TV REPORTS KELLER'S WWE RAW REPORT 1/21: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of program in HD
Jan 21, 2008 - 8:11:48 PM
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By Wade Keller, Torch editor
KELLER'S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 21, 2008
LIVE ON USA IN HD FROM HAMPTON, VA.
WHAT HAPPENED: 1ST HOUR
-The regular WWE brand-stamp video aired unaltered. Then they went to clips from las week's show of Randy Orton attacking Jeff Hardy followed by the huge stunt move by Hardy on Orton. As usual, a superbly produced recap. THen came the Raw opened in HD. Damn cool looking. The new Raw set debuted featuring a huge tubular lighted up Raw logo. It seemed as if moved the ring nearer the entrance set at least this week as the arena seemed cut off before the very end to build the new stage. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd. They hyped a Hardy-Orton handshake coming up later.
1 -- SHAWN MICHAELS vs. MR. KENNEDY
Shawn Michaels made his ring intro. Ross said it was only fitting Michaels would be the first wrestler to make his entrance in HD. The camera angles are different, with a lower perspective looking up at the great new entrance stage set fitting of a Las Vegas Casino front on the strip. Lots of activity and motion. Michaels rubbed Kennedy's shirt between his legs before the match began. The sound quality in HD is remarkably better, too, as you can hear the landings on the mat more distinctly. It may be they mic'd the ring differently, although the sound quality in HD is a huge step in addition to picture quality. Ross billed this as the rubber match. Good, high-energy action from the opening bell, with some good, hard flatback bumping by Kennedy. Michaels hit a top rope elbow at 7:00 and then played to the crowd and signalled for Sweet Chin Music. As he stomped the mat, Kennedy got up. Kennedy side-stepped the kick ad bailed out to the floor. Michaels propelled himself over the top rope to the floor. They cut to a break.
Kennedy catapulted Michaels head-first into the ringpost during the break. He continued to beat on Michaels as they returned to live action. Lawler touted several times Kennedy's amped up aggressiveness. Michaels flip-bumped into the corner, but then fired back with a desperation clothesline to take Kennedy down. Kennedy was the first to get up and gave Michaels a chin-breaker. He went for the Mic Check, but Michaels elbowed out of it. Kennedy bled from his eyebrow area. Michaels superkicked Kennedy out of nowhere to get a clean win.
WINNER: Michaels at 15:00.
STAR RATING: ***1/2 -- Really good TV match. One of the better Raw matches in a while. They just turned up the energy level and executed everything well. Good out-of-nowhere finish, too - the type that adds drama to all near falls because it wasn't after interference or cheating.
-They went backstage to Randy Orton who said to Vince McMahon, "Let me get this straight; despite Jeff Hardy nearly ending my career last week on Raw, you want me to out there tonight and shake his hand?" McMahon said he knows he's hurting, but that's what he wants him to do. There was a lot of sound interference, a hissing-like noise, in this segment. Orton said after what Hardy consciously did to him last week, he should be in a wheelchair. He said there's no way he'd go out there and shake his hand. McMahon said he's had to shake many hands he didn't want to. He says he carries a hand sanitizer bottle with him everywhere he goes. He said if he shakes Hardy's hand, it might lower Jeff's expectations of the hardened, incorrigible scoundrel he is. McMahon said he doesn't care if he doesn't mean it. "Hell, I don't mean it when I shake someone's hand," he said. "Think of it as a competitive advantage." He said if he goes to the ring and he's standing next to Jeff and he shakes his hand and looks him in the eyes, Jeff will wonder what he has to do to break him. "When you look into his eyes, he'll have his answer: he can't," said McMahon. "Go shake the man's hand." Orton contemplated McMahon's comments.
2 -- "GLAMAZON" BETH PHOENIX vs. MICKIE JAMES
Lawler tried to sell Mickie as someone who has given Glamazon more trouble than the other WWE Divas in the ring. They've done nothing but treat Mickie like a jobber, those words felt empty.
WINNER: Glamazon in 4:00.
STAR RATING: 3/4*
-Todd Grisham interviewed Triple H. He said because in HD everything is going to be crisper and clearer, and McMahon hasn't told him who his opponent is yet because "Vince has spent the last eight hours locked in a room with a team of industrial make-up artists and spacklers trying to hide his various liver spots and age lines." Triple H said it doesn't matter who his opponent is because he will be in the Royal Rumble this Sunday. He said it's not a promise, it's a guaran-damn-tee. The camera zoomed in on Triple H's face.
-Ross hyped the return of Chris Jericho tonight as clips aired of JBL trying to hang Jericho.
-Backstage, Brian Kendrick and Cody Rhodes chatted. Kendrick said he has a qualifying mach later. Hardcore Holly walked in and asked if he has his back later when he faces Carlito later. Cody said at least he won't have to dress up as Carlito this time. Kendrick laughed. Cody said he put a picture of it on his MySpace page. Holly asked what that is. Kendrick said it's part of the world wide web. Holly said he knows what the web is. Holly said if someone gets in "my space," he's taking them out. Kendrick told Cody that Holly is a grouch. Cody said that's Holly on a good day.
