Tuesday, March 27, 2012

WWE Raw - March 26, 2012

"Don't tell any doctors I said this, but at this point in the situation the bus pretty much drives itself." - Abed Nadir, Community S02E22: "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts"

When's the last time Raw opened with a random tag match? It's not unusual for them to start with a big one-on-one match, even a WWE Title match, but how often do they start with one of those main eventer pairings that could serve as the final match of Smackdown any given week? Well, last night's Raw dove right into the action with Randy Orton & Sheamus taking on Kane & Daniel Bryan. I really enjoyed this match with Sheamus kicking ass, Orton being used sparingly as a hot tag and Bryan serving as the glue holding everything together. Hell, I even enjoyed the ending with AJ distracting the ref long enough for Kane to chokeslam Sheamus from the apron, which was a pretty cool visual. Definitely a situation of "punked on Monday, win on Sunday," because there's no way Kane and Bryan are winning at Mania, but at least they have some momentum. Terrific start to the show.

David Otunga vs. Santino Marella was the longest, messiest set-up for a reveal in recent memory. I really don't think we needed Michael Cole as the official Team Johnny commentator, Booker T bringing out Teddy Long, Hornswoggle & Vickie Guerrero as flag bearers, a 20-second match and a Three Stooges bit to introduce The Miz as the final member of Ace's team. I get why they did two segments on the Teddy/Ace story, so they could both reveal their final team members individually, but this was just convoluted.

Eve vs. Kelly Kelly gave my DVR a workout. Next!

CM Punk vs. Christian was scheduled as the 10pm main event (EEEEEK!!!), but didn't go down as planned (sad face). For starters, Chris Jericho again appeared on the TitanTron, this time to insult CM Punk's mom. Okay, claiming Punk is just one bad break away from drowning his sorrows in the sauce thanks to his genetics is a little sleazy, but I can see how the story could work. But attacking Punk's mom because his parents weren't married until months after his birth? Now we're in full blown Big Boss Man/Big Show territory.

Honestly, is "bastard" really a worthy insult in 2012? My parents, who have been together for 30+ years never got married. Who cares? This isn't the 1950s and CM Punk isn't Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, so the bastard thing just came across as laughably stupid. Just put these two in the ring together and let the magic happen.

Apparently it made CM Punk real mad though, since he took out his frustrations on Christian so viciously that Captain Charisma will not be able to make it to WrestleMania. I guess Christian got re-injured or his previous injuries still haven't completely healed? Regardless, it's a bummer Christian won't make it to WrestleMania and an even bigger bummer that he's been replaced on Team Johnny by Drew McIntyre... who?

Brodus Clay vs. Curt Hawkins was the definition of filler. Clay's shtick has worn thin and he just squashed Hawkins in his debut a few months back, so the only reason I can see they ran this match with six days to go until Mania was they literally had nothing else to do.

Big Show vs. Primo was more filler, but at least this time we got some Cody Rhode's awesomeness to hype the biggest IC Title match in recent memory. It's not like we're talking a Rock/Cena war of words or anything, but track this down if you missed it, Cody was spectacular here.

The Lord Tensai vignettes are interesting, but people are surely going to remember him as Prince Albert, right?

Mark Henry vs. The Great Khali was another messy set-up for Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy, but at least this one had an exciting and unexpected payoff. Henry dominates Khali, John Laurinaitis throws T-Lo to Mark Henry, Team Teddy tries to make the save but Team Johnny has the ramp blocked, so Booker T sneaks in the backdoor and makes the save, joining Team Teddy for WrestleMania. Took awhile to get there and I have no idea why Team Teddy each rushed the ring individually - although Kofi's springboard off someone's back onto the apron and into the waiting arms of Mark Henry was cool - but this worked much better than The Miz reveal.

Our main event of the evening was the final confrontation between The Rock & John Cena. No concerts, no costumes, no history lessons, no empty arena interviews, just a straight up one-on-one battle of words to hype the BIGGERESTEREST MATCHEST EVARZ! Both guys were pretty toned down, The Rock only made two references to genitals (one male, one female) and Cena didn't go into Reverend Cena mode until the very end, but it was fine. I would say it did what it needed to do, but they didn't really need to do anything at this point.

Which brings me to the Community quote I posted at the start of the review, at this point, the bus pretty much drives itself. Rock vs. Cena has been sufficiently hyped for months and just in case you weren't 100% sold, they made a one-hour documentary about it that aired before Raw and will air 87 bajillion times on a dozen networks between now and Sunday.

