February 8, 2010
– Adam Russell

The Long and Winding Road

WrestleMania 26 is less than two months away, and it seems that everything the WWE does now is done with that event in mind, as it
should be. I’ve decided to use this week’s Raw report to speculate on what role I think the various men and women will play on the big
show. This seems as good a time as any, as things will probably be a lot clearer after Elimination Chamber (the next pay-per-view), and
playing guessing games won’t be nearly as much fun.

The show began in much the same way it did the last time it was to be hosted by a NASCAR personality, with a car speeding around the
parking lot, and then making its way into the arena. The hosts on that night were widely panned, and I didn’t hold out much hope for Carl
Edwards’ stint at the driving wheel. The car pulled into the arena, but it was Hornswoggle, not Edwards who climbed out. Edwards then
came out in more conventional fashion. He was also accompanied by the Bellas, which has become maybe the biggest cliché in
wrestling. Edwards, after impressively doing a backflip off the top rope, plugged the Saints’ Super Bowl win (the show emanated from
Louisiana), and then the upcoming Daytona 500 race. He also said that he was friends with John Cena, which brought out WWE
Champion, Sheamus. Sheamus said that his Super Bowl was in seven weeks, and he plans on walking into WrestleMania as the
champion, meaning he will win the elimination chamber. He demanded that Edwards make him the last entrant into the chamber match,
which once again begged the question of just how much power these guest hosts are supposed to have. He then told Edwards that he
is a guest on his show, so he better do what he says. This brought out, surprisingly, ECW Champion, Christian, who said that he was
offended that last week Edge made no mention of him or his championship when talking about who he will face at ‘Mania. He also
mentioned Vince McMahon’s announcement that ECW will go off the air in two weeks, which led to Sheamus calling him a lame duck
champion. Christian cracked a joke about Sheamus’ skin-tone, and the Irishman shot back that the only funny thing is that Christian will
be unemployed in two weeks. Christian told Sheamus that, in fact, all members of the ECW roster will become free agents, and can go
to any show they want to, and said that he feels like his peeps on Raw are missing him. He said he decided to show up to test the
waters, and challenge Sheamus to a match. Sheamus said it was a waste of time, but Edwards made the match for right now.

This was a pretty strong opening segment, helped by featuring the surprise appearance of Christian. I don’t get a chance to talk much
about Christian in these reports, as he’s on ECW, so I’ll take this opportunity to say that I think he is one of the very best performers in the
whole company, and I think he’s by far the best champion they currently have. This is mostly because he has the ability to make every
match he’s in seem like a big deal. Edwards also performed well here, showing that he has the charisma which his two colleagues

--- Sheamus Vs Christian

The two champions locked up, with Sheamus digging a knee into Christian’s gut, before running into an elbow. Christian went to the
second rope, but Sheamus caught him coming off and hit a fallaway slam (Sheamus is obviously a Razor Ramon fan), and then back
body dropped him to the outside as we went to commercial 48 seconds in. We returned at 3’49, with Christian in an armbar. He fought
back and low-bridged Sheamus to the floor, and then hit a springboard body press onto him. Sheamus then pulled Christian’s shoulder
into the ring post, and sent him arm-first into the security wall, before sending him back into the ring. He continued to work on the arm,
sending it into the turnbuckle, before Christian caught him with an elbow and then hit a dropkick off the second rope. He followed that up
with a flying forearm uppercut from the top rope. Sheamus again caught Christian coming off the ropes, but this time Christian elbowed
his way free. He then ducked the pump kick, but could not avoid a clothesline. Captain Charisma hit right back with a pendulum kick, and
then picked up a two count with a tornado DDT. He went for the Killswitch, but Sheamus blocked, and then gained a definitive advantage
by sending his opponent shoulder-first into the ring-post. He then delivered the pump kick, and the Razor’s Edge to pick up the win at 9’

I enjoyed this match, and would have liked to have seen it go longer. The clean win over Christian makes Sheamus look strong, but it
makes me wish they’d tweak his character a little. I don’t like the cowardly aspects of the character, and think he could be more effective
as a full-on monster heel, in the same vein as a Brock Lesnar. I honestly don’t know if Sheamus will still be champion by the time
WrestleMania comes around. There have been reports circulating that he will defend the belt against Triple H, and they could certainly
set up something leading to that in the elimination chamber match. I have a feeling we might end up with Hunter Vs Michaels though,
which would put a big question mark next to Sheamus. With Cena and Batista married, that would only really leave Kofi Kingston or Edge
as viable challengers. I still see Edge taking on Jericho, and Sheamus/Kofi would be a main event awfully lacking in star power for the
biggest show of the year. Christian’s WrestleMania is also up in the air, with the most obvious possibility being the Money in the Bank
ladder match. I think Christian deserves a singles match on the show though and, who knows, tonight’s match could have been the start
of a build towards Sheamus and Christian at WrestleMania.

