TV REPORTS KELLER'S WWE RAW REPORT 3/24: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of final hard-sell for WrestleMania 24
Mar 24, 2008 - 10:13:49 PM
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By Wade Keller, Torch editor
KELLER'S RAW REPORT
MARCH 24, 2008
LIVE ON USA NETWORK
WHAT HAPPENED: 1ST HOUR
-After the Raw opening, John Cena's intro music played. He made his full ring intro, then stood mid-ring with mic in hand smiling. He talked about the energy being at a fever pitch. He said: "You konw as well as I do that after weeks of FUs, RKOs, Pedigrees, threats, promises, Pedigrees, guarantees, double-crosses, death stares, mind games, takeovers, torn pecs, torn quads, the King of Kings who kills legends that you can't see and whatever the hell else you want to throw into that cornucopia of wrestletainment, Sunday, we dance!" He said this is a business about "what have you done for me," not "what have you done for me lately." He said, "Sunday is WrestleMania!" He channeled Roddy Piper here for disconnected rambling that makes no sense. He said he looks forward to entering the Citrus Bowl as the no. 1 contender and leaving as WWE Champion. He received a mix of boos and cheers. The Big Show's music interrupted Cena. Cena stopped and watched Show walk to the ring. Jim Ross spoke for the first time as Show walked to the ring, saying he is the biggest athlete walking the face of the Earth.
Show entered the ring and said regardless of what happens in Cena's match at WrestleMania, it will be known for his achievement of ending the boxing career of Floyd Mayweather. He said the people may be split on who they want to win his match, but everyone - even Mayweather's own family - is pulling for him. "And I'm not going to disappoint," he said. "Me knocking out Mayweather will replace Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant as the single most replayed moment in the history of WrestleMania." JBL's music then interrupted Big Show.
JBL said they can talk about what they're going to do all they want, and Show can "eat Floyd Mayweather for all I care," but JBL is the one who has already made history. He said he revealed the true nature of Hornswoggle's origin and hospitalized "the little mutant" when he was "crying for daddy." He said at WrestleMania he can do something neither of them can do - "I can deliver the greatest beating in the history of WrestleMania." He said his match has no rules, unlike their matches. He said nobody can stop him. He asked Cena if he understands that. Cena shot back: "Actually, I wasn't listening to anything you said; I was just remembering how I beat your ass at WrestleMania 21. Man, those were good times." Randy Orton's music then interrupted.
Orton said some people think Big Show is going to beat up Mayweather, JBL is going to beat up Finlay, and either Cena or Triple H is going to walk out as champion. "But nobody thinks that I am going to retain," said Orton. He said that's the way he likes it because he feeds off of that and it means to me I'm going to be the one that everybody is talking about. Umaga's music played. The parade of WrestleMania stars continued.
Lawler said he'll be pulling for Umaga at WrestleMania because he's representing Raw. Umaga grabbed the mic and said, "Bah-tee-stah." He seemed unfamiliar with the mic's operations. He mumbled some more and repeated Batista's name. Cena said he's fluent in Samoan. "Umaga's right," he said. "Randy Orton is a weird man who listens to boy bands, loves sperm whales, and watches reruns of 'My Two Dads' all the time." Orton just sneeered, then Triple H's music played.
Triple H walked out and plugged his new t-shirt and said, "You're right, it's awesome." He then said everyone makes a convincing argument about how their match will go. He said there is one reason they get out of bed each day and lay their bodies on the line - and it is that title sitting on Orton's shoulder. He said there's one reason WrestleMania is being held outdoors; he said when the three biggest stars in the industry get in the ring to battle for that title, if there was a roof, they'd blow it off. Triple H turned to Cena and walked up to him. He said at WrestleMania the King of Kings goes back on his throne. He said there's nothing Cena or Orton can do about it. JBL tried to interrupt. It led to a shouting match with everyone.
William Regal walked out and said they each have a case that they're the stand-out attraction at WrestleMania. He said they'd give them a chance to prove it with an eight-man no-DQ match featuring Orton & Umaga & JBL & Big Show vs. Triple H & Cena & Shawn Michaels & Ric Flair.
