10 YRS AGO – KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT (3/31/08): Giant Ric Flair ceremony with Four Horsemen, Jericho vs. Punk, Rare Mixed Gender Match, plus Orton, Hardy, Cody, Cena

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

C.M. Punk (artist Grant Gould © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

This report was published on PWTorch.com ten years ago this week…


KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 31, 2008
LIVE FROM ORLANDO, FLA.

-The show opened with a video package not on WrestleMania, but exclusively on Shawn Michaels superkicking Ric Flair and the crying afterward.

-After the Raw opening, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the show. Ross said tonight would feature Flair’s farewell address.

-John Cena’s music then played. It stopped. Triple H’s music began to play. Ross said it’s live TV, implying mistakes are made. Then Triple H’s music stopped and out came the champ to his music, Randy Orton. “Expecting someone else?” said Orton. Great opening line. Ross and Lawler talked about how tough it is as a champion to retain in a three-way match because you can lose the title even if you’re not involved in the finish. Orton said everyone thought it was just a matter of whether it was Cena or Triple H who would defeat him. He said no one thought he was going to win. He said the people didn’t want to give him any credit. He said now they have no choice but to show him respect. He told everyone to forget the Hulkamania Era and the Attitude Era because “we are living in the Orton Era.”

JBL’s music interrupted Orton’s next word. JBL walked to the ring. Lawler said he came out to gloat about his big win over Finlay. He walked to center-ring as the crowd booed him, too. JBL said, “You’re right, Cena and Triple H don’t deserve a championship match. I, on the other hand, do. You have the audacity to come out here and brag about your match at WrestleMania last night. It was pathetic.” He said he walked out as champion because he was lucky. “You’re entire championship reign has been predicated on luck.” He got agitated and exclaimed, “Look at me, boy!” He said his longest ever WWE Title reign on Smackdown was predicated on dominance, not luck. He said last night he won his match even though the rules were stacked again him. He said he is declaring his candidacy as the no. 1 contender for the title. He said Orton can’t beat him. “They say I passed the torch. I want my damn torch back!” he said. “You think they dislike you as champion? They’re going to hate me.” He dropped the mic and began to walk out of the ring.

Orton shouted, “Hey, who the hell do you think you are?!” He said he is the most successful champion this show has ever seen. He begged him to come back out there. Instead, Matt Hardy charged through the crowd and into the ring with a spear out of nowhere. Lawler wondered what that was all about. Ross said he was in a rage with an assault on Orton. As referees pried Hardy off of Orton, Orton hit Hardy from behind, then scurried away. This is fun stuff because rather than just feeling like a recap show or a way to phone it in and sell WrestleMania PPV replays, this has the feeling of the 1990s post-WM shows where a lot of new combinations are trotted out to freshen things up.
[Commercial Break]

-Backstage, G.M. William Regal ran up to Hardy and asked “what in the bloody hell” he was doing attacking his champion. Hardy said he hasn’t forgotten what Orton did to him. Regal said he should have come to him because it’s his show. Hardy said he wanted Orton in that ring. Regal said he has to think about it.

1 — SHELTON BENJAMIN & LANCE CADE vs. CRYME TYME

This was an unannounced surprise return to WWE for Cryme Tyme. Lawler said he heard they spent the last six months on “the island.” Ross said, “The Bahamas?” Lawler replied, “No, Rikers.” (All together now: Groannnn!) Lawler said about Murdoch, “He’s the only guy who can see his bottom lip without a mirror.” He added that he heard Murdoch has an incredible singing voice. Ross pretended to be interested. Afterward, Murdoch and Cade argued. Cade seemed to have nearly had enough of Murdoch’s losing all the time.

WINNERS: Cryme Tyme in 4:00 when Shad pinned Murdoch.

STAR RATING: 3/4*

-A video highlight package aired on Ric Flair including his NWA World Title victory over Harley Race in a cage with Gordon Solie and Bob Caudle calling it.

-They showed Shawn Michaels walking backstage past Paul London. Ross said he was headed to the ring to “pour his heart out.”

