Seen as i’ve been been on hiatus for a month, I thought i’d give some quick thoughts about the product over the month until now. I liked the build going in to Summerslam, and thought that was, on the whole, a good PPV. Undoubtedly the ending felt like a bit of an anticlimax, but the main event matches were great. I also think it’s important to remember that Punk doesn’t need the title to spearhead this storyline – indeed, him being the WWE Champion while being the company’s main antagonist would undermine his position as insurgent somewhat. I was also very impressed by the pacing of the story post-Summerslam. Punk had to be rushed back, and that’s fine because he was needed for the second biggest PPV of the year, but it left the unfortunate ‘hotshot’ feel that many have described. Luckily, without quite the same pressure as a looming Summerslam, the Punk-Nash-HHH story has been developing steadily and, for the most part, sensically. I also don’t mind Cena moving on to face Del Rio for the title – in theory that should create two huge feuds. The problem is, their feud has been an absolute cancer on the product! Cena’s ‘issue’ with Del Rio is not in the least bit compelling to me. He came out furious at Del Rio for cashing in on Punk? Really? Not only is it unheroic to whine in the way he has being, but it pales in comparison to the continued work of Punk, and is starting to work to it’s determent. The company’s top face is acting without justification, and not in an interesting way that may signal a heel turn (not yet at least), but in a way which makes the ‘heat’ in their feud seem less believable. Since Cena became #1 contender, he has been the main story again. This is the soul-crushing status quo Punk talks of; whatever Cena does, whether he deserves to be or not, he is the main focus of the show. In fact, after losing a #1 contendership match to Cena two weeks ago (which I have no problem with), Punk was almost literally swept out of the ring to make way for a run-of-the-mill beat down by Del Rio on Cena. With the exception possibly of last week, Cena has been wedged in to the main focus of the show, eventhough their feud is based upon almost no legitimate issue. There have been some bad RAW ratings recently, and I attribute it totally to people being put off by that crushing status quo that is supposedly a ‘cliffhanger’. I would be amazed if anyone is more interested in Cena-Del Rio that Punk’s saga, and this week’s RAW will only make that worse.
The start of the show was good. They didn’t repeat HHH’s music opening the show and instead gave Punk the mic, which is never a bad thing, and again, he spoke in his relatable, conversational style and told everyone the truth – that he’s different, and he’s going to fight against people who want to stem his growth because he is different. Now I like Nash being involved because of the rich possibilities and history of The Kliq, but Nash on the mic has been a disappointment, so him being fired, eventhough it almost certainly wont mean the end of him, is a good thing for now. Indeed, when Nash admitted to sending the text himself, it seemed like an anti-climax, but i’m willing to accept it, as long as one of the two following things happen: Nash explains exactly what his beef with Punk was when he initially attacked, or if it turns out Nash did it, but at the behest of someone else (Steph, Lauranitis) to cover them. I think we’ll see him next at Night of Champions. Following Punk’s comical Nelson-from-The Simpsons style mocking (and wishing him the best in his future endeavors, we saw a very interesting sight; Johnny Ace leaving the arena with Nash. Tongues should wag and imaginations should race following that one. A nice tit-bit which adds to the storyline and initiates interest.
AirBoom beating Khali and Mahal was expected, but a good thing. Great to see strong champs, and good to see them ‘come down the aisle’ together, like a team. If it was me, I would just fire Khali now. Mahal has potential, but no where near reaching it now with this under-developed story. Kofi and Evan together make a great, exciting tag team. Shame the Smackdown talent that come to RAW (bar Randy Orton) are there to get buried and put the RAW guys over.
Thought the divas work this week was a huge success. When I saw that it was Eve vs Beth for the #1 contendership, I called on twitter (@RTVWOW btw) that if Eve won, she’d turn on Kelly, and that is Beth won, it would be generally good for the divas division, so I was happy either way. Now the match was a little sloppy in places, but entertaining. The real focus was on commentary, but for once, for the right reasons. Watching the match from the booth were Kelly and Natalya, who aired their respective positions, and therefore, the reason for the violence, as it was happening. I think everyone loved Nattie’s analogy about the model divas being candy that rot viewers teeth (or at least the divas division) while she and Beth are vegetables who know what’s good for the division and the viewers. It works especially well seen as I assume both sides would agree with the analogy of candy vs vegetables. Good to see Beth go over with relative dominance before Nattie took Kelly out too. Seems we’re about to eat our vegetables, and I can’t wait!
