-I kinda hope WWE and USA collaborate for another Tough Enough, just so the advertisements can say “Last year’s winner Adam Leavine? Fired before he made it to the main roster! Who will be the NEXT individual that disappoints?”
-Another three hour Raw; another show where the first hour’s rating will suck and thus create flame wars internet-wide (“WWE’s dying!” “Nuh uh!” “Yuh huh!”), and another show with probably enough filler to make school cafeteria hot dogs. Eh well, I’m pretty amped about Lesnar/Cena and Punk/Jericho on Sunday. Hell, I’m even excited about Bryan/Sheamus, just to see a 36 second two/three falls match. Extreme Rules with the Chicago crowd oughta be tight.
-Live from Detroit, where nary a face bore surprise when Metta World Peace clocked James Harden a day ago.
Opening Segment: The Contract Signing
Boy I hope this doesn’t get a crap rating, just because not everyone’s going to remember Raw’s on an hour earlier tonight. Teddy Long is here to moderate, and immediately messes up on listing Cena’s accolades, thus getting us off to a rip-roaring start. Cena wearing a faux-Celtics logo tee in a city where Bird and McHale fought Isiah and Dumars shouldn’t bode well. Crowd boos “UFC” when mentioned by Long, and Lesnar is absent. Instead, we get Laurinaitis to yell at Long that Lesnar isn’t here yet, and that the signing will take place later. They will sign it on “Brock’s terms”, and Ace tells Long to kick Cena out of the ring. We need more WWE Films with Johnny Ace playing lead villain, starting with a remake of Happy Gilmore and Ace as Shooter. Oh, and Edge is here for some reason, not that I’m complaining too much. Edge reveals his contract expires in a few days, and he’s here to talk to Cena. Edge doesn’t know who Cena is anymore, because the Cena he remembers took him to the limit in 2006. Edge seems pretty vehement about this. Edge even points out that Brock doesn’t care about WWE, the way Edge and Cena did as kids. Edge punctuates with “I’m not asking you to beat Brock Lesnar; I’m telling you to!”
Segment Rating: 7/10. Wish the crowd was livelier, but Edge was great as the fallen motivator. It does beg the question as to whether or not Cena will actually alter his persona long-term to fit this direction.
Match 1: Chris Jericho vs. Kofi Kingston
Well it’s a three hour show; may as well be some wrestling somewhere. WWE.com asks if Jericho is the new “Cerebral Assassin”, which he isn’t since he’s not allowed to even kiss Stephanie. Very faint Kofi chants, despite him not having a gimmick alteration in over two years. Nice monkey flip from Kofi, followed by the 1980’s arm drag/dropkick barrage. Kingston even gets a nice fake dive, bouncing his own head off the top rope. Jericho takes over, and it’s refreshing to actually hear Cole and Lawler discuss how Punk may have the home-crowd advantage next week, as opposed to going into Tweets and that crap. Leapfrogs and back elbow get two for Kofi, who is then immediately planted with a free fall. Kingston lands a beautiful flip dive as we hit the mid-match commercial. We return to Jericho working a chinlock, precipitated during the break by Jericho’s springboard dropkick. Kofi gets free and lands a twisting roll-up for 2. Jericho regains control with a surfboard, and lands the bulldog, but the lionsault fails, with Kofi getting a rana for 2. Controlled Frenzy ensues, but Jericho lands a clothesline to prevent the Boom Drop. Kofi manages a crossbody, but Jericho rolls through for 2. Kingston responds with a wicked SOS for 2. Kingston follows with a crossbody to the BACK, then a Boom Drop. Trouble blocked, and Jericho tries the Walls, only to be thrown off. Kingston tries a springboard in, and Jericho catches him with the Codebreaker, but opts not to cover. Lion Tamer applied and Kofi taps to end a damn good match.
WINNER: Chris Jericho via Lion Tamer
Rating: 8/10. Good match, about ***1/4ish, though I’m a bit tired seeing Kofi as the modern Tito Santana. I miss his 2009 push.
-Brock video package, showing him annihilating Jeff Hardy at Backlash 2002. Anytime the Hardyz get wrecked in the ring is pretty okay by me.
