Todd Martin's WWE Raw TV report
WWE Raw Report
By: Todd Martin
Date: 06/30/08 from Oklahoma City, OK.
The Big News: There’s a new world champion, and I’ve seen him wrestle
on more indy shows than Triple H or Edge.
At the start of the show, Shane McMahon said that Vince McMahon is in
fact really a private person. That line had to be intended as comedy.
Shane further declared “we won’t be forthcoming” with his physical
condition. This was more fine comedy. Like any real person who was not
being forthcoming ever explicitly said that he was not being
forthcoming. Shane called for the people to pull together in this time
of uncertainty, which was booed. This angle means nothing.
Jim Ross came out to give a farewell statement. It was nice for them to
let him speak in Oklahoma and also a smart move to try to counter any
potential backlash. Ross said that it was an honor to be at home. He
said that he is excited to be the voice of Smackdown, which was booed.
He thanked Jerry Lawler and put over Michael Cole as a hard worker and
a friend. Cole was of course not warmly received, but he did a good job
in his first week. Ross added that he hopes fans will join him on
Edge eventually interrupted (it felt like they missed the cue and Ross
was left out there to ramble for an extra couple minutes). Edge
criticized Ross for being arrogant and said that nobody cares about
him. Edge said now Ross will get to commentate for him, but Ross wasn’t
having it. So Edge had the Naturals escort Ross from the building.
Edge pointed out Raw has no GM and no world champion, and added that
Raw wrestlers will never have another shot at his title. He gloated and
started to leave, but Batista came out. Batista assaulted Edge and laid
him out with a Batista bomb. At that point, CM Punk ran out with a
referee and cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase. He hit the GTS
and scored the pin. The crowd reaction for this was underwhelming.
Mickie James beat Jillian Hall, who resumed her horrible singing
gimmick. It feels kind of unfair that after all the Hogan family drama
that it’s Brooke who is still being made fun of. Mickie won the match
with punches, a spinning head scissors on the floor and a head kick for
Rey Mysterio came out for an introduction speech. Lilian Garcia
pronounced his name correctly, so props to her. Rey congratulated Punk
and said he’s happy to be on Raw. Santino interrupted. He welcomed Rey
but said anyone who hides behind a mask is either incredibly ugly
(Super Porky), incredibly stupid (Juventud Guerrera) or the Bat Man
(Val Kilmer). Santino complained about Rey appearing on the cover of
WWE Magazine instead of Santino. Santino finally gave Rey a chance to
speak, but Rey attacked him and gave him the 619. Santino was hilarious
Punk backstage thanked Batista for the assist and said he feels
awesome. JBL came in and asked how Punk could feel good about winning a
title by defeating a defenseless man. Who’s the heel here? JBL called
Punk a paper champion and an asterisk and challenged him to a title
match. Punk accepted.
John Cena came out, and put over his match with HHH as a match that
will go down in history. Sure, John. He used the new “WWE universe”
phrase which is cheesy as hell. He further talked about how Punk
winning the title will go down in history. He noted that he likes Punk
because Punk used his brains and would accept a challenge from anyone.
He said he should wrestle Punk for the title, and asked fans whether
they would rather see Punk face JBL or Cena.
JBL interrupted, and announced he is declaring martial law. I like that
as a concept on a number of levels. Having wrestlers resolve their
issues rather than general managers makes the wrestlers feel more
important. JBL brought in private security, and together they removed
Cena from the building. Cena in his promo was off the charts obnoxious.
Cena’s promos are frequently scripted in an obnoxious manner, but this
one was so bad. He came across as this annoying, dishonest carnie
Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase beat Darren Wade and Steve Anthony. DiBiase
used his father’s fist drop and Cody hit a DDT for the pin. I like
these guys as a heel pairing, but this is going to take time. There was
a shocking lack of heat for them. I mean, it’s not like I expected
much, but Cody did turn heel last night and there wasn’t even mild
booing. Instead they were greeted with deafening apathy.
After the match, Cody said that fans wanted to know why he turned on
Hardcore Holly. I saw no evidence whatsoever of that. He continued
anyway. He said that paying his dues sucked when he had to carry
Holly’s worthless career. Cody added that he’s not patient, and he’s
too talented to have to pay dues. DiBiase asserted that young people
are nothing but obedient sheep, while they took matters into their own
Jamie Noble introduced himself to Katie Lea. He said he’s going to get
respect on Raw prison rules style, by going up to the biggest guy and
drawing the line in the sand. Kane was there, so Katie encouraged him
to prove his point against Kane. Noble told Kane not to listen to his
Larry the Cable Guy tapes without his permission, and told a
threatening knock-knock choke. Kane grabbed him by the throat, but
Noble kicked him and ran away. Kane chased him to the ring and choke
slammed him on the announce table.
WWE has these tacky new “Did you know” graphics, which are nothing but
shameless promotional points about WWE business. Come on, WWE, you can
find a more organic way to put yourself over. “Did you know” is
supposed to reveal interesting tidbits, not trumpet how many video
games you’ve sold.
Chris Jericho came to the ring and said he was swindled out of the
title and burglarized and the fans cheered at his misfortune. Jericho
continued that Shawn Michaels’ eye is a serious problem and he is
endangering himself by continuing. Jericho challenged Michaels to a
match at the Great American Bash and said he would take something
valuable from Shawn Michaels.
