30 Thoughts with Al Laiman - 2-24-14
By Al Laiman
Feb 25, 2014 - 11:44:03 PM
credit Tom Jenner
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30 Thoughts with Al Laiman - RAW 2-24-14
Starting pretty soon, I'm starting an alternate 30 Thoughts series. I won't define when, how, or how often, but I'm going to do a nostalgic 30 Thoughts series for the year 1999. It's the 15-year anniversary of when I started watching wrestling full-time, and I really want to examine how I saw it then, how I see it now, and what the difference is between the products. Stay tuned. Also, a shout-out to my friend Aura for writing a very meaningful comment on the ILT Facebook page. Thank you again!
1. Hey, very little about this RAW has been spoiled for me! Thanks for not ruining things for me so you can get my organic reactions to things. We start off with... Holy shit, it's "Real American!" Speaking of nostalgia, that theme, that pop... Check your pulse if this doesn't at least get the fan part of you a little excited. Regardless of what you think of Hulk Hogan, his contributions are undeniable, and even if it's long past his time, this is really cool. Hogan is the reason wrestling became what it is, never forget that. The only disappointment is wondering what that pop would've been like if it had been a surprise appearance, ala Rock in 2011. Now if they insert him into the main event with the borefest that's already there, my opinion will change rapidly.
2. Hogan talks about the launch of the WWE Universe... Whoops, but he covers it well. He mentions "WWE Network" as much as he can in a condensed amount of time, so yeah, get used to that. Hogan mentions WrestleMania XXX, and the camera does a 180 just to make sure to get that logo on screen, because, you know, we didn't know what it was without that. He even managed to work the WWE Network into the "What'cha gonna do" line. That was actually kind of painful. Overall, a nice little nostalgia act mixed with shameless shilling.
3. The commentary table continues showing us the WWE Network, WWE Network, did I mention the WWE Network? Good JBL, they're holding on this a long time. This is going to get old quickly, maybe even quicker than That Thing video tutorials. Well, the show basically started with a nine-minute commercial for the WWE Network under the guise of a Hogan return. I really hope the whole show isn't like this, and I'm gonna try not to talk about it anymore. I don't hate the Network, nor do I hate That Thing... I just hate incessant, shameless plugging. That, and That Thing video tutorials. Those are ridiculous. Okay, that's enough.
4. Hey, Del Rio got his old music back. It's about time. WWE put me in a position where I had to cheer for the Black Hole of Charisma. Speaking of which, we're gonna get a repeat of that, and Batista's music in yet another non-smark city gets a chorus of boos. Wow, good thing they're ignoring all reactions and going with this for their main event. Seems Tommy Wiseau-like in its tenacity for doing whatever the hell they want, regardless of whatever anyone says, does, or feels. At least the commentary team is acknowledging it, so it gives me hope that they'll call an audible of some kind, otherwise the crowd reaction at Mania might be disastrous.
5. Circles, Del Rio, please wrestle them. Green Bay echoes the calls of Minneapolis, proving that hating the blown-up Batista can even unify rival cities. Del Rio kicking Batista finally gets a cheer, and ADR seems to enjoy getting something besides mild indifference. That was short-lived though. ADR takes an awkward fall over the top ropes. Lawler even acknowledges that Pittsburgh was hoping for Bryan to be in the Rumble, so maybe they're starting to get the hint. Hopefully the big 30th anniversary will not be as phoned in as last year, especially with the Network launch.
6. We come back with Del Rio doing his patented slide to the floor miss, and Del Rio does his best to make something watchable of this. Batista hits a superplex to give himself another break, because well, one move is exhausting. Wow, the BOO-YAY exchange happens, and ADR is getting cheered. You hear that, decision makers? A perpetual heel about whom nobody really cared after countless angles and title matches is getting CHEERS over the "big face" you guys got to return after four years and main event WrestleMania. I feel bad because I don't dislike Batista. As I wrote when he came back, I've been there for some major Batista moments. It's just the way they handled his return. He didn't need to be in the main event, and if he wasn't, I doubt people would've been reacting like this.
7. Randy Orton's music interrupts the match, and even he gets a huge pop. Your heel champion is getting cheered too, and with that, ADR sneaks a roll-up for the win, and that also gets a huge cheer. Holy shit, Randy Orton just had a different emotion! He's almost making me like him right now. By acknowledging the crowd reaction, it almost makes him a rebellious face, and Green Bay is eating it up. Okay WWE, you're making me like my two least-favorite active characters. THINK! This gets a "CM PUNK!" chant started, and Batista, out-of-breath does his best to salvage his bad reactions. Unlike John Cena, who handles those reactions much better, he says he'll boo them back, which is likely seeds planted for a much-needed heel turn. Batista again exhausts himself by saying a long sentence, and Randy Orton realizes he might be a face by default at this rate.
