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March 9, 2009
â€“ Adam Russell
"I wish we could stay here forever... and ever... and ever"
It often seems in the world of wrestling as though we're caught in some kind of loop, an endless cycle of rehashed characters, and
storylines, with little in the way of genuinely new or fresh ideas. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; as the old adage goes, if it ain't broke,
don't fix it. There's another old saying though, that goes; those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Well, WWE
certainly ain't 'broke' (at least, not in one sense of the world), but it is clear from watching last night's show that nobody involved with the
creative process is learning anything from the past. WrestleMania is usually the one time of the year when you can expect WWE to bring
their A game, but this year the spluttering build-up, which seemed to finally lurch into some purposeful forward motion last week, has
revolved around tired match-ups, and retreads of old angles. Never was this more evident than with last night's Raw. With the primary
focus leading up to the big one being on the Orton/Triple H and Cena/Edge/Big Show situations, Raw served us up a trough of garbage
rare even by their standards.
The requisite recap of Randy Orton and Triple H's Greek Tragedy of a feud opened the show, followed by a shot of Orton's lavish St. Louis
home, from where we apparently would be treated to a statement from Orton later in the night.
The show proper, hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, began with Shawn Michaels making his way to the ring to talk about his match with
the Undertaker at WrestleMania. He began by mentioning the Undertaker's 16-0 winning streak at WrestleMania, noting that he's no
slouch in show-stopping performances himself. He then told the Dead Man that he sent him a message on SmackDown by playing a
video of his WrestleMania moments, and that while he respects 'Taker, he is not afraid of him, because he's Mr. WrestleMania. He said
that he's never been out-performed on the big stage (surely you jest, Shawn), and that he never will be, going on to say that streaks are
meant to be broken, good things come to an end, and nothing lasts forever. At WrestleMania, he says, something has got to give. At that
the lights dimmed, and the distinctive tolling of the bell was heard, and a video package highlighting the Undertaker's winning streak was
shown. I don't know if this really qualifies as mind games- seems more to be a battle of who has access to the better video editor
(Undertaker, for those keeping score). When the lights in the arena came back up, The Phenom himself was standing in the ring behind
HBK. Shawn is too wily a veteran to be caught off-guard though. Without turning around he greeted 'Taker, and told him that he's been
expecting him. 'Taker told Shawn that arrogance has clouded his judgment. He said that he's battled people he respected before, and
they've all fallen, and that Shawn will be no different. HBK countered this by again listing a few of his 'mania accomplishments, and
saying that he shouldn't have to qualify to face anybody, to which 'Taker responded that Shawn should be concerned about what he's
going to do to his body and his soul. Before he could finish by telling Shawn that he will rest in peace, HBK interrupted and said that he
will rest quite comfortable the night of WrestleMania, knowing that he has ended the Undertaker's streak. He then closed out the lengthy
segment by reminding The Undertaker that he has never beaten him.
This was a fairly effective segment, in which both men got over how important WrestleMania has been to their legacies, and therefore the
importance that each is placing on this year's event. However, it dragged on for about five minutes too long, and the two of them were
basically just repeating the same thing over and over again. WWE are going to have to come up with something different to keep this
storyline going for the next three weeks, as I've heard quite enough about the streak, and Mr. WrestleMania, for one year.
Next it was opening match time, and we were being treated to an Intercontinental Title match between CM Punk and JBL, who according
to Michael Cole, had been lobbying for this match with Vickie Guerrero. Anyone who read the leaked RAW script last week might have
seen this one coming.
