The Raw Warm-Up is back as Monday night’s long-running wrestling program continues its march towards the landmark 1000th episode, and three big hours on a continual basis. In the weeks we’ve been gone, the most significant change to the landscape on Monday nights has been centered around the General Manager’s position with Johnny “Ace” Laurinaitis being ousted in part by John Cena partnered with the return of Vince McMahon. The fans seem to have turned a corner with Cena in his ongoing feud with the Big Show, and the power vacuum at the top has led to guest General Managers stepping in each week. Tonight, the much maligned Teddy Long makes a triumphant return calling the shots, and we’re hoping for a strong showing with the return of Brock Lesnar in Laredo, Texas.
THE JASON: The big story of the week seemed to be the positioning of the competitors for the Money in the Bank match at this month’s pay-per-view of the same name. Chris Jericho also made a dynamic return cutting off a John Cena promo. I’m glad that they are treating this like a big deal and including only former WWE champions in one of the matches will surely give it some necessary starpower. There is an inherent issue in this methodology since the original concept was to get guys to the next level, not give a main-eventer another championship opportunity. In any case, Jericho, Cena, Kane and Big Show is an interesting beginning to the match.
PTB: They certainly aren’t the names you would normally consider for a ladder match, but I do like the approach. More than anything, I like the idea of there being a pool of contenders that are feuding and interacting to get in for a title shot while the champion, C.M. Punk, deals with his current challenger, Daniel Bryan.
It was particularly great seeing Jericho return, wearing clothes, and out of a Brazilian prison. Jericho and Cena in the ring together made for some nice mic work and it actually felt fresh. It was also surreal to hear the majority of fans cheering for Cena again.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGsNNCopIss]
THE JASON: What show were you watching? I heard a good deal of “Y2J” chants. Jericho spent the 3 months prior to being off TV doing heinous and dispicible acts to CM Punk. The crowd when given the option of Jericho or Cena sided with Jericho. And for good reason, Cena’s promo was frighteningly bad last week. I love Star Wars. I love wrestling. Cena attempting to marry the two in an effort to achieve a ‘Vince McMahon as Yoda’ punch line was awful.
PTB: Fair enough. Rewatch Cena’s entrance though. I’m not saying they were favoring him over Jericho, but before Jericho was in the equation Cena got a strong positive reaction. Once he got to the ring and the initial roar died down, the boo birds came out, but it was one of the strongest positive reactions I’ve seen/heard for him in a long time.
THE JASON: Alright, strong point – there were people enjoying his vomitorious monologue prior to Jericho’s arrival.
PTB: Those fans may have wanted some of that energy back, although they did seem legitimately amused by the thought of Yoda McMahon saying “Fired, you are.”
THE JASON: Let’s start with whoever wrote that bit.
Now that Jericho, Cena, Kane and Big Show are confirmed for a ladder/contract match at Money in the Bank, I wonder who else will be included. Brock Lesnar is a former WWE champion as well.
PTB: It’s a thought, but given the infrequent appearances from Paul Heyman and Triple H (they were on once in the four weeks we’ve been gone) I don’t think we’ll see Lesnar in a match until SummerSlam. Although we will see him (and one would hope Heyman) tonight on Raw to respond to Triple H’s challenge.
As far as other contenders we may see in the Raw ladder match, Randy Orton would qualify and The Miz is still out there. Of course, this could be an opportunity to bring back a former champ like Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, or the recently rumored Batista, but the only contingency that seems remotely realistic would be a return for Rey Mysterio.
THE JASON: I believe that Orton is suspended until well-after Summerslam. I think we need to find a champ that isn’t in TNA to make a surprise appearance. It would be a great time to bring Mysterio back. In any case, this match will certainly have more star-power than the version on the Smackdown side.