8. LeBig E not-Langston is coincidentally facing another guy who lost part of his name recently in not-Antonio Cesaro. I guess the match makes sense as an excuse to plug the NXT: Arrival show on Thursday, as both of them spent a good amount of time there. Green Bay loves them some "We, the People!" as they even chant for it. Cesaro's been on a roll while Big E's been on sort of a slow burn rise. The potential stiffness of this match reminds me of a match I watched with then-Claudio and Nigel McGuinness in 2004. The Intercontinental title, even though it's not being defended, continues to be seen in a prominent light. JBL, talking about the black helicopters and such, calls the commentary team "Fire bad, water good." That's funny as hell. Cesaro gets even Michael Cole organically excited with an admittedly awesome catch in the air of Big E into a backbreaker before the commercial.
9. Cesaro seems to be turning into the guy who can hit moves from anywhere, and I really like that. It fits his strength and abilities. I think Cesaro is getting primed for a strong face run if he keeps up this momentum, because a guy who keeps pulling off awesome moves like that just can't go un-cheered. This is one hell of a physical match; just what I was hoping for from these two. Cesaro kicks out of the move that won the main event of WrestleMania VI, even with HOAK HOGAN in attendance! Cesaro comes back with the Ultimate Uppercut for another near fall. I'm pretty sure the crowd is chanting for the swing... And they are, and it gets a huge pop. Like I said, face turn coming. The crowd gets disappointed though, as Big E powers out of it.
10. The crowd finally gets what they want, chanting along with the Big Swing, and then... Biff comes in to lock in the Patriot Act? Kay. Man, Biff just tried to get away with only waxing Cesaro's car one time. Before the break-up is teased, Big E goes after Swagger, but Cesaro attacks him and hits the Neutralizer. While the break-up is imminent, it is not tonight. Zeb tells Swagger not to con him on the way out. Wjat a lengthy, equal, well-done match on both ends. I'm surprised how much time it got, but Cesaro continues to outdo himself with his performances. Good on WWE for letting these two go that long.
11. Replays, skip. This brings out John Cena, whose mixed reaction seems like a January 4th, 1999 pop compared to Batista's. Cena's feud with the Wyatts means one thing: Cena won't be in the main event, but he also makes the "future is now" speech for the Network. At least it's not those short-lived, JBL-awful in-show Shopzone commercials with a random low-carder not on RAW that night. Watch, now that I've mentioned it, they'll come back. Cena brings the feud origination up to speed, and sets up the Future vs. Present aura around the match itself.
12. The Wyatts and their awesome presence give Green Bay a personalized entrance. Bray launches into his HAM-filled anti-hero rant. Man has he continued to grow this character into natural, amazing promo ability. Bray agrees that he's gotta go through Cena to get to the future, and he then takes the opportunity to... introduce himself. All right. He calls them the "reapers that bring death to the era of lies." That's just quality writing right there.
13. Cena lets them known they're starting something if they get in the ring, and they do. Three-on-one immediately, reminiscent of old Shield attacks with which Cena's very familiar. The three taunt him, but Cena attacks again unsuccessfully, and it looks like Cena's selling a leg injury. Interesting time for Punk chants, but okay. After it looks like they're laying off, they come back in and finish off the segment strong. Good official launch of the feud.
14. Christian is out next, selling the effects of the Elimination Chamber match, and now we see there are things happening on the WWE Network's pre-show too. But, given who his opponent is, you may or may not want to skip this thought... IT'S A SHAMEFUL THING, LOBSTERHEAD! I CAN'T LOAD THE WWE NETWORK, HOAK HOGAN! THIS PAGE HAS CAUSED AN ERROR, IT SAYS! HOW DARE YOU SABOTAGE THE ULTIMATE DISPLAY OF THE FORCE OF MY DESTRUCITY! WILL NOT LOAD! WILL NOT LOAD! TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES! I'VE THE LUCK OF THE STARKS TRYING TO GET THE PAGE TO COME UP! LOAD THE NETWORK WITH THE ROCKET FUEL, LOAD IT WITH THE MOTHER OF DRAGONS, THE LAG IS MAKING MY SCREENSAVER COME ON! YES! YES! SUNSHINE LOLLYPOPS AND RAINBOW GUMDROPS INHIBIT MY ABILITY TO STAY MAD AT YOU, HOAK HOGAN! THE LAUNCH DAY HAS BECOME A LEMON! WAIT, WHY IF THERE IS CITRUS, ARE THERE NOT LIMES? MORE THAN A PLENTIFUL AMOUNT EVEN? BUT IF THERE ARE TOO MANY LIMES, WHY NOT ZOIDBERG?! WHY NOT ZOIDBERG, HOAK HOGAN?! JUST CONNECT ME TO THE NETWORK, THE LAG IS KEEPING ME FROM THE HOOKERS AND BLOW ON THE TERRAIN OF TESTAMENT!
