMahon angle.

I’m saying that Shane will address the rising chaos on Raw. Citing the example that for months before Mr McMahon’s accident things were ok, needing to install an experienced hand and not having time himself, he will re-appoint William Regal as General Manager of Raw.

Regal will go back to his character pre-Suspension, although perhaps not to the extent of the frequent lights-out jobs. Order will be restored of a fashion, and things will pan out very slowly but leading to...........

Regal being revealed as the man behind the attack on Mr McMahon. Regal would know the setup of Raw, he would know the stagehands etc, so he would be able to engineer the attack (I know WWE doesn’t always worry about legitimate set-ups, but at least I can offer background). The motive would be that Mr McMahon sorted out the firing, and that Regal wanted his job back and showing it was chaos without him proved he was needed.

Vince tries to fire Regal, but Regal produces a contract he signed when Shane re-hired him which says he is guaranteed a contract for a certain amount of time. In the end, they go head-to-head at Mania for control of Monday Night Raw.

Vince McMahon v William Regal at Wrestlemania 25. You heard it, on July 27th 2008, here first.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Great American Bash - live thoughts

Great American Bash, huh? It’s American..........I may well Bash it............we’ll see if it’s great.

After the obligatory introductory video, we have the first match – and what do you know, I got it right! Fatal Fourway Tag Match for the Smackdown Tag Team titles – I’m assuming it’s one fall and not elimination match.

Three teams make their way out, and it’s depressing that Finlay and Hornswoggle get quite the reception. JR appears to know his Golf, citing Padraig Harrington’s Open victory this afternoon.

Much as I hate the Hornswoggle gimmick, I have to give Dylan Postl credit for giving it his all. His facial expressions are good and he actually is learning in the ring. He just did a neat spot by rolling up his sleeves in readiness to fight Festus, but then did a version of a suicide dive onto Hawkins and Ryder.

There’s one I got wrong. Only very standard fare, but the former Major Brothers, briefly Edgeheads and now just plain old Hawkins and Ryder take the gold. Not anything to write home about, but does beg a question about how they will be used in or out of La Familia from here on in.

Matt Hardy is out to defend the US Title. I had no idea about this match. It wasn’t in the rundown on Oops – my bad.

JR and Mick talk about a stat whereby no US Title holder has ever lost the belt at the Great American Bash. That’s normally a signal that the stat will be broken. Good luck, Shelton – gold to the Gold Standard?

A noticeable split is developing in the audience. A high-pitched majority are chanting “Let’s go Hardy” but an increasingly vocal minority are roaring on Shelton Benjamin. This should be taking into consideration for later on. I would suggest a similar split for Batista and Punk.

God bless the predictable stats. Shelton wins in what was a decent encounter. A couple of really nice spots, and if Shelton can step up from this, continue to produce decent-to-great PPV encounters without resorting to jumping up ladders, and then couple this ability with some decent mic work, Shelton could finally have a decent push.

Quality promo by CM Punk, building up himself as a humble but confident champion. I don’t understand why they are showing that on the PPV rather than using it on TV to build interest.

E-C-Dub time, and a decent reception for Tommy Dreamer, along with Colin Delaney, who presumably is there in a role to find the whitest man possible to counter the two black guys Tommy is facing. I’d forgotten about Tony Atlas, and I want to just point out that my above statement was not a racist comment. Apropos of nothing, Tony Atlas once portrayed Saba Simba. I am not the racist one.

Erm, Delaney turns heel?

It’s happening folks, the feud you’ve all wanted and been talking about. Not AJ v Joe again. Not Austin & Hogan. Not even Beth Phoenix and Awesome Kong.

It’s Colin Delaney and Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer was about to jump off the second rope, with Delaney acting cheerleader, but Tommy was pulled into the ropes by Colin, and Mizark polishes Tommy off. There’s your ECW main event next week, folks.

I bet you can’t wait.

That was intense. I’m not too thrilled. Would have been nice to let Jericho have a WRESTLING win rather than Michaels just bleedinf profusely – and man did he bleed.

Before he did got the juice, the match was pretty normal by Michaels and Jericho’s standards. i.e. it was freaking awesome. Just fantastic execution of moves, great psychology, working body parts, nicely paced.

