RAW Recall (10/01/2011): Trials by Fire

Miz leaves the ring 'like a scolded dog', unwilling to take on Orton

This week’s RAW was very segment heavy, maybe too much so. Indeed, I think there were only two really serious matches throughout the show, which isn’t really enough. Nonetheless, it was definitely a compelling show as ‘The New Nexus’ emerged for the first time as a definable unit and the dynamic between Miz and Orton continued to mature.

The first appearance of ‘The New Nexus’ was very similar to that of the older incarnation. Before a scheduled tag team titles bout, they came out and cemented their will, saying the match was now postponed. Punk’s promo was obviously very good, as you would expect, and he commenced characterising the Nexus along his own lines. Punk has always, as a heel at least, toyed with parallels (and parody) of Christ and organised religion, and this began in earnest with his new followers, saying that they could all reach a promised land (stardom and success in WWE) if they, including himself, were willing first to make sacrifices. The first one of which was a cancerous attack from the group to one of their own, Michael McGillicutty. And so, reluctantly at first, Nexus went about this familiar sight, hitting each of their finishers on McGillicutty. This seemed to provide a disturbing bodily bonding among the members, who carried the injured McGillicutty from the ring on their shoulders, as if to a pyre. Excellent viewing.

Husky Harris’s initiation was to receive three lashes from the remaining Nexus members, including Punk zealously strapping Harris nine times. This was an even more archaic ordeal, and the stunned silence in the scene and among the crowd spoke to the success of the scene as it carried a real atmosphere of genuine sacrifice.

At some point after this, we had a strange segment where Cole read an email from the Anonymous GM which praised Cole to the sky. Surely this makes it sure that the GM will be a heel and/or actually Cole? It’s pretty interesting, and is just waiting to be utilised in a storyline now it’s been in place for so long. I hope they do actually reveal the GM’s identity sometime.

David Otunga was next sent in to the archetypal lion’s den, to provoke the Big Show and take the punishment he would innevitable receive. Otunga appears to have changed from self-serving egoist under Wade Barrett to perhaps the most unquestioning of the Nexus disciples. Facing an angry Big Show, Otunga held out his arms and closed his eyes to receive the beating. The real success of these seacrifices, and especially this one for the sheer passiveness of Otunga is that it has managed to make an attack not shocking in it’s brutality, shocking, in an arena where violence is commonplace. This is because there is an innate lack of comfort with seeing a passive man get beaten up, especially when it comes from a supposed ‘hero’.

The first match of real note on the show was the re-booking of Sheamus against John Morrison. Though we must have seen these two square up a good dozen times or so now, they, for whatever, reason, have excellent chemistry meaning the booking hasn’t yet gotten stale. This match featured simply excellent storytelling with Sheamus wearing Morrison down while Morrison stayed in the game, showing a lot of ‘heart’. This feud has been excellent for both, helping Sheamus become a more rounded in-ring performer, and helping Morrison get over as a legitimate, tough, main event player. Apart from the solid technicality of the match, there were other eye-catching moments, firstly, Morrison attempting a Starship Pain, only to be shoved from the turnbuckle to the floor. This started an attack on Morrison’s arm, on which he landed awkwardly. That wasn’t all though. Sheamus also worked on Morrison’s abdomen. It’s not that often where you see an aggressor work on more than one area of the anatomy. The abdomen attack really accelerated when Sheamus hit a front suplex to Morrison on the ring stairs. At this point, Morrison was really debilitated, and Sheamus was setting up for his Brogue Kick. Now what happened next was remarkable (though i’m not sure it was intentional). At this point, you expect Morrison to turn around and either take or avoid a Brogue Kick. However, Morrison just, sort of, fell over. As I say, i’m not sure it was intentional, but if it was, what a powerful way of getting over someone’s vulnerability, especially in this industry where competitors can generally stand until they are actually beaten. Sheamus took this in his stride, and approached Morrison for more offense, before Morrison grabbed ‘The Celtic Warrior’s’ arm, dropping to the floor and snapping it against the top rope, leaving Sheamus vulnerable for his running knee smash, which again took Sheamus out for a three-count. Another excellent match between these two. I wonder what they’ll do now though. I feel they’ve exhausted the feud in storyline terms, so it’s important that both move on to new storylines and keep up the good ring-work.

Next up was the initiation ordeal for Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. CM Punk asked them to look each other in the eye and hit each other with kendo sticks until he told them to stop. This was another psychologically interesting one, but Gabriel and Slater refused to take part, even after Punk offered to let them attack him. It seems their problem was with the clear needlessness and irrationality of the act, which the announcers were talking about throughout. Indeed, given Punk’s clear parallels with Christ, even down to the stigmata, I think it was a conscious parallel of the irrationality of unquestioning followers of big institutions, such as organised religions, but not restricted to that. That is to be applauded not only for the sentiment, but for the creativity and depth of the storytelling. It seems, then, that Slater and Gabriel are out of Nexus (though it probably wasn’t clear enough), and Punk didn’t even seem that annoyed. If that is true, they could possibly get over as faces more than Barrett could, and so could possibly stay on RAW. Unfortunately, for Gabriel (though less so for Slater), he is/was infinitely better as a heel, and if he has to change, it’ll probably be to his determent. The other option is they follow Barrett to Smackdown, having realised that he was a less zealous leader. The Old Nexus, so to speak, could definately be a fresh entity on Smackdown, and would fulfil my dreams of Nexus permeating all of WWE. This of course is something Punk suggested in his opening promo, but perhaps it’s too much to hope that, if there are two organisations, they will be coordinated. As for the New Nexus, they need new members sharpish. There are lots of potentials: We know Awesome Kong is being considered, but aside from her, David Hart Smith hasn’t been seen on TV in a while, and certainly works better as a heel, similarly, Tyson Kidd could replace Gabriel as a disturbing high-flyer; and seen as this is the time of year where the brand borders become a bit more fluid (e.g. Wade Barrett to Smackdown); from Smackdown, Tyler Reks could potentially make a good member; and also, from FCW, Seth Rollins (Tyler Black) could get his break this way, the same maybe for Wes Brisco.