Kofi Kingston then beat Chris Jericho via DQ. Jericho slapped him
around and worked him over. Kingston came back with a leg drop, but
Jericho hit an enzuigiri, bulldog and lionsault. Kingston rolled up
Jericho and grabbed the tights, but Jericho rolled through and grabbed
the tights himself. At this point, the referee inexplicably
disqualified Jericho. The crowd booed and the face/heel dynamic was
completely out of whack.
This was such a stupid, crappy finish. Wrestlers have grabbed the
tights in tens of thousands of matches and they never, ever get
disqualified for it. The referee just refuses to count the pinfall.
This made about as much sense as a referee randomly in one match
insisting that a four count is needed for a pin. Kingston looked like
such a loser celebrating this victory, but Jericho attacked him and
went after his eye.
CM Punk beat JBL. JBL’s security was at ringside. Punk used an arm drag
and knees. JBL hit a clothesline on the floor and followed with a
sleeper. Punk hit a bulldog, high knee and springboard clothesline.
John Cena and Cryme Tyme showed up and took out the private security.
That allowed Punk to hit go 2 sleep for the pin.
Wow. Okay, so there is a lot to talk about on this show. We will have
to see how they follow through, but this might be the most noteworthy
edition of Raw in a very long time. After years of burying young
talent, this was the week where WWE woke up and made a concerted and
obvious effort to reshape the card and get over a bunch of new talent.
This is an exceedingly positive development. WWE booking over the past
year or so I think has on balance been pretty good. It hasn’t been
inspired, but it has been for the most part logical and not insulting.
The big problem has been that the same guys are always on top, and it
makes the product feel stale. Well, WWE seems determined to rectify
Up and down the card you can see efforts to get over new talent. Lance
Cade is associated with Chris Jericho. Cryme Tyme is associated with
John Cena. CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase are
champions. Jamie Noble and Santino Marella appear to be entering into
more high profile feuds. As a trend, this is a positive development.
However, WWE if it is going to continue in this direction needs to have
patience. They have spent too much time teaching fans that if you’re
not a star you don’t mean shit. You can’t overcome that assumption in a
week or even a month. It’s going to take a lot of time, and there are
going to be growing pains. At first a lot of these guys are going to be
greeted with complete apathy. WWE needs to have patience, and see over
time which guys appear to be getting over.
This show felt very fresh and new, and that’s a positive. But I don’t
think that the returns are going to come in ratings or pay-per-view buy
rates immediately. If anything, they may go down in the short term. But
there’s nothing that can be done about that. I’m a big advocate of
trying to freshen up the card.
In theory, I love what WWE is trying to do. In practice, I’m not quite
so enthusiastic. The biggest example of WWE’s new Raw philosophy was CM
Punk winning the world title. As far as that particular move goes, WWE
doesn’t get high marks. I like the idea of elevating Punk, but I wasn’t
a big fan of the execution.
To begin with, Punk has just been buried on ECW. He lost so many times
to so many nobodies. He badly needed rehabilitation before getting the
title. This is an argument for more in the way of long term booking. If
you’re going to elevate a guy, you need to set the fans up for it so
when it happens they will be totally into it. If it comes out of the
blue, there’s a much greater chance the audience will reject the guy.
I also didn’t like the way Punk won the title at all. He won like a
chickenshit. He let someone else beat up the champion and then took
advantage like a coward. That’s a clever way to present a heel, but
it’s no way for a face to win the title. If they thought enough of Punk
to give him the title, they should have done so in a manner that told
fans they were serious. The way he used the backdoor to get the title
kind of buried Raw as well.
A final note on the Punk title switch is again the two main titles have
switched brands. I saved my rant on the concept of the draft this year
because I’ve made it before, but I want to make my point on the titles
and the draft again.
The notion of a championship is that it proves you are the best at
something. If the title doesn’t symbolize that, it’s hard to get people
to care to see a championship match. Two titles already undermines the
idea of a championship, but at least you can think that one title means
you are the best wrestler on Raw and the other means you are the best
wrestler on Smackdown.
However, when the titles are flipped it undermines the whole idea.
Triple H hasn’t proven he is better than the wrestlers on Smackdown. CM
Punk hasn’t proven he is better than the wrestlers on Raw. Instead, the
titles are essentially props – shiny belts to fight over but that don’t
have any fundamental meaning. Even if fans aren’t consciously thinking
about this, I think it really undermines the ability to sell the
company’s title matches.
Well, that’s Raw. I’ve got a couple of things to plug this week. First,
I’ve got a new piece up at http://www.mmapayout.com
discussing the most
important fighters to the business of mixed martial arts. I think it’s
a really interesting read and I suspect it will spark some debate. Part
I is up now and part II will be up tomorrow.
Second, there’s lot of UFC 86 coverage by me this week at
CBSSports.com. Coming up is a piece on the Quinton Jackson-Forrest
Griffin fight, as well as the staff preview featuring picks from myself
and other writers. Then I will be back live blogging from Octagonside
in Vegas Saturday night with all the preliminary results and thoughts
from the card. That was well received last time, so please check it out
at the CBS MMA section on Saturday.
Finally, I want to close by making mention of the passing of James
Melroy, a writer for the Long Beach Press Telegram. James was an avid
wrestling and MMA fan, and was helpful and kind to me when I moved to
Los Angeles. He was a funny and smart guy, and he passed away way too
early. I’m going to miss him a lot. You can read more about James here: http://origin.presstelegram.com/news/ci_9723217