Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday Night RAW: A Tale of Two Shows

I’m a day late in putting up this review because the one I wrote yesterday was a tad harsher than the show deserved. Sometimes you need to read your own writing and let time take the edge off. Monday Night RAW was hard to judge this week because it was two shows at once. What I mean by this is: What kind of grading scale do you use for this week’s episode?

It was the 20th Anniversary show. If you look at it like that then the show was a miserable failure. Especially when compared to the 1000th show from a few months back. It also was the two weeks out from a major PPV show. If you look at it like that, and compare it to the last few months of RAW, then it was an above average show with lots of good action. There were even a couple of great segments that the WWE could hang their hat on. In the last say 15 episodes of RAW, this was in the top three. Then again that is like saying I’m the hottest guy in the room at a Dungeons & Dragons convention. Not a real lofty goal.

As for being the 20th Anniversary show, it sucked. There was so much build up to this show. It had the hype that this was going to be a big event with tons of surprises. It ended up being mostly a past RAW clip show. No Austin, No HBK, No Undertaker, No DX (of any kind), No Nash, and No real presence of the past besides a few drops in the bucket.

Ric Flair showed up, but he was here a few weeks ago on a not so special show. Mick Foley too, but he was Santa less than a month ago. Jim Ross came in to wrap up the show, but that has happened a ton since Lawler had the heart attack. I would have even liked a Ron Simmons, “DAMN”, but nope.

It’s not my checkbook but you would think the WWE would have planned better for such a big event. They did have a lot of the stars around in July for the 1000th episode. They could have locked down commitments then for this show in January. Also they could have brought back some of the mid-card talent from the past 20 years. I don’t think Vader, Dustin Rhodes, Steve Blackman, Dan Severn, or any of those types of guys were doing much on Monday night.

That’s my gripe with the 20th anniversary angle of the show. Now looking at this week’s RAW as an overall show. It was actually a good show. I think one of their better shows. Maybe not as buzz worthy as last week but a nice follow up.

The whole three hours really paced itself well. It didn’t start out setting the bar too high and it ended with another strong closing 45 minutes. It had a few surprises, and even a title change. Then again if the Divas title changes hands, and nobody cares, does it really count. It also had some head scratch moments, and a weird drunken Ric Flair moment.

The start with Vince, Big Show, and Alberto Del Rio was pretty cookie cutter. It set up their match at Royal Rumble. Vince got to strut around for a bit. There was even a Harlem Globetrotters spot. Not too hot, not too cold. Just a nice way to kick off the show.

The first shock of the show came when Reefer Randy lost clean in the middle of the ring to IC champ Wade Barrett. When Wade didn’t even get an entrance I thought for sure he was going to eat an RKO. Maybe the no entrance was a way to make the surprise win even more shocking. Glad to see the WWE putting a quality win under Barrett’s belt. I’m sure Orton will get his revenge.

I make jokes about the Divas division because lately it hasn’t been good. The amount of empty seats during the arena pan before the match proves that. A lot of people took this match as a chance to grab a beer and a bathroom break. In the end it was a really good match. I don’t know if it was because this was Eve’s last WWE match, but both ladies let it hang out. If the WWE had more lady matches like this one then the division wouldn’t be such a joke.

The real joke is 3MB. They are the new job squad. Just when you think they’ll get some respect by beating Sheamus in a handicapped over the top rope elimination match, they come crashing down with a post-match dismantling by the Super Ginger. The WWE does need good enhancement talent. So I guess that is 3MB. The paychecks must be nice.

The Dr. Shelby segment and the two matches involving Team Hell No and Rhodes Scholars were middle of the road. Bryan and Kane are great as a duo. They make me chuckle and they can both go in the ring. The same can be said about Rhodes Scholars. The Dr. Shelby gimmick just fell flat for me. Younger fans find him funny. They also think the Kardashians are good role models. I question their judgment of character.

The booking of the two singles matches between the teams made no sense. The #1 contender got crushed in both matches. Why would I believe Rhodes Scholars has a chance of winning in a tag title match when they both got steamrolled by the champs in singles action? Luckily this feud doesn’t have to sell any tickets for the Royal Rumble.

The better booking would have been wins for both Sandow and Rhodes with outside help from their partner. Then the next week do a reverse matchup with Sandow facing Bryan & Rhodes facing Kane. The first match has another partner cheating finish only to have the second match end in a double DQ brawl between the four gentlemen when Rhodes Scholars tries to cheat for a fourth time. That’s my humble booking opinion.

Now onto “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and his appearance. I’m a HUGE Flair fan. Huge. In the history of this business there hasn’t been a better performer to lace up the boots ever. On the mic, in the ring, and everything place else in between he is the gold standard in pro wrestling. This segment was a train wreck. Flair looked like he was on the tail end of bad bender. Miz did nothing to help control the situation. Sometimes just winging it ends in a crash and burn. This was one of those times.

