Date: 11/15/10 from Hershey, PA.
The Big News: WWE hit upon one of the best ideas it has had for a themed three hour Raw special. Show Analysis:
Raw started with an opening that was a blend of the original opening and the current opening. It had the original theme and graphics but the video from today’s Raw. The old fireworks display went off in the building and a siren played in the background. They cut to Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler standing at ringside like they used to do to start Raw. When Cole threw it to the ring he got in a Mel Phillips reference, which was very surprising to hear. Justin Roberts and the referee were wearing wigs, because apparently goofy wigs are old school. Roberts also had an 80s WWF suit.
Roberts sent it to Gene Okerlund, standing on the side of the stage with the ring behind him like they used to use for WWF Superstars interviews. Bob Orton Jr. was interviewed. He said Randy wasn’t there yet because he didn’t know the show started an hour early. Bob said he doesn’t care about John Cena or Wade Barrett but that Randy will win. That brought out Wade Barrett. He vowed to become champion like Bob never was. He said he wouldn’t beat up Bob so Bob can see him beat up Bob’s son at Survivor Series.
Miz interrupted the segment. He said that he could cash in Money in the Bank prior to the Survivor Series and ruin Barrett’s plans. John Cena appeared on the screen. He challenged Miz to a match and said he would take out Miz for himself, not Barrett. Miz accepted. It was at this point I noticed the letters for Raw at the entrance ala the 1995-1997 period.
Dolph Ziggler beat Mark Henry. Henry came out as Sexual Chocolate. I would have preferred the USA tights he had at the beginning but I guess they were in Hershey. I thought it strange that Henry was the only one on the show to use an old gimmick, but the roster is so young that few guys have a gimmick from a number of years back. Fans actually chanted “chocolate.” Ziggler did an inset prerecorded interview in the corner of the screen prior to the match like they used to do.
Henry pressed Ziggler from the floor into the ring. Ziggler used kicks and punches. Jerry Lawler acknowledged that Henry’s first matches were against Lawler. I was actually at either his first or second wrestling match with Lawler at a house show prior to his pay-per-view debut and it was amazingly bad. Henry came back with a powerslam but missed a splash. Ziggler hit the zig zag but Henry powered out of the pin. Ziggler hit another zig zag and Henry kicked out again. Ziggler then applied the sleeper and Henry was out for the submission.
Backstage, Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith were talking about working things out between them. That’s trouble. Tony Atlas came in and started rambling about his team with Rocky Johnson. He went on and on until Hart Dynasty left. After a commercial break Atlas was still rambling and Yoshi Tatsu did a motion that I think was supposed to mean he stabbed himself. This was intended as comedy but didn’t work.
Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel beat Hart Dynasty. David Hart Smith hit three straight belly to belly suplexes on Gabriel and a powerslam and clotheslines on Slater. The Nexus team took over. When Smith finally went for the tag, Tyson Kidd refused and kicked Smith in the head. Nexus covered for the win. They really blew it with this Hart Dynasty breakup. By not giving fans a reason to like either man and not telegraphing who was the heel in the breakup, the turn was as flat as any you’ll ever see. Yeah, it was more surprising that Kidd turned, but nobody cared. Backstage, R. Truth told Randy Orton that Cena knew what he was doing when he counted down Orton’s shoulders. He told Orton that Cena was going to get himself out of Nexus and that Orton needs to do something about it. This is such a terribly constructed story. They set up Truth as Cena’s friend and Cena’s supposed friend is a paranoid asshole stooging him off every week to Cena’s longtime rival. It’s like he’s turning heel, but I don’t think that’s where they’re going. Orton threatened to punt Cena.
Howard Finkel was brought in to do ring announcements. He introduced the Brooklyn Brawler, accompanied by Harvey Wippleman. Finkel even did his old routine where he sounds disgusted to even say Wippleman’s name. The Brawler was angry that he didn’t receive a standing ovation. He issued an open challenge. That brought out Ezekiel Jackson, who quickly squashed Brawler. He hit a corner avalanche and the uranage for the pin. During this match, Michael Cole oddly said the year is 2011. He corrected himself later.
