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All rights reserved.
September 28, 2009
– Adam Russell

Gauntlet of Crap

On last week’s show it was decided that WWE champion, John Cena, would have to run the gauntlet this week, facing the tag team
champions, Chris Jericho and Big Show, and the number one contender to his championship, Randy Orton. Following two or three
weeks of shockingly acceptable output from the Raw brand, the optimist in me was hoping for a good show to go home to the Hell in a
Cell pay-per-view. Alas, I am a cynic at heart, and so wasn’t disappointed when the gauntlet match, and Raw in general, proved to be
a greatest hits compilation of everything I feel is wrong with this company.

This week’s Raw started with MVP and Mark Henry in the ring for the VIP Lounge, with the guest being the show’s guest host,
Reverend Al Sharpton. MVP introduced Sharpton, but it was Chris Jericho and the Big Show who came out, with Jericho criticising MVP
for the lacklustre introduction he was giving to Sharpton. Jericho and MVP then tried to one-up each other by listing Sharpton’s
accomplishments, which was noticeable for the fact that the fans were already booing the good reverend. Sharpton finally came out,
greeting favourably by all four wrestlers, and nobody else, and talked about his education reform tour. MVP said that they need reform on
Raw, meaning that he and Mark Henry want a tag team championship match. Jericho responded that they don’t deserve another title
match any more than the fans deserve to see somebody of Sharpton’s stature and, besides, they’re already competing tonight.
He went on that the fans don’t deserve to be educated, or even have the right to vote. Sharpton decided to give the fans their voice,
and they resoundingly voted in favour of the tag match, with Sharpton saying the match will start next.

This opening segment was better than I expected it to be, barring the over the top praise given to Sharpton by both Jericho and MVP. It
was unbelievable that Jericho would be putting him over so much, given his past relationship with the guest hosts, and just came across
as a cheap, and failed, attempt to get Sharpton a babyface reaction. For his part though, Sharpton performed well here, having good
natural delivery. It certainly wasn’t the bust it could have been.

--- Tag Team Championship Match- The Big Show and Chris Jericho (champions) Vs MVP and Mark Henry

MVP and Jericho started off, with Jericho grabbing MVP in a headlock, and then knocking him down with a shoulderblock. Jericho picked
up a two count with a Northern Lights suplex, and then the two exchanged covers before MVP took Jericho down with a clothesline. Henry
tagged in and headbutted Jericho, then sending him across the ring with a big hiptoss. Jericho ducked out of the ring, tagging in Show,
and the two big men locked up. Henry pushed Show back into the corner, but Show came back with a kick and punches. He tried running
in with an avalanche, but Henry impressively caught him in mid-air and slammed him back into the corner. He knocked him down with a
clothesline, and tagged in MVP, who rocked Show with a couple of clotheslines of his own and facebuster. He tried to hit a big boot in the
corner, but ran into a clothesline, and Show tagged in Jericho who applied a facelock. MVP punched out of the move and hit a clothesline,
after a miscommunication, for a two count. Jericho kicked MVP  and tagged Show back in, who took MVP down with a side headlock. He
released the hold to hit a powerslam. Jericho came back in with an elbow, but missed a Lionsault, allowing MVP to tag in Henry. Henry
knocked Jericho down with a clothesline, knocked the Big Show off the apron, and then Gorilla slammed Jericho onto Show on the
outside. Show caught Jericho, and we went to commercial with a stand-off 7’31 into the match. We came back 11’04 in, with
Henry splashing Jericho in the corner and picking up a two count. He sent him to the ropes, where Show blindly tagged in, and took him
down with a body check, but Show speared Henry and laid into him with elbowdrops and a splash. Show then locked on a sloppy
armbar, which Henry fought out of before eating a DDT. Jericho tagged in and hit a cheap shot on MVP before locking a poorly-executed
sleeper on Henry. Henry backed Jericho into the corner, but Jericho took him down with a drop toe hold and tagged Show back in. Show
sent Henry to the ropes, but the two collided with a double clothesline, and that gave Henry the opportunity to tag in MVP, while Show
tagged in Jericho. MVP exploded on Jericho with an Owen Hart throw, clothesline and big boot for a two count, and then a jumping
clothesline and the Ballin’ elbow for another nearfall. He then set Jericho up for the Playmaker, but Show broke it up, bringing in
Henry to body block Show out of the ring. Jericho responded by dropkicking Henry to the outside, only for MVP to roll him up for a
scintillating close nearfall. Jericho reversed an irishwhip and went for a hiptoss, but MVP landed on his feet and hit a DDT for another
two. He then hit the ropes, but Show caught him with a clubbing blow, allowing Jericho to hit the Codebreaker and pick up the win at 18â

There was a lot to like about this match, mainly the fact that the competitors were given the time to build the drama, which the fans
responded to. However, there were also several blown spots throughout, all of which occurring with MVP and Jericho in the ring, and
some inconsistent selling. Faults aside, eighteen plus minutes for an opening match on Raw- any match on Raw- is hard to complain
about, and if only the rest of the show had been up to this standard.