I’m not crazy about the ending, but it makes sense from a storyline development perspective, and I assume this will lead to another contest, possibly with a stipulation like Last Man Standing, at Summerslam.

Divas time, and look at that outfit Nattie is almost wearing........

Short, but surprisingly good. Michelle wins – also a surprise – but the biggest shock was the quality of the encounter. Only being 6 minutes or so may have been a negative cutting it down, but it may have been deliberately condensed to look better.

Submisson-based, it flowed beautifully, made Nattie look a million dollars and elevated Michelle. Whoever put that together deserves a pat on the back.

It does go some way to showing why WWE stays away from doing more ‘wrestling’ matches. This, one of the better women’s matches you will see anywhere, got a sprinkling of ‘boring’ chants. And I’ll bet that when it did there was a bit of panic behind the curtain. “Damn, they’re saying it’s boring. I told you, wrestling doesn’t work.” I bet those people who thought that was boring love it when Hornswoggle gets his squirter out (no, not that)

Anyway, post match out comes Jericho, interrupting the celebration Michelle is having with her chums Eve and Cherry. Jericho cuts a neat heel promo telling fans to keep their ticket stubs, Michaels has had is last match. It’s a to-the-point promo and it’s chilling in it’s message. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to let Jericho go after Punk now, assuming he beats Batista. In fact even if Batista wins, as there is recent history and would make sense.

Have Jericho be cost the title by HBK returning, perhaps, and let HBK and Jericho go wild again. It would build the anticipation of HBK’s absence while letting Jericho’s heel character develop even darker.

I’ve realised I’ve left out a little conversation Edge had with the announcers, but I didn’t catch all of it while I was writing. No back editing here. He basically blamed Triple H for the wedding debacle and for ruining his (Edge’s) life.
Title match between Punk and Batista now.
Interesting point or two here as it means this is lower on the card (i.e. less important) than Cena and JBL. Secondly, Punk is billed as a huge underdog by the announcers Cole and Lawler. That doesn’t make sense if Batista is going over. Building the Punk underdog means him winning would mean a lot more.

It’s been ok so far. A little formulaic, but remembering that this is Dave Batista, it’s been ok. Batista has dominated for much, but that’s ok. Punk has had flurries. I just hope that if he wins they let him win properly, not by fluke.

02.45amI’m not sure a babyface contest is heloing this. Punk and Batista are both over babyfaces without being super strong. It seems quite a lot of the crowd are either neutral or only slightly on one guy’s side. Both men hitting moves is a getting a nice pop, but there is no heel heat at all. Feels a bit flat.

Oh, for crying out loud. I might have known they couldn’t end it properly. We have some sort of DQ ending as Kane arrives to attack Batista and throw him into a ring post. Chokeslam to Punk and it’s called off. Kane has his bag with him.

He screams to the camera the “alive or dead” line before turning and kicking a cameraman (not at all a developmental or local wrestler. No way) and slinking away with the bag.

Punk and Batista get up and as it looks like a handshake is imminent, Batista kicks Punk and gives him a Batistabomb. I can live with that, as you can interpret that as Batista being frustrated and taking it out on the man he feels shouldn’t be champ.

I just can’t believe they absolutely refuse to let Punk win something cleanly against anyone apart from Snitsky. They did let him have a bunch of offense, though, at least.

I think it is Kane’s mask in the bag, for the record.


To be fair, if you take out the stupidly over the top elements, it was kinda it wasn’t, it was terrible. I really don’t know anyone who wants to see this. Seriously, who would be thinking “Well, since JBL can’t do much now, and Cena has no-one else to work with, I hope they try to kill each other a few times.”

Setting a car on fire was the method of murder of choice this time, with Cena skewering a car with a fork lift, too. Not entirely surprising to see a “battery attached to gonads” spot. Cena cannot go ten minutes without talking about, or gesturing to, a penis.

Another thing, how come there was a camera in the car Cena drove at one point? I’m guessin this was all filmed earlier in the day and gimmicked up then, as this reminds me a lot of the Boiler Room Brawl from Summerslam 96. No commentary then or now, until it spilled into the arena.

