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March 16, 2009
– Adam Russell

Gotsta get paid

On last week's Raw, Chris Jericho challenged Ric Flair to come out of retirement and wrestle him on this week's show, in the latest
development in the slow-building angle between Jericho and the wrestling legends. I was confident that Flair wouldn't break his
retirement promise, but did see this as the set-up to the pay-off to this feud. I wrote in last week's report that, by this time, nothing short of
Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin would do as Jericho's WrestleMania opponent. The pay-off did come on this week's show but, as I'll explain
later in this report, I felt very short-changed.

In many ways this was a pivotal episode of Raw, with just three weeks remaining until WrestleMania, and several issues still up in the air
(and several angles needing saving). Last week's show buried the two biggest matches for 'mania (the two world title matches) with
ridiculous angles, so a salvage job was needed. The show, emanating from San Antonio, Texas, began with a recap of the soap opera-
lite contract signing from last week. It was then announced that John Cena would face Edge in a non-title match in the main event. This
booking is so counterproductive, it beggars belief. First of all, why book a match between two of the three men in one of the biggest
matches from WrestleMania, just three weeks before the event on free TV? Even more dumbfounding is that, when you consider how
many times these two have faced each other recently, including a match just two weeks ago, wouldn't you be doing everything you can to
keep them apart, in attempt to rebuild some intrigue? It's clear that WWE has no faith whatsoever in this match as a stand-alone contest,
which is why it is playing second fiddle to a ridiculous love triangle. To 'spice up' the match tonight, Vickie Guerrero would be acting as
guest referee. Okay, NOW I want to see it....

As an aside, it disappointed me that there was no mention of the passing of Andrew 'Test' Martin during the show. I can understand WWE
wanting to distance itself from the death of another young wrestler, but Martin worked for the company for ten years, on and off, and I think
a brief graphic to begin the show was the least he deserved.

The hometown hero, Shawn Michaels, was the first man to enter the arena, as we got set to start the show with some tag team action.

--- Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker Vs JBL and Vladimir Kozlov

WrestleMania opponents were teaming up in this one, as I suspected they would at some point in the lead-up to their match at the big
show. It's generally hard to keep these babyface against babyface storylines going, and this is a tried and trusted method. The match
started with Shawn, who got a huge ovation as you'd expect, in the ring against the man whose undefeated streak he ended a couple of
weeks ago, Vladimir Kozlov. Kozlov used his power to get the better of Shawn, who reached out to tag in the Dead Man, without any
reciprocation. Shawn instead decided to take the fight to the Russian, jumping on him, and hitting him with a flurry of wild blows. This had
little effect, so Shawn tried to tag in 'Taker again, who this time obliged. The Undertaker dominated Kozlov leading into the break, hitting
him with some punches, a big boot, a clothesline, and another clothesline taking him to the outside. We came back from commercial at
4'28, and with Shawn and JBL in the ring. HBK hit the new Intercontinental champion with his patented flying forearm, and followed up
with an inverted atomic drop, powerslam, and flying elbowdrop. Shawn went into Sweet Chin Music mode, but a distraction from Kozlov
allowed JBL to hit him with a big boot. Kozlov tagged in and nailed Shawn with a couple of elbowdrops, some shoulderblocks to the gut,
and then a series of headbutts to the sternum, finishing up with a belly to belly suplex for a 2 count. JBL came back in, and leveled
Michaels with a short clothesline for another 2, before Kozlov took over again, slowing things down with a bearhug. Shawn managed to
fight out of the move, and hit Kozlov with a big DDT. A pair of tags later and The Undertaker was laying into JBL with some punches, and
then delivered a clothesline to the champ in each corner. He followed up by hitting "Old School". Snake eyes and a big boot followed, and
then a big legdrop had Michael Cole eulogizing over this "classic Undertaker" sequence. Maybe The Undertaker, getting up in years,
asked Cole not to describe his stuff as 'vintage' anymore. Next, 'Taker held his hand in the air, signaling a chokeslam was forthcoming,
but Michaels, ever the impudent scamp, reached in and tagged his hand, and hit JBL with Sweet Chin Music, for the three count at 9'20.
Immediately after getting the win, Shawn was forced to duck an Undertaker big boot, and flee the ring, even running as The Undertaker
pursued him up the ramp. Shawn disappeared into the back but, as The Phenom looked back at their fallen opponents in the ring, HBK
came back out and floored him with the crescent kick, to a nice reaction from the crowd.

