By: Todd Martin
Date: 04/11/11 from Bridgeport, CT.
The Big News: In a very surprising development, an emotional Edge announced his retirement on Raw. Wrestling retirements tend not to last, but even if he never wrestles again he had an excellent career.
After Michael Cole’s heel entrance, John Cena came out for a show opening promo. He received a more positive reaction than he has been receiving. He immediately started with a bunch of lines that seemed written solely to use the phrase “WWE Universe.” It seemed like they were on a kick this week with that because they kept saying it over and over again throughout the show for no apparent reason. Cena said that his match with Rock at next year’s WrestleMania will be for the title and challenged the Miz to a title match.
That brought out Randy Orton. He pointed out Cena lost at WrestleMania and said Cena should step aside and give the opportunity to someone else who actually won at Mania. John Morrison then came out and said we’ve seen this all before. I’m not sure if he was referencing Orton and Cena challenging for the title or the scene where everyone comes out and says they want a title shot to set up some sort of multi-person title eliminator for later in the show, but he was certainly right either way.
Next out were Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler. Vickie said that Ziggler should get the shot and Ziggler said he shouldn’t be wasting his time with people like Snooki. R. Truth then joined the mix and said he has never received a one-on-one WWE title match. That was it for people coming out. I’m not sure why the locker room doesn’t empty whenever they do these segments, because everybody who comes out always gets an opportunity at the title shot. The GM announced a five person gauntlet match for the shot at Miz for Extreme Rules.
They aired a video package with Awesome Kong not totally visible in shadows flicking the head off a Barbie doll and laughing. It’s always a good sign when WWE airs video packages before your debut, and WWE can use all the potential attractions they can get these days.
Brie Bella beat Eve Torres to win the women’s title. Eve had the referee mark one of the Bella’s hands with a marker prior to the match to prevent a switch. Why not order them to wear different outfits? Eve was getting the best of Brie and they did the switch. Nikki was covering her hand but the referee saw the mark. He just allowed the match to continue anyway and Brie came back in with a rollup for the pin. Both Eve and the referee looked like fools here.
Backstage, Eve blew off Natalya and Gail Kim when they tried to console her. Eve said that all the women just care about themselves. Tamina then walked in and gave Natalya and Gail what seemed to be a dirty look. This seemed like an Eve Torres heel turn until the Tamina thing.
Sin Cara beat Primo Colon. The crowd reacted very well to Cara and there were Sin Cara chants here. That’s a great sign and it shows the benefits of building someone up rather than making it a point to slot them at a low level early. Cara used a monkey flip, dropkick and pescado into a huracanrana. Primo came back with a dropkick of his own and cobra clutch. Cara took back over with a springboard flying head scissors and flip power bomb.
Cara hit an enzuigiri and set up for a top rope finisher but Primo slipped off and Cara fell to the outside. The crowd didn’t turn on that at all, which was another great sign. Cara then went back up and hit what was basically Frankie Kazarian’s flux capacitor for the pin.
Strangely, Michael Cole spent this entire match playing straight play-by-play guy and putting over Cara. Obviously, they feel the need to protect Cara early. But that really says something when they need to keep heel Cole away from characters they have serious plans for. Cole is a great heel but it’s going to do real damage if they retain him in this role over the long haul.
Corrrrrrrrrrrrrre did a promo in the ring. Wade Barrett pointed out that they failed in their attack on Rock and John Cena and blamed the other members of the group. Barrett said he used to see them as equals but if they can’t hold up their end there is no point continuing the group.
Justin Gabriel shot back that his 450 takes out everyone and he is the best of them in the ring. He added that he is a three time tag champ, so Heath Slater pointed out that they are collectively the champions. Ezekiel Jackson then spoke up and said he put them on the map by slamming Big Show.
Their argument was interrupted by Santino Marella, Evan Bourne, Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry. Santino said that if Barrett’s group is the core, they are the apple. He announced their new (perhaps one week) supergroup A.P.P.L.E.: Allied People Powered by Loathing Everything they stand for. They issued a challenge.
Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel beat Santino Marella, Evan Bourne, Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry. The heels worked over Bryan. Santino got the tag and went for the cobra but he was kicked in the back of the head by Gabriel. Slater then hit the scorpion death drop for the pin.
Jim Ross came out and Michael Cole immediately went nuts badmouthing and mocking Ross. He kept yelling about squirting BBQ sauce in Jim Ross’s bad eye, as if he had intentionally tried to do that or something. A livid Ross tried to get into the Cole Mine and began shaking it up and down going after Cole. Swagger then jumped Lawler and they did a big pull apart with all four. This was great and led into a match.
