Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday Night Raw - February 11, 2013

Any show that begins with Paul Heyman doing his thing on the mic is a-okay with me, but I didn't really see the point of the whole, "I'm quitting... j/k! Punk and I are besties!" Here's how I imagined it went down:

Writer A: Okay, so we'll have CM Punk and Paul Heyman talking about The Rock...
Writer B: OMG! The Pope is resigning?!
Writer A: We should totally make a joke about that tonight, it's so topical!
Writer B: We're practically The Daily Show!

And then they had to talk Vince out of retooling Tensai as "The Portly Pontiff."

Regardless of the flimsy premise and the fact that it was completely inconsequential, Heyman sold it like a champ though, it's not hard to see how he managed to convince fan and worker alike that ECW was a journey worth taking.

In-ring action began with a trip to the Hall of Pain and Mark Henry just decimating The Great Khali, and then Hornswoggle, because that what he do. I'm still not exactly sure what sparked all this, it's not like there's been a fundamental change in Henry's character, but for the last two years, everything has just clicked with Henry as he's doing the best work of his career, more than 15 years after his debut. If it weren't for the Big Show, who has also experienced the mysterious "click," I'd say Henry is the best in the business right now.

Chris Jericho, who's been in more Elimination Chambers than anyone (really, more than Kane?), wants to be in this Sunday's match for a chance to face the World Champion at WrestleMania. While we're on the subject of flimsy premises being used to give us something awesome, Smackdown GM, Booker T, told him he could be in the match if he beat Daniel Bryan.

I'm still not the biggest fans of these three-hour Raws, but when it gives us 10 minutes of these two with a red-hot Nashville crowd totally into it, I guess I'll take it over an NCIS rerun or a full night's sleep. I also really love that Jericho's yearly return seems to revolve around him working with whoever the hell he wants, hence Punk and Ziggler last year and now Bryan. Hopefully this means Jericho vs. Cesaro is on the way in the next few weeks.

Fandango is coming soon to capture your heart and get you to the movies on time.

John Cena, Ryback & Sheamus vs. 3MB did what it needed to: find someone more obnoxious than John Cena, so you'd cheer for him by default. Heath Slater is so unbearable, he makes John Cena's weekly derp seem downright charming, but at least the match was a fun little showcase of The Superfriends. It should say something though that despite being put on the backburner, Ryback is still the guy the crowd reacted the most for, that's the power of an effective chant.

Big Show was left speechless after Alberto Del Rio put his bus on cinder blocks last Friday night. That really wasn't very nice of Del Rio, that's Big Show's home when he's working. He can't fit in airplanes and hotel rooms aren't made for him, and Del Rio forced him to go to Pep Boys, which is often a fate worse than death. He also punched Matt Striker in the face, which is leading me to question if he really is the bad guy in this feud.

Zack Ryder's "Hoeski" has cracked the top 100 on iTunes, and if it weren't for the Grammys, that would be the worst thing to happen to music this week.

Jack Swagger came out to face Ryder and that's when things got weird. You know, weirder than a dude with a song called "Hoeski" cracking the top 100 on iTunes. Swagger was joined by his new manager, Dutch Mantell, who was formerly known in WWE as Uncle Zebekiah, but is now Zeb Coulter Colter (Ann is very litigious), a right-wing, doomsday prepping, pissed-off Vietnam vet that hates immigrants.

That's right, Jack Swagger got his very own Teabagger.

I'll have more thoughts what happens when Jack Swagger listens to AM radio in a column later this week, but I approach this new gimmick with cautious optimism. For one, it's nice to see WWE do a political gimmick that's not "lol, liberals are dumb," so at the very least, they've upgraded to equal opportunity offenders, which is progress for them. Two, this is just batshit enough to work: Dutch seemed a little nervous out of the gate, but I'm sure in a couple weeks, he'll be able to go the Full Nugent.

I like that The Miz has incorporated the upside down WWE logo into his attire, that's a nice touch. I wasn't thrilled with the match with Cody Rhodes as I don't think they did enough to sell Miz's ballsy, but ultimately stupid, standing up to Lesnar last week. The DQ finish was weak and did nothing for anyone, but Rhodes taking advantage of an injured Miz, beating him easily and then leaving the bones for Antonio Cesaro to pick would've been much more effective. Although Cesaro airplane spinning Miz repeatedly into the barricade was pretty fucking rad and might just give the crowd a reason to care about this feud.

