-Regarding the discontent backstage from the WWE roster, re: Rock headlining WrestleMania: get over it, or eat a bag of manmade protein. If WrestleMania sets buyrate and gate records, everyone in the company benefits monetarily. Dave Meltzer already dressed down the “boys” who dislike Rock’s headline involvement in the biggest show of the year, but I thought I’d say my piece. For all the boys in the eighties that hated Hogan, they sure knew when to bite their tongues when those gate receipts came in. I guess we’ll see come late spring when the payoffs are doled out who’s still bitching, won’t we?
-Cheap plug: something from CCB this time. Vince McMahon revealed that WWE Films could be phased out, and I (sarcastically) offer some ideas on how to save the fledgling division. Come for McMahon’s updated portrayal of Norman Thayer, and stay for my plans for Rundown II! http://bit.ly/yg0HXN
-WWE RAW is live from Portland, Oregon, a city in which WWE coincidentally avoided when the state mandated steroid testing for wrestlers, and only returned when the mandate was lifted. Hmmm…..
We’re under Saturday Night’s Main Event rules: the champ wrestles to open. Guess Khali/Hawkins goes on at 10:55. But wait, here’s Chris Jericho in his most masculine Steve Perry attire, complete with mic. It’s kinda hard to take Jericho’s threats seriously when he’s sparkling. You’re not the best in the world, I am, yada yada yada. Jericho plays the “dying breed” card that Triple H and Undertaker are using, leading me to believe WWE’s going the “new generation crushes the old one” route. Jericho says Punk has followed in his footsteps by eschewing the higher powers and blazing a trail, but that’s only because Punk wants to be Jericho. Does that make Luke Gallows the modern day Ralphus? Punk scoffs at Jericho’s claims of plagiarism, and says that Bret Hart was claiming to be “the best” long before Jericho ever laid claim to the title. “Did you invent Canada?” No, Al Gore did. Jericho claims his “best-ness” is evident, runs through his career rolodex, et al. Crowd’s chanting for Punk. Guess Portland misses the days of stringent drug testing, and Punk’s their hero? Punk accuses Jericho of losing his nerve, and needing to talk big to cover his shriveling ego. Hey, it’s a better storyline than Edge bellowing “SPEEEEEEAR” like a Neanderthal with fetal alcohol syndrome. Punk gives it to Jericho with both barrels, pointing out that Jericho how he ran off to other endeavors, like Dancing, while Punk made it to the peak. Jericho then admits the January 2nd vignettes were a sham (About time!), and that the only reason he’s back to take Punk’s title, and prove his inferiority. Punk then disparages the jacket. OH, IT’S ON NOW! Punk gets the last word in as D-Bry’s music hits. And my goodness is AJ wearing the hell out of her jeans. Laurinaitis and Otunga join the entourage.
Segment Rating: 9/10. Good sell for the PPV match. It’s got a legit story, a legit beef, and feels real. What more can I ask?
Match 1: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (non title)
Laurinaitis distracts Punk before the bell, allowing Bryan to attack but Punk gets the upper hand as we go to commercial. We return to Bryan in control with kicks, but Punk resorts to the Flair chops. Punk gets two off a springboard crossboard, as Laurinaitis and Teddy Long are in the booth. The GM’s bicker as Punk works the arm. Oh god, they’re gonna distract from the match. Punk strikes away to make up for the distractions. Punk tries to dive onto a grounded Bryan, but AJ stands over him, and the diversion allows Bryan to take over, knocking Punk into the steps as we hit a SECOND break. We’re back, and Bryan works an abdominal stretch. During the break, the two did the superplex/double pin spot, but both men kicked out. Lawler: “Instead of you two (Cole, Ace) patting each other on the back, check the match out!” I concur. Punk regains control with an offensive flurry. Punk hurts himself on the Savage Elbow, but calls for the GTS. Otunga leaps to the apron, Punk knocks him off, and then Punk avoids a LeBell Lock, culminating with a double cross body collision. Santino prevents Otunga from interfering, and then Laurinaitis ejects Santino. The GMs and their toadies argue as Bryan takes a walk. Then Sheamus prevents Bryan’s exit, throws him in, Punk hits the GTS, and Laurinaitis tells the ref not to count. Long and Ace get into it, jackets come off, the lickspittles get involved, and Punk leaves them to argue it out. Punk poses on the ramp, and Jericho immediately jumps him. Punk gets slammed on the rail, and Jericho slaps on the Lion Tamer. Man, that lite brite jacket insult hurts!