On that same note, Triple H vs. The Undertaker has been sufficiently hyped, and I'd even say everything since Triple H uttered the words "Hell in a Cell" has been completely unnecessary. They could've announced Triple H vs. Undertaker: HIAC a week after they announced Cena vs. Rock last year and it would've been sufficiently hyped.

Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk was sufficiently hyped once Jericho said he came back to prove who the real "Best in the World" is. Hell, just say "we're going to put Chris Jericho and CM Punk in the ring together at WrestleMania with the WWE Title on the line" and I think most people would've been fine. The Straight Edge Bastard stuff was completely unnecessary, it's like putting gravy on ice cream.

For the last month, the only matches that really needed the hype were the ones that got it the least: Sheamus vs. Bryan and Kane vs. Orton. Kane and Orton, I understand, it had to be hastily thrown together, but I really would've enjoyed some word battles between Sheamus and Bryan, especially under the big spotlight of Monday Night Raw. They could've halved the amount of segments devoted to the 12-man and given Bryan and Sheamus some promos and it would've been much better.

But at this point, the bus pretty much drives itself. Sheamus and Bryan will have a good match and the matches people are paying to see are so far in that upper echelon, WWE could've just run video packages for a month and I suspect the Mania buyrate would be the same. Of course, the ridiculous amount of hype dictates the matches have to deliver on Sunday and WWE has a lot of work to do for WrestleMania 29 since they're not going to be able to run this kind of card next year, but I'm ready for 28. I've been ready, everything since the Rumble has just felt like when you were a kid and the wait between Thanksgiving and Christmas felt like eons.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wrestling criticism and the Devo Paradox

I read this article on the AV Club yesterday and immediately thought about wrestling critics and the culture of instant reaction. Here's what I found most relevant:
It’s important to note, though, that the Devo skeptics weren’t “wrong” per se. Devo intended to provoke with its science-fiction mission statements and its emotionless renditions of ’60s party music, so the affronted reactions that the band received from some quarters weren’t just expected, but to some extent, desired. Art and criticism are supposed to be in conversation with each other, and the Devo-haters were just answering the band in the terms its members had established.

WWE provokes its audience in a similar way quite often. "Oh you like this guy? We'll build him up then tear him down, just to get you to really boo his opponent." WWE is not above manipulating fan demands to build up another project they're working on.
Plenty of music-lovers dug Devo back in 1978. If anything, the loudest adverse reactions to Devo were an example of what happens when a solidly entertaining rock band is rejected by writers who’ve been hyped up to expect genius. The Devo phenomenon is representative of the way critics sometimes rush to apply the brakes to a trend or an artist that seems to be racing to premature canonization.
What wrestling critic isn't guilty of this? Someone catches on and the IWC instantly turns on them: The Rock, Steve Austin, John Cena, hell, even before there was an internet, that segment of the wrestling fanbase turned on Hulk Hogan.
Ryan Adams talked about this... noting that each album he releases seems to be greeted with a shrug by critics who a year or two later will cite those same albums as the kind of excellent music that Adams doesn’t make any more. “What’s really happening is this: I’m making records, and people are fucking trying to have an instant emotional connection with something that’s bigger than them, bigger than their immediate response.”
In the 90s, I heard: "Why can't WWE be like it was in the 80s? I miss the REAL wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Jake the Snake and the Ultimate Warrior."
In the 00s, I heard: "Why can't WWE be like it was in the 90s? I miss the REAL wrestlers like Stone Cold, The Rock and Mick Foley."
In a few years, we'll be pining for the days of Edge, CM Punk and Rey Mysterio.
Consider 2007, when two of the best American movies of the ’00s were released: No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. The buzz on both was high before they were released, and throughout the end of ’07 and into early ’08, much ink was spilled about which of the two—if either—was really a new American classic, and which of the two was better. Who cares about these questions now? Both movies are so rich, powerful, and entertaining that they’ve easily outlasted the immediate attempts to pigeonhole, position, or nitpick them.
I usually shy away from bullshit self-help slogans that people post on their Facebook pages or retweet from Rev Run, but I read something a couple days ago that really stuck with me, "Will this matter a year from now?" And it can be applied to anything like worrying about what happened a work today to critiquing wrestling. Last year, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan were "buried" when they were bumped off the WrestleMania card. This year? They're battling each other with the World Heavyweight Championship on the line. Did their snub last year matter a year from now? Obviously not. Even if it did and they faded into obscurity, wrestling is a continuing form of entertainment that just keeps rolling along. WWE's missed a lot of opportunities over the years, but wrestling's still on every Monday night and WrestleMania still happens every year with plenty of great and memorable moments along the way.
reacting nearly in real time to stories that sometimes take years to play out isn’t always fair to the writers and actors who are trying to develop ideas carefully over multiple episodes. Plus, the need to have something to say every week means that TV critics sometimes scrutinize beats and jokes more than they can withstand.
Raw and Smackdown are on every single week, 52 weeks a year, add in a monthly PPV and you have 244 hours of programming a year. Your average sitcom does about 8. Critically-acclaimed hour-long cable dramas do less than 10. Trying to analyze all 244 of those hours match-by-match, segment-by-segment, minute-by-minute is always going to make it seem worse than it really is. We all go into this knowing we're not dealing with anything like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, can it really stand up to that kind of scrutiny? Does it need to?
I hasten to add that I’m not pointing any fingers here that I wouldn’t point at myself. I know firsthand that when I’m writing about a show, I tend to be harder on it than if I’m just watching as a fan. I also know from decades of TV-watching that sometimes a series that seems to have gone off the rails looks much better than I remembered when I catch up with it again years later.
The Invasion wasn't that bad. The Fingerpoke of Doom could've worked. WWECW was actually a really great wrestling show. But the hype, the refusal to let things play out (both by viewers and writers), fussing over a name, it killed our enjoyment at the time.

