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Posted in: Mr. Tito
RAW is TITO - Monday Night RAW Review & Grade - CM Punk vs. Rock, Baby!
By Mr. Tito
Jan 8, 2013 - 12:48:57 AM

FOLLOW Mr. Tito on Twitter: @titowrestling

Every damn week, the institute on "Excellence in Column Writing" gets repeated requests... When are you going to review Monday Night RAW again??? My usual answer is, well, when are you going to send the Brinks Trucks my way? But in truth, after writing show reviews since October 1998, especially when you did it when FIVE shows existed per week (RAW, Nitro, Thunder, Smackdown, and ECW), reviewing a show gets rather old. Especially reviewing the 3 hour RAW show and enduring what the WWE Creative Team calls a "midcard".

But there are times when inspiration prompts me to give you, the wonderful audience here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com, my thoughts on RAW. First RAW of 2013, the Rock's return, and a Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) match between CM Punk and Ryback... Lots to cover.

First and foremost, if RAW scores below a 2.8 rating tonight after the BCS Championship game was a one-sided joke, WWE Executives need to be FIRED. Seriously, Alabama ended this game by the end of the 1st damn quarter. So much starpower thrust upon RAW this week that by 10:00pm, if there wasn't a massive switchover to the USA Network from ESPN, there is no hope for the WWE. After all, you could see this blowout coming. Nick Saban is a super aggressive coach that benefits from easier academic standards than Notre Dame, while Notre Dame benefited from an off-year for the teams on their schedule. I mean, duh... If the WWE doesn't take advantage of a complete letdown of a BCS game, again, WWE Executives should be terminated. They are all McMahons or old McMahon friends, so thus heads won't roll... But wishful thinking is always nice to have.

The BIG STORY of RAW, of course, was the set-up of Rock vs. CM Punk for Royal Rumble 2013. Earlier in the night, CM Punk won his TLC match against Ryback. I have to say, it was a pretty good TLC match considering CM Punk was coming off a legitimate knee injury. Ryback, in my opinion, keeps getting better and better inside that ring. Even if the WWE is shoving Ryback down our throats, the guy is a legitimate performer. As long as the WWE doesn't hotshot any World Titles to him and gets the timing right on crowning Ryback champion, they'll make money. Dangerous suplex spot on the ladder and Punk got destroyed through a table. LOVED those spots. What I really enjoyed about the match's ending was the throwback to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as the lights went out and then the Shield appeared magically to attack Ryback. ECW did this lights out trick often and with Paul Heyman in the WWE and managing Punk, it just adds suspense to Punk's involvement with the Shield.

For the last 2 extensive segments of RAW, it was all talking. The first part was just CM Punk cutting an attempt at a "Pipebomb" promo while the second segment was Rock and CM Punk. For the first half, it seemed to me that the WWE was attempting to remake the "Pipebomb" speech from the Las Vegas RAW event before Money in the Bank 2011 but in a heel manner. However, I wonder if CM Punk cut too deep in that promo... He sort of ripped, and it seemed personal too, former WWE wrestlers who might do business with the WWE in the future. As Triple H pleads with Bruno Sammartino to join the WWE Hall of Fame, Punk ridicules Sammartino's era that I bet Bruno will take the wrong way. He ripped Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Ric Flair ... Certainly, it was part of the promo, but those wrestlers were probably not expecting it and might take it personal for future WWE appearance considerations. I thought Punk's comments about R-Truth and Tyson Kidd were completely off base, too. Certainly, how Brodus Clay and Daniel Bryan are being misused isn't that harmful to suggest, but he was being a little too unfair towards R-Truth in my opinion. That's one of those upset the "boys in the back" kind of moments.

BUT, I believe that the WWE was trying to POP the ratings by recreating the "Pipebomb" promo by CM Punk. I'd say that they were somewhat successful, though nothing will beat that pre-Money in the Bank original pipebomb promo.

