This RAW was much more satisfying than last week’s episode, and i’m sure gained the WWE more buys too, and the reason – Punk was allowed again to thrive in the spotlight without Cena sticking his oar in.
I liked Del Rio’s opening promo. He didn’t offer much newcin terms of storyline, but his easy-to-hate charisma while detailing his recent high-profile victories went a long way to repairing his credibility as a strong champion following Cena’s recent burials of him. One problem, however, was his necklace. It doesn’t fit his aristocratic character very well at all and looked cheap in comparison to his lavish entrance. It’s a small thing, but the small things matter! It has garnered a lot of criticism, so hopefully we’ve seen the last of it. As soon as Bret Hart and Cena came out though, I lost interest. Seriously, does Bret have to show every time WWE is in Canada? His appearance had no impact on their feud, and booking him in a match only hurt it as we were treated to a match that immediately lacked credibility with Bret and Ricardo Rodriguez (kayfabe a non-worker) involved. Ricardo is a worker though, and his abilities really shone through to me this week. Though he was working a comic style, he showed great technique and a real attention to detail when it came to realistic selling. Of course the faces won, which I have little problem with because a challenger should seem strong and, this week, it wasn’t at Del Rio’s expense. Other than the fact that I believe a little more that these two don’t like each other, this didn’t hype the match that much for me. Just thank God it wasn’t the main event! I would have preferred some classic tune up matches: Cena against McIntyre (anyone surprised I suggested that!) and Del Rio against Sin Cara, but there ya go!
The saga of Vickie Guerrero’s management stable continued next as her two clients, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger tagged to take on John Morrison and Alex Riley. It showed a bit of classic ‘strange bedfellows’ booking as Ziggler and Swagger – otherwise strong – let their personal issues hamper them with refusals to tag and forced tags from either man. In a position of strength, Swagger had the ankle lock on Riley, which was reversed out of and sent Swagger in to Ziggler on the apron. Riley followed up with his neckbreaker finisher and pinned Swagger with a now conscious Ziggler simply looking on. This led to the inevitable arguments between Swagger, Ziggler and Vickie, continuing the storyline. Later on though, Vickie was booked in a match with Kelly Kelly. This was obviously a bit of a mess, and ended again with the two men arguing over how to service Vickie, distracting her and allowing Kelly to use a schoolgirl for the pinfall. Now, that was some pretty savage booking in itself. Vickie Guerrero is not a wrestler in real life of kayfabe, so why does the Divas Champion have to roll her up for the victory. That loses her credibility and by association, loses Beth Phoenix some credibility because Kelly is supposed to be a challenge to her. Not only that, but lost in the shuffle, an afterthought, was the #1 Contender, Beth Phoenix. Though she did appear briefly to chase off Kelly and look kinda strong, I would have preferred to have seen Beth squash someone with Kelly looking on because that would have made for better build, while sparing us this extra and un-needed bit of development from Swagger/Ziggler. I think, for them, it’s time they actually join forces or feud, and I like the idea of a management stable, so I hope they join forces.
Miz and R-Truth cut a great promo together that was part comedy, part serious. As good as it was though, it left me troubled. As i’ve been saying for some time now, I worry that Miz teaming with Truth and pursuing more comedy is bad for his credibility as a top guy, though we’ll see how ‘credible’ their performance at Night of Champions is. Nice build for the PPV match was forthcoming as it was a one-on-one match between Miz and Kofi Kingston. These two had pretty good chemistry, and Miz’s stylish ground and pound complimented Kofi’s high flying style nicely. It was a short match but dramatic as both guys had momentum at different points and gained near falls. The end came though when Miz hit a devestating hangman neckbreaker before a Skull Crushing Finalé for the win. No problem with that at all. Kofi didn’t go down easily and Miz, who has the most to lose from this series, got the pinfall.
Jerry Lawler continued his feud with Otunga and McGillicutty by taking them on with his tag team partner, Sheamus. Beforehand, Otunga and McGillicutty got in to a verbal exchange with The King. Unfortunately, the two of them struggled to get over as charismatic, which, in the case of Otunga is something of a surprise given that he’s a good talker. They’re a good wrestling tag team, but maybe the problem is that they don’t have much verbal chemistry, and if that’s the case, then maybe they should be split. Maybe to that end, we had something of a squash with minimal offense from the heels. I don’t really see who that helps unless Otunga and McGillicutty will eventually snap and so something really memorable.