I am not as good of a writer as the AV Club's Noel Murray, so I'll leave this piece the same way he left his brilliant piece:
But professional critics and casual enthusiasts alike can always benefit from a little perspective, and a little patience. We should try to remember that sometimes the moment when we feel most compelled to comment on a piece of art is the moment when we’re least equipped to appreciate it.

WWE Raw - March 19, 2012

Sorry I'm late, personal life has taken priority in the last week, and if it's enough to keep me away from WWE during WrestleMania season, you know it's a big deal. Nothing to freak out about and I was actually away Monday night for fun stuff, but just took a bit to get to Raw.

Kicking things off with CM Punk was a great idea since Jericho's "I'm going to drive you to drink" motivation required a certain spotlight and attention to detail that this feud was not getting. I'm still not 100% sold on it, and Jericho shifting focus from the dad to the sister didn't help, but CM Punk's performance did. Punk was genuine, believable and giving him a 12-second delay to play with was a great was to put across how pissed he was. And like an iconic band once said, "if you wanna win, you gotta learn how to play... head games!"

I had little interest in Kane vs. Big Show (though the top rope chokeslam was cool), but Cody Rhodes putting on some gloves and teeing off on Show's head like Floyd Mayweather was awesome. And how about the refs using boltcutters to free Show from the handcuffs? What happened to the magical referee handcuff skeleton key? It's nice to see the IC Title not only get defended at Mania, but have a legitimate story behind it. More of this, WWE!

Santino Marella vs. David Otunga wasn't really a match, but as with all this between these two guys lately, it was a lot of fun. Santino's airbrushed abs, the pose down, T-Lo slapping Johnny Ace in the face - ACE IN THE FACE! - it was a good time.

Lord Tensai? Supposedly that's a returning Giant Bernard aka A-Train aka Albert, but I'm surprised they're not just bringing him back as A-Train. I'm all for a fresh start, but I am a little sad that I can't watch the smark implosion over The Funkasaurus teaming up with the Hip-Hop Hippo... TURN IT UP!

The Rock's promo in front of the Rocky Balboa statue is always a necessity when The Rock is in Philly, but before I get into what he said, can we discuss how weird it is that Philadelphia has a statue of a fictional character prominently displayed in their city? New York doesn't have a Spider-Man statue and we all know Haddonfield, IL is still waiting for their Michael Myers statue! Good stuff from The Rock though, playing up some WrestleMania history on top of his Philly pandering, it actually seemed like The Rock cared about the fact that he was going to have a wrestling match.

Daniel Bryan vs. Zack Ryder was way too short, but very good for what it was. If you're still holding onto that Ryder stock, I'd advise you to sell, but it looks like he could bounce back with a WrestleMania appearance on Team Teddy. Still a tough break, I think his triumphant ending should've been a WrestleMania victory over Kane, but I'd guess Wade Barrett's injury, leaving Orton with nothing to do, is responsible there. Still, I think there's a lot of potential in Ryder and Santino forming an alliance and the best way to get that started is the 12-man match at Mania.

