Tonight’s Raw opens with CM Punk coming out to talk, almost immediately.
While I typically don’t care for it whenever Raw opens with Not Wrestling, I can make an exception for Punk because his promos are usually pretty captivating. Unfortunately tonight, while not boring, his opening promo wasn’t very captivating, and really was just a clarification of talking points made from previous weeks. Moreover than that, it’s a testament to how popular, innately relatable, smart, and likable Punk is that after everything he’s done to try to make people hate him recently, he still gets cheers just for showing up. Even ripping up a little kid’s birthday sign couldn’t get this guy real Heel heat, so what the hell is he going to have to do? Eventually it’s just going to boil down to him having to turn face again, or upping the ante by doing some Big Bossman style animal abuse or something. Either way those are things I don’t see Punk doing, so until something gives he’s gonna be stuck in this Supposed-To-Be-A-Heel character for a while now.
After all the introductory noise, we get a match that I’ve actually been looking forward to for a while now. The Ryback is supposed to be the kayfabe Strongest One There Is, while Antonio Cesaro is actually the strongest one there is, as has been demonstrated by the guy in every damn match he’s in. When it came to a match between them, it created some actual drama as to who’d win, given the nature of all previous The Ryback matches. Surprisingly, it was actually a pretty great match, and the two complemented each other well, and gol’ durn’ it there was actually some good wrestling on this wrestling show! I disliked The Ryback beating Cesaro, not only because I’m a Cesaro fan, but because it makes the US Championship look weak, but I understand they want to keep The Ryback looking strong. The problem is they do this with all of their Invincible White Guys, but you already know that. I was just glad to see Cesaro showing up The Ryback, and making him look mortal. Sometimes that’s almost as powerful as beating him.
Well I never thought I’d be saying this, but holy crap am I happy to see Jack Swagger back! The guy just sorta disappeared last year back when AJ was the Raw General Manager, and neither hide nor tail has been heard of him, until last week’s Smackdown, and tonight’s Raw. I’m glad he’s back for 2 main reasons, #1.) he has a great gimmick that’s being underutilized, especially with Cesaro having more or the less the opposite gimmick of Swagger, and #2.) it’s about time the guy got some kind of push. It seems to me like the obvious choice here is to have him feud with Cesaro, with Swagger as the All American American American, and Cesaro as the Anti-American, and they rumble to see who truly deserves the US title. It’s such obvious, plain booking it’ll either totally happen immediately, or it never will, because the WWE writers are weirdly predictable like that. They’ll either totally go with the obvious thing, or ignore it entirely. Let’s hope this time they choose the obvious one, because for once it’s a good thing. Also, Swagger re-naming his Ankle Lock submission The Patriot Act? Brilliant.
Boy am I loving Alberto Del Rio as a good guy. I seriously can’t express enough just how great it is to have a good guy who actually is good, and man I know i’ve said all of this before but DAMMIT IT”S THAT DAMN REWARDING. Plus this match was pretty great. I’ve long said before that Alberto Del Rio’s finisher being the Cross Armbar should mean that when he uses it, it should end matches immediately, and as the current face world champion that’s happening. It builds up the move as a match-stopper, and makes it realistic and fearsome. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t immediately tap when he slaps it on, so seeing Cody Rhodes quickly and painfully tap the second he used it really worked. On top of that ADR builds up the dynamic of the arm being weakened throughout the match, and you’ve finally got a submission finisher I can totally buy, rather than a weaker, faker looking version of a real MMA submission.
It’s a shame that video cuts it off, but the first few minutes of this match was a great demonstration of why Daniel Bryan is an excellent innovator who’s unafraid to try new things in the ring, or at least new things for WWE audiences, when he countered a hurracanrana into what I can only describe as a reverse backstabber, with his knees plowing into Mysterio’s chest. On top of that he countered Mysterio’s stupid little 619 finisher by just catching his damn legs, (why has nobody done that before?), and best of all ended up making Mysterio tap out with the No-Lock, which I haven’t seen anyone do in a while. Then a glorious thing happened, and MARK GODDAMNED HENRY showed up, and DESTROYED EVERYONE IN AND AROUND THE RING. I quickly started freaking out because I thought he was back to get revenge on Daniel Bryan for enabling the chain of events that would lead to him losing his championship, and Kane for injuring him last year. It was so perfect because now they’re BOTH on the same team, and it made SO MUCH SENSE. Then he brutally and viciously attacked Rey Mysterio for good measure, and caught Sin Cara’s stupid jump offense at him, and smashed him into the ring as well. All the while I kept gawking at Mark Henry’s TERRIFYING MURDER EYES.
In a show full of fairly good wrestling, I’m tempted to say this was the weakest of the bunch, but only just so. It’s not like it was bad or anything, it just didn’t stand out like the others. There was a few great moments, especially when Kane finally, FINALLY got out of that stupid 10 fists to the chest thing that Sheamus “traps” you in on the apron. It’s always driven me mad that he never even ties your arms up on the ropes or anything, as if somehow your arms just being under the ropes themselves is totally incapacitating. Regardless, Kane did what every single person should do from now on, and just took his damn arms out of the ropes and hit Sheamus to stop the stupid move. It ended lamely because Daniel Bryan came out to distract Kane, because they’re fighting right now. It led to Sheamus getting to the Brogue Kick on Kane, and picking up the win, but I’ll be damned if this doesn’t really look to spell out the end for Team Hell No. I know their whole thing is arguing and fighting, but they’re probably gonna break up soon, and that’ll be a sad day for me.
