411’s Instant Analysis 04.23.12: WWE Monday Night Raw
Welcome to this week’s Instant Analysis of Monday Night Raw. I’m your humble reviewer, Chad Nevett and I just got home from seeing Raw live in Detroit. Our seats weren’t the greatest since, in an effort to avoid Ticketmaster charges, we bought them today. We were way up in the nosebleed, but still had a decent view of things when other people weren’t blocking our way. Or the big column that prevented my girlfriend from seeing the Titantron a little. But, for $18 each, that’s not bad. Before the show, we enjoyed a nice dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and hit the merch booth before going to our seats where I got the new Rock DVD and CM Punk’s latest shirt, and my girlfriend got Dolph Ziggler’s latest shirt. After we made our trek all the way back to row 26, we settled in for an overall fun night.
DARK MATCH: JTG vs. Antonio Cesaro
Match Result: Antonio Cesaro pinned JTG
This was a short, entertaining match and exciting for us since we both have loved the now-named Antonio Cesaro’s work on the indies (particularly CHIKARA). Before the match, Cesaro cut a brief promo about being a Rugby player who broke too many of his opponents, so he’s come to the WWE to break people here. The match was short and Cesaro worked the WWE heel style well — not too many flashy moves, mostly basic kicks and punches, but delivered very aggressively. Unfortunately, only one European Uppercut, though, and it wasn’t even a giant running one! Come on! Cesaro’s finisher is interesting and the match was short but entertaining.
Rating: 7.0 out of 10
SUPERSTARS SEGMENT ONE: Kelly Kelly vs. Maxine
Match Result: Kelly Kelly pinned Maxine
The crowd loved Kelly Kelly and were utterly indifferent to Maxine. I was pretty indifferent to both of them. It was your basic Divas match — something that’s not any more entertaining live than on TV.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
SUPERSTARS SEGMENT TWO: The Miz vs. Alex Riley
Match Result: The Miz pinned Alex Riley
This will most likely be the main event on Superstars since it got a lot of time. Riley looked better in the ring than the last time I saw him (which I guess was getting squashed by Lord Tensai — so, I’ll say he looked better than the last time I saw him before that). More fluid in the ring, a bit more inventive than he used to be. Watching this live from a distance was a little annoying since the two look so alike, so I spent much of the match checking their boots to tell who was who. Very back and forth with a lot of false finishes, and the Miz ultimately winning. If you want proof that Alex Riley is actually improving and may be of use someday, check this match out.
Rating: 8.0 out of 10
The Cena/Lesnar Contract Signing EDGE IS IN DETROIT!
Right after the Miz/Riley match, I ran to use the washroom and get some pops for Michelle and I. I should have checked my watch since, while I waited in the concession line, the show began. Luckily, as I was walking up the 20,000 steps to my seat, I caught the opening minutes of the first segment. It seemed a little lame — Lesnar wasn’t there yet? What the hell was the point of the tease then? And then… well, the words “You think you know me…” came over the speakers and I had to do my best to make sure I didn’t miss a step and kill myself as I turned to confirm that, yes, Edge was there. Heading into this Raw, I was remarked a couple of times that it will be the first WWE live event I’ve been to where Edge wasn’t there and how that, well, sucks. So, seeing him come out and give John Cena a verbal beatdown over his recent behavior was fantastic. It played well with the crowd and got the show off to a good start. Plus, it just isn’t a live WWE event for me if the Rated R Superstar isn’t there…
Rating: 9.0 out of 10
SEGMENT TWO: Chris Jericho vs. Kofi Kingston
Match Result: Chris Jericho made Kofi Kingston tap out
Talk about a strong follow-up to Edge coming out… Jericho sometimes looked visibly bugged by the positive reactions from the partly Canadian crowd. And understandably so since he’s a guy who works very hard to be hated. Since I respect that, I booed the hell out of him. At one point, he seemed to turn a little more vicious on Kingston and it seemed to be in an effort to turn some of the cheers he was getting into boos. The match itself was really good. Kingston and Jericho work well together and built up a lot of spots where it looked like Kingston might overcome Jericho only for the heel to counter and take control. The jump off the top into the Codebreaker looked fantastic and who isn’t happy to see the Lion Tamer version of the Walls of Jericho? His post-match promo was good stuff, setting up things that would play out later in the evening.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
SEGMENT THREE: Eve is an Executive Assistant/CM Punk is a Regifter
Ah, the backstage segments… these work alright on TV, but come off a lot worse live. Both did their jobs and I thought Punk was fairly amusing in his.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
SEGMENT FOUR: Lord Tensai vs. R-Truth
Match Result: Lord Tensai pinned R-Truth
Damn, the crowd was dead for this. People got up to use the bathroom/get food and drink like it was a Divas match. The minute Tensai came out, it was like a giant “SQUASH MATCH” sign was put up and people tuned out. Tensai looked good to me and kept up a brisk pace. After his win over Cena last week, it was nice to see him ‘graduate’ to an opponent who sees the main event from time to time.
