Today's column was inspired by an email I received from a reader last night asking me to share my thoughts on infrequently-seen WWE diva, Kaitlyn. Instead of answering his question like any other normal person would do, I figured I'd make a column out of it. Don't worry - it won't be 700 words talking about Kaitlyn, but rather me giving my thoughts on a number of superstars/divas/wrestling-related topics in general that I feel are currently being misused. Makes sense? Awesome.
Let's kick things off with the aforementioned diva and winner of NXT Season Three (which was worth watching for Cole and Mathew's commentary alone, by the way). Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that Kaitlyn has the in-ring ability of a Natalya or Beth Phoenix, or that she has the charisma of a Trish Stratus, but DAMN, she is hot! Whenever people discuss the best-looking female talents on the WWE and TNA rosters, it's always the same names that come up - Aj, Velvet Sky, Layla, etc. Rarely do you see Miss Kaitlyn make anyone's list, but I think that's because of how little she's been used since her time on NXT (which she ironically has returned to). Sure, she had that brief partnership with Aj on Smackdown!, but once Aj hooked up with Daniel Bryan, Kaitlyn has been sparingly used.
Look, I'm not saying Kaitlyn should get a monster push based solely on her looks, but I'd rather watch her wrestle than the likes of Kelly Kelly or Alicia Fox, that's for sure. Even if she sucks in the ring, she can always improve, as no one can be as bad as K2, right? Right?
Can someone please explain to me why WWE is letting William Regal waste away on NXT? Trying him out as a full-time commentator was a risky idea, as it meant his in-ring days would be severely reduced, but he has excelled in his new announcer role. Yet, he continues to call the action on NXT rather than RAW or Smackdown!. If that wasn't bad enough, Regal has recently been revealed as the new/first-ever General Manger of NXT. Unless this leads to Regal getting to compete in more matches, I'm not digging the idea. Why? Because it means Regal will have another anchor preventing him from getting used on either main brand.
Regal is not a young man; his in-ring days are winding down. Why WWE refuses to give the veteran one last run relatively near to the top is beyond me. He's proven his skill at the announce booth, and could stay there for many years after his in-ring days are over. So why not use Regal as an active superstar now before it's too late?
The 30-Day Rule
I know I mentioned this in my last column, but I don't think I can stress how important this rule is to the legitimacy of professional wrestling and how it adds to the prestige of championship belts. For the 1% of you reading this that have no idea what the 30-day rule is, it's basically an old-school rule in which every champion was obligated to defend his or her title at least once every thirty days. Failure to do so would result in the champion being stripped of their title.
Why is this important, you ask? Well, let's use the current Intercontinental Champion, Cody Rhodes, as an example. Rhodes is one of my top five (or "Fav Five", if you will) wrestlers at the moment, and when he defeated Ezekiel Jackson last summer to win the belt, I was ecstatic; I just knew Rhodes would be given a lengthy reign with the IC title. Lo and behold, I was right - he recently surpassed Shawn Michaels as the fifth longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all-time. The problem is, Michaels defended the title a lot more than Cody does. Probably half of Cody's title defenses were against the same man (Booker T). In fact, I could count all of Cody's title defenses on both hands if I wanted to.
The point is, Cody Rhodes has been the IC Champion for what seems like forever, mainly because he almost never defends it (and live events don't count). The 30-Day rule made sure champions didn't become afterthoughts or too involved in other affairs. It also forced the company to spend at least some time building up challengers. Nowadays, anybody can compete for any title because there is no number one contender system or a 30-Day rule in effect. That's something that has to change ASAP.
I've already talked about a diva, a part-time wrestler/part-time announcer, but now it's time to talk about an often under-appreciated commentator. There was a reason Josh Mathews replaced Todd Grisham as Smackdown!'s play-by-play man over a year ago - because he's awesome. Seriously, between the likes of Cole, Booker T, and Jerry Lawler, Mathews is easily a cut above the rest. He knows his holds, he calls the action, and although he does tend to favor the babyfaces, he tries to call it down the middle. I know a lot of people don't enjoy Mathews' work, but that's because they tend to saddle him between Booker T and Cole. More often than not, Mathews can become an after-thought in a random, yet common, argument between Cole and Booker, but he does his best to return the discussion to the actual match.
Mathews may not be the next Jim Ross, but he's a lot better and less annoying than Cole ever will be.
Dolph Ziggler's Promo Work
Rounding out the list is the self-proclaimed "Show-Off" and his limited microphone opportunities. For those that have never seen the "Ask The Heel" segment of Z! True Long Island Story or never watched an episode of WWE Download, you're missing out on some fantastic promo work from Mr. Ziggles (side-note: I'm so glad they let that nickname die). You may have seen Ziggler share a mic with Vickie Guerrero, but for the millionth time, Ziggler DOES NOT NEED VICKIE ANYMORE! He is fully capable of getting heat on his own and his association with Vickie is only reducing his promo time. If you think back to Ziggler's promo during the "Elimination Chamber Debate" a few weeks ago, or better yet, Ziggler's interaction with Mick Foley prior to the Royal Rumble, you'll probably agree that Ziggler is awesome when given a live mic.
The "Show-Off" can back it up in the ring, but WWE won't let him steal the show on the mic...yet.