--- Intercontinental Title Match- CM Punk (champion) Vs JBL
Punk was majorly over with the Jacksonville crowd and, with them chanting his name, he started the match by going after JBL's leg. JBL
tried to slow things down by hooking Punk into a sleeper, but Punk countered with a jaw japper, and his patented running knee. JBL
avoided the follow-up bulldog though, and ducked out of the ring. This only invited a tope from Punk, and with the two of them selling the
move on the outside, we went to commercial at the 1'40 mark. When we returned a further 3 and a half minutes of the match had elapsed
(I wish they'd cut to commercial in the middle of these long interview segments instead), and JBL had established control. He hit a fall
away slam and a short clothesline for a 2 count, and then clamped on a bearhug. Punk managed to fight out, and rocked JBL with a
tornado DDT, for a near fall, followed by a flurry of moves including a springboard clothesline, and the knee/bulldog combination. Punk
then decided it was time to put JBL to sleep, but while up on the champion's shoulders, JBL raked his eyes, and came off the ropes with
a clothesline from Hell to pick up the win, and the title, at 9'35. It was very old-fashioned, but good, to see something as basic as an eye-
rake change the course of this match. The match itself was standard, but more important is the result, which invoked a few thoughts.
First of all, it seems that with JBL as champion, we might get an Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania for the first time since
WrestleMania 18. This, of course, is a good thing. Conversely, this is another instance of WWE squandering an opportunity to bring some
prestige back to championship with a long and meaningful title reign. CM Punk only had one prior televised title defense since winning
the belt from William Regal (himself cut off before his reign could gain any momentum). We may now get a long title reign, but JBL is not
the man I'd choose to have it. Another thought coming out of this is, if indeed JBL does defend the title at WrestleMania, who will his
opponent be? Rey Mysterio, maybe? He was denied an opportunity of competing in Money in the Bank, which leaves him as the most
viable option. WWE could throw something together based on the past animosity between the two. One last thought on this whole
scenario; JBL has been talking for weeks about making history at WrestleMania, and returning to his home state of Texas as a
conquering hero. If the creative team really wanted to do something radical, and follow through with JBL's proclamations, how about
having him lose this match, then qualifying for Money in the Bank on the last Raw before 'mania, winning that match, and cashing it in that
very night. JBL is not somebody that I would give that honor to, but it would certainly be history-making.
After the break, JBL is seen backstage with Vickie Guerrero, who tells him that he owes her for giving him his title match. JBL states that
a deal is a deal, before Edge shows up and ushers the new IC champ away. Vickie tells Edge that she hasn't spoken to him all weekend
(surely he'd know that), but Edge just wants to know what John Cena whispered into her ear on SmackDown. Vickie, as only she can,
yelled 'it doesn't matter', like a Tourette's sufferer. Vickie has to be the worst actor WWE have employed since Al Wilson.
Next we were invited into the home of Randy Orton, who was sat on the sofa with his wife, Samantha, who looked confused about the
whole set-up. Cole asked Orton why he violated his own no-touch rule (it was my understanding that the no-touch rule only applied to
Triple H) and, after the footage was shown again of Orton beating down Triple H on SmackDown, Orton, shot in an uncomfortable close-
up, said that he showed restraint by not punting HHH, or RKO-ing him. He said that he's going to leave just enough of Hunter so that he
can still defend his title at WrestleMania. Cole thanked Orton, and noted that we'd be back with Orton for more pearls of wisdom later in
More in-ring action next as divas from Raw and SmackDown surrounded the ring for a champion versus champion match.
--- WWE Women's Champion Melina Vs WWE Divas Champion Maryse
This match was clearly just a way to set-up the divas battle royal at WrestleMania. Maryse took control early on, slapping on her camel
clutch, and wrenching right back in a showcase of Melina's flexibility. Melina came back at Maryse, but when she missed a running
kneelift into the corner, Maryse slammed her head into the mat and picked up a three count after only 2'15. This brought the rest of the
divas into the ring, and the babyfaces cleaned house.
A video was played highlighting what went down during the supposed Edge and Big Show contract signing on SmackDown last week.
What it boils down to is that Cena disrupted the formalities, and whispered something (the anticipation of finding out just what seeming
to have Jerry Lawler on the verge of soiling himself) into Vickie Guerrero's ear. This brings us to a 're-do' on this week's show.
