Ok, so this RAW View will obviously employ a different approach than usual because I had the pleasure of viewing the taping LIVE at the O2 in London, so while i’m going to talk about RAW as a broadcast, I will be focusing too on the live experience.
Before the Show
Coming out of the tube station at North Greenwich, I started feeling the electricity. Wrestling fans are the greatest, and being among thousands of them and chatting about our passion is the greatest. In terms of merchandise, I said on twitter that I thought Punk edged Cena, but looking around the arena when everyone was sat down, there was a sea of green Cena shirts, so i’d say that the two are about even, and quite far ahead of anyone else. There were smatterings of Ryder, Mysterio, Kingston, and Ziggler, but they simply weren’t on the same level.
There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘Yes!’ chants replacing the ‘What?’ chants, but that isn’t the case. ‘Yes!’ (and also ‘No!’) are specific preferential responses to what the fans see; like the ‘Yes!’s when Bryan was kicking Kofi, and the ‘No!’s when Kingston was on top. ‘What?’ is something the fans chant to psyche out characters they don’t like. What ‘Yes!’ may be replacing, from my experience on Monday, is the ‘woos’ i’ve often heard before live shows. There were still smatterings of ‘woos’ before the event, but they were dwarfed in popularity by spontaneous ‘YES!’s’ before the event, especially when they finally opened the doors.
It’s an infectious atmosphere, and while it makes little sense, the chants that happen around the arena before anyone’s even appeared are great, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them – like the ‘Let’s Go Cena’ chants being dominated by the ‘Cena Sucks!’
Dark Match: Dean Ambrose def. Alex Riley
Alex Riley is either still over and potentially deserving of some renewed TV time, or the crowd was hot and would have popped huge for whoever came out first, but Riley got a great reception when he came out for the dark match. Meanwhile Ambrose came out and cut a great heel promo, telling everyone to quiet down by the time he got to the ring, while calling himself the real ‘Hardcore Legend’, which was obviously a knock on Mick Foley as a part of the burgeoning feud; one that I would actually really enjoy watching. The match itself was fine, but I don’t know whether it was the green-ness of ‘A-Ry’ or what, but it didn’t impress me quite as I expected. Ambrose eventually went over with a Regal-esque running knee (another wrestler he’s been linking himself with) to get good heat.
Superstars Match: Eve Torres def. Kelly Kelly
Surprising reaction for Kelly Kelly. It was certainly positive, but it was also kinda muted, and there were smatterings of boos, most probably from the ‘smart’ fans (more on them as the report goes on). Eve, meanwhile, got some strong heat, though I hate the ‘Hoeski’ chants that were most popular for her, because especially when you’re encouraged by your peers, it really does feel that machismo bullying. Of course its good for fans to mock the heels, but when it’s such an offensive, sexist term, it’s not really acceptable to me. While Eve is improving, and Kelly was trying hard, the match was pretty flat to be honest, and I was glad to see it end to be honest. I don’t know how well the cameras caught it, but the finish, with Eve using the ropes to assist her pin was really quite sloppy. Still, the match had the desired effect of getting heat for Eve and sympathy for Kelly.
Superstars Match: R-Truth def. Jack Swagger
This match must have been the main event for this week’s Superstars simply due to the profile of the superstars involved. Something that speaks to that is the reactions each man got. Truth is incredibly over in his niche and got a nice pop mixed with some chuckles as he mimed playing with Lil Jimmy. Meanwhile, Swagger got a lot of heat, making for a great, old-fashioned wrestling dynamic. The match was very good, with the two of them gelling well – even if the match wasn’t that spectacular. What made it good was it’s length and the well manufactured near-falls. After a few of these on either side, making each man loog strong, Truth finally hit the Little Jimmy for the win, pleasing the crowd greatly.
