RAW Recall (27/12/2010): We Are One … Under Punk

Punk salutes his new Nexus followers

Jacques Louis David's Oath of Horatii - on reflection, hardly a mirror image, but definately reminiscent to the closing image of RAW, both aesthetically, and in meaning

Like with their initial introduction, though to a lesser extent (simply because no one could have expected what happened that night in June), the re-introduction of Nexus dominates the fallout from last night’s RAW, and so will dominate my coverage of it. I’ll save it for now though.

The first non Punk/Nexus/Cena thing to happen was Ted DiBiase jobbing to Santino. This didn’t sit too well with me. Now, I realise Santino is on a pretty strong push just now, and DiBiase, in contrast, is on something of a storyline losing streak. So far, so good. My problem is that DiBiase is not being helped by it. Of course, the losing streak will undoubtedly lead to some sort of storyline, a split from Maryse and possibly a face turn, but they could have already done that without damaging DiBiase’s status so much. Remember his feud with Goldust? He was humiliated and lost several times. When he eventually realised he was stuck in a rut, he gave up the Million Dollar Title to focus on Daniel Bryan’s United States Championship. Right then was the chance to evolve DiBiase, before having him in a great and respectful wrestling-heavy feud with Bryan that wouldn’t see him win the title, but would see him turn face and progress. Instead, the programme was not long lasting, and he’s reverted back to the bad luck of his Goldust feud. It seems a shame for him, I mean, aren’t people like (with all due respect) Darren Young there to job now?

The Morrison-Riley match to determine all the stipulations of the Miz-Morrison title match was ok, it did the job, but it isn’t really what I want to talk about. I hate that Morrison uses that running knee smash as a finisher. It’s not special or memorable. Think about this: can you imagine the main event of Wrestlemania being won with that move? That has to be a bench-mark, and I can’t see it. I knew, ever since Morrison avoided talking about his shot at the Royal Rumble, that it wouldn’t be at the Rumble. It would have been very brave of WWE to book Miz-Morrison at the Rumble, simply because they want an established top talent to draw for the show, so it’s hard to have many qualms about them pulling it (had it been a PPV like Over the Limit, it might have stuck). What it means is that the result is even more predictable than if it were to take place at the Rumble. It could really be (and needs to be) an awesome match next week on RAW, and i’m sure it will be, but Miz will almost 100% definitely retain. It’s not bad that it’s predictable as Miz’s reign has been fascinating so far, but it means Morrison will be back on the back-burner as far as the main event goes for a good few months (with the exception of a possible Elimination Chamber appearance). The stipulation helps Miz in that it takes Morrison out of the ring, which is often his friend and allows for Miz et al to thrive in an out-of-ring brawl. With the help of Riley, Cole, and maybe even the Nexus, Miz will survive to Royal Rumble, surely setting up the slightly disappointing title match of Miz-Orton at the Rumble.

Now that the slated Punk-Bryan feud is off for the foreseeable future, we were offered a taste of an excellent second-best when Tyson Kidd confronted Daniel Bryan backstage, putting him on notice that he was coming for his US title. This was somewhat undermined by his quick loss later to Mark Henry and the easy demise of his ‘bodyguard’ Jackson Andrews, but I don’t think it’s off the radar. A Bryan-Kidd feud could be excellent. Both are superb in-ring technicians and can really put on high-octane matches. No doubt, all things being equal, they would put on 5 Star Matches. The one problem is one that might hound Kidd, and that is that for an explosive, high-flying wrestler such as himself, it is hard to draw heat as those move-sets garner respect instantaneously from crowds. He does have mat-based skills to fall back on, so i’m not sure it will make him a bad heel, but he will certainly be more limited in his heel powers. I hope it goes ahead, at least to Royal Rumble. As for Bryan, he had a packed match with the under-utilised Zack Ryder. Ryder looked good and aggressive in his match with AmDrag, but he was still put away relatively swiftly, for the good of Bryan, who rolls on.

The Lawler-Miz match was an interesting one. Unlike in the past, it was not a competitive match as Miz did exactly what he said he was going to, humiliating Lawler for the most part. Casually but relentlessly beating on the Hall of Famer and enjoying watching him struggle to continue. I liked this as it further added to Miz’s character and in a way which showed some strength. It was right that something else should happen rather than Miz just pin Lawler. One option would have been to just beat on Lawler until the ref just stopped the match, which would have been good in some ways, but would have ruled out developments that came subsequently. Instead, JoMo came out again to distract his former partner, and successfully as Lawler was able to push a distracted Miz out of the ring to the waiting steel steps. Furthermore, Morrison repeated his knee smash to cause a count out for the WWE champion and another Lawler victory. This obviously was about next week’s title match however, and JoMo’s involvement was more good build up for that. Though Jerry’s put on good matches, I think it really is time now that he step aside from the matches with the WWE Champ. Miz needs to grow against contemporaries. Luckily, it seems that Lawler wont be seeing a ring for some time on RAW.

A quick note on the divas match. Short but ok. I was illated to see Gail Kim booked, and when she appeared – though only for a short time – she really was excellent and a house of fire. She really needs a feud or a title shot!

Later on, during a relatively (and deliberately so) uninteresting announcement from the RAW GM, Miz came through the crowd and attacked Lawler brutally at ringside, looking for revenge for all his tribulations through the night. This segment was really excellent. The shooting, which captured Lawler at the announce desk and Miz coming through the crowd while focusing on the GM’s podium really added to the stealth of the attack, and the brutality of the attack was well played out. Lawler’s head seemed to be taking some horrible bumps on the barricade, the announce table, the steel steps, and eventually the concrete floor following a Skull-Crushing Finale. I doubt we’ll see Lawler on RAW next week, and I hope it’s an excuse for him to step aside. As for Miz, it was excellently executed and drew tonnes of heat. Perfect.

