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CALDWELL'S WWE RAW REPORT 1/21: Ongoing virtual time coverage of live HD debut show

Jan 21, 2008 - 10:15:05 PM

By James Caldwell, Torch columnist

WWE Raw Live Report
January 21, 2008
Hampton, Va.

The HD debut show opened with the annual tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. from his "I have a dream" speech. The usual WWE intro aired, then they went to a video package from Hardy and Orton's crash landing to close last week. Man, they're teasing the new set and videos. They showed both men being stretchered off to close the show.

A remix of the current Raw intro video aired, with new graphics in the skyscrapers and tall "downtown buildings". They went live to the arena to showcase the pyro and video. Looks like a really nice, crisp PPV set. A little bit of the WrestleMania 22 set from Chicago and the new SNME set. Jim Ross introduced the show and said Orton and Hardy are scheduled for a handshake tonight. Shawn Michaels then did his intro for the first wrestler intro in HD. Mr. Kennedy came out to face Michaels. Lawler said Kennedy was handed a spot in the Rumble by William Regal for some reason.


The crowd was hot to start, with an "H-B-K" chant. The arena is bathed in red light, almost like Kane's ring entrance. Wrestlers take heed: get your tan lines right, as both men's color tone stood out in the crisp video presentation. As for the match, they went back and forth to start things off. Kennedy placed Michaels's back across his knee and stretched him while talking some trash. Kennedy took his eye off the ball temporarily, giving Michaels his opening to make his comeback with a hard chop. They went into a standing exchange of chops before Michaels nailed a flying forearm and kipped up for a big reaction. Michaels hit an atomic drop, then he dropped an elbow from the top turnbuckle. Michaels started to tune up the band, but Kennedy saw it coming and quickly ducked to the floor. Michaels didn't waste any time nailing a flip dive onto Kennedy on the floor. Cut to a break.

[Commercial Break]


Back from break, Kennedy was in control of the match. He lined up Michaels's head in the corner and nailed a charging boot to the head. Kennedy's eyes rolled a little to show how much he enjoyed the impact. Kennedy then made a cover, but it was good for a two count only. Ross rhetorically asked how that boot coming to Michaels's head looked in HD. Kennedy then sent Michaels upside down in the corner, but Michaels came right off the corner with a burst of energy to clothesline Kennedy square in center ring. Nice spot. Both men recovered to their knees, with Kennedy landing a head butt. He then stalked Michaels for an STO, but Michaels elbowed out. Kennedy rammed him to the corner, though, revealing a little blood around his eyebrow.

Kennedy was a little loosey-goosey as he took Michaels up top for an attempted superplex, but Michaels blocked and punched him down to the mat. Michaels then came off the top with another elbow drop, but Kennedy pulled his knees up just in time to block the hold. Michaels staggered out of the corner, and Kennedy hit a forward roll for a close nearfall and a gasp from the crowd. Suddenly, Michaels went for Sweet Chin Music, but Kennedy moved just in time. He couldn't bail from the ring, though, and Michaels went for his new submission hold. Kennedy pushed him away, though. Michaels then backed up and smashed Kennedy square in the jaw with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels made the cover near the ropes and scored a pin for the win.

WINNER: Michaels in 15:00. Excellent opening match in HD. Good two-part story, with the opening miss on the superkick coming in play at the end when Kennedy couldn't slip out of the ring to escape the second superkick. (***1/4)

They went backstage where Randy Orton felt his neck in pain on the couch. He then addressed someone off camera about having to face Jeff Hardy in the ring tonight when Jeff tried to end his career. The camera panned right to show Vince McMahon sitting next to him. Vince confirmed that he wants him to shake Jeff's hand tonight. Orton grimaced, then recapped the ending of last night when Hardy made a conscious decision last week to hit the Swanton from 30 feet up on his unconscious body. Orton said he should be in a wheelchair right now, so no way he's shaking hands with Hardy. Vince said he's had to shake hands with people he doesn't like tons of times before just because. (Bret Hart before DVD taping?) Vince said he keeps hand sanitizer just in case.