Backstage, David Otunga said he stepped up and now it is time for one of the other guys to step up and take out R. Truth. Otunga referred to himself as the leader of Nexus which angered Wade Barrett. Barrett said Otunga would be the one to deal with Truth. Then the GM popped up and said Otunga wouldn’t face Truth because he had another match. Instead, the GM announced Barrett vs. Truth.
Barrett said this would prove he can beat anyone on the Raw roster on his own. Yeah, kind of like how Amir Sadollah proved he can beat anyone in the UFC by beating Peter Sobotta. Barrett told Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris to accompany John Cena to the ring later but Cena turned that down with some stupid comedy.
John Cena beat Alex Riley. Miz said that the GM didn’t sanction Cena vs. Miz, Cena did. Huh, I didn’t know Cena could sanction matches. Well, I guess if Barrett could there’s no reason Cena shouldn’t be able to. Miz thus said that he could make a substitution. So Miz can book matches too. I wonder if all the wrestlers can book whatever matches they want, or whether you have to reach a certain level to do it. Anyway, the GM didn’t object to this so Miz put Riley in the match.
Miz punched Cena behind the referee’s back to give Riley the advantage. After some brief offense, Cena came back with shoulder blocks, the Cena slam, the five knuckle, the FU and the STF for the win. This was a paint by numbers Cena match. It would be nice if Cena would at least switch the order of his five moves once every ten matches. Great wrestlers can get by doing the same moves repeatedly but Cena’s matches are so stale at this point.
After the match, Randy Orton ran in. Miz went after him so Orton got into a fight with Miz. Orton got rid of Miz and then McGillicutty and Harris hit the ring. Orton got rid of them too. Orton and Cena then squared off and started fighting. That got very little crowd reaction. The crowd in general was consistently dead throughout the show. They did an old school pull apart with WWE officials including Tony Garea wearing suits. The GM announced Cena and Orton in Piper’s Pit for later in the show.
Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik came to the ring and Volkoff started to sing the Soviet national anthem. The crowd didn’t really boo. Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov interrupted. Kozlov wanted to sing with Volkoff. They started to sing again and this time the crowd chanted USA. Michael Cole made a reference to Gorbachev and Putin, with Lawler acting like he has no idea who they are. Santino cut off the song and called it crushingly terrible. He then said someone else was going to come out for a song, and it was Slick singing Jive Soul Bro. The crowd didn’t react. Iron Sheik then started cutting a promo on Hulk Hogan. The crowd didn’t seem to get this segment, but I thought it was pretty damn amusing.
Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella beat Usos to become the number one contenders for the tag team titles. Kozlov and Santino were successful early but the Usos worked over Kozlov. Santino got the hot tag and came in with punches. Cole compared him to Manny Pacquiao. Santino hit a diving head butt for two and then the cobra for the clean pin.
After the match, Sheamus ran in and gave Kozlov and one of the Usos the Brogue kick. He shoved down Santino when Santino’s lover ran in. John Morrison called Sheamus a bully. What, because he wants to fight one half of the top tag team challengers in a one-on-one match after the guy beat him in a match because you interfered? Long story short, Sheamus is right, Santino is a coward and Morrison is a meddling punk. Morrison wanted to fight Sheamus but Sheamus left.
Kofi Kingston beat David Otunga. Kingston did an inset promo about the match where he said he would fly around like Koko B. Ware. I figured he was jobbing for sure after that comment. Otunga hit body slams and the two wrestlers hit a double clothesline. George Steele then randomly came out. He went after one of the turnbuckles. That was of course the cue for the three times weekly distraction finish. Steele left, Otunga turned his back on Kingston to stare at the turnbuckle for a while, and Kingston got back up. Kingston threw Otunga into the exposed turnbuckle and hit trouble in paradise for the win.
