Welcome to The Raw Report.
Every week I’ll be dissecting WWE’s Monday Night Raw and analyzing what worked, what didn’t work, and what left audiences thinking wtf by breaking the show down into three categories: YES!, CHANGE THE CHANNEL! or WHAT?
Let’s get it on.
John Laurinaitis opening segment – I’m glad that the WWE is acknowledging that John Laurinaitis was a legitimately talented wrestler in Japan. Name dropping guys like Doctor Death Steve Williams and showing pictures from Johnny’s days in Japan introduced the WWE audience to a different dimension of this complicated authority figure figure.
Punk’s interaction with John Laurinaitis was okay. It wasn’t his best work, but it was far from terrible. Fans are used to seeing perfection from Punk so we take any moment when he fumbles his words to be a bad omen. Instead, I think Punk did a decent promo. Is this the angry and incendiary CM Punk of last summer? No, of course not, but that’s because this is an entirely new CM Punk in 2012. Punk is the champion now and his persona is evolving. Punk’s personality last summer was that of a guy in pursuit of the gold. When he achieved success, the personality needed to naturally change. The basic premise of Punk’s promo had precise logic. Punk is a babyface and is upset with John Laurinaitis’s mistreatment of the top face in the company: John Cena. It makes sense that a top babyface guy like Punk would defend Cena and help build towards the match at Over the Limit with Johnny Ace.
Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler – I hate to belabor a point, but Dolph needs higher profile matches. I love Kofi, but it does feel like Dolph is above a mid-card match at this point; especially when you consider he had a title match against Punk at the Royal Rumble in January. Still, I was happy to see Dolphin grab a win after weeks of losing to Brodus Clay.
Layla/Kelly vs. Maxine/Natalya – Who is Maxine? Like most Divas matches as of late, this one lasted a minute and barely gave fans much to discuss. I will say that Beth on commentary during this match was superb. She is very well spoken and equally knowledgeable about the business.
Randy Orton/Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio/Chris Jericho – THIS is what all the tag matches on Smackdown that we see each week should look like. There was a perfect balance of excitement, athleticism, and tension throughout this match. The ending scene of Randy giving an RKO to Sheamus was brilliant. Is Randy turning heel? No, I think he just wants to be the World Heavyweight Champion and he wants it now. This behavior from Randy is what needs to happen before a title match. You’re supposed to see wrestlers become so obsessed with winning the belt that they make irrational decisions.
Jericho grabbing for the World Heavyweight Championship at the end of the match suggests that maybe we’ll see him chase that belt on Smackdown is supposed to be leaving on tour this summer. Working on Smackdown would be a good move for Jericho when you consider that it would provide a lighter, more flexible schedule.
A four way contest for a major championship title at Over the Limit should be incredible. I love three-way title matches, so naturally this one is sure to be even more exciting. All four men are in perfect shape, with Orton and Jericho perhaps in the peak condition of their careers. The brawl backstage in Johnny’s office added a sense of urgency to the entire feud building between the four men.
Paul Heyman segment – MARK. OUT. MOMENT. There’s no one else like Paul Heyman. I was more excited for Paul Heyman’s appearance on Raw than I was for Lesnar’s debut weeks ago. I’ve always been a tremendous fan of Heyman. It’s impossible to overlook Heyman’s contributions to pro-wrestling through his work with ECW, but it is his time in WWE that truly affected me. During his time in the WWE in the early 2000s, Heyman became one of the best commentators and managers in the company’s history. Look no further than WrestleMania X-Seven for signs of Heyman’s expertise as a play-by-play guy. Likewise, Heyman’s work with Brock Lesnar upon his debut truly took the rookie athlete to another level.
Heyman’s position during the Invasion angle, including an intense promo against Vince, was brilliant. Heyman’s influence as a member of the WWE Creative Team when he was Head Writer was groundbreaking, especially when you consider the high quality product Smackdown became during his tenure there. Under Heyman, we saw the birth of “the Smackdown Six;” a group consisting of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and Chavo Guerrero. “The Smackdown Six” were all young superstars waiting to break into the main event scene. At the helm of the creative team, Heyman put these six superstars in numerous combinations of matches throughout the year. In the end, Heyman’s superb booking boosted each man’s career and eventually left the legacy of all but one becoming a world champion in the WWE.
Lastly, and perhaps most memorable, was Heyman’s position as Lesnar’s manager during the monster’s debut. While Heyman once acted as the figurative mouth-piece for Lesnar, he suddenly became the literal mouth-piece for Brock on Raw this week. Heyman knows Lesnar better than anyone else in the WWE. Paul’s relationship with Brock is promising and can only help build the superstar’s controversial position in the company. With the prospect of seeing Heyman continue to act as Brock’s representative on Raw, we’re certainly in store for more incredible promos from one of the greatest talkers in the history of professional wrestling.
Yes, the reaction to Heyman’s entrance wasn’t superb, but I know why: there was no instantaneous way for people to recognize Heyman. There were no music notes that would immediately convey to fans who they were about to see come down the ramp. The man had no theme song, no TitanTron, and instead came out to Brock’s music. Seeing Heyman come out after Brock’s theme must have confused fans. Perhaps since Paul hasn’t been on TV in nearly a decade, people in attendance weren’t familiar with the guy. It goes without saying that Heyman deserves more praise in every aspect of his influence on the industry and I sincerely hope to see more of him in the near future in the WWE.
CM Punk vs. Lord Tensai/Daniel Bryan – This was a decent match, but nothing entirely spectacular (until the end that is). If nothing else, I felt this match finally cast Tensai in the light of a talented worker. Tensai did some great spots, due in part to Punk’s brilliant selling capabilities. It seems like they’re positioning Tensai to be John Laurinaitis’s main enforcer, which perhaps means he’ll be wrestling top talent in the future. In the past two weeks, Tensai has defeated John Cena and CM Punk, which is a big statement for a guy who debuted nearly a month ago.
Tensai beating Punk felt like a strange way to end Raw until we saw Bryan putting Punk in the Yes Lock. I love the Yes Lock and am happy to see how intense Bryan looks whenever he puts on the hold. Bryan has the personality of a heel down perfectly, but this was a great way to remind audiences that he is a formidable opponent when it comes to mat skills. Bryan was opportunistic in his attack on Punk and viscous in the way he held onto the move. It goes without saying that Bryan is one of the best heels in recent memory. The closing of this Raw helped remind fans why Bryan is the #1 contender; he’s brutal and malicious in his goal of becoming a major champion in the company by any means necessary.
John Cena interview via satellite – What was the point of this segment? Why not just have Cena come out and cut a quick promo against Johnny and then disappear for the rest of the night. Doing a backstage interview just seemed unnecessary. It’s interesting that Cena criticized The Rock for doing interviews via satellite during their build to WrestleMania 28, yet he did the very same thing on Monday.
CHANGE THE CHANNEL!
Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes – This match was depressing, but thankfully pretty short. What does Cody need to do in order to get out of this abysmal feud with Big Show? I loved Eve denouncing Big Show after the match. The fact that she demanded an apology for this usually intimidating figure was great. Eve’s position as one of Johnny’s evil cronies is wonderful. I look forward to seeing Eve more on Raw, especially if she continues to stand up to cocky superstars.
Brodus Clay vs. The Miz – The Miz did not wrestle well and the entire bout seemed to go on far too long. Brodus Clay is best used sparingly in his new Funkasaurus character on Raw. It seemed like they pushed him a bit too much in this match and what resulted was not an A+ exchange. You have to wonder if the WWE is regretting putting the WWE Championship title on Miz last year considering his lackluster treatement as of late.