John Cena was in a car wreck on Monday before Raw, but I think I'd rather take my chances with the tractor-trailer than Mark Henry! Crowd was red hot for this one, especially as Mark Henry was splitting wigs (Philly hates everyone, especially Cena), and it's just another example of how much a crowd can boost a match. Obviously there wasn't anything revolutionary here and they were taking it easy since Cena was fresh off a car accident (no matter how minor, you're always a little stiff), but the crowd made it fun. Cena flying out of the World's Strongest Slam and hitting the AA was a super cool ending too.

And then The Rock showed up, which only got the crowd fired up more. Rock Bottom on Henry (vulture!) and that's about it. Kudos to Rock for not making a gay joke about Cena getting "rear-ended."

Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix & Eve at WrestleMania? Ooookay. Seriously, Menounos should just go to FCW and join the company, you know she wants to do it and it's not like you need to be particularly good to be a Diva these days. I'm sure Extra pays better though.

The Miz vs. Sheamus was next: the battle of the guy who went from the main event of WM27 to being left off WM28 and the guy who was left off WM27 and is main eventing* WM28. Good match though, they're certainly trying to keep Miz relevant (with the exception of that Big Show match), but Sheamus is the Rumble winner, so obviously he's winning here. Hopefully this ends with Ace snubbing The Miz and he gets revenge by breaking good and joining Team Teddy. Would be a cool moment, when's the last time WWE did a great face turn (and no, "well the crowd's cheering, so put him against bad guys now" doesn't count) and it would give the 12-man a nice boost.

Josh Mathews doing an 80s-style side-stage interview with Randy Orton was the coolest thing associated with Randy Orton in quite some time. I was actually impressed with Orton too, it was a simple and effective promo with an old school vibe, which is exactly what Orton should be. Have you been watching The Walking Dead on AMC? If not, you're apparently the only one, but Jon Bernthal plays Shane on TWD and I see a lot of eerie similarities between Shane and Orton. Unbalanced, dangerous, but there's still some good in there; if Orton can add that element to his character, I think it would go a long way. I'd still hate him, but hey, it would be something!

Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger officially joined Team Johnny for WrestleMania and took on Kofi Kingston & R-Truth, two members of Team Teddy. Match got a surprising amount of time and the baddies pulled it out thanks to a little help from Vickie, but Aksana got in her face and we had a good ol' fashioned lady fight! Wouldn't be surprised if they add the ladies to the match since WWE doesn't have nearly enough good guys to round out Teddy's team.

Shawn Michaels, Triple H and The Undertaker going face-to-face...to-face was our main event of the evening. Shawn did his thing first, reminding us that he holds The Streak in the palm of his hand, which brought out The Undertaker, who obviously doesn't like when it's worded like that. The Undertaker's entrance was longer than the time he got to talk before the arrival of The Game (muhuahuahuah) though. Triple H was rocking his t-shirt and jeans look too, because this match is too big to be weighed down by a fuckin' suit, bro!

Triple H raised a good point though, Taker needs to stop worrying about Shawn Michaels and start worrying about Triple H. He also reminded us that of the 24 Hell in a Cell matches, HHH or Taker have been in 19 of them, but never against each other, which is surprising. Triple H started on his "I know what it takes" spiel (you didn't last year), but Taker goes dark and basically said he might murder Triple H, leave his children fatherless and his wife a widow. Christ, Deadman, that's some Mike Tyson shit.

Triple H went darker though and seemed to agree it was fine to raise the stakes to that level. Taker reminded Triple H that HBK is still the better of the two and that was pretty much it.

Despite the finale going a little flat (what more needs to be said about this match?), I liked that something other than Cena and Rock got to close the show. In fact, Rock vs. Cena was almost non-existent this week, with Punk vs. Jericho, Teddy vs. Johnny, Triple H vs. Taker and really even Cody vs. Big Show getting more prominent roles. That's good though, they don't need it if they tried to keep doing gimmicks like Rock vs. Rap, it would start to wear thin.

The rest of the stories got some much needed room to breathe and it worked. I'll be surprised if anything but Rock/Cena and Triple H/Taker get a lot of time next week, but they're two of the biggest main events in recent Mania history, so you can't fault them there. Good Raw.

Monday, March 19, 2012

John Cena involved in car accident

My stomach fell into my shoes when I read the headline:
WWE.com has learned that John Cena has been involved in a three-car accident in Philadelphia. The SUV the WWE Superstar was traveling in was reportedly rear ended by a Honda Civic, which had been rear ended by a tractor trailer.

Although Cena claims to be 100 percent, the Superstar is still set to meet with WWE medical personnel today at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. Cena was scheduled to face Mark Henry on tonight’s Raw SuperShow – a match, which according to Cena, will go on as planned.

