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The following is Wade Keller’s report on WWE Raw from ten years ago this week..
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 28, 2008
LIVE ON USA NETWORK
WHAT HAPPENED: 1ST HOUR
-A recap of the Royal Rumble aired, including the dramatic reveal of John Cena as the 30th entrant into the Rumble and his subsequent win moments later.
-John Cena’s ring intro opened the show as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced it. He made his way to the ring with a big smile which switched to some tears. Not sure he was gone long enough to warrant tears. A year or more, maybe. Once the cheers subsided a little, the boos took over. Cena shook his head and said, “That’s what I like about this city. No matter what you think, you’re going to get loud and you’re going to get rowdy.” He began describing his injury and rehab. When a “Cena sucks” chant broke out, he said that was music to his ears at this point. He said when doctors told him he’d miss 12 months, the reality set in that he’d have to watch WrestleMania from the bench for the first time in his career. He said in his absence, a new champ was crowned and new contenders were put in place. He said he watched from his hospital bed and while rehabbing and couldn’t take it, so he risked it all for a chance to “maybe, maybe, maybe get an opportunity to once again go to WrestleMania.” The boos continued. He said either way, he is the winner of the Rumble and, “Dammit, I am going to WrestleMania!” He added that he wanted a title shot, but it might as well happen tonight. He called out Randy Orton and asked the fans if they wanted it tonight.
Orton’s music played. He stood on the stage and said he has an answer for him, and it’s not one he wants to hear. He said he’s been issued all types of challenges, including from Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, and Jeff Hardy. The crowd loudly chanted “You suck” at Orton. It sounded like more kids and women whereas Cena’s hecklers were deeper voiced. He said he beat them all. Cena said Orton has done something no one else has been able to do – he took him out of commission. Hey, someone finished the “took me out…” line and added “commission,” finally. He said he thinks Orton is going to take him up on his offer because he sees the scar on his shoulder and doesn’t think there’s any way that healed in four months. He said he is one of the smartest people to ever hold the WWE Title, and even though he doesn’t want to face him because he has never beaten him, he knows in his heart he needs every advantage he can get “and right now, you know that you’ve got one.” He asked if he’s going to give him another eight weeks until WrestleMania to heal up and be on top of his game,
Orton said since he left, he’s become a big deal – bigger than Cena has ever been. He said that’s why he will never defend the WWE Title unless the fans pay to see it. He offered to defend against him at No Way Out “unless, John Cena, you want to wait until WrestleMania.” He shouted, “No Way Out, you and me for the WWE Championship. It’s on.” He said that still leaves tonight, though. He said Orton took something he values from him, and since it’s been four months since he’s been in that ring, “and I want some, so tonight I will get some.” He smiled as Orton sneered at him from the stage.
-If they go through with the No Way Out match, then that can set up Cena winning and defending against Triple H at WrestleMania, opening up the Ric Flair retirement match possibly for “The Legend Killer” or creating a three-way main event with Orton vs. Cena vs. Triple H (although wrestlers tend to look at three-ways as a weaker level of prestige than a one-on-one as it suggests two of the wrestlers alone couldn’t hold the main event slot on their own).
1 — ASHLEY & MICKIE JAMES vs. “GLAMAZON” BETH PHOENIX & JILLIAN HALL
Lilian messed up the ring intro for Phoenix with some awkward pauses and a little syntax screwup. A fan held up a sign that said, “Beth Phoenix scares me.” Lawler said he likes divas as much as anyone, but when Phoenix is in there, they seem more dangerous than fun now. Glamazon mocked Mickie’s tears last week, then finished her with a fisherman suplex even before Ashley could tag in.
WINNERS: Glamazon & Mickie in 3:00.
-Backstage, Vince McMahon talked with William Regal about the No Way Out main event. He wondered who would face the winner of that match at WrestleMania. Regal said he made reference to a match a while back. Vince said, “Not that match? You’re saying the winner That Match would face the winner of Orton vs. Cena at WrestleMania. That’s brilliant. Go make that announcement.” They are watering down the impact of the Rumble win by having the person who won it put his WrestleMania title shot on the line a month early. They can’t do that more than once every four or five years to keep the integrity of the Rumble stip, no matter how clever and logical their explanation is.
Regal said the winner of Cena vs. Orton will face the winner of six contestants competing inside the Elimination Chamber. They went to a video package on the Chamber. Regal then explained that two men would start and every two minutes a booth would open letting another into the match. He announced Umaga, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, JBL, Jeff Hardy (biggest pop of the list, dwarfing Michaels and Jericho), and Triple H. So this brilliantly leaves open the possibility of many WrestleMania main events, including a Jeff Hardy vs. Orton rematch, although I think most are going to guess (accurately, I assume) that Cena will beat Orton and Triple H will win the EC, with the seeds to that being planted already at the end of the Rumble.
-Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler threw to Mike Adamle who stood among fans and announced upcoming Raw matches: Snitsky & Umaga vs. Triple H & a partner of his choice. He then said JBL & Orton would face Hardy & Jericho. Adamle speaks like he’s memorized the pronunciation of the names right before going on air and he stumbles awkwardly through it all. There’s no natural inflection at all. At this point, he’s not good and it’s an odd choice on the surface to bring him in.
2 — CARLITO (w/Santino Marella, Maria) vs. CODY RHODES (w/Hardcore Holly)
When Maria walked out, Lawler said he already has a lifetime subscription to Playboy, but he might renew it on the news that she will be posing in it. After a brief fight at ringside, Cody threw Carlito into the ring. Santino coached Carlito when he was at ringside, yelling for him to get up. Back in the ring, after a brief distraction by Santino, Carlito gave Cody the Back Stabber for the win. The camera missed the finisher. Between last night and tonight, the directing has been way below WWE’s usual stellar standards.
WINNER: Carlito in 2:00.
-Backstage, Triple H chatted with Shawn Michaels about how things didn’t go their way last night at the Rumble. Hunter said in three weeks they have to beat each other up to get to WrestleMania, but in the mean time, he needs a tag partner. He took off his jacket and revealed a DX t-shirt. Michaels ran off camera, then returned seconds later all dressed up in DX t-shirts featuring the new color scheme. They turned it into one of those jokey plugs for merchandise. Do they need the residuals that badly that it’s worth appearing like merchandise whores every single week? It’s really beneath their characters and no longer cute.
3 – SHAWN MICHAELS & TRIPLE H (as DX) vs. UMAGA & SNITSKY
Before the match, Hunter had Michaels pose for the camera, showing off the back of the t-shirt, which said “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere” on the back of it with “banned” stamped over it, whatever that means. They did the “Are you ready?” routine. Hunter blamed Michael Buffer for doing “gimmick infringement” last night at the Rumble. He said he blatantly ripped them off, drawing some chuckles from the crowd. Michaels got the crowd to yell, “Suck it!” Ross said, “Play time may be over” as Umaga’s music began. After a collar and elbow hook-up with Snitsky, Hunter backed off, grabbed the mic, and said, “For the love of god, does anyone have a toothbrush? No, seriously. Tic Tacs, anything, gum, mints.” Lawler said, “I’m not sure if he needs Tic Tacs or toilet paper.” Snitsky showed off his really bad looking teeth in high-def. The crowd chanted “Brush your teeth!”
WHAT HAPPENED: 2ND HOUR
Michaels tagged in and took Snitsky down with a flying forearm. When Michaels climbed the ropes, Umaga roundkicked him to the floor. Snitsky applied a bearhug. Umaga choked the ref from the ring apron as Snitsky distracted the ref. Umaga tagged in and applied a bearhug. They cut to a break at 5:00.
[Commercial Break – ECW TV: The Chavo Guerrero-Edge-Vickie Guerrero alliance was spotlighted without a match being announced.]
Back to the live match, Snitsky and Umaga engaged in frequent tags, so Lawler and Ross praised their teamwork. Umaga went for a running butt splash in the corner on Michaels, but Michaels moved. Michaels dove for a tag, but Umaga caught him in mid-air. Michaels countered into a DDT. Michaels hot-tagged Hunter at 11:00. He worked over Snitsky including a running knee, then he fended off an interfering Umaga with a flying clothesline. He showed a little light on a facebuster to Snitsky. Umaga then gave Hunter a Samoan Drop, but Michaels retalliated with a sudden superkick knocking him to ringside followed by a flip dive onto Umaga on the floor. Snitsky charged at Hunter with a big boot, but Hunter ducked and gave Snitsky a spinebuster. He followed up with a Pedigree for the win. They posed to the DX theme song.
WINNERS: Triple H & Michaels in 12:00 when Hunter pinned Snitsky.
STAR RATING: *1/2 — Decent TV tag match.
-JBL approached Orton backstage. He said it’ll be the first time ever that they teamed together. He said then they can move on to headline WrestleMania against each other if they each take care of business at No Way Out. Orton said he hopes that happens because he knows he can beat him. JBL said he’ll drag him all over Wall Street just as he did Jericho. JBL reminded him tonight they have to team together. Orton told JBL to worry about Jericho because he’ll take care of Hardy. Orton brought up Cena’s name. JBL said if Cena shows up, they’ll both take care of Cena.
-They showed the exterior of the Wachovia Center. Then Todd Grisham interviewed Jeff Hardy. He said he was really close to becoming champion. Hardy said he can weep or do everything in his power to get another opportunity. He said last night was not the end of the road for him, it was only the beginning.
-They went backstage to Vince McMahon, who looked over at a sullen Hornswoggle. Vince told him he let him down. He said he wanted to be in the Rumble, but instead of acting like a McMahon and coming back a winner, he returned to the back a loser. “I’m ashamed of you!” he said.