DREW McINTYRE WAS ON RAW! Shame it was just a short backstage segment, but Drew deserves to be on TV dammit. He has everything! It seemed popular on twitter too, as he was trending almost instantly. I just hope this is the start of him getting a chance on RAW. He doesn’t need a reboot – he’s ready now!
I liked R-truth’s segment, and I like how he can go from comedy to deadly serious in a split second, psychotic style, and I must admit that Miz and Truth’s comedy section together was funny, but for weeks I’ve been publicly worrying about this pairing. It’s good for Truth, but is it for Miz. He main-evented WrestleMania and now he’s in skits in the tag team division. Yup, the somewhat expected happened, and ‘The Awesome Truth’ will be challenging Air Boom for the titles at Night of Champions. I like the match, but i’m worried that Miz’s (and to an extent Truth’s) profile necessitates them going over and taking the titles. I hope this doesn’t happen. I would like to see Air Boom gain momentum with some big PPV defences until the point when the Kings of Wrestling debut to take the titles. We’ll have to wait and see, but i’m happy that, for the first time in a long time, we have a high profile tag championship match on a card!
Truth’s match with Punk was pretty good, but a step down from Punk’s latest matches. This is a theme for Truth, who hasn’t been able to really bring the house down when given the chance. A note on the commentary: again, Cole was distracting tool. You have one of the company’s top stars in the ring with an up-and-comer, and Cole was ruining it with his bickering. When the divas did it, it was to get talent over, when Cole does it, it buries them as insignificant! Anyway, I liked how Truth worked Punk’s left leg after Miz chop-blocked it, which not only showed the tag team chemistry between the two, but made Truth look strong. Indeed, Truth had the better for Punk for quite some time, but because Punk is such a natural seller, he perhaps looked a little too weak during the match. Saying that, I think ultimately, all that was forgotten once Punk managed to win authoritatively by the end, avoiding a Truth pounce in the wake of Miz being ejected and delivering a GTS with ease for the win. Instantly, HHH’s music hit, in a move which seemed heel-like in it’s surprise factor. He told Punk he wanted the match to be no-DQ because he wanted to hurt Punk. Now I like that, but have a peeve: It’s the same as No Holds Barred (and many other stips to be honest), so why not call it that – it just sounds more menacing. Anyway, Punk agreed, but as HHH was leaving, Punk, in characteristic fashion, undermined the expected, conditioned progression of events by telling HHH he has a stip of his own, that if he beats the COO, HHH has to resign from the permission; something the empassioned COO agreed to. Now, this will be discussed more in the Night of Champions preview, but the general consensus now is that this necessitates a HHH win and heel turn, and I agree with that. The question then, or the selling point, becomes who will help HHH win? Some others calling this another hotshot as it’s definately a WrestleMania calibre match and stip, but my opinion on that is that we should wait and see … Very interesting though!
We then saw another backstage segment with underutilised talent – this time Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks, who were telling of how they would be making a big impact together going forward. Now i’ve been critical of Reks in the past, but repackaged, he seems a natural fit for Hawkins and they could make for a good tag team. Hawkins especially deserves a shot. I like the side-focus on such talents and indeed, there was a palpable sense of such ‘forgotten’ guys taking the opportunity to get their voices heard. Perhaps we could see some edge storylines related to this in the future. I hope so, especially seen as its a nice fit for a ‘Reality Era’.
Next up was Jerry Lawler and Zack Ryder against Otunga and McGillicutty preceded by an excellent video package about Ryder and Z True Long Island Story which showed finally what had been hinted at recently, that Ryder has been noticed and is getting a chance. Though he’s appeared on RAW and Smackdown a lot recently, this package seemed to fill a lot of people (at least on twitter) with hope regarding his future. I like this feud between Lawler and the former champs because it would be hard for them to stay relevant in the wake of losing the titles otherwise, and compels them to become interesting in the face of their detractors. The match was nothing much; the nostalgia of King and the excitement of Ryder meant they went over rightfully. My worry was that Lawler would get the pin and bury the tag team, but seen as it was Ryder, all is fine. I’m sure Otunga/McGillicutty will continue their feud with King in the wake of this, which can only be good for them.