CM Punk def. Mark Henry to Retain the WWE Championship
First of all, I should mention the pyro! Seeing it live is amazing and really gets you (even more) excited for the show – and the bonus this time was that it wasn’t so loud that it legitimately shook me up. What was strange though that this all came after Mark Henry had come to the ring. Did he get a jobber’s entrance? I haven’t watched back to keep this live report pure … Anyway, the pop Punk got was HUGE, and surely the biggest of the night. I really hope that came over on TV, because it was great to be a part of. On the other hand, sometimes crowds can start to spoil the spectacle somewhat by completely ignoring the action or characters in favour of jokes – like the ‘Sexual Chocolate’ chant that fans seem to love now. I suppose it works in that it belittles the heel, but at the same time, it also undermines his current incarnation as an unstoppable strong machine! But I digress. The match was fantastic, and played really well on their recent history and the match stipulation. My one criticism would be that Punk never seems to learn about stuff like crossbodys simply not working on the behemoth. Still, as I say, at least that played on their two previous matches and gave Punk a real narrative mountain to climb as he kept on literally running in to a human wall, yet still coming back and back. They also used the no count out stipulation well, with Henry brutalising Punk on the outside and frustrating most of Punk’s more spectacular high-flying moves, apart, that is, from the suicide dive, which is always great to see live. There is one different aspect about watching live though – I feel you get so swept up in the live experience that some of the intricacies of the match don’t register as much in favour of a much more visceral response; and consequently, i’ll be doing much less hold for hold reviewing here. In the general progression of the match, however, it built fantastically as Punk managed to grind down Henry, and was finally rewarded for his resilience (including surviving a vile chair shot form Henry straight to his back) when he managed to knock down the World’s Strongest Man by sending him in to a chair wedged in the turnbuckle (by Henry himself, unsurprisingly). This left Henry down and the crowd chanting for Macho Man, which Punk provided with the added punch of the same chair. He connected, and that was good for the three count, which I really enjoyed. It played to the stipulation by incorporating the chair, and it gave us a finish that wasn’t necessarily a finisher, which is something I always enjoy being surprised by. It made total sense too as Henry submitting to an Anaconda Vice would kill him as a monster and there was no way (I pressume!) that Punk could get him up for the GTS! Really good match then, by the guy who was probably most over in the company (well, save for Daniel Bryan perhaps!). Just one thing then …
This is a WWE Championship match, the most important match the WWE can show, featuring one of your top guys in CM Punk, a guy who could legitimately be the guy is positioned correctly, on a night when Brock Lesnar wouldn’t be appearing in person, and it goes on first, and isn’t really followed up on later on? There is absolutely no reason why this match shouldn’t have closed the show. I know Cena losing was a shock, and gave Tensai a good rub, but that being the case, leave Tensai going over for next week! CM Punk, your next big guy, in a WWE Championship match which he wins after a lot of toil, when Lesnar isn’t there and doesn’t have to be the centre of attention, absolutely has to be the main event. There is simply no good argument about that.
Chris Jericho Confronted CM Punk About Going In To a Pub
At least this was up next and continued their story. With Punk stood proud in the ring with his Championship which he had finally retained fairly against a monster, I liked the way Jericho used a genuinely suspicious bit of footage of Punk entering a pub because it adds that cloud of doubt over whether or not Punk is actually being affected in his emotional and personal lifestyle by Jericho. That being said, I can’t stress enough that Punk should on no account ‘turn alcoholic’ or something like that. While i’m sure they would portray it well, and it would be revolutionary, I don’t think wrestling is the right arena for that sort of narrative. The idea that Punk may be faltering is much more powerful than wrestling-tinted soap alcoholism. Punk’s response was very good too. While the ‘its not about me being the Best in the World any more, it’s about kicking your ass’ line was a repeat, the rest of what he said was great, about how Jericho was going to get hurt in a Chicago street fight because he will be in front of his family and friends, and most powerfully, his father and sister, who have been so central to all of this. It’s powerful, and while Jericho is the monotone, incessant roll, Punk only becomes more humanised, and more ‘real’ every week. Not only that, but referencing fish and chips was a great move, and led to a wonderful, much more acceptable ‘fish and chips’ chant.
Santino Marella def. David Otunga to Retain the United States Championship
David Otunga is a very good character, is a great talker, and is improving as a wrestler. This could be seen in his in-ring work this week, but what also could be seen this week was that this improvement isn’t an exact science as he got a good near-fall following a horrible looking version of his spinebuster. The near fall was good, but it would have been great had the move been executed right. At first, from the crowd, I didn’t realise Santino had his foot on the ropes to save the pin, which is actually quite a good aspect to the performance – I was sold on the Otunga victory, and was quite pleased about it actually, but with your attention not being directed for you, it makes false finishes like that all the more confusing and surprising, which is of course, the exact effect they aim at. Following the related confusion, Santino managed to take control and hit a Cobra for the retention. I was also happy about this outcome, because Santino is great and really over as champion.