2. Two Thumbs Up For RAW!
Well, another edition of Monday Night RAW is in the books, and from top to bottom, I thought it was a very good show. Sure, there were some low-points and a number of things I would have done differently if I was calling the shot, but that's nothing new. Instead, I turned off my television thoroughly satisfied with my viewing experience. WWE managed to combine Wrestlemania hype with the pushing of new stars and angles with some solid wrestling in just over two hours' time. As a wrestling fan, I was given little to complain about, but let's get the 'not-so-great' stuff out of the way first, shall we?
Easily the worst parts of RAW were the length of the Undertaker/HBK promo and Rock's never-ending concert. Now, I enjoyed both segments, but each of them should have been at least five-ten minutes shorter. Take Cenas's show-opening rap for example. Not only did he KILL IT by bringing back his Thuganomics music and dressing like old-school, rapper Cena, but his rap was perfect. It was short, to the point, and hilariously true. Hell, it was so short, that the first match of the evening began before the 9:15 commercial break. In contrast, Rock's concert was entertaining and fun to sing along to, but it went on way too long. It was amusing, but didn't really help build toward his match with Cena at Wrestlemania. The Rock Concert came across as more of a house show, or post-TV taping promo than a means of adding fuel to the "most-anticipated match in Wrestlemania history".
As for the Shawn Michaels/Undertaker reunion, it was a reminder of why so many people were dreading Triple H/Taker II (or III, technically) at Wrestlemania 28. The match itself won't be terrible and is a logical addition to any Mania card, but the promos, man - they just go on and on and on. Seriously, everything that Michaels, Taker, and HHH have said to each other since embarking on The Road to Wrestlemania could easily be summed up in a ten-fifteen minute segment. Instead, the combined entrance time, pauses between speeches, and multiple replays have us going on over an hour of promo time between all three men. Words cannot properly describe how frustrating and annoying that is, at least for me.
But other than those two lengthy segments, RAW was spectacular. Like I said, Cena's rap was effective and made me miss the old John Cena even more. The match that followed, Sheamus vs. Ziggler, was my pick for match of the night. It may have been hurt by the pesky commercial break and a random cut to Daniel Bryan and Aj watching the match in a Skybox (a shout-out to Wade Barrett, I assume), but once again, Ziggler stole the show. For two guys with such contrasting styles, Ziggler and Sheamus work really well together. Ziggler bumped like crazy for Sheamus's hard-hitting offense, while Sheamus managed to keep up with the Show-Off's quicker pace. Of course Sheamus got the win, but Ziggler put up a hell of a fight.
I'm getting more and more excited about the Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny match at Wrestlemania as time goes by. Both GMs play their roles so well, that you almost believe that they really are running their respective show. Anyways, the Santino vs. David Otunga and Mark Henry handicap match was quick and accomplished many things. First, it didn't bury the new United States Champion, Santino. It took not one, but two men to put him down for the three count. Furthermore, it established Otunga as a legitimate captain of Team Johnny (I told you he was in line for a push, didn't I?) and FINALLY let Henry look like a dominant beast again, taking out Santino, Kofi Kingston, and R-Truth. Finally, it made Teddy Long look like the underdog in this fairly-even feud thus far, which is smart booking. I can't wait to see the rest of the teams revealed in the coming weeks.
Speaking of which, I'm fairly certain Brodus Clay returned to RAW last night and dominated Jinder Mahal like he never left in order to give him momentum before he's named as a member of Team Teddy. Seriously, if Randy Orton doesn't join Team Teddy (sorry Ro, I don't think he will), other than The Great Khali, the only man who could stand up to Mark Henry would be Brodus Clay. Obviously, Clay is nowhere near Henry's level, but when it comes to pure size and dominance, The Funkasaurus has the best chance of standing up to The World's Strongest Man and making Team Teddy look a bit stronger. Oh, and it's always nice to see Mahal get buried, nothing wrong with that.
I already touched on the HBK/Taker segment earlier, but I'll quickly say that despite it's length, both men got some good lines in (I LOLed @ Taker flubbing the date of Wrestlemania 28). You now have Michaels playing a tweener role, and he has a legitimate reason for screwing over both Taker and HHH inside Hell in a Cell. Who knows, maybe he'll count both men's shoulder's and screw them both out of the win. Hey, in WWE-land, anything can happen.
I'm really not sure where this whole Zack Ryder/Eve storyline is going, and with Beth Phoenix now in the picture, I'm even more confused. At first, I was predicting a mixed tag team match at WM28 between Ryder/random face diva and Eve/random heel superstar, but now I'm not so sure. I don't know how Eve and Beth having beef with Maria Menounos is going to lead to a Wrestlemania match. Who would be Maria's partner - Ryder?!? Anyways, I'm enjoying the twists and turns in this storyline, but I have no idea how they'll tie into Wrestlemania.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have yet to see CM Punk and The Miz have a bad match against each other. They have this indescribable chemistry and last night, it was on full display. While their match didn't top Sheamus vs. Ziggler from earlier in the evening, both men worked their asses off and you could tell Cleveland was really into Miz because Punk's pop was softer than usual. After Miz tapped to the Anaconda Vise and lost another chance to compete at Wrestlemania, Chris Jericho appeared on the Titantron and found a way to make his feud with Punk even more personal. How? By bringing up Punk's father. Whether you think it's corny or not, I'm sorry, but when you bring up family, shit gets serious. Punk tried not to let Jericho's words affect him, but the camera caught him fighting back tears. Whether those were real tears or not, we saw a side of Punk he'd never shown before, and I like it. If you're not dying to see Punk vs. Y2J at Wrestlemania, then I don't know what's wrong with you.
