SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The following report was originally published on PWTorch.com ten years ago this week…
KELLER’S RAW REPORT
DECEMBER 29, 2008
LIVE ON USA NETWORK
-After the Raw opening and pyro, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler introduced the show. They hyped a four-way main event featuring Shawn Michaels vs. JBL vs. Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton.
-Rey Mysterio stood center-ring and reacted to Michaels costing him his match against JBL last week via that clever DQ. After a clip of the incident aired, Rey said he understands Michaels falling on hard times, “but the fact is, we have a problem.” He called him to the ring so he could talk to him face to face. Michaels came out to his intro music. Rey said he knows in his heart that despite his affiliation with JBL, he’s a great person. He said he’s not asking for his spot in the Race to the Rumble match. What he wants is for him to be honorable and face him one-on-one tonight. “I just want my opportunity back,” he said. He said the winner can advance to the Fatal Four-way later. He said he was just asking him to do the right thing. Michaels said: “I accept.” He shook Rey’s hand. Rey thanked him.
JBL interrupted as he walked out onto the stage. “Shawn’s answer is no,” he said. “Shawn Michaels is my employee and any decision that relates to Shawn Michaels goes through me.” He said he appreciates the offer, but the only match he’ll be competing in tonight is the four-way later. He then told Michaels, “Shawn, I would appreciate if you would leave the ring. Now.” Michaels hung his head and slowly walked out of the ring. JBL said, “Thank you.” Rey asked Michaels to stay, but it had no effect other thank making Michaels feel worse. “Are you just going to listen to what Bradshaw tells you?” he asked. He said all of the money in he world can’t make up for selling your soul. At that moment, Mike Knox jumped Rey from behind.
JBL backed Michaels into the locker room as Knox beat down Mysterio. Cole said Michaels had “no choice but to obedient to his boss.” A minute later John Cena made the save.
-Backstage Randy Orton told Cody Rhodes, Manu, and Sim Snuka that they could be bigger than the Four Horsemen, bigger than DX, bigger than Evolution. (But not bigger than the NWO?) He said he won’t tolerate losers. He said Phase One is winning their matches tonight. He said if they lose, they’re out – simple as that. He said Cody was up first. They really need to acknowledge what the deal is with Ted DiBiase – storyline or real life or whatever. Ignoring his absence just distracts from everything else they do because surely some viewers are preoccupied with where the heck he went and why everyone pretends he never existed.
1 — CODY RHODES vs. C.M. PUNK
William Regal and Layla walked out after Cody and Punk arrived in the ring. Cole plugged that Regal must defend the IC Title against Punk next week. Regal sat at ringside to scout the match. Lawler asked: “Is it just me or does William Regal look like he always smells something bad?” Punk kicked Cody to the floor, then dove at him, but besides spearing Cody, his head hit the announce table. Both were slow to get up. They exchanged punches when they got up. Punk hit a reverse sidekick to the gut and a running knee. However, Regal distracted Punk as Cody rolled into the ring, thus Punk was counted out.
WINNER: Cody Rhodes in 4:00.
STAR RATING: * — Fine for a four minute match. Solid matwork early.
-Afterward, Punk gave Cody a running bulldog. Regal, though, entered the ring and KO’d Punk with a running high knee. A smiling Layla presented the IC TItle belt to Regal.
-Backstage Cena asked Stephanie if she is serious – about what, we didn’t know. She explained that it was her show and he thinks it’d be best for him to do commentary during the four-way match later. He mockingly approved, then went into a ridiculous attempt at humor doing a Harry Carray impersonation based off of some movie that the or the writers surely watched over the holidays. Some fans laughed, but it’s that sort of “stretching” of his character that just doesn’t work like he (or someone) must think it does. He went into basic Cena material, asking Steph whether the fans would rather hear boring Cena commentary or him wrestle Knox or any match “so unbelievable, it changes life on this planet!” He said it’s clear what the fans want, but she should do what’s best. Ugh. Not only was the execution cringe-inducing, but it’s just stupid to think color commentary is such a bad things. It’s common in sports for an athlete to do guest color commentary if he’s injured or, in the case of UFC, not fighting on that card. Randy Couture and Frank Mir, for instance, have been really strong commentators. Does Cena really have nothing to add in the form of commentary for a match that’s pivotal to his future?
-Goldust hosted a reading of “The Night Before Christmas.” He said he gave out gifts such as pajamas for Umaga, Stunners for Steve Austin, Boggle for Hornswoggle, and a swimsuit for Eve. He went on about gifts for Edge (a picture of Vickie), Hunter (Monopoly), Dolf Ziggler, Jeff Hardy, Satino Marella, and Cody (his half brother). That was impossibly unfunny. I mean, seriously, random words could have been read out of the dictionary and it would have had a higher cleverness factor. WTFx10,000???
-Lawler and Cole narrated a replay of Orton kicking Batista in the side of the head. Cole said Batista suffered a concussion and underwent surgery because he had two teeth knocked out. Lawler said he also decided to have elective surgery done on his hamstring, a nagging injury they claim he suffered at SummerSlam. They had to work a story for the hamstring surgery into the official reason for his absence so they could air footage of his surgery, something WWE does either because they think it makes good TV or it’s important for building up sympathy for a babyface’s eventual return or, mainly, to establish wrestlers really do get injured. Footage aired of the actual surgery. Do wrestlers ever get sick of camera crews always following them into surgery? Batista said when he begins rehab, he’ll be thinking of nothing but revenge on Orton.
-Ring intros took place for Mickie James, Melina, and Kelly Kelly.