Brock Lesnar Revealed Why He Returned to WWE In Shocking Fashion
It’s hard for me to admit because I don’t like any bit of Brock Lesnar, but this was … really good. Not because it was a great promo, and not even because Lesnar delivered it well, but because it was different, aggressive, and delivered just as Brock Lesnar should deliver it: thoughtlessly crassly. I hate this idea that he brings legitimacy to the WWE because he was an ultimate fighter because WRESTLING CATEGORICALLY ISN’T A SPORT AND SHOULDN’T BE TREATED AS SUCH BECAUSE IT RUINS WHAT WRESTLING REALLY IS: A FIGHTING SPECTACLE. Still, the sheer brazen dickishness of Lesnar’s interview suited him down to the ground, as did his cheap swearing; seriously, the line: “I don’t know what’s running through Cena’s head. What’s important is what’s running down his leg. Piss.” was fantastic, and then he took it one further, like a total idiot jock (which again suits him) by adding that Cena is shitting himself. There was really a much more ‘Attitunal’ (for lack of a much better phrase) feel about it, and that was fresh. From the crowd’s perspective, Cena was already getting nuclear heat whenever his face was on the tron, and this only made Lesnar more popular. In that sense, as good as this interview was, I don’t know how wise it was seen as Lesnar’s supposed to certainly be the heel to Cena’s face in a way The Rock never was. On another, more confident stance is that I hate, like many people do, the billing of him as the saviour to legitimise the WWE because, as everyone realises, that buries the whole company and the whole business even, and wrongly so. MMA is only more legitimate than wrestling when considered as a sport; but worse, it just points out that the rest of what we are seeing is a scripted non-sport, and that’s just terrible for the whole suspension of disbelief. I still don’t like Lesnar, but I have to say, this showed me that he can, potentially, be used well. Finally, with Lesnar not obliged to appear on every RAW, this is the right way to use him when he’s not on RAW – i.e. covering up his absence.
Kane vs Zack Ryder Ended in a No-Contest
This was a real waste of time. This was an example of how no commentary can hinder the live experience (of a TV taping specifically). Before hand, they showed footage of Kane terrorising Ryder from the Road to WrestleMania, but then they also showed Kane’s engagement with Randy Orton from last week’s Smackdown, but all without contextualising commentary. And then in the match, Kane Chokeslams Ryder and that’s just it? I would have liked to have seen a pin. It wouldn’t have hurt anybody and would have saved the confusion. In the stands there was certainly a lot of indignant confusion. And then Kane just cut basically the same promo as he did from last week and didn’t progress anything. A waste of time others could have worked with. Still, Kane’s pyro live is still the best!
Daniel Bryan def. Kofi Kingston With the Renamed YES Lock
First off, renaming the move the LaBell Lock the YES Lock makes an awful lot of sense. Not only did it give Bryan currency to get heel heat by mocking his mentor, but most importantly, it is a sign that WWE aren’t trying to quash his success in favour of their picked champion, Sheamus. It wont stop the crowd from chanting ‘YES!’ a lot, but it will concentrate it a little in an appropriate moment of the match – when a man may actually say ‘YES!’ to submitting. This was coupled with a great moment of sheer insolence from Bryan as he firstly accused Kofi of moving in on his ex-girlfriend before threatening to make him submit; and in doing so stood right in front of him shouting yes, with arm gestures, and when Kofi tried to leave, Bryan moved in his was an continued. Unbelievable douchebaggery, not that it’ll make him less popular. Seriously, from a fan’s point of view, Bryan was getting the biggest and most sustained reaction of the night. Counteractively, I don’t think he’s more over than, say, Punk, but he is certainly over as whatever he is now. Ultimately, surely he’s simply a face now; just a face with with a … unique character. I mean, look at this, from the show:
As for the match, it was one of the two best alongside Punk-Henry, and it made Bryan look fantastic. The first half of the match was Bryan dominating Kingston (as he should as a former World Champion), hitting all his strongest moves very powerfully, and in the mean time, Bryan was taunting away. In the second half of the match, Kingston did deservedly get some offense in, and even a strong near-fall following an SOS, to show the legitimacy of Kingston somewhat. Finally though, he missed a crossbody and Bryan took control with the YES lock for the win as the crowd chanted Yes! along with Kingston! After the match, too, Bryan locked Kingston in the YES Lock. For the first time, the fans didn’t know how to react. They were supporting Bryan throughout the match, but despite their nominal booing of Kingston, the fans are well disposed to him and weren’t going to cheer it. They didn’t boo it either though, so it was effective in curbing the super overness of the heel. However, if this is an attempt to get him over as a heel, I think it’ll be pretty fruitless.