Oh, forget it. It’s just ludicrous. I fail to see how anyone in WWE thinks this is a good idea. The trouble is, I think that they will continue the programme, because JBL won, and they won’t end the feud without Cena beating him again.

We’ve just started the main event, and I’m pleased to report that as soon as the bell rang Edge charged. A tiny bit of realism (a charging set of punches rather than a lock up by an angry man) after the last half hour of mayhem.

Nice touch in the review of Smackdown, by the way. We hear the “Together” song that only ever gets played in moments of weddings in WWE. Man, wouldn’t it have been cool if they could’ve got hold of that for Jay Lethal and So Cal Val.

With both men down, the wedding planner turns up and grabs the belt to pass to Edge. Vickie comes running down to clothesline her. Back problems cleared up then?

Planner (Alicia, says JR) and Vickie get in a scrap in the ring, and Edge ends up spearing Vickie by accident. But he was aiming at Alicia apparently. Don’t understand why. Anyway, he didn’t hold back. Vickie took it hard.

Trip nonchalantly cashes in on this havoc, Pedigree-ing Edge and winning.

Well, that’s it. Not the best and not the worst. Some neat storyline stuff went on, it was just a shame that one of the matches wasn’t converted into a really good one with long-term benefits. I’ll allow the Jericho/Michaels because the match before the bleeding was terrific, and the storytelling (before and after) was exceptional.

I could cope with Punk and Batista’s match going the way it did had it not been for HBK/Y2J also not finishing clean. Edge and Triple H was never really going to be a straightforward one, so there was a little too much interferences and lack of clean finishes for me.

Around the card, the opener was sound, I liked the Diva match a lot, and Shelton v Matt was a good outing. Henry v Dreamer was awful as expected, but at least there was a bit of interest coming out of it.

Cena v JBL was the obvious aberration, but apart from that it was sound without being spectacular.

On another plus, with so many storyline elements and advancements, plus the last few week’s efforts, I’m looking forward to Raw. How will Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels’ excellent programme progress? Who is Kane talking about? Who will Punk face next? How will Batista react? Will they drop JBL and Cena?

Should be interesting.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Great American Bash - Preview

Tonight is.......erm........I forget the name. It’ll come to me, don’t worry.

Anyway, it’s a WWE PPV, and it’s frankly slipped under the radar. You see, this last three weeks or so is a great example of why you don’t need – or, in fact, want – regular monthly Pay per Views. For a couple of good, and a couple of bad, reasons, Raw is in the spotlight. They have produced episodes worth watching, or at least worth talking about. The trouble is, they haven’t really built this PPV. The things we’ve been seeing has been the draft; Punk winning a belt and defending it; Vince falling form the stage; Kane going mad.

Only JBL and Cena have really gone to the well and hyped their feud, but they went miles too far and will have disillusioned many viewers just getting their confidence in Raw back.

The reason Raw was so good three episodes ago, and was for most of the time last week, was because it was mostly kept simple. OK, it was fast paced, it was unpredictable and some of it made you scratch your head, but that’s good. It was mostly straightforward and didn’t need well-produced but lame parking lot segments such as the scene which ended Raw.

All that said, my bleating isn’t going to get this thing cancelled, so we may as well just enjoy it. So enough of me gabbing, lets..........wait, GABBING? GAB? That’s it – Great American Bash. I knew I’d get there J

World Tag Team Championship Fatal Four Way Match:Miz & Morrison v Finlay & Hornswoggle v Jesse & Festus v Hawkins & RyderNothing in this really. Standard PV filler and I’d suggest that it is quite likely to open the show. Miz and Morrison are clearly the best team around at the moment, and it’s ironic that they were thrown together as a team after feuding but now look like a decent unit.

On the other hand, you have Hawkins and Ryder who don’t feel like a team with an identity, just two guys who happen to look like Edge. You see, in something like Evolution, you had a neat combination of an old legend like Ric Flair, a huge name in the current climate Triple H, and then two up-and-comers. One being the sneaky, arrogant Randy Orton, and the other the powerhouse Batista.

They were all different and served purposes, as opposed the slightly over-populated La Familia, who comprise of dominant Triple H-like sneaky heel figure Edge, but Chavo is a sneaky heel who (occasionally) wins by cheating, and Hawkins & Ryder are sneaky heels who rarely win. Then there is Neely who does nothing, says nothing and is rather pointless.

