Monday Night Raw Warm Up for October 8th, 2012

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Vince McMahon returns to deliver his “State of the WWE” address tonight in Sacramento at the Powerbalance Pavilion. A confrontation between WWE Champion C.M. Punk, Paul Heyman and the Chairman may be exactly what the show needs.

Tonight’s edition of Raw follows in the wake of a record 15-year-low rating for WWE last Monday, causing the company to rush into panic mode and bring back their most bankable performer. It’s not Steve Austin, The Rock, Bruno Sammartino, Hillbilly Jim, The Brooklyn Brawler or the ghost of “Macho Man” Randy Savage returning this evening. It’s Vince McMahon. Will the chairman’s presence inspire changes? His infrequent appearances have usually signaled a fairly prodigious event, but we can only hope that his appearance tonight results in a revolution greater than who fills in the general manager spot.

PTB: We’ve been on hiatus for a few weeks and I can’t believe I’m going to lead with the observation of seeing advertising for CBS’ “2 Broke Girls” during the first hour of Raw last week. That show is on against Raw on Monday nights, and if running an ad to have viewers change the channel (to a show that isn’t a competing wrestling program this time around) isn’t proof that three hours is too long, I don’t know what is.

THE JASON: Raw‘s current 3 hour (+) running time is unavoidable and there are no signs that they intend to change, but it seems like they are doing whatever they can to make it a much less entertaining affair. They are making some strides to showcase some of the talent by deciding to re-focus on the tag division, thanks in no small part to Daniel Bryan and Kane being incredibly entertaining as tag champs. Some of the guys are being put into longer matches, but there’s still a big void. There simply isn’t enough new talent being focused on, and while I’ve been clamoring for a few longer matches Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow was a 17 minute snooze-fest. I like Sandow and I was happy to see him get a good deal of offense in during the match but the end result was never in doubt.

PTB: I can’t disagree about Sandow’s chances of winning that match, but I would contend it was one of the more watchable in ring performances of late. I’m a big proponent if Sandow, but I make no secret of bring bored to tears by Sheamus and I actually enjoyed that match.

PTB: The match with Sandow aside, Sheamus was given a chance to be particularly terrible last week. I love that WWE had to crowbar in a debate last Monday to coincide with the first presidential debate of 2012. Sheamus’ attempts at comedy clearly keep falling flat. Why keep hammering at it?

THE JASON: Because that Sheamus is a comedian, I tell ya! In fact, I’m sure that they are casting him in the next WWE films comedy right now. The truth is that Big Show is a great performer and he carried this segment as far as I’m concerned. Sheamus is so ineffective right now as a top babyface. It made me recall when we were comparing WWE stars to superheroes. Cena was obviously Superman, Punk was Batman, Orton was the Green Lantern (because that movie sucked… a lot). Sheamus is Aquaman. What does Aquaman really bring to the table? Unless you are stuck at Sea and need a ride on a humpback, then not a whole hell of a lot. Sheamus just stands around, makes lame jokes, and he really hasn’t had a good match since the 2/3 Falls with Bryan. He’s turned into one of the most bland top guys in recent memory.

I don’t have a good correlation for Big Show. I don’t think that there are any Villains in the pantheon of DC Superheroes who has turned from bad to good and back again quite as much as Big Show has in his career.

PTB: With all due respect, Aquaman’s current series is very good, but in fairness there’s a lot of water-based activity. It’s hard to think of a DC analogue for the Big Show, and I agree that he was the only person making the debate remotely watchable. While I’d love to see another world title run for him, I’m afraid he’s just going to be used to put Sheamus over (again).

THE JASON: Sheamus is not working right now as World Champ. I think Big Show as the arrogant Giant who claims unstoppable, would prove to be far more engaging and ultimately it would truly bolster whoever would be the man to beat him.

PTB: Now that’s something I’d like. Honestly, presenting Big Show as someone who could become World Champion at will would be a great angle for him at this pint in his career.

Segments like the debate and the pretaped bits are getting a bit more room on the schedule with three hours to fill, but what mystifies me is introducing a new Main Event program Wednesdays on Ion when it seems they’re struggling to fill time. It’s way too many hours in the week in prime time. With this new show on Thursdays that’s four nights a week! Look out, Tuesdays. You’re next.

