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January 25, 2010
– Adam Russell

Last week’s episode of Raw was, in many ways, the straw that broke this camel’s back. I reported on the many examples evident
throughout the show of what I perceive to be wrong with the WWE’s flagship show. With the Royal Rumble, traditionally the second
biggest pay-per-view of the year, just one week again, it was paramount that this week’s edition showed a big step up in class.

We started with Degeneration-X, prime culprits in recent months of the kind of nonsense that denigrates the show, hitting the ring. This
was not a good early sign, but my fears were soon abated. Triple H began with the usual D-X routine, but then stopped to ask where
Hornswoggle was. Shawn Michaels said that he sent Hornswoggle home. This actually got big boos from the crowd, at which point my
faith in my fellow man hit an all-time low. Shawn explained that it was time to be serious, following up from last week’s revelation that
Triple H is entering the rumble in opposition to Michaels, who wants to win that match to catapult him to a Wrestlemania rematch with
The Undertaker. He asked Hunter if it was too much to ask for him to step aside for him, knowing how much this means to him, to which
Hunter replied that yes, it was. He elaborated that for six months they’ve been making people laugh, but that’s over now, and it’s all about
wrestling for the championship at Wrestlemania. He told Shawn that they can work together and eliminate the 28 other guys, but when it
comes down to the two of them, he will step on Shawn’s dream to get to his own.

I was very pleased with the way this opening promo went. A serious Triple H and Shawn Michaels is infinitely better than the juvenile,
obnoxious D-X, and here the two of them put over how important not only winning the rumble match is, but also how important the world
championship is. What’s more, we were going straight into a match.

--- Degeneration-X Vs The Legacy

D-X aren’t the only team having problems, as Cody Rhodes stormed out on Ted Dibiase last week after a defeat to John Cena and Kofi
Kingston. Hunter and Cody started the match, and Rhodes gained the edge with a knee and then punches, before Triple H responded in
kind. Cody then missed a dropkick, and Hunter went for a Pedigree, prompting Dibiase to pull his partner from the ring as we went to the
break 47 seconds in. We came back 3’49 in, and Triple H and Cody Rhodes were both down, with Hunter making the tag to Michaels.
Shawn hit a flying forearm on Cody, and then a pair of inverted atomic drops and a powerslam, before he went to the top rope. Dibiase
tried to intervene, but got punches to the outside and, when Rhodes rolled out of the ring, Michaels launched himself onto both of them
with a high cross body block. Cody rolled back into the ring, but Dibiase grabbed Shawn’s foot as he tried to get in, allowing Rhodes to hit
a neckbreaker. Legacy worked over Shawn for a while, with Dibiase picking up two counts with a dropkick, and then a boot to the head,
and Cody did the same with a side Russian legsweep. He then knocked Hunter off the apron, but that gave Shawn a chance to back body
drop him. However, Triple H wasn’t on the apron to receive the tag, and Dibiase tagged in and went for Dream Street. Shawn countered
with an armdrag, and then feigned to hit Sweet Chin Music, which had Dibiase backing off enough that Michaels could make the tag to
Hunter. The Game came in with a high knee and a facebuster on Dibiase, and then a spinebuster to the onrushing Rhodes, and one for
Dibiase. He set Cody up for the Pedigree, but Michaels tagged himself into the match. This didn’t please Triple H, and the two D-X
members had a stare-down, giving Rhodes a chance to further exacerbate the situation by pushing Hunter into Shawn. The two teased
dissension, but that was put on the back burner when Shawn aimed Sweet Chin Music at Rhodes. However, Dibiase pushed Cody out of
the way, taking the show himself, and continuing the story that they started last week. Hunter took out Rhodes with a forearm and
Michaels pinned Dibiase at 10’01. Afterwards, Shawn and Trips shared a victory hug.

This was a good opening match, if not for the actual action (which wasn’t bad) then for the way it advanced the stories of both D-X, and
Legacy. In some respects, it’s a shame we don’t have another episode of Raw before the Rumble to further build on this.

MVP came out for a match with the Big Show next, but had a few words for United States Champion, The Miz first. He told Miz that he can
keep hiding behind guest hosts and the Big Show (a reference to last week’s show), but he can’t run from him forever, and someday he’ll
have to defend the championship against him. The Miz came out and harped on about MVP’s past, saying that while Porter was in prison,
he was becoming a reality television star. MVP said that Miz keeps bringing up his time in prison, but the Miz himself would be very
popular in prison, and would have people fighting to become his exclusive ‘friend’. Miz shot back that he should show him some respect,
and threatened to put the championship on the line against him right that moment, but instead deferred to the Big Show, who he said
wanted to make a statement for the Royal Rumble. More good mic work from both of these guys this week. They have good chemistry
together on the stick, which I hope carries over to inside the ring.