To my immense surprise, Swagger vs. Orton was NOT a total squash. As soon as I saw Swagger receive the jobber entrance and await The Viper's arrival to the ring, I immediately thought to myself, "Poor Swagger". Fortunately, I was wrong, as it turned out to be a good match between the two former world heavyweight champions (it still sounds strange calling Swagger a former world champion - poor Swagger). Orton picked up the win to absolutely nobody's surprise, and Kane's pyro went off after the match, but The Big Red Machine was nowhere to be found.
(On a side note, I'm digging the Orton/Kane feud and I hope their rivalry doesn't end at Wrestlemania. My only complaint is, where does Kane go afterwards? He's already feuded with two of the biggest faces on the roster. Unless he's scheduled for a program with CM Punk this summer, Kane can only go downhill from there. But that's kind of irrelevant at this point in time.)
This brings us to the conclusion of RAW and the segment that pissed off the IWC so much that they're STILL complaining about it, nearly 24 hours later. Look, I may be in the minority here, but I enjoyed most of the Rock Concert. Like I said earlier, it went on a tad too long, but for the most part, it was highly entertaining. In fact, had Rock excluded the "We Will Rock You" karaoke bit, it would have been my favorite segment of the night. Say what you want, but I'm a sucker for a catchy tune, and I found myself singing along, "Cleveland, Let's Rock". Was it a good way to build heat for his upcoming match against Cena at Wrestlemania? Not really, as it was more Rock having fun than anything else. But it did show some old-school Rock, and he seemed to be in his grove more than any other promo he's cut since the night of his return last year. Call me a mark, but I was a fan of the Rock concert, even though he forever butchered "We Will Rock You".
Overall, an above-average show this week that had something for everyone. I'm going to go ahead and give RAW an A-. Had they cut down the Taker/HBK segment and The Rock Concert and replaced it with another decent match (or given more time to Punk vs. Miz), the show would have easily gotten an A. It is what is, though. Kudos to WWE for giving us another entertaining show this week.
3. For The Love Of God, Don't Let Punk vs. Jericho Go On First!
Those of you who have been keeping up with the latest rumors surrounding Wrestlemania 28 probably already know what this column is about. In case you don't, let me share with you this very idiotic, and hopefully untrue, newsbit from the other day:
"There is talk that Hell in a Cell will be in the middle of the event with The Rock vs. John Cena going on last and possibly Punk vs. Jericho opening the show."
Rock vs. Cena being the main-event? That's a no-brainer. Triple H/Undertaker going on around the middle? No problem. But Punk vs. Jericho being the very first match of the night? To quote a fellow Main Pager or two, "Get alllll the way outta here with that shit."
No, seriously. Rarely do I get worked up over something I read on the internet (unless it's Zack Ryder-related), but in this case, just reading that rumor makes me sick to my stomach. I mean, just because last year's Wrestlemania began with a world title match - which, in retrospect, was a great idea - it doesn't mean the trend should continue this year.
If any world title match is going to kick off Mania, it should be Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus. I'm not hating on either guy or their feud, but let's be honest - Bryan and Sheamus aren't quite on the same level as Jericho and Punk. More specifically, Punk is a lot more over as a face than Sheamus is, and Jericho gets more heat and a bigger reaction than Bryan does. Now, this could all change months or years from now, but as of right now, Punk vs. Jericho is a much bigger match-up than Sheamus vs Bryan.
On one hand, I kind of understand WWE's logic in having Punk vs. Jericho kick off Wrestlemania. The opening contest almost always sets the tone for the rest of the card. Therefore, by starting the show with a match that is basically guaranteed to be at least "good", WWE doesn't have to worry about Wrestlemania getting off to a rocky start.
But on the other hand, if Punk vs. Jericho is half as epic as I'm expecting it to be, how does anyone who competes after them hope to top their effort? It's easy - they can't. I'm really looking forward to EVERY match announced thus far for Wrestlemania (which is possibly a first in my ten-plus years as a wrestling fan), but I'm not going to pretend that every contest could possibly steal the show. Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes will be fun, and hopefully turn Rhodes into an even bigger star. The 12-man tag team match will be entertaining, but it definitely won't be the match of the night. Kane vs. Orton (if it does happen) and Bryan vs. Sheamus will both be strong bouts, but not mind-blowing, I don't think. As for the two main-events, Rock/Cena and Hell in a Cell? I think the crowd reaction will add a lot to both matches. Based on pure wrestling alone, no match will top Punk vs. Jericho on April 1.
The way I see it, WWE already have a wide selection of matches to open Wrestlemania with, and Jericho/Punk is not one of them. I could realistically see the Intercontinental title match, Sheamus vs. Bryan, or GM Warfare kicking off the show. Just for the hell of it, here's how I would schedule Wrestlemania 28's proceedings:
Team Laurinaitis vs. Team Long
Cody Rhodes vs. The Big Show
Randy Orton vs. Kane
Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk
Triple H vs. The Undertaker
Random Divas Match
John Cena vs. The Rock
The reasoning behind this order is quite simple, really. You kick off the show with a fast-paced match filled with top names like Christian, Santino, and maybe Rey Mysterio to get the crowd pumped up. Then, you let Big Show and Cody Rhodes do their thing in the night's first one-on-one match. After that, Randy Orton wakes up the crowd in case Big Show puts them to sleep. Bryan and Sheamus follow that with a potentially show-stealing match. Afterwards, Punk and Jericho go on to have THE match of the night, and while the IWC recovers, HHH/Undertaker go out and please everyone else. You then throw in a five-minute divas match to allow everyone to get ready for Cena vs. Rock and voila!, one of the best Wrestlemanias of all-time is in the books.