Good segment. It gave some mic time to wrestlers in four of the biggest matches at Sunday's big show and set up a TV main event.
-A clip aired of Ric Flair pinning Vince McMahon last week.
2 -- CHRIS JERICHO & C.M. PUNK vs. MVP & CARLITO
Other than the Money in the Bank connection, this is a weird mix of talent from three different brands, with only one Raw wrestler. The equity of the brand extension continues to be watered down to nearly meaningless status. At least Ross did note that all three brands were represented, drawing attention to it being a special circumstance. Ross and Lawler plugged the WrestleMania press conference scheduled for Wednesday at 12 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City. Ross mistakenly said it was tomorrow, but Lawler corrected him. MVP and Punk opened against each other, then Jericho and Carlito tagged in. They cut to a rather arbitrary break at 2:00.
-A plug aired for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on USA Network at 11 p.m. ET on Saturday night.
When Jericho set up a Walls of Jericho (which Ross also called by it's old name, the Lion Tamer) on Carlito, MVP interfered. Jericho and MVP fought at ringside. After MVP dropped Jericho over the security barrier, he tossed him into the ring where Carlito scored a two count. MVP settled into a chinlock at 8:00, then set up a charge in the corner with a big boot. Jericho moved and hit MVP with a flying forearm. Jericho then crawled to his corner and hot-tagged Punk. Punk hit MVP with a roundhouse kick as part of a flurry of offense capped with a powerslam for a two count. He followed with a running knee in the corner and a running bulldog followed by a springboard dive. MVP moved and covered Punk. Jericho entered the ring to interrupt the count. Jericho mistakenly kicked Punk. MVP seized the opportunity to cover and score the three count on Punk.
WINNERS: MVP & Carlito in 10:00.
STAR RATING: *3/4 -- Basic decent stuff. The finish was good at planting a seed of conflict between Jericho and Punk.
-Ross plugged the eight-man tag team no-DQ main event.
-A commercial for the new WWE Music CD included a quick image of Jeff Hardy.
-A backstage promo aired with Mr. Kennedy making WrestleMania predictions. He said Flair's career ends, Undertaker's streak ends, and Kennedy wins Money in the Bank again.
-Ross and Lawler hyped the MITB match, then threw to a video on Flair's career. Lots of cool footage going way back. They returned to a standing ovation being given by Flair's family in the front row including a different looking David Flair on the far left. They cut backstage a pensive Flair sitting backstage in the locker room. Ross said he's about to blow a casket and wants to confront Shawn Michaels tonight.
-A video feature aired on the Big Show vs. Mayweather fight with at-home footage of Show and some trainers talking about Mayweather. It just doesn't feel like they're enthusiastic about this match at this point, as if there was either falling out with Mayweather or a lack of confidence in his ability to hype the match on his own. There's just no last-second hook to really give fans a reason to be anything but moderately curious about what happens rather than rooting passionately for one or the other to win.
3 -- THE GREAT KHALI vs. HARDCORE HOLLY
Holly threw some early punches, but Khali was unfazed and then went into his swats and elbows leading to a nerve hold and a big slam.
WINNER: Khali in 2:00.
-An ad for ECW on Sci-Fi aired promoting it generically as the "last ECW before WrestleMania" so "anything can happen." It said it might be Chavo Guerrero's last week as champion.
WHAT HAPPENED: 2ND HOUR
-Flair walked to the ring to his full ring intro. He said he's glad to hear that there are places in the world where people respect him. He said in the last week people have come up to him congratulating McMahon. He said he's not sure, though, because Michaels interjected himself into the match despite his pleading with him to stay away. He said as a result of what happened last week, he feels he has no confidence in him and no faith in him, so as a result he's losing respect for him. He said they're having a failure to communicate. He called him to the ring.
