By: Todd Martin
Date: 04/25/11 from Raleigh, NC.
The Big News: John Cena was drafted to Smackdown.
Well, he was.
Big Show and Kofi Kingston won a battle royal. They started the show with this match in progress. Everyone wore those lame blue and red shirts in the battle royal and throughout the show. Kane and Great Khali were two of the first out. It came down to Mason Ryan, Kofi Kingston, Big Show, Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Evan Bourne. Ryan threw out Rhodes. Kingston pulled out Bryan. Bourne and Kingston did a bunch of cool spots trying to eliminate each other. Bourne came off the top on Show but was caught and thrown out. Show then threw out Ryan to end the match.
This led to the first draft pick of the night, John Cena. It seemed highly unlikely Cena would end up on Smackdown, and indeed, this didn’t last long. Cena did an interview and put it over as a huge move. He said he would bring the WWE title to Smackdown. Miz then came in and said he won’t have to see Cena anymore after Extreme Rules.
R. Truth came out with no music. He spent the entire promo kind of distracted by “what” chants but did a good job handling it and cutting a solid heel promo. Truth said he accepted the match against John Morrison and lost because of the fans. He spent his career trying to please the fans and it got him nowhere. He said that he rapped and danced so people could dance along and some people need to get some rhythm. That was amusing.
Truth vowed to give the people the boot. He said that he is letting go of years of frustration and disappointment and it feels great. Truth has set him free, he concluded. At that point, Morrison jumped Truth from behind. It was nice of him to wait for Truth to finish his ten minute promo. Morrison beat up Truth, was pulled back, and beat Truth up some more. I’d have let Truth keep his heat for a week.
Throughout the show they ran commercials saying next week will be the “biggest birthday party in the history of television” for the Rock. Really, I’d say it’s the biggest birthday party in the history of birthdays and the history of parties. This week’s Awesome Kong vignette showed her face clearly and debuted her new name of Kharma.
Eve Torres beat Layla. They went about 20 seconds and horribly botched their only spot, at which point Michelle McCool distracted Layla and Layla slapped Michelle. Michael Cole got up and started talking about how he needed to go train for Jim Ross. In the midst of all this, Eve rolled up Layla for the win. It really is time to dump the women’s division already. It serves absolutely no positive purpose. Lay Cool fought each other on the outside after the match with an upset Layla getting the best of it.
Rey Mysterio was drafted to Raw. Cody Rhodes backstage said he would give Rey a going away present after their match at Extreme Rules, a new mask that Rey can wear to the hospital.
Kofi Kingston beat Sheamus. Sheamus was in control until he accidentally ran into the post. Kingston hit a frog crossbody and avoided the razor’s edge and Brogue kick. Kingston hit trouble in paradise twice for the clean pin. It’s weird to book a champion to lose clean to a midcarder on the other show, but maybe one of these guys will be moved in the supplemental draft at Noon Eastern tomorrow. Randy Orton was drafted to Smackdown.
Jim Ross beat Michael Cole via DQ. Cole made fun of Ross’ weight and stalled forever. They stalled more time here than the average Raw match lasts. Eventually, Cole went for a body slam but Ross fell on him and got mount. He threw punches down on Cole and in the process busted open his hand and Cole’s lip. Cole was bleeding from the mouth.
Cole ran to the outside but Lawler threw him back in. Swagger took out Lawler and ran in for the DQ. He applied the ankle lock on Ross and Cole whipped Ross with a belt. Lawler made the save and whipped Cole with the belt a couple times before Cole ran away. The GM announced a tag team country whipping match for the PPV. Miz backstage said he will keep his title and that if he is drafted to Smackdown, Raw will be cancelled.
Randy Orton beat Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler used a neck breaker, fireman carry and dropkick. Orton came back with clotheslines, a power slam and an Angle slam. He went for the RKO but was distracted for a moment by Vickie Guerrero. He regained his concentration and hit the RKO for the pin. Punk interrupted the pick announcement to basically say he’s wrestling Orton in a last man standing match at the PPV without actually saying that. The match was worth two picks and Mark Henry and Sin Cara are headed to Smackdown.
Rey Mysterio beat Wade Barrett. Barrett worked over Rey. Rey came back with a top rope spinning head scissors, 619 and top rope splash for the win. This match was for two picks, and Big Show and Alberto Del Rio were drafted to Raw. They showed Del Rio backstage talking to Ricardo Rodriguez about his destiny and blowing off Brodus Clay.
CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and Miz beat John Cena, Christian and Mark Henry. The heels worked over Christian. Cena got the tag and hit the Cena slam on Miz but was immediately cut off by a clothesline from Henry. Henry press slammed Christian onto the steps and left. Miz gave Cena the skull crushing finale and got the pin. They then announced the final pick, which was Cena returning to Raw. Cena attacked and laid out the heels.
I really didn’t like the Cena to Smackdown and then back to Raw story that dominated the show. First, it’s unfulfilling storytelling in basically any medium to take a character through a fake journey only to have them end up exactly where they started. It makes the audience feel like the two hours were a pointless waste and that they were cheated if they bought into it.
Second, the idea of the draft ought to be to get fans excited about the new landscape and various possibilities going forward. But by instead beginning and ending with Cena, it left the impression that everything is the same as always, which is the exact opposite of what the draft ought to be doing. They would have been much better off focusing on the moves that are actually going to matter like Del Rio and Orton.
Third, the move had basically no positive purpose. It didn’t build up the pay-per-view on Sunday. It didn’t build interest in Smackdown. I don’t see it having any positive effect on the one night’s rating, and even if it did, that’s basically insignificant. It felt like the goal was just to “swerve” fans, and if they were thinking in terms of their own interests they would have come up with a completely different scenario.
Finally, everyone knows Cena is the franchise player for WWE and Raw is the flagship show. I think the vast majority of the audience watching knew Cena wasn’t going to Smackdown. So it just left the audience thinking, “How are they going to get out of this?” That’s the sort of detached attitude and emotion that makes it so hard to invest in storylines and matches. And then when they do the obvious thing and move him right back it makes the whole thing feel contrived and fake.