What do you think? Are you okay with Punk vs. Jericho opening the show? If not, what should be the curtain-jerker instead?
4. What If...WCW Was Still Around?
For some reason, this is a question I get asked A LOT. In fact, weeks from now, someone will probably ask me this question again, but structured differently. For some strange reason, people are dying to know what the world would be like had WWE never purchased WCW eleven years ago. Some people believe WCW could have one day "bounced back" from their downfall and caught up to RAW's ratings over time. Others think they could have survived, but barely. I've even seen some people discuss the possibility of WCW being re-purchased and re-branded as another company during the past decade.
So once again, I'm here to put the rumors to rest and answer the age-old question of what if...WCW was still around?
To be fair, this question is a bit vague. Are we talking about WCW circa Eric Bischoff (1990s and earlier) or the era of Vince Russo as head booker (1999-2001)? From what I've seen and heard, the Russo era is complete crap, so I'm assuming people want to know what would of happened if the "good old days" of WCW never went away. I can go with that.
Well, one thing is for sure - had WCW survived, we'd never have been forced to endure the awful post-Attitude Era days. WWE accomplished a lot in the early-to mid-2000s, as the wrestling world was introduced to the future as John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton all debuted during this time period. WWE also pushed veterans to the top, including the likes of Chris Benoit (I'll say his name whenever I want to), Eddie Guerrero, and Edge. This was done mainly because of the departure of so many big names. The Rock, Steve Austin, and Goldberg were all hanging up their boots, and WWE were forced to fill some pretty big shoes.
The way I look at it, had WCW never been acquired by the WWE, Vince McMahon would have tried a lot harder to keep his top talent under contract. Considering the shape the company was in when WCW went down, the chances of another Monday Night War happening are slim to none. But that's not to say WCW could never have achieved it's earlier success. Russo could have been booted, the booking would have improved, and WCW could have snatched up a lot of unhappy WWE employees. However, that never happened, and the lack of competition undoubtedly gave McMahon little incentive to keep his big stars around. After all, without WCW nipping at his heels, Vince could afford to lose some top names, as (almost) everybody is replaceable, and that's what he did.
If WCW was still around, WWE programming from 2002 onward would probably have been more consistently decent. We wouldn't have been forced to endure twenty-minute Triple H promos, midgets wrestling on SmackDown, or a lame-ass Diva Search. WWE would have done everything in their power to keep their viewers from switching to WCW. Why? Because despite the huge rating difference from 2000-2001, WCW was still an alternative to many wrestling fans. Nowadays, there is no decent alternative for the average fan. TNA turns off viewers because of their strange booking strategies, and despite recent improvements, ROH still comes across as indy, "backyard" wrestling to many fans. (Writer's Side-Note: I don't view either company in this light; I'm just speaking from the perspective of many WWE-exclusive viewers).
But most importantly, if WCW was still around, there's no guarantee WWE would be the number one wrestling company in the world today. There were many times before and during the Monday Night Wars that fans believed WCW would put WWE out of business. Any wrestling fan who was heavily invested in that era would tell you that there were times when it was impossible to pick a clear winner. Sometimes, the ratings and live attendance were so neck-and-neck that no one knew what was going to happen.
In my opinion, a Monday Night War would do wonders to revitalize the stagnant wrestling industry. Many of you might recall TNA attempting to challenge RAW with live episodes of Impact back in 2010, but that didn't last too long, so I don't consider it a war in any sense. What I would LOVE to see is some sort of merger between TNA and ROH to go up against WWE. Imagine combining the positive elements of both companies (the writers, bookers, wrestlers, Knockouts) and getting rid of the trash to give WWE some actual competition? That's the stuff dreams are made of. I know it'll never happen, but a legit threat to Vince and company would make the old man shake in his boots and be open to trying something different (see: Stone Cold Steve Austin and Degeneration-X from The Monday Night Wars; CM Punk pre-Money in the Bank 2011-present). It's no coincidence that Bret Hart returned to confront Shawn Michaels the same night TNA went up against WWE, that's for sure.
WCW is never an easy topic to cover in less than 1,000 words, but I gave it my best shot, especially considering how "new" I am to the wrestling world (I became a fan in 2002).Therefore, if I got any facts mixed up, or gave some misleading assumptions, please, feel free to correct me.
All I know is, if WCW never died/went bankrupt/sold-out, today's WWE product and that of the last ten years would have been much, much better. Don't you think?
5. My Live Event Experience
Writer's Note: I announced it yesterday, but in case you missed it, today's column will be a first-ever for me. Me and my friend Silvia attended last night's WWE live event in Montreal, and rather than give another lame house show report, I'm turning it into a column. Mind you, the structure is very similar to every other show report, and maybe mine will be just as lame. No worries.
*A LOT of kids and families in attendance. So many, that by the time the show got underway, all the merchandise stands had already sold out of the small size for every t-shirt they had in stock. But I did manage to pick up a sickkk Dolph Ziggler shirt and surprisingly nice Randy Orton shirt.
*As soon as you got to the arena, a lot of teens and young adults were trading "Woo Woo Woo" chants. That's not my "Ryder fandom" speaking, it's the truth.
*More than a few sections of people started chanting for Stone Cold Steve Austin. Okay...
*As soon as the video packages played, you could tell this was a very anti-Cena crowd. More on that later.
