Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WWE Raw - January 16, 2012

What a difference a week makes. Mere days after one of the most bizarre, random Raws in recent memory, WWE came back to the table with a cohesive, dramatic and story-driven show that could very well have WrestleMania implications.

Mick Foley obviously doesn't have the "OMG!" factor of The Rock or even Steve Austin, but I had a very good feeling about this show when things kicked off with the Hardcore Legend. Foley has been a WWE Champion, he's even headlined WrestleMania, but he has never won the Royal Rumble and made it known he wants to fix that this year. Honestly, I'm not opposed to that, CM Punk vs. Mick Foley at WrestleMania? Why the hell not? Cena vs. Rock is selling the show, have some fun with the WWE Title match.

Although those WrestleMania implications I mentioned earlier would lead me to believe Mick Foley vs. Dolph Ziggler is much more likely to happen in Miami and I don't think I'd mind that either. Hell of a promo from Ziggler too, berating Foley with the wit of Barney Stinson while dressed as Sonny Crockett, could there possibly be a better character in wrestling right now? CM Punk, perhaps? Punk hasn't had much to work with in recent weeks, but holy hell he brought his game last night. I thought his tirade against Ziggler was one of his best in awhile, but it seemed like small potatoes compared to the second time he grabbed the pipe bomb... more on that in a bit.

In case you haven't heard, Evan Bourne was suspended once again today, putting him on the shelf for 60 days. I wonder if the suspension came down before the Tag Title switch at the house show or if it's just a coincidence? Either way, AirBoom is probably done, which is a shame because I always wanted to see Evan and Kofi team up, but I don't know if there's any coming back from this. I don't know if they'll outright release Bourne and I do think it's kinda bullshit that these guys can't smoke a little weed now and then and instead go for dangerous synthetic substitutes, but that's another debate for another day. Bottom line, I don't want to see Bourne lose his gig, so hopefully he'll do what he needs to do to keep that from happening.

The match with Primo & Epico was fun and fast-paced, but obviously too short. I wish I could say I was eager to see what the future holds for the tag division, but I'm pretty sure this quick switch was just to get the belts off AirBoom, not to actually do anything with them.

One of the best sight-gags from WWE in quite awhile came from Chris Jericho meeting up with Johnny Ace backstage. He turned off all the lights in the office and without saying a word, turned his Christmas Tree jacket on. Hilarious.

In a make-good for last week's controversial finish against CM Punk, Jack Swagger got a United States Title match against a clearly injured Zack Ryder. Swagger captured the title in a move that surely sent the IWC into a fit of rage, but this was good storytelling. It's a bummer to see Ryder drop the belt, but it's supposed to bum you out, it wasn't fair. It took three - three - Gutwrench Powerbombs to put Ryder down, despite lingering injuries he suffered at the hands of Kane last week. I don't know if that says more about Ryder's toughness or how ineffective Jack Swagger has been for three years, but regardless, Ryder came out of that looking like a fighter.

For as much as I love Ryder, his character is extremely limited right now and he was on the path to becoming Santino 2.0 once the cheers died off. And of course they were going to die off, the whole point in the "WE WANT RYDER!" chants was that we were not, in fact, getting Ryder. Now that we're getting him, there's not as much of a need to cheer and being "the Woo Woo Woo guy" was only going to go so far. There's nothing wrong with being a comedy character, Kurt Angle's early WWE run is a classic example of it working out perfectly, but there's gotta be some depth there. Right now, Ryder's a catchphrase machine and the addition of some hard times and conflict will hopefully be exactly what he needs.

Perez Hilton is just the worst and his segment was stupid. Clearly they were trying to promote whatever he's got going on with his fitness blog with the Divas, which is fine, but talk about shoehorning someone into a segment.

R-Truth however, is just the best. His slideshow photos from Disneyland are my new favorite everything and Wade Barrett just letting him go on and on was perfect. Oh and Truth's "I don't even know if that's PG!" at Pinocchio's nose growing was the first time the "That's not PG" joke has ever been funny.

I'm sad that The Miz is still stuck being a punching bag (well, kicking bag) for Sheamus, but the four-man mini Rumble was fun and it was cool to see Truth win. I wasn't sure if Truth's shtick would work as a good guy, but after a bit like this, I think it might turn out for the best. Speaking of comedy characters, Truth is a great example of how to do it right. Can we get this guy a WWE Title run already?!

