Another week, another surprisingly superb episode of RAW as we are getting closer and closer to the Road to WrestleMania.
Before we go further, I’d like to welcome our Adventures in Poor Taste readers to this weekly column. I had started it a few weeks ago over on our sister site, Athleticka, but I thought that our AiPT readers would enjoy the rundown just as much, if not more; Athleticka is a sports site, and there are some loons out there who don’t consider rasslin’ a sport! It’s still real to me, dammit. So, for the first time ever, we’ll be simul-casting on both AIPT and Athleticka! Anyway, with that long-winded introduction out of the way, let’s get to last night’s RAW.
We open the show with Mick Foley making his first appearance since his disastrous “This is Your Life” segment with John Cena in November, saying that’s it’s been years since he’s wrestled and now that his children are old enough to appreciate it, he’d like to wrestle one more match (apparently his four years as an active part of TNA have just been wiped from everyone’s memories, Men in Black style). He announces his intentions to be a participant in the Royal Rumble match. This brings out Dolph Ziggler and Vickie, who, like much of the audience, think this must be some kind of sick joke. Ziggler cuts an intense promo on Foley, showing that he’s definitely got what it takes to go toe-to-toe with some of the best talkers in the company…
…But out comes CM Punk to make Ziggler look completely inadequate. But honestly, compared to Punk, who isn’t inadequate? How damn good is Punk on the mic? It’s a shame he has just been sort of going through the motions ever since his famed tirade on the status quo; effectively becoming everything his character was fighting against. But hey, he’s crankin’ dat spinner belt, amirite? What more could you ask for?
On the whole “Punk is on another level” thing, I think WWE’s catering to the Internet fans has sort of backfired and watered down a lot of things. Like I said earlier, Ziggler cut an amazing wrestling promo on Mick Foley at the top of the show. Then Punk came down, and once again, instead of cutting a wrestling promo on Dolph Ziggler the character, broke down the fourth wall and made Nick Nemeth the human being look like a bag of smashed a------s. It’s entertaining, yes, but is it in any way helpful?
Johnny Ace interrupts and says to show that he’s in fact Mr. Excitement, he’s taking Foley’s request to be in the Rumble under consideration. Moments later, he’s apparently thought about it enough and gives the notion an emphatic “No”. HAH! John Laurinaitis has really stepped up his game lately, and has been earning some serious heat as a result. Good stuff all around from this promo.
One more thing; I don’t really wanna dwell on it much, but Mick Foley has gotten fa-aaattttt…
No, Chris Tucker. “Fat”, not “Phat”. Not “Pretty Hot And Tempting”. Back to your Motel 6 or back alley or wherever it is you’re living now.
Epico and Primo (c) vs. Air Boom for the Tag Team Championship is next. Yes, for those of you who aren’t hopeless nerds who spam F5 on multiple wrestling sites every minute of every day like I am, the (c) in that sentence is in the correct spot. Epico and Primo won the Tag Team Championships at a house show over the weekend, and Air Boom invoked their rematch clause on RAW. Will Air Boom re-capture the Tag Team Championships? Will the Tag Team division continue to be built into something of at least remote importance, rather than competing exclusively on Superstars? Will Rosa Mendes be broken of her hypnosis that apparently requires her to gyrate her hips consistently whenever Epico and Primo’s music is playing? We’re about to find out the answers to those questions and more!
“Help me! If all this collagen hadn’t robbed me of my ability to convey emotion, you’d see I was crying right now!”
Consequently, the answers are no, maybe, and no, respectively. Good match, Bourne apparently sells a Backstabber like no other.
EDIT: As I write this, I have just read that Evan Bourne has been suspended YET AGAIN for smokin’ the (synthetic) reefer.
“SOME WERE BORN TO FLYYYYYYY, SOME WERE BORN TO GET HIIIIIIGHHHH…”
I could pull the typical Internet fan route here and over-analyze, saying that this is the reason for the title change, but why would they do it at a house show? Why wouldn’t they just wait until RAW? I really like the titles changing at a house show. It got everyone talking over the weekend, and pulled off the double benefit of sparking some interest in the Tag Team division while at the same time sparking interest in house show attendance, because clearly, anything can happen in the WWE, including non-televised events. Remember when Diesel beat Bob Backlund for the WWF Title at a house show? Awesome.
