We kicked things off tonight with the return of the Legend Killer himself, Randy Orton. This was a fantastic yet ironic opening segment that left me excited and puzzled. I realized during this segment that Orton is necessary on Raw. He’s a driving young force, and the main event scene needs his talent back. At the same time, I kept asking myself, “is creative aware that Orton is basically running down everything that is wrong with Raw right now?” He was clearly trying to pull heel heat, the problem is I agreed with everything he was saying, with the exception of Punk as champion. Santino is the biggest joke the Intercontinental title has ever seen, and even though WWE is clearly going for that effect, in the long run it does nothing but devalue a historically important title. The tag champions can’t beat one guy in a handicap match, and Beth Phoenix, as good as she is, would rather help an idiot do his dirty work for him than compete in high profile matches. Maybe this was creative’s way of telling the fans “we know there are issues right now, and we plan on addressing them starting tonight.” Regardless of the creative-deprecation, this was a fantastic opening segment that got even hotter when Orton and Punk teased what I would guess to be a feud of the year type program.
JBL, Kane and Batista then hit the ring to foreshadow not only their battle royal later in the night, but their championship scramble match that will take place at Unforgiven. Everyone talked, then Batista destroyed. Well done.
Back from break and it’s time for our first match of the evening, Charlie Haas vs Kofi Kingston. Who knew Haas was the Robin Williams of WWE? This guy does some pretty good impressions, and to be honest I wouldn’t mind seeing him work this gimmick regularly. The John Cena stuff was hilarious, and it allowed the fans to see the humorous side of Haas as opposed to the Lance Storm side of Haas that we typically get. The problem here, which incidentally was the problem with the broadcast in general, was that the match itself was a throw away bout. Kofi and Haas are two excellent athletes who have the capability of wrestling a great match. Instead this was about 2 minutes of wrestling that I think I missed because I blinked then sneezed. Every match on tonight’s card had the potential of being a great one, but each fell short because creative wouldn’t allow the talent work for more than 3 to 4 minutes. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give Raw’s opening bout 4 Stars.
Next up we see Rhodes and DiBiase in the back confronting Orton who only minutes before basically trashed them as tag champs. Orton pepped them up and told them to take action if they are to be what he knows they can be. Another well done segment that reminded me why Raw is in need of Orton’s focus and intensity.
This took us into Mike Adamle’s office where a bizarre segment took place. Adamle thanked ECW GM Teddy Long for appearing on Raw tonight and told him that dual battle royals should be a yearly Labor Day event on Raw. Long and Tiffany agreed. What do two battle royals have to do with Labor Day? If the two battle royals we saw tonight were any indication, why would anyone anticipate seeing them again on a yearly basis? Adamle then equated the yearly battle royals to the Jerry Lewis telethon without the sick kids. What? Was that necessary? Is Adamle a face, a heel, or an asshole? Is he all three? I still don’t understand how creative is intending to focus Adamle’s character. I did like Kane’s entrance into the scene as it helped give a bit more insight into one of the spottiest angles I’ve seen this year. Kane supposedly kidnapped Mysterio and tortured him and beat him within an inch of his life. Beat him so badly that his physical appearance would have Mysterio asking himself whether his soul was alive or dead. How then, would Mike Adamle book him to appear in a match without first determining if he is medically cleared to wrestle? Adamle then explains that he was offering him the spot in the match to call out to Rey letting him know that he’s needed on Raw. This is how Mike tries to find Rey? Booking him in a match on live TV and hoping that whatever gutter Rey is lying in has a TV in it so he can see Mike’s message? Why not simply contact Rey’s family to see if they know where he is? All this is too convoluted. My guess is that Cena went down, WWE had no one to replace him with, so they went with Rey and hoped no one would care that it worked against the angle he was currently playing. I just hope that after Unforgiven this angle is scrapped entirely, because at this point it has no chance of making any sense.
Back from break and it’s time for the ECW Battle Royal featuring Mark Henry, Matt Hardy, The Miz, Finlay and Chavo Guerrero. This match was nothing. Henry eliminated everyone in about a minute and the whole thing was over. I can understand the booking decision here, and Henry has been booked very well so far as the ECW Champion, but as a match on Raw this did nothing for me. 3.5 Stars.
Next up we have yet another throw away/squash match between two excellent workers, this time in the form of Jamie Noble vs William Regal. There might be a small silver-lining here in that Noble actually picked up the win, but these two guys can have a legitimate, competitive match making Noble’s fluke victory unnecessary. I’m not sure where this “underdog” gimmick can go because I’m already getting pretty tired of it, but one thing I am sure of is that showcasing a guy’s talent in the ring will take him a lot further than a thin skinned gimmick will. I still remember Chris Benoit, creative should as well. 3.5 Stars.
