Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It Was The Best Of Raw, It Was The Worst Of Raw

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

They say you’re not supposed to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach or call an Ex after watching a Katherine Heigel movie. So maybe I should write about RAW five minutes after watching it. Give it time to settle in my brain and then rethink my thoughts. There’s no fun in that though. Perhaps I should follow in CM Punk’s steps and unleash a pipe bomb of truthiness.

The first RAW of 2013 showcased everything that is wrong with WWE and also made me want to go to Phoenix and witness the WWE Title match in person. Since we should end with the positives let get the negatives out of the way first.

RAW started off with the epitome of all that is wrong in the WWE Universe. Corny John Cena came out making poop and wiener jokes that no one over the age of 8 should find funny or entertaining. After several minutes of lame childish humor, Cena and Dolph Ziggler had a really good match going until “Superman” Cena overcame the odds once again and pulled out a victory. We’ve mentioned this several times in various blogs here on my123cents, I don’t dislike John Cena the person. I applaud him for all the charity work and personal appearances he does on behalf of WWE. What I am sick of is John Cena the unstoppable wrestler. I get that he’s this generation’s Hulk Hogan and WWE is geared towards kids. Those kids don’t focus on wins and losses so there’s no reason for Cena to constantly win.

On the other side of the ring there’s Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler has been carrying the Money In The Bank briefcase around since July and off the top of my head, I’m thinking I can count the number of matches he’s won since then on one hand. I don’t understand the reasoning in making Ziggler look like someone who can’t win a big match. If/When Ziggler successfully cashes in the briefcase and wins the World Title, why should fans think he’s going to have a meaningful title reign. In my opinion, Ziggler will constantly be looked at as a transitional champion with fans thinking he’ll lose the title with every match because they’ve been conditioned to see him as a loser.

I’m guessing someone will say, “look at Daniel Bryan. He had the same losing streak before cashing in the MITB and look at him now.” Unless my memory is faulty (and I won’t say it isn’t) fans never expected Daniel Bryan to win any title matches. Everyone was predicting Big Show or Mark Henry to win the title back before Wrestlemania. Then came the 18-second loss at Wrestlemania which some will point out as having a positive effect on his career. Again, I’ll disagree and say while fan reaction to the loss was vocal, the fact Daniel Bryan had an easy catchphrase that could be chanted at any time during a show is what really propelled him to being a top star. Right now Ziggler doesn’t have a catchphrase.

After the good match bad ending of the opener, there was another Diva’s title match between Eve and Kaitlyn. Michael Cole mentioned on commentary these two Divas have been fighting over the Diva’s title since September. Am I really to believe there are no other Divas who should be getting a shot at the title since Kaitlyn has never won the strap? Instead of finally pulling the trigger and having Kaitlyn win, or even having Eve pull off a decisive victory, the match ended with Eve grabbing the title and walking out. Guessing this means we’ll get another rematch between the two. I can’t wait.

After more rematches involving the secondary titles and backstage segments it was time for the Table, Ladders and Chairs match for the WWE title between CM Punk and Ryback. I was initially disappointed this match wasn’t the main event and felt it showcased another problem with WWE where the focus is put on a promo rather than a title match. During the match whenever the commentators mentioned The Rock was watching to see whom he’d face at Royal Rumble, I realized that even though they could have done a Rock/Punk verbal confrontation before the match, having it follow the match when it was a 100% guarantee Punk would be defending the title made more sense.

The TLC match was everything a TLC match should be with lots of violence and plunder. My complaint stems from the feeling WWE went with the most generic, predictable ending by having the Shield attack Ryback allowing CM Punk to retain the belt. Once again, Punk looks like someone who got lucky instead of someone who could go toe to toe with his opponent. If we don’t get a Ryback vs. a member of the Shield soon, hopefully something will be done to move their story along.