Jerry Lawler beat Jack Swagger, which meant Lawler got to pick the stipulation for a rematch with Michael Cole at Extreme Rules. Cole and Ross were in the corners. Swagger got the best of it early and put Lawler in the ankle lock but Lawler got to the ropes. Lawler made his comeback with punches but Cole got on the apron and distracted Lawler. Ross pulled Cole after the apron. Swagger went after Ross. And that allowed Lawler to roll up Swagger from behind for the win.
After the match, Cole was badmouthing Swagger. He poked Swagger in the chest repeatedly and berated him. He then slapped Swagger and escaped the ring from an angry looking Swagger. That exchange reminded me a lot of Bobby Heenan and Andre the Giant at WrestleMania VI, but Swagger showed disappointing fire in his reaction. Still, I think Swagger is one of their best options for a new main event slot and I would assume that’s the plan here. After this happened, Lawler announced a tag match at Extreme Rules with Lawler and Ross vs. Swagger and Cole.
Edge came out for his retirement announcement. He mentioned getting spinal fusion surgery a number of years back and said that he knew he was on borrowed time after that. Edge said he has been in a lot of pain of late and has been losing feeling in his arms. The crowd cheered for him and chanted “thank you Edge.” Edge said he wrestled his career on his terms and is still a fan of WWE. He added that he couldn’t dream of a better way to go out than winning a Mania main event and retiring as champion.
Edge said he feels like he has grown up in front of the fans. He poked fun of some of the silly gimmicks he had early on. He said he hopes he earned everyone’s respect. He noted that he tried to give everything he had. He joked that he doesn’t have to wear tights tomorrow so he will eat a lot of ice cream after the show. He referenced getting hired by Jim Ross and said he would do it all again in a heartbeat. This was a great, heartfelt speech and another example of how much better and more authentic promos feel when a good speaking wrestler puts together their own material.
Edge backstage shook hands with and hugged the other wrestlers. Both the faces and heels were all together and everyone applauded Edge. This was a classy gesture. With Edge leaving so suddenly, it will probably increase the appreciation people have for his career.
Dolph Ziggler beat Randy Orton in the first part of the gauntlet match. Miz did commentary throughout. Ziggler was in control early. Orton came back with a powerslam but was distracted by David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty on the apron and Ziggler got a rollup for the pin. Mason Ryan joined Otunga and McGillicutty in a post-match attack on Orton. Ryan gave Orton a power bomb.
R. Truth beat Dolph Ziggler in the next fall of the gauntlet match. Ziggler dominated most of the match until Truth hit a downward spiral like move for the pin.
R. Truth beat John Morrison in the third fall of the gauntlet match. They traded a series of rollups. They then did a double clothesline spot on the floor. Morrison hit a springboard kick but missed starship pain and Truth hit the same downward spiral like move for another win.
John Cena vs. R. Truth went to a no contest. The story of the match was Cena would hit Truth with move after move but Truth kept kicking out to Cena’s increasing astonishment. Cena hit a fisherman buster, belly to back suplex, snap suplex and top rope rocker dropper. Truth kept kicking out of the pin attempts. Truth got a few kicks in and a hip toss but Cena then took over again. He hit shoulderblocks, the Cena slam and the five knuckle. He went for the FU when Miz and Alex Riley ran in and attacked both men.
Miz said that both Cena and Truth are losers and can go to the end of the line because there is no new number one contender. The GM then announced two number one contenders and a triple threat title match at Extreme Rules with Miz vs. Cena vs. Truth. Cena and Truth then beat up Miz and Riley. Truth and Cena shook hands but then shoved each other at the close of the show.
The most striking thing about this show was the dearth of talent on the WWE roster right now. With so many of the featured attractions for WrestleMania leaving, they are left with a strikingly thin roster. And that’s even with them using a number of Smackdown wrestlers on the show. The chickens once again are coming home to roost when it comes to WWE’s treatment of younger talent.
Even as WWE booked R. Truth into a pay-per-view main event on this show, the problems with their mentality towards elevating new talent were on full display. If fans are going to take Truth seriously in the slightest as a title challenger, he needs to be booked ridiculously strong. Yet, Truth was about to be defeated by Cena when Miz and Riley interfered.
Instant elevations like they what they did with Truth can provide a stopgap measure for freshening up main events, but effectively creating new star drawing cards is going to take more in the way of patience and long term planning. WWE needs to pick, say, four to six new guys they want to build around and start protecting them for a prolonged period of time before putting them in regular main events. It seems like the only guys who get protected are the long established main eventers like Cena and Orton, and they’re the ones who need that protection least of all.