Super Cena strikes again! Though I'm sure Vince McMahon needed a new pair of slacks after he heard the news, thankfully everyone is okay. Regardless, I think it would be in everyone's best interest to place John Cena, and The Rock for that matter, in a plastic bubble for the next two weeks.

Now, I usually cringe at this kind of thing, let's pretend John Cena had a minor injury that would've healed easily, but keep him sidelined until shortly after WrestleMania, what should WWE have done?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WWE Raw - March 12, 2012

Less than three weeks to WrestleMania!

We began last night with Jerry Lawler in the ring because they were in Cleveland. Yes, they love The King in his hometown of Memphis, but he's more into Cleveland... which is strange since Memphis is younger. Lawler introduced John Cena for his portion of the Rock/Rap Concert.

Cena came to the ring to "Basic Thuganomics" and was decked out in a throwback jersey and the old chain and padlock. Cena's rapped more in the last year than he had in the previous five combined, so it wasn't surprising to see him lay down a new "freestyle" (that's what the kids call it, right?), but it was still pretty damn good. He took swipes at The Rock getting plastic surgery on his pecs, put some of Lebron James's Cleveland heat on him and called him "chickenshit." Oh, and promised to teabag him at WrestleMania... these two should just make out and get it over with already.

Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler was our opening contest and when you give two guys like this 15 minutes to work with, good things are bound to happen. This was an excellent TV match, thanks mostly to Ziggler making the #1 contender for the World Title look like a friggin' BEAST. How about Ziggler reversing the Irish Curse into a crucifix?! Gorgeous! Sheamus picked up the win with the best Brogue Kick ever and I'd love to see these two feud for the World Championship after WrestleMania.

And I saw a lot of gripes about them cutting to Daniel Bryan & AJ in the skybox during the match, but I didn't see what the big deal was. Cutting away during a lull period to hype a PPV is totally okay in my book. That's standard operating procedure for TV... get mad if they cut away from a PPV match to hype a TV show.

The whole Santino vs. Mark Henry & David Otunga bit was dumb. I don't mind the tag match at WrestleMania to determine the sole GM, but 12 guys is way too many. This whole segment, while a decent way to get guys to care about Otunga and Henry, just flowed awkwardly. R-Truth and Kofi Kingston also came across as the worst helpers ever.

There was a lot of backstage filler after the Santino segment, highlighted by John Laurinaitis giving Miz (with Psych's James Roday) a match against CM Punk for a spot on his WM team, and lowlighted by this stupid Eve and Zack Ryder story still happening.

Jinder Mahal vs. Brodus Clay was next and wait... The Funkasaurus is back? Clay did seem rejuvenated (or motivated) due to his mysterious month-long vacation and the prone splash is a waaaaaaaaay better finisher than that running crossbody, but I suspect the only reason he's back is because WWE realized they don't have enough good guys for Teddy Long's team at WrestleMania. I'm still skeptical of the whole shtick, but if Brodus can really get into it, it could be something fun. The Cleveland crowd loved it, but they loved everything last night.

I don't really have much to write about Shawn Michaels & The Undertaker sparring on the mic, it's pretty much what I expected, but I love the fact that HBK is in both guys' heads. He told Triple H last week that he knew Taker would win at WM27 for the same reason he knew who was going to win this year, and then used the same line on Taker this week to imply that Triple H was going to win. Threatening to be the one to end The Streak in retirement was a nice dickhead move too, it's what Shawn does best. I'm still a little worried about Shawn's involvement in the match, but hopefully it just means Undertaker killing them both and going 20-0. 21-0 if we're using the Sid Vicious method of scoring a streak.

The Miz vs. CM Punk was about five minutes too short, but they did well with what they had. Punk forced Miz to tap out to the Anaconda Vice, which naturally upset the same people who would've been upset if Miz beat the WWE Champion three weeks before WrestleMania, but such is life in Internetland.

Things got really interesting after the match though when Chris Jericho appeared on the TitanTron and revealed that CM Punk is sXe because his dad was a raging alcoholic that missed all his tee ball games. "And the cat's in the cradle with the silver spoon..."

That got a huge groan out of me, but Jericho managed to turn things around and revealed that his new motivation for WrestleMania is to beat Punk so bad that he drives him to drinking. I'm not sure if "I will drive you to alcoholism" is the best or worst motivation for a bad guy in wrestling history, but it was amusing nonetheless. I don't think this story needed this, but I do think it could've worked if not lost in the shuffle of Mania Madness. Play this card for the Extreme Rules rematch, it's not going to get the time it needs to play out when The Rock, John Cena, Triple H, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels are showing up every week.