Vince said perception is sometimes reality, and if he shakes Hardy's hand, he'll be perceived as someone who is a nice gentlemen. But, the reality is Orton is a hardened scoundrel. Vince said he doesn't always shake hands with people he likes, but he considers it a competitive advantage. He said that if Orton shakes Hardy's hand tonight, Hardy has to be thinking to himself, 'What do I have to do to beat this man?' Vince said Hardy will find the answer in Orton's eyes that he can't beat Orton. Vince flashed his index finger at Orton and told him to go shake Hardy's hand. Orton folded his hands in thought. If you can set aside Vince's "notes to self", that's a money segment from Vince in the context of the storyline.

[Commercial Break]


Women's champ Beth Phoenix came to the ring for a match. Sweet graphics for Beth. As the opponent, Mickie James came out in her home state, so you now that's not a good sign. Ross said Mickie told him before the show that she's winning tonight.

2 -- Women's champ BETH PHOENIX vs. MICKIE JAMES -- non-title match

Mickie ducked under Beth early, then landed a Thesz Press for a series of right hand blows. Mickie went for ten punches in the corner, but Beth turned her around on the apron. Beth then smashed Mickie with a knee to the face, taking Mickie to the floor. Beth then rammed Mickie back-first into the ring. Back in the ring, Mickie rolled up Beth and got a handful of trunks for a nearfall. They did a standing forearm exchange, leading to Mickie nailing a flying forearm. Mickie kicked Beth in the gut, then went for a lift-up DDT, but Beth hung her across the top rope. Beth then transitioned into her fisherman buster suplex for the win. Afterward, Mickie slammed her first on the mat in frustration. She choked back tears while Beth stood confidently on the outside.

WINNER: Beth in 4:00. Good singles action. Nice story of Mickie becoming frustrated following another setback against Beth. Whether they follow up or not, well, that remains to be seen. (*1/4)

Time for a Grisham to Triple H interview backstage. Grisham set up the stips for Hunter's qualifying match tonight, then asked if he knows who the opponent is tonight. Hunter said he doesn't know who the opponent is, nor does he care. He does know Vince has been in his office for eight hours trying to hide the blemishes in his skin for HD. Set-up took too long to get to the punch line, so the crowd mildly reacted. Hunter said it doesn't matter who Regal and Vince come up with for his opponent tonight; he will be in the Royal Rumble this Sunday. Hunter said it's not just a promise, but a guaran-damn-tee. The camera zoomed in real tight to show Hunter's forehead for some reason. Yes, blade marks!

[Commercial Break]

They showed a video clip on JBL dragging Chris Jericho around the building two weeks. They plugged Jericho returning this week.

Backstage, Brian Kendrick talks! He shared a promo with Cody Rhodes, who was awestruck about being in the Rumble. Kendrick said he has an opportunity tonight with a qualifying match. He said he would do anything to qualify. Hardcore Holly stepped in and asked Cody if he has his back against Carlito tonight. Cody said no doubt, then cracked a joke about posting a pic of Holly in the wig on myspace. Holly asked what's a myspace? Cody and Kendrick tried to explain, but Holly cut him off and said that if anyone steps in "my space", they're going over the top rope. He wants the belt. Holly left, then Cody and Kendrick took a deep breath. Cody said that's him on a good day. Got some character development (finally), but HD can't hide bad acting.

They aired a career retrospective video package on Randy Orton - from OVW to his WWE debut (Stacy Keibler in the HD debut) to Evolution to legends killed to youngest World champ in history to punting folks in the head to the current feud against Hardy. Another world-class video production. Ross then plugged the handshake between Hardy and Orton.

Backstage, Finlay and Hornswoggle walked around the backstage area. Actually, Finlay walked and Hornswoggle did circles around Finlay. They're in tag action next.


[Commercial Break]

They returned with the camera focusing on the video board for Finlay and Hornswoggle's ring entrance. Those graphics are amazingly sharp. Highlanders were in the ring ready for a match. Ringside, Ross and Lawler plugged a article on some families needing tough love. Two distinct Britney Spears name drops. "Are the Hogans on there?" Ross asked.


Finlay didn't waste any time going after Rory, but Robbie got a knee in the back. Rory wanted a little fun with Hornswoggle, but Hornswoggle ran through the legs giving Finlay an opening for a forearm smash. Finlay then gave Rory a Celtic Cross and Horny came off the top with a tadpole splash for the easy win. Finlay and Hornswoggle then pushed Robbie over the top rope to the floor. They showed a kid in the crowd wearing a Horny green derby. Nice. Ross plugged Finlay vs. Khali in a Belfast Brawl on Smackdown. Finlay and Hornswoggle proceeded to do an Irish jig, complete with toe-to-heel tap from Finlay.