Plug: A look at how WWE makes the mistake of pushing gimmick matches than the wrestlers themselves, and how it’s shaped some recent buyrate woes. http://bluebarcage.blogspot.com/2012/04/part-where-wwe-fails-most.html
-John Laurinaitis has an opening for Eve. Funny, when she was hired, it was the other way around. So Eve’s now part of Ace’s cabinet. I suspect bitchy things will happen.
-The awesome Lesnar video from last week is played in full, thus showing the perils of a three hour show. Hey guys, you have 25 talents that never get to be on Raw, and are instead picking up scraps on Superstars and on Smackdown’s quad-annual battle royals. Use em!
-CM Punk comments on Jericho’s taunts, including the “gift” which is a liquor gift basket. He lets Josh Mathews have his pick of the stash, wishing him a Joyous Kwanzaa. Good stuff.
Match 2: R-Truth vs. Lord TENSAI
This was a main event on Heat in 2000, I’m sure. Truth gets a high heel kick, but the monster responds with a palm uppercut. Truth is cornered with repeated strikes as the YES chants finally start. Delayed underhook drop connects, followed by the layout senton. Bullet Train Wreck connects, but Truth manages to not have the match stopped. Myst-Claw STO drops Truth for the loss.
WINNER: Lord TENSAI via Myst-Claw STO
Rating: 3/10. Short but effective. I like monster heels, and squashes are okay with me.
In-Ring Segment: Kane
Kane calls Sunday night “his favorite night of the year”. I miss Backlash, too. Oh, but he means it’s a night of no rules. “Orton can’t beat me in a match WITH rules, let alone without them!” What about the No DQ match after WrestleMania? Kane rambles on, nightmares, Orton’s a boy, hopes the monster will go away, yada yada yada. Orton pops on the tron, wearing his misshapen beard once more. And he’s got Paul Bearer in a wheelchair as revenge. He shoves the bound Bearer into a freezer to try and lure Kane backstage, but Kane laughs it off. Great, first Undertaker kills Paul, and now Kane will. Orton hits the ring anyway, grabs a lead pipe, and attacks to hard sell for Sunday.
Segment Rating: 4/10. The mind games would have been fine if the storyline wasn’t so loose and cheesy. Speaking of loose and cheesy, I hope Kelly Kelly’s not wrestling tonight.
-Alex Riley reports to Chris Jericho that he caught CM Punk drinking, and Jericho catches Punk sipping from a solo cup. Question: why does Punk’s personal locker room have clothing in 5 different cubby lockers?
Match 3: Alberto Del Rio/Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show/Great Khali
Del Rio’s the newest member of Friday Night Smackdown, so of course he’s on Raw. Seriously, we do they even assign wrestlers to brands? Rhodes takes on Show Sunday, with the stipulation to be determined. Lawler: “Great Khali fingering Cody Rhodes there” DATS NOT PG. Khali attacks Rhodes for the sneak attack on Friday, and Rhodes wisely tags Del Rio, who doesn’t fare any better, and we go to commercial. Khali gets a match long enough for a commercial interruption? HAS DETROIT NOT SUFFERED ENOUGH?! We return to Khali laying down. Well, at least he can’t mess that up. Show gets a fairly hot tag (really!), and he beats up Del Rio for causing Ricardo to run his leg over. A year ago. Show takes a bump to the floor and tweaks his knee, then barely beats the count in. Rhodes works the legs upon being tagged in. Rhodes and Del Rio take turns working Show over, as we actually have a tag team match worthy of two heat segments! And KHALI is involved! Del Rio applies a scissored kneebar and the crowd actually rallies for Show. Rhodes avoids a chokeslam and gets a FIGURE FOUR on Show! Show finally breaks with a hard right hand. Del Rio has enough of Show’s resilience, and he and Ricardo take a powder. Khali lands a skull chop, and Show chokeslams to end.
WINNERS: Big Show and Great Khali via chokeslam
RATING: 7/10. Good lord, that was a good match until the cheap ending! We need more old school formula tags!
-Santino will defend the US Title vs. Miz as a YouTube exclusive before the PPV Sunday. On the one hand, it’s a bit insulting to both men; on the other, internet will replace PPV one day anyway, so the change is necessary.