15. Christian is definitely much more in his element as an old-school style heel. Not much of a reaction so far, but it's good to see continuity. The match gets off to a slow start, highlighted by a Christian face into the post. Thankfully for the sake of anyone with motion sickness, Christian counters the Blair Witch Forearm Chops of Doom. The match goes into commercial, and I'm not really sure that anything important's happened yet. Second straight week I've thought that of a Sheamus match. Pick it up, Lobsterhead!
16. We come back with Christian on offense on the outside in control. Christian is selling his frustration well, but still, Green Bay is unusually quiet tonight for this match. Wait, I heard them chanting something. Was it "Go back home?" They're talking about Cena's knee injury, so I imagine it's storyline. Maybe to give him some rest before the Wyatt match? I don't know, but having a strong counterpart around would be good for Bray.
17. Christian finally gets the match some heat before going to the top rope but netting only air. Sheamus is back on offense, so look for several of his 187 trademark moves. Christian fights out of trademark move #134, the Cloverleaf, and I don't imagine that feels good after the Chamber match. Christian nearly gets another upset pin over Sheamus, but alas, it was not to be. Sheamus misses the BOOT TO THE HEAD, but ends up getting kicked right in the fuck instead for the win! Slow match for a good part of it, but definitely picked up at the end. Bonus crowd HAM to the "Too Many Limes" sign.
18. We get a full clip from the pre-show, thereby making watching the pre-show itself entirely pointless because they air anything important in full anyway. A confrontation has Daniel Bryan laying out the challenge for WrestleMania, which hopefully leads to at least that as opposed to the rumored match with Kane.
19. More promotion for the WWE Network, followed by more talking about it. A nice video for Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson. Then the Shield backstage has Ambrose getting annoyed with the other two. The Wyatts end up confronting the other two, with Reigns laying a challenge to Bray for a one-on-one match. The lamb mask appearing in the shadows was a pretty cool visual. More promotion for the RAW pre-show.
20. Finally, Daniel Bryan comes out to his usual incredible reaction. After commercial, Citizen Kane in his beater and dress pants comes out for, hopefully, not a WrestleMania preview. Bryan shows no fear, but Kane works the injured shoulder. Bryan goes kick crazy, and Bryan's intensity is Shamrock-worthy. I really like how the commentators are selling the angle, though while in kayfabe, addressing the issues that have come forth. If it works, they'll say it was their plan all along. If it doesn't, they'll say they can't control reactions. Man, having PR people is great, isn't it?
21. The match spills to the outside with Bryan getting thrown into the steps with the bad shoulder. Man, that Liam Neeson movie makes me think of Biker Taker every time I hear "Are you scared?" We come back with the tape removed from Bryan's shoulder, while the commentary bicker about basically what's a legitimate injury. Bryan finally begins his comeback and the YES! chants go crazy. It gets cut off for a near-fall though, and JBL continues mocking everyone because he can. Bryan comes back and manages to get a top rope Frankensteiner on Kane, and good on Kane for being able to take that!
22. JBL has apparently changed Daniel Bryan's derogatory nickname from Goat to Garden Gnome, how clever. That naturally means he'll repeat it every time he says something, so it'll get old quickly. Cole calls a win by Bryan an "embarrassment" to the Authority, which sounds worse for Bryan than it does for Kane or the Authority. Think about the way you guys say things! Bryan gets caught in a goozle from the top rope, but Bryan kicks out of the chokeslam! That doesn't happen often! The crowd goes nuts for it, and the match continues. A battle of goozle vs. YES! Lock ensues, but Bryan breaks through, comes back with the flying knee and gets the win. These two always work well together, and tonight is no exception.
23. Bryan takes the mic after the match and yells that Triple H is a coward. He reaffirms the challenge for the match at WrestleMania and throws down the punk card. The YES! chants rise, and Bryan summons the voices of many. Finally this angle will come to a head, and I'm looking forward to it.
