The RAW View ( 1/2/2012 ): It Begins, But What is ‘It’?

Jericho returns and killed the cheers of the crowd with kindness

This RAW View will be dominated by Jericho, but there’s a reason this isn’t just about Jericho. There was more of interest on this RAW too, so let’s talk about that stuff first!

World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan def. Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes
This isn’t the first time these two have paired up in the ring, and it wasn’t the first time I was very excited about the prospect. The match was, however, rather short. Despite that, what we saw was great. There was some nice back and forth and a decent babyface story with Rhodes going after Bryan’s arm. For those who watched Smackdown last week, you would have seen the seeds planted, possibly, for a Bryan heel turn. For this reason, Bryan’s babyface characteristics seem a little empty. This continued as Bryan won the match with a roll-up before celebrating in a very over the top manner, repeating ‘YES’ all the way up the ramp. Now, Bryan isn’t uncharismatic. This over the top celebration wasn’t like the genuine emotion of his title win, it was a complete mis-match with the manner of his victory, it being an almost desperate roll-up; the sort of win that a true champion wouldn’t celebrate too much. Bryan as a face is all about sportsmanship and ‘honor’, and so this reaction, which went against that, seems like a further clue of a Bryan heel-turn. This surprises me because I think Bryan could have gotten over as a babyface champion, while Big Show, who looks like he’ll be staying face for now, is apparently set for a heel run at WrestleMania. It made all the sense in the world to turn Show, but perhaps that won’t happen. I don’t mind Bryan going heel in theory, but I think he should have had the chance to have a strong run as a babyface champion.

Dolph Ziggler def. WWE Champion CM Punk via Countout in a WWE Championship Match
Before this match, Ziggler cut a real 5 star promo starting with a headstand before talking about how he was a walking surplus in a world where the country is in debt and kids are fat and illiterate, all with his biting style. The kid is a star.

Like the Rhodes-Bryan match, I was also looking forward to this pairing a lot as they have already had a match of the year candidate match; and again, tonight, the two stole the show (well, match-wise). It showed the sheer variation of what makes both guys great. Starting out with some classic mat-wrestling, there were some really cool progressions, ending with a standoff which didn’t really get the deserved reaction. Moving on, the match got a lot more violent as Dolph and Punk started to trade shots. At this point we saw Punk introducing some new moves, including a rather indyriffic (not meant as an insult) sequence of repeated hard leg drops. Dolph equalled Punk’s physicality, but at no point did he look to be totally besting Punk. This was perfectly pitched. I’ve worried in the past that Punk has been booked like Cena, selling for 20 minutes before coming back and winning. That wasn’t the case here as though he took a lot of offense from Ziggler, he gave a lot out too and always looked marginally on top. With Punk on his way to the win, out came John Laurinaitis again to interrupt the match with petty bureaucracy (this time, distracting the ref after the turnbuckle pad was accidentally removed. He ended up getting bumped by the savvy Punk after he telegraphed Ziggler’s sneak attack and sent him over to Ace, hitting him with the charging Ziggler. With Ace ostensibly pulling himself up with the top rope, he low-bridged Punk and cost him the match via countout (a kinda weak ending in that you’d hope Punk could answer a ten count after falling to the floor). After the match, Ziggler celebrated with the title again, despite not having winning it (despite the lack of clarity from the announce team), which was a great mark of heel obliviousness. Punk kinda chased Ziggler, but I would have liked to have seen him chase Ziggler down and get his title back, like he also didn’t last week. For a man who otherwise cherishes the token, i’m surprised he lets someone undeserving hold his title. I have, however, heard people guessing that Ziggler holding his title may be an excuse for him to introduce a new belt design (though again, it may also be seen as letting Ziggler have his belt. It would have to be done right).

An extra plus-point from this match is that Ziggler’s technical win has given him the chance to challenge for the title again at the Royal Rumble. Again, Ziggler is being given a chance to shine, and offering an extra aspect of interest is the fact that Laurinaitis will be the special guest referee for the match, stacking the deck against Punk incredibly. Punk seemed to know this as after the match, he dropped a pipebomb on Ace saying that if he screws him, he’ll need Otunga to try him for animal cruelty, because he’ll beat Ace like a bitch. This may seem a little gratuitous, but it was, in my view, impassioned, and again showed that there really is no filter to the mouth of the Voice of the Voiceless, while showing how much he cares about his championship.