[Commercial Break]

-Michaels came out to the ring to his music. He was low key, wearing jeans, a sportcoat, and a cowboy hat. He said he’s feeling a wide range of emotions and none of them are particularly good. He said he was asked to do a job and be the showstealer, “Mr. WrestleMania.” He said he’s not sure how he feels about it. He paused between words, struggling to get them out. He said Flair asked for his A-game and that’s what he gave them. He said he has too much respect for Flair to have given him any less. He said he had a chance last night to pull the trigger and he did. He said now the career of the greatest wrestler who ever lived is over “and I’m the man responsible for it.” He said that’s a burden he will carry with him the rest of his life. “Lucky me,” he said. He set the mic down and left the ring, hanging his head as he walked to the back in silence. Odd segment. Intriguing to see where it’s going.

-Ross plugged Chris Jericho vs. C.M. Punk. Lawler said it’s become official – Orton vs. Hardy. No mentions at all that a brand split exists and Matt is crossing brands.

[Commercial Break]

-Michaels stood alone backstage, still looking sad. Regal told him he did what he had to, adding, “Personally, I think it should have been done a long time ago.” The camera panned right and Batista stood in the corner of a hallway, somewhat creepily staring at Michaels. Michaels noticed him, then just walked away.

2 — CODY RHODES & HARDCORE HOLLY vs. BRIAN KENDRICK & PAUL LONDON

Ross said London and Kendrick have worked out their differences behind the scenes. He said it’s good to see. He said he had been watching the Midnight Rockers on WWE 24/7 the other day and they really remind them of the Rockers. Man, sizzling tag team match-ups in this hour of Raw. Lawler said: “Suffice to say Cody’s been coming on strong, and I think that driving force of Bob Holly behind him has something to do with it.” There you go. The usual subtle innuendo in commentary strikes again. It’s fun listening for it in every one of their matches. Man, the last minute of that match was crazy, but fun. London was all over the place. Kendrick’s hot tag had an off-the-charts energy level. Cody totally kept up.

WINNERS: Kendrick & London in 3:00 when Kendrick rolled up Rhodes.

STAR RATING: *

-Another clip aired of Flair, this time from WrestleWar ’89 against Rick Steamboat with Caudle and Ross (if not for the accent, the voice is hardly recognizable) on commentary. Ross pointed out that was him calling the action. He said he can’t believe they’re about to hear Flair for the last time later on Raw.

[Commercial Break]

-The band Rev Theory were shown sitting in the front row; they performed at WrestleMania last night.

-The WrestleMania highlights video aired in its entirety. Ross then plugged the two announced main events.

[Commercial Break]

-A commercial aired for ECW that asked whether there would be a new champion crowned at WrestleMania. Cutting-edge hype, right there.

3 — CHRIS JERICHO vs. C.M. PUNK

When Punk entered the ring, he said they’re used to seeing him on ECW on Sci-Fi, “but it’s nice” to see him on Raw. The fans battled with chants for each wrestler: “Let’s go Jericho” vs. “C.M. Punk.” Ross and Lawler pointed it out. Ross said, “That’s the way we like it.” Jericho went for a dropkick off the ropes, but came up short and landed on his face. He checked for missing teeth afterward. Punk hit Jericho with a flying clothesline to the back of Jericho’s neck. Jericho fought right back as a loud “Y2J” chant broke out. Jericho went for a Lionsault, Punk moved, Jericho landed on his leg, but he sold it as if he jammed his knee. Punk seized the opening and gave Jericho a flying knee into the corner. Punk followed with a GTS attempt. Jericho elbowed out of it and went for a Walls of Jericho. Punk escaped, but Jericho nailed a Code Breaker immediately for a clean pin.

WINNER: Jericho in 6:00.

STAR RATING: ** — Good fast pace and intensity. The crowd heat really added meaning to the rapid back-and-fort momentum changes.

-A clip aired of Ric Flair winning the 1992 Royal Rumble.

[Commercial Break]

-Ross announced Santino Marella vs. Maria had been booked for Raw later.