-Jericho rats out Punk to Laurinaitis, and demands he be stripped of the gold. Eve says a WWE talent can be stripped of his gold if he drinks within 12-hour window of a show. BAHAHAHAHAHA! So Jericho talks Ace into forcing Punk into a FIELD SOBRIETY TEST. RATINGS GRABBER AND A HALF. And Teddy Long has to tell Punk.
-Brock Lesnar arrives, and he immediately savages Josh Mathews for daring ask questions. Works fine by me.
Mathews does a stretcher job after the commercial, because Brock is just that bad ass. Alastair Overeem snickers from afar, while he plots better ways to pass piss tests.
Match 4: Beth Phoenix vs. Nikki Bella (WWE Divas Championship)
The Bellas pre-match stretch is certainly uplifting. Eve Torres joins us pre-match, maybe to extend the Divas airtime for a change, and she makes the match a lumberjills match. Hey, Tamina Snuka’s still alive! And the world could use more of Maxine’s tight body. Josh Mathews is trending. HA HA, HE MIGHT BE DEAD, IT’S SO GREAT THAT HE’S TRENDING! Nikki gets press slammed and battered. I’m a little lost; this is the longest free-TV Divas match is forever, so I’m partially stunned. Even the commentators seem surprised. Nikki escapes a Glam Slam and gets a face plant for 2. Nikki falls to the floor, on the only side with no lumberjills, and Beth appears to legit injure her ankle getting out of the ring. Nikki rolls an injured Beth up to win the title.
WINNER: Nikki Bella via rollup (new WWE Divas Champion)
Rating: 3/10. That’s gonna suck if Beth is injured as Kharma prepares to return. Seems like it’s real too. Damn.
-Punk is “drunk” backstage, and is unhappy about taking a sobriety test. Wait for it….
Field Sobriety Test: CM Punk vs. Sobriety
There is a RED LINE in the middle of the ring, which I’m sure Punk can carry to a **1/2 match. Jericho is here to make sure there’s no chicanery. CM Punk is the first man to ever have theme music for a field sobriety test. That should be on his headstone. Punk has to recite the alphabet backward, and the cop trusts him with his own microphone. Punk makes a mockery, skipping Y twice, and points out how stupid it is. Punk now has to walk the line. “I DIDN’T SEE THE LINE; THE LINE’S NEVER THERE!” Punk even does the crane technique to be silly, and can’t walk it without wobbling. The cops believe he’s drunk, which makes them inept, and Long asks for Punk to hand over the title, and Punk…..does? But before Long can hand the title to Jericho, Punk asks for one more chance. And this time, he nails the alphabet (well, getting S and T backward) AND walks the line (FLAIR STRUT) to massive cheers and YESses, before beating the crap out of Jericho. Thus Punk is still champion.
WINNER: CM Punk via alphabet recitation/line walking (Still WWE Champion)
Rating: 7/10. It was dumb, but only Punk can make a dumb segment like that work. But if he got S and T backward, shouldn’t Jericho be champion? Wait, what the HELL am I talking about?
-Video of Brock killing Hulk Hogan in 2002. Let’s see what other current TNA guys he’s murdered!
Match 5: Sheamus vs. Mark Henry (non title match)
The guest referee is…..DANIEL BRYAN! Michael Cole cheering for Daniel Bryan seems so wrong. Ahh, and if Sheamus STRIKES AN OFFICIAL, he’s fired. Power struggle kicks things off, with both men exchanging strikes, and Bryan forcibly pulls Sheamus away. He even dares Sheamus to hit him. Sheamus avoids doing so, but Henry flattens Sheamus with a simple strike, and Bryan fast counts the fall. Sheamus attacks Bryan, which is legal with the match over. Henry eats a Brogue Kick, and Bryan manages the YES Lock on Sheamus. More boos mixed in this time with the YES chants.
WINNER: Mark Henry via running strike/fast count
Rating: 4/10. Serviceable segment to sell Sunday’s match.
-Sheamus informs Matt Striker that D-Bry better start praying.