Back from that tangent, the other two teams are just comedy acts, and since the belts hardly ever change hands in fourways, I’ll take Miz and Morrison to capitalise on some Festus house-cleaning to retain.

Natalya v Michelle McCool - Divas Championship
This one is for the Women’s title, because having five girls on a show warrants a belt apparently. Anyway, I’m guessing this goes to Natalya because she’s the one being pushed. I think they probably see Michelle as a plucky, feisty girl prime to chase a cocky champion, so I’d expect to see Natalya win, possibly by foul means, and then Michelle challenge her again at Summerslam.

Mark Henry v Tommy Dreamer – ECW Title
I cannot believe this is even happening......

You know what, to hell with it. I think Tommy is gonna win. I really do. I don’t see the point of this match otherwise. Henry as champion? No-one cares. ECW? No-one cares. Therefore Henry defending the ECW title against anybody – Big Show, Kane, Burke, whomever – no-one will care.

But you know what, people still love Tommy. The Pay Per View is in the North East, in New York State. Henry will likely squash Dreamer next week on ECW to get the thing back, but as a shock, as a babyface pop and mainly as a swerve, I can see Dreamer going over.

John Cena v JBL – Parking Lot Brawl
I don’t want to even write about this. The ending of Raw last week was a disgrace, and complete unnecessary. If the argument is that because Cena is 5-0 against JBL in their matches they had to raise the heat, then that’s so flawed from the start because if that is the case – that the deck is so stacked in Cena’s favour – then don’t have the match.

It’s not like the other five have been classics. JBL has done nothing since coming back. He’s great on the mic but atrocious in the ring. I didn’t mind his title run on SD a couple of years ago because he was so damn entertaining and generated good heel heat. His ‘cabinet’ also worked far better than La Familia in my opinion.

Now, however, he has slowed down even more and elicits little reaction. This doesn’t help Cena – whose stock without the title is plummeting – and certainly doesn’t entertain. A stupid gimmick match like this is unlikely to be enthralling.

And, by the way, I’m all for suspension of disbelief, but JBL should be in jail. If he would drive a car into Cena on camera, he would walk to ringside with a gun. Therefore JBL – the character – is a dangerous, homicidal man, and should be in prison.

I really don’t care. I’m only going to watch this match because it’s my job. I’ll take Cena to win, with a Greco-roman head through the windshield.

Chris Jericho v Shawn Michaels
Now we’re talking.

Proper wrestling, proper writing, proper wrestlers.

I don’t care who wins, I don’t care if they continue the programme or not (frankly, though it’s been brilliant, I’m not sure where they take it from here unless they introduce another party, like they did with Batista) I just want them to give these guys the finish, give them 25 minutes, and let them go.

Picking a winner is tricky. It seems unlikely that they would let HBK get beaten cleanly by Jericho, but Jericho could use a win in this feud. I have a feeling Jericho will win via cheating, which would not be very satisfying.

World Heavyweight Title – CM Punk v Batista
I can’t for the life of me see Triple H and Edge not being in the main event in exchange for Punk and Batista being there. This has had little build up – in fact it has been shunted to priority three behind John Cena/JBL and Kane’s mental breakdown.

If you had asked me who would win this about two weeks ago, I’d have gone for Big Dave, but WWE is big into their ratings breakdowns, and since Punk’s been champion, ratings have been good. (although they dropped a bit this week)

I think Punk will win this, but I can see Batista making a mistake which Punk capitalises on, rather than beating him with his finisher. Maybe even a ref bump to let Batista have a visual fall, before Punk gets the job done.

In short, belt to stay on Punk, but he won’t look that strong.

Triple H v Edge – WWE Title
This is the trickiest one I think.

Triple H is THE man in the company, and holding the biggest title. However, Smackdown has been all about Edge for the past few weeks, even more so than usual.

What with the marriage of Vickie and the apparent break-up later that night, you’d think that Edge would be at odds with Vickie, but where would La Familia stand. If they side with Edge (which would be illogical, but it’s possible, isn’t it?) that would turn Vickie babyface. But then Trips took a couple of cheap shots at her on SD, so that seems unlikely too.