In the back, Primo was telling Al Sharpton that he is an inspiration to all minorities. Hornswoggle then ran in, being chased by Chavo
Guerrero. Chavo apologised to Sharpton (all the wrestlers love this guy), and introduced Chris Masters as his tag team partner for the
night. Santino then came in, compared Chavo and Masters to the Geico cavemen, and confused Sharpton with Don King and Richard
Roundtree. He and Hornswoggle were revealed as Chavo and Masters’ opponents. Sharpton then cleared everyone from the office,
and Primo welcomed him to Raw. This poor attempt at humour was, of course, greeted with hysterics from Michael Cole, but again, itâ
€™s fair to say that Sharpton’s performance raised the quality of the skit.

Elsewhere in the back, Josh Matthews was with Randy Orton. Orton said that John Cena won’t survive tonight’s gauntlet match,
but if he does, he stands to lose more than his championship at Hell in a Cell. It was basically a completely unnecessary promo.

--- Mickie James Vs Rosa Mendes (w/Alicia Fox)

Remember that Mickie James/Gail Kim match from a few weeks ago? The worst match of the year? Well, this one blows it out of the
water. Mickie started with a headlock takedown, which Rosa countered with a head scissors, before Mickie kicked out. Mickie then
armdragged  Rosa, but Rosa came back with a knee and sent her into the corner. Here the fun began, as Mickie tried to float over Rosa,
but didn’t make it over the top of her. She gave her a kick, and signalled for her DDT, but a scream from Fox, the number one
contender to Mickie’s Divas Championship, caused a distraction. Mickie hit a neckbreaker for a two count, before Rosa slammed the
back of her head into the mat. She gave Mickie some kicks and then locked on an arm surfboard, which Mickie fought out of. Rosa
shoved Mickie to the corner, and buried her shoulder into her back. Mickie came back with an elbow, a hurricanrana and a clothesline,
before badly botching a Thesz press. Fox climbed onto the apron at that point, but Mickie grabbed her, dodged Rosa’s charge, and
picked up the win with the Mick Kick at 3’35. Rosa should not be in a ring.

Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase came out next, to cut a promo on their upcoming Hell in a Cell match with D-X. It was a good promo as
well, putting over Triple H and Shawn Michaels as all-time greats, and talking about this being potentially the greatest win of their
careers. All that was spoiled though, when D-X, in the crowd, began chanting ‘boring’ at them, with Triple H calling them assholes.
They then headed to the ring to fight, but Legacy left through the crowd. Hunter said they wouldn’t be able to run on Sunday. I was fine
with the idea behind Legacy taking the high road for the evening, setting up the idea that there would be no escape in the cell match, but
the execution of the angle made them out to be cowards, not to mention saps for putting D-X over so strong, with Shawn and Hunter just
turning it into a comedy segment. A shame, because this feud has been the best thing on Raw in the past month.

--- Jack Swagger Vs Evan Bourne

Swagger came out wearing the United States Championship belt that he stole from Kofi Kingston last week, and immediately took the
fight to Bourne, countering a hurricanrana into a backbreaker. He then slammed his knee into the mat and applied a leglock. Evan
reached the ropes, but Swagger kicked him to the outside. Bourne came back with a kick of his own, and picked up a nearfall with a roll-
up. He then hit a spinning kick and a low dropkick, and then a clothesline with Swagger down on his knees, picking up a two count.
Swagger quickly went for the gutwrench  powerbomb, but Bourne landed on the top rope, and hit a pair of flying double knees to
Swagger. He went back up top, jumped over Swagger’s charge and went for a headscissors takedown, but Swagger held on and
slammed Bourne down with a power bomb, picking up the win at 3’01. After the match, Swagger said that on Sunday he will officially
become the All American American US Champion, which brought out one of his opponents in the triple threat match, The Miz, out. Miz
said that he is the draft pick who has made the most impact on Raw, and he is the next US champion, but Swagger wouldn’t even
look at him. Miz slapped Swagger and the two started to brawl, and while they were, Kofi Kingston, the actual US Champion, came out
and took his belt back. The Swagger/Bourne match was short, but fine. The ‘stealing the belt’ angle has just made everyone
involved look stupid.

--- Santino Marella and Hornswoggle Vs Chavo Guerrero and Chris Masters

Santino and Chavo were legal to start, and Santino got the edge with a headlock, and then took Chavo down with a shoulderblock. Chavo
came back with a kick, and slammed Santino’s head into the corner, before tagging in the Masterpiece. Masters dominated Santino
with a powerslam, and then handed him back over to Chavo. Chavo tried to slam Santino’s head into the corner, but Santino blocked,
doing the same to Chavo. He then sent Chavo to the ropes and gave him a hiptoss. Masters had blindly tagged himself in by this point
though, and clamped the Masterlock on Santino to get the duke at 2’21. After the match, Masters got his hands on Hornswoggle, and
applied the Masterlock on him. Chavo at first egged Masters on, but then seemed to think that Masters had gone too far, finally giving him
a punch to break the hold before leaving the ring confused. It looks like WWE are going the babyface route with Chavo here, similar to the
Eugene/William Regal dynamic from a few years ago. I’m not sure if, by this time, anybody will care.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler ran down the Hell in a Cell card from the ring next, before it was into the back for more bad comedy.