This was followed up by highlights of WrestleMania 6, including footage of Andre the Giant turning on Bobby Heenan, and, of course, the
main event match between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior.
The contract signing was up next, but first Vickie Guerrero made official the 25-Diva Battle Royal for WrestleMania. Probably against my
better judgment, I'm actually looking forward to this, if only to see which past names appear. But, on with business, and out came the
World's Largest Athlete, followed by Edge. Edge began by talking about how he was there at WrestleMania 6, and describing the great
energy there was in the building for that main event match. He told The Big Show that, despite their recent differences, he knows Show is
better than the Warrior, and that he himself is certainly a lot better than Hulk Hogan (to a crescendo of jeers), and that the two of them
should concentrate on having a match for the ages at WrestleMania. Edge then signed the contract. Big Show simply stated that he
agreed, and also put his name on the contract. So, it was made official- Edge versus The Big Show for the World Heavyweight
Championship. The two shook hands, and at that moment, just as he had done on SmackDown last week (remember what I said about
retreading old angles!) John Cena interrupted the party. Edge took the mic and asked Cena what he was doing there, seeing as he was
now officially not in the match. Cena then turned to Vickie and said 'you didn't tell them yet?' Edge asked what Cena was talking about,
and Cena told him that the reason he was out there is because Vickie has allowed him to compete in the match at WrestleMania, making
it a triple threat match. The Big Show took to the mic, and demanded answers, saying that he is the number one contender, not Cena.
Cena said that he is in the match because of what he whispered to Vickie on SmackDown. With Edge and Show demanding to know
what's going on, and Vickie looking mortified, Cena told everybody that he told Vickie (brace yourself, Jerry) that he loves her. Yep, he told
Vickie that he loved her. Vickie looked most confused about this, whereas Edge was just angry. Cena told Edge that he can't help who he
falls in love with, but if Vickie didn't feel the same way, she wouldn't have put him in the match. Cena then triumphantly left the ring. Before
he could get very far though, Edge challenged his proclamation, asserting that Cena doesn't love Vickie, and she doesn't love him, which
is why she's going to tear up the contract. Cena says that Edge is right, he doesn't love Vickie. In fact, the sight of her makes him sick. Oh,
so the last few minutes were just a set-up for another joke at the expense of Vickie's looks. That's at least consistent with WWE booking
policy. Cena then announced that what he really told Vickie was that when Raw was in Boston a few weeks ago, he happened to know
the guy running the security camera in the arena (hometown boy and all), and that he procured some footage that Vickie might find
compromising. Of course, we wouldn't get to see that footage, because then Vickie really would tear up the contract, right? Cena would
be holding onto that footage until WrestleMania, for leverage. Well, actually, no. The footage aired, and we saw The Big Show and Vickie
sharing an intimate moment in her office, while Edge was in the shower no less. So basically Cena blackmailed Vickie into giving him a
title match at WrestleMania, but then went public about it three weeks before said title match has even occurred. What makes this
segment even more insulting is that the 'hidden camera reveals affair' angle was used just last year to further Edge's feud with Triple H,
Edge being caught with wedding planner-turned-disco dancer Alicia Fox on that occasion. Quite simply put, this is lazy storytelling of the
highest order, and reduces one of the two most important matches on the most important show of the year into nothing more than
another joke at Vickie Guerrero's expense. The segment closed with Edge looking justifiably irate, Cena looking smug, and Michael Cole
laughing his head off at the whole situation.
One thing WWE have been getting right as of late, is the Jericho legend-bashing storyline, for which the time for the pay-off is nigh. After
seeing a video recap of last week's Piper's Pit segment with Jimmy Snuka, Jericho made his way out for a Money in the Bank qualifying
match against Kofi Kingston.