This match was about as good as it could be, given the participants, and the aftermath was certainly interesting. This is in some ways a
rehash of the Shawn/Cena build-up to WrestleMania 23, with Shawn playing the role of the antagonist in the good guy/good guy dynamic.
That HBK is a born antagonist only makes me wish that he'd do this kind of stuff more often, although his popularity makes it almost
impossible for him to play the villain on a full-time basis. Still, the progression of this angle has been handled about as well as any on
this year's Road to WrestleMania (better than most, in fact), and this turn of events, though slightly contrived, should give them enough
material to take them home.

This match was followed by a commercial for the new WWE Encyclopedia. This looks like it could be a good coffee table book, but I
wonder how accurate it will be, and what parts of history it will whitewash over.

Next, we were shown Vickie Guerrero pacing in her office, before she was joined by her husband, Edge. Vickie said that she didn't know
what to say (about her affair with the Big Show being revealed on last week's show), and commented that they haven't talked in a week.
Am I the only one who's noticed that every time these two are together, Vickie tells Edge how long it has been since they last spoke to
each other. I can't speak for anybody else, but I know when my wife and I return home from work, I don't greet her by informing her that we
haven't talked to each other since that morning. It's also interesting to note that, according to these expository announcements, Vickie and
Edge only ever see or talk to each other on Raw and SmackDown. That's no basis for a marriage. Anyway, Edge told Vickie to stop talking
(echoing the sentiments of wrestling fans everywhere), and that he forgives her for her indiscretion, to which Vickie replied that Show
forced himself on her, with his big hands (you know what they say about men with big hands). Edge told her that Show was just using her
to further his career, and that she fell for it. Show is a home wrecker, according to the Rated-R Superstar, and will pay. He then told her
that he blames John Cena for all of this. Vickie responded that if John Cena lays a hand on her, intentionally or not, in the main event
tonight, she will take him out of the match at WrestleMania. Here's an idea, Vickie- take him out of the match anyway. It's not like he's
holding anything over you anymore. The world's most disconnected married couple than shared a kiss.

To get the taste of that garbage out of my mouth, a recap was next shown of HHH's home invasion/horror movie audition angle from last
week, as it was announced that Hunter posted bail (and would be wrestling later in the show against Cody Rhodes), and that Randy
Orton didn't press charges. Quel surprise.

Backstage, Todd Grisham was joined by Legacy, and he asked Orton why he dropped the charges against Triple H. Good question.
Randy said that Triple H is an homicidal maniac, who broke into his house, scared the hell out of the TV crew (that bastard!), and
traumatized his wife, who will never be the same (reports are coming in that she now has a personality). Triple H, he told us, was
charged with assault with a deadly weapon, trespassing, breaking and entering, and aggravated assault, but he decided to drop the
charges because HHH would have paid his debt to society, but not to him. He told us that at WrestleMania, it will be Orton's law (a phrase
that Michael Cole repeated ad nauseum throughout the night), and that he will pass sentence on The Game by becoming the WWE
champion. So basically, everything Orton said about the no-touch rule, and if Triple H violated it he would spend WrestleMania in jail, was
nonsense. Well, you think you can take someone at their word, but apparently not...

