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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..............

1 comment:

James Atkin said...

Hey,

Good blog read. Have been reading your updates for the past few months and it's always interesting to read ur insights.

Jericho's recent promos have been superb like you say. I remember not liking him that much as a heel in his last run vs Cena but this time he's really strutting his stuff.

I have to say though that I really liked the Ted/Cody thing. I actually said to my gf "wouldn't it be cool if Ted's partner was Cody" when they were teasing it. Okay, logically, it doesn't make sense to be able to defeat yourself. But it's only the tag team titles, and technicalitys are never too much of a concern in WWE! I'm hoping this will give some personality to Rhodes, and please God let them give him a finishing move other than a bog standard DDT! I think Dibiase is Orton-esque? Could be a good thing for the future.

Anyway sorry babbling on now, just wanted to say I hope you keep updating your blog and that I enjoy reading...

Cheers,
James