WINNERS: Finlay & Hornswoggle in 1:00. I'd like to think Highlanders are capable of more, but alas, just a squash to plug Finlay's match on Smackdown. (1/2*)

They showed Chris Jericho walking backstage in a snazzy dress shirt. Is he going to the club or the ring? A little facial hair, but still looking too pretty in HD. A great promo can make up for that, though.

[Commercial Break]

They showed a video package on the JBL vs. Jericho feud from the last few weeks. Intense video on JBL bashing Jericho around the building two weeks ago, with JBL's promo from last week serving as the audio for the video.


Chris Jericho walked out looking more serious than usual. He took his time coming to the ring, then took the mic. His music stopped and he surveyed the crowd. Jericho said he could come out here and say he doesn't want to wait for the Rumble to fight JBL, but that's not the case since JBL wouldn't come to the building when he found out he was here. Jericho said that's ironic since JBL called him a coward last week. Very seriously, Jericho said he was watching Raw last week with his kids and his four-year-old son looked at him to ask if he is a coward. Jericho said he's not. Jericho said that for the first time, he saw doubt from his son. He said JBL changed his son forever. He said JBL didn't want to make it personal, but he did. Jericho said that in 17 years, he's never been treated like that before. It's not the attack with the "telephone" chord that has him bothered. It's JBL not finishing the job. Jericho said he's still here. He's been beaten, bloodied, and beat up by some of the biggest and baddest in the business, but he's never been dragged around the building like that before. And yet, he's still here. Jericho hyped the MSG Rumble then said he's not interested in having a "good show," like he was told when he walked through the curtain. Jericho said it's only going to be one thing: a fight. His music hit as he stood in the corner thinking very seriously with his brow furrowed. Jericho walked out of the ring maintaining his serious look. Not a flashy promo. Not a stomp-and-scream promo. Not a yell-until-your-lungs-hurt promo. Not a crowd-pop-inducing promo. Just a darn good promo that hit the tone in a unique way and held audience's attention.

They cut backstage where Jeff Hardy was staring straight ahead. The camera panned back to show Vince McMahon screaming at Hardy for risking Orton's life and his own body. He said he has an investment in Hardy. (Just business, like a classic wrestling promoter - use 'em, then toss 'em.) Vince told him to shake hands with Orton like they're two politicians while knowing the other one is lying through his teeth. Vince gave Hardy his strategy for the handshake intimidation. He asked if he would go out there and shake Orton's hand. Hardy said he has nothing to worry about and he'll go out there to give everyone something to talk about. The camera zoomed in real tight to show Hardy's facial reaction, the whiteness of his eyes, and the razor marks around his facial hair.

[Commercial Break]

Ross and Lawler plugged Triple H vs. the mystery opponent tonight. Brian Kendrick then ran to the ring for the Rumble qualifying match. Ross said his partner, Paul London, is currently healing. Regal then showed up on the video screen to hype the Rumble. He said he's putting the finishing touches on Hunter's opponent, but Kendrick has to qualify with a win against someone who's already qualified: Umaga. Kendrick took a deep breath, then tried to switch gears to pump himself up as Umaga came to the ring. Ross said he was talking to Kendrick at catering before the show, and Kendrick said the Rumble was always his favorite PPV growing up.


4 -- BRIAN KENDRICK vs. UMAGA -- qualifying match for Kendrick

Kendrick tried to work on Umaga early, but Umaga stood his ground and nailed an uppercut. Kendrick came back with a dropkick from the top, but Umaga only rocked back on his heels. Kendrick nailed a round of kicks to the head, but Umaga didn't move. Kendrick went for a running headstart, but Umaga hit the sickest Samoan Drop of all-time - he chucked Kendrick into the air and fell back into a Samoan Drop all in one motion. Oh man. Umaga with the Samoan Spike to the throat for the win.