Back from commercial for segment #2, CM Punk continues to rip the fans with is heel "Pipebomb" promo and of course, the Rock comes down to respond. Sorry, but EPIC FAILURE by the Rock with these utter crap attempts to sound funny. Cookie Puss and Popeye? Really? As noted with various other promos before Wrestlemania 28 last year against John Cena, we're seeing Attitude Era Rock from 2000-2002 trying to cut the same kind of promo 10 years later. These stupid attempts to sound funny and cool to the 2012-2013 WWE audience using 2000-2002 material just isn't working. The Rock is stuck cutting promos the same way he did 10 years ago, yet as a wrestling fan, I'm 10 years older. Stuff isn't as funny or fresh now as it was 10 years ago. Thus, these Cookie Puss and Popeye attempts at being funny were utter failures by the Rock and set up the Rock to look bad against a cutting CM Punk with his promos. That's a shame because when the Rock is on with a promo, as he was when he returned to the WWE during early 2011 as the Wrestlemania 27 "host", he's one of the best all time talkers.

And then, CM Punk was able to full respond to the Rock and just verbally THRASHED him. Repeatedly emphasizing that "I'm going to kick your ass!" and that these childish putdowns won't work on him just burned the Rock. I think he said something about moving on from the kid's table... But then, Punk delivered a tremendous line that completely burned the Rock: "You'll find that your arms are too short when you're boxing with God!"

OUCH. Honestly, in all of my years of watching the Rock, and I'm quite convinced that he's one of the few wrestlers that I've seen almost all of his televised stuff (from his 1996 WWF debut through now)... I've never seen him burned that bad before. Punk got in his face and delivered a heated promo that wasn't a comedic joke like the promos that the Rock was delivering. I just wonder how much the Rock is willing to take on CM Punk in a "war of words". Unlike John Cena, who after a few jabs will pull back... CM Punk is quite fearless. And reportedly, Punk was among the several WWE wrestlers not so thrilled to see the Rock's comeback during 2011. With Punk and many others busting their ass on the road for the WWE, the Rock appears here and there and yet probably makes quadruple than what anyone else makes in the WWE (aside from the very top guys and Brock Lesnar). I would be either be real careful if I were the Rock OR begin to bring his A-game to respond appropriately to CM Punk. No more Dairy Queen and Cookie Puss cutdowns, please!

Regardless of how the WWE Creative Team books this match, nothing can change that Rock and CM Punk are actually going to have a match at Royal Rumble 2013. In the ring for a 20+ minute Pay Per View match, you're mostly free of the creative team. I believe that both Rock and Punk are going to "bring it" and possibly deliver a legitimate "Match of the Year" candidate at the very first WWE Pay Per View. If you think that the Rock is going to let CM Punk show him up at the Royal Rumble Pay Per View, you've got another thing coming... The Rock looks to be in great shape and I can imagine his Cardio has improved since Wrestlemania 28 (although I thought Rock did fine at WM 28). This Pay Per View is a MUST BUY with CM Punk vs. the Rock and the Rumble match. I'll be watching this puppy in HD.

As for the REST of Monday Night RAW...

Need I say more about Dolph Ziggler getting "buried" by WWE Creative? Everyone thought I was crazy on 11/27/12 when I called it, but I'm sad to report that I was correct. Dolph Ziggler gained NOTHING and I repeat NOTHING from his feud with John Cena. No significant wins to show that Dolph might be ready for the Main Event. That's quite important, provided that Dolph does in fact carry the Money in the Bank briefcase with the implication that he could one day become champion. I'm sure some of you will give me the TLC Pay Per View match, but that was all about AJ Lee turning heel than it was Dolph Ziggler. John Cena took out the garbage tonight on RAW and ended this feud. Ziggler has NOTHING to show for it, aside from replacing his Cougar with something in tight shorts that skips.