Match 6: Colon Blow vs. Zack Ryder/Santino Marella (Non Title Match)
Ryder and Santino are a super team, forged after the dissolution of Marella/Kozlov and Ryder/Hawkins. Really. Ryder is in peril as Santino rallies the crowd. Weren’t Santino and Rosa an item at one point? Primo misses a springboard corkscrew, allowing Ryder to make the lukewarm tag. The usual connects, and the Cobra comes out. Epico takes a spill, and Santino rolls through Primo’s dropkick, landing the Cobra to win.
WINNERS: Zack Ryder/Santino Marella via Cobra
Rating: 3/10. Either make this a legit feud, or find something better for the champs to do. Fat chance, I know.
Plug II: My mocking of TNA Impact via silly captions. Tell your friends! http://bluebarcage.blogspot.com/2012/04/tna-impact-41912-caption-crazy-funtime.html
-Kane finds Paul Bearer in the freezer, and then decides to leave him in there. Because he’s EVIL.
-Abraham Washington talks to Epico and Primo, demanding to know why they had their entrance during commercial break. Man has a point.
I’d need to eat 45 Dorito Locos a day to have an ass the size of Naomi’s. And why do we need sponsors for individual matches? Eve’s promos could be sponsored by No-Doze. At least Vickie’s looking MILFeriffically leggy tonight. The usual heel-humors-the-midget match ensues, with Horny getting a headscissors. Clay lays out Swagger with the power offense, and gets Ziggler with the ramming headbutt. Vickie runs in and slaps Brodus, but is cornered by the funky quartet. Hilarity ensues, as she tries to dance, but Hornswoggle bites her ass. Taco Bell is so proud.
WINNERS: Brodus Clay/Hornswoggle via DQ
Rating: 1/10. Naomi is a guaranteed 1 each time.
-Just to complete the “Brock kills TNA guys” trilogy, Brock is shown beating Angle at WM19, with the shooting star edited out. Coming up, footage of Brock Lesnar breaking into Gunner’s house and MURDERING HIM!
-I love you Sarah Shahi. That is all.
-Same Brock video package from last week again. Tyler Reks must be feeling REALLY useless.
Main Event Contract Signing
Laurinaitis is out first to preside. That music is just uber-spiffy. He introduces the man he guarantees will be WWE’s “new face” in Lesnar. And then Cena is introduced to a mixed reaction, but he’s nowhere to be found. Lesnar calls Cena out, and is annoyed that Laurinaitis flew him in for this. But with Cena absent, Lesnar has his own business to discuss with Laurinaitis. Lesnar begins to hardball Laurinaitis for some last minute demands. #1: Lesnar wants more say in WWE policy, particularly involving him. #2: He wants Vince McMahon’s private jet for transportation. Lesnar admits that he ‘doesn’t like people’, so #3: He shows up to Raw whenever he feels like it. #4: He wants more money. Crowd isn’t liking any of this. Holy crap, they may actually have found a way to get Cena over as a face. Well, until the Chicago crowd gets involved, anyway. #5: The show has to be renamed “Monday Night Raw, Starring Brock Lesnar.” I LOVE THAT ONE. That’s completely outside the box from their usual safe, paint-by-numbers booking. Laurinaitis agrees under duress. Lesnar happily signs, and this brings Cena out, complete with his old school masterlock chain. Long staredown ensues, and Lesnar threatens him with fists. Cena stalls on signing, and Lesnar tries to goad him into signing. Lesnar claims Cena is scared, sensing the fear radiating off of him. Cena finally signs the paper and hurls it at Lesnar, then both men cock their fists back; Cena armed with the chain. Table gets turned, and Lesnar walks out to further the head games.
Segment Rating: 10/10. Finally, a real villain, and Cena looks like a real hero for once. The build for this is WAY better than the Rock/Cena build. Easily.
OVERALL: A lot of bad on this show (three hour shows never sit well), but there was plenty of good. Jericho/Kingston and the Show/Khali/Rhodes/ADR tag were good matches, Punk was entertaining during the sobriety test, and Cena/Brock gave Sunday’s show a big fight feel.
Really, this could have been accomplished with a two hour show, but I’ll take it. Really amped for Sunday, just to see what the big two matches deliver.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.