There's so much going on in the wrestling industry right now, specifically the WWE. Okay, so TNA as well, but that's for another place, and another time. This is all about the WWE, and specifically RAW.
So, do I talk about Punk's body being bumped up? Or do I talk about the possibilities for WrestleMania? Do I talk about The Streak? Or do I talk about the WWE Hall of Fame? I'm in a really good mood at the moment (1:30am after RAW, and the snow hasn't started falling yet), so I'm going to talk about the WWE Hall of Fame and the newest name added to the Class of 2013.
When I first saw Booker T on the HOF video, I was in shock. I guess I don't think of Booker as really done yet. I know he hasn't been in the ring but sparingly since his return in the Royal Rumble Match in 2011, but I wasn't expecting this. Don't get me wrong, I was marking out big time when the video hit, I was just surprised to see it happening this early in his life. I know Booker has had a long and illustrious wrestling career, and I will admit that I never thought I'd see GI Bro in the WWE Hall of Fame, but so soon? Booker T shows heart and drive like so many of his contemporaries, but he's also shown how bad things can be when someone with heart shows his lack of heart week in and week out the way he did in TNA. Stacy couldn't understand why I kept saying that the Booker T in TNA was not the Booker I knew and loved. He didn't understand why I cared so much about Booker until he came out to the ring for the 40 man Royal Rumble Match. That was a totally different man, and someone I'm thrilled to see on a weekly basis.
So while I think the timing is a bit odd, I'm ecstatic that Booker is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Further, I really hope that Stevie Ray is the one to induct him, and, as King said, I hope Booker does a spinaroonie on the stage at the Hall of Fame Ceremony. I have to admit that I'm becoming more and more bummed that I'm not going to the Hall of Fame Ceremony next months. Still not bummed that I'm not going to WrestleMania, as I thought I'd be with it being so close (relatively speaking, of course), but I really have no need to sit out there in the cold weather to watch this lineup.
Okay, Taker versus Punk is going to be epic, but beyond that nothing is making my heart ache for not having tickets. But I will give the WWE props for really stepping up with the card this week, but they still haven't yet tipped the card enough that I'm going to be sitting home wallowing in self pitty. Yes, I know I'm saying it in a roundabout way, but what I really mean is that I'd rather sit home and watch WrestleMania while hanging out with you guys in the Live Blog than I would driving to New York and actually going to the event.
Video > B
I really thought the opening video was well executed and laid out the show to come. This was one of the few times – other than post PPV recaps – I thought the opening video was solid and worked wonderfully.
In Ring Segment > D
Why did Cena start the show? Further, Young should not be allowed on mic. O'Neil has what it takes, and while I admit that Rufus 'Pancake' Patterson was a daft idea, I was about on the floor laughing. For me, Pancake was the high note in this segment. I will admit that Sam was watching with me, and a nine year old's giggle is infectious. But for me Pancake saved this for me, because Cena was so plastic! Each move and reaction from Cena was calculated and obvious. His smiles for the fans, and his poor acting made me want Young to slap Cena around that ring. Heck, Young's facial expressions were better than Cena's, and they are so obviously brothers from other mothers. I like that they finally admitted how much Cena and Young look alike. They really should do something with that at some point. Not during WrestleMania time, but later in the spring into the summer, they should do something with it.
I will give Cena props for his cheap pops. He really did all he could to get pop from the fans, but they wanted nothing of it. Yes, he got the pops, but only for the local teams, not for Cena.
Cena vs Young > D+
What a piss poor match. Young flailed around and over sold every time Cena touched him. And all Cena did was hit his 5 moves of doom. The best part was that three minutes of this match was cut out by commercials.
Winner – Cena (4:20)
Video > B-
As annoyed as I am with recap videos, I do know that a lot fewer people watch Smackdown than RAW. I'll admit that I've been one of those people on and off through the years, so I understand why they showed so much of what went down between Ryback and Henry on Smackdown. Also, with what was to come after Ryback's match, it made perfect sense to show what went down between them here.
Otunga vs Ryback > C-
Normally when a Superstar has a movie out they get a push. I guess this shows how much the WWE thinks of Otunga's in ring career. I will also say that Ryback looked a bit sloppy in this match. There was nothing specific to say he botched this or that move, but he just wasn't as crisp as I know he can be in the ring.
Winner – Ryback (1:37)
In Ring Segment > B-
I knew there was no way Ryback should be in the 6 Man Tag Match, and that he needed to face Henry at WrestleMania, so this segment made things work out well. I will say I liked the swerve that they actually put Ryback in the match, then changed things up.
