THE SPECIALISTS Raw Storylines and Feuds - A look at Cena-Orton-HHH, Jericho-Hardy, and Floyd Mayweather
Mar 8, 2008 - 5:16:12 AM
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By Chris Newth, PWTorch contributor
WWE Monday Night Raw March 3, 2008 Upcoming PPV: WrestleMania (fourth-to-last episode before PPV)
RAW STORYLINES AND FEUDS
Welcome to the twenty-ninth edition of Raw Storylines and Feuds.
For those wondering about the Intrigue Level system that I employ, you can refer to the numbers as follows:
10 (excellent), 9 (great), 8-6 (very good, good, pretty good), 5 (decent; has its good and bad qualities), 4-3 (needs work, poor), 2 (bad), 1 (terrible)
WWE Champion RANDY ORTON vs. TRIPLE H vs. JOHN CENA (3 weeks)
Things started off backstage as all three participants in the WWE Title Match exchanged stares while Regal explained a new concept he brainstormed: The Triple Threat Takeover. For the next three weeks, each of the three competitors in the title match for WrestleMania will be in charge. Regal "randomly" picked John Cena. It wasn't clear whether the same person can be chosen twice, but neither was it clear how Regal's choice was really random. Orton immediately tried to establish a pact with his two opponents, which may have been the smartest move on his part, but it was done at the expense of his heel stature. Cena promised to have a good idea for the main event.
Later in the back, Cena commandeered Mr. Regal's office after scheduling a few matches—Orton vs. Triple H and Cena vs. Mr. Kennedy. He even kicked Regal out (which made him look like an intelligent babyface by turning Regal's own idea against him). In his match against Mr. Kennedy, he was able to win after applying the STFU submission.
Raw's main event was a singles match pitting Randy Orton against Triple H as per Cena's decision. Cena appeared as a guest on commentary for scouting purposes. When Orton tried to grab the belt, Cena intervened, but Triple H knocked both of them down, which caused Cena to hit an FU on The Game. Orton then found a split second opening to land an RKO, which had him standing strong over his two opponents to close the show.
The concept of the Triple Threat Takeover is unique and valuable for infrequent occasions. It's reminiscent of the stipulation in the Survivor Series Match years ago. One problem is that wrestlers rarely take advantage of such an opportunity. John Cena made some good use of his one-night power by booking a revenge match against Kennedy, a one-on-one main event between his opponents, and a short scene where he kicked Regal out of his office. When writing such a concept, WWE should consider what normal people would do if they had the ability to run the show for a night; then they should get specific with each of their characters.
Randy Orton is clearly not going to run the show like Cena did. He's probably going to be out to hurt both Cena and Triple H. And not only is the match booking going to be vastly dissimilar, but so too will be the way he carries himself throughout the show. Perhaps he'll try to severely stretch the rules of this concept in some way. The same could be said about Triple H. WWE should ask what his intentions are and how they differ from that of Cena and Orton. Again, this concept is unique, and it can make for very entertaining TV as long as the narrative is both varying and fitting for their individual characters. This is a nice lead-in to WrestleMania.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 9 [up 0.5 since last week]
John Cena: Edge, Umaga, Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton
Triple H: King Booker, Umaga, Jeff Hardy
Randy Orton: Dusty Rhodes, Cody Rhodes, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Jeff Hardy
THE JEOPARDOUS ULTIMATUM FOR RIC FLAIR (15 weeks w/ 3 weeks hiatus)
Shawn Michaels and The Nature Boy jointly formed a legendary tag team when they went head-to-head with Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. The match ended when Flair locked in his Figure Four on Cade while HBK applied his modified Figure Four on Murdoch for the double tap. After the match, Michaels grabbed a mic. He said that he had something to get off his chest. "I can't do it. I don't want the match at WrestleMania," Michaels explained. He went on to say that he's The Heartbreak Kid, and he's going to stop the show at WrestleMania, so if Flair keeps pushing for their match, he's going to regret it.
This was a nice way to insert some inevitable tension into the storyline. It gives reason for why HBK is in such a difficult situation. He's a very proud guy, and he can't allow himself to just let Ric Flair win. On the other hand, he has tremendous respect for Flair, and he doesn't want to be the guy who retires The Nature Boy. That's a strong wrestling predicament.
The end of the segment was also good in that Michaels felt the need to let Flair make the decision, which also puts Flair between the proverbial rock and hard place. It was very much a "your move" type of play by Michaels. Flair's dilemma is that he understands the weight of the situation, yet he doesn't want to look like a coward by backing out now. Good advancement overall for this storyline.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 9 [up 0.5 since last week]
Ric Flair: MVP
Shawn Michaels: Randy Orton, Mr. Kennedy
Intercontinental Champion JEFF HARDY vs. CHRIS JERICHO (2 weeks)
Jericho held his nostalgic Highlight Reel segment with special guest Jeff Hardy. He said that Jeff was impressive, but that he was able to beat him last week in singles competition. "Jeff, you can climb a 20 foot ladder and do a Swanton, crash through half a dozen tables, dip yourself in molten lava, shoot laser beams out of your eyes; it doesn't make one iota of a difference, because there's nothing that you or anyone else can do to stop Y2J," Jericho confidently noted. Hardy wasn't shaken, and the crowd was clearly on The Rainbow-Haired Warrior's side.
