Randy Orton def. Drew McIntyre
Cold open to the show saw wounded Viper Randy Orton aiming to redeem himself after again losing to Henry at Hell in a Cell, and, to my surprise, his opponent was woefully underutilised ‘Chosen One’ Drew McIntyre. I was very pleased about this, but I was worried that he would go out and job. I have been lauding McIntyre incessantly since he largely disappeared from TV because he has a unique, furiously emotional character, is an underrated talker and an excellent wrestler. His move to RAW has seen him barely even in the shuffle (perhaps due to his relationship with former diva Tiffany), but it is my hope that his efforts last night promote him right back in to the push he was on previously and that he deserves. It struck me straight away just how similar workers these two are, and to open the match, the two locked up in a way that was awkward in a way that made it seem a lot more ‘real’. After that though, Orton enjoyed significant success against McIntyre, throwing him around the barricades ‘with the greatest of ease’, again worrying me that the Sinister Scotsman was about to job. However, back in the ring, McIntyre managed to take advantage of a corner-break to hit Orton with a huge big boot. He followed this up with mounted punches, a snap suplex, and choking across the bottom rope – a real beat-down. That wasn’t McIntyre’s only flurry; there was more back and forth between the two, and when Drew wrestled back control, he got one or two convincing near falls. Finally, Drew went for a huge top rope splash (in a manner reminiscent of Orton’s standing knee-drop, but Orton avoided this and then went on a huge offensive, hitting his hangman DDT before a huge, emphatic RKO (which of course, looked so good partly because of McIntyre) for the win. Orton then followed this up with another post-match RKO, presumably to send a message to the lockerroom. Very good match, and it was right that Orton won going out of a defeat to Henry, but I was so pleased that McIntyre was given this ball (albeit a modest one). I can only hope that this is a sign of things to come for McIntyre, because he really deserves a shot. My suggestion is that he joins Vickie’s stable, not only because he has worked well with Swagger before, but because I believe him to be at the same level of the two current members, i.e. on the bubble of the main event.
Following this, Mark Henry came out to try and hurt Orton even more. The two didn’t waste any time in brawling and they got a lot of heat from being held back from each other. They group of security trying to hold them off weren’t enough to stop the clash, and to make concrete that Orton would get a rematch, he eventually managed the impressive feat of dropping Henry over the barricade.
Mark Henry def. John Morrison
Similar to when McIntyre showed, when Morrison appeared, I was expecting to see a job, especially given that he was taking on the unstoppable Mark Henry. This was very short, but surprising. Henry started out tough, but after a nice counter from Morrison, landing on his feet following a toss, before going to to hit his three main moves on Henry in a dramatic row, leading to a very convincing near-fall. Morrison genuinely looked like he might have won. Saying that, Henry kicking out of all that was for the good of Henry, showing him as nearly indistructable and kinda undermined Morrison’s finishers. Henry threw Morrison off him, hit a huge big boot and a World’s Strongest Slam to put JoMo down. He then went to match Orton’s earlier actions by hitting a second World’s Strongest Slam to JoMo. It’s difficult to call this a squash when Morrison hit his finisher, but the way it was disregarded kinda counteracts that. He then went on to cut another awesome promo where he said he was ‘done’ with Orton (the traditional signal that the heel is a little worried about the face), all but confirming, again, that he isn’t.
The Conspiracy Theorists Made Their Case to HHH and the WWE Universe
Alberto Del Rio, Christian, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Vickie Guerrero, and David Otunga gathered in the ring for an extraordinary, obviously rehearsed pitch about their grievances with HHH as COO. They were playing up to their role as the cowardly rebels, trying to get their way through the back-door by claiming an unsafe working environment (a patently ridiculous argument for a wrestler), and that HHH was fostering this to hold them back, showing an egoism they would accuse only HHH of. These sorts of accusations were made by each member of the group in very short bursts, giving this a very formal, worked feel, which helped to show the ‘seriousness’ of the situation very well (and by the way, Vickie Guerrero got nuclear heat on the mic, showing again why she is one of the greatest managers in WWE history). Otunga brought the whole thing round by talking about his legal background before threatening to, effectively, unionise. I was going to criticise this a little because I don’t like the portrayal of union members as heels (WWE presenting what is, at base, moralistic stories, they shouldn’t be making judgements about genuinely partisan things like unions), but it has since become clear that faces also support this. In fact, after RAW, of all people, John Morrison played an important storytelling role, taking to twitter (as did Jim Ross), to support the collective bargaining. What was even better about his input was that it engaged with the Reality Era in a shoot manner which actually reminded me of CM Punk in it’s blunt honesty; here’s an extract: “If the WWE universe is paying our checks maybe the pay scale among us independent contractors should be a bit more evenly distributed…maybe forming a union is a good idea… all other entertainment and sporting entities have them…getting an individual health insurance policy after neck surgery is not easy.” These are facts and hypocrisies that are well known about WWE, and so it just lends more gravitas to the whole angle. Back in the ring though, HHH appeared right at the moment unionisation was threatened, and called the superstars out for the reasonable reason of not living up to their job description of entertaining the fans and working when told to, and with that in mind, he told the people in the ring to get ready for their main event. While Trips’s points were valid, even JR suggested that Hunter had swept the issue aside too flippantly. This whole thing was good for several reasons, but mainly because it was so effective at clearing up a little what the tensions were for the main event segment.
