One of the most pervasive themes in WWE of late has been chaos, and the chaos surrounding COO Triple H specifically, and this was certainly the mood on RAW last night. It started, as if often has recently, with Trips himself coming out to address the Universe. He was out to explain why he fired Miz and Truth last week. Last week, I speculated that, because of his apparent change of mind, any bombshell to be revealed would be about why his mind changed so abruptly. That, for the moment, seems like it isn’t the case as Trips brushed it off by saying that he only stalled the firings to keep them main event players around for another main event. I don’t think this was a sign of nonsense though. I think it was a move to show HHH’s reckless and even hypocritical management style. Here are some tweets from The Miz himself that are not only based on truth, but follow this vein of storytelling:
“Triple H fires us for “savagely attacking a WWE official” I wonder if Triple H ever put his hands on a WWE Official. Let’s see../Triple H vs Stone Cold No Mercy 1999 Triple H pushes ref.
#hypocrite Triple H vs Y2J April 2000 Triple H beats up n pedigrees ref #hypocrite/And my favorite Triple H vs Kevin Nash Judgement Day 2003 Triple H “Savagely” hits ref with a SLEDGEHAMMER. Just to name a few. #hypocrite.”
This shows a sort of storytelling that engages more with the Reality Era; the ‘reality’ here being a cogent memory of storyline history, but presented as more true than historical storylines usually are. It shows the characteristic malleability of the burgeoning Reality Era, which spans from the storyline reality of Miz to the shoot reality of CM Punk. Meanwhile, the chaos continued as superstars were not afraid to confront HHH and air their grievances, which is an interesting, and makes complete sense in the crazy world of WWE. Not only that, but rising talents like Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes interacting with HHH and to a lesser extent, Christian, can only be good for him. It’s not something that can or should be done every week, but it fit the atmosphere of last night perfectly. HHH’s reaction to this was brilliant too, making seemingly arbitrary, rushed decisions, which not only fed in to the idea of him being a bad leader, but led to some great and unusual booking, foremost of which was the match following immediately after, the 10-man battle royal for the Intercontinental Championship.
I was so pleased to see Drew McIntyre in the match (apparently with a Rangers crest emblazoned on his trunks), because he deserves it. Seriously, every time I see him, i’m more and more impressed. I think not only that he can get over, but that he, in a way, already is over. After all, how many superstars would trend so high and so long after being eliminated first for a battle royal? Hopefully what i’m about to point out suggests that WWE recognise this (though it may just be wishful thinking). Around a year ago, McIntyre was Tag Champion with Cody Rhodes, and on RAW, the two were seemingly conspiring before the match started. At the very least this is good continuity, but perhaps it suggests a way back to the limelight for McIntyre. Indeed, as the match started, it seemed that the two had agreed on Cody rolling out of the ring, and, perhaps as a reaction, the other eight guys all piled on McIntyre and dumped him out. At the time I was disappointed (and I still am), but it again suggests a link as the other competitors were booked to see McIntyre as some sort of confidant to Rhodes and so threat to them. Anyway, enough hopeful speculation! The match itself was really fun and really well-booked, with interesting match-ups and cool eliminations. Sin Cara being scuppered by his imposter, Big Zeke backdropping Bryan and Morrison over the ropes and to either side of the ringsteps. The end of the match saw Rhodes (who had been wily in vacating the ring early on) retain his title against the huge star of Sheamus, though with the help of The Great White’s new nemesis, and with the tool of his mask. Despite this, Rhodes again looked fantastic, not only because he beat Sheamus, but because he defied the ‘punishment’ of HHH.
After a lot of frustration, Beth Phoenix finally got a win over Divas Champ Kelly Kelly. Hopefully this is the sign of a landmark part of this storyline. Not only that, but Natalya INVENTED a new submission move, and it was awesome; some sort of modified surfboard which she’s calling the Pin Up Strong. That just goes to show how great she is. That is all.
That opening shot with Mark Henry’s back enveloping the camera shot, with Cole verbalising our awe, was amazing and just the perfect way to shoot Henry as this monster heel. I was so pleased he just beat up Khali (with another amazing show of strength in World’s Strongest Slamming Khali) instead of having an awkward match with the Punjabi Pensioner. He is doing the best work of his life now, and is always ‘must-see’, not that you can help it!
John Cena continues to be something of a interest void to me. He came out to promo under the Cell, which is a good idea in itself, but Cena didn’t sell much to me. I liked him referring to the controversy surrounding the title, but the rest, I wasn’t too keen on. For one thing, while he was trying to ‘sell the hell’, he was smiling a lot, which to me is completely the wrong demenour to have underneath that structure. His match with Christian was pretty good, as it allowed him to get more ring time with a top top talent and position himself around that stature. What was really good about this match though, was CM Punk on commentary. Again, he was just brilliant on the mic – and so much easier to listen to than Cena – talking up the match while being hugely entertaining, be it just be wearing his sports coat, by calling Del Rio out on commentating while ‘half naked’, or by renewing his ‘you spilled my diet soda’ line. Excellent. After Cena did this by throwing Del Rio in to the announce booth, Del Rio blind-sided Punk before attacking Cena to get a small but definite upper-hand feel. This would only be built on later.