Michaels came out to his music. He stepped confident to center-ring and stared down Flair. He said he will never lose respect for him. He said the Flair that he knows always had his bases covered and always had back-up. He said that's all he was doing - giving him back-up. He said he did what he thought he would do. "You need to understand something," said Michaels. "You're always going to be the Naitch to me. You're always going to be the 16-times World Champion. And as much as it may bother you, you're always going to be the limousine riding, wheelin' dealin', jet-flying…" Flair interrupted with a big "shut up!" He threw off his jacket. Flair said it's because of guys like him that he doesn't need anyone to tell him who he is. He said he's feeling pretty good about himself. He pulled out an old NWA World Heavyweight Title belt. He said he won it in 1981. "This is what you grew up admiring, wanting to know what made a machine like me go," he said. He went through the list of the big names he's wrestled including: "Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, The Funks, The Briscoes, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Bruiser Brody, the list goes on." He said he doesn't care what year it is or where it is, it's 2008, he picked him to wrestle him at WrestleMania "because I want to prove on the grandest stage of all that I can still be the 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair. I'm talking about WrestleMania, Showstopper." He told him to bring out the best him in. "I need that to make it the rest of the way in my life," he said. "I need one more night. I need to be the Naitch. Is that asking too much?" Michaels said seriously, "Let me assure you of one thing: I'm going to give you everything you need." He said he'd give him the Headliner, the Main Event, the Icon, and the Showstopper. He said on Sunday he'll be stepping into the ring with Mr. WrestleMania. Flair said he'd expect nothing less from him. He shook his hand and thanked him.
Michaels stopped in his tracks before leaving the ring and said he had another thing to say. He wanted to remind him of a story, "Old Yeller." He said when the time came they had to take that dog out back and finish him. He said on Sunday he's going to take him behind a wood shed and put him out of his misery. That drew some boos. Flair threw down the NWA belt, ripped open his shirt, threw his jacket onto the mat, stomped on it, kicked it out of the ring, and then got in Michaels's face. He slapped him and said red-faced, "Old yeller?! Are you kidding?" He slapped him again. He asked him what he's going to do about that. Michaels asked him to take Old Yeller behind the woodshed now. "I'm begging ya'. Do it now!" Michaels said, "Like I said, I'm putting you out of your misery." He dropped the mic and left to a chorus of boos. Good stuff. That's the final hard sell that match needed. It just made everything about it feel monumental for both wrestlers with heated emotions.
-A video segment aired on Mayweather bragging about bloodying Show's nose. He said he's quicker and mentally stronger and more athletic. He shifted into bragging about being able to take a private jet anywhere he wants on a whim. He said his fan base is unbelievable because the people love to be part of his experience "coming into my life and just being a part of me." Ross said Mayweather is controversial, but he's trying to figure out how Michaels and Flair can co-exist in the scheduled main event.
4a -- MARIA vs. MELINA (w/"Glamazon" Beth Phoenix)
Beth interfered right away, tripping Maria. The ref didn't see it. Ashley came out right away and got on Melina's face. Beth entered the ring and argued with her. The crowd booed as Santino Marella made his way to the ring. Lawler said, "I've seen all I want to see of this idiot." He entered the ring, punched Santino, and clotheslined him to the floor. Regal stepped out onto the stage and said if he wants to get involved in this, that's fine. He booked an intergender tag team match right then. Good transition into a better match.
4b -- JERRY LAWLER & MARIA & ASHLEY vs. SANTINO MARELLA & MELINA & BETH PHOENIX
Ross explained that the "intergender" match rules allowed men to fight women. Lawler was in against Melina, but he tagged in Ashley. Ross said it was nice to see her back. He said he hopes she didn't return too quickly "as apparently Candice did." Santino ended up pinning Maria almost by accident after Phoenix and Melina tripped her from behind. No description could do justice to what a mess 75 percent of everything in this match was.
WINNERS: Santino & Melina & Phoenix in 3:00.
-They went backstage to Cena chatting it up with Cody Rhodes and Val Venis. Triple H walked up to him. They had a staredown. Cody and Val told them to save it for WrestleMania. Hunter said there'd be no fight. They walked away as Triple H talked to Cena. He said he knows he may have lost to him in the past, but he's the better man. He talked about Cena constantly getting in his way of getting his title back. He said Sunday if he gets in his way, he will mow him down. Cena said when he loses a match, it burns a hole inside of him. He said if that's tough, he should sit on the sidelines for six months watching someone carry around a title belt he never lost. He said at WrestleMania, the WWE Championship comes home. Hunter then said something too softly to hear, smiled, and walked away.