Beth Phoenix & Natalya def. Kelly Kelly & Eve via DQ
Approaching the ring, there were shades of LayCool from the Divas of Doom as they both lifted up the divas title together. And for the first few seconds, they showed dominance as Beth, almost routinely kicked Kelly in the gut before throwing her out of the ring. Cockily exiting the ring though, she got complacent, and an out of control emotional wreck of a Kelly Kelly set upon her. Now at first, her ‘beat down’ looked rather tame and unbelievable, but once she started slamming Beth’s head in to the announce table, it started to seem very real. Kelly, primal screaming, was all over Beth, showing a mean streak we’ve never seen before from her. Natalya would have intervened, but she had been taken out by Eve, but even Torres went to interrupt Kelly’s attack once it was clear it was going too far. A lot of people have complained about how this make Beth and Nattie look, and I admit that Kelly having any sort of physical advantage over Beth is a little hard to believe, but Kelly did surprise Beth, and it did come after Beth had manhandled her (so to speak), so I don’t think it’s that bad. In fact, it gets over the importance of the championship (at least to Kelly) as well as the fact that Kelly can now ‘hang’ with some of the more powerful divas on the roster. Not only that, but this new plateau of violence and passion in this feud only adds to the drama of it. Hopefully that will complimented by more talking, specifically from the Divas of Doom, but also from Kelly, who needs to work the mic more.
Miz and R-Truth’s Youtube Video Was Shown
After recapping the events of Hell in a Cell, we were shown an interesting video made my Miz and R-Truth regarding their recent actions and the situation at WWE. This was a simple, but interesting video in which Miz and Truth reverted to their mawkish earnestness of a few weeks ago, apologising that ‘it’s come to this’, while explaining their one-sided account of events. Ok, so this was a rather strained attempt to wedge social media in to programming, but it is important they do that nonetheless, especially as a characteristic of the Reality Era. They didn’t offer much new in terms of content, but it did do more to explain the lockerroom split, and to add compound tension to the atmosphere of the show, just as they had the night earlier at Hell in a Cell.
CM Punk, John Cena, Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus & Mason Ryan def. Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, David Otunga, Jack Swagger, Christian & Alberto Del Rio
Tag matches with this many people are usually chaotic, formulaic nonsense, even if they are fun. This match, however, was fantastic. There’s not much to say about the action of the match. Like other tag matches of this grandeur, there were few great bits of wrestling, it instead being about the flow of the match and the drama of the different match-ups therein. This was just a beautifully put together match, perfectly played out. Not only that, but the crowd were absolutely lapping it up, so much so that the camera was shaking on several occasions, especially for Punk, Sheamus and Bourne, but for everybody else too (not to do them down), and this visibly roused the wrestlers, who were working with an intensity that can’t be faked, and in turn, this got the crowd hotter, and so on and so on. Even the stand-off was amazing because of the atmosphere (eventhough usually, it’s quite a cliched spot used to set up a commercial break). Just everything about this match clicked! So with Sheamus and Ziggler the legal men, the finisher breakdown began, with each man taking it in turns to hit their finisher on another, until it had made its way back round to Ziggler and Sheamus, allowing Sheamus to hit the Brogue Kick for the win! The match had little to no consequence, but it was such an amazing payoff nonetheless simply because of the amazing crescendo it had reached.