Orton-Sheamus was a pretty good match though it wasn’t particularly memorable or spectacular. A very psychological match, which is no bad thing at all. Both looked very strong against each other in a match with lots of back and forth. Sheamus continues to grow, adopting a sort of over-the-top-rope leaping shoulder-block to his arsenal. In a pretty cool end to the match, Sheamus went to this well an ill-advised second time, and leapt straight in to an RKO (a’la (but not quite equal in quality to) Evan Bourne). This was basically a marquee match, and the result doesn’t really seem to have many ramifications.

Finally, to the final segment. Now, when Cene beat Barrett at TLC and Nexus didn’t show up the next night on RAW, I decided that either Nexus had to end right there and then, or if they were to return (which seemed probable) they needed a big new angle to keep them relevant. It seems they have, happily, chosen the second option. At the top of the show, Punk explained his recent actions to Cena, and the genius of it was that almost all (if not all) of what Punk said was absolutely correct. Cena is clearly not a ‘man of his word,’ he didn’t follow the stipulation of the Survivor Series match and essentially lied to the fans in doing so. There are clearly occasions where Cena has been needlessly brutal in the face of taking a heroic moral high ground, and the two examples Punk cited (of Cena against Batista at Over the Limit, AA-ing him through the stage after Batista had already submitted; and at TLC, dragging a beaten man to a place where he could pull of such a calculated stunt with all the chairs) were clear cases of Cena acting with a brutal lack of restraint, and no differently to his antagonists. As a man idolised as a hero, the excuse of ‘he broke my neck’ or ‘ they made my life a living hell’ just don’t fly when he could have simply walked away after victory. Of course Cena is a more interesting and explosive character for these acts, but they nonetheless support Punk’s P.O.V.

The way Punk kept building up what he would do to Cena, I was worried Cena would scupper him. Thankfully, he didn’t. Cena is predictable, and the more calculating Punk was able to predict his actions (a subtle nuance to the story that I liked) so he knew Cena would come out before Punk could call him out, and he knew that if he didn’t respond, Cena would come after him, and so orchestrated Nexus to come out and meet him. Of course, once Nexus came out in a segment involving Punk and said they were ‘under new management,’ it was almost certain that Punk was the new leader, but it didn’t spoil the atmosphere. Nexus gave Cena one last chance to act with humility and, having already beaten them, let bygones be bygones. Now, while I understand why he wouldn’t accept their truce, it still casts a shadow over his character as a hero face. To this, Nexus attacked Cena again in a manner reminiscent to that of their debut, hitting all their finishers and leaving him immobile. Then, on their way from the ring, Punk’s music hit and they parted ways for their new leader, who swiftly hit a GTS on the fallen Cena. Now this is obviously not morally right, but at least it has a point, to give Cena a taste of his own torment as they see it. In line with a moral high-ground, Punk conspicuously showed restraint in not hitting Cena with the chair and instead sat over him, and slowly and quietly, reached for the Nexus arm band that had been left in the ring by Otunga, making his new position concrete before saluting the Nexus members with the raised arm (that I maintain reminded me of the David painting above) in a way which may suggest a slightly new atmosphere for the Nexus.

This is one of those conclusions that leaves more questions than answers. Punk is gold on the mic and as a counterpoint to Cena, and could really be an excellent Nexus leader, but there are issues to be addressed. What will become of Wade Barrett? Will he simply fall in? Surely he can’t return as a face, it just wouldn’t go over, but it would be odd for him to become a secondary member. Though I love Punk, I also worry that having an established name at the head of the group is damaging to the character of the group. One of the most attractive things about the Nexus was that it consisted solely of newcomers – there was a real sense therefore of change and a challenge to an establishment. I think some of that is lost with Punk as the leader. What will Nexus’s focus be? Punk’s chat to Sheamus backstage made it seem like Nexus would no longer act like an infection and are now only interested in Cena. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s a difficult idea to sell, though it is an interesting one. This would also (probably!) sweep aside their hugely intriguing ‘bigger plans’ which could have dealt with their attacks on the Undertaker – that is a shame. On that issue, it’s a matter of waiting, but even if they have to be forgotten, there is huge potential for a great and interesting storyline. Now that Punk is involved, there is scope for other established wrestlers to bolster the Nexus ranks in an attempt to aid the ostensible motive of checking Cena for his years of recklessness: there’s no reason why Darren Young can’t return, but otherwise, people like R-Truth could also join the anti-Cena camp. Though i’ve said it many times in the past, and possibly driven by wishful thinking, if they are targeting a forced ‘change’ on Cena, this time surely they will succeed. After all, what sense would it make to continue to group, just to repeat what they have already done (i.e. be ultimately bested by Cena) – that’s right, once again, I am predicting (and begging for) a Cena heel turn! There is scope for this, and as I say, I believe it makes sense, but at this early stage, a lot remains to be unfolded. I’d also like to add that I hope they still come out to the Nexus music, instead of Punk’s. As for Punk, i’d prefer him to wear a Nexus shirt, but that’s not quite as important. What is important, ultimately, is that the Nexus have been made interesting and relevant again, and have one of the greatest current personalities in all of wrestling at their forefront.

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