--- MVP Vs The Big Show

MVP tried to take the fight to Show with punches, but ate a knee, a headbutt, and a slap to the chest. Show then missed a charge to the
corner, and MVP delivered a facebuster, and a big boot in the corner. He geared up for another one, but this time ran straight into a
chokeslam which signalled the end of the match at only 1’02. To be honest, I don’t mid too much about perennial favourite of mine, MVP,
being jobbed out in such short manner, as I totally buy Show as somebody who could plow through anybody on any given night.

We cut to Rhodes and Dibiase in the back, and Cody apologised for questioning Ted last week, and thanked him for taking the superkick
for him earlier in the night. Before Ted could respond, Orton came in and told them to accept that only one man can win the Royal
Rumble match, and highlighted how neither of them were there for him last week when he got laid out by Sheamus. He assured them
that he will win the WWE championship from Sheamus at the rumble, with or without them.

Elsewhere in the back, John Cena was hanging out with guest host for the evening, Dule Hill from Psych. It was explained that James
Roday, Hill’s co-star was also supposed to be there, but had to have an emergency appendectomy. Not being a Psych viewer, I didn’t
care. Cena and Hill hyped the season premiere of Psych, in which Cena guests, before Cena exited stage right, and the Miz entered. Miz
said that he’s more famous than both of the Psych stars combined, to which Hill responded by telling Miz that he has a match later that
night.

Maryse came out next for her divas championship tournament semi-final match, and proceeded to cut the obviously mandatory pre-
match promo, before being interrupted by Dule Hill playing with the pyro. Maryse wasn’t happy about being interrupted.

--- Divas championship tournament match- Maryse Vs Eve Torres

Eve took it to Maryse with forearms, and then actually connected with a dropkick for a two count. She then hit a somersault senton and a
powerslam, but missed a top rope moonsault. Maryse went for the French Kiss, but Eve countered with a Northern Lights suplex for
another two count. Maryse grabbed a hold of the ropes to block an Irishwhip, and then struck with a kick and the French Kiss to give her
and her super hair-extensions the win at 2’06. As far as divas matches go, this wasn’t all that bad. Maryse has been a lock to win this
tournament from day one.

Next, Vince McMahon came out to “announce his decision” on Bret Hart, that being whether or not to call him out again. Vince started by
saying that if the Undertaker were there, he would dare him to call him a coward like he did last week, and then, turning his attention to
Hart, said that there is no reason to bring the Hitman back. He asserted that everybody had forgotten about Bret, at which point a ‘we want
Bret’ chant broke out. Vince announced that Bret would never be back, and challenged the fans to give him a reason to bring him back.
He then climbed into the crowd, and asked some of the fans why he should bring Bret back, but wasn’t satisfied with any of the reasons
offered (“he’s awesome”). McMahon summated by saying that Bret is part of the past, and he doesn’t care about a footnote in WWE
history.

Predictably though, that wasn’t the end of the matter, and of all people, John Cena’s music hit, and Cena made his way to the ring. As
Cena came out, my prevailing thought was “don’t let Cena get involved in this storyline”. You see, this angle is about the only thing getting
me through Raw right now, and Cena is so overexposed that nothing he is involved with seems special or interesting to me. However…

Cena expressed his distaste to Vince about the way he has spoken about Bret Hart, specifically referring to him as a used-up piece of
gum, and also about the way he treated Roddy Piper when Piper hosted Raw a couple of months back. He reminded Vince that he had a
lot of help building his empire, but that doesn’t stop him from thinking of everybody as a commodity. He asked if that’s how he views him
too, and told him that he isn’t a coward, he’s pathetic. He went on to tell Vince that he will, in fact, bring Bret back next week because he
deserves the opportunity to confront him face-to-face, and if he doesn’t, that will just prove that Vince views everyone as a commodity. If
the latter is the case, Cena continued, in 2035, when Vince is 90 years old, and Cena is just a used-up piece of gum, he will find him and
knock his false teeth down his throat for Bret Hart and everybody who ever worked for him. Vince responded that he’ll bring Bret back next
week, if he has the guts to show up, and then made a match pitting John Cena against Sheamus for the main event.

This promo from Cena was amazing, some of his best work in years. He was impassioned, and believable, and even when he went into
his intense don’tpauseatallbetweeneachword mode, it worked, because I felt that he meant what he was saying. The material, it should
also be said, was A1- it made sense for Cena to be out there saying those things. This reminded me that when on, and with good
material, Cena is perhaps the best and most charismatic promo man in the business. Vince, for his part, was also really effective doing
the crazy old man routine. I’ve seen where people have been saying that WWE have dropped the ball with this Bret angle by not having
him come back right away, and I myself was very disappointed when Hart didn’t return the next week, but in the last two weeks we’ve
seen incredible segments in this storyline. They have until Wrestlemania to stretch this out, and the way they’re going so far, I expect the
payoff to be amazing.