Many people have pointed out the Jericho/Raven parallels though and I can't help but love it just a little more after that.

The David Otunga ambulance-chaser vignette was absolutely brilliant. More of these, please.

I can't believe they gave that much time to Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger. I'm not complaining, the match was fine, but I just didn't expect Swagger to look that impressive, the dude has barely been relevant for 18 months and they give him that impressive of a showing against the golden boy? Of course, Orton won handily, but I thought the match was a pleasant surprise. The ropes exploding when Orton went to do his pose on the turnbuckle was a nice touch too and will do more to hype his match against Kane than anything else they'll do over the next five shows.

I'm still bummed Ryder doesn't get to get his revenge on Kane at WrestleMania, but I assume this was hastily slapped together after Barrett's injury. Nature of the beast.

The Rock Concert was our main event of the evening and since "Leavin' Sacramento" is still my all-time favorite Rock bit, I was excited to see it return. But as usual with The Rock, there had to be some eye rollers. Before he even began singing, Rock had to give us some very timely references like Vanilla Ice and the gay Teletubbie. What, were The Wuzzles too dated?

Once the concert got going though, The Rock was really entertaining. Of course, there were plenty of gay jokes, but I applaud The Rock for calling male Cena fans virgin nerds and not homos. That's progress for ol' Dwayne. Also, I hate myself for laughing at "menstrual clock," but dammit, it was funny.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, your penis is nonexistent, you're gay, but you have a wife and bang Eve on the side, blah, blah, blah... typical Rock stuff. It's juvenile, it's schoolyard, but it was Rock doing what Rock does best. The crowd ate it up and it was better than his usual material since he had to rhyme. For some reason, latent homosexual tension is just more amusing when it has a nice melody. You know they're totally going to man-hug at WrestleMania.

So all in all a good night for The Rock... wait, there's more? Oh dear God, he's singing his own version of "We Will Rock You" by Queen. Oh no, make it stop, MAKE IT STOP!!!! In the words of Sir Charles, that was "turrble."

Good God, what made anyone think that was a good idea? First and foremost, you don't parody Queen. Only certified musical genius, Mr. Weird Al Yankovic, could get away with parodying Queen. You can do a cute scene where everyone headbangs to Queen, you can even do a polka cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, but you don't parody Queen without an accordion, it just won't work.

Secondly, as much as I love Queen, "We Will Rock You" stopped being edgy when it was used as background music in trailers for children's movies. Once you get to "We Will CROC You," the power of the song is gone. He may as well have just sang Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" if he wanted a rock song that's been completely neutered.

Uber-lame ending aside, I really liked last night's Raw. Everyone brought their WrestleMania season work boots and everything was advanced fairly well. Some rough spots with that long bit of filler and Chris Jericho pulling a Big Boss Man on CM Punk, but overall, it was a good hype show for Mania. They've got two more Raws and three more Smackdowns to really seal the deal and if they're anything like this, I'm pretty confident about the excitement factor for Mania.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Miz is... not as awesome

It's hard to be awesome all the time, we all eventually have our downfall. Sometimes you awkwardly stick your leg out at the Academy Awards, sometimes you lose a lot of wrestling matches, being awesome is a gift and a curse.

The Miz has already accomplished far more in WWE than anyone ever thought he would before the draft in 2009. When Miz & Morrison split up, it was because Morrison was going to become a singles star and Miz was going to be the guy that Big Show knocks out in one punch. Okay, bad example, but the fact is, no one expected this meteoric rise from The Miz and he did it by overcoming all the doubters. The doubts may be back, but this is just another bump in the road for the Awesome One.

Yes, he's on a losing streak, yes he got crushed by Big Show and no, he doesn't have a WrestleMania match, but let's just look back one year. This time last year, Sheamus got destroyed by a returning Triple H, got bumped off the WrestleMania card and only had two PPV appearances between Elimination Chamber and SummerSlam. Do you remember anything significant Sheamus did in that period last year besides almost murdering Sin Cara?

But a quick face turn later, Sheamus is one of the most beloved figures in the company, won the Royal Rumble and is poised to win the World Title at WrestleMania. He's not quite at that level of MEGA star, but that's the same problem Miz is facing right now, they're both in a place where they can be bumped down the card. In fact, that's pretty much a problem any main eventer they've created since 2006 is facing, they're not at that level.

