Some of RAW's top stars over the years: (from left to right) The Rock, HBK, John Cena, Y2J, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Before I get on with review proper, I would like to state an obvious fact. It is a remarkable feat for any show to reach 900 episodes, and as the WWE kept on emphasising, that is a huge number (bigger than other juggernauts like The Simpsons or Friends etc), and is a testament to what is usually a high quality show and it’s place as a pop-culture juggernaut.
Despite all this, I doubt there were many that were satisfied by this show, both as a 900th anniversary, and as an episode of RAW generally.
The show started out appropriately enough, with Bret Hart cutting a nice promo about the history of RAW and how he and The Undertaker are the only remaining superstars to appear on the first ever episode. He was about to suggest a match with the Deadman when Kane inserted himself in to the situation, and cut another very good promo himself. He made an interesting point about wanting to replicate and even top his brother, and as ‘Taker retired Shawn Michaels, he wanted to take out Bret. At this point, Undertaker showed up from under his dark light, looking stronger than in previous weeks, leading the anonymous GM eventually booking the match between Taker and Bret. As booking goes, that was good for the nostalgia element. This would have been the perfect segment for HBK to make an appearance of some sorts, obviously not in a wrestling role, but perhaps as a special referee, given his history with both guys and the fact that he was aslo on the first episode of RAW. Him not being there wasn’t terrible, but it would have been a great addition to the show.
The first match was one of two decent matches throughout the show, and was another example of good booking. It was a triple-threat tag team match pitting the current NXT finalists, Michael McGillicutty, Alex Riley and Kaval, and their pros, against each other (apart from Kaval, who tagged with Daniel Bryan, which makes sense because he could hardly tag with both of his pros, while Bryan would get to share a ring with Miz). It could have done with more time, but it was a decent match. I like that there were three competitors in the ring at any time (rather than there being two and either competitor could tag anyone in), and that each finalist got to show off some on RAW. Afterwards, Miz again assaulted Bryan, further fuelling their rivalry. The only thing I don’t understand is why they US title match at Night of Champions hasn’t been announced yet. They easily could have announced it and started a more specific build-up by now.
The next match and segment may have been my least favourite. It was a divas tag match between LayCool and Melina & Eve Torres. It would have been nice to have seen a match of decent length given that LayCool were visiting RAW, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We got about a minute of a match in which neither Michelle McCool and Eve Torres didn’t even feature. That was bad enough, but then we had the revelation that the two women’s championships will be unified at Night of Champions. In theory, this may be a decent idea, focusing the lost division. That will only be the case if the champion is obligated to appear on both shows. Unfortunately, I worry that it will be more like the Hart Dynasty currently – only really appearing on RAW. If that is the case, then it will leave one show with a divas division without a credible focus. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, but if it turns out like I predict, it will be a step in the wrong direction.
Next up was another unsatisfying match, ostensibly to find new #1 contenders to the tag team championships. The match saw Truth & Morrison take on the new team of Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre. After another minute, this match had been thrown out. It was even unclear what was hapenning regarding the tag team championships. Lawler suggested that neither team would become #1 contenders, but if that was the case then the whole match would have been completely pointless and unsatisfying.
Then we had the Taker vs Bret match. That match didn’t take place either, after Nexus interfered and beat down Undertaker. There was some interest here as Kane and the Undertaker seemed to battle for control of ‘dark forces,’ with each controlling the lights at different points, eventually coming off best and distracting enough to have Nexus gain the upperhand on Taker and lay waste to him. Perhaps it was a little comic book, but I liked the representation of them battling for prominance. I doubt it is actually the case, but perhaps Kane could be a ‘higher power’ controlling the Nexus? Despite my liking that, it was shame to have one of the most hyped matches of the night effectively not take place.
Jack Swagger then took on Evan Bourne in a decent enough match. The story of it though, was Alberto Del Rio inserting himself in to the match, interrupting with his entire entrance while not caring about the match. Eventually, Swagger went over with his ankle lock. Good for him, but not that encouraging for Bourne. Del Rio then took over, saying he wanted to replay his attack on Rey Mysterio for the RAW fans. This was all pretty good, and was a good way to get Del Rio some air time on RAW. I actually think he would suit the show well. He was scuppered by Mark Henry, but he exited looking his usual egoistic dislikeable self and got over well as a heel.
CM Punk came out next with the Straight-Edge Society (minus Serena of course) and cut a fantastic promo which really acknowledged the nostalgia of the night and saying that he is better than The Rock. He was talking about how RAW was a sickening show which didn’t promote family values (a pretty funny point given the move to PG!) citing things like the infamous Katie Vick angle, and the beer-swilling “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In a brilliant moment, he teased that Austin would again be making an electrifying entrance with a beer hose, only to reveal that he had tricked the audience! Great stuff. Eventually Big Show came out and confronted them, eventually sending them skulking off. The Stone Cold revealed one of the big problems of this show. Stone Cold wasn’t there, and neither was The Rock, HBK, or J.R. I realise they may not have been able to get Stone Cold, Rock or HBK, but they could at least have had J.R. call the main event! The show really missed that kind of appearance.
The main event saw the match I suggested booking for the ‘go home’ show: Nexus against Sheamus, Edge, Randy Orton, John Cena and Chris Jericho. Speaking of Jericho, he asserted earlier in the night that if he doesn not win the WWE Championship at Night of Champions, he will be ‘gone’ from WWE. This means one of three things: either Jericho will be winning the WWE Championship, Jericho will be taking time off, or Jericho will be retiring. I think the most realistic option is that he’s taking some time off, which is understandable. As long as isn’t retiring yet, that’s fine! This match was the other decent match of the night (i.e. not interrupted or something else of the sort). What was good about this match was how good the Nexus guys were made to look. Heath Slater pinned Sheamus, Justin Gabriel pinned Cena and Barrett pinned Orton for the win, making him look particularly strong seen as how strong Orton has been made to look recently. This was good build-up for the WWE Championship match at Night of Champions, and as I say a good match, but not enough to save the quality of the show. Having written this, I feel my initial reaction to the show may have been too harsh. After all, the show started well, had a good segment in the middle with Punk and ended well, but the rest was pretty horrible.