In any event, I’m really liking Epico and Primo as a team. They have the synergy, they have the skills, and they have the smoking hot manager. What more does a tag team need? It’s dead-simple booking that WWE usually skips over in an effort to out-think themselves. Sometimes…actually, a LOT of times, simple works.
Backstage, Chris Jericho enters John Laurinaitis’ office, and he is informed that the main event will be a six man tag team match between the team of himself, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan vs. the team of Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler and Laurinaitis’ esteemed legal counsel, David Otunga. In response, Jericho remains silent, and simply turns off the lights and displays his battery-powered LED flashing jacket. Genius.
Still backstage, Josh Matthews interviews Eve and a severely injured Zack Ryder, complete with a full bandage around his ribs/lower back area, selling the effects of Kane’s chokeslam off the loading dock from last week. Ryder says he’s not medically cleared to wrestle, and shouldn’t be wrestling, but he will compete tonight against all logic and common sense, and put his United States Championship on the line against Jack Swagger.
…And Ryder got the everliving s--t beat out of him by Swagger. I know this wasn’t a “burial”, per se, since it’s all just selling Ryder’s injuries, but damn. I do think Ryder looks way better during the chase than he does as actual champion, so I don’t think his push is going to stop anytime soon. He’s fairly deeply woven into the biggest storyline in the company right now with John Cena and Kane, and he has his cute little budding romance with Eve to tide him over. Let him build his character some more. Ryder isn’t going anywhere; he just needs to evolve a bit past “lol I made some videos that the Internet fans liked”.
Backstage once again, John Laurinaitis catches up with a physically dismantled Zack Ryder with an envelope and some papers in his hand. He says he just opened this envelope and apparently, Zack Ryder wasn’t medically cleared to compete! “My bad,” he offers in consolation for Zack Ryder’s dreams and ribs both being shattered at the hands of the All-American American. Eve begins yelling at Laurinaitis, expressing anger at his inadequacies, but in a hilarious moment, Johnny Ace simply puts his palm in Eve’s face and instructs her to “shut her mouth”.
Next up is your favorite part of the night and mine, the Divas match. Tonight’s pointless, randomly mashed together at the last second tag team bout will be guest ring announced by Perez Hilton for some reason. He was originally slated to be the referee, but I don’t know. Maybe he couldn’t handle the breakneck speed at which the Divas expertly display their craft. He quickly thanked the WWE Universe for its “warm” reception, which consisted of some of the most hate-filled boos I’ve ever heard. If Vince didn’t see that coming from a mile away, he truly has lost it. What wrestling fan also considers themselves a fan of Perez Hilton? I digress…
Kelly Kelly and the Bella twins are all looking so, so fine here it’s almost offensive. It actually angers me how attractive these women are. Not sure how that really works on a psychological, hormonal level, but that’s a conversation for another day, on my therapist’s couch. Standard fare here, with your typical unconvincing shoves, grunts, and ass-gyrations (it’s almost amazing, the WWE’s ability to make a segment involving three of the hottest women I’ve ever seen engaging in the aforementioned actions the most boring of the night), but when Bella 1 tries to switch places with Bella 2 for some Twin Magic, Perez Hilton exercises his imaginary authority over the match and prevents it from happening, encouraging the Bellas with the feel-good message, “Don’t cheat!”. Thanks, Perez. I can’t wait to see recap photos of this segment with jizz-spewing, enormous cartoon dicks hastily drawn over Brie Bella.
“Oh no you didn’t girlfriend!”