-The Big Show came out. Ross immediately said Show was receiving a standing ovation. Show smiled and waved to them. They weren’t going crazy cheering for him or anything. One fan held up a gigantic set of brass knuckles. He said he wanted to congratulate his WrestleMania opponent Floyd Mayweather, and his manager, and his six bodyguards, the steel chair, and his brass knuckles. “Congratulations to all of you, the greatest fighter on the planet.” He said he was out there to talk about the Hall of Fame and Ric Flair. He said Flair talked about breaking into “the business” with Andre the Giant, then looked him in the eye and said he was the greatest big man he’s ever been in the ring with. Show began to choke up. He said that means the world to him. He said he’s going to go back to doing what he does best. He said no one can stop him one-on-one. Great Khali’s music interrupted. Ross said Khali can go eye-to-eye with Show and he never thought he’d see it.

Khali stood face to face with Big Show. They used a different camera lens and angle to really accentuate their size. The fans chanted “You can’t wrestle!” Show told Khali, “You need to get out of my face. Seriously.” His delivery was great. Khali hesitated, then stepped back. Giant got into a fighting stance. The crowd chanted, “Show’s gonna kill you! Show’s gonna kill you!” Hey, it rhymes with Joe. Khali left the ring, but when he hit the floor, he pointed at Show bravely as he walked backward. Show held his fighting stance in the ring and stared him down.

-A video recap aired of the Orton-Hardy angle earlier, then they showed Hardy warming up backstage.

[Commercial Break]

-Santino was doing some warm-up squats backstage. They were, let’s say, not particularly macho. He counted to three, saw Maria coming, then jumped into the 80s as he counted out loud. He asked her if she had her rabies shot after being kissed by “Snoopy the Dog.” Maria begged him to reconsider forcing her to wrestle him. Santino said, “I should have been Money in the Bank match, in the Royal Battle, but now, I was stuck in the lowest form of Sports Entertainment – WWE Divas.” He said his skills were wasted. “WWE Divas shouldn’t be wrestling. They should be at home looking pretty, making pasta, making babies,” he said, drawing the biggest pop of the night. (Hilarious.) He said he needs to wrestle her to release tension, unless she knows another way he can find a release. She slapped him. He yelled, “Fine, have it your way, Maria!” Santino’s great. Has that been noted before?

4 — RANDY ORTON vs. MATT HARDY

Hardy was really aggressive at the start and relentlessly remained on the attack. Orton got his first offensive move in by yanking Hardy’s legs out from under him when he was standing on the second rope. They cut to a break.

[Commercial Break]

Back from the break, Orton was in a headlock. Damn, that means we missed some of the headlock. Hardy escaped, and Orton went into the Orton stomp and then a kneedrop followed by a cover for a two count. Hardy elbowed out of a back suplex off the ropes and hit Orton with a moonsault. He followed with a bulldog for a two count. He hit the Side Effect for another two count. He went for a Twist of Fate, but Orton blocked it. Hardy scored a very near fall seconds later with a backslide. Orton bailed out. Hardy leaped off the ring apron onto Orton. He hit a Twist of Fate on the floor. Hardy threw Orton back into the ring. Orton surprised Hardy out of nowhere with an RKO for the sudden three count. Said Ross, “It’s that quick, it’s that effective!”

WINNER: Orton in 10:00.

STAR RATING: **1/2 — Good TV match. Really well paced, with Hardy showing a non-stop aggressiveness to try to upset the champ and get revenge.

-They cut to a pretaped promo with Dusty Rhodes talking about facing Ric Flair over the years. He said there are legends and icons, but from this day forth, Ric Flair is a national treasure.

-Lawler plugged the Flair farewell address later.

[Commercial Break]

-JBL walked up to Orton backstage as Orton caught his breath in the locker room. He grabbed his title belt, gave it a good hard look, then dropped it back into Orton’s lap.

5 — MARIA vs. SANTINO MARELLA – Anything Goes

Lawler said he was banned from interfering in the match. As the mach began, all of the WWE Divas came to the ring and attacked him. They group lifted him by his limbs, then slammed him to the mat. Maria then gave him a headbutt to the crowd and scored the pin.