Back from break and it’s now time for a 6 Divas tag match featuring Kelly Kelly, Mickie James and Candice Michelle vs Beth Phoenix, Jillian Hall and Katie Lea Burchill. I had an over/under bet going with a friend concerning the amount of time it would take for Candice to injure either herself or someone else in a match. The time was 30 seconds. I took the under. Although I lost the bet, it looked like she came close to snapping Beth’s head off at one point. This match was sloppy, and according to live reports was even worse during the actual taping. The talented Divas did the best they could, but the not-so-talented Divas did their best to counter those efforts. Although not horrible, this match was nothing special and I’m not ecstatic to see Candice return to the ring. I think she’s too much of a liability. 3 Stars.
Our next segment had to have been the most ambivalent of the evening for me, as Santino made me both laugh out loud and beg to see a competent champion all at the same time. The Honk-a-Meter was hysterical, and I love the idea of Santino (who actually is one of the weakest IC champs I can think of in recent history) comparing himself to the great Honky Tonk Man. The problem here, however, is that if the Honk-a-Meter has a future, than we’re in for a years worth of IC Title degradation. I think it will get old seeing Santino wrestle the same 45 second match week in and week out. So while the gimmick got me to pop tonight, I can’t say it will 62 weeks from now. As for the match against D-Lo, which could have been competitive, what else can I say other than it was 90 seconds long. 3 Stars.
The next segment saw the tag match of Cryme Tyme vs The Miz and Morrison end before its beginning when Rhodes and DiBiase ran in to make Orton’s point for him. They succeeded, and so did this segment. I really can’t wait to see what kind of a match these two teams will have at Unforgiven. It’s about time we see the aggression Rhodes and DiBiase have buried within.
We then head backstage where The Animal had two words for The Grish. No, not those two words, but rather, “destroy everyone.” Well done. I have to say I think Batista has been booked very well since arriving on Raw. Yes, I had problems with him recovering from Kane’s attack last week, but all in all Batista is coming off as a no-nonsense warrior with one thing in mind: domination. With all of the goofball gimmicks running around on Raw lately, it’s refreshing to see someone who’s being booked as nothing more than a wrestler who wishes to be the best.
It’s now time for our main event of the evening, a Raw Battle Royal featuring Kane, Batista, JBL and CM Punk. This was the main event and it was 4 minutes and 25 seconds long. The booking of it was great, the finish was a pleasant surprise, but I just can’t get into a battle royal, much less a main event battle royal, that’s under 5 minutes long. Then to cap it off, Rey appears and is seemingly unscathed. So is Kane a liar or just the worst torturer of all time? Rather than get into this all over again, I’ll just say that despite everything I did like Rey’s attack on Kane. It was innovative and precise, and I think these two could actually have a good match if they both worked hard enough. As for the battle royal match tonight, I’ll give it 4.5 Stars simply because it was booked well.
If Raw is going to end with a non-wrestling main event segment, at least it’s being done by the two best in the business right now, Jericho and Michaels. The work these guys do gets better and better every week and I hope HBK doesn’t have to hold back too much this Sunday due to his triceps, because I can’t wait to see this fight. This is the best wrestling feud in years, and the two of them could have a classic this Sunday if health issues don’t prevent it from being so.
Overall, there’s no better way to describe how I felt about Raw tonight than to say I was left feeling ambivalent. The storyline work was solid, there was some hilarious moments, and the build towards Unforgiven was well done. But at the end of the day I am a wrestling fan, and “go home” show or not, this broadcast gave me nothing interesting in the way of in-ring action. Every match booked on the show had the potential to be great, yet creative decided to place the importance on everything besides quality. The biggest difference for me right now between Raw and Smackdown is that Friday night guarantees me at least two great matches while Monday night surprises me if I even get one. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give Monday Night Raw 4.5 Stars.
-When is Jillian Hall going to learn to come out after the faces so that she can actually finish one of her songs? She looks shocked that she’s interrupted every time she sings.
-What’s going on with D-Lo Brown? He got a great reaction when he re-debuted a few weeks back, and tonight he had to job to Santino the Clown after missing a frog splash. Creative has to stop giving up on talent after two TV appearances. Raw would have a great IC title division if they utilized talent like Regal, Noble and D-Lo better.
-Kane: “I’ve been to hell and I didn’t see a clothesline anywhere.” Nice. Very nice.
-I think Haas should parody Candice next. All he’d have to do is swallow Chyna’s voice and break his arm 6 times.
-Ironic that Adamle is making fun of the Jerry Lewis Telethon when his acting makes him look worse off than any of the kids on it.
-Why is The Miz in the Scramble match and not Morrison?
-I reported earlier that JBL claimed he’s lost 63 pounds since coming out of retirement. Did he lose someone else’s weight? Because all of his still appears to be there.
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