The Bellas def. Eve Torres & Kelly Kelly
Just a quick note here. Apart from the worst roll-up of all time, i’m a big fan of the Bellas as both wrestlers and characters, and I was glad to see them get a high-profile win over Kelly and Eve using Twin Magic. Not only that, but this match was longer and more technically accomplished than most divas matches, which is obviously a pleasant turn. My only problem was that we saw these guys at the expense of the Divas of Doom (especially our Divas Champion Beth Phoenix). Ideally, they should still be central to most divas segments, especially on RAW.

John Cena, Zack Ryder & The Big Show def. Jack Swagger & Mark Henry; Kane Attacked John Cena and Zack Ryder
On twitter, I railed that the WWE Championship match should have been the main event, but I now realise why it wasn’t – they needed to put a massive fiery hole in the ring, and after that, you can’t really have a championship match. Despite being the main event of the show though, it wont be the last thing I talk about, as you can see. The match itself was of little consequence, with smiley Cena AA-ing Swagger for the win. What is of interest is what Kane did. As soon as Kane talked last week, the interest and aura around him dissipated. This week started out with a kinda bland promo from Cena, interrupted by Kane, but crucially, without seeing him – his voice piped in like the voice of God (or a demon). This is a huge improvement, because it allows Kane to explain himself without the mostrous visage being undermined by the humanising image of him holding a mic. I also liked how Kane refused to take part in a scheduled match, instead, waiting for it to be over before making his impact. With the victorious Cena distracted and making a beeline to the stage to greet Kane, the Big Red Machine tore through the ring to attack Cena from behind with his terrifying suffocation sleeper before moving on to the injured Ryder who he attacked and tried to drag to hell under the ring. With Cena having saved him, and the two faces looking to the hole in terror, a huge spray of fire and smoke shot from the hole which Kane had disappeared in to, which of course only made the two broskis look more terrified because of the mortality they were faced with. This was not only a bold and fresh closing image, it did a lot to dehumanise the monster again, which is what was desperately needed, and has made me a lot more interested in the idea of Cena ’embracing the hate’ again.

The Man Behind the 1/2/2012 Vignettes Was Revealed as Chris Jericho, Who Returned, Worked the Crowd into an Angry Frenzy, and Left Without Saying a Word
In many ways, it is difficult to find words that explain how this made me feel – perhaps because it was a segment devoid of words. Even ignoring that I highly suspected the man was my favourite ever wrestler, the ‘itbegins’ vignettes had interested me greatly, and I wanted answers whatever they were. Unfortunately, on that front, this segment was an exercise in frustration. In my head, I expected some sort of fascinating revelation as to how the world as we know it was going to end, and how Jericho (and the mysterious “she”) was going to go about claiming back what is ‘his’. But instead of this, Jericho’s response to the dark, psychological vignettes were the most ridiculously over the top, glitzy, babyface return possible. This shocked me – I mean, those vignettes were for a heel right? When he returned in 2007, he quickly rejected the Y2J monicker, but here he seemed to be embracing it with lustre, with a lot of lustre. This was great, the fans were going crazy, and while I didn’t expect it, I was pleased to see babyface Jericho. Infact, I had said earlier that whatever happened, despite my dislike for ‘smartly’ cheering heels, I would probably mark out for Jericho. But it seems Jericho knew this would happen; he’s aware of how respected he is, and new a cool heel return would get cheers, so how can you combat this and get booed? Pure irritation and frustration.

The warning signs started when Lawler threw in the genius line ‘I don’t know who missed who more’ – a signifier that its ok to realise Jericho was going over the top. Jericho had grabbed a mic, but then dropped it apathetically despite the plastic smile on his face – it made a sickening noise and made absolutely clear that Jericho was playing us, and wouldn’t be saying a word. As he continued to direct the crowd to cheer him, showing their meekness (remember the words of the vignettes!) while trying their patience more and more with increasingly over the top gestures. Then he started to leave … He still hadn’t said anything and he was leaving, and soon, with the smile still on his face, and the boos growing, he turned heel (literally and characteristically) and left.