Jericho continued by saying that Hardy was no longer a friend and no longer a peer. Until WrestleMania, Hardy was just a target for Jericho. Jeff succinctly responded, "Chris, I couldn't agree more." He then extended his hand for a shake, but when Jericho went to reciprocate, Hardy unexpectedly delivered a Twist of Fate.
WWE's choice to use these two guys in a main-event level singles feud to hype a six-person Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania is a really strategic play. This problem between Hardy and Jericho is all that's needed to sell that match. Plus, the chances that one of them will win the match are pretty heavy, and both men could use it. Jericho could probably also use a move to Smackdown to restart his lackluster return to WWE. For whatever reason, fans aren't yet getting behind him with all the other talent on Raw, and he could do wonders for the blue brand (as a face or a heel).
The way WWE books this rivalry will be telling. Hardy and Jericho are both currently babyfaces, but the question of turning one now comes into play. The majority of the crowd was clearly on Hardy's side, and it would probably be career homicide to turn Jeff heel when he's such a successful babyface. That's what makes this week's events so odd; Hardy was the one who blindsided Jericho with a Twist of Fate. And although Y2J is a staunch face, the crowd didn't object at all; in fact, they welcomed it. Also, the idea that WWE would keep it a face-face feud is a little strange too considering that they already have the Flair-Michaels storyline on the same show. It's too early to tell. Let's see where this one goes from here.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 7
Jeff Hardy: Umaga, Mr. Kennedy, Triple H, Randy Orton
Chris Jericho: JBL
THE BIG SHOW vs. FLOYD MAYWEATHER (3 weeks)
As Floyd Mayweather watched via satellite, Big Show was set to compete in a Mixed Martial Arts Exhibition Match against Brandon "The Thrill" Hill. The match was milked for awhile at the beginning with Hill opting to take refuge in the ropes. After the referee threatened to call for a disqualification, The Thrill attempted to begin with a series of punches to Show's midsection. The results weren't so great for the fighter, who was lifted into the air and thrown into the corner like a ragdoll. Show then floored him with a kick.
Big Show ended the match with a chokeslam for the simple three count. He then addressed Mayweather. "I'm going to ruin you," Show threatened. Mayweather wasn't intimidated. He kept repeating that he's willing to die at WrestleMania, eventually forming it into a question that he posed to Show. Big Show then picked up Brandon Hill's lifeless body, hoisted it into the air in a military press, and hurled it over the top rope to the floor. Floyd Mayweather didn't react at all to what should have been a pretty horrific event. That looked like a dangerous fall. To add salt to the wounds, Mayweather referred to Hill as "a bum" to discredit him as a strong representative for the boxing world. Odd.
Later in the show, Ross and Lawler interviewed Floyd Mayweather via satellite. When Ross asked him about intimidation, Mayweather responded by emphatically saying that he wasn't intimidated. Then he continued to criticize Brandon Hill, calling him out of shape. "It looked like the guy had been eating pancakes for three weeks," Mayweather noted. He even went as far as calling the WWE the MME, which stands for Money Mayweather Entertainment. That guy has the arrogance to be a great heel.
The post-match interaction between Big Show and Floyd Mayweather probably couldn't have been more awkward and mistimed. Mayweather either wasn't prepped properly in what to say or WWE mistakenly relied on him to improvise a verbal joust with Show. The fact that announcers reacted so heavily to Hill's treatment by Show only made things more awkward when Mayweather had the complete opposite reaction (a non-reaction).
The dialogue was repetitive and cumbersome, and it really didn't do much to heat things up between Show and Mayweather. And what reason did Mayweather have to call Brandon Hill a bum? During the match, he was booed for racing to the ropes for safety a few times, but did that justify Mayweather's response? On the bright side, it was a little refreshing to hear someone given free reign to just comment on the situation without a heavy WWE filter, but the result obviously didn't sync well with Show, the segment, or the announcers.
Even Jerry Lawler questioned whether Mayweather saw what Show did to Hill because of his lack of reaction; but it was clear that Floyd saw and just downplayed it because he started throwing insults at the guy. This was a strange segment that didn't look very coordinated, but a lot of intrigue still exists for this storyline. The concept is fresh. And luckily for WWE, they still have a few more weeks to streamline things. It's not as if things are off-track at the moment, but they are certainly clucky.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 6.5 [up 0.5 since last week]
Big Show: n/a
Floyd Mayweather: n/a
HORNSWOGGLE vs. MR. McMAHON (26 weeks w/ 1 week hiatus)
Finlay entered the ring to new entrance music that didn't seem to fit the occasion. He was followed directly by the Chairman of the Board. Mr. McMahon first asked The Fighting Irishman if it were true that he conspired with other members of his family concerning the Hornswoggle situation? Finlay responded in the affirmative. McMahon then asked if it were true that Hornswoggle is not his son. "You're not good enough to be Hornswoggle's father," Finlay retorted angrily.