I wondered why Long and Vickie came out without Booker T. I know Long was Henry's manager at one point, within the past ten years, but I didn't think he'd be able to stop Henry heading toward Ryback in the ring. And what did Vickie do to her hair? I'm big on interesting streaks in hair, but I don't think the blonde works for Vickie. Also, she seemed like she was screaming her, but not the normal Vickie screech, just yelling for no reason.
I will say I liked Ryback on mic here more. He did a great job of talking smack in his own rough and tumble way. He'll never be classically good on mic, but he is interesting and memorable. Okay, he won't be remembered as well as Warrior, but he will be remembered, and that's the important thing. Also, I like the way he incorporated his catchphrase into his little talk there. It worked really well for me.
Video > D
Fandango is debuting next! Yeah, right!
In Ring Segment > B
I will admit that I like the way they set up the stage for Fandango with the dropped dance floor and the sparkly curtain. It's very cheap ballroom competition. Even better is the flaming Fandango over the ring. I thought that was pretty cool. But none of that was as cool as the way Fandango addressed Natalya – Canadian slide of heaven. Then Natalya stepped it up with the Fahn-Dang-Go-get-him-Khali NOW! While re-watching this with Sam she said, "I can't believe he's afraid of a little action in the ring." She's my girl!
That was a quite loud "You can't wrestle!" chant, but was it for Khali or Fandango?
R-Truth vs Sandow B+
Why are they burying Sandow the way they are? This was his 8th loss in a row. I know there's been DQs and Count Outs in there, but Sandow is one of the most promising wrestlers who came up into the WWE recently. Between his ring work and his mic work he has the makings of a star, but 8 losses in a row? That's ridiculous! I thought McMahon liked and wanted to push Sandow? I know things go a big wonky for the mid-card wrestlers this time of the year, but this is getting a bit absurd in my book. Hopefully things will bounce back for him and his bestie after WrestleMania.
I'm thrilled to see R-Truth back in the ring. The man is a workhorse and his mic work has steadily improved through the years. I always flash back to him running with Road Dogg back in the day, and how far he's come is quite impressive. Hopefully things will only get better for them after WrestleMania, but I really enjoyed this match, event though it was rather short. I loved the way Sandow took that hurricanranna. Both of these guys are bigger than high fliers, but they made it work really well.
Winner – R-Truth via Count Out (3:37)
Backstage Segment > C+
What's the overall plan between Rhodes Scholars, Bellas and Kaitlyn? I thought we'd be seeing Rhodes Scholars and Bellas going after Funkasaurus and Sweet T with the Dactyls, but Kaitlyn adds another question to the mix with Cody obviously liking her. I also have to say that Kaitlyn is getting better on mic. She'd not wonderful, but she's not as stiff as she was early on.
In Ring Segment > B+
McMahon might not have been thrilled with how this segment came off between Taker and Punk, but I really liked it. I thought Taker was a bit stiffer than usual on mic, but not bad. He stated what we all wanted to hear from him, and struggled even more with how Punk reacted. And I know some people are going to be further infuriated by the use of the urn and Punk imitating Bearer while playing puppeteer to the urn, but I still think Moody would be thrilled at how he's such a huge part of this feud going into WrestleMania, and how he's been kidnapped again. (Cheap plug http://www.wwenews.net/the-continuous-kidnapping-of-and-killings-of-paul-bearer/ )
Who'd have thought Punk could do such a great Bearer imitation. I also thought Punk did a great job juggling the urn while he talked smack to Taker. He's one of the few who would be able to do what he did and do it right. He has the ego, but also that relaxed nature of his that made it come off so well. I also enjoyed how the segment was produced. That it ended with Taker's face, but you could still hear Punk juggling the urn from hand to hand.
Colons vs Team Hell No > B+
They're doing a wonderful job of incorporating Kane losing his father into Kane's character. It's an added level of tension that's working so wonderfully. And that Kane can emote so well from behind that mask is quite shocking. Kane is a mess and he's going to take it out on everyone he can lay his hands on. I really thought that was going to be Bryan, but that's been pulled back again. I like how Bryan seems to be tending to Kane, rather than taking advantage of his weakened emotional state. Having AJ come out to the ring was an interesting swerve. That they didn't lose the match because of her surprised me, but also set up for later in the show.
It looks as though Primo and Epico have turned into lower mid-card jobbers to whoever needs to go over at whatever point. They're really strong wrestlers, but there's nothing about them that makes them really special in any way. It's sad to see because they're so much better than where they are in the company. And what about Rosa? What happened to her budding 'relationship' with ADR? A few notes were passed, then nothing. Not the best way to run a storyline.