--- Beth Phoenix, Layla and Jillian Hall Vs Kelly Kelly, Mickie James and Melina

Santino, who joined Cole and The King on commentary, and Rosa Mendes accompanied the heel team out for our next match, as the
build continues for the 25-Diva battle royal at WrestleMania. Mickie and Beth started us off, with Beth's power coming into play early. She
hit a snake eyes-like move on Mickie in the corner, and then locked on a dragon sleeper. Mickie fought out but was cut-off by a
shoulderblock, but when Beth missed an elbowdrop, Mickie was finally able to tag out, bringing the Women's Champion, Melina, in for
the hot tag at 1'40. Melina hit the handspring elbow off the ropes, made famous by Tajiri, on Beth (she's no Tajiri), and followed it up with
a dropkick (she's no person who can perform a dropkick), followed by a face jam for a 2 count. A seated senton from the second rope
followed, before Beth again used her superior power by hitting a nice backbreaker. Mickie came in to break up the pinfall attempt, but was
pulled out of the ring by Jillian and Layla for her trouble. Santino decided to leave his commentary position to assist his team, but was
met by a low kick from Mickie. This distraction, as Santino mugged it up, was enough to allow Melina to roll up Beth for the pin at 2'53. I'm
not sure why this was a 6-diva tag, as only Beth, Melina and Mickie got any ring time, and Kelly Kelly didn't do anything at all (one wonders
if the death of her ex-boyfriend, Test, was a factor in this decision, though surely if that were the case it would have been better to leave
her off the show completely).

A promo for 12 Rounds followed, and then it was time for Triple H against Cody Rhodes.

--- Triple H Vs Cody Rhodes

Cody came out alone for this match, but was soon followed out by stablemates, Orton and DiBiase. Rhodes was billed at 219lbs- I would
have thought WWE might work that up to 230 or something. With The Game distracted by Orton and DiBiase, Cody saw an opening for an
attack, but Hunter saw it coming, and took Rhodes down, then threw him out the ring, and introduced him to the whole gamut of ringside
weapons- the steps, security wall, ring apron, and announce table. Orton and DiBiase advanced on the ring, to which Hunter responded
by pulling out his trusty sledgehammer, which I'm sure must have some kind of phallic association for the Game. Back in the ring, HHH
hit Cody with the pedigree, and then looked up and summoned something down from the ceiling- a steel cage. Michael Cole and The
King hilariously acted like they had no idea that the cage was up there (Cole didn't even seem sure what it was), and Lawler even
proclaimed it one of the most clever things he's ever seen. He needs to get out more. Hunter backed Orton and DiBiase off with the
sledgehammer, before locking himself into the cage with Rhodes, at which point the opening bell rang- it was a set-up all along! Orton
and DiBiase tried to climb the sides of the cage, but Triple H used Rhodes' body, and at one point the sledgehammer, to knock them off.
He finally hit Cody in the face with the sledgehammer, and pinned him at 2'17. This sledgehammer shtick is so ludicrous and played out
that it doesn't even warrant talking about further. Orton and The Game then went face to face, separated by the cage, as Michael Cole told
us that The Cerebral Assassin had trumped Orton once again. And then, just in case we still weren't sure who the man in this feud was,
he reiterated by saying that Triple H has outsmarted Orton again.

This feud at one point had so much potential, and there have been a couple of moments where it seemed it might live up to that potential
(Triple H's initial run-out to tend to Stephanie, the introduction of the no-touch rule), but it has been derailed by so much stupidity and
nonsense, that I'm surprised anybody cares anymore. And it isn't just the silly home invasion and backstage chase scene that are to
blame for this. As Cole made sure to tell us twice, Hunter has continually, as is his wont, been portrayed as the superior man here, both
physically and mentally, that Orton just comes across as weak, and stupid, and as having no chance to beat The Game at WrestleMania.
I didn't think things could get worse than Orton being dominated by Shane McMahon, but apparently I was wrong.

We were next shown footage of Ric Flair arriving in a limo earlier in the night.

More match action next as Rey Mysterio came out to face Dolph Ziggler. A couple of months ago Ziggler was getting a push, then he just
disappeared from TV. The guy seems to have talent, so I hope they build him back up again after WrestleMania. As for Rey, it was
announced during this match that he has challenged JBL for an Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania.

