Wrestling’s 4R’s Friday Edition 10.08.10: Raw and NXT Reviewed!
PLEASE NOTE: The individuals doing the R’s for each show have changed. Please take note of this. I realize only three people will read this and they will have to correct many other people in the comments. For you three, I just want to say thanks in advance. You guys rock. Also, since no one else is reading this, I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. Man, it’s good to get that out after 47 years.
By: Chad Nevett
– Mark Henry & Evan Bourne defeated Michael Tarver & John Cena [*3/4]
– Natalya defeated Alicia Fox [1/4*]
– Daniel Bryan defeated Sheamus via disqualification [Fuck that shit!]
– The Bella Twins defeated LayCool [-**]
– Wade Barrett won a 20-man Battle Royal for the #1 Contender to the WWE Championship [***]
MEET THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE NEXUS: JOHN CENA: For simplicity’s sake, I’m lumping the first half-hour together since it told one cohesive story (and what’s the difference between a combined Right or two separate Rights?). The show began with the Nexus coming out and Barrett addressing two problems: how his match with Cena ended and the near-interference of the Nexus. Sure, it was crap, but Barrett at least made the effort to lie and that’s what counts, right? Bringing out Cena sans music or enthusiasm was nice. As was the statement they made him read. There’s was a lot of tension in the ring and the crowd was just dying for Cena to go off on them. Cena made the decision to honor his agreement look torturous when putting on the Nexus armband (I’m waiting for him to have to wear the t-shirt). There were also some elements of all not being right with Nexus as Tarver went off the script a bit to lash out at Cena, prompting Cena to choose Tarver for the match with Mark Henry and Evan Bourne. Barrett and the Nexus were suitably arrogant, Cena was torn, and the crowd didn’t know what to think.
One thing I didn’t like at this point was having the match begin for all of 30 seconds before going to commercial. That meant we went to commercial with Tarver dominating Bourne and returned with Henry dominating Tarver. The beginning with Tarver demanding to show Cena how the Nexus does it set up the rest of the match and Cena continually leaving Tarver in the ring to handle things alone. After Tarver lost it, Cena’s brutal beatdown was… well, far more vicious than we’ve seen from Cena in a long time. I kept expecting him to punt Tarver in the skull. He just laid waste to the Nexus member, declaring that he was both ‘Nexus and against us,’ vowing to destroy the group from within. That good feeling the crowd had disappeared as soon as the Raw GM (through Michael Cole) told Cena that he has to do as Wade Barrett says or he’ll be fired. Cena being Nexus in name only wouldn’t have worked (aside from a nice tease like what we got here), so this put the story back on track, and gave the episode a throughline as Cena debated what he should do for the rest of the episode with some run-ins with the Nexus, Michael McGillicutty, Husky Harris, and a heart-to-heart with David Otunga. The episode centered around this story and they told it well. The live audience was very into this and I hope the WWE can keep it up.
EDGE’S FINAL RAW APPEARANCE: Michael Cole… since I’m new to the Raw 4Rs, I should probably let you know what my view on Michael Cole is. His heel turn is a good idea, but it doesn’t work for a couple of reasons: he’s the play-by-play man and that position needs to be the one that the audience trusts/gets behind, and he’s inconsistent. Given the focus on kids, it doesn’t make any sense for Cole to praise both John Cena and the Miz. In the current WWE, things need to be more black-and-white. You love John Cena, you hate the Miz. That’s the way it works for the most part and having him switch between those poles doesn’t work. I think Cole plays the smarmy heel well, I just don’t think it suits his present position or that it’s done consistently enough. Okay?
This segment began with Michael Cole behind the GM podium, acting as the GM’s voice again, and calling out Edge for his apology. Edge not apologizing and not caring about the consequences was perfectly in character. Of the Raw roster, he’d be my first choice to move to Smackdown and the Miz coming out to defend Cole from Edge seems like it’s setting up the Raw/Smackdown match at Bragging Rights with Edge leading Smackdown against the Miz’s Raw team. Throw in a stipulation that, if Smackdown wins, the GM has to reveal his or her identity and we’ve got a logical, coherent story. Edge was suitably amusing in his criticisms of the GM, Cole, and the Miz. Given Edge’s face turn earlier in the year, I’m not sure where they’re going with him right now, but he was engaging and played off the others well. The Miz has his cocky routine down pat. This was pretty much the only non-Cena/Nexus segment that worked for me. Though, I have to ask: who did Raw get in exchange for Edge? Part of me would have liked the GM emphasizing how little he/she thought of Edge by having Hornswoggle or someone equally jokey come out as the other half of the Edge trade.