Match #1: United States Champion Santino Marella defeated Jack Swagger (with Vickie Guerrero) to retain his title
Those of you who are yet to attend a WWE live event, TV taping, or Pay-Per-View since last February might not understand how over Santino is with the audience. Because man oh man, the Montreal crowd was HOT for Santino! I don't know if it's because of the high Italian population in Montreal, the fact that it was the first match of the night, or if Santino is some kind of charisma machine, but he got one of the best reactions of the night, hands down.
The match itself was more comedy than wrestling, but the crowd ate it up. From Santino mocking Swagger by doing crunches in the ring, to a failed Cobra attempt on Vickie Guerrero, the fans were on their feet the whole time. After a mistimed distraction by Vickie, Santino ended up hitting Swagger with The Cobra for the win in a short but fun contest.
Rating: 1.5/5 stars
Match #2: R-Truth defeated The Miz
The Miz came out to a surprisingly large amount of cheers, but quickly turned the crowd against him by cutting a promo in French (which I'm assuming Maryse has taught him). Honestly, Miz had such a heavy accent, I found the promo more amusing than insulting. Anyways, Miz had the crowd firmly against him, and R-Truth showed up RAPPING HIS OLD THEME MUSIC!!
Like, is that a fucking joke? I thought the days of Truth the rapper were behind us, but apparently not. Although several people with floor tickets chanted along with "What's Up", Truth was really not over. They booed Miz for everything he did, but hardly reacted when Truth was on offense or caught Miz with the Lie Detector out of nowhere for the victory.
The match itself was pretty decent, but it sucks that Miz can't even pick up a win at a house show nowadays. Oh, well...
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
WWE Divas Champion Beth Phoenix & Natalya defeated Tamina & Eve
I didn't see a single second of this match because I wanted to pick up some gear, use the bathroom, and not watch Eve wrestle. According to my friend, Eve cut a promo beforehand asking the crowd for forgiveness and not to judge her, which resulted in a "Hoeski" chant. Eve would then leave Tamina to fend for herself by not accepting the hot tag and walking away, allowing Phoenix and Natalya to pick up the win. I'm not sure why Phoenix and Eve were opponents, considering they'll be tag team partners in a few weeks at Wrestlemania 28, but who gives a fuck about logic in the divas division, right?
Match #4 - Chris Jericho defeated Kofi Kington
One of the the best matches of the night, but that's not a surprise considering the chemistry these two have. Jericho came out to one of the biggest pops of the night, and despite some brief mic time, had the crowd eating out of his hand. So much so, that Kofi got more boos than cheers. Then again, Jericho is Canadian, which might explain it.
Like I said, this was a great match, as both guys hit their respective finishers and got near-fall after near-fall on each other. The finish came when Kofi went for Trouble In Paradise, only for Jericho to block it, poke him in the eye, and hit a Codebreaker for the win. Nice showing from both men.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Match #5: Daniel Bryan defeated Randy Orton and The Big Show in a Triple Threat match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship
I was surprised to see this match go on before the intermission, but that didn't take away from the fun. Bryan came out first to a lot of heat. Show was out next, and I still can't believe how huge he is in real-life. Finally, Orton made his entrance to a good and respectful response from the fans.
The match pretty much consisted of Bryan getting beat up by either Orton or Big Show, but the champ did look impressive more often than not. Each guy hit his signature move, and after hitting Big Show with an un-botched RKO, Bryan tossed Orton out of the ring to pick up the tainted win. The babyfaces would get their heat back by hitting their finishers on Bryan afterwards, which led to a really awkward moment between Bryan and referee Charles Robinson. Basically, Bryan sold the finishers for a good five minutes, so Robinson tried to revive him by pouring water on him, and then tried mouth-to-mouth, only for Bryan to wake up and freak out. Strange, but entertaining, I guess.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Match #6 - Primo and Epico (with Rosa Mendes) defeated Mason Ryan and ZACK RYDER (with Hornswoggle?) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship
That's right bros, the Woo Woo Woo kid made his in-ring return at last night's house show, which just happened to be in my hometown. Coincidence? I think not.
Anyways, this match was far better than I expected it to be. Despite botching a turnbuckle move and hearing chants of "You fucked up" and "Batista", Ryan got a good reaction and played his part well. Primo and Epico are still not over, but they work amazingly well as a tag team. Lots of "We Want Ryder" chants as well. The finish came when Ryder flipped to the outside, Primo dodged, and the champs hit their Backstabber combo on Ryan to retain the titles. After the match, Ryder and Mason shared a fist-bump, meaning they're still broskis, I assume.
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Match #7: John Cena defeated Kane in a Last Man Standing Match
The crowd went absolutely insane for this match. The kids screamed their heads off for Cena, while the men booed the shit out of him. Even though the match was at least ten minutes long, the crowd was unrelenting with their chants. Love him or hate him, Cena is still one of the most over guys in the company today.
The match was a lot of fun, too. There were chair shots to the face, both guys sent through tables, you name it. I'd go say their match last night was better than both their Royal Rumble match AND their Ambulance match. Obviously Cena got the win, but only after a hard-fought battle.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Main-Event: CM Punk defeated Dolph Ziggler (with Vickie Guerrero) to retain the WWE Championship
For those of you still not sure whether Punk deserves to be WWE Champion instead of Cena, he proved his worth last night, no doubt about it. Punk's reaction was on par with Cena's, and almost 100% positive, which I think says a lot. As for Ziggler, at first he didn't get a huge amount of heat, but that all changed once the match started and he began to "show-off" with headstands and the like.