After the short interrogation, McMahon informed the audience that JBL couldn't make it tonight due to transportation issues, but he was present via satellite. Layfield was then shown beside Hornswoggle's hospital bed. He said that he knows Hornswoggle is innocent, but he preys on the innocent because "it's fun." JBL then turned out the lights as violent sounds and screams were heard from the satellite feed. Hornswoggle's cries eventually faded out, and the silence was almost creepier.
The story has finally made its inevitable turn. McMahon now knows the truth, and Finlay has confessed. Also, JBL is pitted against Finlay for the in-ring purpose of the storyline. There are a few questions that have yet to be answered (such as which members of the McMahon family were in on the scam all along and why), but a lot more light was shed on the feud this week. The biggest question, however, probably will go ignored: What was the purpose of Finlay and a McMahon setting this whole story up? What did it do for anyone?
The only other element that might warrant some address is the heavy-handed nature of this episode. In recent months, the Hornswoggle segments have specifically been geared toward children, but the advancement in the storyline this week was rather intense for younger viewers who may have grown accustomed to cheering for Finlay's little leprechaun friend. It's not a huge issue, but it is something that might cause some controversy, especially if more serious events continue. This is going to put some good heat on JBL, though.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 8 [up 0.5 since last week]
Mr. McMahon: Bobby Lashley, Triple H, Hornswoggle
Hornswoggle: The Great Khali, Mr. McMahon
WWE Women's Champion BETH PHOENIX vs. CANDICE MICHELLE (3 weeks w/ 2 weeks hiatus)
Candice Michelle accompanied Maria to the ring for the unveiling of Maria's Playboy cover. However, once Jerry Lawler pulled own the sheet, pictures of Santino's face were plastered all over the poster. Santino then arrived to explain. Maria wasn't happy to say the least, and when Santino called her to leave, she refused. "No. This isn't your decision; this is my decision," Maria said defiantly. Santino responded by saying, "Is it your timing of the month, Maria? Obviously it must be because you're acting crazy." When Santino insisted on bringing Maria to the back, Lawler interfered with a punch to the face, which felled Marella and sent him rolling to ringside.
Once the girls tossed the Santino-clad cover to the floor, Candice announced that there was another cover planned for tonight. How convenient for them to have extras on hand. I mean, is that even logical? First of all, if Santino didn't disrupt this ceremony, they would have first unveiled the big poster and then either hit the pyro for the second one (which would raise the question of why they didn't do that all along instead of using just the in-ring poster) or ignore it altogether (neither of which makes much sense). Anyway, an explosion of pyrotechnics accompanied a roll-down image of Maria's Playboy cover from the ceiling. Santino pouted at ringside as everyone looked at Maria's photo.
This was another case of WWE opting to promote Santino-Maria over Candice-Phoenix instead of finding a way to combine them both. There may have been room to insert Beth in this segment somehow. For whatever reason, WWE only uses Phoenix once every two or three weeks on Raw TV. Of course, this marks the end of Maria's relationship with Santino, which raises questions about where the storyline goes from here. And in terms of Candice's rivalry with The Glamazon, it looks like it's getting a weak start. The longer they wait, the less potent it becomes since Phoenix can be considered responsible (in a storyline sense) for Candice's injury.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 5 [down 0.5 since last week]
SANTINO MARELLA (w/ Maria) & CARLITO vs. World Tag Team Champions HARDCORE HOLLY & CODY RHODES (9 weeks w/ 3 weeks hiatus)
This week, Carlito faced Cody Rhodes in a singles match with a huge stipulation: It was a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match. The bout ended when Carlito nailed his Backstabber finisher for the three count.
There really isn't that much to it. Now the potential World Tag Team Title Match is up in the air. This feud has been disregarded almost from its inception. It's still possible to tie Carlito's win over Cody this week to their tag team rivalry, but with Carlito now part of Money in the Bank, it's unlikely.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 4 [down 0.5 since last week]
Santino Marella: Umaga, Ron Simmons, Val Venis, Steve Austin
Carlito: Triple H
London & Kendrick: Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch
No sign of Burchill or his sister, Katie Lea, this week on Raw.
Intrigue Level (out of 10): 5 [same as last week]
Paul Burchill: n/a
(1) Santino Marella & Carlito vs. Cody Rhodes & Hardcore Holly?
(2) Candice Michelle vs. Beth Phoenix?
(1) Santino vs. Maria
(2) Paul Burchill vs. ?
(3) John Cena vs. William Regal
(4) Ric Flair & Shawn Michaels vs. Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch
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