20-MAN BATTLE ROYAL TO DETERMINE THE #1 CONTENDER FOR THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP: The battle royal had a clear story: Cena protecting Barrett and helping Barrett win. They told that story well throughout the match with Cena often focusing on just pushing wrestling away from Barrett instead of eliminating them. He played the dutiful bodyguard, rushing to make the save more than once. The twist where he eliminated David Otunga was nice. The ending with Barrett and Cena alone was played very well. I’ll admit that Cena’s long hesitant pauses will get old quickly, but it’s still early enough that it works. I was expecting Cena to demand that Barrett eliminate him like when Shawn Michaels made JBL clothesline him to earn a title shot back in 2009, but Cena having to eliminate himself was the better choice. Beyond the Cena/Barrett story, there were some other things I really liked about the match. John Morrison eliminated a lot of guys and looked good doing it. Even his elimination was played well: he tried to be flashy and it cost him. Sheamus came off looking strong still, which was needed. Nexus eliminating Mark Henry played off that animosity with Cena watching, unable to do anything. Randy Orton coming out after the match to stand nose-to-nose with Barrett was the way to end the show, but I would have liked to see Orton at some other point in the episode. The WWE Championship definitely took the back seat here.
NATALYA vs. ALICIA FOX: Natalya beating Alicia Fox is always a Right in my book, but this was barely a match. Natalya dominating is good if it pays off, but it probably won’t. And this is a former Divas Champion that got beat in all of ten seconds. It was like they told the two of them to go out and deliver a match based on their respective levels of skill instead of telling them to just put on an entertaining match.
LAYCOOL vs. THE BELLA TWINS: Two Divas match in a single show? Wow, they must be low on ideas… Anyway, I liked the idea of LayCool wearing microphones to the ring and during the match. It’s one of those ideas that sounds good on paper, but fails in execution. LayCool have their banter gimmick down, so letting them talk more makes sense. What we got was Layla not really sure what to say while Michelle wrestled. I was amused by Layla’s angry outbursts about hurting her friend. The Bellas winning by pulling the old switcheroo is about the only way them going over the Co-Divas Champions makes any sense. Good idea on paper, horrible in the ring.
DANIEL BRYAN vs. SHEAMUS: Do I mind Sheamus going over Daniel Bryan? No. Do I mind Sheamus making the United States Champion Daniel Bryan look like a worthless jobber just so Sheamus can get a little bit of heat back after losing cleanly to Randy Orton the previous night? Hell yes. Considering that Sheamus got to look great in the battle royal, I don’t even see why this was necessary. And, better yet, why use Bryan? Maybe this will set up a feud where Bryan gets to play the underdog and overcome the brutality of Sheamus. Who knows. But, if it doesn’t, aren’t there plenty of other people that could have filled this role? Part of my annoyance comes from wondering why anyone would bury Bryan like this when he’s on the upswing and the other part comes from wondering why anyone would bury the US Champion like this? Hell, the Million Dollar Belt looked more prestigious on Raw.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE IS A JACKASS & GOLDUST WANTS SOME GOLD: The Johnny Knoxville stuff will either amuse you or not depending on your opinion to his brand of humor. It did nothing for me, but, even if you like it, it’s pretty ridiculous. Him getting involved in the Ted DiBiase/Maryse/secret admirer story was a good transition and I like the idea of Goldust feuding with DiBiase (it will be good for Teddy), Goldust in full crazy is also just flat-out ridiculous. The fun kind of ridiculous, I’ll admit. The WWE also lost any follow-up during the battle royal where DiBiase was included and Goldust wasn’t. But, the likes of Darren Young, Primo, Santino, and Kozlov were! And they contributed so very much!
Half of the show was great with Cena, Nexus, Edge, the Miz, and the Raw GM/Michael Cole. The show began and ended strongly with another high point in the very middle. Everything else was pretty bad. Ill-conceived, too brief, or just poorly executed. Where was the WWE Champion? Why bury the US Champion? Why make the Million Dollar Championship look more prestigious and desirable than the US Championship? I’m glad the Cena/Nexus story is as strong as it is, but it was clear where the effort went on this episode. Since half of the show was great and the other half was awful, there’s only one rating I could give this Raw…
SHOW RATING: 5.0
By: Jeremy Thomas
Aksana def. Maxine [*]
Kaitlyn def. Vickie Guerrero [-** ½]
NXT’s GOT TALENT (IN THEORY): Midway through the show was the second Diva Competition, which was a talent show. One again Cole was crapping on this, but you know what, I was okay with it here. He wasn’t mocking the competition itself, he was mocking the rookies and that’s fine for a heel announcer to do. And you know what? Once again, I’ll give Aksana credit, those were some impressive push-ups. On the other hand, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Truth/Naomi gimmick team-ups here considering Naomi’s rapping. AJ gave a nice little joke about Michael Cole that I’ll give him credit for before showing that she had flexibility. She’ll go far as a Diva. Jamie’s talent was apparently making out with Matt Striker; I have a feeling she’s not unique among the Divas with that. And Kaitlyn…drew. Of course, this was an opportunity for her to mock Vicki and of course that got her the win in the crowd’s eyes. Maxine baked a pie for Hornswoggle and then played the bitch, which of course meant she wore the pie. Thi8s played out a little better than the Bull Riding (we’ll get to that) and at least in terms of the competitions we’ve seen through the seasons, this was remarkably tolerable.