Brodus Clay def. Dolph Ziggler via DQ
This was a piece of nothing significant. A way to get a Funkasaurus pop and some Ziggler heat, and while the DQ managed to nominally further the mini feud between Clay and Vickie’s team, it barely did anything. Saying all this: FUNKASAURUS.
Big Show & The Great Khali def. Primo & Epico
I don’t know if there is a redeeming factor to this … and I don’t particularly want to talk about it. On the plus side, the giants winning made a lot of fans happy.
Lord Tensai def. John Cena
Earlier on, Cena had cut a pretty good promo that was classic heartfelt and intense Cena, reassuring us he will fight. This was good, but it pales in memory to the Brock Lesnar interview. This was a weird match to watch. It was a good match, but it was power vs power, and it perhaps didn’t seem as fresh as it should for that reason. Cena helped Tensai looked great, but I didn’t feel I was watching something new, which is unfortunate, since I was. God I hate the ‘Albert/A Train’ chants. That’s an example of a damaging chant – in wrestling we need to suspend our disbelief, and that shouldn’t even be hard here because as cartoonish as Tensai looks, he has a legitimate Japanese background and his backstory is basically drawn from reality. Stop this please. Whether you like Tensai or not initially, he deserves a chance to work in this character. Back to the match, it was pretty good. Cena sold more than he was on the offense, but he had his moments, and there were some good near finishes, including when Cena had the STF on Tensai. It was here that the finish came in to motion as Big Johnny sent David Otunga to interrupt. Otunga got an obligatory Attitude Adjustment, but the confusion allowed Tensai to get Cena with the green mist! I love the use of the green mist in wrestling, and this allowed Tensai to hit what used to be known as the Baldo Bomb (it must have a new name, surely!) Now i’ve heard a lot about the crowd not reacting to that. All I can say is the crowd was hot all night and weren’t suddenly cold. I think we were just shocked to see it. Also, with Cena getting so much heat (that added to much more for Tensai who instills more awe than anything …), it was hard to gauge who the fans really wanted to win, only adding to the confusion. I think that explains the reaction. As for me, i’m not even sure … I think it was way too early for Tensai to be in a match of this magnitude; it’s too soon to go from dominating jobbers to beating the company’s top star clean in the main event of your flagship show. I was actually convinced Laurinaitis would give Cena Jericho, and Punk would come out and get a measure of revenge. Perhaps that would have been better.
But wait …
Dark Main Event: WWE Championship Match – CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho Led to a No-Contest
So far, I had seen my three favourite wrestlers, but I hadn’t seen one of them wrestle. Well perhaps the fans felt the same way, or perhaps Jericho is as loved by everyone else as he is by me, but when his music hit, he got a pop comparable to that of Punk, which is impressive given that it was a dark match (though at the same time, i’m not sure how clear it is to some of the fans what is on TV and what isn’t). Nonetheless, I knew fine well the taping was over, but my favourite wrestler ever got a huge pop from me! It being a dark main event, it wasn’t designed as a great match. Punk did what I expected to see on TV, which was attack Jericho at the end of the night, this time as Jericho was approaching the ring. The two brawled for a while before Daniel Bryan came out. My three favourites wrestling each other! Though Bryan and Jericho were teaming up on Punk. From here on in, it was an entrance and finisher fest. Sheamus repeated his run in from earlier on in the night to even the odds, and then out came Rhodes, evened by The Big Show, and then out came Alberto Del Rio to a big pop, and finally, that was evened by Orton. By this point, Jericho and Punk had brawled to the back, but the action continued with Brogue Kicks, Chokeslams, and finally an RKO to send everyone home happy.
This was a very good RAW in which I got to see my three favourite wrestlers ever – something which is truly a privilege; and especially when among a hot crowd like that, it’s just the best experience, for me at least. Genuinely one of the main things I live for.