Hey WWE fans and Sean O’Maniacs! There it was, the final episode of Raw before WrestleMania 24 – and I don’t care what anyone says, this episode was golden.
Never mind the whole “my match is bigger than your match” pissing contest at the beginning of the show. Granted, that was all pretty standard stuff. But the crescendo that this build-up took was deafening, and had yours truly laughing out loud and literally applauding by the end of tonight’s show. You all know Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac doesnâ<80><99>t get that excited easily.
Most of you know how it all started, having watched Raw yourself. A match, no disqualification mind you, pitting Randy Orton, The Big Show, JBL and Umaga (or Oomanga for you William Regal fans) against John Cena, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. From the beginning of this one, the outcome was in doubt. On one side you have four heels who, at least at the moment, donâ<80><99>t really have much of a beef with each other. On the other side, four faces that could self destruct and take each other out just as quickly as their opponents. After all, Trips and Cena had words earlier in the night, as did Flair and HBK (a topic Iâ<80><99>ll get to in a bit).
Right away, advantage goes to the bad guys. But to their credit, the writers at WWE had a few tricks up their sleeves.
The match started normal enough. But then, whatâ<80><99>s that? Finlayâ<80><99>s music! (And, by the way, good move playing his usual theme under these circumstances and not the stuff that makes me want to break into a jig.) So he and JBL begin to brawl, and the heels are down to three. But wait, thereâ<80><99>s more! Itâ<80><99>s not long before we hear that signature power guitar music of Batista, who takes it right to his WM opponent, Umaga.
And then, there were two.
Unfortunately for the good guys, one of those two still includes The Big Show. And you know that despite the odds, WWE is still going to have this man dominate leading up to the much-hyped match against Mayweather. And dominate he did. It looked bleak for the heroes this night when even Trips and Cena working together failed to take Show down. The fan favorites, however, had an ally they hadnâ<80><99>t counted on that turned the tide back in their favor – Ortonâ<80><99>s big mouth! Show finally got sick of Randy barking orders from the ring apron, tossed him into the ring and delivered a nice chokeslam to the WWE Champion.
Well, thatâ<80><99>s the match, right? Showâ<80><99>s walking away, Ortonâ<80><99>s on his back, and the face team is standing tall. Oh, wait. Remember that foretold self destruction? That starts now.
Cena and Hunter, both anxious to get their hands on Orton, ended up brawling themselves on the outside of the ring. But never fear, The Nature Boy is here! Flair started to wrap in his patented Figure Four, when suddenly he received a right fist from his â<80><9c>friend,â<80> HBK. I donâ<80><99>t think Iâ<80><99>ve heard The Showstopper booed so much since he dished out Sweet Chin Music to Hulk Hogan!
But just as Shawn looked to be applying the Sharpshooter, â<80><9c>the dirtiest player in the gameâ<80> showed some of that classic Flair we all know and love by delivering a low blow to drop HBK. So, finally, someone is going to finish off Orton. Flair locks in the Figure Four, and suddenly Orton looks like a fish out of water on an electric fence. I mean, Iâ<80><99>ve seen selling a submission before, but Orton flopped around so much the duo did a 360-degree turn in the ring! Nevertheless, the night ended with Flair standing tall having made the WWE Champion tap out like so many before him.
Major props to the writers for this one. My writing about it just canâ<80><99>t do it justice. If you missed it, Maniacs, you missed probably one of the more exciting Raw finishes in recent times.
But that moves us on to another topic. Will this indeed be the last time we see Ric Flair gracing our television screens on Raw?
Everything indicates that the answer is â<80><9c>yes.â<80> From the moment the whole â<80><9c>win-or-retireâ<80> angle began, suspicions were that Flairâ<80><99>s storyline would lead him into WrestleMania, giving him a proper send-off on the grandest stage in sports entertainment. Tonight certainly seemed to affirm that suspicion, as it was definitely Flairâ<80><99>s night. Not only did the man have some great mic time in the ring expressing his anger with HBK for interfering in last weekâ<80><99>s match against Vince, but WWE aired a nicely done retrospective video of Flairâ<80><99>s career. Couple all that with the fact that Flair ended the show on probably the highest note heâ<80><99>s seen in a while, and it sure looks like thatâ<80><99>s the last weâ<80><99>ll see of The Nature Boy on free television.