NXT ELIMINATION TIME: So of course our main event was the NXT elimination. Kaitlyn was safe and we pretty much knew that AJ and Naomi weren’t going home. I will admit that the choice of Jamie surprised me a bit. I figured that it would be Maxine, who’s shown far less than Jamie to date. However this also makes sense because Jamie can go back to being a ring announcer so it’s fine. Jamie’s goodbye promo was all sweetness and warmth and it got an obvious elimination out of the way to whittle down. We’ll probably be seeing Maxine and I would venture to say Aksana go before the real drama comes. But as eliminations go, this was just fine.
AKSANA vs. MAXINE: As we saw Aksana and Goldie in the ring, we got a recap of Goldie’s quest for the Million Dollar Belt. Yeeeeah. Anyway, Aksana’s opponent was Maxine and my expectations were not particularly high. Surprisingly, the whole thing started off vaguely competently…until Aksana got Maxine into the corner, went for a move and something went horrifically wrong. Maxine pretty much got dropped on her head by what looked like it was supposed to be a snap mare, and after watching it a couple times I’m putting the fault firmly in both ladies’ corner. Aksana didn’t even get close to flipping her over and Maxine sandbagged. Flat-out, it was ugly. They tried to pick it up from there and all things considering it didn’t do terribly. There was some awkwardness in the final roll-up bit, but otherwise it would have been vaguely tolerable if not for the nasty botch. As it stands this goes into puRgatoRy because it was better than expected but no way can I put something with a move like that in the Right.
HAPPY HOUR IN NXT-VILLE: NXT kicked off by going to Matt Striker, who introduced the Rookie Divas. Striker called this “the biggest night of [their] young careers,” and laid out that one of them would be eliminated. He then announced that for the night’s competition, we’d get…a bull-riding competition. Well, sadly that’s a skill they legitimately need to know as a Diva. Striker, Cole and Matthews got to make a few jokes about “cowgirl style” and the like which were silly but not unexpected. Now, I could talk about how silly this was, because it undoubtedly was. I understand the need for balance and arm strength, but there are a hell of a lot better ways to test that. But that didn’t bother me, because these whole competitions are silly. What bothered me was how much the announcers were crapping on this. Listen, it’s fine if something isn’t working right; it’s still the job of the announcers to sell it as well as possible. Here, Michael Cole and Josh Matthews were openly mocking it, at one point pointing out the crowd’s ho-hum reaction while sarcastically saying they were riveted and on the edge of their seat. And how cheap of a bull did they have in order for it to lose its horns mid-competition? I will actually give kudos to Aksana for holding on for nearly twenty seconds and the girls actually tried to make it fun and show a bit of personality, but everyone else crapped on it and while I don’t mind it not being taken seriously, outright mocking definitely earns a wRong.
DID YOU KNOW?: Seriously? I escape television altogether and I’m STILL getting plagued by these freaking things? For Christ’s sake. No, I don’t know, and I don’t care.
THE “IMMIGRATION AGENT” CALLING AKSANA “THE RUSSIAN TRISH STRATUS: I only have one thing to say to that.
Never mind, Layla said it for me.
KAITLYN vs. VICKI GUERRERO: Okay, so of course Kaitlyn is this season’s Daniel Bryan or Kaval. I don’t think that means that they’re going to push Kaitlyn into winning, but they’re trying to push her as a face via her pairing with a strong heel. There’s nothing wrong with this concept and they could have chosen worse people to play the two roles. But I won’t deny that the idea of Vickie in a match had me holding the trash can close in case it was vomit-inducing bad. This is no statement against Kaitlyn, but she’s certainly no expert in the ring and I doubted she was up to the challenge of carrying Vicki to anything remotely watchable. This match was more or less a joke as Vickie spent over a minute stretching before Kaitlyn hit her with an awkward drop-toe hold. From there, things just went downhill with a ton of stalling, Vickie kicking a downed Kaitlyn several times and so on. At least we got an actual move in once Kaitlyn took over in the form of the bodyslam, and then a roll-up that mercifully ended it. This match was not Jenna/Sharmell bad, but it was about the worst match I’ve seen this year. There wasn’t even any real entertainment aspect to it; this was dull and painful to watch on pretty much every level.
Listen, NXT is not Raw and it doesn’t have the same standards held to it. I’m not going to condemn this show into the ground because it’s trying to push Divas as “the next WWE superstar;” at least they’re somewhat trying to push a Diva. That being said, this episode had problems—namely, the matches. They put two of their worst in-ring talents in there together for Maxine vs. Aksana, and while I see why they did Kaitlyn vs. Vicki you just knew it was going to be a terrible match. This episode wasn’t the worst hour of TV I’ve seen lately, but it was certainly mediocre even considering lowered expectations.
SHOW RATING: 4.0
…and remember to stay grounded!