WINNER: Maria in 0:15.

[Commercial Break]

-Another video package aired on Flair from the night before at WrestleMania.

-Ric Flair walked out to his music as an ex-wrestler. He wasn’t crying. He actually looked like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He had accepted it was over over the past 24 hours. It helps to have a five-star match as your send-off, huh? There was no charity in that rating I gave it, either. Flair stood center ring and let out a “wooo!”

He said last night he wrestled his “very last match.” He added, “I will never, ever wrestle in this ring again.” The fans booed. He said he is not sad about not wrestling. He said fans shouldn’t be sad that they won’t see him out there anymore. “You should rejoice that I had the greatest wrestling career in the history of pro wrestling!” he said. “Last night, even though I lost, I lost to a great, great, great wrestler and a better man. Truth!” The crowd applauded and booed a little. He said he’s wrestled in front of more fans, raised more hell, had more fan, and loved each of them throughout his whole life. He said he has been teared up all day long with the thought of not being able to come out there anymore, “but I’m off, and I’m in a good place, and I love you.” The crowd chanted, “Thank you, Ric!” He thanked them for the memories and the support and most fall for making him who he is today. “Woooo! Wooo! Wooo!” He strutted and saluted and blew kisses to the crowd.

Triple H’s music played just as Flair was about to step out of the ring. It was only 10:54, so there is a lot more to come. Triple H said if he thinks the fans are the only ones who want to say thank you or the millions on TV are the only ones who want to say thank, he’s got another thing going. Flair began crying. Hunter hugged him. Flair said something to him out of mic range. Triple H said he had to tell him something from hte bottom of his heart. “I love you, man,” he said. “Thank you.” He got on his knees and bowed to him. He said that takes care of him, but there are a few other people who wanted to say thank you to him. He said there was one group he started talking to earlier. He said ever since he talked to them, his hand has been cramping up like this. He held up four fingers.

Out walked Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon, Arn Anderson, and Barry Windham. Ross said it’s the first time since 1988 all of the Horsemen have been together in the same ring. Flair hugged each of them. Then Batista’s music played and he walked out. Flair was bawling at this point. Flair hugged him as soon as he entered he ring. Batista embraced him and lifted him. Next out was Ricky Steamboat. They hugged. Flair cried. Harley Race came out next. Flair held the ropes open for Race who took a little longer than the others to get to the ring. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine came out next. It’s fun listening to the generic music they came up with for some of these ring entrances. Dean Malenko came out next. Ross and Lawler respectfully didn’t interject any facts during every ring entrance. Next was Chris Jericho. Then John Cena, his only appearance of the show, oddly, for the day after WrestleMania. (Of all current roster members, why Cena and Jericho, but not others?)

Then came his kids and his wife. Flair really lost it here. They surrounded him and applauded. Then Michaels’s music played. They exchanged some hearfelt, emotional words. Michaels choked up. They hugged. Flair said off-mic, “Thank you all. Thanks so much.” Hunter pointed out that they were both wearing cool new watches. Hunter said they could keep that going all night. He just called anyone else to come out and say good bye to Flair. Edge (with a smile), Big Show, Orton, Kane, JBL (applauding), Finlay, Hornswoggle, and on and on and on most of the rest of the roster walked out. They clapped and chanted, “Thank you, Ric! Thank you, Ric!” The camera caught Orton wiping a tear away. Some agents walked out behind the wrestlers including Sgt. Slaughter. (Maybe Brian Gewirtz wlll “get” that Flair was a big deal now.) No sign of any McMahons for the second night in a row. Show stood on the ring apron and hugged Flair, then stepped back down.

Boy, wouldn’t we all be lucky enough to have our careers ended with such a touching, genuine show of appreciation by our colleagues. Flair deserved that. It’s so nice to see that he got what he deserved for a send-off. Just totally classy.


NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS 10 YEARS AGO FLASHBACK: 10 YRS AGO – WWE in Miami, Fla. (4-1-08): Undertaker, Batista, Miz, Edge, Vickie, Shawn Michaels, Teddy Long, Morrison

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