The match itself was what you'd expect from Punk and Ziggler - great. Towards the end, the referee got knocked out, and Jericho ran in and hit Punk with a Codebreaker. However, Punk recovered, took out Jericho with a kick to the head, and hit the Go 2 Sleep on Ziggler for the three count.
After his big win, Punk took the mic to thank everyone for coming and said we were an awesome crowd, which I believe to be true considering how dead some cities come across on TV.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Conclusion: For a live event, I felt I really got my money's worth. There was no truly outstanding match, but there was no bad one either. Besides, we were treated to three stellar contests, and the likes of Punk, Cena, Orton, Ziggler, and Ryder were all on the card. I can't complain.
Match of the night: Punk vs. Ziggler (barely beating Jericho/Kofi and Cena/Kane)
1. CM Punk
2. John Cena
2. Chris Jericho
5. Zack Ryder
1. The Miz
2. John Cena
3. Dolph Ziggler
4. Daniel Bryan
5. Jack Swagger
6. RAW Thinking Diary
Writer's Note: Welcome to the inaugural edition of Chrisss' RAW Thinking Diary. Now, before you start flaming me for stealing Hustle's shtick, keep in mind that I said this was going to be a "thinking" diary, not a "running" diary, and no, it's not the same thing. Don't believe me? Then scroll down and I'll prove you wrong. Since this is the first time I review a show using this format, I'd love to know what you guys think.
Segment One: CM Punk responds to Chris Jericho's allegations from the week before.
The WWE Champion, CM Punk, makes his way out to the ring and he has something to say. He immediately calls out his Wrestlemania 28 opponent Chris Jericho for his comments last week, saying that Jericho crossed the line. Punk goes on to get a good reaction from the Philly crowd by saying he's proud of his father and he's proud of being straight-edge. Jericho then shows up on the TitanTron and is seemingly sorry for what he said last week. But in true Jericho fashion, Jericho gets his heat back by attacking Punk's sister instead, calling her a drug addict. Punk then calls Jericho something very un-PG, and leaves the ring with a determined look on his face.
(It's always nice to start the show with CM Punk. I mean, he is the WWE Champion, you know. Going into last night's RAW, many people felt Punk's inevitable response to Jericho had to be off the walls in order for the fans to truly consider their feud one of the three biggest matches at Wrestlemania. Well, I think he did just that. Rarely do you see Punk get emotional in a promo, as he's constantly come across as the confident anti-hero since last year's Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View. I know some people are still against the idea of Punk/Jericho becoming so personal, but I like it. You no longer have two guys competing at Wrestlemania for the WWE Championship and to determine who really is "the best in the world". You now have two guys who want to rip each other's throat out. Some strong emotion from Punk combined with Jericho's cocky, "asshole face" kicked off the show on the right foot.
Match One: Kane vs. The Big Show
We return from the commercial break with Kane, the man who main-evented the last WWE PPV, getting the jobber entrance. Big Show comes out next, but before they can lock up, Show's Wrestlemania opponent Cody Rhodes shows up with another one of his awesome video packages.
After a few minutes of back-and-forth action, Rhodes distracts Big Show, which allows Kane to deliver a top-rope chokeslam and pick up the win. Rhodes then goes to work on The Big Show, connecting with a couple of Disaster Kicks and handcuffing Big Show to the bottom rope, which allows Rhodes to knock his opponent senseless with a pair of boxing gloves.
(While the match was nothing special, Kane and Big Show showed they still have good in-ring chemistry for two of the largest superstars on the current roster. I'm pleasantly surprised how strong WWE is building up Rhodes heading into Wrestlemania next Sunday. It seems like he's been getting the upper-hand on the giant more often than not. I just hope it doesn't lead to a squash victory for Big Show at Wrestlemania.
My other complaint about this match/segment was the lack of emphasis for Kane vs. Orton at Mania. While it's not one of the main-events, it's clearly a bigger match on the card than Show vs. Rhodes, yet the announcers barely plugged the upcoming battle - all the focus was on Show vs. Rhodes. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just find it odd WWE would put more effort into hyping a mid-card match than one which could arguably be the fourth-biggest match at Wrestlemania.
Match Two: Santino Marella vs. David Otunga
This is a non-title match, but still has big implications for Wrestlemania, considering the captains of Team Teddy and Team Johnny are doing battle.
After a distraction from Laurinaitis, Otunga hits his spinebuster finisher for the upset win (arguably).
Teddy then confronts Johnny and slaps him in the face, before darting up the ramp and dancing awkwardly.
(Another short match, which we would later learn would become the theme of the night. I'm not sure having Otunga win was the best choice. Since winning the United States title two weeks ago, Santino has lost on two consecutive episodes of RAW. I could forgive last week's loss, since it was a handicap match that included Mark Henry, but Otunga seemed to have no trouble putting away Santino, albeit the distraction from Big Johnny. Heading into Wrestlemania, Team Teddy doesn't look like they stand a chance.
Segment Two: The Rock's message for John Cena
...FINALLY! The Rock has come back to Phil-a-del-phi-a!
I would tell you what The Great One said, but I didn't catch most of it. I did hear John Cena's name being dropped, as well as cheese-steaks, but that's about it.
(Here's the thing with The Rock. There's no denying he can cut an awesome promo. In fact, the moniker of "The Most Electrifying Man In Entertainment" is quite accurate. But when he's given a lot of time to talk, he repeats himself, over and over and over. In small portions, Rock is funny and a pleasure to listen to. This, however, wasn't one of those times.