Another conclusion could be that this is all another elaborate ploy, and that Tiffany the wedding planner was in on it all along too. Again, would make little sense, but that doesn’t always stop them.

I’ll go for a drawn out close one to be won by Triple H. Make Edge look reasonably strong, but put Triple H over. If Edge has had a long, drawn out storyline break-up, then that can be utilised in itself to give the Rated R Superstar a programme without needing to have the belt.

It’s a tough one to call, but it’s typically been a fair bet to assume that Triple H will win. So I’ll stick with that.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

June 30 Raw Thoughts - Thing are looking upo

Now that, friends, is how to write a TV show.

Ok, there wasn’t much wrestling on it, but Monday Night on the last day of June may the first day or a new era. It featured title matches, title changes, introductions to a new audience of characters, interesting character development, decent comedy (for a change) and unpredictability.

Simply keep this up and add a bit more by way of in-ring action, even just one decent match per week, then we could be onto something. I’m just begging the powers-that-be to hang in there if the rating for Raw is only like 3.0. Even if it hardly moves above that level for a few weeks they have to give it time, because things need to develop and people need to find out that the product is good again, and not just a show which you can predict a mile off.

Let’s get some bad stuff out of the way, because it wasn’t all fabulous.

Firstly, the Vince McMahon follow-up. A big angle to end a three-hour Raw only got a brief mention from Shane at the start, pre-record in a studio, and sporadic references from the commentators during the show. Other than that, it was not continued.

I’m prepared to give this one time. Sometimes letting something build in the mind is a good thing, but they have to remember the short attention span of people these days, and not hold on to the story for too long.

Secondly, Chris Jericho not winning the IC title back is fine. Also, him not losing cleanly is fine. But don’t have him lose via DQ to a pull of the tights. It’s a small misdemeanour, and something that happens and is seen all the time. If refs are going to be like that, then they’d stop every match after a punch. I fail to see why this one couldn’t have ended with Cade hitting Kofi, but the ref catching it, or even just a Jericho low blow. Maybe it could have been the Walls of Jericho not being released after Kofi had the ropes, or better still cash in on the build up of having Jericho nearly hit Michaels with chair and let him smash Kofi out of frustration.

Third moan is about a continuity issue, because although I sort of liked the “Martial Law” aspect to JBL’s involvement, there being no GM with Vince out of commission makes no sense. Ok, so JBL brings his security guys, but who booked the title match then? In fact, who booked any of the matches? You could have used a bit of reality and had like Tony Garea or some other road agent (sorry, producer) say that they are in charge by proxy, but have them just be really weak and let JBL get away with it. Hell, you’ve got Ron Simmons there every other week, let him say more than “Damn” and make him temporary GM. He could then be fair to everyone else but since JBL is a long-time friend he lets Bradshaw get away with his actions.

Anyway, that’s 500 words of whinging out of the way because I want to talk about the good stuff.

Let’s take it in order..........otherwise I’ll forget something.

JR’s Promo:
Decent, although a little long, JR seemed to be stalling a lot, so I wonder if Edge missed a cue. Anyway, although it served it’s purpose of letting JR say goodbye to Raw and perhaps placate him after his public disappointment, it was probably engineered to get Edge even more over as a heel. After running down JR, the partisan Oklahoma crowd were baying to see Edge get his, and they got that in spades. JR’s presence was also a tool in getting Hawkins and Ryder out of the way for when Big Dave appeared.

The Batista beatdown was nice because it addressed his frustrations at losing the belt, while also serving the purpose of hurting Edge enough that Punk could capitalise. I might have had the announcers build up a question of whether Punk and Batista were in collusion or not (Punk did thank Batista later on) but it was still well produced.

The opening segment was the best part of 25 minutes, but it didn’t drag. Obviously not having a commercial helped too. I suppose it wasn’t really one segment. It ran together, and events had a knock-on effect, but it was really four segments. JR’s speech, Edge’s rebuttal, Batista’s attack, Punk’s cashing in. Punk beating Edge has nothing to do with JR saying goodbye, but everything was used well to create an engaging, logical and entertaining segment, with a genuine feelgood ending.