I gotta be honest, I kinda checked out on this segment. Not even the brilliant and great Paul Heyman can make Miz TV interesting. I do have to admit that I admire Paul Heyman’s dedication to his lies, and I understand the need to make it apparent that it was Vickie who re-signed Brock Lesnar and all, but that could all be handled with a quick backstage segment rather than a long, drawn out, and frankly pretty boring segment like this. I like the idea of Vickie taking comfort in Paul Heyman’s arms, because that would just be the sleaziest, creepiest, most awful power couple ever, and if things are building to that I’m pretty glad. Just as Vickie was coming out to explain herself really well, and make a bunch of salient, succinct points about her motives and logical reasoning, Miz just calls her a liar, and some bad names, until Brock Lesnar shows up. Then Brock F5’s Miz and leaves, because he’s goddamned worse than The Rock in that regard. The amount of crap people give The Rock for only showing up when it matters to him, goes goddamned DOUBLE for Brock Lesnar. The guy only shows up when his paycheck is big enough, and the only credit I can give him is that he’s honest about it. It doesn’t make me respect him at all though, and I’ve written previously in this column why I think he’s the worst, so I’ll spare you from a thousand words about why Lesnar sucks in real life too. Regardless, he works well more or less as a force of nature than as a wrestler, and I’m guessing that’s what they’re going with this time around. All I know is I certainly don’t understand why he ever gets cheered.
And here’s another example of the Invincible White Guys being invincible again. I’m really hoping that Randy Orton is going for an Intercontinental Championship run or something, because having him beat Wade Barrett only makes the champion look weak rather than Orton look strong. Sometimes I think the bookers at WWE don’t know anything about ring psychology, or proper story building, especially when it comes to mid-card championships. It’s the most schizophrenic thing they have going on in their promotion, and it’s always in a flux between the champion being dominant until they’re suddenly not anymore. It’s one of the most maddening things about the WWE.
For some RIDICULOUS reason WWE didn’t post the video of CM Punk and Jericho’s match on Raw, and now I am forced to simply visually represent it with those GIFs up there of Jericho getting put to sleep by Punk. There’s not much to say about this match other than it was great, and another great example of why Punk is really at the top of his game when up against someone who can keep up with him. Jericho is still better than most even at his advancing age, and the fact that he can still do the Lionsault is pretty amazing. It was the match of the night in a show mostly full of video packages, (of course all of THOSE got posted to the WWE youtube page, but I digress) and was well worthy of the THIS IS AWESOME chant it got. Of course, that didn’t get unrecognized by Punk, who responded in a delightfully spiteful way right in the middle of the match.
I don’t understand why we’re supposed to hate Brad Maddox. How am I supposed to hate a pitiful, desperate, willing to do whatever is needed little shrew man? He’s a pathetic antagonistic character, not a downright evil, loathable one. You’re not supposed to hate and jeer Falstaff from Shaksepeare’s Henry IV, you’re meant to look upon him as utterly pitiful and ultimately worth redemption, but simultaneously flawed and hopeless. Brad Maddox is a man drawn into a web of darkness around him he couldn’t possibly imagine the consequences of, and has paid for it over and over. He’s a tragic figure, and so The Shield mercilessly beating him up accomplishes two things. Firstly, it portrays them as ruthless villains, and secondly, it SHOULD portray Maddox in a sympathetic light. Unfortunately WWE audience’s moral barometers are so far out of sack they end up oddly cheering on the Bad Guys kicking the crap out of the poor, defenseless, little shrew man who can never win. For as much as commentators like Jerry Lawler says audiences love an underdog, boy do people sure love seeing real underdogs get beaten down over and over again.
Well you could tell Brock Lesnar was back tonight, because it seems like every time he shows up, the amount of video packages in every episode of Raw rises pretty exponentially. The dude doesn’t really do anything, so to “have” him on the show they just show what he did do at least 4 different times in their 3 hour-long program. That’s the main drawback from his presence on the show, but the good thing was that aside from all the damn video packages, we actually got a lot of great wrestling tonight. I suppose it’s a trade-off, and while it sucks to have to watch the same stupid video packages over and over, if the actual wrestling on the show is good I can deal with it. It would be too much to ask for all good segments and video packages, along with good wrestling, so I’d rather take this kind of episode over stupidly long John Cena promos, or anything involving General Manager power struggles. It’s just a reminder to the folks at WWE,that if you just show us good wrestling, everything will be fine. Seriously.
Oh also, buried throughout the myriad video packages, was this promo video for Fandango(o), which was pretty damn great. When it came on it reminded me of that old SNL skit with Chris Kattan as Antonio Banderas, and his two mariachi players in the background would beg him to not take his shirt off because it was too sexy for them.
NO! TOO SEXY FANDANGO! TOO SEXY!