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January 18, 2010
– Adam Russell

Total Non-stop Embarrassment

With the recent arrival in TNA of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, there has been a lot of talk recently, in wrestling circles, about the
possibility of a return to the ‘glory days of wrestling’. TNA can become a genuine alternative to the WWE, they say, and in turn, the WWE
will improve their product, thriving under the pressure of competition as they did during the late 1990’s. The problem is, after watching
last night’s Raw, I’m convinced that whoever is writing this show has absolutely no idea how to put on a wrestling show. I’ve heard all the
arguments about this being the age of ‘sports-entertainment’, about how real wrestling died with the territories, but I don’t buy it. The then-
WWF was calling its product sports-entertainment during the 80’s with Hogan on top, but it still resembled a wrestling show. What we
have now is so far removed from anything I recognise as wrestling, that I just don’t know if it’s ever going to go back to the way it was.

Now, none of this is to say that this was the worst Raw ever, although I’m so disillusioned with the product that you can expect this report
to be bleaker than a Bergman film. Nor am I completely down on the company as a whole- I’m a big fan of ECW, to a lesser extent
Smackdown, and I still enjoy watching a lot of the talent on the roster. But Mondays have become a sad wasteland for all the moronic
garbage that it used to be fairly easy to ignore, or just brush over. The problems with this show are so deeply ingrained that I honestly
believe it might not only be the worst wrestling show on TV, but the worst show period, on a week-to-week basis. In short, it’s
embarrassing.

We got underway with what actually turned out to be the best thing on the show, as Vince McMahon made his way out to talk about the
Bret Hart situation. Vince said that life is all about making decisions, and he made the decision to never allow Bret back in the WWE. He
did it for the fans, he continued, who want to remember Bret as the excellence of execution, not for what he has become- a humble old
warhorse who needs putting down. Vince then compared Bret to a piece of gum, explaining that he chewed him up and then spat him out
when he lost his flavour. He then blamed the fans for the decision, saying that they always want bigger and better. Vince clearly had more
to say, but was interrupted by the Undertaker, who was scheduled to appear to answer Shawn Michaels’ many pleas for a Wrestlemania
rematch. McMahon meekly told Undertaker that he hadn’t finished, but ‘Taker told him it was his time now, before telling him that he saw
fear in his eyes twelve years ago in Montreal, and he sees it again now, insinuated that Vince is scared of Bret. Vince ‘respectfully
disagreed’, and then shuffled off, leaving ‘Taker to address Michaels. The Dead Man said that stubbornness, anger and denial aren’t just
traits found in Vince McMahon, but also in Shawn Michaels. He said that he wanted to give Shawn an answer personally, so out came
HBK. ‘Taker told Shawn that another meeting between the two will only end in more disappointment for him, and said that since he has
nothing more to prove to him, the answer is no. That, unsurprisingly, got a fair amount of boos. ‘Taker went on that if Shawn is convinced
he can beat him, he’ll give him the opportunity tonight. Now it was Shawn’s turn to play spoiler, as he explained that he is only interested
in ending the Wrestlemania streak, and told him that he will enter and win the Royal Rumble match, and then take the streak, and the
Undertaker’s World Heavyweight Championship at ‘Mania.

As I mentioned, this was the highlight of the show. The segue from the Vince-Bret situation to the ‘Taker-Michaels situation was well-
done, and the possible merging of the two angles is intriguing. This left many questions unanswered, and gave the company a great
opportunity to layer a story based on strong, believable characters (yes, I described The Undertaker as believable) that the fans care
about. It’s hard to predict where we go from here, but it’s going to be interesting as the story unfolds.

