Tonight’s Raw from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is WWE’s final live effort to sell Sunday’s Over the Limit pay-per-view. With only three weeks separating events on the PPV schedule right now, it’s difficult to generate momentum particularly when the last offering, Extreme Rules, was primarily WrestleMania rematches. Last Monday didn’t do as much as we’d have liked to feature the marquee match for Over the Limit, Daniel Bryan versus C.M. Punk for the WWE Championship. It did, however, go a long way to establish the World Championship picture for the upcoming show. There’s a lot of ground to cover tonight, and hopefully everyone will get their due airtime including another appearance by Paul Heyman as Brock Lesnar’s representative.
PTB: Paul Heyman was hands down the highlight of last week’s show (and Lesnar’s entire return thus far) for me. I was genuinely suprised when he walked out and I loved that there was a delay (with Lesnar’s music playing through it) before he stepped through the curtain. Bringing Heyman back automatically raises my interest and I really hope it’s a long term decision.
THE JASON: I would gladly fork over my money just to keep hearing Paul Heyman say “Brock Lesnar.” Heyman brings such intangibles to the show. He hit that promo out of the park, even if the whole ‘contract walk-out’ is pretty weak in terms of storyline.
PTB: I don’t know that I find it weak if this is what comes out of it. You had said last time that WWE “firing” Lesnar was a creative way to explain his limited appearance schedule and you’re right. The whole angle got much better last week.
THE JASON: Agreed, but this speaks to the lack of WWE’s long term planning. Why didn’t they bring Heyman in from the outset? Could you imagine how much better the Raw segment from before Extreme Rules would have been had Heyman been there to do the bulk of the talking for Lesnar? Heyman is gifted in getting across the important points in a promo, he brings a certain realism and feeling to it and most importantly he knows Brock in terms of both the guy and the character. No one is better suited to getting him over.
PTB: Anything would have helped that train wreck of a segment between Lesnar and John Laurinaitis, but I’m fine with Heyman coming in now in this capacity.
PTB: We talked last time about the General Manager’s staff chewing up air time and the show didn’t open to its strengths last week. A brutal segment with Johnny “Ace” Laurinaitis at the top of the show can sour the whole night. His revision of Japanese wrestling history almost made the poor mic work livable. The line of the night, “I was the Hulk Hogan of Japan.”
THE JASON: I think Hogan was the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the IWGP title. That would make Hulk Hogan the Hulk Hogan of Japan.
PTB: We did see that Punk’s feud with Laurinaitis is still simmering, but just being in the ring with Johnny put a -5 bonus multiplier on Punk’s normally solid mic skills.
THE JASON: Johnny’s promo style is certainly a contrast to Paul Heyman’s. Sometimes I like it in a “so bad it’s hilariously bad” way. But the “evil GM” thing has been a tired concept for far too long, and Johnny doesn’t bring much new to the table.
THE JASON: I like that Punk brought up the fact that Lesnar was the factor in Cena being injured and that Laurinaitis was just picking what was left of the bones. I was afraid they’d bury the whole Cena/Lesnar match. The part of the segment that drove me crazy though was how watered down Punk has become. I shudder anytime he uses the phrase “WWE Universe” or calls Johnny something innocuous like a “toolbox.” It’s hard to balance rebelliousness with being a company guy.
PTB: This just isn’t where I want to see Punk spending his time with what’s sure to be a match of the year candidate coming up with Daniel Bryan. Last week went a long way to paint Laurinatis as a villain, but John Cena via satellite didn’t work for me. I think what irked me most was the notion that he’s making decisions for the board of directors now.
THE JASON: Absolutely! Why would they call him first?
PTB: I don’t see how that is meant to put him back over with the fans, because to me it makes him “Mister Special Treatment” as he’s been criticized before.
PTB: Eve was far more effective in her appearances than Laurinaitis last week. She works well in her new role, but back to back segments with one of Laurinaitis’ cronies is overkill no matter how much anyone likes looking at her.