Backstage, Arn Anderson and Jerry Brisco were talking with Morrison. Anderson for some reason was proud of Morrison. Sheamus then came in and gave Morrison the Brogue kick. He said he accepted Morrison’s challenge for a match at the Survivor Series.
Elsewhere backstage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan told Aksana that her mother was there. It turned out to be Dusty Rhodes in a wig. Kelly Kelly then dropped a net on Aksana and Goldust took back the million dollar title. That’s an awful lot of trickery for Goldust to catch a 120-pound-woman, but hey, you can’t argue with success. Goldust said he would return the belt to its rightful owner and gave it to Ted DiBiase Sr. Boy, he lost interest in that belt in a hurry. IRS said he would find a tax shelter for it.
Ted Sr. went to give it back to Ted Jr. but Ted Jr. told him to keep it. Ted Jr. said he wants something else. Boy, he lost interest in that belt in a hurry. That’s apparently it for the million dollar title and they’re smart to get rid of it. It wasn’t helping DiBiase’s act and just brought up an unfavorable comparison. Cody Rhodes came in and Goldust wanted grooming tips from his brother. Rhodes declined.
They then played Dusty’s music and they all danced in a ridiculous manner. Tatanka came in to join the dance. Aksana forgot about the title and the net that was covering her and began dancing with a gigantic smile on her face. Boy she lost interest in that belt in a hurry. Ron Simmons came in and said something. I forget what it was. This was one of those WWE goofy comedy segments that they do too often. I thought it was okay.
Wade Barrett beat R. Truth. Truth hit a clothesline over the top and somersault plancha. Barrett retaliated with an elbow off the ropes and a back breaker. Truth hit clotheslines but missed a kick. Barrett finished Truth with a yakuza kick and wasteland for the pin.
Ricardo Rodriguez was going to do the introduction for Alberto Del Rio when Tito Santana came out and introduced Del Rio himself. No offense to Tito, but this sure accentuated Rodriguez’s value to the act. Santana’s introduction lacked Rodriguez’s enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm really adds a lot to Del Rio’s entrance.
Chavo Guerrero Sr. drove Del Rio’s limousine in. Del Rio made fun of Americans and said legends should fall in line and support him like Tito and Chavo did. Sgt. Slaughter came out and told Del Rio not to disrespect legends or America. He challenged Del Rio to a match. Slaughter got the cobra clutch a couple times but Del Rio got to the ropes and then hit an enzuigiri for the pin. After the match he put Slaughter in an armbar but MVP made the save.
They ran a comedy video package on Mae Young. Lay Cool then came out and made fun of Young being old. Young challenged them to a match. Gene Okerlund and Lay Cool made it clear the match was no-DQ and falls count anywhere. Lay Cool laughed but then of course all the other women came out and attacked Lay Cool. Young slapped Layla and covered her with one foot. Young had someone holding her up at every point so she was clearly in no condition to do basically anything.
Daniel Bryan beat Jack Swagger. This was quite the segment, because Jim Ross came back as an announcer for the match. God could they ever use him back. Ross tried to get over the match and the wrestlers, while Michael Cole spent the entire match burying Ross and the match. He acted like he was bored and wanted the match to end, while incessantly ridiculing Ross. Ross basically just ignored him while Lawler started insulting Cole in response. Clearly Vince was in Cole’s ear and this was one of those segments where the neuroses of the people in charge of this company are on full display.
Bryan went for an omoplata. Swagger reversed into an ankle lock attempt but Bryan got out. Bryan hit kicks but Swagger came back with punches. Bryan hit a baseball slide and knee off the apron to the floor. Bryan hit a dropkick off the top but missed a dropkick into the corner. Swagger hit a Vader bomb but his gut wrench attempt was reversed. Swagger reversed that into a back breaker and went for the gut wrench again. Bryan got out and nailed a kick to the head for the win.