I’ll be honest, I sat there and waited for them to screw it up. When I later saw JBL confront Punk I panicked, because I recalled Bradshaw’s speech at Night of Champions, saying that he’d win a title soon. But things worked out well.

Mickie James v Jillian Hall:

Meh. Filler, and just a reminder of Mickie being champ I guess. I have not idea what Beth has done wrong or who she has pissed off, but her disappearance is baffling.

Rey Mysterio and Sanino Marella:

I’ll be honest, over the last couple of years I have only sporadically watched Smackdown. Even then I often watch it because I realise I haven’t seen it for a couple of weeks, and it’s my job to keep up.

There must be others like this, so when you have a guy like Mysterio whose career (in mainstream America at least) has been ECW, WCW then Smackdown, there may well be Raw fans not completely familiar with him. So to let him speak for a few minutes was good. It needed to go somewhere, though, and went it went was terrific.

I like to think of myself as a professional, so I sit and watch Raw with either a pen and notepad or the laptop on which I am currently writing this blog, and a neutral expression. When someone enters the arena I am pleased to see him, I will smile and polite express my thoughts with a “that’s nice” or “Jolly good”. You know, something stereotypically English.

However, when Santino arrives, it’s almost always gold, and this situation was made for him. Mysterio had said his piece – he’s okay on the mic, is Rey, but he’s not great, so he needs to be treated like Batista. Keep it short and sweet, then move on. Having Marella interrupt after the serious stuff had been done was perfect timing.

Santino, as per usual, delivered. His first big line was referring to the three reasons why people wear masks. “They are incredibly ugly, incredibly stupid...........or they are The Batman” Hilarious. The written word doesn’t do that justice, and giving that line to any other wrestler to do as a promo wouldn’t have worked. Santino’s mannerisms are just so awesome, and he nailed it again here. He left just the right amount of time between the first two reasons and the third. I even loved his follow-up line: “You sir, are not the Batman”. Genius.

The rest of the stuff was good, even with the blatant shilling of the magazine. Calling him “Ray Mastrio”, saying “booyaka, booyaka” saying he is “taller than the Hornswoggle” and after showing his picture in his boxers he said “Now that is a photo.”

Rey getting a shot in and hitting a 619 gave the segment a satisfying ending, and gives an opportunity for Rey to ease himself back into action. I’d expect Rey’s Raw debut in a match to be against Santino next week, and for him to win easily. This doesn’t hurt Santino as no-one cares about him in the ring anyway. He’s just so hilarious that you can keep beating him and he’ll still be over. It also allows Rey to get back into his groove gradually.

That was basically the first hour, so about 3 minutes of wrestling, but a satisfying hour nonetheless.

Cena promo:
It was more promo time as John Cena came out to a positive reception in OK. This was typical Cena, which is neither criticism nor praise from me really. I like his character as being a tough guy who can admit frailty. I hate it when babyfaces claim they were the better man after they lose the night before. It just makes them look a whiner, especially when they lose cleanly. Heels can bitch and moan all they like, because it will make people dislike them and that’s their job. Babyfaces should be more gracious.

Cena is, even when he loses to heels, but it was even more important that he acknowledged his role against Triple H. I like that.

However, the stuff I don’t like is the usual Rock imitation of listing stuff to get a pop. It kinda works, but always feels awkward to me, like they are just trying to recreate the Great One – that will never be done.

I also didn’t care for Cena trying to say what a classic his match with Hunter the night before had been. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good – probably the best on the card – but not a classic. No-one will remember it in three months time. By having Cena and announcers play it up as one of the great moments in history just pisses all over matches like Shawn Michaels v Kurt Angle which were legitimately 5-stars. It’s ok to say “You should have bought the Pay Per View last night because Angle and HBK tore it down.” Don’t lie to the viewers about Cena and HHH, because although serviceable, it wasn’t that good.

Anyway, back to this segment, and it ended up working nicely with another classic heel tactic, the extensive backup, which was also a good, subtle setup for something later on.

Like I said before, I didn’t care for the invisible GM scenario, but if you have to have it, then JBL bringing out a posse and taking the law into his own hands makes sense, and fits his character. The seg build good heat on him and great sympathy for Cena.