THE JASON: I’d be fine with more wrestling and less Eve. Even though the evil secretary thing WORKS for her. I’d love to find out who runs Human Resources for Johnny. Those plunging necklines would get you written warnings at most jobs. But what was going on with that whole segment with Cody, Big Show and Eve? That didn’t do anyone any favors.
PTB: Vickie had her share of problems on the mic introducing Dolph Ziggler. A feud between the new Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth and the new “Varsity Club” of Ziggler and Jack Swagger works for me, but why start it with a singles match?
THE JASON: Why not? I think it’s just an inherent issue in booking the division. They don’t have enough teams where a solid group can get a push by gaining some wins over less important teams, so the only way to establish an issue is in a singles match.
Part of the problem is that being a tag champion doesn’t really mean much anymore. When we were kids you would rarely see the British Bulldogs, The Killer Bees, The Harts, The Bushwackers or any number of teams then in singles matches. You especially wouldn’t see one of the champs losing to Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage. If you are a tag champ now, that automatically means that you are fodder to be fed to the top guys.
PTB: It’s interesting you mention that specific scenario. One of my all time favorite matches aired on a Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1987 and featured Bret Hart with Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and Jimmy Hart in his corner versus Randy Savage. While they weren’t champions at the time, the Hart Foundation were almost exclusively seen in tag team action like most established teams at the time, and I think that’s a big part of why this stood out so much to a young PTB. Even though the tag team specialist suffered the loss to the main evener, it was a far cry from the way we’ve seen one of the tag champs squashed by someone higher up on the food chain recently.
PTB: Having one half of the tag champs and a reasonably established team in a singles match last week was especially bizarre when they put a Divas tag match and the pairing of Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho against Sheamus and Randy Orton on the card. Although I did love the classic miscue finish to that one. That’s what should happen every time two singles wrestlers team up!
THE JASON: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Maxine before and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see much of her after last Monday. Speaking of things I’d be fine without seeing again, the fruit was back in Beth Phoenix’s hair.
The match with Orton/Sheamus vs. Jericho/ADR was really good and the ending helped get the angle going as well as boost some of Jericho’s cred since being on the losing end of the feud with Punk. Good to see Jericho bust out a few chops as well which there seemed to be a moratorium on.
PTB: I honestly hope this is good for Jericho, and all four of these guys being involved in the World Title hunt really works for me. That booking was a win. Although I’d prefer to see them have to work a bit for a title shot rather than an immediate Fatal Four Way at Over the Limit.
THE JASON: My issue with this match is that Jericho and Orton didn’t win the Beat the Clock challenge last week. Jericho didn’t even win his match! It’s flawed booking where if you fail to get a shot at the WWE championship you automatically wind up in a match for the World Championship instead. I could almost deal with it had Jericho had a time to beat last week.
PTB: That goes back to the confusing finish to the Jericho / Big Show Beat the Clock match. Based solely on what you could hear of the referee, I came away thinking Jericho won by count out but didn’t beat the clock.
THE JASON: Of course the resulting 4-way is a much better option than ADR and Sheamus having a singles match. In the first 10 seconds of the match I thought Del Rio/Orton and Sheamus/Jericho would be infinitely better options than Del Rio/Sheamus.
All in all though, does this completely invalidate the Brand Split now? Bryan, is a Smackdown wrestler and the World Heavyweight Championship match has a mix of Raw and Smackdown guys. They are supposed to be doing another draft lottery in June… is there a point?
PTB: The lines between brands has been pretty blurry for a long time, and unfortunately the draft is just one of the motions they go through at this point.
Brodus Clay’ Mother’s Day PSA was a fun idea. You’d think facing Miz would be the point where he’d have a challenge, but then you would have thought that with Ziggler.
THE JASON: Miz isn’t a challenge anymore. He’s been on jobber status from the moment he missed catching Truth a few months ago. I just don’t see him crawling out from under this funk. Heh! PUNS.