--- Rey Mysterio Vs Dolph Ziggler

The match began with Ziggler offering his hand to Rey, who slapped it away contemptuously. That's not nice. Ziggler took it to Rey with an
armbar, into a short arm clothesline, followed by a powerslam and elbowdrops, attempting a pin by putting his foot in Mysterio's face.
Dolph then tried to wear Rey down with a full nelson (very rare that we see this used as a rest hold, and it sure beats the facelock), but
Rey countered with a jaw japper. Mysterio then hurricanrana'd Dolph into the ringpost, allowing Cole to get his 'vintage' in, and followed it
up with a seated senton, hurricanrana, 619, and a nice splash from the top rope, for the win after only 2'15.

Chris Jericho came out next, ready to wrestle, and I was hopeful that something was going to happen to save this show from mediocrity.
Jericho grabbed the mic and said that thanks to Flair he won't be at WrestleMania, so tonight is his WrestleMania. He said that it's
obvious that Flair can't stay on the sidelines, and that he is a joke, a coward, and a has-been. He continued by saying that he is giving
him a chance to return to the spotlight and enjoy the adulation of the hypocrites. That brought Flair out, suited and booted, who said that
although he knows that he can beat Jericho, he's retired, and he won't tarnish the great send-off that he got last year. Let's hope that Flair
sticks to that promise. He went on to say that while he can't wrestle him, he's found some men that can, and out came Jimmy Snuka,
Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper, all recent victims of Jericho attacks. The four of them made their way to the ring, and surrounded
Jericho, but before they could get their hands on him, Jericho fled to ringside. Flair was waiting for him though, and got in a stiff-looking
right, before Jericho escaped to the back. I'll come back to this in a moment.

A video package of WrestleMania 15 was shown next, featuring Bart Gunn's boxing match with Butterbean, and The Rock Vs Austin. If
only we had a Rock/Austin level match at this year's show.

So, back to Jericho, and he was being questioned by Todd Grisham in the back. Grisham asked if Jericho was embarrassed by what
happened, and Jericho asked why he would be embarrassed about being jumped by four men. He then said the words that look to have
shattered my hopes of a big pay-off to what, in fairness, has been a fantastic angle; Jericho challenged Steamboat, Snuka and Piper to a
match at WrestleMania. Yes, the blow-off match to this angle is going to be a handicap match against three largely-immobile 50+ year-
old, men. Of the three, only Steamboat holds any intrigue, as he hasn't wrestled since his retirement back in 1994. But still, this is hardly
the match I, and I assume everyone else, was hoping for. Jericho also invited Flair to be in the legends' corner, and told Mickey Rourke,
who he called the man who started all of this, that he was going to buy him a front-row seat. He then said that, unlike Rourke's movie 'The
Wrestler', there would be no ambiguous ending to this match- he is going to put the legends out of their misery. I have to believe that this
isn't what WWE intended from the onset of this storyline. I'm sure Rourke, Hogan and Austin were all, at some point, penciled in to be
Jericho's opponent, and I'm still hopeful that there's another twist to come. We know that Austin is going to be at the show, so it's still
possible that he'll play a part in this. As it stands though, this was a very disappointing announcement, and I don't see how, if this is the
match we get at 'mania, it can be any good.
When we returned to the arena, Christian, Finlay and, annoyingly, Hornswoggle were mic'd up for commentary, as a 6-man tag match- a
preview of the Money in the Bank ladder match- got underway.

--- CM Punk, MVP and Kofi Kingston Vs Kane, Mark Henry and Shelton Benjamin

Kofi and Benjamin started the match, and Benjamin took control with his strength, before tagging in Mark Henry. Henry hit some
headbutts on Kofi, but the Jamaican managed to tag in MVP, and the two of them rocked the big man with a double dropkick. Kane
tagged in and laid into MVP with punches, before Porter drop toe holed him into the middle turnbuckle. He then hit him with a big boot in
the corner, which brought all six men in for a face off as we went to break at 2'20. Three minutes later and we returned with Kofi being
bent backwards over Kane's knee. Kofi used some knees to escape the move, but Kane hit a big sideslam for a near fall. Benjamin
came in and hit a belly to belly suplex on Kofi before applying an abdominal stretch, as Finlay and Christian ruminated on who would win
Money in the Bank, with Christian calling Hornswoggle, who had been grunting throughout the match, a dirty little freak. Kofi fought out of
the abdominal stretch and gave the tag to Punk, last year's winner, who went through his repertoire on Benjamin; springboard
clothesline, leg lariat, kneelift/bulldog combo. Kane broke up the following pin attempt, as all six men re-entered the ring. Kofi took Kane
out with a hurricanrana, MVP low bridged Henry out, and then, after MVP badly botched a reverse hotshot attempt on Benjamin (MVP didn't
grab a hold of Benjamin properly, but Shelton still took the bump), Punk hit the GTS for the three on the Gold Standard after 8'36. After the
match, Punk and MVP argued over who would win the ladder match at 'mania. This match was nothing more than a decent distraction to
keep the Money in the Bank match in people's minds.