Or is it?
One thing the WWE has shown recently that itâ<80><99>s well-capable of doing is throwing the fans a curveball from hell. Remember John Cena at the Royal Rumble? None of us saw that coming.
And, to Ric Flair, I have this to say. If it truly is the end this Sunday, Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac wants to extend his respect and gratitude for so many years of entertaining the masses. Flair always said, â<80><9c>To be the man, youâ<80><99>ve got to beat the man.â<80> I wouldnâ<80><99>t want to take the time to look back over his entire career and count up how many matches Flair actually lost, but know this. He may have lost a step. He may not be quite as quick as he used to be. But Ric Flair will always be â<80><9c>the manâ<80> in this writerâ<80><99>s opinion – and in the opinions of millions of fans.
The first match of the night came off pretty well as Chris Jericho and CM Punk took on MVP and Carlito, four of the seven contenders in the Money in the Bank ladder match at WM24. Which, consequently, is probably the one match Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac is looking forward to the most this Sunday.
There appeared to be a couple of indecisive moments, and the blows being exchanged near the end between Jericho and MVP came off a bit lame, but overall the foursome put on a pretty good one. The nice touch was the ending, when Jericho went for an Enzuigiri, with MVP ducking out of the way and Punk falling victim to the move instead. The heels picked up the win, and a bit of tension was built up for the MitB match between two faces.
Poor Candice. The girl just came back from the clavicle injury she suffered in a match against Beth Phoenix, and now sheâ<80><99>s back under the knife after reinjuring it. Hereâ<80><99>s hoping for a speedy recovery.
So, Maria was on her own tonight as she took on Melina, who had Beth Phoenix at ringside. But all it took was one interference from the Glamazon, and out came Ashley – fresh from getting her stinky cast removed. (Read her MySpace blog for that explanation.) Of course, then we had Santino Marella get involved, and Jerry-stoopid-Lawler couldnâ<80><99>t stand for that. So, we ended up with a six-person inter-gender match that got really entertaining when Maria started kicking Marellaâ<80><99>s arse! His team of Divas, however, took Maria down and Santino actually got the pin on Maria. Can I be next?
In the other match of the night, Hardcore Holly got squashed by Great Khali. Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac hates that. Why have a champion (tag team) get blown out by this guy? I mean, we all know heâ<80><99>s big, and the WWE has done all it can to play Khali up as the biggest monster in the ring. But letâ<80><99>s face it, the fans chant â<80><9c>you canâ<80><99>t wrestleâ<80> for a reason. Donâ<80><99>t get me wrong, Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac isnâ<80><99>t stupid enough to think heâ<80><99>d last two seconds in the ring with the guy. But thatâ<80><99>s not what this is about, is it? Itâ<80><99>s about entertainment, and Khali is just boring the hell out of me.
Plenty of promo time was given to pump up The Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather this Sunday. Up to now, Iâ<80><99>ve been asking myself, â<80><9c>Self, who really cares about this match?â<80> I really think this has been a waste of Paulâ<80><99>s return to the WWE. But then again, look at the press this match-up has generated. It definitely gotten the attention of the mainstream media, which is always a good thing. And, at the very least, the WWE has gotten Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac curious as to how theyâ<80><99>re going to work this match. I mean, letâ<80><99>s face it. They canâ<80><99>t just have Show get a hold of this guy and toss him into orbit. If Mayweather isnâ<80><99>t played up during the match like he has an honest chance of winning the thing, then what was the point of any of this?
Well, fans, Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac will be watching. Weâ<80><99>ll see what happens together, and you know youâ<80><99>ll get my Take afterwards.
Coming up in this weekâ<80><99>s edition of Pullinâ<80><99> No Punches, Sean Oâ<80><99>Mac will make his official WrestleMania predictions as well as reveal the top WrestleMania matches of all time as voted on by you, the fans. You still have time to cast your vote. Send your top three matches, in order, to email@example.com. Voting ends Wednesday at 3 p.m. Central Time.
Don’t like my take? Let’s hear yours! Send me your e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org… the best and worst of the bunch may be featured in editions of Sean Oâ<80><99>Macâ<80><99>s Pullinâ<80><99> No Punches. Remember, short ones are good, long ones may be cut, and keep the name of the column in mind when you come looking for answers!
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