WINNER: Umaga in 2:00. What a freakin' Samoan Drop. Poor Kendrick. At least he got some meaningful TV time. (* for the Drop)

They went backstage where Mickie James was folded up crying. Maria came over and asked what's wrong. Mickie said she's so frustrated that she can't beat Beth Phoenix. Maria said it'll be OK, but Mickie snapped back that it won't be OK. Ashley came over to check on what was going on, but she didn't seem too concerned about Mickie's struggles. Mickie left in a huff, then Ashley talked about her recent rendezvous at the Playboy mansion. She wanted to ask Maria the obvious transition question, but Santino Marella stepped in to interrupt. He said the answer is thanks, but no thanks. He doesn't need Maria to purchase him a Playboy subscription. Brilliant. Ashley was speechless. Santino reasoned, "Why buy the cow when you have someone to milk you for free?" Oh. Santino took Maria by the hand and dragged her away while Maria did her best not to crack up laughing.

[Commercial Break]

Ross plugged Vince McMahon's appearance on Trump's Celebity Apprentice this Thursday night. Vince narrated some clips of the tension between the two. He talked about his natural swagger, but Trump said he doesn't need the power talk. They went back-and-forth on who came up with "You're Fired."

Backstage, some boots were walking around. Oh wait, the camera faded out to show Triple H pacing around ahead of his match. Suddenly, Ross asked Jerry Lawler what he was doing with his goofy paper glasses. Ross said it's HD, no 3-D. Lawler chucked his glasses down, then Ross built up Jeff Hardy. He dubbed him the Legend Thriller.

They showed a video package on Hardy's very early days in the backyard before teaming with Matt Hardy as Team Xtreme. Another state-of-the-art video.

[Commercial Break]


Tomorrow night on ECW, it's Punk vs. Chavo for the ECW Title.

Carlito's music hit and he came out to the ring with Santino and Maria. Santino tried to catch one of Maria's kiss. Ross said the fact that Maria is still with Santino is a miracle. They showed a video from two weeks ago when Holly beat Carlito in the trading-places match. Holly and Cody then came out together.

5 -- HARDCORE HOLLY (w/Cody Rhodes) vs. CARLITO (w/Santino Marella and Maria)

The seventh-quarter-hour filler match started with a waist lock into a take down by Holly for a nearfall. Carlito suddenly exploded out of the corner with a left-arm clothesline for a nearfall. Ross and Lawler engaged in a conversation on Ric Flair's career-threatening match at the Rumble. Ross said there's no way you can go through your career without losing. Well, unless you're a rookie on the Patriots this year and you retire after the Super Bowl if the Pats win. But, I digress. Holly snapped back on Carlito with hard chops before executing a suplex for a nearfall. Carlito walked into an Alabama Slam attempt, but Santino hopped on the apron to distract Holly. Cody KO'ed Santino, but Carlito nailed the Backstabber from behind on Holly. He pinned Holly for the win.

WINNER: Carlito in 3:00. Basic TV match. Not much to it. Carlito is so up-and-down that it's hard to get behind him as a character. Hopefully Santino's charisma and Maria's eventual Playboy push will rub off on Carlito. (1/2*)

They showed Triple H walking backstage.

[Commercial Break]


They showed a clip from the 2002 Royal Rumble when Triple H made his return from a torn quad to win the Rumble by eliminating Kurt Angle.

Triple H's music hit live in the arena and he came out for the main event. Ross hyped the Rumble at MSG while Hunter did his entrance on the apron with a backdrop of crisp graphics on the video board. After his music stopped, Hunter pointed into the crowd. The ref was on the floor instead of in the ring for some reason. He surveyed the excited crowd before William Regal's music hit. He stepped out on stage dressed for work, not to wrestle. Regal then said it's not one opponent, but multiple opponents. Oh dear, another gauntlet match. Potentially three opponents, with Rumble rules. That explains the ref on the floor. Regal said if one of the opponents tosses Hunter, then Hunter is out of the Rumble match.


First out to face Hunter was big Snitsky. Snitsky tried to eliminate Hunter within the first minute, but Hunter grabbed the top rope to hold on. Snitsky missed with a big boot near the ropes and crotched himself. Hunter then clotheslined Snitsky over the top rope. Out you go in 2:00.

Regal gritted his teeth on stage, then introduced the second opponent: Mark Henry. Henry took his time coming to the ring to make Hunter wait, then he jogged the final few feet to meet a right hand from Hunter. Henry came back with a big shoulder block, though. He tried to chuck Hunter out, but Hunter held onto the top rope to keep himself in the ring. Henry missed with a corner splash, then Hunter tried to lift him up for a scoop slam, but Henry fell right on top of him. Ouch. Hunter struggled to catch his breath, then Henry splashed him in the corner. Henry measured Hunter, but Hunter ducked and Henry went over the top rope. Henry out in 5:00.