Jericho had taken the conventions of a return, and of wrestler’s relationships with the fans, and with an irritating smile on his face, simply ignored them. It could potentially be a huge moment in the history of professional wrestling. He got a huge pop when his music hit, but, without saying a word, he left to a chorus of boos, with me among them – no mean feat given my Jericholism. But as Lawler questioned, what exactly had we just seen? None of it seemed to bear any relation to the detailed vignettes – we were simply none the wiser, and I have no doubt our (and my) frustration at this was intended. I have no idea what we saw, but I know that, eventually, we will find out, and it will be great. It’ll just be on Jericho’s terms.

But why not … let’s think about what we may see. Though internet rumours say otherwise, i’m holding out for a Jericho win at the Rumble, setting the pace for the much more concrete sounding prospect of a match with CM Punk at WrestleMania, and so i’ll imagine the booking around that prospect. The problem with this is that I think it would damage all this if Jericho wrestles, or even talks, until the Rumble, and we have three RAW’s to fill before we get there.Well, for the first RAW, I would have a tag main event booked (the more people involved the better, so its harder to tell who is the object of his interest is), say Punk, Bryan, and Truth against Ziggler, Henry, and Miz; and no sign of Jericho until, after all the competitors have been announced, Jericho’s music hits, and out he comes to join commentary. King and Cole ask him questions, but he says nothing and smiles. After the faces go over, Jericho enters the ring as if he’ll attack them, but smiling, he simply leaves the ring to the bemused faces of the faces. But before the broadcast ends, there is another vignette with the boy saying that next week, ‘he’ will reveal the object of his desires – what he is going to reclaim. The next week, Punk has a one-on-one main event against maybe Kane. During the match, the pyro that signalled Jericho’s return hits, distracting Punk and causing the loss. He turns to see a smiling Jericho wearing his WWE Championship belt. Punk squares up to him but Jericho doesn’t move until it is clear Jericho wont do anything when Punk takes his title back and leaves, confused. A final vignette, this time with the girls saying that next week, “she” will reveal herself. In the go home show, the main event segment is taken up by as the girl appears on the tron, saying she has been beckoned. Jericho’s music hits and he comes out in his Christ-esque pose, wearing a version of Punk’s shirt saying ‘Best in the World’ as Jericho has also claimed, but underneath instead of saying ‘Chicago 7/17/2011’ like Punk’s did, it says ‘The End Continues 1/29/12’ (the date of the Royal Rumble). Then he turns around as Stephanie McMahon joins him. She can be his voice, and explains that Punk humilated the McMahon family on several occasions and especially at Money in the Bank. With HHH obsessed with Nash and Taker, she needed someone she had history with and who she could trust as equally uncaring and uninhibited to help take Punk down, and so she will use all her power to help Jericho take Punk down, and get the Championship off him by the end of WrestleMania. This would lead to her, and Johnny Ace etc help Jericho get the upper hand, giving him the number 30 slot and help him win the rumble, and on from there.

This is just, and parts of it seem far-fetched, but seen as Jericho’s returned for it, there will be a lot of thought to it, and it’ll be fascinating. I can barely wait til next Monday for more, and if this does lead to Punk-Jericho, with Jericho talking – eventually – i’ll be a very happy man.

Editor’s Note: I have since – as I always do – read Brandon Stroud’s (@BrandonStroud) ‘Best and Worst of RAW’ blog on this episode, and he has some rather interesting, and some rather tongue-in-cheek theories about just what in the hell Mr. Jericho might be up to. I direct you to the page where he lists some ideas:

http://withleather.uproxx.com/2012/01/the-best-and-worst-of-wwe-raw-1212-standing-and-smiling-for-20-minutes/2

My favourite being his third suggestion: “This was Y2J returning. Next week we’ll get angry-face Jericho in a suit but he’ll do a similar thing where he says nothing and walks to the back. Then in the third week, or at the Royal Rumble, he’ll re-re-re-debut as a third, new thing and tie in some of that “destroying the world” stuff from the mystery videos.”

Mr Brandon Stroud may be the Best in the World at What He Does.

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