I did think he got a surprising amount of offense in this match, which really hurt Clay’s mystique.
THE JASON: The unfortunate translation from greek would be the Funk Fingers, which is probably not PG for the WWE Universe.
PTB: As we touched on earlier, last Monday didn’t do as much as I’d have liked to feature Daniel Bryan versus C.M. Punk’s WWE Championship match, especially when you consider the three weeks they spent facing one another on the Road to WrestleMania in their champion-versus-champion matches. They had just as much time to get ready for Over the Limit, but this feud feels a little flimsy by comparison.
THE JASON: True. The guys have had parallel careers, similar out of the ring philosophies and a history from Ring Of Honor. They could have done a lot more. Hell, just promise that we’re going to get two of the best in a classic match.
PTB: A handicap match featuring Punk against Bryan and Lord Tensai didn’t help to do anything but show Laurinaitis abusing his power and that should be saved for Cena at this point (the way this match was announced clearly didn’t go down the way they intended either). I’d much prefer just to see Bryan and Punk build on their feud in the weeks before Over the Limit. Working in more Punk/Laurinatits is too much with Cena/Laurinaitis already going on.
THE JASON: And any similarities between Punk and Cena is ultimately a bad, bad, bad thing.
PTB: I also found it odd that we got a commercial break covering the entrances for the heels. I’m wondering if this was done to mask the “YES!”ing from the crowd in support of Bryan.
THE JASON: You know (Kevin Nash™), we only have Punk to blame for the excess of John Laurinaitis. Before last summer, Johnny was never mentioned on television and wasn’t a character. I would have preferred that, and it’s not because he’s pretty useless in this role. I felt that when Punk cited Johnny Ace during the infamous promo last year and pointed him out as being a “middle-management, ass-kissing, yes-man” that it provided an opportunity for a guy known as Vince McMahon’s head stooge to be occasionally seen on camera. Who can Punk, or anyone else, really blame as the middle-management guy messing with the WWE when that middle-management guy is essentially the boss.
Granted I don’t want to try and explain the logic of the past year’s storylines where both Vince and HHH have been removed from their duties – but still seem to remain in the corporate positions. Speaking of logic…
PTB: It’s crazy to see Tensai go over Cena and Punk in recent weeks.
THE JASON: I agree. Unfortunately I get the feeling that Tensai is going to be shuttled down the card much like other overpushed monsters Khali, Vladmir Koslov, John Heidenreich, Mordechai… I’m sure there’s a healthy list we can concoct.
As much as you and I love that GREEN MIST, I feel like he’s just not connecting with the audience. They don’t see him as a threat and the wins over the top guys aren’t convincing people. I like Albert and I’ve been interested in what the plan was for him, but I think the whole character is a bit too cartoon-y to be taken seriously as an adversary at the top level. The quick ascension that we discussed a few weeks back hasn’t helped his momentum, nor is blowing your finish in an epic fashion, and the Mingstache and facial tattoos are no help either. But if Sakamoto comes out dressed as Klytus next week, then I’ll be back faster than Flash running with a metal football.
PTB: That would be cartoonish is all the best ways. I’m just going to let you run with this.
THE JASON: Ooh, ooh! You know what would be great? If Tensai came out to Ming’s Theme from the Flash Gordon soundtrack. It wouldn’t make him a bit more interesting to the crowd, but he’d continue to get infinite support from me. Hmm, who could play Flash? If Daniel Bryan was still with AJ and he wasn’t a heel they could be a great Flash and Dale.
Next week we’ll re-make another 80’s movie with WWE stars. I think I’m leaning towards Evan Bourne and Dolph Ziggler in a remake of Weird Science. Instead of Kelly LeBrock, the starring chick will be Vickie Guerrero. Oh, the hilarity! It will surely be more interesting than “The Chaperone” or “The Marine 3.”
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