Regal gritted his teeth again, then waved off his final opponent. Regal threw off his jacket and charged the ring. He went right after Hunter with left hand strikes and knees to the face. Regal tried to dump out Hunter, but Hunter held the top rope. Hunter came back with a Double A spinebuster, then he picked up Regal and chucked him right over the top rope.

The bell sounded, giving Hunter the victory and Rumble spot. Hunter posed in the ring while Ross hyped Hunter's aspirations to become WWE champion. Regal then screamed and shouted in frustration from ringside.

WINNER: Triple H in 6:00. At leas the didn't pin Snitsky and Henry in a total of five minutes, so it wasn't as blatant as previous Hunter-kills-the-gauntlet matches. Nice set-up for Hunter to get back in the Rumble and pose the question of whether he can win the Rumble. (*)

They showed Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton limping backstage on a split screen.

[Commercial Break]

They came back and showed the video package on Hardy making the decision at the end of last week's show to take out Orton with the 30-foot Swanton bomb.

[Q9 - over-run]

Vince McMahon came out ahead of the handshake confrontation to say, "Vince McMahon in HD!!!" Boos. Vince hyped the Orton-Hardy title match before introducing Orton. Orton's music hit and he slowly limped to the ring to sell last week's injuries. His music stopped and Vince introduced Jeff Hardy to a superstar pop. Hardy limped out in street clothes with the IC Title belt hung over his shoulder. He stood firm in the ring and returned Orton's piercing gaze.

Vince said this is usually where he hypes a WWE Title match, but he wants to know what kind of match this will be at the Rumble. Devasting dives? Kicks to the head? Vince said what they will see is two extraordinary men leaving it all on the mat in the ring. Vince asked Hardy to step forward first. Orton inched forward, then McMahon asked them to shake hands. He said that before they shake, any last-second comments? Orton first. He said he'll be honest. Orton has been relieved ever since he found out Hardy would be his opponent at the Rumble. He's done some major things, but he's never come close to the WWE Title. Orton said he has underestimated Hardy, though. He said every time he closes his eyes, he sees an image of Hardy crashing down on him from 30 feet in the air. Congrats, although he won't win the title at the Rumble. Orton said he's won something else, though. Pause. "My respect," Orton said. Fans booed that one.

Hardy accepted the mic from Orton, then said he doesn't care about earning Orton's respect. He didn't hit a 30-foot Swanton to impress him. He did it to hurt him. Hardy said he did it for Matt. He did it because he's waited too long for this chance. Most importantly, he did it to show he'll do whatever it takes to become WWE champion. Very good passion from Hardy right there. Hardy said he respects a lot of people here in WWE more than the Orton. Hardy then walked over to the announce table and shook Jim Ross's hand. He shook Jerry Lawler's hand. He shook Lillian Garcia's hand. He walked over to some dude in the crowd named Ryan and shook his hand. Bobby got a handshake. Cory got a shake. Ethan got a shake. Orton was mad. Justin. Kevin. Chris. Wayne. Jordan. Yeah, bro. Christina. Brian. Dude with the sideburns in the Plaxico NYG jersey facing the hard camera all night got a cold shoulder.

Hardy then walked back into the ring once he was done and stared down Orton. Ross said Hardy made a unique impression. They went face-to-face again, then Orton put his hand out first. Hardy stared at him for several moments, which upset Orton. Orton demanded a shake, but Hardy kicked him in the gut and nailed the Twist of Fate in center ring. Hardy ripped off his t-shirt and stood over Orton's fallen body as Ross said Hardy has waited his entire life to become WWE champion. "Imagine what Hardy will do this Sunday!" Ross said to close the show.

Their heart was in the right place with Hardy going into the crowd to show he's a people's champ, but that may have been more distracting than enhancing. The other 95 percent of the hype on this show was so well-done, though, that this goes down as one of their better hype jobs for a PPV main event in some time.

We welcome your 1-10 score and comments on this show for a "Raw Reax" feature in the Torch Feedback section of To contribute your thoughts on Raw, click here.

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