PTB: What may be most egregious about this new show is that it seemed to have no promotion prior to last week and they billed a WWE Champion versus World Champion match for the first episode. Just a few short weeks ago we were told this was better suited as a WrestleMania main event than being on Raw and now here it is on Ion?!?

THE JASON: You know (Yes, I just NASHED you), when I was a kid I would attempt to watch as much wrestling in a weekend as possible. There was an hour of WWF around noon, then another at 5. TBS had NWA for 2 hours at 6:05, then there was the occasional Saturday Night’s Main Event. Sunday would give you All-American Wrestling on USA at noon and TBS would have more NWA at 6:05. Monday you’d get 2 more hours of WWF on USA with Prime-Time Wrestling, the pre-cursor to Raw. That seemed like an awful lot when I was 11, and I couldn’t fathom having the time to watch everything that they put out now. There’s Raw, Smackdown, Main Event, Superstars and Saturday Morning Slam not to mention NXT and all of the content that they are putting on YouTube. This is without TNA or ROH’s contribution to the wrestling output as well, or all of the available content just hanging out on the internet. I think we are at a point of saturation and WWE are the last one’s in the room to realize this. We don’t need another hour – we just need the show we were already watching to be better.

PTB: There’s also increasingly more bleed through from Smackdown now that Raw is three hours, but I think so of that comes from a realization that there’s some decent talent on Friday nights. Sandow is the best example and the tag team tournament he and his partner Cody Rhodes (I’m dropping the “team” from “Team Rhodes Scholars” for them as a favor) are currently involved in something I’m very happy to see. I love tag team wrestling.

Also, the Prime Time Players should always wear suits. Always.

THE JASON: I’ve liked these guys since their introduction. I can see them winning this tournament, but I don’t see them getting the belts off of Team Hell No yet.

PTB: “Hell No” should be allowed a long ride at the top. Daniel Bryan and Kane have been excellent of late and this is a good way to keep them in the spotlight.

PTB: As far as tournament results, I was a bit surprised to see Rey and Sin Cara advance over an established team. The Usos were out in round one of this tournament as well and the same fate befell former tag champions R-Truth and Kofi Kingston on Smackdown last Friday. There’s clearly a changing of the guard as far as teams go, but I still want a few dedicated teams in the mix. Are new equivalents to the Killer Bees, British Bulldogs, Demolition, and the Hart Foundation too much to ask for?

THE JASON: What happened to Hunico and Camacho? They seemed to have vanished.

PTB: They could easily be appearing on one of these shows and we’d never know it!

THE JASON: I still think that the only use for Mason Ryan and Ezekial Jackson is in a tag team. Please, don’t let those guys work in singles matches. WWE – you can have that suggestion for free unless the thought of either of them being back on TV is actually worse idea. In that case, I apologize. Stable teams are necessary for the concept to work, not just for the Usos and Primo and Epico to put over the makeshift teams. The whole point of Rey and Sin Cara as a team is to build to a Wrestlemania match between the two. I’m fine with that as the team helps Sin Cara adjust to working WWE style and allows Rey to heal up a bit more from his injuries. Sin Cara is just plain awkward in the ring sometimes, and last week’s match looked really sloppy. The matching outfits were a horrible look to boot. They should match – not wear pieces of each other’s gear. Total mess.

PTB: I’m behind the matching ring attire in principle but this one failed in execution. Another talent migrating from Smackdown to Raw is Antonio Cesaro. He has the makings of greatness, but he may have needed more time with Aksana. Her introduction of Cesaro’s five languages worked more smoothly for my tastes. He got an impressive win over Brodus Clay with that dead lift for the “Neutralizer.” That’s a great finisher name for the Swiss Sensation by the way.

THE JASON: Did you just make up “Swiss Sensation?”

PTB: Maybe, but it was low hanging fruit.