--- The Miz Vs Kofi Kingston

Kofi got on offence early in this none-title match, with an armdrag and a cross body block, but then he jumped into a boot from the Miz,
and the tables turned. Miz got a nearfall with a running boot to the face, and then hit a legdrop and a neckbreaker for another two count.
MVP’s music then hit, and with Miz distracted, Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise for the win at 3’40. Nothing much to this one, giving MVP a bit of
payback on Miz, and keeping Kofi looking strong heading to the rumble match.

We next saw Carlito showing Dule Hill around the production truck. Hill started playing with the wrestler graphics, and decided to select
an opponent at random for Carlito. The opponent was Kelly Kelly, and Carlito was pleased.

--- Carlito Vs Kelly Kelly

Before the match began, Santino came out and said that he was going to do something spectacular to get him onto the Best of Raw
2010 DVD, and that included taking Kelly’s place against Carlito, and then winning the rumble match. Jack Swagger then came out and
attacked Santino from behind, throwing him over the top rope, and then ramming him into the steel ring post. Too little, too late.

Elsewhere in the back, Hill and Cena were hyping Psych again, and had James Roday on speaker phone to join in the fun. Alicia Fox
then came in, and asked Hill if he’s psychic. Alicia apparently doesn’t know how television shows work. She wanted him to predict what
will happen in her match with Gail Kim, and Hill predicted that she will be victorious, and he’ll be at ringside to see it.

Hill indeed, was at ringside, providing commentary for the divas match.

--- Divas championship tournament match- Gail Kim Vs Alicia Fox

Gail hit a monkey flip, and then an inverted hurricanrana which looked like it very nearly broke Alicia’s neck. Alicia responded with a tilt-a-
whirl backbreaker, but Gail came back with a snap powerslam and then the Gail Force for the win at 1’56. Gail Vs Maryse in the final then,
and I can’t imagine them putting the championship on Kim with her recent reputation for botches. After the match, Alicia got in Hill’s face,
and slapped him down to the floor. Most celebrity guest hosts rub shoulders with D-X, Hill gets bitch-slapped by Alicia Fox.

--- Sheamus Vs John Cena

Cena went right to work on the man who took his WWE championship away, gaining a two count with a bulldog, before running into an
elbow. Sheamus knocked him down with a forearm to the back of the head, but Cena responded with a fisherman’s suplex for another
two count. Sheamus turned the tables with a clothesline and a suplex, and then kneed Cena to the outside. Back in the ring Cena went
for a quick FU, but Sheamus countered into a DDT and then hit a powerslam. Cena then took Sheamus down with a drop toe hold, but
Sheamus kicked him off before he could apply the STF. He went out after him and sent him hard into the steel steps, and Cena just
made it back into the ring before the referee counted to ten. Sheamus went for a powerslam, but Cena floated out and went into
comeback mode, hitting the flying shoulderblocks, back suplex slam and the five knuckle shuffle. He then went for another FU, but
Sheamus escaped and hit a urinagi backbreaker for a two count. He went for the pump kick, but Cena blocked and locked on the STF,
only for Sheamus to grab the bottom rope and duck to the outside. Cena followed him out, but there he ate the pump kick, and Sheamus
again went for a count out victory. This time, however, Randy Orton made his way into the ring and dropped Sheamus with an RKO, giving
Sheamus the disqualification win at 9’49. Cena attempted to make it back into the ring, and Orton took this opportunity to go for a
hangman’s DDT, but Cena countered into an FU, and ended the show victorious as we head towards the Royal Rumble.

This was a pretty decent match, aside from the goofy count-out spot, which called for Cena to be lying motionless on the floor for 9
seconds, dive into the ring like it’s the start of the match, and then be on offence within 5 seconds.

I was overall pretty impressed with this week’s show, mainly for the fact that the Royal Rumble was treated like such a big deal.
Everything was done with that pay-per-view in mind it seemed (with the exception of the Vince deal, which was looking even further
ahead), and the good moments outnumbered the bad. This should be a minimum requirement for a wrestling show, yet so often they fall
short.

MVP of the night- John Cena. I can’t say enough good things about that promo, and he performed well in the main event too.

Host-o-metre- this is how the guest hosts should be used. Hill’s involvement was kept to a minimum, and what he did do, he did well,
displaying some charisma and personality.