-They went to Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross at ringside for the first time. They threw to a video package on Randy Orton. Clips aired from OVW. He said he has a confidence about him because he knows he's just that good. Then they cut to a music video on Orton to "Game On" by Disciple.
-They showed Finlay and Hornswoggle approaching the entrance set backstage. Lawler said they'd be teaming up for the first time next.
3 -- HORNSWOGGLE & FINLAY vs. THE HIGHLANDERS - Royal Rumble Qualifier
Rory yanked Hornswoggle into the ring a minute in. Hornswoggle bit his hand. Finlay slammed Rory and then tagged in Hornswoggle for a top rope splash and a three count. Ross said Hornswoggle could become the second McMahon to win a Royal Rumble. Finlay danced with Hornswoggle in the ring in celebration. Lawler said, "I was once Hornswoggle's height - when I was two."
WINNERS: Hornswoggle & Finlay in 1:00.
-They showed Chris Jericho heading toward the entrance tunnel backstage.
WHAT HAPPENED: 2ND HOUR
-They went back to clips of JBL beating up Jericho again and trying to hang him.
-Jericho made his ring entrance, which was an especially good fit with the new Vegas strip casino-front lights-show set. Ross said Jericho was serious all afternoon, not chatting casually with colleagues as people usually do on Monday afternoons. Jericho said JBL is a coward for not showing up and someone who threatens his own young children. He said when he looked into the camera and told his children that he was a coward and gutless and took the fight out of him. He said his four year old looked up at him with a quiver in his chin and asked, "Is it true? Are you a coward?" He said he saw doubt in his eyes he had never seen before. He said he changed him forever. He said he's made it personal and took it to "that space and time." He said after 17 years, he's never been treated like JBL treated him, but he said it was a huge mistake. He said he made a mistake by not finishing the job. He said as a result he is still there. Some fans cheered that line. He said he's been battered and bloodied by some of the best in the business, but he's never been dragged around like a piece of meat. "But guess what? I am still here." He said on Sunday at MSG, he won't be concerned about having a good show. He'll be concerned with having a fight. Probably a little too long, but the point was proven that he's actually serious - 100 percent - and wants serious revenge against JBL, so it accomplished that.
-Ross and Lawler plugged the Royal Rumble line-up. The subway theme of the graphics is cool.
-They went backstage to Vince telling Jeff Hardy not to ever again risky anyone's life like he did last week against Orton. He told him to go shake Orton's hand next week. He said it's like two rival politicians shaking hands when one knows the other is lying through his teeth. He said his actions have made people wonder just what he'll do to win the WWE Championship. Hardy said he'll be sure to give everyone something to talk about. The he crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
-They announced that additional reserved seats were just released for WrestleMania.
-Ross hyped the mystery opponent for Triple H.
4 -- BRIAN KENDRICK vs. UMAGA
Kendrick was announced at 172 pounds. He ran to the ring. William Regal appeared on the big screen and said even someone like Kendrick, with a little perseverance and luck, can qualify for the Royal Rumble. He told Kendrick he'd have to beat someone who has already qualified in order to qualify himself. Umaga's music then played. Kendrick took a deep, worried breath. Ross said he was talking to Kendrick at catering earlier, then added, "No jokes, please." He said Kendrick's dream has been to qualify for the Rumble since he was a youngster and that the Rumble was his favorite PPV match. Umaga punched him to the mat hard and often early. Kendrick avoided a corner dive by Umaga, then threw some kicks at Umaga's legs. Umaga brushed them off and took Kendrick down with an uppercut. He shook off Kendrick's leg kicks in a nice touch of selling after the fact. Then he hung Kendrick upside down in the corner and went for a diving headbutt. Kendrick avoided him and then kicked him in the head and leaped off the top rope with a dropkick. Umaga staggered. Kendrick threw some more kicks, but Umaga caught him mid-air seconds later and back slammed him hard to the mat. Umaga lifted him by the throat and Samoa Spiked him to the mat for the win.
WINNER: Umaga in 2:00.
STAR RATING: * -- Really well done, spirited underdog performance by Kendrick. Both wrestlers played his role well.
-They went backstage to Mickie crying. Maria approached her and asked what was wrong. She said she's so frustrated because she gives it all she has and she feels she can't beat Glamazon. Maria said it'll be okay. Mickie said it won't. Ashley walked up and asked Maria if she'd listen to a great idea she got at the Playboy Mansion. Santino walked up and said he knows what she was going to ask. "The answer is thank you, but no thank you. Maria does not need to purchase me a free subscription to Playboy magazine. It's like the expression: Why buy the cow when you have someone who lets you milk them for free."
-A clip aired of Vince McMahon's guest appearance on "Celebrity Apprentice" this Thursday night on NBC. They joked about who created the term "You're fired!" They each claimed he says it better than the other. Trump bragged about beating him at WrestleMania last year and getting his head shaved.
-They showed Triple H warming up backstage. Then they cut to Lawler wearing 3D glasses. Ross told him it's HD, not 3D. They threw to a video package on Hardy with "Rooftops" by Lostprophets. Old footage aired of Jeff pre-WWE and in his early WWE days.