PTB: No question, although last week’s Smackdown and tomorrow’s live Tuesday edition (that’s also The Great American Bash?!?) feature qualifying matches for the World Championship contract match. That match is open to anyone as opposed to former champions, and so far the match includes Damien Sandow (over Zach Ryder), Tyson Kidd (over Jack Swagger), Justin Gabriel (over Tensai), along with Santino Marella and Christian who qualified as a team (over David Otunga and Cody Rhodes). I’m not sure how crazy I am about the Intercontinental and United States champions being in that match, but Otunga added a new bit to his ring entrance that I’m sure you’ll hate.
THE JASON: Otunga may suck as a wrestler, but he would have been MONEY in the WBF![youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB3Oi23fS-k]
PTB: As far as bringing back the Great American Bash, I’ve been thinking the live Tuesday Smackdowns were testing the waters for a move but I never expected them to be repurposed into events using old pay-per-view titles. Is this the future of King of the Ring, Cyber Tuesday, or In Your House?
THE JASON: I think that would be great. They are going to need to do something to provide Smackdown with some additional luster with so much more time being exerted and produced for Raw. I liked that back in 2002-2004 that Raw was the “storyline” show and Smackdown was the more wrestling-heavy show. It still skews that way to an extent, but friday night’s are hurting for star-power right now.
PTB: I can’t argue with you there, but I do like that emerging stars seem to get more air time on Smackdown.
THE JASON: Last week’s Raw started out with AJ talking to herself and I was surprised that was the segment to begin the show. That segued into ANOTHER 3-WAY MATCH with Bryan, Punk, and Kane. It’s hard to complain about these matches though and this one was quite good. I really like how Kane is portrayed as a monster in these exchanges, but he’s still selling for all of Punk and Bryan’s offense. It makes their moves look particularly devastating.
PTB: I was against Kane being thrown into this at first but I’ve come to really appreciate the way it’s played out. I think part of that comes from really being down on his recent feud with Cena, but this has turned all that around.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wxL5pesYJo]
THE JASON: I wasn’t thrilled with it at first either. It also becomes difficult to keep Kane a heel in all of this. Bryan is the character that more of the crowd see as the bad guy, and Kane winds up in the middle ground. Kane carrying out a prone, but winking AJ makes him look like the suffering Frankenstein’s monster again. During last week’s encounter AJ wandered out and caused the distraction letting Punk eliminate Kane, who in turn fell prey to a quick kick by Bryan. I had no idea that was non-title… again. BRYAN SHOULD BE CHAMP! All in all it sets up another Punk/Bryan match at Money in the Bank, so no complaints here.
PTB: Agreed, although I always like more rationale for pay-per-view main event rematches on television that are suddenly non-title. All it takes is a provision that the winner gets a title match a Money in the Bank, and if Punk wins neither if them get one. Michael Cole could have easily worked that in among countless times he struggled to say “WWE Championship Contract Money in the Bank Ladder Match.” There has to be a better way to put that.
THE JASON: As Mr Miyagi once said “the best defense is no be there.” AJ’s involvement is still an uncertainty though. Kane blew her off in a pretty amusing segment. I really liked his “I’m not boyfriend material” line. Punk seemed like he’s intending to kick her to the curb, and AJ did the “YES” chant after her win in the women’s battle royal. She was inserted as special referee for the Money in the Bank Punk/Bryan match. I’m still intrigued, but I don’t love how the WWE title is nearly forgotten in all of this.
PTB: AJ is certainly getting a lot of air time and while I’ve liked her involvement it’s time to start considering where all of this is heading. I thought she’d leave No Way Out paired with one of them, but obviously that hasn’t happened yet. I’d almost rather her end up with someone new than any of the three she’s currently dealing with. Punk doesn’t need her, Kane is a monster, and Bryan would be a retread and she’s evolved past that.
THE JASON: True, but her getting back with Bryan is the only pairing that makes sense to me. With that being said, I think that Punk wins at Money In The Bank and we get Punk/Cena at Summerslam.