ONCE AGAIN, wrestlers are used as pawns to get AJ Lee's character over. At the end of the day, PRO WRESTLERS are the biggest draws for the company. AJ Lee barely wrestles anymore. And it's not like she's Miss Elizabeth, Sunny, or Sable who might have legitimate drawing power as females in the WWE by not wrestling. She's being made into something more than what the WWE fans want to digest. The end result of what could have been made into an interesting "Love Triangle" storyline with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan (hell, they could have just replicated the Hogan/Savage/Miss Elizabeth storyline from 1988-1989) was to construct a stupid Wedding angle for the 1,000th RAW and for the "awesome" surprise that AJ Lee would become the RAW General Manager. I'm sorry, but how did that General Manager role work again? With Ziggler gaining NO ground on John Cena, this whole Cena/AJ Lee/Vickie Guerrero storyline was just to set up yet another character swing for the AJ Lee character: a heel turn.

Reportedly, and I've read into this from a few sources, Stephanie McMahon LOVES the AJ Lee character and Stephanie has been the one primarily responsible for most of AJ's handling for the last few months. Thus, the rush to General Manager was probably argued by Stephanie, for example. I guess Stephanie liked the way the whole Love Triangle storyline with Punk/Bryan/AJ drew interest that she saw real value in the AJ Lee character and NOT the CM Punk/Daniel Bryan characters. You know, legitimate wrestlers...

Something is missing from Wade Barrett... I look at him and I see the potential Main Eventer that he should become... Yet when I watch his matches, I'm bored... There's just NO in-ring psychology with Wade Barrett's moves to entice fans to react accordingly. He just goes out there and performs move after move after move until it's time to hit the finisher. Zero in-ring emotion to connect his moves to any reactions by the fans. In that match against Santino, Wade Barrett should have put Santino in various painful holds and taunted Ricky Steamboat on the outside. Maybe work on Santino's Cobra arm so that it reduces the effect of Santino's finisher... Simple, simple things like that to build a psychology of a legitimate athletic competition that has good guys and bad guys that's sold well to the fans watching the event.

I'm actually FINE with Big Show destroying Kofi Kingston early. I'm sorry, but someone built as small as Kingston with size and strength should barely hurt someone as tall and thick as the Big Show in real life. Besides, the Big Show is the World Champion and Intercontinental Champion contenders should seem easy to him unless WWE is serious about pushing a rising Intercontinental Champion or contender. Sorry, but Kofi Kingston isn't winning a World Title anytime soon. Just isn't and doesn't have "it" to become someone to be taken seriously for a World Title... At least not at this stage in his career.

I thought that was a great win by Antonio Cesaro on the Great Khali tonight. It takes wins like this to catch attention of fans, sometimes... For example, I believe it was early 2003 when John Cena defeated Rikishi cleanly that arguably started the ball rolling for Cena to be taken seriously as a potential main eventer.

And finally to round up my RAW notes for the evening...

It appears to me that the WWE is already pushing Sheamus and Randy Orton as the 2013 Royal Rumble winners. As I watched them dismantle their 3 Man Band opponents, the announcers hyped both like they were the 2nd coming of Christ! They were hyping that both were prior Rumble winners and talking up they were both serious 2013 contenders. As I noted in my column YESTERDAY, unless John Cena wins it to perfectly set-up Rock vs. John Cena II at Wrestelamania 29, the honor is going to a Smackdown wrestler. Seems to me that we're getting (INSERT FACE) against Big Show for the World Heavyweight Title. With Sheamus winning 2012's Royal Rumble, I'd lean towards Randy Orton unless there remains a lingering lack of trust in Orton after his 2012 Wellness Policy violation.

THE LAST WORD: Overall, I found this edition of RAW to be entertaining. I could probably nitpick more about the Creative aspect, but the 3rd hour focus was on building up Rock vs. CM Punk for Royal Rumble 2013 was quite great. That, and we got a good Ryback vs. CM Punk TLC match and the rest of the show had decent matches. We're on the right track, so far, towards Royal Rumble 2013 and that's what matters. I'll go A- (A-minus) as my grade.

Just chill till the next episode...

Comments and Tweets are welcome.

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