-A video aired on John Legend talking about being excited to sing "America the Beautiful" at WrestleMania. Ross and Lawler plugged the WWE Hall of Fame. He said there will be one more inductee that will be made official tomorrow night live on ECW on Sci-Fi. Ross and Lawler plugged the BunnyMania match with Ashley officially replacing Candice Michelle.
-A video aired focused on Cena and Triple H each trying to make history at WrestleMania. It conveyed that "big match" feel that WrestleMania main events should have.
-Ring introductions began for the main event, beginning with champ Randy Orton.
-They joined ring introductions in progress with JBL and Umaga already in the ring, with Big Show coming out next. Then came the four babyface ring intros. Big Show will be on the NBC Today show with Mayweather on Wednesday morning. Earlier in the show they aired a clip of Big Show on Conan last Friday night.
5 -- BIG SHOW & RANDY ORTON & JBL & UMAGA vs. SHAWN MICHAELS & JOHN CENA & TRIPLE H & RIC FLAIR
That was a long stretch of time dedicated to ring entrances. Almost ten minutes of TV time from start to finish. It began with eight minutes left in the hour. As Orton and Michaels started the match, Finlay's music played and he stepped out onto the stage. JBL's ears turned up and he met Finlay half way up the ramp. They got into an instant brawl. They cut away to another break.
Back from the break, Umaga dominated Michaels. Michaels fought back with some chops. Umaga punched Michaels in the corner, then gave him a butt-first corner splash. The ref moved in to check on him. Batista signaled for the Samoan Spike, at which point Batista's music played. Batista charged down the aisle and met Umaga at ringside. They had a brawl, with Batista tackling Umaga to the floor. He dragged him up the aisle. Big Show entered to battle Michaels. Michaels tagged Flair into the match.
Flair threw some chops. Show responded with a press slam. Ross said that could be Floyd Mayweather on Sunday. Show followed with a big open-hand slap to Flair's chest. Orton yelled to Show to stay on Flair. A "Big Show sucks" chant broke out. Show choked Flair with his boot in the corner. Flair stagged to mid-ring and did his face-first bump. That always worked better when he was a heel fighting the promotion's top babyface. Show gave Flair a big backdrop. Man, they're taking some chances with Flair just six days before his big WrestleMania match. Orton's nagging of Show got to be a little much, so Show threw some words his way. Cena and Triple H doubled on Show. Show double suplexed both of them at once. Orton told him to pin them. Show yanked Orton into the ring, gave him a big slam, walked over his chest, and walked out on the match.
That left Orton alone against all four babyfaces. Hunter shoved Cena aside to try to give Orton a Pedigree. Cena shoved Hunter away and applied an STFU. Hunter broke it up. They brawled to ringside and right to the back. That left Flair and Michaels. Flair attempted to give Orton a figure-four. Michaels interrupted and punched Flair. Michaels went for his own leglock. Flair gave Michaels a low-blow. Michaels fell backwards to the floor. Flair then applied the figure-four on Orton. The crowd popped. Ross said he was looking for the magic. Orton flailed to escape, but tapped. Flair strutted and celebrated. Ross asked if this magic moment would be replayed at the Citrus Bowl.
WINNER: Flair & Michaels & Cena & Triple H in 10:00.
STAR RATING: **1/2 -- A suitable finish to the final Raw before WrestleMania. They had brief, intense brawls involving several key match-ups, increased the tension between Michaels and Flair, and gave Flair what could be his final Raw victory ever and made him the centerpiece of the closing scene. Someone may actually believe that advertising the possibility of this being Flair's last match might help draw a bigger buyrate. If it had a chance - and I believe it does - this show definitely helped.
We welcome your 1-10 score and comments on this show for a "Raw Reax" feature in the Torch Feedback section of PWTorch.com. Just to add a twist to this feature, include not just your hometown, but also your occupation (mechanic, lawyer, stay-at-home-dad, college student, etc.) so readers get a flavor for what everyone does as "day jobs." To contribute your thoughts on Raw, click here.
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