Rhodes and DiBiase:
I hated the way that these two got the belts, but I like the idea of their team having something in common, so I’m prepared to forget their initial coming together. I also approve of the odd squash match, because it allows a team like this to develop and show the audience what they have. Don’t forget, if the tag team picture is to be taken even moderately seriously, these two are going to need to find opponents. Since Londrick is no more, and Cade and Murdoch are split, Raw basically only has three other recognised teams – Cryme Tyme, Highlanders and Carlito & Santino. The first make sense as over babyfaces, but the second have been blighted by injury and appearing on TNA, so haven’t been seen in months, and the third appear to be on the road to if not breaking up then simply being forgotten.

So, save for throwing together Van Venis and Jim Duggan and letting them get beat, you may as well let DiBiase and Rhodes beat a jobber team rather than go over someone they will need to face down the line.

Interesting to note that Ted said that that everyone under thirty are now sheep. Got me thinking about how old these two guys are, and the ages of the roster generally. Looking at the current RAW champions, if my sources are correct, their ages are as follows:
Kofi -26
Punk – 29
Mickie – 28
Ted -25
Cody -23 – his 23rd birthday was June 30th, so the date of this week’s Raw.

It makes the average age of the Raw champions just over 26. That’s really surprising and quite pleasing really. As long as they aren’t buried while holding the belts.

For the sake of balance, I’m not really trying to make any other point here, but here are the ages of all other champions:
Triple H – 39
John Morrison – 29
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin – 27
Matt Hardy – 33
Mark Henry – 37

That puts the age of all non-Raw champions as 33, and makes the average age of all WWE belt holders as 29.6.

That’s not scientific, but it’s an interesting look at the state of affairs I think. Like I said, I’m not trying to make a point, just showing some facts.

Anyway, that’s a diversion, where were we?

Oh yeah, we’ve done the Tag team stuff. After Rhodes and Dibiase came some more character stuff. Backstage, Paul Burchill told Katie that she will be champ one day, and wondered off. This gave Jamie Noble the opportunity to hit on our hot English chick, and to impress her he said he’ll play “Prison Rules” on Raw. No, not those kind of Prison Rules. This, according to Jamie, is going up to the biggest guy and drawing a line in the sand. Katie pointed out Kane. After threatening Kane and being generally amusing, Kane grabbed Noble’s throat, but Jamie ran off. He, fortuitously, ran away to the ring, where eventually he got chokeslammed through a table.

It was all good. It had some funny stuff in there, and like with Rey earlier, it was effective in introducing Jamie Noble to a different audience. It adds a different dynamic to the backstage skits, and to Noble talking to the Divas. It also solidified Kane as a badass.

Jericho v Kingston:
As above, I’ll say that the ending to this match was terrible, but keeping the belt on Kofi was not a bad thing, it’s a good thing (Right, DDP?). Jericho did another terrific promo pre-match, challenging HBK to a match at Great American Bash and keeping his great new attitude going. He does so much in an interview without shouting, without whining and without resorting to catchphrases or cheap heat. Superb stuff.

JBL v Punk:
Not a great match, but continued the good storytelling of the evening and Cena bringing Cryme Tyme in was a random, but nice piece of inclusion.

Obviously it was the right thing for Punk to retain, and things are set up well for a whole host of challengers. Rey is building his way up, Jericho and Michaels are involved together, and it seems that there is a chance that Cena and JBL will face off again. That’s five high-tier superstars who could be challengers to Punk at some point, but I’d suggest that his Bash opponent may well be Batista.

Whether it will involve Batista turning heel or not, I don’t know. Whether he will win the belt or not, I don’t know. However, the reason is there, because Big Dave can claim he did the hard work and that Punk is taking the credit. Batista can also suggest that that he had Edge beaten and it took loads of people to usurp him, so he has a rightful claim to the belt.

Personally, I think that Punk will drop the belt to Batista, who will do the slow burn to turn heel, and repel the challenges of Rey, maybe Michaels, and then go into a programme with Cena. I personally can’t see this waiting for Wrestlemania, but there you go.

All in all, a terrific Raw. And even more shocking, McNichol updates his blog twice in one week. Will wonders never cease..............