Rating: 6.0 out of 10
SEGMENT FIVE: Kane Doesn’t Care about Paul Bearer
Kane’s pyro will never not kind of freak me out because of the way it comes out of nowhere. And that’s great. I love that. His promo was kind of standard until Randy Orton appeared on screen (and got a giant pop — one of the funnier moments of the night was how much the crowd popped for Orton before this when they showed his commercial for WWE 12 at one point — he’s that over) with Paul Bearer and stuck him in a freezer. Kane’s reaction was hilarious and suited his character perfectly. Their brawl was decent and the crowd loved Orton doing some posing — especially when he tore his shirt off. An unexpected way to build to Sunday, but fun and had some excellent dark humor.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
SEGMENT SIX: Alberto Del Rio & Cody Rhodes vs. the Big Show & the Great Khali
Match Result: The Big Show pinned Cody Rhodes
Judging from the report, those of you at home didn’t see as much of Rhodes and Del Rio playing the cowardly heels as we did. It was a little repetitive, but funny. What tipped me off to the commercial break was Rhodes addressing the crowd about how he wasn’t going to get back into the ring until they shut up, prompting a chorus of boos where he turned the match around. Rhodes and Del Rio worked well as a team… until they didn’t, which called back to how the match began well. The Big Show and Khali got the big win… and, yes, even from the top of the arena, watching Khali in the ring was painful. This could have been much worse than it was were it not for Rhodes and Del Rio.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
SEGMENT SEVEN: WWE Divas Championship Match – Beth Phoenix (C) vs. Nikki Bella
Match Result: Nikki Bella pinned Beth Phoenix
The Lumberjill stipulation was amusing for the eight Divas it brought out and the way it wasn’t used at all for most of the match. The finish was hard to judge since it was awkwardly done — most likely due to Phoenix’s possibly legit injury. This was a dull affair that left us puzzled at the end.
Rating: 4.0 out of 10
SEGMENT EIGHT: CM Punk’s Sobriety Test
Okay, did everyone else crack up when Punk screwed up saying the alphabet backwards when he was supposed to do it right? This was goofy and was obviously Punk stringing Jericho along. Punk’s drunk behavior was funny — the subtle WWF bit was nice. I’m not sure why he bothered to flunk the test and THEN attack Jericho. Maybe because the cops were there? I don’t know. That part came off a little dumber than the rest. If Punk was a little more over-the-top, this would have been much harder to watch. Also, it is amusing to be in a building of people booing the police.
