And of course, the final Raw of 2009 featured Timbaland! YEAH! And The Jericho Embargo, with Jericho being forced out of Raw after JeriShow lost the tag titles to DX. I honestly don't remember what that bit led to.
Anyway, my point is, I didn't go into last night's Raw with many expectations. With the early promise of a WWE Title match next week and the confirmation that "It Begins" will in fact, begin next week, that was pretty much confirmed. But that doesn't mean there wasn't fun to be had. Let's take a look at the show through the lens of the patented WOO/BOO! format.
Someone's been watching All Japan tapes!
Okay, I have to admit it, Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, Interim Raw General Manager and Catering Coordinator John Laurinaitis is really starting to grow on me as a character. I don't see much of a point in rehashing Austin vs. McMahon (or Cena vs. Bischoff or Sgt. Slaugter vs. DX or everyone employed by TNA vs. everyone else employed by TNA), but Punk and Laurinaitis are having fun out there, which I enjoy. Johnny Ace wearing a CM Punk t-shirt over a full suit and doing Punk's whole entrance bit was absolutely hysterical. I groaned a little when Mr. Excitement set up the Gauntlet match (it's a poor man's handicap match), but it was a good way to showcase Punk for his hometown crowd. Too bad the ratings tanked last week for Punk, causing WWE to lose faith in him, otherwise, he probably would've had six matches.
It's The goddamn Undertaker, people
Regardless of who it's for, those videos seriously creep me out. I don't care what you do, putting someone in a corner with fast, constant cuts is terrifying. Let's say you have a grown man in a kangaroo suit with a small dog in his pouch, it would be funny if he were facing you, but turn him around and stick him in a corner? BLAIR WITCH! RUN!
Booker T & Cody Rhodes had a hell of a match. I'm sure a lot of folks are mad that Booker picked up a clean, definitive win, but I don't see the harm. Booker looked fantastic, the guy seriously hasn't aged a day and he deserved a win after the hell Cody has given him. I thought this feud didn't have the legs to keep going, but if Booker keeps up with these kind of performances (and he doesn't keep getting jumped before every match they have), I think they could keep this fun after all. It should at least keep us entertained until Goldust swoops in to save his friend and set up a WrestleMania match with his brother. Right?
Through Hellfire and Brimstone, it's LIL JIMMY!
Honestly, this segment was in BOO! territory until R-Truth returned. John Cena's Chicago history lesson was awkward and Miz's interruption was a rare miss for the Most Must-See WWE Champion in History. Obviously they were trying to tease Kane throughout the night, but shoehorning John Cena into The Miz and R-Truth's issues just didn't work. But Truth's beatdown was glorious and him singing (screaming) "Auld Lang Syne" was absolutely marvelous. "Auld acquaintance gon' get got," thankfully, Truth isn't dropping the crazy shtick.
The reaction to Truth vs. Miz is why WWE doesn't do nuance though. "Who's the heel?!" was the question all throughout the Twitterverse, but does it matter? They're two big time Superstars who always get a big reaction, they'll be fine. Plus, it doesn't hurt that their match will probably happen at the Royal Rumble, when it's totally cool to do "experimental" stuff anyway.
CM Punk Needs Food Badly
The Gauntlet match turned out to be a lot of fun! Punk vs. Jack Swagger was solid (I still have no idea why they don't do more with Swaggie) and the attempted Vader Bomb-to-GTS was awesome, wish it would've connected, but a swift kick to the skull works too.
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler was good and I thought they were holding back for Punk vs. Henry, but no, they were holding back for Punk vs. Ziggler next week with the WWE Title on the line! These two had an awesome match a few weeks ago, now add in the first WWE Title match of 2012 and I think we're in store for something special. Remember how Morrison and Miz tore the house down for the first match of 2011? I suspect we'll see something even better next week.
Ziggler is really turning into something special, even if his celebration was bordering on Santino levels of ridiculousness, but I'll forgive him as long as he keeps getting Mr. Perfect hair.
Come to the Dark Side,
Kane's promo last night was perhaps a bit (a lot) over the top, but I kinda loved it. Kane being the Emperor Palpatine to John Cena's Skywalker is a great idea and it all ties many threads together. It works for Cena's "Rise Above Hate" gimmick, the "will he or won't he?" heel turn, and it's a great direction for Kane. Kane's "tormented past" is often referenced, but it never really means anything in his stories other than "I'M MEAN! RAWR!!!" Here, he becomes the embodiment of hate in WWE, don't rise above it... embrace it! It's a bit simplistic, but perhaps a character like Kane should be simple. When WWE tries to add layers to Kane, we get things like Katie Vick and Edge throwing BW3's at Paul Bearer. "THE SPICY GARLIC BURNS MY EYES!"
Oh and Kane throwing up a literal firewall to stop Cena? Badass! Sorcery will always get a WOO! from me.
You Know It... for about 25 seconds
You could argue that Zack Ryder is the most popular Superstar with WWE crowds right now, his reactions are second only to Punk's, so why did they stick him in a throwaway match with Eve against Tyson Kidd & Natalya? Don't get me wrong, I liked mixed tag matches and we haven't seen one in awhile, but this was a waste for all talents involved. A little build up (even just an argument backstage) would've gone a long way here, certainly more than John Cena's pep talk. And Tyson Kidd looks weird with hair!
David Cowabunga doesn't get to sue the Big Show
Big Show's assault on David Otunga was completely uncalled for. It was vicious, brutal and unfair, David Otunga isn't a wrestler! Have you seen him wrestle? Clearly he doesn't deserve this kind of attack! To avoid an expensive lawsuit, Johnny Ace instead set up a match where Big Show had one hand tied behind his back, which I don't think makes him less dangerous. There wasn't much of a match since Mark Henry interfered early and Daniel Bryan made the save, but there wasn't much to this. I appreciate Henry still being presented as dangerous, despite his injury though and I assume we'll get some sort of tag match on Smackdown... HOLLA!
Alberto Del Rio robs a disabled pimp
What the hell was Del Rio rolling around in, Huggy Bear's wheelchair? Obviously I don't want to see someone get injured, but I think some time off is the best thing that could've happened to Del Rio right now. In the span of a year, he's gone from the hottest new property in WWE to someone I'm totally bored with. He's fallen into that limbo that Sheamus did last year and needs a recharge, so hopefully the time off will help.
Yeah, there wasn't anything particularly memorable and it was a placeholder show for what is sure to be a big one next week, but it was harmless and enjoyable. It flew by and we got a couple great matches thanks to Booker vs. Cody and the Gauntlet. I don't think ending a show on a downer note like "CENA SUCKS!" was such a great idea, but I guess CM Punk should just be a better draw and he'll get to close shows more often. I kid, I kid!