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What's up wrestling fans? I'm back with another look at Monday Night Raw, an episode that needed to deliver strong in order to influence PPV buys for "Extreme Rules" and counter the effects of lackluster shows the creative team has offered as of late. In my opinion, the show succeeded. It wasn't the best effort Raw has ever given us, but it did its job, and in most cases was entertaining and exciting.
The key to a successful wrestling show, especially where WWE is concerned, in my opinion, is to keep it simple. Tell compelling stories, showcase a fair amount of quality wrestling, and keep the excess fat trimmed to a minimum. Last night was a good example of this. Silly, over-the-top segments were kept brief, the push towards "Extreme Rules" was kept intense, and we had a handful of fun matches with one excellent TV bout. That said, let's take an in depth look at The Good, The Bad and The Wrestling from last night's show in Birmingham, Alabama.
The show started off with a fantastic tableau. A picture of Legacy standing in the ring surrounded by a cage. A great visual that kicked off the show with high energy. The exchange between Randy Orton and Ric Flair was intense, and Flair proved once again he's the man on the mic by hooking the crowd into directing "punk" chants towards the WWE Champ. I've really liked the use of Flair in the Orton/Batista feud because it accomplishes two things. 1.) Flair acts as a buffer between Orton and Batista. You can really feel the hatred that Champion and Challenger have for each other, yet we don't get to see them actually but heads until the PPV, because both have Ric Flair in between them. 2.) Flair can take the punishment from Orton, yet it still fuels the flame that's growing between Orton and Batista, and at the end of the day, you're wanting to see Batista not only beat Orton up and win the title at "Extreme Rules," but also avenge what Orton has done to The Animal's mentor and friend.
I also really enjoyed how the show was book ended. The beginning was dominated by Batista, which gave him a nice push heading into the PPV, however the show ended with Randy Orton's dominance, which put both competitors on equal ground heading into the show. Obviously Orton needed help from Priceless to neutralize Flair, but after all, Orton is the heel here so it made sense.
The Miz continues to be on a roll, and I like how WWE is booking the relationship between him, Big Show, Cena and Chavo. None of them get along, which is a direction that usually runs the opposite way in pro wrestling. Faces always get along with faces, and heels always get along with heels. Well this is blurring those lines and presenting the wrestlers more as people than "good guys" and "bad guys." There's a lot more creative room here with none of the competitors getting along as it can set up various alliances instead of the predictable ones.
Putting the US Title around the waist of Kofi Kingston was a very smart move in my opinion. Kingston has everything to gain with this kind of a move. He beat a guy who is slowly transitioning into a main event player, and now he has some kind of focus and direction. His winning the title also allows MVP to take that next step in his Raw career and being free of the US Title is something that transition needed.
I mostly had logic issues with last night's show, and those were exposed mainly in the close of the program and during the finish of the MVP/Kofi Kingston bout.
Why didn't Batista climb the cage? I realize it might be nit-picking, but when you've created such an intense finish to a show, why distract people with illogical booking by not allowing The Animal to exercise his own common sense and get into the cage the same way he's gotten out of it in past cage matches? Don't get me wrong, the intense stare down between Batista and Orton was a fantastic way to end the show from an aesthetic standpoint, but I would rather have logic win the battle between reality and what "looks cool."
WWE needs to be very careful with MVP. He got over with the crowd because he was not only talented on the mic, but his character presented itself with a cockiness that was not only becoming of a heel, but it also came across as cool and at times very bad ass. I get that a face will admit defeat out of respect, but MVP almost looked happy for a moment last night when he was relinquishing the US Title to Kofi Kingston. WWE must remember that a loss or a win has to come off as a shoot, and a wrestler must never telegraph that a loss doesn't matter because after all this is just a worked ending. MVP has been cutting promos recently talking about how his goal has been to hold onto the US Title longer than his last run with it, yet when he lost last night his face seemed to signal a mere "shucks." Note to creative: don't turn MVP into a pussy, please. It's not how he originally got over with the crowd.
This entire angle with Vickie and Santino is just terrible. It's not very funny, the two are not emphasizing their strengths, and it gives no legitimacy to Santino as a wrestler since he's having a match against a woman next week. I understand that it's being booked under the guise of "Santina," but virtually none of it has worked for me since the angle's inception.