The following was published on PWTorch.com ten years ago this week…
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
FEBRUARY 11, 2008
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
WHAT HAPPENED: 1ST HOUR
-Hornswoggle’s ring entrance opened the show as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the show. No pyro or really anything resembling that type of usual energy that kicks off this show. Being pretaped, I would have expected them to overcompensate with a pretaped pyro show and a better opening segment. But Vince McMahon may think his wrestling is still a big deal.
1 — HORNSWOGGLE vs. VINCE MCMAHON
Vince McMahon came out second wearing his signature black jeans (where do you find those in 2008, anyway?) and black cut-off sleeves sweat shirt. He powered Hornswoggle to the mat; Hornswoggle looked sad. Vince flexed his arm again after shoving Hornswoggle to the mat again. Ross plugged that the dog show is airing on CNBC while Raw aired as usual, without preemption, on USA. Vince got down on is knees and challenged Hornswoggle to slap him. Vince didn’t like that Hornswoggle couldn’t do it. But finally he got up the gumption and slapped Vince. Vince acted upset and pulled of his belt. Hornswoggle began crying. Finlay ran out to stop the match from continuing. Vince asked Finlay how dare he stick his nose in personal family business. He reminded Finlay that he has kids himself and he’s about to throw livelihood away in one moment. How many times has Vince counted on that moment in real life keeping employers who wanted to lash out at him from doing so? Vince teased firing Finlay, but Finlay then backed off. Vince said Finlay isn’t the same type of Irish that he is. He said he’s going to finish his business with Hornswoggle. Vince told Hornswoggle that Finlay is a coward. Them is fightin’ words. Finlay nailed Vince with his shillelagh. Hornswoggle then climbed to the top rope at Finlay prompting and frog splashed Vince for the three count.
WINNER: Hornswoggle in 6:00.
STAR RATING: Three leprechauns.
-Vince told William Regal backstage to go get dismal papers because someone is getting fired later. Finlay doesn’t really have enough of a bond yet with fans after years as a heel for fans to be all that wrapped up in the potential of him being fired. I wouldn’t build a show around that possibility.
2 — JBL vs. CHRIS JERICHO
They didn’t give nearly enough prematch hype to this. It should be treated as a big deal to feature this match on Raw. Having it second on the show, without much of any fanfare, defines it down in the eyes of fans as being somewhere in the neighborhood of a tag team mid-card match which usually would occupy this spot on the show. I’m all for breaking from format now and then, but Raw should have opened with strong hype about a big match coming up in the first half hour of the show. These heated rivals began with two tests of strength. JBL headbutted out of it and bega stomping on Jericho. Lawler called it a thumb to the eye. Ross corrected him. Jericho took over shortly thereafter. He raked into JBL’s face, then leaned in for a bite. I believed with Mad Dog Vachon tried to bite human flesh. I don’t buy Jericho doing it, even in a grudge match. It’s like Judas Mesias doing a flying plancha; it just seems out of character. Jericho applied a Walls of Jericho, but JBL reached the bottom rope quickly. Jericho’s face met JBL’s boot as Jericho flew at him on a springboard off the middle rope. They cut to a break.
Back from the break, JBL short-arm clotheslined Jericho, then stomped on him and eventually locked on a sleeper. When JBL went for a superplex, Jericho blocked it and dove onto JBL from behind forearm first with what Ross called an unothodox offensive move (code for “clumsy and dangerous” in this case, but kinda cool because it looked more real and less polished/choreographed). Jericho followed with an enzuigiri and a top rope dropkick for a two count. The crowd counted along and groaned when JBL kicked out. Jericho countered an overhead suplx by JBL with a DDT. I’m not sure what’s up, but these two haven’t had great chemistry – could be a case of both being a little rusty timing-wise, as that DDT looked more like a tuck and roll with light showing between JBL’s head and the mat. Jericho surprised JBL with his new finisher which Ross forgot the name of, apparently, and scored the clean pin.
WINNER: Jericho in 14:00.
STAR RATING: **1/4 — Average, decent for a 14 minute match, but not any more than that. Just not athletically pleasant to watch, but good intensity made up for it.
-Afterward, Umaga attacked Jericho. Ross said that’s the man JBL hired to look out for him, but no sooner did he say that than Umaga gave JBL a Samoan Spike. Ross said that showed it’s every man for himself in the Elimination Chamber.
-Ross hyped John Cena vs. Mark Henry as the TV main event. Mike Adamle then introduced a video package on the Cena vs. Randy Orton feud.
-Regal knocked on Mr. McMahon’s locker room door. He said he’s got a team of mean ready to drag Finlay to his office door giving him the opportunity to fire him and spit on him. Regal was seething to please McMahon. McMahon said he’s not going to fire anybody; instead, he’s going to make Finlay watch him get his son in the ring inside a cage. Regal smiled in a way that conveyed he perhaps thought McMahon was even taking things too far.
-A short video clip aired of Cena with the screen saying: “No special effects, no second takes no shortcuts, no drugs, no ‘roid.” Then a voiceover said, “WWE reminds you, there are no shortcuts to your goals.”
3 — PAUL BURCHILL (w/Katie Lea) vs. BRIAN KENDRICK
Burchill is no longer a pirate. He’s a ross between Val Venis and Triple H with a touch of Chris Benoit. Lea said tonight is a very special night in an English accent. She said he’s the most brutal, vicious, beautiful man in the world, her big brother Paul. She can’t wait to watch her inflict pain on others. Paul said what Katie wants, Katie gets. The idea here supposedly is to hint at a sibling romance. Burchill finished Kendrick decisively with a couple cool finishing moves.