--- Sheamus Vs Evan Bourne

Randy Orton, the number one contender to Sheamus’s WWE championship, made his way onto the stage at the beginning of this match,
presumably to scout his opponent. Sheamus powered Bourne back into the corner, and took him down with a shoulderblock, but then
stopped to watch as Orton made his way to ringside. That gave Bourne a chance to get back into the match with some kicks, and gain a
two count with the flying knees off the top rope. However, Sheamus came straight back with a urinagi backbreaker, pump kick, and the
Razor’s Edge, picking up the win at 1’53. Afterwards, Orton climbed into the ring and he and Sheamus had a staredown, with Sheamus
holding his championship belt up in Orton’s face.

We cut to D-X in the back next, and Triple H told Shawn that he had something to tell him, but was interrupted by co-guest host Don
Johnson walking by. Don, apparently, was looking for the other guest host, Jon Heder. Apparently, Johnson and Heder made a film
together recently, which explains the odd pairing. Triple H mentioned that Heder is an idiot, hinting at some heat between the two which
was never explained, and then Johnson thought he’d found Heder. It turned out to be Carlito dressed as Napoleon Dynamite, in the
name of ‘comedy’. Carlito is never going to be anything other than an object of ridicule in this company, it seems.

Speaking of objects of ridicule, Jack Swagger came out next, making another over the top rope challenge (he lost one to Santino last
week). Santino came out dressed as Crockett, Don Johnson’s Miami Vice character, and introduced Mark Henry as Swagger’s opponent.

--- Over the top rope challenge- Jack Swagger Vs Mark Henry

Swagger’s clubs to Henry had no effect, and the World’s Strongest Man picked up his opponent and gorilla slammed him over the top
rope in 30 seconds.

I can’t for the life of me understand the logic in not only not pushing certain people, but in making them look so stupid and ineffective that
they never have a chance to get over again. People like Carlito, and at this rate Swagger, have no worth to the company, because people
have been trained not to care about them to the point that they can’t even use them to put other people over. This kind of incompetence
should absolutely not be tolerated, but it seems to be encouraged here.

In the back, Jon Heder finally arrived, in a limo and with the Bella twins in tow. Heder, playing the Hollywood big-shot, talked to someone
else inside the limo, but we didn’t see who it was.

After the break, Heder and Johnson made their way to the ring, and it was soon established that Johnson was playing face, and Heder
heel. The fans didn’t seem to care. Johnson announced that D-X would be in the main event, to which Heder, speaking for me for one,
responded that he wanted something new. At that point, he introduced his ’good friend’ The Miz. Miz mentioned that Heder had entered
him into the rumble match, and then made a comparison between Tubbs (from Miami Vice) and MVP, insinuating that both were in the
shadows of superior men (Crockett and, erm, him). MVP then came out and apologised to the fans for this nonsense (his words, and boy
did we deserve that apology), and then announced that he’s in the rumble too, and if he does nothing else (which he won’t) he’ll
eliminate the Miz. It looked like Miz and MVP were going to square off, but the Big Show came out and delivered a knock-out punch to
MVP, and then announced that he and Heder have the same agent. Heder then made D-X Vs Miz and Show in the main event.

This was the second long, talking segment of the show and it was mostly bad. To be fair, Heder and Johnson did okay in their roles,
particularly the former as the self-deluded heel. This was probably because they’re professional actors, compared to all the amateurs we’
re usually used to seeing. The problem is, neither of them are relevant to the WWE’s core audience, so everything fell flat. I like to believe
the fans want actual wrestling rather than this guest host crap week after week, but I’m not totally confident in saying that.

