WWE Raw Report
By: Todd Martin
Date: 08/15/11 from San Diego, CA.
The Big News: John Cena is after Alberto Del Rio’s title.
HHH came out to start the show. He said people are upset about what happened at SummerSlam. He apologized to John Cena for the mistake. He acknowledged that Cena’s foot was on the rope when the pinfall was counted. HHH said he had no problem raising Punk’s hand and that he had nothing to do with what happened afterwards despite being friends with Kevin Nash. HHH said he left tickets for Nash but had no knowledge that he’d attack Punk. He said he invited Nash to Raw and Nash would be there to explain what he did.
HHH introduced Alberto Del Rio as the undisputed champion. Del Rio said it was his destiny to be champion. He vowed to represent the people with honesty, respect and passion. He said he would in the lobby signing autographs and taking pictures, which was an amusing line. For his first title defense, he announced he would be wrestling Rey Mysterio. Del Rio said he started his WWE career beating Mysterio and when he wakes up in the morning he always feels like beating Mysterio.
John Morrison beat R. Truth in a falls count anywhere match. Truth now comes out to the instrumentals from his What’s Up song. Michael Cole said Morrison had been waiting months for this match and Morrison in an inset interview said he hadn’t gotten to Truth yet, so apparently they are just pretending these two didn’t wrestle in a singles match last week. Morrison hit a twisting plancha to the floor and then a springboard kick off the barricade on the floor. Truth took control brawling into the crowd. Morrison suplexed Truth onto an office chair and then hit a running knee for the pin. This was a good match.
They did an “angle” with Miz that was just a superficial excuse to spend a segment plugging a corporate sponsor. Miz said he’d be a better spokesman for the sponsor while fans booed the current spokesman.
Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres beat Brie and Nikki Bella. Kelly used the stinkface on a Bella. The Bellas worked over Kelly’s leg briefly. Kelly got the tag to Eve. Eve hit some kicks but was tripped by the other Bella. Eve then countered a suplex into a neck breaker and hit a moonsault for the win. After the match, Beth Phoenix and Natalya came out on the ramp. They reiterated their group name of the Divas of Doom. They need to raise Curtis Iaukea from the dead so he can explain that Beth has drank from the goblet of darkness and Natalya has crossed the burning sands of the Sahara desert and slayed the beast on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Kevin Nash came to the ring and thanked HHH for the time. He noted HHH as a longtime friend and godfather of his son. Nash said he got a text from a friend at SummerSlam saying, “Hey big man, no matter what happens in the main event, stick the winner after the match.” Nash said that came from a friend and told Punk it’s just business. Nash said HHH is claiming to not know anything about it, and Nash told HHH they need to get on the same page. Nash didn’t seem to explicitly say HHH told him to do it, but it was certainly strongly implied.
Punk came out and said he didn’t believe that Nash and HHH aren’t on the same page. He asked Nash whether he would jump off a bridge if HHH told him to and added he thought that would be good for business. Punk said what Nash did proof Nash has no idea what’s good for business. Nash told Punk to watch his mouth. Punk told Nash to watch the show because Punk says whatever he wants to whoever he pleases. Nah responded that Punk’s world has just changed.
Punk said that the story Nash is telling paints HHH as a liar, but maybe Nash is the liar. Nash asked if Punk wanted to see the text. Punk read what he said was a text from his niece where she thought Nash was dead. Punk said Nash isn’t dead, just his career. Punk added that he is pissed at a lot of people. He said Del Rio isn’t one of them because Del Rio picked the right spot but that HHH is running amok and bringing his cronies back.
Nash responded by saying HHH shook things up. Punk said he’s the guy who shook things up. Nash called Punk an indy-riffic wannabe who has been in WWE five years with only two main events. Punk said that Nash called Eddie Guerrero a vanilla midget and asked what Nash knows about main event talent. Punk noted it is not 1994 but 2011.
Nash said that in 1996 with Scott Hall he changed the business and got everyone including Punk guaranteed money. Nash said Punk should be thanking him. He called Punk a guy who looks like a short order cook from a Pikeville waffle house. Nash told Punk to take a shower, hit the weights, and get a clue.
Punk responded that he would rather walk into a company as CM Punk and leave as CM Punk than show up as Oz, Vinnie Vegas or Big Daddy Cool Diesel. Punk was ready to fight when a ton of security came out to block him. Punk said that with all the security out here maybe HHH would be free and that he would go try to find out what’s going on from HHH.
This segment was entertaining, but too inside with tons of burials going both ways. The previous Punk promos have dealt with very understandable big picture themes about WWE. This, by contrast, was about a bunch of subjects that I don’t think a lot of audience knows about or understands.
John Laurinaitis met with Kevin Nash backstage. Laurinaitis said the way Punk spoke about him and Nash was uncalled for. He said he wanted to speak with Nash about something and they walked off. Later, the announcers also read a tweet from Shawn Michaels and speculated he might be involved in all this.