After some commercial breaks instead of the Rock coming out, CM Punk returned to the center of the ring and detonated another pipe bomb with a shoot style promo. The promo kind of showed why CM Punk might be one to blame for the decreased ratings over the last year. Yes he’s a good wrestler. Yes he’s a good talker. But his act is geared primarily towards wrestling nerds. I don’t use that term in the bad sense, as I would classify myself as a wrestling nerd. There is a difference between a wrestling nerd who obsesses over wrestling following as many promotions as possible and the typical WWE fan that wants more of an entertaining show and doesn’t care about work rate.

Being someone who flies the wrestling nerd flag, I agreed with almost everything CM Punk said about the glass ceiling and how guys like Daniel Bryan have to become jokes to get a reaction and how the fans have helped make it so an invisible character gets more TV time than a talented wrestler like Tyson Kidd. Even though I agreed with Punk’s comments, the promo as a whole felt like a rehash of the original pipe bomb promo and the cynic in me feels everything Punk said was approved of ahead of time in order to maximize its impact on the wrestling nerd target audience. Nothing will change next week. Dolph Ziggler will still be losing to John Cena. Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel might get a match on Superstars and Kane and Daniel Bryan will continue their Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck routine.

A commercial break and a few words later it was FINALLY time for “Mr. Never Leaving Again” The Rock to make his return to RAW after a 9-month hiatus. In full disclosure, I was never a big fan of the Rock. Yes he could be entertaining on the microphone when he wasn’t just going through catchphrases but I never really cared for him as a wrestler. In my opinion, he was the Hulk Hogan to Steve Austin’s Ric Flair. I was always a mark for Flair and never a Hulkamanic so naturally I preferred “Stone Cold” to Rocky.

The Rock came out and started busting out Attitude Era sexual insults towards Punk. Watching The Rock do his thing, and admittedly the fans were into it, I had two reactions. One, do fans realize or care they are human sheep? CM Punk pointed out the fans were doing exactly what he and the Rock wanted them to do when they would cheer certain people or catchphrases. One of the things I love about independent wrestling shows is the unique chants fans come up with. During a Chikara show last year there was a dueling chant of “I love puzzles,” “Puzzles sucks.” chant during a match-involving Jigsaw. At a Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show at the start of a match with Chuck Taylor, a fan chanted something along the lines of “Let’s go Chuck Taylor. You’re the best wrestler in the world. You’re better than somethingsomethingsomething.” In WWE, mainly due to the size of the crowd, you don’t get chants like this. Instead a show is filled with mostly catchphrases like “Yes. No. You Can’t See Me,” or simple “Lets go Good Guy, Lets go Bad Guy” dueling chants. I’m probably going to sound holier than thou or too cool for school, but that blandness of WWE crowds is part of why I don’t get excited about WWE shows. Not only are the matches repetitive so are the crowds. Anyway, that’s a whole other blog.

The second observation I made about the Rock is he is trapped in the Attitude Era. Seeing him come out and do his thing is like going and seeing Limp Bizkit in concert. Sure you know the hits and cheer for them, but their time has passed. This analogy makes me a bit hypocritical because I am more likely to buy the new Motley Crue CD than the new Black Keys so I should like seeing the old stars. Actually, to make a hopefully more relevant analogy, watching The Rock is like watching a comedian who was popular 10-20 years ago still saying the same joke. At some point you have to update your material.

With all my complaints said, I did enjoy the verbal back and forth. When CM Punk got in Rock’s face and said, “I’m going to kick your ass,” it made me want to purchase a ticket to Phoenix and make sure I was there to see the match live and in person. I’m still afraid WWE is going to make the wrong call and Rocky will walk out champion though so I don’t know if I want to travel 300 miles and be disappointed.

We’ve got 2 more weeks until the Royal Rumble. We’ll see where they go with the Punk/Rock feud and if they can keep up the interest. As we get closer to the Road to Looking at the Wrestlemania Sign, I’m just hoping WWE can toss out the playbook they’ve been using for the past 15 years and build up a major show where every match has interest and intrigue.

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