The show opens with thunderous applause for the number one contender John Cena. The crowd was hot all night, and one of the best crowds in recent memory, but Cena especially brought Salt Lake City to a fervor. I guess Mormons + wrestling = pure cocaine. Cena hits the ring and at first I was fearful that his promo was meant to shill McMahon’s Mania, but I was relieved when he put the importance of the “moment” on the WWE title match at Night of Champions. This prompts the King of Kings to interrupt and the two grapplers have what I thought was a fantastic exchange. This was a heated verbal bout and a high energy way to open the show. Great stuff from both competitors.
Vince decides to interrupt the sparring and inform Cena that he is about to compete in a Street Fight that starts “right now.” This brings us immediately to our opening contest, John Cena vs Umaga. This was an intense, physical contest to open the show which saw Cena pick up the win after an FU on the Samoan Bulldozer. Now this is a much better way to open a wrestling show. It started with a great segment between challenger and champion and was followed by a strong opening match. I have a definite feeling Umaga will be moving to Smackdown since his roll on Raw seems to have been meandering for quite some time now. I’ve been a strong proponent of him making some kind of brand switch for a while now, and his bout with John Cena only furthered my opinion. Nevertheless, this was a fun way to open the show. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give this opening contest 5.5 stars.
After a strong couple of segments to kick off the show, this is where things start to get a little muddled. Vince starts his giveaway in much the same fashion he did last week by having to spend until next week’s Raw figuring out how to dial the phone. I wonder how long it takes him to tie his shoes? I had read this past week that creative was trying to spice up the money segments by having them be more entertaining than Vince simply calling people and giving them cash. This apparently did not come to fruition since all of the money segments seemed to be redundant from last week. So instead of reviewing each money segment from here on out, I’ll just get it out of the way now. They were still boring, seemed much more scripted than last week, and lacked a spontaneous feeling. It seemed a bit more than coincidental that last week no one went “nuts” on the phone when they won the money, but this week nearly everyone did. We also knew the money amounts that were being given away ahead of time, so in my opinion the Million Dollar Mania was an even bigger flop than it was last week. Honestly, after the second one I hit fast forward through the rest. I hope we’ve seen the last of this desperation.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get back to the real show, the wrestling show. It’s now time for a Beach Bikini Blowout featuring Melina, Maryse, Lena, Eve, Jillian, Layla and Maria. Your host for the event was none other than Val Venis’ estranged brother Charlie Haas. The odd thing here was that although this wasn’t an actual match Haas was still credited with a loss (wink, wink). He must miss Heat. Anyway this was as you would assume, chicks looking hot in bikinis and Maria winning because she is Maria. A dull segment that sorely missed Mae Young.
After some money and Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Gabe and whatever other nonsense they could think of it’s time for Jeff Hardy vs Carlito. This was another good match, that saw Jeff Hardy pick up the win after Carlito hit his new finisher called “The Bottom of the Pedigree.” Carlito jobbing is no surprise to me, but I honestly thought WWE would try to add a little humiliation to the pot. Instead this was a good competitive bout that saw both guys looking equally matched. I await Carlito’s future and still hope that WWE and him can reach some kind of agreement that utilize his full abilities once again. 6 stars.
This is where things start to get really interesting. I have been saying for the past month or so that I like the way Jericho has been hovering between heel and face status and tonight he finally landed. He blamed the crowd for his recent behavior and has become a full blown heel. I’m not so sure I like the fact that he is locked into a side now. I preferred when he was just being Y2J, not a heel or face per say, but just being who he is. I hope that creative continues to give depth to his character and does not revert back to the “whiny” heel that he usually plays. Jericho has been the freshest thing on Raw lately and I’d hate to see him fall back on past habits. Speaking of fresh, however, just when you thought HBK was gonna come out and silence the savior, out comes The Man. This was a total shock, and the energy in this segment was through the roof. What a nice way to add flavor to the show, and I hope that Flair has these occasional appearances more often in the future. I don’t want it to become weekly, or else it loses its luster, but once in a while something like this is just plain refreshing to see. Great stuff between Jericho, Flair and HHH, not to mention it setup a beauty of a main event for the evening.
Back from commercial break and in a non-title bout we have Rhodes and Holly vs Cryme Tyme. This was a clever little match. Holly and Rhodes have been on the losing end of Ted DiBiase Jr’s distractions lately, but this time it backfired on the second generation superstar. With a quick roll-up just seconds into the match, Holly and Rhodes defeat Cryme Tyme and one-up DiBiase. I am really looking forward to the debut of this rookie and to find out who his partner will be. I’m not going to rate this as it was more of a segment than a match.
Next up we have mixed tag action in the form of Mr. Kennedy and Mickie James vs Paul and Katie Lea Burchill. This match was exciting. Fast paced, a lot of back and forth action, and a great finishing sequence made this contest really fun to watch. We now know that Katie Lea will be challenging Mickie for the Women’s Championship at Night of Champions and this is another PPV debut I am anxiously awaiting. 6 Stars
After another segment featuring Vince McMahon’s current rivalry with a telephone, it’s time for our main event of the evening, Triple H vs Chris Jericho. Although this match didn’t start until 10:58pm, because the mon-ay had more important things to do, it was still a great back and forth main event between two great champions. The surprise here was seeing Lance Cade come out to attack HHH. Lance Cade? Are you sure it wasn’t HBK? No, it was Lance Cade. I’m not sure how I feel about this. In my opinion Cade is deserving of a push, but not over guys like Hardy, Carlito and Kennedy. I don’t know if this was just a one time thing for Cade or if management is considering elevating his status, but if so I would like to see someone a bit more deserving get there first. Not to say I didn’t enjoy this, because it was unexpected and fun, but I’m not sure if Cade is ready to jump this high quite yet. This was a solid main event, however, and I look forward to where this goes next week. 7 Stars.
Overall I thought tonight’s show was a vast improvement over last week’s show but needs to rid itself of McMahon’s Millions. I’m hoping we will see this put to rest following next week’s draft and the show can start to focus on fresh talent with a wrestling oriented center. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give Monday Night Raw 5 stars.
-Salt Lake City is the live crowd of the year so far.
-Line of the night: “Few of your fans will get to see your match [at Night of Champions] because it will be past their bed time.” Triple H to John Cena.
-The only thing worse than watching a bikini model Diva wrestle is watching her try to dance.
-In addition to the “mon-ay” having it’s own theme music, the phone dialing has its own theme music too!
-You know things are bad when you need Jim Duggan to help you dial the phone. That’s like having The Admale help you speak English.
-I felt bad for Melina. You could tell she had no desire to be doing the bikini thing. She’s a wrestler, and it shows.
-I swear The Nature Boy’s shirts have sweat glands.
-Why are Hornswoggle and Ted DiBiase Jr on a PPV but Jeff Hardy and Kennedy aren’t? Seems odd.
Thanks for reading and be sure to send all feedback to VOWNick@gmail.com