Afterwards, Ted DiBiase Jr. attacked Daniel Bryan. He hit dream street and placed the US title on Bryan’s chest. Ross left after this match but hit Cole with his hat a few times on the way out.
My take on this match was that they were worried that Ross would do such a good job that the fans would want Ross back. Thus, they did everything they could to destroy the segment and bury Ross so that reaction wouldn’t occur. They still failed because Ross is the greatest wrestling announcer of all time and it’s such a stark difference listening to an announcer focused on getting the matches and wrestlers over as opposed to an announcer burying everyone and spending the whole time bringing attention to himself. Ross was working so hard try to get over Bryan and Swagger as opposed to the current WWE atmosphere where everyone is treated like a joke.
The show ended with Piper’s Pit, and I think this was probably the best Piper’s Pit in 20 years. Roddy Piper talked about how when he had a problem he did something about it. He brought out John Cena. Piper pointed out he was never WWE champion and it eats at him a little bit. He said that there are other great wrestlers who never held the title. He told Cena that if he gives Barrett the title he is spitting in the face of all those legends. He asked Cena not to spit in his face and told Cena to do the right thing.
Cena said that at times he doesn’t know what the right thing is. He said it’s not that easy. Cena said he has worked as hard as he can so legends will say he could have hung with them. He said he has tremendous respect for legends. He agreed that if he gives Barrett the title it will ruin everything. He vowed to call the match down the middle and whoever wins will win.
That brought out Wade Barrett. Barrett said he has proved he can beat anyone on the Raw roster without Cena’s help. He pointed out if he doesn’t win Cena is finished. Piper told him to shut up. Piper said that if he doesn’t earn the title he won’t be a champion but a joke. Barrett then told Cena to put on a Nexus shirt and Cena did. Cena said that after the match on Sunday he will go after Barrett win or lose.
Randy Orton came out. He teased going after Cena but instead attacked Barrett. He hit a powerslam and was setting up for the RKO but Cena got in the way. Orton gave Cena the RKO. He went to punt Cena but Cena got up and hit the FU. Barrett ordered Cena to raise his hand. Instead Cena gave him the FU. Umm, shouldn’t Cena be fired? I mean, okay, I guess Barrett didn’t order Cena not to attack him some time in the last two hours, but he definitely just ordered Cena to raise his hand. Oh well.
Before the end, this was a tremendous segment. Piper was excellent and Cena delivered his best promo in quite a while.
Old school Raw is a winner of an idea. The execution of the idea wasn’t that good at all but it was still a fun, entertaining show because of the gimmick. It’s enjoyable to have things feel different, to see people you don’t always see, and to have things feel more unpredictable. The old school idea accomplished those goals.
One thing I was struck by watching the show is that it would be nice if there were some aspects of the past which were treated with respect. It feels like pretty much every old wrestler on the show was treated as a comedy figure. Now, I think doing comedy with Iron Sheik or Slick is great, but other wrestlers should be treated seriously. Vince has issues with aging and doesn’t treat older people well, but it would benefit him if he did.
I remember NWA and WCW bringing in old wrestlers, where they would be treated as big stars and it was a serious deal to get over the championship. Pat O’Connor and Lou Thesz would help to make Ric Flair a big deal. Perhaps an even better example is the MLB All Star Game where all the younger players gathered around Ted Williams. If past main events are a joke, it doesn’t do much for current main eventers.
The main event of this show was the perfect example. Roddy Piper did a serious segment where he wasn’t treated like a comedy figure (even though he has been a ton in recent years by WWE) and he delivered huge. It was such an effective segment to put over the title and make it feel important. That’s what the past can do for you, but only if you present it in a certain light. By all means, use Chavo Classic, Tony Atlas and the like for comedy. But to me, guys like Dusty Rhodes, Ted DiBiase and Jim Ross could be used much more effectively in a serious manner.