What is that level? Remember last week when Punk told Jericho, "you've never really been the man, the way that I'm the man, have you?" It's kinda like that. Punk is arguably the first guy since Edge to get to that level and it happened three years after his first World Title reign. That's a problem for WWE, but it's because they still have their safety net.

I'm not faulting WWE, but every year at WrestleMania time, they find a way to not have to make someone a true blue, top tier guy. WM24 was a solidifying performance for Edge, he got to headline a WrestleMania in the real main event match and it could no longer be argued that he wasn't a top guy, even if he'd already been a multiple-time World Champ. Orton was a bust in that role the following year, but it's okay because he was mostly established and everyone remembers that show solely for HBK vs. The Undertaker. The next year, they knew not to take the risk and let those two guys headline. Last year, it could've been a star making performance for The Miz, but just to be safe, they threw The Rock in there too. And just like WM26, they know to play it safe this year and just let Cena and Rock headline, the title matches are secondary... hell, they're even behind Triple H vs. Taker.

Making new main eventers is easy, but it's incredibly difficult to get guys on that level. Whether it's Miz, Sheamus, Punk, Bryan, Del Rio, Ziggler, Swagger, Henry or anyone else that's captured their first World/WWE Title in the last four years, they've all hit (or will hit in Bryan's case) that rough patch because they're not on that level. It's not their fault, they can fill roles down the card because WWE can fall back on Cena, Orton, Undertaker, Triple H, Kane, Mysterio, Jericho, Big Show, and now even The Rock for main events, especially around WrestleMania. Until those guys cease to be viable options for big match situations, which is going to be soon for a many of them, the younger stars can't climb up to that level.

Bringing it back to The Miz, he's just the latest in a long line. I remember Sheamus was buried last year when Triple H Pedigreed him through the announce table and Kevin Dunn supposedly "didn't like his look." Punk was buried in 09 when he was demoted to IC Title range and teaming with Kofi Kingston. Bryan was buried on NXT, then done when he got fired, then buried when he never got to defend the US Title, then buried with the Bellas, you get the point.

Guys hit slumps, sometimes they bounce back (Sheamus, Punk), sometimes they don't (Kennedy, Morrison), but it's too early to make the call on The Miz either way. WWE obviously sees value in him, otherwise he wouldn't be one of the five people they allow to talk to the mainstream media on a regular basis. He has a presence that you can't learn in a ring or in any acting class, and that carries serious weight with WWE. I'm quite confident he'll bounce back after WrestleMania, but don't be surprised if he drops down again next year in favor of Stone Cold's triumphant return.

What? A guy can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WWE Raw - March 5, 2012

We're less than a month away from WrestleMania! With the card they have, WWE doesn't really have to do much, the stories pretty much sell themselves, but they're bringing out the big guns for Raw nonetheless.

Shawn Michaels kicked things off in Boston in the arena he had his first last match in, The Garden. Shawn took his time here, but I don't care what anyone says, HBK is awesome and will always be awesome and if you disagree, you are significantly less awesome. We eventually saw the arrival of Triple H and Shawn didn't take too kindly to the fact that all it took to get HHH to agree to the match was The Undertaker saying Shawn was better. Triple H gave some flimsy excuse about how he's doing it so people stop saying Shawn couldn't get the job done (I don't think anyone is saying that), but I've grown accustomed to assuming everything Triple H says out loud is total bullshit. Cerebral Assassin, ya'll!

HBK then dropped the bombshell that I think we were all expecting, he'll be the special referee for the Hell in a Cell match. It ties up both stories nicely and special refs aren't unusual in the Cell (and by "aren't unusual," I mean Mick Foley did it once), but I worry this could be distracting. Hopefully it's just to beef up the card as much as possible, I just don't want to see shenanigans in a match like this, especially with 20-0 on the line. Turning that into a schmoz would just feel cheap. Although I do kinda like the idea of The Undertaker kicking the shit out of both of them... no offense, Shawn (but offense to Triple H).

Our opening contest was a United States Title match with Santino Marella challenging Jack Swagger, who I honestly forgot was US Champ. Am I alone in thinking this match was really, really fun? Don't get me wrong, it was a total clusterfuck with Dolph Ziggler, Vickie Guerrero, John Laurinaitis, David Otunga, Teddy Long, Kofi Kingston and Aksana (??) at ringside, but it's not like we should've expected a technical masterpiece here.

Thanks to a steady stream of shenanigans, Santino COBRAAAAAAAAAAAAA'd all over the place and picked up his first singles title since the Glamarella days. I'd say it's well-deserved, Santino's been working his ass off lately and the crowd has gone absolutely bonkers for the guy. I don't think they should've taken the title off Ryder (especially considering what they've done with him since), but you gotta live in the now and Santino is far more viable right now.