Match Three: Daniel Bryan vs. Zack Ryder
In a match that probably 75% of the IWC wet themselves as soon as the bell rang, Ryder made his return to RAW to fight Daniel Bryan. Not Kane, the man who "broke his back". Not Cena, the broski who stole his hoseki. Not Jack Swagger, the guy who stole his U.S. title. Ryder returned against the world heavyweight champion instead. Meh. Whatever works, I guess.
After some back-and-froth action, Ryder goes for the Rough Ryder only for Bryan to avoid it and apply the LeBell Lock for the submission victory. Bryan celebrates by getting his girlfriend Aj to kiss him on the cheek.
(Unlike their last singles encounter on RAW - when Bryan was the U.S. Champion and Ryder was a nobody - this match started after the commercial break and was fun while it lasted. Even I knew Ryder wouldn't beat Bryan, but he did put up a good fight, and the counter from the Rough Ryder into the LeBell Lock was a thing of beauty. Bryan picks up some momentum heading into Wrestlemania, and Ryder hopefully did enough to land a spot on Team Teddy at Wrestlemania.
Match Four: John Cena vs. Mark Henry
Right before they lock up, it's announced that Flo Rida will perform live at Wrestlemania 28. Goodie.
Henry dominates most of the match, using his pure strength to keep Cena grounded. Eventually, Cena catches his second-wind, slips out of a World's Strongest Slam attempt, and hits an AA on Henry to get the non-squash win.
Afterwards, Rock's music hits and he makes his way to the ring. Rather than going after his Wrestlemania opponent, he Rock Bottoms his former Nation Of Domination buddy Mark Henry. As their other old groupie Farooq would say, "DAMN!"
(As soon as this match began, I was concerned for both men's well-being. Cena, because he was involved in a car accident earlier in the day, and Henry because the last time they faced each other, Henry suffered an injury. Fortunately, the match went off without a hitch and Henry looked stronger than most of his recent RAW appearances - bar last week, of course. The match was decent, but again, too short to be anything special. I guess they don't want to run out of time for the HBK/HHH/Taker main-event segment, because who would want that to happen?
Match Five: The Miz vs. Sheamus
We return from commercial with Miz already in the ring. Apparently, he's issued an open challenge to anyone in the back in hopes of being chosen to be a part of Team Johnny at Wrestlemania. As is the case in 99% of open challenges, it doesn't end well as Sheamus comes out to face The Miz.
Miz tries to put away Sheamus quickly with a big DDT, but Sheamus counters and hits The Celtic Cross for 2. After pounding on The Miz and showing off his arsenal, Sheamus hits a Brogue Kick for the dominating, predictable win.
(Unlike Cena vs. Henry, this was pretty one-sided, with Miz only getting in a handful of shots. It's a shame, as these two have proven on SmackDown that they can have a pretty good match if given enough time to work with. Miz is clearly on the biggest losing streak of his career, and having him face the nearly unstoppable Sheamus never put the outcome of this match in doubt. Sheamus gets another victory and Miz continues to be an after-thought just weeks before Wrestlemania.
Segment Three: The Randy Orton Interview
The Viper is interviewed by Josh Mathews in the old-school section next to the firework control booth. To make a long story short, Orton says how he intends to defeat Kane at Wrestlemania and make him regret starting shit with him...or something along those lines.
(Pretty standard Orton interview. He's monotone, wears the same facial expression from beginning to end, and looks like he's talking to himself. It was a good way to hype his Wrestlemania match against Kane, but I'm starting to understand why people hate Orton on the mic - Hi Hustle! Hi Al!
Match Six: R-Truth & Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger
Vickie Guerrero introduces the newest participants of Team Johnny, Ziggler and Swagger, and they're set to take on the not-so-new members of Team Teddy, Truth and Kingston.
In yet another short match, both teams go back-and-forth, but the end comes when Ziggler hits Truth with the Fameasser, Truth gets his bottom foot on the rope, Vickie pushes it off, and Team Johnny wins again.
(You could see the inclusion of Swaggler on Team Johnny coming a mile away, as there was no way these two would be kept off the Mania card. It's always nice to see Vickie's stable pick up a win, but Team Johnny is looking unstoppable right about now.
By the way, I wish they would have had superstars competing in contender matches to be a part of the rival teams at Wrestlemania, instead of the participants just being randomly announced. It would give the match a boost because it would show the twelve superstars really want their respective GM to run both shows. But hey, I don't book the shows, so what do I know?
Segment Four: Shawn Michaels confronts The Undertaker who confronts Triple H
The typical segment you would expect from these three. "I'm going to screw you, but I could screw you as well," "What are you willing to put on the line?", etc. But Triple H did make an interesting point about he and Undertaker being involved in 19 out of the 24 Hell In A Cell matches in WWE history, which is quite remarkable. The segment ends with Taker telling Triple H, "I was right. Shawn is the better man."
(Kind of a flat ending to RAW, if you ask me. Apart from that HIAC statistic, we didn't learn anything new, and there was barely any drama added, although 'Taker's smirk at the end was a nice touch. I really hope WWE doesn't have this go on as the main-event of Wrestlemania because I'm sure it will be a great match, but the crowd will not be as into it as they will be for Cena vs. Rock, Streak or no Streak. A mediocre end to a mediocre show.
Match/segment of the night: Punk and Jericho (This award can go to either category, because sometimes a show can be weak wrestling-wise, but contain some awesome segments, or vice versa. Punk and Jericho undoubtedly stole the show with their opening verbal exchange.)
