Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Monday Night RAW: Blame The Crowd

I’ve been doing entertainment in one form or another for almost fifteen years now. I started in Radio in 1998 and had been in and out until 2010. From 1999 until late 2006, I made my money in a professional wrestling ring. In 2007, after my second hip surgery before I turned 26, I started doing standup comedy and continue to travel the roads telling my stories today. I’ve spent a majority of my adult life in front of crowds.

Normally only shitty entertainers blame the crowd for a bad show. They usually can’t bring themselves to admit they stunk the joint up. As comic legend Jim Wiggins once told me in a bowling alley in bumfuck, Indiana, “There aren’t bad crowds, just horrible comics”. I believe this applies to all genres of entertainment. Then there was Buffalo, NY last night. They proved there is always an exception to the rule.

I can’t fault the WWE for last night’s RAW. It was a really good showing and it was booked as a very strong show with multiple angles getting over and plans for Mania getting a little clearer. It just sucked that they basically had an empty arena feel with a full crowd. It was like the fans showed up expecting Disney on Ice and a wrestling show broke out.

Since the return of the Rock this has been more apparent with crowds. Dallas was a shit crowd last week. There have been a few more, but they escape me. It can’t be just the return of the Rock. Maybe it is a run of bad luck, but it makes no sense as the WWE has had some strong episodes of RAW recently. It has to be a mix of Cena fans, who only show up to cheer their hero, and Rock fans, who only show up to see the movie star. I don’t know.

Maybe it was the green screen promo that told all the marks they’re dumb for believing this is real, and this is what we get for exposing Oz. What I wouldn’t give for an old school crowd during an old school RAW. Instead all I got was Buffalo. If it wasn’t for your wings, I’d sell you to Canada for Windsor. 

You can’t dwell on the bad stuff forever; especially when this was a pretty big episode of RAW. There wasn’t an epic match like Cena vs. Punk from last week, but those are a true rarity for any show. This week had tons of movement towards WrestleMania mixed in with some great nostalgia.

I dig the cold opening with Undertaker. He’s back. No promo, just the best entrance in wrestling history. That was enough to let everyone know business was picking up. Then the set up for the main event was pretty basic. No over complicating things as beating the Undertaker is now on par with being the main event at Mania. Let’s face it, many people will win WWE titles at future WrestleManias, but only one person will break the streak, if that ever happens. It’s the modern equivalent to slamming Andre.

Poor Cesaro gets the jobber entrance. Ryback is being heavily protected with good workers two weeks in a row. Last week his tosses Ziggler around, this week it’s the United States champ. A nice match, but there was nothing special here. I like Ryback in the opening hour as he has the energy, but is still learning how to be a bankable talent. I also like that they are positioning him for a match (and feud) with Mark Henry.

The World’s Strongest Man is one of the enjoyable parts of the WWE. He has become the best monster in the business. I truly believe he could wreck anyone in his path. He didn’t have a match as much as a persona cementing moment. It was good for what it was intended to do. When Ryback and Henry finally do collide, it should be a really fun match. I’m thinking opening hour of WrestleMania. Unless the Rock wants to use that time to cut a really long promo with no real point or purpose.

I could really care less about Zack Ryder. Just cause you want to be something, doesn’t mean you deserve to be it. I wanted to be a pro athlete growing up, but I didn’t have the talent. The same goes for Ryder and wrestling. He’ll make some good coin on the indy circuit in the future.

Flair is Miz’s mentor. Miz can’t do a figure four unless it is in slow motion. Dolph Ziggler is being jobbed like his name is Steve Lombardi. We have officially entered the twilight zone. It is always good to see the nature boy, and he’s great as a manager. Too bad he was in the wrong corner. I really hope he turns on Miz in the future. I bet he’d do it for a make out session with AJ. She’s his kind of crazy, and crazy chicks dig space mountain. The match was good, but again Miz is off his game. Luckily Ziggs picked up the slack. Hell, I swear I saw Dolph put the figure four on himself as Miz just stood there.

The Rock comes out and tells a drawn out story. His promos are like Mad Libs. Same stuff with a few new one liners sprinkled in. John Cena comes out and now the crowd is happy. The two they came to see are in the ring. Too bad there will still be 2 hours of show left. Don’t want wrestling to get in the way of Cena-Rock fest.

I didn’t like this segment one bit. It has this weird vibe to it. I can’t exactly put my finger on it. I felt like I was watching two guys court each other not for a fight, but for a Craig’s list hook up. The Rock tried to be serious and so did John Cena, and it came off as both being less that genuine. Maybe this should have stayed a once in a lifetime match. I have a feeling this sequel will be on par with Caddyshack 2.

The legends all got crammed into three segments. Why did Dusty and Slaughter come out with Hacksaw Jim Duggan to face Jack Swagger? A simple backstage segment between Hacksaw and Zeb could have helped get that over with the fans. Zeb could say Duggan isn’t a real American, and the two other legends could come to back Hacksaw up. It would have made the attack by Swagger make sense.