Al Sharpton was thanking the WWE for having him as guest host, when he was interrupted by Jillian. She noted that he used to be tour
manager for James Brown, and asked him to perform the same duty for her, giving him a rendition of ‘Living In America’ to
convince him. Sharpton declined. The Bellas then came in and asked him to sing for them, and Sharpton got one last plug in for his
education reform tour, and then sang a couple of lines of ‘I Feel Good’.

Gauntlet time.

--- John Cena Vs Chris Jericho

Cena took Jericho down with a headlock, and then a drop toe hold, going for the STF. Jericho kicked Cena off and knocked him down
with a clothesline. He sent the WWE champion to the ropes and caught him with an elbow for a one count, and grounded him with a
facelock. Cena worked his way up, but Jericho knocked him back down and hit a slingshot against the bottom rope. He then charged at
Cena in the corner, but Cena moved, sending him shoulder-first into the ring post. Cena came back with his flying shoulderblocks, a
back suplex into a slam, and then the five knuckle shuffle, to mostly boos. He went for the FU, but Jericho countered into the Walls of
Jericho and, refusing to break when Cena grabbed the ropes, was disqualified after 3’19. Indeed, Jericho continued to wrench back
on the hold for the next two or three minutes, until Big Show came out for part two of the gauntlet. So far, so perfect booking.

--- John Cena Vs The Big Show

With Cena a broken down mess, Show had his way with him with body shots as we hit the break 34 seconds in. We returned at 3’28,
with Show delivering more body shots (presumably he hadn’t been doing that all during the commercial break), and then he applied
a bearhug. Cena managed to break the hold, but Show gave him a kneelift, and then went for the chokeslam. Cena though countered the
move into a DDT, and then picked Show up for the FU, with Jericho knocking him down from behind to cause another DQ at 5’51.
The tag champs then double teamed Cena, with Show locking on his version of the camel clutch. Apart from Cena lifting Show up with
ease for the FU, despite the assumed damage done to his back by the Walls of Jericho, the booking here was fine, as it set up Randy
Orton to come in and pick the bones of the champion, making a statement leading into Hell in a Cell. Or so one would think.

--- John Cena Vs Randy Orton

Orton couldn’t have been any slower getting to the ring, as Cena struggled up to his feet. When Orton finally did get into the ring,
Cena pointed to the ceiling, and the cell which was above the ring to promote the pay-per-view began to lower. Suddenly, everything
changed. Orton went from being understandably confident, to looking like he got dropped into a lion cage covered in pork chops. Cena,
on the other hand, had now seemingly shrugged off all the effects of the beating he took in the previous two matches. Orton tried to run
out of the cell, but it lowered too quickly, and Cole informed us that Cena had outsmarted him. What? So Cena’s plan all along was
to get the crap beat out of him by the tag team champions, all to lull Orton into a false sense of security so that he could eventually trap
him in the cell. That’s some plan. Orton then noticed that the door to the cell was still open. Cena blocked the way, and the two
exchanged punches until they both fell out of the door. So, the idea of Orton being trapped in the cell, stupid though it was, went out the
window after about 10 seconds. Now outside the cell, Cena picked Orton up for the FU, but Orton began to climb up the side of the cell.
Cena very slowly followed him up- I’m not sure if he was selling the beatdown, or if he’s just a really bad climber. This being
Cena, I’m guessing the latter. Anyway, the two exchanged punches on top of the cell, before Cena hit the FU, leaving him lying atop
the steel.

Now, this was a pretty cool visual, no doubt, but there were just so many things wrong with this whole segment that that doesn’t even
matter. They had the perfect story- Cena getting beat down by three men, the odds stacked against him, giving Orton the rub before the
pay-per-view. As it is, all we got was the same old Cena nonsense. I couldn’t care less about anything involving this man anymore,
because no matter what is thrown at him, he just can not be beat. And who wants to see that? Not I.

This was a bad Raw before that ending and, to me, that made it one of the worst in recent memory. Between that, the terrible divas
match, the horrendous comedy stuff, and the stupid US championship storyline (and even the one good match on the show featured
some badly blown spots), this episode is the poster boy for why this show has been so bad for so long.

MVP of the night- Mark Henry. He was in that good opening match and, unlike the other three guys, didn’t blow anything.

Host-o-metre- Al Sharpton did well. In many ways, he was the best performer of the night, and I certainly wasn’t expecting that.

The Michael Cole ‘Vintage’ Moment of the Night- Cena’s flying shoulderblocks. Again. Get it together, Cole.