WINNER: No decision rendered
RATING: 8/10. The wrestling wasn’t the issue, but the chaotic pace of all three angles (Punk/Jericho, Ace/Long, Sheamus/Bryan), felt very much like an old Attitude-era Raw. See, we don’t need language and violence: just frenetic pacing and a hot crowd! Good stuff.
-Punk has been helped into the trainer’s room. Josh Mathews made more for that 9 second cameo than you made in the last 3 months.
-Undertaker/HHH recap, complete with NFL Films-style testimonials from top stars, discussing last year’s match. I wish they’d do that more often to give classic matches a bigger feel. It doesn’t even feel hokey.
Match 2: Kelly Kelly vs. Nikki Bella
Kelly on Eve: “Just when you think you know somebody, you don’t.” You mean that camera guy who paid you $20 to show your boobs WASN’T a Hollywood exec? Kelly takes over with the lame ass headscissors, and wins with a bridging cradle.
WINNER: Kelly Kelly via rolling reverse cradle
Rating: 1/10. Pure filler.
Match 3: John Cena vs. The Miz
More cheers this week for Cena, but the boos pick up after the audience realizes, “Wait, it’s Cena, what are we doing?” Maybe the subliminal anti-Rock messages are working a bit. Miz gives a reality-based promo before the match, about how he doesn’t deserve his recent treatment from the company. Miz is going to prove he’s “WrestleMania-worthy” by beating Cena. I thought you just had to be named Snooki? Cena dominates early with hiptosses, followed by the Protoplex. Miz avoids the AA and gets the knee spike/neckbreaker for 2. Fun fact: Miz headlined WM27 last year, but the two men who bashed him for the R-Truth botch (Lance Storm, Shane Helms) never had a Mania match! Miz lands his stump DDT (complete with nice javelin bump from Cena) for 2. Miz lands the third dimension clothesline, but misses an axe handle, leading to Cena’s routine of comeback moves. Five Knuckle, AA, STF, Miz taps. Not quite last year’s main event, is it?
WINNER: John Cena via STF
Rating: 6/10. Respectable TV match, even if it doesn’t further Miz’s cause for a Mania match. I suspect he’ll be in the MITB rehash.
-Rock is warming up backstage, and Cena smiles at the sight of him. Rock mocks the “You Can’t See Me” to drive the point home. I’ll bet it turns all SHOOTY~!
Match 4: The Colons vs. True Boom vs. Jack Dolph (WWE Tag Team Championship)
Hey, the WWE Hates Tag Teams guy (http://www.twitter.com/wweHatesTagTeam) must be freaking out! Somebody finally beat Road to WrestleMania on WWE ’12 and unlocked the “MORE THAN 2 TAG TEAMS” badge! Kudos! Lawler makes a “moves like Swagger” joke, since the girls he loves all think Adam Levine is soooo cute. Kofi gets controlled frenzy on Ziggler and Primo, and Truth mops up, covering Dolph for 2. In comes Swagger, and he and Kofi go to the floor on a spinebuster drive. Everyone’s on the floor as we hit commercial. Back to action, and Primo and Swagger work over Truth. Ziggler makes me laugh by interfering, and then covering his tracks by pretending to check his heart rate. The heels get to arguing over the pin. Truth lands a combo DDT/Moment of Truth on Primo and Ziggler. Heels get double tags, but Epico and Swagger dissent, and Truth tags Kofi. Kingston goes nuts with dropkicks. Cross body on Swagger gets 2. Boom Drop lands on both villains, but Ziggler Zig Zags Kofi. Swagger covers, but only for 2. Swags gets the ankle lock on Primo, but Kofi gets the TIP on Swagger. Then Primo backstabs Swagger, allowing Epico to get the pin!
WINNERS: The Colons via Backstabber
Rating: 6/10. Good, fast-paced tag action, which is far more than we’re used to.
-Afterward, Kane re-emerges, ready to embrace some more hate. Chokeslams for everyone!
-Ace and Otunga discuss the Oscars, and Long confronts them. Apparently, both men’s time is short in running their respective shows. Long call’s Ace a horse’s ass, and the fans chant it! Good times!
-Highlights of Eve and her bizarre change of heart. Her acting may be laughable at times, but this is far better from one minute Diva squashes and no character development. I did laugh when Cena summed up Eve’s entire speech, since WWE apparently has no faith in Eve with a live audience.