--- John Cena and Kofi Kingston Vs Legacy

Perhaps the highlight of the night was Jerry Lawler mistakenly calling Randy Orton ‘Randy Savage’ during a recap of last week’s triple
threat match in which Orton beat Cena and Kofi. Less humorous was Michael Cole bleating on about Kofi being on a role, despite all the
clean jobs he’s done to Orton in recent weeks. Cena dominated early on, hitting a bulldog on Ted DiBiase, before Ted hit back with a kick
and Legacy briefly worked over him with punches and kicks. Ted hit a clothesline, and then a couple of fistdrops, but missed a third
allowing Cena to tag in Kofi. Kofi hit a dropkick and a jumping clothesline, and then the B cubed. He signalled for Trouble in Paradise, but
Dibiase backed off, and a distraction from Cody Rhodes allowed Ted to hit a clothesline. We went to break at 3’58 and returned at 6’49 to
see Cody hitting a sweet dropkick on Kofi. He then executed a powerslam, but missed a kneedrop. The tag to Cena was cut off, and
Legacy continued the pressure until Kofi countered a facelock from DiBiase into first a jaw japper and then a back suplex, finally making
the hot tag to Cena. Rhodes also tagged in, but ate the flying shoulders, back suplex slam and five knuckle shuffle. Cody blocked an FU
attempt with elbows and hit a side Russian legsweep, but Cena blocked a bulldog and hit the FU. Dibiase broke the pinfall attempt, but
Cena tagged Kofi, who came off the top with a high cross body block to pick up the pin at 10’56. The caveat here was that Dibiase saw
the cross body coming and ducked for cover, leaving Rhodes to take the blow. Cody was visibly annoyed with Dibiase because of this,
and left ringside alone. So, it seems like the break-up of Legacy has begun in earnest, and the split seems to be between Rhodes and
DiBiase initially, rather than between DiBiase and Orton as everyone expected. If it continues to go this way, DiBiase’s programme with
Orton, which would be a top of the card programme, suddenly becomes a programme with Rhodes in the midcard, with the chances of
him breaking out as a star lessened, though by no means impossible. I expect this to come to a head in the rumble match, with one
eliminating the other.

In the back we saw Heder psyching up Miz and Show for their match until Hornswoggle came in. Triple H then entered and said that
Hornswoggle doesn’t like Heder. This resulted in Triple H suggesting the main event be changed into a six-man pitting Show, Miz and
Heder against D-X and Hornswoggle. Just what this Raw was missing- Hornswoggle in action.

--- Maryse and Alicia Fox Vs Eve Torres and Gail Kim

These are the four ladies who will make up the semi-finals of the divas championship tournament, and if this match was anything to go
by, the remainder of that tournament should be quite a treat for the senses. This was an early candidate for worst match of the year.
Maryse and Kim started off, and Kim hit a nice missile dropkick, before a distraction by Fox  resulted in her being beat down on the
outside. Maryse hit a urinagi backbreaker, and Fox followed up with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but Kim finally made the hot tag to Eve. Eve
came in and threw a dropkick that missed Fox by a good foot. Alicia, of course, sold it anyway. Eve’s next dropkick attempt was a mess,
but at least she connected. I don’t know what it is, but why can’t WWE divas throw dropkicks? Why do they even try them. Eve, Michelle
McCool, and Kelly Kelly have all featured dropkicks heavily in their repertoire, and they all have terrible execution. You’d think someone
would take them aside and tell them this, or at least teach them how to throw the back-bump-style dropkick popularised by Manami
Toyota, and which Gail Kim uses. Regardless, the match continued, and Eve got a tap-out win over Fox with a code red armbar after 2’51.
It’s no surprise when a diva match is this bad, but it doesn’t have to be that way. WWE constantly brings in women with no experience in
wrestling, and throws them straight into the ring on live television. Some of these women, like Eve and Maryse, have plenty of personality
and aptitude for performance that they could be used effectively in other positions, at least while they hone their wrestling skills in
developmental. Stuff like this is just embarrassing to watch.

We saw Don Johnson in the back talking to Kelly Kelly next, interrupted by Jon Heder who was nervous about this match. Miz and the Big
Show then came in and told Heder that they will do all the heavy lifting in the main event. They then presented him with a Ric Flair-style
robe, emblazoned with ‘The Flame’ on the back.