Brodus Clay & Tensai vs. Primo & Epico was obviously a beer match, but I'll be damned, Primo trying the ol' double-noggin-knocker had me rolling.

I have a great idea for The Shield: just let Ambrose do the talking. Reigns is fine in that football player that just sacked the QB kind of way, but Rollins sounds like The Undertaker in Suburban Commando and it isn't doing wonders for the image they're trying to sell here. "You fail at existing, John Cena!" Oh dear God.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of this address was other than the fact that we have a "John Cena problem," which about half of the WWE audience has thought for about 7 years now, and that's a fine basis for The Shield to work with, but they never really sell it. The pins are set up and they threw a 7-10 split here, if they're supposed to be something different than the nWo or Nexus, then give me something different other than "we're tired of John Cena." Get real, get mean, go further than Punk did and point out the very legit problems with Cena and his shtick, mention that he talks about how his "worst year" involved headlining every PPV last year while they slogged away in NXT. Take it to such a ridiculous extreme that people will still boo, but don't just regurgitate what CM Punk said two years ago.

Oh and The Superfriends made an appearance here too and brawled a bit, which was pretty much the ending to last week's show.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Damien Sandow was criminally short and I hope these two get a chance for a rematch on Smackdown or Main Event soon because I think they could have a great series together. I read someone over at PW Torch complaining that Sandow is "stuck" in the role of being an "impressive opponent" for top guys to beat decisively, but let's remember, he's been on the main roster for less than a year and that's a pretty great spot to be in. Drew McIntyre was supposed to be World Champion by now, so things could be much worse for the Intellectual Savior of the Masses.

New rule: if you're ever in charge of booking matches for a WWE event and you think Wade Barrett vs. Kofi Kingston is a good idea, you're wrong.

Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler was to determine the final participant in the Chamber match Sunday, but Dolph doesn't need to kill himself in that ungodly structure and Kane's not going to win it anyway, so I consider it a push. No idea where this leaves Dolph for Sunday though, leaving him off the PPV entirely would be a shame.

Despite the rumors, no Undertaker last night, which bummed me out.

So I guess the concept of ending a show with a match is passé? The Rock closed the show by telling Nashville about the time he bought a car from a crackhead in a country bar... I'm not making that up. Although to be fair, "this is The Rock's whip now" might be the funniest thing the guy has ever said.

But the whole "story time" thing really showed my problem with The Rock and WWE in general. The Rock's Nashville story would've been absolutely hysterical in 1999 WWE, probably would've been the highest brow humor the company had ever seen at that point. It was certainly light years ahead of "This is Your Life," but in 2013? It's lame. To return to a point I made two weeks ago, The Rock is a walking Chuck Lorre sitcom, he's just a method of delivering funny lines that really aren't that funny in the first place. Then CM Punk comes to ringside and I see something like Lena Dunham's Girls, someone who's not afraid to look vulnerable, but is also effortlessly cool (and covered in tattoos).

The Rock makes a gay joke about Punk and Heyman (at least he managed to avoid a Brokeback Mountain reference), and what does Punk do? Put his arm around Heyman and snuggles up to him, then eventually rushes the ring, kicks The Rock's ass and takes the WWE Title. Why would I cheer for The Rock over that guy? The Rock is an anachronism, a relic from a bygone era, he's the Motley Crue reunion tour, which has its place, sure, but it's not what the centerpiece of an industry anymore.

But as they say, the masses are asses and people love The Dwayne. He's starring in 87 movies this year, his was in half the Super Bowl ads, and true story: while I was standing in line at the hardware store yesterday (because I'm manly), I heard a customer and a cashier (a male and female) talking about how they're both watching wrestling again because "The Rock is back." Obvi WWE can't ignore that, but this particular fan wants to see Punk knee him in the fucking face.

This was another excellent Raw. Things are still on the treadmill while we wait to really get into WrestleMania high-gear, but the amazing crowd last night and getting Jericho vs. Bryan made it worth the investment.

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