Here's hoping we see the debut of the Luger-Meter in Santino's quest to become the longest reigning US Champion in history.

T-Lo vs. Ace was much more fun this week as well, they kept it all to a minimum and it worked much better.

The Rock's history lessons were typical Rock, but that's far better than what we got last week. I liked the first one with Rock throwing Cena merchandise off the bridge the best since it was a nod to Stone Cold tossing Rock's IC Title, but "tranny Wonder Woman?" Really, Rocky? Here's a challenge for the "greatest Superstar of all-time" (weird, they called HBK the same thing 40 minutes ago): get through one promo without calling someone a transvestite, hermaphrodite, a eunuch, a gay, or giving a clever nickname to your penis. Just once. Please.

Alicia Fox vs. Eve... no one cares. Zack Ryder returned, looking like a douchey Dr. House (the show does take place in Jersey, after all), but the crowd loved him. Of course, WWE pissed it all away (again) by having him fall for Eve's Jezebel-ness. I'm beginning to wonder if Ryder's shtick is that he's living with severe brain damage.

John Cena's super serious empty arena promo was not his best. Luckily, he'd get a second shot at it later in the evening and at least he was trying to make the match feel big, unlike someone else I know.

CM Punk & Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan & Chris Jericho was an awesome tag match. I saw some gripes that they were "giving away" the title main events, but c'mon, it was a tag match. A no-touch feud is great when you're building something huge like Rock vs. Cena or The Undertaker vs. Triple H, which is exactly what they're doing with those feuds, we don't need to overdo it. I'm just happy they haven't made Jericho & Punk team up and win the Tag Titles.

Jericho & Punk gave us just enough to make it a nice WrestleMania tease and the finish was perfect. In the battle of two guys who have legit claims to "Best in the World," it looked like Jericho had the edge on experience alone. Sheamus and Bryan were good spice to add to the match, but there wasn't any significant build there.

The Rock returned for another history lesson, this time in front of a statue of Paul Revere riding a horse (and ringing those bells). Rock mentioned that he's hung like a Clydesdale and did his own version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," but come on, you're standing in front of a statue of Paul Revere and don't say "I did it like this, I did it like that, I did it with a wiffle ball bat?" For shame, Dwayne.

The Miz vs. Big Show... look kids, a falling star, make a wish! I don't know what the hell happened to The Miz, but going from headlining Mania to losing to a single punch is pretty bad. I know the commentariat insists that The Miz's career is over, but this guy has overcome far worse. Again, you can't ever say someone's career in wrestling is over unless they've suffered a horrible injury. The Miz is in a slump, but he's still the go-to guy for press junkets and has more crossover appeal than anyone in the company not named John Cena. Consider him Triple H post-Curtain Call, if he hasn't bounced back by this time next year, there might be a problem, but until then, just chill. And if you're too young to remember HHH in 96, just look at how Sheamus bounced back in the last year.

The Rock's penis is huge, guyz.

R-Truth vs. Kane was hype for a WrestleMania showdown between Kane and Randy Or--ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I honestly had no idea they were doing another John Cena vs. Rock face-to-face confrontation this week. I figured Rock's penis lessons were going to be him bringin' it via satellite, so it was a welcome surprise. Much more balanced this week with The Rock not stumbling all over himself, but his arsenal still consisted of "You say I was shaken? Nuh-uh, I'm totally confident, I swears!" and "You're my bitch." This is the best the "best ever" has for the "biggest" match ever? I know this stuff worked in the 90s because "he said 'hermaphrodite' and 'llama bitch nipple' on TV, tee-hee!"

This whole time, Cena has been punking Rock (heh, Punk Rock) while still making the match at Mania feel like a big deal... The Rock is treating it like it's his rematch with The Hurricane. I've had people tell me "that's just The Rock's character" or "that's what Rock always does," but no, it's not. The Rock made the hype for WrestleMania 18, he made Hulk Hogan an uber-star after years of being a laughingstock in WCW, his matches with Austin were epic (and I hate that word), as was the hype surrounding them.

So either The Rock is such a great actor that he's intentionally making it look like he's unintentionally getting schooled by Cena, or Cena's right and he's not dealing with The Rock, he's dealing with Dwayne.

Overall, a good Raw, very good in fact. Everything built toward WrestleMania and the only filler was the usual Diva break. It may not have been worth getting five hours of sleep to stay up for, but I'll give it a solid thumbs up.