Over to Vince McMahon next, talking to Triple H. Vince asserted that he isn’t a coward, and threatened to call the Undertaker out next week
to prove it. Triple H responded that Vince should just let it go, as he should have done with Bret. He told Vince that he’s backed himself
into a corner with Hart as, if he brings him back, it will just be making him a bigger star, but if he doesn’t call him out, Vince looks like a
coward. Personally, I’d love to see Bret and Triple H interact in some way.

--- Randy Orton Vs Chris Masters (w/Eve)

As Orton had done earlier, Sheamus came out to scout his Royal Rumble opponent. Masters muscled Orton in the early going, even
going for an early Masterlock, which was blocked. Orton took over with the backbreaker a la Orton, and then went for the RKO. However,
Masters countered into the Masterlock, and had the hold applied for some time before Orton finally made it to the ropes. The Viper then
hit an RKO out of nowhere for the pin at 2’41. I can’t tell you how much I hate the ’finisher out of nowhere’ finish to matches, especially
when the person performing the move has just been in a supposedly killer submission move for several moments. This just strikes me
as incredibly lazy and unimaginative. After the match, Sheamus took Orton down with a pump kick and then stood over him. It looks like
we may be heading for an Orton babyface turn, or at least that Orton will be playing the babyface in this programme. That makes sense,
seeing as Orton is way more over and respected by the crowd than big Sheamus.

--- D-Generation X and Hornswoggle (w/Don Johnson) Vs The Big Show, The Miz, and Jon ’The Flame’ Heder  

We joined this match in progress, with Shawn Michaels hitting the flying forearm on Miz. Miz hit back with a backbreaker, and then tagged
in Show. Show hit a side suplex and brought Miz back in, and he and Shawn downed each other with a double clothesline. Hornswoggle
tagged himself in and dropkicked the grounded Miz, but then ran into a clothesline. Miz then tagged in Heder, who took off his robe to
reveal his scrawny, pasty body. It’s worth mentioning that Heder was great as the comedy heel here. He kicked Hornswoggle to the mat,
but was soon the recipient of a bite to the arse. Hornswoggle then tagged in Triple H, and Heder’s attempts to escape the ring were
foiled by Don Johnson. Heder took a punch to the face, which brought Show into the ring. This, though, brought in Michaels, who hit
Sweet Chin Music on Show, with the giant landing on Heder. Shawn then Sweet Chinned Miz off the apron, and Hornswoggle delivered
the tadpole splash to the Heder/Show pile, pinning Heder at 4’46. This was mildly entertaining as a comedy match, mainly due to Heder,
but just felt like a retread of what we’ve been seeing for weeks on end.

Triple H got on the mic after the match, and finally looked like he was going to tell Shawn Michaels what he wanted to say earlier. He said
that going after the Undertaker’s championship isn’t going to work out, but then had to stall for several moments without saying anything
until John Cena’s music hit, and Cena headed out. This kind of miscue seems to be happening increasingly often lately, and comes
across very unprofessional. Cena said that he had a major announcement to make, that being that he was entered into the Royal
Rumble match. King acted like this was some major revelation, despite the fact that he and Cole mentioned it earlier during the tag
match. The Big Show then staggered back into the ring and said that he too is going to be in the rumble match. He then attacked D-X, but
Cena knocked him out of the ring with a flying shoulderblock. D-X then threw Cena over the top rope, before finally Hunter threw Shawn
over, revealing that he is also in the rumble.

So, as I said, not the worst Raw ever, but it seemed like every single segment had at least one example of what I perceive to be wrong
with this company. A lot of the stuff they do is inexcusable, especially as I believe there are a lot of talented men and women working for
this company. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be working in the right places.

MVP of the night- The Undertaker. He came in and partook in the best segment of the night. I would have split the award between he and
Michaels, but Shawn got all bent out of shape by Cena coming out too late after the main, which was really childish.

Line of the night- Jerry Lawler namedropping Randy Savage. Oh yeah!

Host-o-metre- As I said, Heder and Johnson performed pretty well, but nobody seemed to care at all.