Another 12 Rounds promo was next, as we were invited to get to know John Cena's girlfriend in the movie, Molly. No thanks.

Back in Vickie's office, and the interim GM, wearing her referee's shirt, was joined by the Big Show. She asked Show what he was doing
there, and Show asked her if she believes what Edge told her earlier. She said that he's using her, but Show reminded her that it was
she who pursued him. He told Vickie that he's anatomically superior to Edge (that must be those big hands that Vickie mentioned
before), but Vickie says that that isn't the point. Show responds by telling her that it's Edge who is using her, and that he's the one who
really loves her. He'll prove it, he says, and the two kiss, before Show tells her that she looks sexy in her ref's shirt, and leaves.

Triple H is seen next in the parking lot, with Grisham following him trying to find out who he got Vickie to co-operate in his erudite steel
cage plan. Hunter didn't answer, but instead gets into his car, in which we see Stephanie waiting for him. The two drive off.

Vickie came out next for the main event.

--- Edge Vs John Cena

Edge and Cena locked up, with Edge gaining the advantage with a headlock, Cena countering with an armdrag and an armbar. Edge
used punches to escape the move, but Cena fought back, hitting a fisherman suplex and going for a cover. Vickie, predictably, refused to
count. Cena confronted Vickie, which allowed Edge to attack him from behind. He threw Cena over the top rope at the 2'00 minute and
then followed up by slamming his head into the announce table, and Irish whipping him into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Edge went
for a spear, but Cena moved, sending Edge into the corner. Cena was back on the offensive with some flying shoulderblocks and a back
suplex into a slam. He then went for the 5-knuckle shuffle, but Vickie lay atop her husband, stopping Cena dead in his tracks. However,
as soon as Vickie moved, Cena hit the blow anyway, and then lifted the World Heavyweight Champion onto his shoulders for the F-U.
Vickie pulled Edge down, so Cena locked on the STFU instead. With Vickie trying to pry Cena off Edge, The Big Show's music hit, and the
World's Largest Athlete lumbered out. Cena met Show with punches, but Edge attacked him from behind and the two love rivals double
teamed Cena, tying him up in the ropes, where Edge hit a spear and The Big Show hit several big punches. Vickie stood over Cena and
slapped him. Just when it seemed that Edge and Big Show were on the same page, Edge connected with a spear on Show, and that's
how we ended the night. I guess that last match was a no-contest.

This Raw was another stutter-step on the Road to WrestleMania. The pay-off came in the Jericho-legends angle but, like Rourke's
character Randy the Ram in The Wrestler, we got stiffed! The three legends that Jericho will be in the ring with just don't cut the mustard
after the weeks of build-up we've had. The Orton/Triple H situation failed to recover from last week's fiasco, and the lunacy continued
unabated in the World Heavyweight Title picture. Notice how little the title actually means in both of these feuds? There is currently
nothing on this WrestleMania card to get me interested in the show and, with only three weeks and two RAWs left, I can't see that
changing. WWE, please do something to make this WrestleMania special- give us the pay-off we deserve for putting up with all this
nonsense.

MVP of the night – Ric Flair. He was only on screen for a few minutes, but absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder.

Line of the night – There were a few classics this week, but Michael Cole's incredulous "What in the... Is that a steel cage?" has to take
the cake.

The Michael Cole 'Vintage' Moment of the Night- Rey Mysterio hurricanrana-ing Dolph Ziggler into the corner.