-A sponsored clip aired of Ric Flair beating MVP.
4 — MR. KENNEDY vs. BRIAN KENDRICK
Kendrick sprinted to the ring and went right at Kennedy. Kennedy immediately pummeled him in the corner with kicks. They fought to ringside where Kennedy reverse whipped Kendrick into the ring apron. Back in the ring, he stomped on him. Kendrick teased a comeback and went for a top rope dropkick, but Kennedy swatted him away and finished him with the Mic Check for the clean win.
WINNER: Kennedy in 3:00.
STAR RATING: * — All action. Good “squash” match with nice fire and energy from Kendrick to really keep things moving and make Kennedy look dominant.
-Afterward, Kennedy said he begged not to be in the Elimination Chamber because he wanted to do something with more historical value that nobody has been able to do so far – ending the career of Ric Flair. He said he’s going to do something to Flair that people do to animals when they can no longer function and no longer have value. He said, “Ric, I am going to put you down. I am going to waste you.” There seems to be a move against the phrase “take you out,” which for variety sake if nothing else is refreshing. Flair stepped out in a suit with a big smile. He said he has two things to say to him. “Whoo! Whoo!” He then strutted. Ross called that the succinct version of The Nature Boy. Ross asked how good No Way Out is shaping up to be. WWE announcers as a policy ask questions of viewers and frame it so they get the answer they want, rather than telling the fans what to think directly, such as saying No Way Out is shaping up to be great.
5 — MARIA (w/Santino Marella) vs. MELINA
When Santino said, “Not the face!” as Melina beat on her, Ross said he looks at her as an investment more than a person. If that were true, he would have been hard-selling her to do Playboy. The mic picked up Santino saying, “Son of a bitch.” No wonder they’ve instructed WWE wrestlers not to call spots in the ring any more; the mic’ing of ringside and the ring is clearer in HD. Melina tried to pull on Maria’s trunks to get a pin, but Maria sat down on her for the win.
WINNER: Maria in 3:00.
-After the match, Santino covered Maria whose pants were pulled down a little. “Damn you Japanese people for your high-definition technology!” he shouted in the line of the night. Poor Hunter. He almost had it with the line about Snitsky needing a toothbrush earlier. Santino scolded fans for taking a picture of her. He said, “Look at them! They are all fantasizing about you right now. Even J.R. has erected a monument in his trousers. It may be a small monument, but it’s a monument nonetheless. I feel like grabbing the Liberty Bell, turning it upside down, and puking inside of it.” He said the fans will never, ever his Maria in “the Playboy.” Great performance once again by Santino, and clever hype for the Playboy issue with Maria.
-Todd Grisham interviewed Chris Jericho regarding the main event. He stared up into space with a serious look on his face. Grisham said they saw a new side of him at the Royal Rumble. He said everyone is familiar is with the entertaining side of Jericho, then he went into a single-breath exclamation of all of his catch-phrases. He said when JBL choked him and hung him, a new Jericho emerged. He said that new side of him wants to spend more time with JBL. He said that time will come in the Elimination Chamber. He said he will win and go on to WrestleMania.
-Mike Adamle plugged the line-up for No Way Out. He misused the phrase “beg the question” during his plug.
6 — JEFF HARDY & CHRIS JERICHO vs. RANDY ORTON & JBL
Jericho and Orton started. Jericho seemed preoccupied by JBL, though. He tagged in Hardy at 1:00 and he hit a Swanton on Orton at 2:00. JBL yanked Orton out of the ring during the pin attempt to save him from a three count.
JBL gave a distracted Hardy a big boot to stop his momentum at 6:00. Ross praised the teammwork of Orton and JBL. Jericho got the hot-tag and gave JBL the Lionsault for a near fall, with Orton breaking up the pin. Orton whipped Hardy into the top rope, then shoved him to the floor. Meanwhile, Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho. Orton ran in and gave an RKO to Jericho. The ref, who had been tending to Hardy, leaped back into the ring and counted JBL’s cover on Jericho for the finish.
WINNERS: Orton & JBL in 11:00.
STAR RATING: ** — Decent TV tag main event.
-After the match, John Cena came out to his music. Orton and JBL stared him down, but then JBL patted Orton on the shoulder and gave him words of encouragement and bailed out. Cena shoulder-tackled Orton and then gave him an FU. He pointed at his scar on his shoulder and said he was fine. He then flexed his muscles. The show ended with Orton lying motionless on the mat selling the FU.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Okay show. Newsworthy for sure given the set-up for No Way Out and Cena’s return to Raw. Otherwise, not a lot to it, but Santino and DX added some flavor to the show, also.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS RAW FLASHBACK: 20 YRS AGO – KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT 1/12: Michaels says DX would be glad to be family Kane never had, Steve Austin, Ross’s 900 number Hogan-Rumble tease, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express