Winners – Team Hell No (6:08)
Backstage Segment > A-
Jericho is so fantastic on mic! Even better is how they're heading into Jericho versus Fandango at WrestleMania. I gather that the Fandango character came from Jericho's time on DWTS, so it makes perfect that they're working together. As great as Jericho was here on mic, when the two faced off, Jericho's age was showing in a big way. Fandango is quite fresh faced, and that made Jericho's eleven extra years show in a big way. Not saying this has any bearing in Jericho's work, but for the first time I really noticed that Jericho isn't that fresh faced kid with that pug of hair on the top of his head. He's wonderful, but he is starting to look his age.
Video > A
That was a lovely video of Fox and Natalya in Rwanda. Nothingbutnets.net
Rhodes vs ADR > B
As annoyed as I've been by ADR lately, I thought he sold well in this match. ADR's ring work has become predictable and boring. He's moved into five moves of doom and either can't, or won't, step away from them. ADR is so much better than his ring work has shown lately, and he proved that right after his face turn, but now he's falling right back into his boring ways in the ring.
I also noticed that the fans really were not behind ADR Monday. I don't know if it's location, or that the fans are getting pissed that ADR is starting to slip back to calling it in rather than being creative in the ring, but they were not responding to ADR in a positive way. Even bigger was that group on the TV side of the floor who started the "USA!" chants toward the end of this match. That's something we haven't heard in quite a while in connection to ADR.
Rhodes, on the other hand, was strong and creative in this match. Rhodes is really stepping up his work and showing that he's not just mid-card talent. I hope he got the recognition he deserves for this match. Rhodes, like his bestie, is a star in the making, but these losses are not helping his rise through the company. I almost think it would have worked better if Swagger had cost ADR the match. ADR would have been even madder, and Rhodes would have picked up the win. Just a thought.
Winner – ADR (12:52)
In Ring Segment >B
Zeb's reaction to ADR touching him was hysterical! Zeb acted as though he wouldn't know what to do if ADR actually attacked him, even though Zeb was a wrestler himself. Anyone not knowing Dutch's history might be incensed with ADR putting his hands on him, but after reading Jesse's bio on Dutch (WWENews.net), I can't help but laugh. And the same can be said for Ricardo taking bumps. If you didn't know, you'd think he's only a mild mannered announcer, but we all know he's El Local.
I spoke to someone after this segment about how dangerous the ankle lock really can be. It's very easy to put too much torque on an ankle and break it without even trying. We saw Angle do that to Scottie Too Hottie when his ankle broke and Angle wasn't at all trying. Swagger has always been very strong and meticulous in his ring work, but I worry that this new vindictive character might accidentally take things too far.
Hall of Fame Video > A
As per usual, the WWE did a wonderful job with this Hall of Fame video. I will fully admit that I was marking out for Booker T, and I'm so excited for him. Booker T has added so much to the wrestling industry, and I'm glad he's back where he belongs in the WWE, and going into the WWE HOF.
Cole ripping on Booker T's lack of golfing skills, and talking about GI Bro had me smirking. At times like this Cole really shows who he really is, and I think he's someone I'd like to hang out with. He loves to poke fun at his friends during relaxed moments like this, and it's a side that I think gets lost when he's trying too hard to be someone he's not. Like so many wrestlers, Cole is at his best when he's being himself, just a bit amplified.
Orton & Sheamus vs 3MB > B
I thought McIntyre looked solid in this match, and he worked really well with Sheamus. I can't say this was a wonderful match all the way around. Slater and McIntyre have been such a joke for so long that it's just not believable that they can keep control of Sheamus so easily. I believe in McIntyre and Slater, but the WWE obviously doesn't and that comes across in how they're booked. They're so much better than how they've been presented recently.
Super Orton is really getting on my nerves. Sheamus handled the majority of this match, short as it was, then Super Orton comes in for the RKO and the win. I'm more than over Orton, and hopefully the WWE is seeing that the rest of the fans are as well. Unless Orton was to turn heel at WrestleMania and side with The Shield, I don't see how Orton could be any less interesting or relevant.
Winners – Orton & Sheamus (3:49)
In Ring Segment > B+
I know very little actually went down here, but so much happened. I had been saying Big Show was turning face and would be joining Sheamus and Orton to face The Shield. As I said earlier, that little swerve with Ryback kept us on our toes, and was a great way to change things up, but Big Show feels right in this match. I love the way he came running down to the ring, then the eye contact he had with Reigns was great. Ambrose sold his anger over Big Show coming to the ring, and the rest of the The Shield played it smart to not get in the ring. I can see why Orton and Sheamus are wary, but Big Show was quite obvious in what he wants. I have said all along that I love Big Show as a face, he emotes so much better as a face. When Big Show is a heel he's very much a cardboard character, but as a face he's so much more interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing them all face off at WrestleMania.