We next saw Triple H in the back, who was joined by Shawn Michaels. Shawn talked about his bad week last week, and said there is
always a silver lining, which in this case would be D-X competing together at a WrestleMania for the first time. Triple H said that would be
great, but he is going to win the elimination chamber match, and will be going to WrestleMania as WWE champion. Shawn said it was all
about Triple H, and then walked out.

We saw a recap of the Bret/Vince/Batista interaction from last week, as well as what went on after the show went off the air, with Batista
beating down John Cena, including Batista Bombing him onto the steel steps. Jerry Lawler told us that Bret was banned from the arena.

Elsewhere in the back, Cody Rhodes told Ted Dibiase that he must be proud of himself for qualifying for the chamber. He mentioned that
he could have beaten Mark Henry, like Ted did, and Ted told him to stop whining, that that if he had what it took to beat Cena, he’d be in
there with him and Orton. Cody asked Ted if he thinks he could beat Cena, and Ted answered that people are always saying they’re
alike, but now it’s obvious who’s better. Randy Orton then entered, and asked Dibiase if he thought he was better than him too. Ted
responded that they’ll find out in the chamber, and Orton said tonight they’re going to put Cody’s theory to the test, as Carl Edwards has
made a match pitting Ted against Cena. Randy then turned his attention to Rhodes, telling him that he cost him his match with Sheamus
at the Royal Rumble. Cody said he was trying to help, and Orton said he understands that, but tonight they’ll be facing each other.

--- Tag team championship match- Degeneration-X (champions) Vs CM Punk and Luke Gallows (w/Serena) Vs The Big Show and The

It was announced that this was an elimination match, as opposed to a regular triple threat, which was good news. The Straight-Edge
Society made their way out first, and Punk wanted to address the crowd. He talked about the region turning to drugs and alcohol when
they fall on hard times, and also when they’re celebrating. He said that that is because they’re weak, but while the rest of the country
deems them unsaveable, he and Luke will win the tag team championships and show them that straight-edge means they are better.
He went on that this is where they save a soul, and pointed out Jared, the Subway guy in the crowd, inviting him to be a spokesman for
the Straight-Edge Society. Jared declined, and as they were about to advance on him, D-X made their entrance. Show and Miz followed
and a brawl broke out, with D-X clearing the ring and throwing Miz over the top rope onto the other competitors. The match then began
during the commercial break.

We joined the action with Shawn and Punk in the ring. Punk hit the kneelift/bulldog combination and then Miz, the other legal man in the
match (yes, a man from each team is legal at all times) tagged the Big Show. Show whipped Punk into Shawn, but missed a splash in
the corner, and Punk and Shawn both tagged their respective partners. Hunter, Luke and Show had a brief stand-off, before the latter
found himself the victim of a double team, which he easily fended off. He gave Gallows a short clothesline, but then Triple H hit a
facebuster and went for the Pedigree. Show back body dropped him to the outside though and that took us to another break at 2’25. Punk
was in control when we returned at 5’16, kicking Miz in the spine and then working over Triple H’s leg. Miz intervened, Irishwhipping Punk
into Triple H’s boot, but then eating a clothesline from the Game. Punk dropkicked Miz for a two count, but Miz hit back with a jaw japper,
and then hit the corner clothesline. He went to the apron, but Serena pulled him off, and when he chased her, he ran into a spinebuster
from Hunter on the floor. Shawn tagged in and hit a flying forearm on Punk (but didn’t nip up as a clever nod to the finish of last week’s
match), a powerslam, and a flying elbowdrop (which he hit after nearly falling off the top rope). He started to ’tune up the band’, but
Gallows took him down with a clothesline, prompting Triple H to clothesline Gallows over the top rope. Michaels then blocked a Go To
Sleep attempt and hit Sweet Chin Music to eliminate Punk and Gallows after 8’46. The Big Show came in as the legal man, and
clotheslined both members of D-X at once, and began to dominate HBK, highlighted by a back suplex for a two count. Miz then came in
and hit the Mizard of Oz, but Michaels blocked the Skull-Crushing Finale. Show tagged in, but was met by a superkick, which staggered
him, and Shawn finally made the tag to Triple H as Show tagged Miz. Triple H hit a high knee and a spinebuster on Miz, but Michaels
tagged himself back in. This caused a face-off between he and Hunter, which Miz capitalised on by sending Shawn into the Game and
rolling him up for the three count, and the tag team championships, at 14’22. After the match, Triple H questioned Shawn’s actions, but
Michaels just walked out on his partner.