In order to determine the grade for the show, I will simply base it on the combined average of every match and segment, which goes something like this:
4.5+2.5+1.5+1.5+2.5+3+2+2+2.5+2.5= 24.5/50 = F (but I'll be nice, and bump it to a D)
A D grade is about right, as even though most of the matches and segments failed to deliver, there was nothing AWFUL or anything that made me want to switch channels. Also, we got some good Wrestlemania hype. I'm looking forward to a much better show next week, though.
7. What Makes Wrestlemania So Special
99% of wrestling fans will tell you - without hesitation - that Wrestlemania is their favorite Pay-Per-View of the year. The remaining 1% either prefer other "big" PPVs like the Royal Rumble or Survivor Series to Wrestlemania, or simply don't watch WWE. But I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming majority of fans can't help but get excited by the time March rolls around. Some people get excited even earlier, such as weeks before the Royal Rumble, as they feel The Road to Wrestlemania has already begun. Hell, even my peer The Doc admits to looking forward to Wrestlemania just days after the previous year's show has concluded. Wrestlemania is the one time of year when it's perfectly acceptable to go yelling in the streets, "IT'S WRESTLEMANIA, BABY! WOOOO!"
But what makes Wrestlemania such a spectacle? Why does Wrestlemania stand out on such a huge scale when compared to WWE's eleven-twelve other PPVs? Well, most people will tell you it's because Wrestlemania is the "SuperBowl" or the "Stanley Cup" of professional wrestling. In other words, it's the finals of a season-long journey, in which only the top athletes are permitted to compete in. Or so they say...
Usually, this synopsis is pretty inaccurate. Unlike football and hockey, wrestling doesn't take place in seasons. As soon as Wrestlemania goes off the air, the superstars and divas are back to work the following Monday night on RAW, either starting new rivalries or planting the seeds for a rematch at the next PPV. This formula is nothing new; it's a schedule that has existed for decades. Yet, there are many fans - marks and smarks alike - who continue to unfairly compare Wrestlemania to the SuperBowl.
This year though, they're not completely wrong. Two of the three main-events scheduled to take place on April 1st are a year in the making. After all, The Rock vs. John Cena was announced almost a year ago, right after Wrestlemania 27 took place. Even Triple H, having fallen to The Undertaker at WM27, came out on RAW and told The Deadman he would be awaiting his return, and lo and behold, The Game kept his word. Almost 365 days later, Triple H and Undertaker will have their rematch inside Hell In A Cell at Wrestlemania 28. Unlike past editions, both of this year's Wrestlemania main-events truly are a culmination of a year's worth of storylines. The build for both matches have been sub-par at best, but kudos to WWE for delivering on two huge matches that were announced WAY ahead of time.
In my opinion, what makes Wrestlemania so special is how it seems to be the one time of the year when it's suddenly "cool" to be a wrestling fan, both for common people and celebrities. In recent years, the host city of Wrestlemania has prepared for the big event by promoting the show on billboards, subway cars, buses, etc. Imagine walking around Miami, seeing a city bus drive by with an image of Rock vs. Cena on the side? That's pretty neat.
The mainstream media is usually kind to WWE during this time of year as well. For the past few weeks, the LOP Main Page has been cluttered with video clips from different superstars appearing on various network and cable shows, promoting Wrestlemania. From John Cena showing up on CNN's Headline News calling out the stars of Jersey Shore, to Chris Jericho singing karaoke on Late, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, WWE superstars are everywhere right now. This also happens to be the only time of year when the media doesn't try and expose the "DARKSIDE" of professional wrestling, but instead sits back and becomes a fan like everybody else.
But what really makes Wrestlemania the "Granddaddy Of Them All" is the way wrestling fans cherish the annual PPV more than any other show of the year. Unlike other PPVs, Wrestlemania is when fans will almost definitely gather at each other's homes, order some beer and pizza, and enjoy the show together. It's the one show of the year where "the critic's hat comes off" (as The Doc would put it) and guys like me aren't keeping track of every little detail or miscue to include in a Wrestlemania review column. Basically, it's that one time of year where you forget all your worries and simply enjoy the show.
Maybe the wrestling won't be top-notch. Maybe there will be some backstage skits that make you roll your eyes. But chances are, you're going to at least get something from your money's worth by watching Wrestlemania. If not, either WWE really screwed up, or you might want to seriously question your wrestling fandom.
Now, I'm not saying this "Wrestlemania party" tradition is exclusive to Mania. I know plenty of people who still go out of their way to watch other PPVs like the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam together as well. But in all likelihood, Wrestlemania is the show most people tend to watch with a group of friends or their significant other, no matter how old they are.
Again, what makes Wrestlemania so special? To be honest, I can't really explain it. There's a certain magic in the air that you have to feel to believe. You can experience it while watching the show at home. You can be overcome with the feeling if you're lucky enough to be in attendance for one (or so I've heard). It's indescribable, it really is.
If there's ever a time or place when it's "okay" to mark out like a 12-year-old, it's Wrestlemania. Don't worry, no one will judge you; we all do it.
Just don't let Wrestlemania fever pass you by, because believe me - it's the best time of year.
For those of you wondering, there will be no "What If..." column this week, but it will return next Friday, a Wrestlemania edition if you will. I'll be back tomorrow with my SmackDown Pros & Cons (majority voted in favor of that review format) and hopefully several more Wrestlemania-themed columns leading up to the event next Sunday.