Video > C
This was a longer video about a WWE related movie than last week (1:31), but it's also the first one of the show, so I'm a lot less grumpy about them showing it.
Kofi vs Ziggler > B+
It seemed like these two went out to that ring and left it all out there. The match was less than five minutes, but they went hard for the whole time. Kofi really seems to be trying to prove himself after whatever it was he did to tick of McMahon, but more than that is Ziggler who seemed like a flying blond fireball in that ring. He was all over the place in there, and was solid character and emotion on top of the skill and passion he always shows. I'm always very impressed with Ziggler, but he seemed to step it up that much more in this match. I hope McMahon and everyone else noticed that Ziggler really went out there and worked it hard. There were so many cruddy parts of this RAW, but this match was a bright shining moment.
I do have to mention that I thought Big E might have completely broken Kofi when he swatted him out of the way, but he seemed to bounce back pretty quickly.
Winner – Ziggler (4:40)
In Ring Segment > B+
Bryan was solid here, but Kane really brought the emotion in his voice. He was calm, but that's sometimes scarier. This is a match that I really want to see, and that it got AJ talking again is even better. I'm interested in seeing how Big E handles his first WWE televised match. It could make or break his career. That has to be some serious stress.
Video > C
I know they feel they need to recap the bigger segments of the show, and I should be happy that they're not recapping the horrid Cena segment, but I can't abide by too much video recap.
Video > D
Okay, instead of recapping Cena's horrid opening segment they gave us a much longer Cena/Rocky video. I honestly think I'd blocked this out from last night. It was well produced, but I'm so over the way they're pushing this match. I hope they do something spectacular with this match, or there's going to be a lot of very unhappy fans.
IC Title Triple Threat Match – Barrett (c) vs Miz vs Jericho > A-
This was a really solid match. I'm normally against Triple Threat Matches because they're rarely executed well, but this was one of the few that really lived up to what this match can be. When I think of the best Triple Threat Match, I automatically flash to WrestleMania XX. I know someone will get mad, but I think Triple H, HBK and Benoit put on the best Triple Threat Match ever, and I will fully admit that I compare every other Triple Threat Match I see to that one. I won't say this was as good, but it's better than any other Triple Threat Match I can think of off the top of my head.
One producer actually said it was Miz's best matches. I can't completely agree with that, but it was a solid match for him as well as for Jericho and Barrett. Miz's fig 4 is getting better, though he made quite the spectacle of it in this match. Not only did they all call well, but Jericho seemed to let Miz call a lot of the moves and it worked really well for all involved. They also all threw their moves well and sold the moves really well. This match was the highlight highlight of the show. As much as I enjoyed Ziggler in the ring, these three took it to another level.
Winner – Barrett (12:21)
Video > C+
Showing the red carpet was a nice change from showing just clips from the movie. I'm interested in seeing Otunga's work in this movie.
Video > C
I like some of the ideas the fans Touted about the stips for the Trip vs Brock. Personally I agree with the 3 Stages of Hell Match, but that's just me. I have to say the last thing I want to see is Brock and Trip struggling through an Ironman Match! They just don't have the stamina needed to go an hour. Ten years ago they both were great in Ironman Matches, but not today.
In Ring Segment > B
I think that the only reason this segment ended RAW was because it was Trip. Heyman came off strong, except when he started expounding on what types of stips they might be adding. The winner gets Steph? How would the winner 'get' Steph? That's more creepy than anything, but it gave Trip good reason to beat down Heyman. And I will give Heyman props for taking the abuse he took. He's not a wrestler, but he took a couple solid bumps, and lost a few drops of blood. Not bad for a lumpy 47 year old man who has never been a wrestler.
Brock's baby tantrum as he came out on the stage was a bit pathetic. Oh, I can beat up a chair! I'm big and scary! Then the camera work as Brock and Heyman circled the ring was horrible! You'd have thought they'd have worked that out before they went live! But the worst of the end of it was Heyman announcing that it was going to be a No Holds Barred Match as if it was so much bigger and scarier than any other matches they could be having. Even Trip's career being on the line means very little as Trip's wrestling career has basically been over for a while, and he's only had a few matches here and there over the past couple years. And even if Trip loses, when has the WWE ever held anyone to the end of a career match?
I thought RAW really struggled last night. Big chunks of the show just were not strong enough to be worth the time, and absolutely not strong enough for the Road to WrestleMania. I will give them credit for stepping up some storylines, and setting up more matches for WrestleMania. The card is growing and developing quite well. They keep going on this path and WrestleMania might actually be worth buying.