R-Truth comes out and cuts his first promo as a face, which differs from his heel promos in that instead of saying “Don’t you ‘WHAT’ me!”, he implores the audience, “Okay, ‘WHAT’ me!”. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Wade Barrett interrupts him with typical heel fare, saying he’s going to win the Royal Rumble and R-Truth is a joke. Truth, refuting the notion that he’s a joke, shows a slideshow of himself visiting Disneyland earlier in the day, including one that Truth appropriately pontificates, “I’m not even sure if that one’s PG!”. Definitely the funniest part of the night, as R-Truth typically delivers; it truly has to be seen to be believed:
Eventually Miz attacks Truth from behind, and Barrett happily joins him in his hate crime (on Martin Luther King Day, of all days!). Sheamus runs down and with an emphatic “FELLA!!!!!!!” clears the ring. Teddy Long comes down, apparently frazzled by the long weekend and unaware that it’s Monday and not Tuesday, and does what he gets paid the big bucks to do: Observe a brawl consisting of an equal number of heels and faces, and setting up some kind of multi-man match involving them. There, I just wrote the opening segment for 75% of SmackDown openers. This time, it’s an over the top Battle Royale instead of the standard Tag Team match, playas, but considering how close we are to the Royal Rumble, some sort of a preview match is usually par for the course. R-Truth wins inexplicably, furthering nothing. Happy MLK day, everyone!
Backstage, Cena once again acts like he’s Zack Ryder’s dad, calling and yelling at the school principal. He yells at Laurinaitis for letting Ryder compete, and for his efforts, Laurinaitis books Cena vs. Kane at the Rumble. Effectively nonplussed by this announcement that even Cena couldn’t have possibly been surprised by, Laurinaitis also books Cena vs. Swagger…TONIGHT!
Cena just absolutely beats the s--t out of Swagger here, taking the embarrassment Swagger delivered to Ryder and handing it back tenfold. My friends and I were joking during the match that, in keeping with the whole “Star Wars Episode III” vibe that this storyline has, Kane would appear on the TitanTron, pleased with the hatred he’s instilled in Cena with a “Good! Good! Let the hate flow through you!”. And…that’s almost exactly what happened.
“Have I ever told you the story of Darth Hogan?”
It’s easy to make fun of because of the obvious inspiration, but I really like this storyline. They’ve managed to find a compelling way to turn Cena getting legitimate boos into a storyline. Will Cena let the hate consume him? Will he kill younglings and become one with the Dark Side? Probably not, but at the very least, it seems that we’re getting a far more aggressive Cena than the stupid, hokey stand up comedian we normally get, and that’s A-OK with me. WWE needs someone that’s more Stone Cold and less Jerry Seinfeld.
“While we’re at it, what’s the deal with The Rock! No I can’t smell what you’re cooking, you’re a geological formation for Pete’s sake! Not some world-class chef for cryin’ out loud!”
We get another quick Brodus Clay squash match/dance off, this time against JTG. Vince really pulls off all the stops for MLK day, eh? R-Truth wins a match, David Otunga’s in the main event, and JTG’s on TV! He doesn’t last long, as he apparently didn’t do his homework here, because this was literally the exact same match from last week’s RAW, with JTG playing the part of Curt Hawkins. I like Brodus’ character quite a bit, and can’t wait to see more of the Funkasaurus, but we all know we’re just going to have squashes against jobbers until at least the Rumble, so let’s all just settle in and try to enjoy it.
Bryan cuts another great promo, this time detailing the events of last week’s SmackDown, where Big Show ran over AJ, resulting in massive internal injuries. Quick tangent, but when was the last time WWE saw it fit to replay an angle from SmackDown on RAW? It rarely happens, but this storyline is surprising everyone including me with how good it is, so it’s definitely deserving. Bryan’s transition into heeldom is another slow-burning one that they’re definitely doing right. I’m genuinely interested to watch SmackDown this Friday and see how he weasels his way out of yet another Title defense, this time against Mark Henry. Solid work all around, and it transitions into tonight’s main event.
Strange main event here. You have the “face” team of Punk with Daniel Bryan, who’s a tweener at best here, in the middle of his turn to a full-fledged heel, and Chris Jericho, who has not said one word or done one thing since returning two weeks ago, garnering some hatred from the audience. On the heel side of things, you have Henry and Ziggler which is fine, and then you have Otunga, who, while I’ve really enjoyed his character change into the Harvard-educated legal counsel, is undeniably out of his league here. But we’ll see.