This was no great match, but it served to plant a very big seed into the split-up of D-X, and also continued in getting Miz over as a top-line
heel. There’s no doubt that Miz gained the most from this victory, and he now has three belts to carry around with him. I was personally
disappointed by Punk and Gallows’s exit from the match, as I think Punk doing his shtick on both brands would be good value, but I
suppose this is an indicator that they have something else in mind for him. I also think that being in the tag team division is the best use
of the Big Show right now.

I mentioned earlier that I can see Shawn and Triple H facing off at ‘Mania, and this certainly makes that more likely. The other option, of
course, is Michaels/‘Taker II, and I think it’s testament to the writing that this is all so up in the air. Hunter/Sheamus is another possibility
that has been mentioned, and Sheamus would seem to be the biggest loser if they went ahead with the D-X match-up. Miz deserves a
match on the WrestleMania card. I’m not necessarily a fan of his, but one can’t deny that he’s got himself over. This win offers the
possibility of a tag team championship match, but I’m not sure who their opponents could be. MVP and Mark Henry maybe? Punk is the
guy more than any other who has earned a high profile match at ‘Mania, in my view, and the internet rumour mill (for whatever that’s
worth) has thrown out Punk Vs Rey in a mask vs. hair match. I think Punk mentioned in an interview somewhere that that would be his
dream ‘Mania match, and I can’t think of any way that it would not be pure gold. There’s also the possibility, though less attractive, of
throwing him in Money in the Bank, playing off the fact that he has won two straight, and going for a three-peat.

Josh Matthews interviewed the new tag champions in the back, and Show said they did something that he and Jericho couldn’t do, that
being defeat D-X. He went on that Miz treats him like an equal and a friend, which Jericho never did. I find the idea of Big Show being
oppressed by Jericho quite funny. Miz then said that together they will run the whole WWE. Miz wanted to call the team Miz-Show, but
Show lobbied for Show-Miz.

We then cut to Shawn Michaels, walking the corridors with a purpose. He cornered Smackdown GM, Teddy Long (who had been there to
watch the tag team title match), and demanded that he trade him to Smackdown and put him into the Smackdown elimination chamber
match so that he can win the championship and then give the Undertaker his rematch at WrestleMania. I don’t get why this would just be
Long’s decision, as you’d think in that case he could just ‘trade’ anybody he wanted without any kind of negotiation. Long said he’d be
happy to Shawn on Smackdown, but he can’t change the chamber match. Michaels pinned Long against the wall, and Triple H showed
up to try to calm him down. He asked if he was willing to throw D-X and his career away, to which Shawn replied that his career is over,
and then super kicked Long. While I’m not the biggest fan of Shawn’s acting, this has so far been a compelling storyline.

--- Jillian Hall Vs Gail Kim

Maryse doing commentary was obviously far more important than this match, as we were watching her as the match started. We should
have stayed on her, because 1’01 in, Kim hit Eat Defeat to pick up the win. Maryse then got in the ring and told Gail that she wants to have
the match of her life against her. She then spoke in French, and the two shook hands.

Next, it was announced that Ted Dibiase (the original) would be the first inductee into the Hall of Fame class of 2010. Obviously, this is
more than deserved.

Carl Edwards and Jared were in the back, soon joined by Santino. This started off as an advertisement for some Subway offer, but then
Santino said he wanted a match with Jack Swagger after Swagger took him out of the rumble match. Edwards made the match for
Superstars. Kofi then came in and proposed that the six Raw elimination chamber combatants face each other in singles matches on
next week’s show. Edwards agreed, and asked whether he should make the matches himself, or leave it to next week’s host. This led to
Jerry Springer being revealed as the host for next week. That should be interesting.

--- Cody Rhodes Vs Randy Orton

Rhodes was reluctant to lock up with his mentor, even after a couple of shoves to the chest. Finally, Cody got in Orton’s face, but was met
by a kick. Rhodes hit straight back with a dropkick for a two count, and then a side Russian legsweep. Orton picked Cody up and
dropped him onto the top rope, and then set him up for a superplex. Cody fought Orton off, but missed with a cross body block. Orton
looked to be going for the RKO, but Sheamus came down and caused a distraction, which allowed Rhodes to hit Cross Rhodes for the
win at 2’47. Sheamus then gave a pump kick to Orton, before Cody chased him off with a steel chair. The idea here is clearly to tease that
Rhodes and Sheamus are in cahoots, although I’m not sure where that would lead to. Despite this win, all signs look to be pointing to
Rhodes being the odd man out of the Legacy split, although I wouldn’t rule out a triple threat match at WrestleMania either. Sheamus Vs
Orton for the championship, with Rhodes and DiBiase in their respective corners, is another way they could go.