In Ring Segment: Eve Torres
AJ in those jeans earlier are fiercely rivaled by Eve in that skirt. PG is dying, people. Eve says men would want to be used by her. She’s got a point. Then she goes off the rail. If Eve’s acting was any more wooden in this promo, I’d get splinters in my junk while grinding against her. She then blows a kiss to end…..that. Kelly and Eve have a whole “Dude, like, you’ve changed” promo backstage, and Eve laughs it off. Kelly emotes concern.
Segment Rating: N/A. I can’t even rate that. I feel like I’d be stomping on the corpse of a paralyzed hobo.
-Edge is in a new crappy WWE film, and his co-star: JOE BOOKMAN, LIBRARY COP! I’m ALMOST sold.
Match 5: Sheamus/Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes/Mark Henry
Rhodes’ IC Title counter: 202 days, the first man to break 200 days since Shelton Benjamin in 2004-05. It’d be funny to see him break Honky’s mark of 454, just so Honky has to make a new claim when he promotes himself for indy events and autograph signings. Cody replays Mayweather beating Big Show’s ass at WM24, just because it’s funny. Show takes his frustration out on Henry, causing Cody to run off. Sheamus tags in and immediately decapitates Henry with the Brogue Kick for the win. Show barks at Rhodes afterward, who meekly leaves.
WINNERS: Sheamus and Show via Brogue Kick
Rating: 3/10. Short, but effective. Show was running long, so it’s understandable. Actually, this just makes Sheamus look stronger.
-Shawn Michaels is back again next week. Never say that WWE doesn’t pull out all the stops headed into their biggest event of the year
The Real Main Event: The Rock vs. John Cena, war of words
I miss the super deafening ovations that Rock, or anyone, would get. I wish fans weren’t “too cool” to scream these days. Not bad ovation by any means, but damn. Rock basks in the chants, and seems genuinely humbled by it. Rock says he’s covered in goosebumps, because the ovation feels so good. Rock admits he’s not here every single week, but he used to be. He loved it, too. He was born in WWE. Rock admits that, if not for WWE and the fans, he wouldn’t exist. The Soul Man had to lay his seed, too, Dwayne. Rock tries to twist his “I’m never leaving” line from a year ago, and said he never meant it literally. Rock says he’s here because he loves the WWE. You can almost hear Cena picking up the fodder. Rock: “John Cena…” Crowd: “BOOOOOO” He thought Cena, for years, was a phony, but since Cena wants to back up his big words, he’d much rather whoop his ass with a piece of Kung Po chicken. Rock calls Cena a “kung po bitch.” Well, go ahead, trend, you nonsense phrase, you. Rock points out Cena’s statement about “fighting for the boys that wanted to be a professional wrestler.” Rock says he fights for himself, because nobody else will. Rock namedrops Savage for a big pop, then Piper, to the big Portland ovation. See, Cena can fight for the boys…..Rock fights for the millions. Rock fights for the fans that are tired of having Cena shoved down their throats. Rock then regales us with the Fruity Pebbles evolution, culminating with Cena ending up on a cereal box. More tales of inane phrases that Rock go to trend followed. Rock even gets the fans to chant “LADYPARTS” on command. Then they do “ROCKY.” Hey look, Pavlov’s dog is salivating! Then Rock disses Cena’s lack of balls. Now we get a “MISSING BALLS” chant, which brings Cena out. Cena seems unfazed by Rock’s creative insults, and admits Rock is right: Cena runs him down when he isn’t here. And now Cena’s going to do it WITH Rock here. Cena repeats the same insults as last week, but this time do his face. Cena makes a veiled remark about Rock writing promo notes on his wrist. They come to face to face. Cena says Rock will be afraid at WrestleMania, then he leaves, saying, “Continue trending.” Rock seems at a momentary loss for words, but then says its like Cena to walk away before Rock hits him. Rock jumps into the catchphrases, frenzied the whole way, IF YA SMELLLLLL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKING! End promo at 11:19 PM EST. Rock stands tall as we go off the air.
Segment Rating: 8/10. The talk was good, but I guess I was expecting a bit more. Of course, WWE doesn’t want to give away too much before the actual showdown.
Overall: Nothing was bad except for the diva garbage. The opening and closing segments were great book-ends, and that’s good enough for a thumbs up show.
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.