Rating: 7.0 out of 10
SEGMENT NINE: Sheamus vs. Mark Henry
Match Result: Mark Henry pinned Sheamus
Something that made me laugh was this large black woman sitting in front of us who was wearing Sheamus’s “Great White” shirt. A little too ironic? Anyway, this was more angle than anything and gave the crowd a chance to finally chant “YES!” at an appropriate time. I was sick of that damn chant before the dark match even began — I think I first heard it tonight when I was just entering the arena and, then, heard it about twelve times before the dark match. Who says wrestling fans don’t just chant to hear their own voices? Sorry, another strange tangent… The match was a solid angle-building one. And Mark Henry got to win. So, yay.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
SEGMENT TEN: Epico & Primo vs. Santino Marella & Zack Ryder
Match Result: Santino pinned Primo
Right after the previous match, I hit the bathroom again and went to refill my WWE collector’s cup. I wasn’t expecting a free refill or anything, but even after I made it clear that I was willing to pay full price, they refused to refill it. No, they preferred I purchased a regular drink in a paper cup that I would then throw out. Lovely attempt to reduce waste, Joe Louis Arena. I only caught the second half of this match. From what I saw, it was a fairly typical tag match and the good guys got the win. Lots of Ryder chants.
Rating: Refill my cup, dammit!
SEGMENT ELEVEN: Brodus Clay & Hornswoggle vs. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
Match Result: Clay and Hornswoggle won via countout
It was a pleasure to see that Funkasaurus entrance live. Total crowd pleaser. I love how well Hornswoggle mimics Brodus Clay. This was a variation on past matches we’ve seen involving Ziggler and Clay, but with a little person thrown in for fun. I think putting this and the previous tag match back to back was poor pacing when this could have been stuck elsewhere to keep the flow going a little better. Otherwise, it was fun and it was what was it was…
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
SEGMENT TWELVE: The Cena/Lesnar Contract Signing
I could see what they were going for, but this match was pure fucking death. All of those people who got up during the Tensai/R-Truth match left here, too. Brock Lesnar is not an entertaining or engaging man to listen to and hearing him drone on and misuse words was a little painful — and oddly compelling because you assumed it was going somewhere. But, it wasn’t. It was just going towards him getting a bunch of demands that I can’t see them following through on next week and John Cena doing a whole lot of nothing. The crowd popped for Cena and shat on Brock a little, but, otherwise… it was a complete dud of a segment that, were it not for the dark main event and Cena birthday celebration that followed, would have sent this crowd home in a fairly unhappy mood. And not an ‘I want to see Cena kick Brock’s ass!’ unhappy mood; just a ‘what an awful way to end the show’ mood. Maybe this worked better on TV. I hope so.
Rating: 3.0 out of 10
DARK MAIN EVENT: John Cena & CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho & Kane
Match Result: John Cena pinned Kane while CM Punk pinned Chris Jericho
This was the first live show I’ve been to where there was a dark main event. That alone was a nice surprise. This was a short match (as dark main events are wont to be), but fun. The heels dominated early and the faces made a comeback that culminated with dual firemen carries, simultaneous GTSes and Attitude Adjustments, and a win for the good guys that segued into…
Rating: 7.0 out of 10
JOHN CENA’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
Today was John Cena’s birthday and the celebrating was kicked off with Vince McMahon coming out. He brought out the rest of the locker room and CM Punk acted as master of ceremonies a little. Before singing “Happy Birthday,” Triple H came out by himself, joked around with Punk a little, and entertained us a bit before we all sang the song. After that, we were all treated to the Great Khali doing it solo (which was funny), Cena getting kisses from the Divas, and Hornswoggle running down the ramp to give Cena a hug. It was lighthearted, ended with the Divas dogpiling on a very willing Cena, and was a lot of fun. Every live event needs to end with a birthday celebration for someone.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Segment of the Night: Edge Returning
Trash Segment of the Night: The Contract Signing
Final Analysis: Sticking just to Raw as it aired, it wasn’t too bad of a show. It started strong with Edge and kept that momentum with Jericho and Kingston. I don’t think there was anything about tonight’s Raw that warranted the three-hour timeframe. It felt a little at times like they were stretching for time and that final segment at the end of those three hours was the wrong call. It was dull and dragged with little to no payoff. At the end of two hours, it wouldn’t have bombed quite so badly, I think. As a whole live experience, it was great. The seats weren’t the best, but we could see fine (for the most part), the crowd was energetic, and the pre- and post-Raw stuff was very good.
Verdict: 6.5 for Raw; 8.5 for the live experience
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