Given how much I liked Orton-Rhodes from Smackdown, I was excited to see Rhodes given that spotlight on RAW. I must admit that the start of this match didn’t impress me that much; it just didn’t seem to get going really. It was only when Mark Henry showed up that it got really interesting, both in and out of the ring. I loved the theatrical choreography of Henry’s involvement. He came out and was chased away by Orton and a chair, but when he returned he had a chair of his own and just sat there, an unstable but quietly watchful behemoth almost casting a shadow over the match. I would like to congratulate the announcers at this point, because from here on out, their calls were great. Earlier in the night, Cole had been trying to goad J.R. (to no avail), but in this match they put over the situation perfectly, with King constantly questioning whether Orton can hit an RKO and other moves on Henry, and J.R. making Rhodes seem like a credible threat to Orton (not least when Orton was caught between Henry with a chair and Rhodes and he said “Orton’s dealing with the Intercontinental Champion … Orton between a rock and a hard spot,” which also put over the Intercontinental Championship. Fantastic stuff.At this point, the action in the ring became more exciting too as Rhodes managed a more sustained period of offense beginning with a Beautiful Disaster from the apron. Just as Orton was starting to fight back, Henry dragged his chair with him to ringside and continued to watch Orton intently. This distraction helped Rhodes fight off Orton’s most powerful offense, and his cause was only helped when The World’s Strongest Man approached the ring, climbed the stairs and stomped on the stairs, again distracting Orton. This allowed Rhodes to take off his mask and assault Orton with it before hitting a Cross-Rhodes to pin the World Heavyweight Champion! Indeed, it was a brilliantly shocking moment, not only because of Rhodes going over the world champion following a crescendo of action, but because Rhodes took his mask off. Perhaps this could be the start of Rhodes wrestling without the mask going forward, which is something i’d support if he can keep his current character as perhaps the mask is a bit of attire holding him back from seeming truly credible. Afterwards, Henry attacked Orton with a chair and again we saw him stand over a wounded Orton. So more great build for this match as Orton is made to look beatable without looking weak and Henry seems almost unstoppable going in to the PPV. Jeopardy for the babyface in this case will equal buys.
Our final segment was the big face-off between CM Punk and HHH, and it started off well with Punk characteristically breaking the fourth wall and telling us that ‘it’s time for the big face-off’. Not only that, but he very quickly became the pure and clear agitator again. He always has been, but he has on occasion gotten side-tracked by emptier insults. Now, for the first time, he clarified the change he wants: HHH gone as COO (yes by making the stip last week, he hinted at it, but it wasn’t in the context of change specifically). Punk’s early talk about how he wanted to change the culture of the ‘land of the giants’ where it is believed that people like him don’t belong in the ring with people like HHH’. HHH’s response to this was initially good when he said that his opinion didn’t count, and that Punk had had opportunities, but there were a few minutes thereafter when Triple H kept repeating the same sentiments about having to win over the audience and about Punk having had chances to flourish, while Punk was trying to make an eloquent point about the culture of wrestling stars. This made the middle few minutes a bit dry, but when they got back on track and Punk said ‘this is Phil Brookes talking to Paul Levesque’, the promo got really interesting. In a flashback to the original ‘shoot heard round the world’, Punk’s mic was cut off, which brings back the notion of a paranoid, totalitarian WWE management that wants to silence ‘the Voice of the Voiceless’. Again with Punk, the mic (or ‘pipebomb’) was central to his performance. When showing how he was representing the fans in a way HHH does only nominally, Punk elaborately pointed the mic at and around the audience, something which is not needed as they can be heard anyway, but that metaphorically shows him giving them a voice. And so when several of Punk’s mics were cut out, it was a symbol of management not allowing either Punk or the fans a voice. Realising this, Punk, not trusting HHH after three mics had been cut out, resorted to violence and hit HHH over the head with his microphone. In Punk’s hands, the mic is a weapon of many forms. This added a new dimesion to this storyline; the question of who cut the mics on Punk and so is presumably (at least in part) behind the status quo pursued by the WWE. Another big question is whether HHH is involved. He seemed surprised by what happened, as he did at Summerslam, but is that all an act? Whatever the case, even more tension was wedged in to this feud, making their match at Night of Champions must see and again showing that SuperCena booking, as we’ve had the past few weeks, and has bored and frustrated me, simply isn’t as compelling as CM Punk.