PTB: Forgive me if I can’t get over thinking that’s only going to bring back painful memories of where things could have gone last year.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYN8eHEoNNM]
THE JASON: So Vickie was the guest GM this week. We’ve had Mick and Vickie, Teddy Long will be next week. Bischoff and Angle are out as choices. I guess we’ll have to get Stephanie one week. Who else? The Anonymous Raw GM Laptop?
PTB: William Regal has been floating around but I doubt they’d go that route even though I’d love it. Is there any chance we could see Ric Flair for a night?
THE JASON: Technically he was an owner, not GM. What about Tiffany! She was ECW GM. Speaking of awful authority figures – did Vince Russo return? There was a “CONTRACT ON A POLE” match last week between Ziggler and Del Rio for a shot at Sheamus. That was Russo’s calling card. With the exception of the Rock/Mankind “Pinkslip on a Pole” match which led to Foley’s return as Cactus Jack, I dislike the “On A Pole” gimmick. Russo used this so much it became a cliche in WCW and TNA. It was like “What can we stick on a pole next?” It is so stupid and the rules are always convoluted. Last week Ziggler grabbed the contract and dropped it, so instead of who got the contract first, now it was who got the contract and actually held onto it.
PTB: Judy Bagwell on a pole. I’ll leave it at that, but the juggling for the contract certainly didn’t jibe with previous rules.
THE JASON: The crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Ziggler” the whole match. They also chanted “Let’s Go Swagger” during his match with Santino. Interesting.
PTB: You never know who the crowd will back. Ziggler makes some sense but Swagger was a surprise. Although I was shocked that Tyson Kidd got the nod over Swagger in their Money In The Bank qualifier last Friday.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziJjqZc0uZY]
THE JASON: I agree, Swagger comes off completely unlikable. It just may be a revolt on the audience’s part; these guys should be getting moved up and they are going to “Daniel Bryan” the situation. Also, I noticed that During the Santino match Cole attempted to correct Lillian Garcia on Santino’s origin and managed to mispronounce Calabria. EPIC FAIL.
PTB: He’s the worst.
THE JASON: He’s the best… at being the worst. Bob Barker also popped up in a pre-taped segment to reminisce about hosting Raw and giving the Hong Kong Phooey to Chavo Guerrero. He challenged Chavo to a rematch on the 2000th episode of Raw. Maybe by that time Chavo will be back with WWE. Unless Raw becomes a daily show, that match will be around 2031 and Barker will be 108 years old. Chavo will still do the job.
PTB: Chavo has always done what’s good for business whether it’s riding to the ring on Pepe the wooden horse, playing the part of Kerwin White or taking a beating from a game show host. It’s worth noting none of those things were actually good for business, perhaps with the exception of Pepe.
THE JASON: As a matter of fact, I loved Chavo when he had Pepe. It was so out there, but it worked – especially at a time where not a lot worked in WCW. I shed a tear when Norman Smiley threw Pepe in the wood chipper. The guy filling Chavo’s boots, Mr. Heath Slater came out to be slaughtered by another former Raw superstar. Last week it was Psycho Sid Vicious. Sid looked old. I’m sorry! He really did. It looked like he was beating up Slater for toilet-papering his house. I never got Sid’s allure. Terrible wrestler, terrible promo, terrible mini-mullet. I’m amazed he was able to come back from breaking his leg in WCW and still be able to perform – if that’s what you call what he does. He gave Slater the most horrible looking spinebuster, and then the guy got up and took a powerbomb afterwards.
PTB: I think I saw Sid go through that exact same sequence in some of his championship matches years ago. I almost wish we’d gotten another “Can we start over?” moment from him in a live interview to go with it. I do not get the deal with Heath Slater though. I get wanting to bring legends back. I even get giving them an easy target, but it’s missing the mark for me. Plus, what happens with this guy on episode 1001?
THE JASON: My advice to Heath is if Vince asks you to do an angle with Hornswoggle you may want to say no to that one. Who gets to beat Slater tonight?
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