--- Money in the Bank Qualifying Match- Chris Jericho Vs Kofi Kingston
Kofi, seen here for the first time since being attacked by Edge and cost his World Heavyweight Title shot at No Way Out, didn't seem too
interested in exacting any kind of revenge on the Rated-R Superstar. Maybe he's waiting until he can get some good hidden camera
footage. Jericho started off in control of the match with a headlock and shoulderblock, until Kofi came back with an elbow and a big
dropkick. He mounted Jericho in the corner and reigned punches down onto the former Y2J, until Jericho countered with a powerbomb,
and a 2 count, as we went to break at the 52 second mark. Back from commercial and Jericho has Kingston in a cobra clutch, which Kofi
battles back from, rocking Jericho with some impressive offence, as Cole gives us his weekly reminder about Kofi's 'controlled frenzy'.
Kingston then went for his 'boom boom boom legdrop', but before he could deliver the blow, Jericho turned him over into the Walls of
Jericho. Kofi used his legs to kick out of the move, but Jericho followed up with an enziguri and a bulldog, before missing with the
lionsault. Kofi this time connected with his B cubed legdrop (as it shall now be known) for a near fall. He went for the coup de grace, the
Trouble in Paradise roundhouse kick, but Jericho caught his legs and turned him back into the Walls right in the centre of the ring. As it
looked like Kofi was fading, the familiar music of Ric Flair began, and the Nature Boy himself walked out onto the ramp. With Jericho
distracted, Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise to cause the upset and qualify for his first WrestleMania, after a decent 7'47 long match. Jericho
looked distraught as Flair and Kofi celebrated on the ramp. More on this in a moment.
First, back to chez Orton, where Cole asks the number one contender to the WWE Title why he isn't in attendance tonight. Orton says that
he isn't afraid of Triple H, but he doesn't want to tempt himself by being in the same building as The Game. He tells us that he isn't
always in control of his actions (he has I.E.D, remember?), and he doesn't want to permanently injure Triple H. he does tell us, however,
that he will enjoy the main event, which would pit Triple H against Orton's stablemates, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase.
Back from the break, and we are informed that the WWE Universe Facebook page has more friends than the Boston Celtics, the
Pittsburgh Steelers, and Entourage. These things are getting way too specific.
Back to Jericho, who was backstage being 'interviewed' by mic stand Todd Grisham. Jericho said that Flair took away his WrestleMania
moment, but he will get it next week instead. He then challenged Flair to come out of retirement and fight Jericho on next week's Raw,
inviting him to bask in the moment one more time. Jericho also mentioned Mickey Rourke (keeping that option open for WrestleMania),
and said that Flair's story will end next week (I thought it ended last year). More good quality mic work from Jericho (though he said 'bask'
a few too many times), but here we go, another week without any actual clue given as to who Jericho will face in the blow-off match to this
angle. One can only assume that all will be revealed next week, though by this time, it better be Hogan or Austin (or maybe Savage),
because anything less after all this build-up just will not do.
Speaking of legends, the next inductee into the 2009 Hall of Fame was announced next. Joining Austin, the Funks, Steamboat and Watts
will be... Koko B Ware? Congratulations to The Birdman and all that, but with this announcement I can see a lot of other former lower-to-
mid-carders reconnecting their telephones. Koko will be inducted by the Honky Tonk Man (a shoo-in now, by this Hall's standards).
More in ring action next, as were treated to an interbrand 6-man tag team match.
--- Rey Mysterio/Christian/Finlay Vs Kane/The Miz/John Morrison
Only one of these six men was penciled in for WrestleMania at time of writing (Kane in the Money in the Bank match), so one has to
wonder what, if anything, is in store for the other five. The match started with Christian and The Miz in the ring, with Christian in early
control with a spinning kick and a reverse DDT for a 2 count. The match changed when Kane tagged in and muscled Christian, hitting
him with a big powerslam for a 2. Morrison and Miz then hit a double gutbuster on Captain Charisma, before Christian battled back and
tagged in Finlay. Finlay hit a barrage of clotheslines, before tagging in Rey, who hit Morrison with a seated senton and a hurricanrana.