Josh was interviewing Edwards in the back, and Edwards announced that next week’s featured matches ( I guess he decided to make
the matches himself) would be Sheamus Vs Orton, Kofi Vs DiBiase, and, drum roll please, Cena Vs Triple H. I don’t know why anyone
would care about the latter match at this point, but realise that they do.

--- Ted DiBiase Vs John Cena

Before the bell could ring, Cena attacked DiBiase, throwing him over the top rope, hiptossing him into the security wall, and then locking
on the STF. Cena was one mad dude. He got the mic and said that he didn’t come for a match, he came to fight Batista. He said that
Batista was sent out last week to take him out, but he’s still there. Cena is so egocentric- Batista came out to take out Bret Hart; it was
Cena who came out after the fact. He invited Batista out to finish the job, and we went to commercial.

After the break, Cena speculated that Vince McMahon was behind Batista’s attack, and said that if he can’t fight Batista, he’d like to talk to
Vince. Vince came out with a bevy of security guards, and Cena told him next time to bring a tank. He said that he can send the guards
away and they can talk like men, or he can beat down the security, and then he’ll be even more mad. Vince stepped into the ring, and
reminded Cena that he is the alpha male. He admitted that he paid Batista to come out last week so he could screw Hart again, but that
he had nothing to do with Batista’s attack on Cena. He conjectured that Batista might have done it because Cena eliminated him from
the royal rumble, or maybe because he just doesn’t like him. He went on that personally he doesn’t like him either, but business-wise,
he loves him. Cena responded that it’s all about the money with Vince, and that he took a good man like Dave Batista and now all he
cares about is cashing checks. This was nonsense. Batista hasn’t been a ‘good man’ in months (unless Cena saw no problem in him
turning psycho on his best friend), and his primary motivation has always been winning the world championship, not money. Cena went
on that he wrestles for ‘the moment’, moments like competing at WrestleMania and standing in the home of the Super Bowl champions.
He continued that last week he spoke to Bret Hart, and Bret told him he wants another moment of his own- a match with Vince at
WrestleMania. The crowd reacted pretty lukewarm to this. Cena asked Vince if he was about the money, or the moment, and Vince
answered that he is about both, and agreed to the match with Bret. Cena thanked Vince for telling him to his face, but said there was one
more person he had to tell to his face. McMahon then showed the video of last week again, but then Bret Hart came out of the crowd and
attacked Vince, taking him down with a punch and then laying into him with more punches. Two of the security guards came into the ring,
and Bret dealt with them with typical ease, as Vince escaped up the ramp. Vince then announced that he had changed his mind,
because Bret deserved to be screwed. Bret responded to this by wrecking some electrical equipment, and the television monitors, a call-
back to his reaction to the Montreal Screwjob.

This segment was a bit hit or miss for me. A couple of weeks ago, Cena delivered an awesome promo on much the same theme (Vince
only cares about the money, does he have the balls to face Bret), but this week it didn’t work as well. Cena’s delivery was more of the
hokey, feigned bravado variety, and didn’t reach the raw emotion and believability of the last one. I also find it really annoying how he
speaks in a fake Southern accent. At least, I’m assuming it’s fake. As well as my issues with Cena’s performance, I also don’t think that
Bret looked nearly as good as he did last week. He was moving a lot slower, seemed to gas really early, and even fell over when he was
destroying equipment (although that wasn’t really his fault). I don’t think this was a disaster by any means, more just bringing me back
down to earth a little bit after the previous couple of weeks. The news of the Bret Vs Vince one on one match is also a little surprising, as
it looked like we were going to get some kind of tie-in to the Batista/Cena feud. I assume it will end up being a street-fight to mask the
limitations of both. I still trust Bret to make it entertaining.

Watching this show, it’s encouraging how many different ways the company can still go for WrestleMania, without the sense that anything
is just being thrown together, which is what I got last year. I think there’s at least two really good long-term storylines going on right now,
and obviously, a couple more things are going to develop out of the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. There was plenty of good stuff on
this show, and I’ll take this quality of programming leading up to WrestleMania.

MVP of the night- Vince McMahon. He’s performed really well the last few weeks, but been out-staged by others. This week he was clearly
the best thing about his segment, and gave the best performance on the show.

Line of the night- This category belongs to CM Punk on the Smackdown reports, and he gets it here too, for the absurdity and brilliance of
his “bring me Jared from Subway” line.

The Michael Cole ’Vintage’ Moment of the night- Triple H’s spinebuster on Miz.

Host-o-metre- Edwards did pretty well in his limited role, continuing the recent trend of ’decent’ hosts. We’re due a stinker, I think.