The WWE Lockerroom Votes ‘No Confidence’ In HHH
This was another beautifully staged bit of WWE programming. Having the superstars come out with their respective brands, including the divas and even the referees, gave the event, which had been built to for the whole episode, even more apparent importance. And then, out came Triple H to face the music. Initially, his speech seemed quite rousing, repeating his earlier sentiments about how the wrestlers work for the WWE Universe and not him anyway. At this point, I thought Trips would probably survive, but then the workers got their chance to raise concerns. First up, surprisingly, was Wade Barrett. He talked about the WWE being an unsafe working environment and how HHH himself said he enjoyed chaos. Mike Chioda was next, saying that referees can’t perform in an environment where they are under threat, and they feel that way now. This was good because him being a non-worker showed that the problem was systemic, and not only with the wrestlers. Beth Phoenix was next suggested that something ‘intentional’ may well be happening, and may well happen – again suggesting some sort of conspiracy or behind the scenes antics that could lead to more anarchy in the WWE, and effectively blaming WWE for allowing it. Finally, Lawler returned to RAW to give his two cents. He said that while the chaos isn’t HHH’s fault, it is because of him. Importantly (for me at least), he noted CM Punk’s point about how someone was trying to play people off each other to sabotage him, but that that was causing the chaos in WWE, and so to alleviate that, Trips should go. Finally it came to crunch time, and Christian insisted on a vote, with him and his associates voting ‘no confidence’, and this was followed by every group voting the same way until King, finally, and with residual respect for HHH, said that actions spoke louder than words. At this point, I have expected everyone to dive in the ring and beat HHH down, but luckily, their actions were more in tune with the tone of the segment, as King led a walkout. How’s that for union politics! This was followed by the final, beautifully crafted moments of the episode as, one after one, some tormented by the decision and others not, groups of employees walked out of the WWE to show that they felt Hunter could no longer continue in his capacity. The lone man left was consummate company man, Jim Ross, and as Triple H stared at him, Ross finally stood up and left himself. Finally, the man most hotly suspected of screwing HHH, John Laurinaitis came out to the ramp only to shake his head and turn his back on HHH, leaving Hunter alone in the ring, looking lost and apologetic as we went off the air.
You’ll have noticed that there were some prominent wrestlers at ringside, namely CM Punk, John Cena, Sheamus, Kelly Kelly – i.e., the biggest babyfaces they have to offer. This wasn’t an oversight, and it shows an important division among the talent. The division will be across how the wrestlers want to improve the company, and they will be represented, I think, by HHH on one side, and Vince/Laurinaitis on the other. The kind of guys who will support Vince will be the heels, the self-interested guys who try to forward themselves by pursuing loopholes and indirect action – people like Miz and Truth who flourished under Vince’s rule; while the kind of guys who will support HHH will be the guys who want genuine change, rather than just self-preservation, people like, specifically, CM Punk (remember, Punk showed true grit and honesty by admitting he was wrong about HHH). This is where the lines will be drawn: status quo vs change. Recently, I argued that Punk needs to be placed back in the centre of all this; his pursuit of change started all this when he left WWE with the title and got Vince fired, and so he should be a part of ending it. The good news is that, if the battle lines are drawn as I expect them to be, he will be. With that in mind, as I type, CM Punk has started tweeting, and he has the megaphone back: “I think a lot of people are missing the point. Fans and coworkers alike. Walking out is a pussy move. There’s a huge difference in what I did. I want change, and I can’t change shit from my couch. I’m in the fox hole. I’m getting it done. I stayed to fight and I’m fighting for change. You can protest, violently or peacefully without actually showing up. Walking out isn’t a solution at least not one that I’ve ever seen work. Hold ’em up. Make them change. Don’t just walk out, or lay down. Fight. This goes for fans as well. Bored? Don’t like
@johncena ? Want more @ZackRyder ? Show up and be heard. Don’t be a pussy and just tweet about it. I want change, and I’ll stand and fight for it even if I’m alone. Popular or unpopular, I could care less. Take your voting and shove it. Actions speaks louder than words. Except mine. My words are pretty awesome. No think about all that, and hopefully you’ll get it. Too many tweets from me. Misspellings abound. You CAN’T protest without showing up. I am not Gandhi. I will kick your face. Don’t like HHH as COO? Punch him in the face. I did. It’s wrestling, not the NBA. Next high kick to Johnny “Funkhauser” Ace won’t be an accident.” This doesn’t mean that the guys who walked out will be heels, or even that they were bad (people like JR and Evan Bourne etc walked out for good reason, to support their peers and because of the chaos) but the story will be about which of those guys decide to fight. I’d just love to see them let Punk go out there and say that – let him shoot (or work shoot) on the status quo!
That was really another great RAW in my book, with great choreography and emotive, believable storylines. So what next? The big question is whether or not HHH will step down as COO. You’d think he has to, but then how can he come back? Without getting too far in to fantasy booking, perhaps Trips could step down and Vince or Johnny Ace (or even the anonymous GM) could return for a while, only for the ‘conspiracy’ to be discovered and HHH to return to fight for the company at Survivor Series. Anyway, like after Hell in a Cell, the chaos here was interesting and intriguing – a cliffhanger rather than sheer confusion – so much so that i’m conidering looking up the Smackdown spoilers this week because I feel I need to know what will happen next!