The Miz broke up the following pinfall attempt, which brought all six men into the ring. Christian and Finlay double clotheslined Kane out
of the ring, which allowed Rey to hit the 619 and a West Coast Pop on Morrison for the win, after only 3'53. Clearly earlier segments (hello
Shawn and Undertaker) had run long.
Speaking of 'Taker and Michaels, it was announced that they will team up on next week's show to face the team of JBL and Vladimir
The weekly 12 Rounds promo was next, followed by our main event.
--- Triple H Vs Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes
Orton and his â€œwifeâ€� were shown watching at home, as Priceless made their way out to the ring. Triple H's music then hit, but the
Game was nowhere to be seen, as Cole and the King played up the beating he took on SmackDown. Lillian Garcia announced Triple H
for the second time, but still he did not appear, so the referee decided to award the match to DiBiase and Rhodes by forfeit. Priceless'
celebration was cut short by Orton, who said that Triple H had let them down, he'd let the fans down, and most importantly he'd let Orton
down. He continued by saying that he'd given HHH too much credit, and that he wasn't the man he thought he was. While on this diatribe,
there was a knock on Orton's door, and Samantha went to answer it. Orton suddenly realized what was going on, and reminiscent of
Michael Corleone in The Godfather, just as his wife is about to get into the car which would kill her, Orton screams for Samantha not to
open the door. It was too late, or rather it didn't matter, as Triple H sledgehammered the door down, and stood in the doorway like Jack
Torrance with 'roid rage. I half expected him to say 'Heeeere's Hunter'. Samantha screamed in horror, as Orton ran into hiding. What
followed was a scene even more ridiculous than the one a few weeks ago of HHH chasing Legacy with his sledgehammer. Hunter crept
around the house like The Repo Man (next week's Hall of Fame inductee) as though he were in a slasher movie, complete with the false
alarms of various cowering production. In one hilarious moment, Hunter broke a door down, from behind which came running a
screaming woman of the Fay Wray variety. Finally, Orton came charging out of a closet and took the Game down, and the two brawled on
the floor, with Triple H getting the upper hand. Hunter threw Orton around for a few moments, smashing up the home, and then launched
him headfirst out of the bay-windows to the outside. Hunter followed him out as the police arrived on the scene. Orton, without a scratch
on him, and seemingly none the worse for wear, ordered the police to arrest HHH, and as they complied by putting the Game in
handcuffs, Orton launched a finally attack, aiming a punch at the Game. The final image showed us Triple H sitting in the back of the
police car, brooding with antagonism.
The concept for this sequence wasn't all that bad, and had they have given us a short intense brawl between the two of them, captured by
the one camera that should have been present for the Randy Orton interview, this may have added to the drama building into
WrestleMania. What we got instead was more of WWE's multi-camera, prescient-editing foolery, the final straw of which being the fact
that the no-contact stipulation was broken for the second straight show since Orton announced it. When Orton did it on SmackDown, it
made sense, seeing as the rule was that Hunter couldn't touch Orton unless physically provoked, and not the other way around. This
time Triple H was in clear violation of the rule, meaning, according to Orton's edict, that Orton would have Triple H arrested, and that the
Game would spend WrestleMania in jail. Well, Triple H was arrested, but something tells me he'll be out for WrestleMania (and probably
as early as this week's SmackDown).
All in all, Raw this week took a giant leap back from the work it did last week in setting up a number of matches for WrestleMania. We
saw a reprise of the Orton/HHH chase nonsense from two weeks ago, and another contract signing between Edge and the Big Show
interrupted by John Cena. WWE isn't just recycling old angles, they're recycling old angles from the last few weeks. It's lazy writing, and for
the road to WrestleMania, I expect better. There are clearly some people in WWE creative who are happy with the status quo, who would
like things to always be the same, and they will us, the viewers, to come and play with them. To come and play with them forever and ever