Next up was an incredibly moving and ‘showstopping’ moment as, in a relative surprise, Shawn Michaels was revealed as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the first inductee in to this years Hall. Not only that, but he made an appearance! His music got a HUGE pop, and deservedly so. He looked great and very thankful to be there. Before he could say anything, however, Alberto Del Rio, who had managed to beat R-Truth again earlier in the night (including an ear-aching, heat-gaining Mariachi performance from Rodrigo Rodriguez), came out to some of the worst heat i’ve ever heard to make a name for himself against HBK. He cut a textbook promo to Shawn about him being washed up, and him being the future (a future hall of famer indeed) before Shawn delivered one more Sweet Chin Music to shut him up and make the crowd happy, before shining his old boot and leaving the ring to near-hysterical reactions from the crowd. J.R. pointed this out on his blog (I think): Shawn drew all this emotion and appreciation, without having to even say a word. Now that is a performer! The Hall of Fame is no less than the Showstopper deserves.

In a complete switch of mood, it was now Punk’s turn to undergo his initiation ordeal. He ‘stole’ the segment from John Cena, who was meant to address the crowd, instead appearing at the dizzying height of the top of the tron. A height that is of course, just another element of worship. Now, without seeing this segment, it may be hard to really comprehend the seriousness and gravitas of this promo, and for that reason, I will post a video of it below. The announcers really helped sell the danger here, as Punk was apparently about to leap from the top of the tron, which was basically up in the rafters of the arena. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think he was actually just going to jump to his death, but I thought he might dive in to a bunch of cardboard boxes or something like that (a’la Shane McMahon at Summerslam 2000), or jump off the back of the tron with a harness. Even knowing this, it would have been a spectacular and shocking move. The whole crowd bought it anyway, as did, i’m sure, most of the audience, and there was a real sense of panic among his baiting of the crowd. In the end, however, Punk revealed that he was never considering such a ridiculous act,  that, as leader, he doesn’t have to prove anything, and all that he did prove was how gullible the crowd can be. Indeed, this fitted in nicely with the whole theme of people acting irrationally in the face of charismatic/hope-giving/apocalyptic rhetoric.

(I’ll try to get a more specific video, but for now, the segment in question begins at 2.00 in this video).

Cena soon confronted Punk in full stride, by way of live satellite, saying that given that he had promised to take out every member of Nexus, Punk still needs to be ‘dealt’ with. Cena really cut through this atmosphere making him seem even more heroic, confronting this powerful new entity. He even got so heated that he said the slightly un-PG ‘i’m gonna whoop your ass’. Cena stated on twitter that he was fined for his outburst, but that makes me think that it was actually done on purpose. Why would Cena, the consummate company man, reveal that on twitter other then as a way of covering his own (and WWE’s) ‘ass’ for slipping that bit of impassioned speech in there. Well, maybe anyway. It’s not like ‘ass’ is that bad! Next week we’ll see Punk take on Cena, and I am fascinated to see what happens. I would like to see (and I think there’s a chance of it happening)  the debut of a new member to help Punk.

Our main event saw Jerry Lawler in the main event again, tagging with Randy Orton to take on The Miz and Alex Riley. This match was all about The Miz trying to escape the match with a victory. Miz had even said earlier in the night that he was worried about his WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble because of how intent and demonic Orton is. During the match, Miz wanted no part of the action unless he was on top or was needed, tagging in when the opponent was beat-down. Of course, both Orton and Lawler took it to A-Ri, so Miz had to get momentum by manipulating the match. He did all this with the old-fashioned ref distraction. As Lawler was crawling to Orton for the tag, Miz got in the ring, meaning that the ref missed the tag to Orton, and while Orton was remonstrating, Miz dragged Riley to their corner and tagged him before knocking Orton from the apron. This was really good storytelling for a resourceful heel champion, but before he could hit a Skull-Crushing Finale on King, Orton recovered and hit an RKO on Miz. This left Riley in the ring with Orton, who received his own RKO before Orton tagged in Lawler to finish the match. In a move that i’ve never seen before, Orton (poetic licence being played with Orton’s obligation to vacate the ring) stood in front of Miz, daring him to save Riley and the match as Lawler dropped a fist on his apprentice from the second rope and pinned Riley. This was brilliantly played off by both men, as Orton glared glassy-eyed at Miz and Miz, intimidated and confronted by the challenge to his reign, backed down and left, hugging the title close to him. A good way for this feud to get the final word in on a show packed with emotion. Over the past two weeks, Miz’s contrasting performances have really set him perfectly as a man who is skilled enough to be champion, without necessarily being better than everyone else. He knows he could be beat on any given night, just as easily as he could win, and so he exercises excellent self-preservation. King is really stepping up in the ring, but i’m still not sure he should be appearing so regularly. I think it’s time for an up-and-coming face to take his place, the problem being, both blue-chip candidates, Daniel Bryan and Evan Bourne, are not suitable at the moment for varying reasons.

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