The same goes for Million Dollar Man. He and the Prime Time Player did something on the WWE app. Yet DiBiase doesn’t get more than a quick mention during what amounts to a glorified WWE Superstars match. I did like the hundred dollar bill bit, and Bryan sneaking back to take it was funny. The PTP are done. I have a feeling Titus is going to drop Young and begin a singles push. Young will begin his push for Zack Ryder’s spot.

Finally the Honky Tonk Man is maybe part of a six man tag with the dancing duo of Tensai and Clay. They crush 3MB. Honky gives the guitar shot to Slater. I actually liked the booking. Would have liked to see Honky with the New Age Outlaws in this same match, but it looks like Road Dawg and Mr. Ass have bigger plans. When Clay was playing the guitar he looked like a bloated New Jack.

I like Faaaaaan-Daaaaaaan- GO. Any other crowd and that segment was gold. I was surprised to see Kofi in the ring, but it makes sense with Fandango refusing to wrestle until the announcer gets his name right. This does two thing very well. First it is good heel heat to refuse to wrestle, and the second is it establishes his name with the audience. Like him or hate him, you know who he is. Now he can keep talking about how great he is, and people will get pissy cause he never gets in the ring to back it up. I hope this continues until after WrestleMania. I’d even do it on the internet pre-show before the PPV.

Triple H cut one hell of promo. He made this a very personal issue. Sure it was long winded, but by HHH standards it was short. This is the second week in a row that this feud has hit the bullseye. The description of Vince, his family, and Triple H’s inner feeling added a ton to essence of this match. I expect a brutal encounter during Mania.

Best Shield promo yet. Holy crap was that good. Seth Rollins is coming into his own, but again Ambrose steals the show. I don’t know how long they can stay together but the WWE has something special here. This could be the modern age version of the Horsemen. They’re that good.

Del Rio and Barrett had a good match. It was more to get Wade on television to promote his movie, and to get Del Rio a win as he builds towards Swagger. Zeb and Jack come out to watch. They aren’t touching Del Rio. It’s a small thing, but it will pay off in the long run. It helps Zeb sell his point as only Del Rio has been the one getting physical. This segment could have been an hour earlier and let the WWE break up the legends block in the 9 PM hour.

Uncle Zeb and Jack Swagger were all over the TV again. The WWE is really pushing them as top tier heels. The best part is Zeb. He is amazing on the mic, and he makes you hate him for every word he says because he almost sounds like he’s right because he is so vague. Yes people are not respecting our laws for immigration, but it is only because they are coming here for the same reason our fore fathers did, to find a better life for their family. I will be interested to see where this goes after Mania and Del Rio.

I love the New Age Outlaws. If this was a one shot deal then I would have put them with Honky Tonk man for the six man angle. It looks like the NAO could be back on a semi-full time basis. They still can bring it in the ring. Road Dawg is top five on the mic in the current WWE. Billy Gunn looks to be in better shape now than he did in the 90’s. They could sell a lot of merch, and a tag title run could do the WWE a lot of good. That was a really good match with the Colons to get them back in the groove as the next step looks to be a feud with the Rhodes Scholars.

I wouldn’t be opposed to a big tag team three way at Mania between Team Hell No, Rhodes Scholars, and The New Age Outlaws for the straps. That way Rhodes Scholars could win the titles without pinning the NAO, and then the next few months can be the Outlaws chasing the Scholars for the titles. If done right when NAO wins, it’ll blow the roof off the joint. Also it would elevate the tag division, which has been resurrected over the past few months from being a step above the Divas title.

Mae Young is cool. She’s old and she doesn’t give a shit. She deserves everyone’s respect. She’s like that old war vet at the bar that nobody messes with. I have no doubt that Mae will try to wrestle when she is 100.

The fatal four way was cool. I think everyone kind of knew that Punk was winning, but how kept everyone watching. Again the Buffalo crowd crapped all over this. It was smart booking by the WWE as Punk has had a few bad losses lately, and if he is going to lose to Undertaker, then a win over Big Show, Orton, and Sheamus keeps him strong. I would expect a few more wins over big name talent for Punk in the future. He needs to look unbeatable going into Mania.

Overall a strong episode of RAW that set up HHH vs. Brock and Undertaker vs. Punk for WrestleMania. They trudged along with Cena and Rock. Uncle Zeb and Swagger continued their build towards Del Rio. Finally we even got a tease that Ryback and Mark Henry would collide soon. That is a lot accomplished for a show that was built around the older era of the WWF. If the WWE could do this much during a regular show, then the build to Mania would be in good shape.

We’re 33 days away, and I can’t wait. WrestleMania might be the most loaded card in years. The Hall of Fame is stacked. There are three to four matches that could close the show. Too bad Buffalo didn’t think so. I hope they enjoy their future of house shows. They’re the #52 media market in the country. Not a must hit for the WWE. Just run DC four times a year, and you’ll never have to go back. Buffalo can only blame themselves for this. They suck.

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