WINNER: Burchill in 3:00.
STAR RATING: 1/2* — Solid squash Raw debut for Burchill.
-A sponsored clip aired of Cena’s arm wrestling contest with Henry last week.
-Randy Orton made his full ring intro and joined Ross and Lawler at ringside. Orton talked about his match against Cena on Sunday’s PPV. Henry came out first followed by Cena’s full ring intro.
WHAT HAPPENED: 2ND HOUR
4– JOHN CENA vs. MARK HENRY
Orton said Cena is not going to be the comeback story of the year. Henry powerslammed Cena to the mat at the start. He shifted to a full nelson for a minute. Cena avoided a corner charge by Henry, then took him down with a shoulder tackle and followed with an STFU for the sudden win.
WINNER: Cena in 3:00 via tapout.
STAR RATING: 1/4* — Not a lot to it. It gives Cena a strong TV win against someone who can afford such a loss as Henry is nothing more than a utility heel act right now.
-Afterward, Cena stepped to ringside and addressed Orton on the mic. He said he would advise him to shut up and listen to what he has to say. Orton wouldn’t even look at him. Orton had that look of someone who’s been lectured before. Cena said, “I am 100 percent.” He said for once, Orton is the hunted, not himself. He said this Sunday, there’s injury to hold him back, thus no excuses. He concluded, “For you Randy, there is no way out.” Orton hung his head, as if the impressive win and strong words by Cena affected his confidence going into Sunday.
-Mr. Kennedy walked out. He said he wants an answer from Ric Flair. He said now would be a good time. Flair stepped onto the stage as his music played. Flair got in Kennedy’s face and said he had a history lesson for him. He said guys like him “who think they’re up here when they’re really down here need to hear it.” Flair talked about his twice on Saturday, twice on Sunday, blazing a trail for guys like him to wrestle 100 dates a year and make a lot of money. He said he’s been his world champion 16 times and he knows he respects that, because that’s what he wants to be once. He had Kennedy’s attention. He said Kennedy has a great future in store for him, but it won’t be at the expense of the Nature Boy. He said he’s got win to survive, and Kennedy has to beat him to get where he wants. He went into his intense catch-phrases of walking the aisle and vowed to live to fight another day. As they had a staredown, Ross said he has goosebumps. Kennedy motioned toward backing down, but then kicked Flair’s injured leg. Ross said he’s not surprised by his actions given Kennedy’s track record. Kennedy left Flair to struggle to his feet. Really good segment. One of Flair’s best on WWE TV in ages. Kennedy played off of him perfectly.
5 — MELINA vs. MARIA (w/Satino Marella)
Marella joined Ross and Lawler on commentary. Ross said Maria is ever-improving in the ring. Marella seized the chance to say, “That’s because I teach her.” Again, great delivery. Marella said he knows his Maria is beautiful and doesn’t need Mr. Stupid Heffner to tell him that. After a gutbuster, Santino laughed about Melina trying to have babies now. Maria shoved Melina off the top rope, then gave her a running bulldog. Before the pin, Jillian Hall screamed into her mic and then gave Marella a long, mushy kiss on the lips. Santino almost fainted, and Melina rolled up a distracted Maria from behind.
WINNER: Melina in 3:00.
STAR RATING: 3/4*
-Marella talked about the Playboy curse. He noted how she has become a target. He said Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson were injured. He took a shot at Ashley, also. He said he doesn’t want to see anything bad happen to her. He said he needs to know, “Is it Playboy or Santino?” He said he didn’t need an answer now. Fans began a “Playboy” chant. He said unlike the losers in the crowd, he is the one that really loves her. They kissed for a few seconds.
-A commercial aired hyping the C.M. Punk-Chavo Guerrero feud continuing on ECW tomorrow night.
-Ross and Lawler hyped the entire No Way Out line-up, then an Elimination Chamber video aired ending with Hunter vowing, “The King of Kings goes back on his throne.”
6 – SHAWN MICHAELS vs. JEFF HARDY
I can’t believe how casually they treated this major singles match. This is a potential PPV main event given Michaels’s stature and Hardy’s hot-streak. This wasn’t even advertised or hyped during the show. I mean, it’s a nice surprise for the fans who stuck around, but it seems they could have built a bigger viewership if they made everyone anticipate this with heavy hype from the start of the show. After some back and forth action, Hardy slidekicked Michaels to the floor, then went for a dive off the security rail. Michaels caught him mid-air and powerslammed him to the floor as they cut to a break.
Michaels worked over Hardy’s back in the ring upon returning from the break. Michaels hit a top rope elbow late in the match to cheers from the crowd. He stomped the mat to signal Sweet Chin Music. Hardy ducked the telegraphed move and went for a DDT. Michaels blocked it and applied his new leglock submission. Hardy crawled over to the bottom rope to force a break. Hardy fired back with a Twist of Fate and a Swanton for the clean pin. Ross proclaimed at the top of his hoase vocals: “Hardy beats Michaels! Hardy beats Michaels! How do you argue that Jeff Hardy isn’t the hottest superstar right now at this moment in WWE!?”
WINNER: Hardy in 20:00.
STAR RATING: ****1/4 — Sometimes it’s nice when the WWE booking team phones it in and the wrestlers – two of the best – are given 20 minutes to do their thing.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS TEN YEARS AGO FLASHBACK: 10 YRS AGO – KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT (2-5-08): Ric Flair vs. MVP, Rey & Punk vs. Chavo & Edge, Kane & Undertaker in main event Ryder, Hawkins, Batista