Next up was Zack Ryder’s United States Championship Match against Dolph Ziggler w/ Vickie Guerrero … and Jack Swagger! Yes indeed, it seems Vickie’s management stable may have taken a step towards fruition, and I couldn’t be happier. Guerrero brings a shine to whoever she’s associated with; she’s already been a great help to Ziggler, who, to me, is ready for the main event, and will hopefully do the same for Swagger. As for the match, Ryder took this opportunity by the scruff of the neck and had a good match with Ziggler, taking him right to the limit with his bravado-laced signatures. So much so that it took help from new apparent partner, Jack Swagger, who hot-shotted Ryder, allowing Ziggler to hit the Zig Zag for the retention. This wasn’t all though as Vickie’s men set upon Ryder. Fortunately the heroic AirBoom were around to literally boom out to Ryder’s aid. This led to some apparent kharma booking (from Teddy Long, again, instead of the RAW GM or HHH) pitting Ryder and AirBoom against Ziggler and Swagger. This is the second time Ziggler and Swagger have been given double-duty, and I don’t quite understand why they are booked in this way; maybe it’s to lend them a unique sense of spontaneity? Nonetheless, I didn’t think the second match was necessary. It seems it’s goal was to reintroduce Mason Ryan to TV, as he came out seemingly to join Team Guerrero, only to turn on the heels. A lot of people were critical of this as it seemed like they were providing minimal build for a cheap pop for a face-turn, but the way I saw it was that Ryan came out with the intention all along of helping the faces. Anyway, this allowed Ryder to pick up another non-title win against Ziggler and put him in line for another US Title shot. Hopefully it will lead instead to a #1 contender’s match instead, but whatever happens, I think Ryder is almost anointed as the next US Champion (which he could rebrand as the Internet Champion). As for Ziggler, he could make a great tag team with Swagger going forward before the final push to the main event. Finally, I don’t know how well Ryan will get over as a face. I don’t know if he has the natural charisma to do so, but that’s not to bury him; turning him face right now makes sense as he couldn’t possibly match up to Mark Henry as a monster heel right now.
The David Otunga pre-tape has gone down very well with the fans it seems to me. As for me, I was a little knocked for six by it. For ages, Otunga has been a stalwart of the tag team division and of Michael McGilicutty. But this week he abruptly shed that character for a much more reality-based character – namely a knowledgeable lawyer come wrestler. Indeed, it is this nod to reality which I think is behind the success of this small tid-bit. He was holding court with the other conspiracy theorists of Christian, Cody Rhodes, and Dolph Ziggler (though i’m sure Miz and Truth will align with them whenever they return too), and apparently conspiring to bring down HHH through technical legal means. This being the case, what can we expect going forward? A factional fight for the company? Maybe, but it would either necessitate some awkward bedfellows (Punk, Cena, HHH (though the tension inherent there can be good for engaging drama)), or a third faction, setting the sides as the Conspirators vs the Management vs the Truth-Tellers (engaging with stark reality). This could, of course, be a huge over-reaction to what was a short backstage seg, but it was definitely an intriguing piece of intrigue to witness. Incidentally, if Otunga is to receive a push of sorts, and it means he is to be separated from McGillicutty, could the latter start making himself known by his real, prestigious name, Joe Hennig?
Finally, we hand CM Punk take on Alberto Del Rio in the main event of the evening, with the Hell in a Cell eerily hanging above the ring; and like his competitors did earlier, John Cena attended the match at ringside. Del Rio and Punk are two of the best workers in the world today, and so obviously this match was wonderful to watch. To carry on the echoes of Cena’s earlier match, Punk tossed Del Rio over the announce table and in to Cena before wryly mocking Cena’s salute to The Champ. This match had a wonderful, technical flow to it, flavoured with some stiff, strong style wrestling. This was no accident. Although both guys (Punk especially) already work quite a lot in the strong style, it was even more highlighted here, and it was to underline the sheer toughness and resilience of the two going in to the match which requires more toughness and resiliency than any other. As the match ‘rolled on’, there were some great, believeable near-falls for either man, without either hitting their finishing move. Usually, the finish would come when one man managed to hit his finisher, but these two aren’t ‘usual’ and after all these near-falls, Punk hit his roundhouse kick which he’s recently been using as one of his signature moves, and out of the blue, won the pinfall. Immediately following this, Ricardo Rodriguez attacked Punk, but to no avail as he was dispatched by a GTS followed by an AA, but as this was hapenning, the Hell in a Cell began to lower around everyone. As Punk and Cena tried to get metaphorical victories over each other by hitting their respective finishers, but to no avail. All the while, Del Rio had recovered and had picked up a chair before preceding to beat the hell out of either man with multiple chair shots! It was at this point where Del Rio looked as he does in the header picture to this post; full of furious intensity in a way that his usual demenour has not allowed (him being a more sly, self-confident aristocrat). It was great to see this side of him, and it completely overshadowed the unfortunate fact that he lost the match, and garnered attention for the Hell in a Cell min event. Meanwhile, the other guys weren’t made to look weak – this was the reasoning for having Punk win the match, and it must also be remembered that Del Rio’s attack was a blindside and so something the faces could never defend against. So going in to Hell in a Cell we have the WWE Champion, a man who just won another RAW main event in CM Punk, and Del Rio who had just absolutely destroyed the other two surrounded by the Hell in a Cell. This PPV’s only had two weeks of build, but this RAW did a good job of making up some for that.