One thing I enjoy about Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, Interim General Manager of Raw and Part-time Shoe-Shiner, John Laurinaitis is how he's willing to admit fault in his own prickish way, then make the situation even worse. He admitted there was a mistake in the Swagger/Punk match last week, so he tried to make it right by giving Swags a US Title shot, which wasn't right to do to Ryder since he wasn't medically cleared, so he tried to make John Cena happy by giving him a match against Swagger, which almost got Swagger killed. Whew.

Yeah, John Cena embraced the hate by embracing felonious assault and damn near killing poor Jackie Swaggs. I don't really see how it was Swagger's fault that he got put in a match with an injured Ryder, but again, that's the point. Kane is clearly getting to John Cena and the "will he or won't he" talk about a turn gets to heat up a bit more. BTW, he won't.

"The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay is one of those things that makes me wish I could just sit in a room and watch the WWE creative process unfold. How did Planet Funk make its way to Earth? I could easily imagine the WWE writers sitting in a room thinking, "we need to come up with something different for Brodus, generic monster is out right now." But I could also see it being something Brodus himself came up with, I know nothing about the guy, he's not on Twitter (except as a retweet machine) and we've never seen an out-of-character glimpse of him. But maybe he's a bit of a goofball and it caught on backstage?

But my personal favorite is Vince McMahon himself coming up with the idea and pitching it to Brodus much like he pitched "Puke" to Droz in the 1999 documentary Behind the Mat. Instead of "HE'S GONNA... HE'S GONNA... HE'S GONNA PUKE! HE'S GONNA PUUUUUUKE!" he sat Brodus down, took the cap off his Aquafina and said "You're not just Brodus Clay, Brodus is gonna bore-us... you're THE FUNKASAURUS! HE'S BIG! HE'S FUNKY! HE'S THE FUNKASAURUS! BAAAAAAAAAAACK BODY DROP!"

However it came to be, the character continued to be fun in his match with JTG, but he REALLY needs a new finisher. Okay, I don't want to see the Stinkface or anything, but he needs something like that. Something funny and slightly dehumanizing to his opponents that the crowd can cheer along with. Brodus... are you able to do the Worm?

Daniel Bryan blaming Big Show for AJ's injury was pretty spectacular. Anyone who ever said Bryan didn't have the charisma or "mic skills" to be in WWE had no idea what they were talking about. Fun fact: it's not an RPG (no matter how much I want it to be), just because someone has a high magic stat, it doesn't mean they need a low charisma stat for balance.

The main event turned out to be the real highlight of the show. A six-man tag featuring CM Punk, Daniel Bryan & Chris Jericho taking on Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry & David Otunga. You know how WWE six-man tags work at this point, but the ultra-hot crowd sent this way way up the list and that hot tag to Jericho was nothing short of spectacular. In case you missed it, Punk was getting his ass kicked, the crowd was pleading for Jericho to come in, exploded when he got the hot tag, he got them all fired up and just when you thought he was going to attack... he left the ring. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Bryan and Henry were also took themselves out the match, brawling all over the arena in preparation of their match this Friday for the World Two-First-Names Championship, which left the door open for Mick Foley to save the day! Foley performed his greatest hits: punches in the corner, running knee to the face, double-arm DDT, Pink Houses and Mr. Socko to get the win and send us home happy. Yay!

But EVPOTRAIGMOMNR John Laurinaitis wasn't having any of that. He didn't sign off on Foley as a participant in this match or the Rumble and overturned the decision. CM Punk responded by tearing Johnny a new asshole in one of the greatest verbal takedowns he's ever done. Muhammad Ali turned 70 today and all he wanted was to watch that promo again... true story! YouTube it if you missed it, hell YouTube it if you saw it, because it was Punk's best work since the night he started the whole pipe bomb thing.

Punk walked off, leaving Johnny Ace and Cactus Jack behind and Laurinaitis confirmed he will screw Punk at the Rumble and blasted Foley in the head with the microphone. Truly terrific work from Laurinaitis here and he has really evolved into a great villain, I was totally wrong about making him an on-air character. It's obviously not Austin/McMahon, nothing ever will be, but if Johnny keeps showing the fire he showed last night, this feud could become something really special. I'm really digging it.

And I really dug last night's Raw. My good buddy Bill Baconhill called in the best in a year and while I'm not sure if I'd go that far, it was a lot of fun. As I mentioned, the stories are really coming together, the main event was fun and the Anaheim crowd was definitely the best in the last year, if not the last several. More like this, please!

Programming note: time slipped away from me today, so I'll do a double Royal Rumble Top 30 post tomorrow with matches #13 and #14. Thanks!

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