Antonio Cesaro actually brought the segment back up. His mic work was top notch as always. His little jabs at Flair were great. The end was good because it furthered the Miz feud. I don’t know how I feel about Miz becoming the new “Nature Boy”. It looks like from spoilers that he’ll be using the figure four as a finisher. All in all it was a weird segment, and not in a good way.

That reminds me. The Houston crowd was horrible. I don’t know if it was the growing disappointment in the lack of returning stars, or if they just had no energy, but that crowd sucked. They gave no reaction to any part of the show that didn’t involve pandering to the audience. Ric Flair comes through the curtain and they react like it is the Brooklyn Brawler. Then the end of the show they only get lively for calling Vickie a bitch, yet stick their thumbs up their asses when the champ and Rock get into a pull apart brawl. A crowd can enhance a show and they can ruin one. This crowd really brought the feel of the show down.

I enjoyed the part with Mick Foley and the Shield. I remember the mini-feud between Dean Ambrose and Foley. I was hoping for some mic time between the two. Having Ryback, Sheamus, and Orton come down for the save made sense. The shield is getting stuck in a rut as the WWE tries to tread water with them until after the Royal Rumble. It’s about time to move the group forward with whatever the WWE has planned for them. I personally wouldn’t mind a Free Bird style tag team title run. In fact I’ll take anything that gets the three men wrestling more often as all three are really strong in-ring performers.

Watching Brodus Clay’s entrance and then watching CM Punk’s entrance is a prime example of the gap in talent between the champ and the rest of the WWE roster. Clay looks like a guy playing a character. CM Punk just looks like he is that guy walking through the curtain. He has really blurred the lines between reality and wrestling. It’s refreshing.

On twitter I got into a debate with a couple people about Punk’s value as champ. Most went with him being the lowest rated champ in history as their position. Unless he is wrestling or on TV talking for three hours straight then he can’t be fully responsible for the dip. I would even say if it wasn’t for him being champ and doing everything in his power to keep the WWE name fresh, the ratings would be worse. I’m talking below 2.0 and barely hovering above TNA worse. As I said Monday night, “CM Punk is the life boat on this titanic of a WWE roster”. John Cena is the piece of scrap that the rich chick clings to as Leo sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

The match between Punk and Clay was good. Nothing special. Clay got in more offense than I thought he would. The production team missed Punk taunting the dancers after. It’s a small thing but it was a great moment. The promo after was top notch again. He made beating Brodus sound bigger than it was. He also twisted reality again. I can’t wait to see next week just to see what happens between he and Rock.

The cage match between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler was amazing. I loved it. Sure the end was a little weak. I mean Cena took big move after big move and beats Ziggs with one finisher. It’s super Cena at its finest. Besides that I loved the psychology in the match. AJ had great facials. Big E Langston is a monster. He plays the muscle role perfectly for Dolph. I am really digging the Ziggler circus.

Rumor is the WWE wants to split Langston away from the group. That would be a mistake. They need to add more people to Dolph’s entourage. David Otunga as his legal weasel plus two stooges would be great. More is better in this case, especially when Ziggler gets fully into his World title chase.

Again the match was great. It entertained and was easily the best wrestling on the show. It is the second straight week the WWE delivered a PPV quality match as their main event. I’m almost scared to get my hopes up for three weeks in a row. I’m sure this week will be some convoluted six man. It always is.

The Rock concert is what it is. The Rock does his usual shtick. I laughed. Vickie Guerrero is a great character. The crowd gets to get involved so that perks them up. Dwayne was a little weaker on the mic this week. His singing is karaoke worthy and his promo was shaky, but it did its job. The end pull apart brawl was great but the crowd took a crap on that because it didn’t involve letting them play along. I guess if they could have chanted something during it like calling Vickie a bitch or saying “Si, Si, Si” then they would have been more excited.

The WWE is doing a bang up job in prepping this feud between CM Punk and The Rock. Right now it looks like Rock is going to walk out champ. Even the WWE PR department is tipping the hat that way with their press release about Mania as they tout the rematch of Cena and Rock. I hope they swerve us all.

Next week is the go home show. There is a lot of strong segments that could, and should, take place. The focus will be on Rock and Punk. Ziggler & Cena should be good. Plus I’m looking forward to more Team Hell No, Cesaro, Barrett, and Rhodes Scholars. Also interested in the direction of “New Nature Boy” The Miz. That’s a lot to look forward too, which is a good thing.

The lack of pressure or expectation from this not being a 20th anniversary show should help the overall reception of the product. Then again that may be setting the bar too high as three weeks of quality television from the WWE seems to be a rarity these days. Like watching a good Divas match.

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