Jack Swagger beat Alex Riley. Dolph Ziggler did commentary with Vickie Guerrero and the focus of the match was mostly on the commentary. Everyone was burying everyone else back and forth. When Lawler was ragging on Vickie, Ziggler retorted that she’s in better shape than Lawler. As Riley was making his comeback on Swagger, Vickie took Jim Ross’ hat and got on the apron. Riley had the cover but the referee was distracted. Swagger took advantage of that to try to hit the gut wrench power bomb. They badly blew the spot twice before Riley finally got up for it and Swagger covered for the pin. Ziggler then stomped on Ross’ hat after the match.
This segment was a disaster on every level. It was so mean spirited in a bunch of different directions and a number of the participants seemed uncomfortable about that. The commentary is just out of control these days and seems much more about Vince McMahon burying and bullying than getting the product over. And then there’s the subject of the finish of the match, which may have been the worst looking non-female Raw finish in years.
Backstage, Jack Swagger thanked Vickie Guerrero for her help. He said that Vickie doesn’t need to prove anything to Ziggler after what she has done as a manager. He said Vickie looks great and is a great manager. He noted that great managers in the past have had multiple clients and suggested Vickie expand her roster. Elsewhere, Punk ran into Stephanie McMahon. She said she was sorry Punk lost the title but that in the end people always get what they deserve.
Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston beat David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty. The commentary was again the story in this match. Michael Cole buried Swagger for the previous finish. Lawler buried McGillicutty and Otunga and called them the bland leading the bland. Cole then went back to burying Jim Ross. WWE’s commentary tells you such a story about the company. Anyway, the heels worked over Bourne. The faces made their comeback with Kingston hitting trouble in paradise and Bourne hitting the shooting star for the win.
Alberto Del Rio beat Rey Mysterio. Del Rio worked over Mysterio. Mysterio hit a senton off the top and went for 619 but was caught with a clothesline for two. Del Rio hit an enzuigiri for another two. Mysterio countered an armbar attempt into a rollup for a very close two. Mysterio hit the 619 but Del Rio got up his knees on the top rope splash and covered for the pin. This was a very good match.
Del Rio attacked Mysterio after the match until John Cena made the save. Cena was heavily booed despite saving the hometown hero from the now top heel. Cena said he is angry, particularly at Del Rio for capitalizing after Cena and Punk left everything in the ring. He said Del Rio is a target who got lucky cashing in the briefcase. Cena said that if Del Rio defends against him, Del Rio won’t be so lucky. Cena concluded that Del Rio’s destiny is Cena whipping his ass.
For quite a while now, I’ve been giving WWE the benefit of the doubt on booking direction, because I liked the potential of the story they were telling so much. I should have known better. All signs point to the WWE booking team being as inept as ever, with no clue on how to capitalize on a great story that’s easy to tell.
The CM Punk storyline was really smart for a number of big reasons. For one, it felt real. The story of wrestlers who don’t like today’s corporate WWE against the forces who like that WWE just fine had the potential to involve disillusioned fans and infuse real stakes into the product. For two, it was fresh. Rather than the same guys feuding in the same way, it offered something that felt genuinely different. Yet here we are just two months later, and where are we?
Well, the title’s now on Alberto Del Rio, an 80s style cartoon character without any semblance of reality and who doesn’t fit into the story of fresh, rebellious newcomers into the established status quo at all. He’s fresh but his whole character is that he has been gifted all the advantages in the world. He’s clearly what WWE looks for, but isn’t associated as one of their most favored acts. The story they are teasing is he’s the chosen corporate champ feuding with the upstarts Cena and Punk, and that dynamic is all wrong. It’s the same idea, but the wrestlers are miscast in roles that don’t have the reality that made the angle interesting. And Del Rio’s immediate adversary? Why, John Cena of course. It’s Cena vs. Generic Heel for the title part 82,347.
Then there’s the matter of CM Punk. They’re kind of playing with the idea that Punk was screwed by the establishment at SummerSlam, but really it’s not much of a claim given that he only beat Cena because of HHH. Cena, who doesn’t fit as an anti-authority figure in the slightest, has the strongest claim to being screwed by the authority. Punk, meanwhile, is trading insider jabs with a 52-year-old man with a broken down body and a long established history of burying the guys he’s supposed to be getting over. Punk’s back in the middle while they try to transfer what he has to Cena, which isn’t going to work.
With the battle for the future direction of the WWE pretty much settled (status quo wins), we’re left with titles as the main hook for the top programs. That’s a shame, because after a period of hotshotting on top of hotshotting, they’ve changed their two top titles seven times in the past month. Week-to-week booking and individual “surprises” trump a focused, long term direction.
So, we’re back pretty much where we started. This show wasn’t bad from an entertainment standpoint. It had a couple good matches and the Punk/Nash segment was interesting if nothing else. WWE has enough talent that they aren’t going to produce terrible shows week in and week out. But my hope that WWE could get people genuinely invested in the product again and turn around the steady long term declines in their key business indicators is pretty much gone. It’s the same old shit and I was a fool to have expected any different.