The one thing that really bemused me was Orton vs Slater. This match helped nobody and nothing. A RAW guy couldn’t job to Orton, so they got a Smackdown dunce to? What a waste of time. Guys like McIntyre and Hawkins have to claw to get a backstage seg and this meaningless match goes on instead? If Henry would have shown, it would have at least helped the Smackdown brand and garner interest for their main event feud, but no, just Orton looking strong, and therefore failing to sell any injuries from Henry’s beat-down last week. If anything, this match was just detrimental to everyone. Horrible.
Not a bad promo from Cena to start the main event seg, talking about Del Rio always ducking him. For the first time, the antagonism between the two made some sort of sense, which is a good thing, and I liked the spot where Cena predicted what Del Rio would do, exposing him for what he is, a classic slimy heel. Throughout the night, Del Rio was trying to recruit people to take out Cena, and, somewhat unbelievably, they tried to do it for him. Christian, Barrett, Ziggler and Jack Swagger, who started beating down the #1 contender. Luckily for Cene, his more morally discerning friends Sheamus, Alex Riley, and John Morrison (with a slightly ridiculous bit of parkour in tow) came to his aid. At this point, out came Teddy Long to make it an official elimination tag match. Now, why, if it couldn’t be HHH, did Teddy come out!? What exactly does the RAW GM do now? I hope (but not optimistically) that his/her absence has some kind of storyline reason, because otherwise, not using it (while keeping the podium there) is just plain ridiculous! Anyway, the match got underway, and in-the-dog-house John Morrison was first to be eliminated by Jack Swagger. Indeed, Swagger was booked very strongly in this match; stronger than I would have expected as he went on to eliminate Alex Riley too! In both cases Swagger capitalised on Ziggler’s offense to gain the decision, so it’s also interesting nuggets for their continuing storyline. Perhaps we’re about to see a Swagger resurgence as part of Vickie Guerrero’s stable? Either Ziggler turns face or the tag together as Vickie’s heels. I’d prefer the latter. Later during the match, Christian slapped Sheamus in the face in his inimitable manipulating style, leading to a chase around ringside and through the crowd leading to a double count-out and a rather mouth-watering feud between the two on Smackdown you have to think! This was a clever way of getting Sheamus out of the picture while maintaining his strength too as the ending saw Swagger and Ziggler go two on one against Cena. Great, some jeopardy for Cena! Well, not quite. What i’d have liked to see is the two have basically the better of Cena with Cena periodically fighting back but failing to get an advantage, and the two heels eventually going over with the help of Del Rio interference before a beat-down to close the show a bit more shockingly. While Del Rio is champ and has been booked strongly for a heel, Cena is the top guy in the company, and, objectively-speaking, the favourite in the championship match, so why not make Del Rio seem to have an upper hand of sorts against Cena, even if it is through callous means while making these two up-and-coming heels look strong and credible? Well, that’s not how WWE feels apparently. I knew it too. While the heels looked ok, they eventually just got beat by one man. Admittedly that man is Cena, but still, he was against two! Not enough that Cena beat two future prospects with relative ease towards the end, but when Del Rio rushed the ring to try and get some of Cena, only for Cena to fight him off with ease before posing with the usual smile on his face. That sums this ending up: ‘usual’. After watching that, why do I want to watch next week? If my scenario happened, Cena wants revenge, and we want to see that, but instead, we’re asked to participate in the mindless status quo.At least I suspect Del Rio will retain at Night of Champions, so that might mitigate all this somewhat, but you can’t forgive unexciting, predictable TV being the main event when CM Punk is so watchable.
Regular readers will know I often defend Cena. He is passionate and hugely underrated as a wrestler, but recently he’s been in full SuperCena mode, and its BORING! Yet again it’s the same story with Cena. Instead of him being in jeopardy, instead of having to doubt your hero, the audience expects him to win. This would be fine if it wasn’t the only emotion connected with the man, but unfortunately, it is. Under these circumstances, it is just difficult to make credible new stars because, especially if they are heels they will all, inevitably, fall to Cena. This is the crushing status quo Punk talks of, and because of this week’s booking, I can see no other alternative than the same happening again next week. Nash and Laurinatis in cohoots is interesting, Punk and HHH is interesting, especially with this new stip, so why not have that more prominent in the show and make it seem like CM Punk: different.