Having the matches decide the draft picks was a fantastic idea. It puts the importance on the wrestling rather than the draft itself. It also allows a show that was hyped by a draft and a million dollar giveaway to work as a solid in-ring show, and I think Raw did just that.
We opened the show with a Raw vs Smackdown match in the form of Triple H vs Mark Henry. Everyone knows that I am Mark Henry’s biggest nemesis, but I have to hand it to the big guy, he pulled off a solid opening bout with The Champ last night. All of the matches on the card were infused with an extra energy due to the fact that they decided the following draft pick, and because they were inter-promotional matches that we rarely see. So this opener had an intensity that might have otherwise not been there. Good back and forth action, with HHH trying to chop Henry down with everything that he had. The one criticism I do have is that Henry has lost SO many “high profile” matches that when he’s not involved in a squash match against Funaki you know he’s going to lose. So that took away from a portion of the anticipation because the formula is simple: Mark Henry + important match = guaranteed loss. Despite that however, this was a good opening wrestling match. Out of a possible 9 stars, I will give this match 6 stars.
Our next draft match is a tag team match with the number one contenders to the Smackdown tag titles, Finlay and Hornswoggle vs Santino and Carlito. This was a typical match in every sense of the word. Typical because it was Horny and Finlay goofing around and typical because Carlito and Santino lost. Yet again. WWE’s gonna have to start counting each loss for these guys as 2 soon. Combine this outing tonight with Carlito not moving anywhere in the draft, and I would have to guess that Carlito is 100% on his way out of the company. 4 Stars.
Next up is a Raw vs ECW tag match with Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes taking on Bam Neely and Chavo Guerrero. This was a short match that earned Raw its second draft pick of the evening when Holly hit Chavo with the Alabama Slam. Nothing really to note here other than the match was a bit sloppy toward the end and Holly hit the Slam with little intensity. I am growing a bit bored of Holly and Rhodes as champions and look forward to some new blood running with the titles, possibly in the form of DiBiase Jr and his mystery partner. I have a quick note about the “mystery partner” angle. If the partner is going to turn out to be a rumored DH Smith, then why hype him as a mystery partner? No one is going to pop or care if/when he does come out, so why not just announce it sooner rather than later to allow the guy to build some heat going into the match. The mystery partner title is usually reserved for a big name, and unless it is a big name, I don’t see how this is going to work the way WWE might want it to. My bet is that Smith will get little to no reaction if he turns out to be DiBiase’s partner. 4 stars.
Jericho makes his way to the ring next and it’s time for him to do what he does best: piss off the live crowd. After a great promo and a few video packages highlighting how “horrible” Shawn Michaels is, out comes The Showstopper for some retribution. After some ring rumbling, HBK eventually takes a drop toe hold face first into the announce table and re-injures the right eye that Y2J previously busted open with the Jeritron. Another great Y2J/HBK segment that is furthering what I think is the best thing going on Raw right now.
It’s time for another draft pick match, as Smackdown goes head-to-head with ECW when The Hardy Boyz take on Miz and Morrison in tag team action. This was a great match. Classic Hardy offense vs the growing stability of Miz and Morrison made for a main event caliber outing for both teams. The end was quite surprising when Miz and Morrison actually picked up the win. I was positive The Hardy’s would take this one as they rarely tag together. ECW wins its first draft pick of the evening, and it goes to Brother Matt, so this really was a one time reunion of Team Extreme. 7.5 Stars.
What’s odd here is that our next match of the evening was yet another tag match. This time pitting Smackdown’s Victoria and Natalya against Raw’s Mickie James and Melina. This was a solid contest that I believe ended short when Melina suffered what looked to be a legitimate ankle injury. My best wishes to her on a speedy recovery and I hope this doesn’t set her back at all because I’m really enjoying her place on Raw right now. This match ends in a double DQ and blasphemously sends Ross to Smackdown and Cole to Raw. Boo. 5 Stars.
Next up Khali screams at a phone. Priceless. Funniest bit of the night. Perfect use of Schwarzenegger’s Indian counterpart.
It’s now time for a Smackdown vs Raw draft match, as World Heavyweight Champion Edge takes on John Cena. I’ve always enjoyed these two wrestling each other, and they had another fast paced, intense match up last night. This match saw a few really nice counters, a couple near falls, and an overall solid performance from both competitors. It actually made me miss the days of Edge vs Cena, as they had a few memorable matches in their long feud. The end saw Edge bail on Cena as he’d had enough. DQ, Cena wins. Typical Edge. 6.5 Stars.
Our next draft pick comes at the hands of The Tommy Dreamer Squash of the Week! Each week Dreamer gets to test out one move in a match and this week I think it was a punch. Or maybe a kick. Actually, because Raw was a special broadcast last night, I think they let him do both moves. Congratulations Tommy! The match was MVP squashing Dreamer after a big boot and Smackdown gets another pick. 3 Stars.
This next bout was an interesting combination. In a Raw vs ECW contest, JBL went one-on-one with Kofi Kingston. It was in this match that we got to hear Cole’s first offering of crap on Raw. He said that JBL is a bar room brawler. What does that mean? Does JBL throw whiskey into the eyes of his opponents? Does he crack people with bar stools and frozen margarita glasses? Or maybe it’s his second job. He is a paid bar room brawler. I hate when Cole says ridiculous things like that. Just say he uses a brawler style. Cole oversells way too often. Anyway, the match itself was too one sided, as JBL pretty much dominated Kofi. I think it would have been smart to allow Kingston to get a little more offense in on JBL as WWE is pushing him as a top force on ECW. If you want him to be a credible Raw player someday, he has to look like he can dance with the big guys every now and then. Even if it is a slow dance in JBL’s case. 4.5 Stars
Our final match of the evening was a 15 man, tri-branded, over the top rope battle royal featuring CM Punk, HHH, John Cena, Kane, Batista, Chavo, Benjamin, Morrison, Miz, Matt Hardy, Big Show, Edge, Jeff Hardy, MVP and Khali. This was a fantastic main event. A long, hard fought battle royal that saw Edge win the final two draft picks after he eliminated John Cena. A nasty spot mid-match saw Edge and Batista collide heads which busted open The Animal. This was a great main event choice to end the draft as well as the show. 8 Stars.
Overall, this was a really fun wrestling show with a few great matches. From a pure wrestling standpoint, I give last night’s Raw 5.5 out of 9 stars.
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Remember, there will be a special “Draft Fallout” edition of The Voice of Wrestling tonight at 8pm EST, followed by Wrestlezone Radio at 9pm EST. Be sure to tune in to hear all of our thoughts on last night’s draft plus the dramatic conclusion of Raw!