-The ECW commercial hyped Chavo Guerrero vs. C.M. Punk for the ECW Title tomorrow night.
Ross said it's a miracle that Maria is still with Santino. A few minutes into the match, Santino stepped onto the ring apron. Holly dropped Carlito and moved over to Santino. Cody yanked Santino to the floor. Carlito gave Holly a back cracker from behind for the win.
WINNER: Carlito in 3:00.
STAR RATING: * -- Holly chops in HD look and sound a lot more impressive.
-A video aired hyping the Orton vs. Hardy match. WWE continued to do a stellar job promoting this match. It's one of their best non-WrestleMania match hype jobs they've done in a long time.
-They showed a corner in New York City with a Royal Rumble ad on a Rubix Cube marquee above a Chevy's.
-They went to footage from the 2002 Royal Rumble that Triple H won. They showed him eliminated Mr. Perfect and Kurt Angle with hair. A lot has happened in the last six years.
6 -- TRIPLE H vs. MYSTERY OPPONENT
With all of the production improvements this week, and over the years in general, they just haven't done anything to jazz up the actual wrestling ring, such as backlighting the ring apron with translucent elements. The silver/stainless steel looking glossy ringposts is the only noticeable upgrade to the ring this week, and it's a good look, but it seems there's more they could do. Regal stepped out and said Hunter has to face up to three opponents in an over-the-top gauntlet match. He has to eliminate all three to win. If any of his opponents toss him out, he's out of the Rumble match. The first opponent was Snitsky. Hunter clotheslined Snitsky over the top rope at 2:00. Regal announced Hunter's second opponent: "Smackdown's Mark Henry." Henry had Hunter tipping on the top rope briefly. Then he gave Hunter a backbreaker in mid-ring. Hunter lifted Henry for a slam, but Hunter fell backward with Henry's weight landing on him. Henry then splashed Hunter in the corner at Regal's urging. Hunter ducked a charging Henry, and Henry flew over the top rope to the floor. Regal signalled "stop" with his hand to someone backstage off camera, then charged to the ring himself to try to eliminate Hunter himself. He lifted Hunter on his shoulders and almost tipped him over the top rope. Hunter held of and fought back, giving Regal a spinebuster and then tossing him easily over the top rope to win and qualify for the Rumble.
WINNER: Triple H in 6:00.
-Hunter celebrated. Then they went to replays of each of the three eliminations.
-The showed Hardy and Orton on a split screen as each headed toward the entrance tunnel for the handshake.
-They replayed Hardy's big leap from last week again.
-Vince McMahon stepped out onto the stage to his music, then headed to the ring. Vince said, "All right, let's hear it - Vince McMahon in HD!" He introduced Randy Orton first. Ross said Orton has the chance to become one of the greatest WWE Champions of all time. McMahon then introduced Hardy. It's a lot easier to read the fan signs in HD. A woman held up a sign that said, "Jeff Hardy: Jump On This" with an arrow pointing down at her. McMahon asked what kind of match they'd be seeing at the Rumble, such as high-risk dives, potentially career-ending kicks to the head, or extraordinary athletes giving it their all and leaving it all on the mat until one of them walks out as champion. McMahon asked both as professionals and world class athletes to shake hands. He asked first if either had any last-second comments before the handshake. Orton grabbed the mic and said ever since he found out he was going to be his opponent at the Rumble, he had been relieved. "Don't get me wrong, you have done some amazing things, but you've never come close to becoming the WWE Champion. But I'll admit that I have underestimated you. Every time I close my eyes I see an image of Jeff Hardy crashing down on from 30 feet in the air. So congratulations, although you won't be winning this WWE Title on Sunday. But you have won something almost as important - my respect."
Hardy took the mic and said, "Just so you know, I don't care about earning your respect. I didn't hit a 30 foot Swanton to impress you, I did it to hurt you. I did it for my brother, Matt. I did it because I've waited too long for this opportunity. Most of all, I did it to show you I'll do whatever it takes to become WWE Champion." He said if he's going to shake hands with people he respects, he has a long line to wait in because there are people he respects a lot more than him. He walked to ringside and shook hands with Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Lilian Garcia. He walked into the crowd and shook hands with various fans, such as Ryan and Bobby and Cory and Ethan and Justin and Kevin and Chris and Wayne and Jordan and Christina and Brian. He worked his way back into the ring, after making the week of nearly a dozen fans. Great sequence. Really cemented that he's a "wrestler of the people" while also driving home he respects random fans more than WWE Champ Orton.
Back in the ring, Orton extended his hand. Hardy instead gave him a Twist of Fate. Orton sold it like he had fallen from the top of a building and landed on concrete. Hardy's music played as Ross and Lawler gave a final hard sell to the PPV.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Good show and really strong final chapter to a series of really strong segments in recent weeks hyping Orton vs. Hardy. The hype for that match had just the right tone, acknowledging Hardy as an underdog moving up to a new level for the first time rather than pretending he's been there before.
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