THE JASON: I didn’t see why they felt the need to break Cesaro and Aksana up so quickly. What else is she going to do? Cesaro was far more impressive in pulling off his finisher on a huge man than Ryback was later in the night. Ryback dropping Tensai twice and then yelling “STUPID!” took a little bit away from his unbeatable monster mystique. Methinks Ryberg needs a back-up finisher. Hell, take one from Sheamus. That guy has like 7 finishers now – but seems to always use the kick.

PTB: It’s pretty clear how they’re feeling about some of the new talent as Brodus gets squashed and they feed Tensai to Ryback after these guys were given massive pushes a few short months ago. Any chance Ryback’s star will start falling after failing to power his opponent up for his finish? His sudden inclusion in the WWE title picture could be another potential stumbling block.

THE JASON: It may be, but I feel they need to pull the trigger on someone. We can’t keep having the same guys in the top mix. There needs to be new faces involved. Unfortunately, the booking that they’ve done with guys like Ziggler, Miz, Kofi, Christian and others has damaged the crowd’s perception of a lot of them. They are looked at as second tier. Ryback hasn’t been beaten at all and looked continually strong.

PTB: As the big men got squashed, seeing the “more than one man band” faction tentatively called #encore was surprising. This may be the only way to get these guys over and we’ve actually discussed this trio before.

THE JASON: Did we? Really? These three guys specifically? Because Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntrye may be the worst stable ever formed in the history of wrestling. The Triple-Threat this is not. This mismatched bunch of geeks makes the “Misfits in Action” look like the NWO. It’s good that they are giving these guys something to do, but minus several points for them having no reason to be together and having it make little to no sense. It sounds like a bad joke – A redneck, an Indian and a Scotsman walk into a wrestling ring…

This is all kind of symptomatic of the start/stop pushes these guys get. Yes, Drew McIntrye was “The Chosen One” a few years ago and he was pushed to the moon. Then someone decided that wasn’t such a good idea and the only thing he’s chosen to do as of late is lose to Brodus Clay. The same goes with Jinder, who was brought in strong and most recently has been on NXT losing to Seth Rollins.

I will laugh if Slater keeps his “I’m a one man band!” catchphrase through this, because in truth he will no longer be by himself.

PTB: Ok getting back to what’s important, I feel like Heyman and Punk are running a bit hot and cold from week to week. I like it all, but some moments go over much better than others. The best thing from Punk and Heyman in recent weeks was clobbering time and the Heyman-hopping-high-five.

THE JASON: The Heyman hopping high-five was great, but let’s not underplay Punk/Heyman’s value to the show. They are really the best thing going on today (WHOO!) While last week’s segments did not measure up to the previous week’s interaction with Mick Foley, Punk is undoubtably their MVP.

PTB: I liked the symmetry of Ziggler running out on Punk in their tag match after Punk pulled a similar move a few weeks back, but I feel like Cena’s injury and absence have created more of a vacuum than ever before. Building toward a Punk/Cena rematch at Hell in a Cell isn’t helping the situation. What exactly am I meant to think of Ryback and Ziggler’s involvement in the WWE title picture when they’re clearly serving as placeholders?

THE JASON: You’re right. This speaks to what you mentioned earlier about a stumbling block with Ryback. I wouldn’t have Punk drop the title to Ryback now – but if they do have a match, how do you get out of it with Punk keeping the title and Ryback still looking unbeatable? Ryback needs to have another feud being built now. You could have BROCK come back and help Punk keep the title building to my previous thought on a Goldberg-Brock redo. What? No takers?

PTB: Well, (consider yourself Road Warrior HAWKED) the only we can be sure of tonight is the return of JBL on commentary. I cant believe I feel this way, but looking back JBL is one of the best characters in recent history. It’s kind of surprising when you consider his early efforts as Justin Hawk Bradshaw and even his tenure with the Acolytes/APA.

THE JASON: Best what? Mountain-climbers?

PTB: I’m legitimately impressed with that effort. My only complaint is JBL often beats a dead horse on commentary, but as I said when he first came back, a voice like his (and admittedly a voice like Vince McMahon’s) has been sorely missed on Monday nights.

Read more about World Wrestling Entertainment on MyLatestDistraction.

Keep up with all of our weekly Monday Night Raw Warm Ups:
September 17th, 2012 edition / January 14th, 2013 edition

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