24. Apparently on Smackdown, Batista will tell the WWE Universe what he really thinks of it. I guess he's convinced someone really does give a shit. So anyway, Summer Rae and Emma have themselves a match while Santino takes the Stevie Richards role to her Victoria. I've already been told that Emma is overrated, but given that she's been on the main roster for eight seconds, I'm not sure how that's possible yet. These two aren't bad at all, and once again, it's nice to see a Diva's match that doesn't revolve around that show. Interesting submission finisher for Emma to get the win there, and a nice Diva's match well-placed on the show. That theme song is a damn earworm though, isn't it?
25. A montage of Hogan's return articles flash before a recap of his appearance earlier. Skip. The Usos and the Outlaws, sans entrance, are in the ring, but Road Dogg takes the mic and makes them get out of the ring so they can do their schtick. Right on "Outlaws!" the Usos sneak attack. A dive and a splash later, the Usos win. That was quick. That match must've been cut out for the first segment showing us what a computer does earlier. No wait, nevermind, we're gonna show more of that. Skip.
26. We've got a match of future main-eventers in Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, and neither one of them being in that position is a surprise after their recent body of work. There's a lot of long, wet hair in this ring right now. Reigns has just got that silent bad-ass thing down while Bray is built more like Mick Foley but has a unique and crazy character with whom he can cut unconventional promos. Two future stars, similar starts, but they themselves could not be more different.
27. A few fans try to be funny by chanting "Husky Harris." How original. The power shifts back and forth until, dare I say, Reigns clotheslines Wyatt right in the fuck to take us into commercial. I know I already said it once tonight, but dammit that warranted it. The crowd has reached the random chant part of the show, I think, and this is stupid place to do it because these two have been stellar lately.
28. This isn't quite Cesaro/Big E stiff, but this is a physical match, definitely. I like this also because like the aforementioned, it's being given good time to develop. How they find themselves rushed sometimes with a three-hour run time is a mystery to me. The Wyatts' Sabu entrance hits, and Rowan and Harper are at ringside. Rollins comes out of nowhere and hits a high spot to take them out. Unfortunately, that leaves him two-on-one, but Ambrose does come in to make the save. Reigns comes back in with the Superman punch, but for the second time on this show, another teammate causes a disqualification. The melee ensues, and it ends with Shield getting the upperhand. I wouldn't mind seeing this angle continue to WrestleMania, even with Bray handling Cena.
29. Reigning HAM of the year Paul Heyman comes out with Brock Lesnar to tease us about being in the title match at WrestleMania. Heyman explains that instead they've given him an open contract for WrestleMania, allowing him to fight anyone he wants, but it's a consolation prize. Heyman HAMs it up some more, explaining how they "get you" in WWE, adding more speculative conspiracy to the game-playing idea they seem to be perpetuating. Heyman says that Lesnar will be given history to conquer, or he won't be there. That... really doesn't make sense, but whatever, we know what it's setting up.
30. The gong finally goes off, and the pop is what's expected. Looks like we are getting Lesnar vs. Undertaker for WrestleMania 30! We haven't seen Taker since he was taken out by The Shield, and he's got his Shredder shoulders and everything! Lesnar's fought Biker Taker, but never Deadman Taker. Taker goes super wide-eye when he reaches the ring, and he steps across the table from Lesnar. The two have a face-off, as opposed to a face/.... off... and the chants echo throughout Green Bay. Are they gonna give us any context or just look at the sign. Taker looked at the sign, so I guess that's what it'll be. Heyman nervously gives Lesnar the contract, and he signs it. He hands Taker the pen, which gets a boo... because he penned him disrespectfully? Okay. Taker stabs his hand with the pen and chokeslams him through the table. Okay, that was awesome. The crowd eats it up and we close RAW with the Undertaker standing over his 22nd WrestleMania challenger. Well guys, I don't have much criticism of this show, other than the ridiculous overplugging of the Network and our WrestleMania main event being blown up by the act of speaking. We had several great, lengthy matches from non-main eventers, and the main matches are gaining steam. This was a very good show, especially since I was able to fast forward through a lot of the excess.
I know you might find this surprising, but Taker wins it for pen stabbing. That was so over-the-top and kinda silly, then throw in his wide-eyed super serial face, and that takes it.
2012 - Daniel Bryan
2013 - Paul Heyman
1-6-14 - Dean Ambrose
1-13-14 - Big Show
1-20-14 - Big Show
2-3-14 - Bray Wyatt
2-17-14 - Titus O'Neil
2-24-14 - The Undertaker
Super Bowl Commercials!