Pretty good match, with Otunga keeping up with Punk. When Jericho finally gets tagged in, he panders to the crowd a bit, and then leaves without executing one move. Perfectly done. This effectively makes it a 2-on-3 handicap match, which eventually devolves into a 1-on-2 when the cowardly Bryan is chased off by Mark Henry. Mick Foley runs down and informs the referee that he has permission from John Laurinaitis to be CM Punk’s makeshift partner for the remainder of the match. He gets tagged in and hits some punches and the running-into-the-corner-knee-thing he always does before pulling out that dirty, stinking, rotting sock, Mr. Socko, and locks in the Mandible Claw on David Otunga for the win.
For a one-off joke from 1998, they’ve really gotten a lot of mileage out of that sweatsock.
Apparently Foley pulled the whole “I have permission to be in this match” thing straight out of his ass, because John Laurinaitis comes down and says that Foley was in fact NOT a legal participant in the match, and he has reversed the decision. The true winners of this meaningless tag match are Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler and David Otunga. That sets off CM Punk, who reverts back to July 2011 CM Punk and cuts a fantastic worked shoot on Laurinaitis, basically deconstructing every aspect of Johnny Ace’s life on the air; saying Laurinaitis is jealous that CM Punk has accomplished more in the past one year of his career than John has in his entire life, even comparing his failure of a wrestling career to that of his actual real-life brother and WWE Hall of Famer, Animal of Road Warriors/Legion of Doom fame.
It was obviously great to see Punk show some real passion behind something again; the very passion that got him to this level. The “Pipe bomb” character that started off red-hot has been laying pretty damned dormant over the past couple of months, ever since they called an audible on the whole Kevin Nash/Triple H aspect of it halfway through. But this promo made me believe in Punk again, believe that he deserves the top spot in the company, and made me believe again that CM Punk with a microphone in his hand is a license to print money.
Punk fakes taking a swing at Laurinaitis, which sees Laurinaitis cower and cover his face, making him look like, as Punk called him last week, a b---h. Punk calls him “pathetic” as he leaves. Laurinaitis picks up a microphone again and defends himself to seemingly no one, saying he is the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and the Interim (and according to him, the soon-to-be PERMANENT) General Manager of RAW (in case you didn’t know), and he will not be intimidated. Foley, still in the ring apparently processing the aftermath, asks John Laurinaitis to at least have the spine to admit that he hates Punk and intends to screw him over at the Rumble, which Laurinaitis surprisingly admits after flying off the handle with anger. Some great emotion shown by the usually lifeless Laurinaitis as he asks Foley just who the hell he thinks he is, and saying he’s sick and tired of being disrespected. The show ends with Laurinaitis hitting Foley in the head with the microphone.
“I know I’ve been irreversibly scarred from head to toe with barbed wire, broken countless bones, had my ear torn off my head, lost gallons of my own blood and inadvertently snorted my own teeth, but his microphone is just so debilitating!
Awesome show tonight. Foley’s involvement definitely adds something very new to the whole mix, and they definitely seem to be planting the seeds for something big with him. It’s about that time of year where you have to start thinking that any storyline could easily lead into WrestleMania. Will we see Foley face off against Ziggler on the Grandest Stage of Them All? He could definitely use the rub from a legend like Foley, so I have no problem with something like that. Look at what he did for Randy Orton and Edge. I know Foley is grotesquely out of shape and probably very rusty in the ring, but the good thing about him is that he’s never impressed anyone with his technical prowess. Just throw some tables, stop signs and chairs in the ring and you’ll be able to pull off a meaningful match.
Or they could go the route of him taking over as RAW GM. It seemed a bit auspicious that they eluded to John Laurinaitis intending to become the permanent RAW GM, which in turn may just elude to Foley usurping him. RAW answered questions while developing many more new ones, and they used their time intelligently, once again weaving multiple storylines into segments. Overall, very good booking here, and another great show from WWE. Hopefully they can keep this momentum going into Royal Rumble and beyond going into WrestleMania, avoiding another “Who sent me the text? I sent me the text!” clusterfuck moment.