2 — SIX-WOMAN BATTLE ROYAL: Kate Lea Burchill, Candice Michelle, Jillian Hall, Mickie James, Melina, Kelly Kelly
They picked up after the break with Santino introducing “Glamazon” Beth Phoenix, who joined Cole and Lawler on commentary. Oh, how demeaning for her! Lilian Garcia announced that the winner of the match would face Phoenix next week. Phoenix said in 2009 she plans to remain undefeated. Santino: “These women are like snacks for Beth Phoenix. She could eat them for lunch.” It came down to Mickie and Melina at 3:00. Melina kneed Mickie off the ring apron to win.
WINNER: Melina in 4:00.
-As Melina celebrated, Phoenix entered the ring. When Lawler said she had no business going in there, Santino said: “She’s just going to let her know she has no chance.” Phoenix threw Melina out of the ring. Melina came back and pounded on her on the announce table. Phoenix’s Biggest Fan, Rose Menendez, jumped Melina. Santino exclaimed: “Holy macaroni!” Security dragged her away.
-Todd Grisham interviewed Chris Jericho backstage. Jericho said he had a question for Grisham. He said being named Superstar of the Year wasn’t his only accolade acquired over the last 365 days. He showed that WWE Magazine named him “Jerk of the Year.” He wondered if that’s because he told the truth and exposed the fans for the hypocrites they really are. He said they’re going to say one thing and do another. Jericho listed the things he said he’d do that he did. He looked at the camera and told fans if they want to see a real jerk, look into a mirror.
-WWE Fact: WWE.com beats every broadcast network’s website in monthly pageviews, including CBS.com, ABC.com, FOX.com, and NBC.com. Yeah, but what about MyNetworkTV.com!
3 — SIM SNUKA vs. “SUPER HAAS” CHARLIE SNUKA
Sim didn’t like that Haas dressed up as his father. Charlie came out to Superfly’s intro music, which I’ve always thought was one of the cooler entrance themes of the 1980s. Charlie dressed as Snuka and imitated his mannerisms and stances and maneuvers in the ring. Lawler talked about a strong family resemblance between Sim and Jimmy Snuka, his father. He said this group of wrestlers aren’t necessarily honoring their family names with their actions. Charlie got a near fall at 3:00. Lawler said he talked to Jimmy last week and he says he watches Raw every week. Charlie put the Superfly wig back and on and dove off the top rope, but Sim lifted his knees upon impact. He finished Charlie with a jumping hook kick to Charlie’s face that would have made Mirko Cro-Cop proud.
WINNER: Snuka in 4:00.
STAR RATING: 3/4*
-They showed Cena and Rey heading toward the entrance tunnel. Lawler said Steph has taken Cena’s suggestion and set up a huge ten-man tag match.
-Ring intros took place for the ten-man tag match beginning with Cena and Rey. A clip aired of Knox jumping Rey from behind earlier in the show followed by Cena’s run-in. This is a way to get Cena on a match on Raw without giving away a singles match-up that should be saved for PPV or force him to cleanly pin a heel who would be hurt by a televised loss to Cena at this stage, such as Knox.
4 — KOFI KINGSTON & JOHN CENA & REY MYSTERIO & CRYME TYME vs. KANE & MIKE KNOX & MIZ & JOHN MORRISON & DOLPH ZIGGLER
Ring intros took over six minutes. Lawler and Cole wondered if Miz would remember the Tombstone that Kane gave to him after thinking he was seeing Kelly Kelly. Boy did Dolph get “exposed” as being undersized in there with Kane and Knox. He was even a full size smaller than Miz and Morrison, who are hardly seen as giants in WWE. JTG opened against Dolph, who tried to introduce himself to him. At 2:00 everyone jumped into the ring. Lawler said it’s going to be a referee’s nightmare. They cut to a break.
They showed Kofi missing a flying bodyblock during the break, giving Miz an opening to take control. Rey got a hot-tag at 7:00. Kane interfered with a punch to Rey’s face. Cole said he’s heard the beard Knox wears is over a year old. So it’s probably crawling on its own by now. Cena poked his head into the ring to cheer on Rey against Ziggler, and the crowd booed. Cena hot-tagged in at 10:00. Kane, though, grabbed Cena by his throat during chaos breaking out. Kofi dropkicked Kane off of Cena. Cena then caught Knox with his throw drop slam suplex thingy he does that looks relatively harmless. He did the same to Zigger. Cena and Kofi each did their signature sports in stereo on the two heels in the ring. Cena finished Knox with an FU.
WINNERS: Knox & Zigger & Miz & Morrison & Kane in 11:00.
STAR RATING: **1/4 — Decent action. Of all people to beat in this match, they pin Knox? I’m all for unpredictability, and Ziggler was the assumed designated jobber, but Knox has really been built up lately with lingering intrigue over whether he was something special. This made him seem like just another oversized mid-card heel. The bully gimmick is good and all, but a sense of potential invincibility until he faced someone big one-on-one seemed like a more sensible approach.
-Grisham asked Michaels for an interview backstage. Grisham said if he wins the four-way, he faces Cena at the Rumble, but he’s competing against his boss, JBL. Michaels said he’s Mr. WrestleMania and when it comes to WrestleMania he’s concerned about just one thing – stealing the show. That seemed like a bit of a nonsequitur.
-WWE Fact: WWE is #2 in Yahoo Searches, beating out Baack Obama, Ameican Idol, Miley Cyrus, Lndsay Lohan, and Angelina Jolie.
-Kelly Kelly was shown telling Randy Orton that she felt the night they had was special and now he won’t return her calls. This has to be embarrassing for the married with kids Orton. He said, “That was one night and frankly it wasn’t all that memorable. I used you. You are pathetic. The last thing I need with the World Heavyweight Championship on the line is a distraction like you.”
5 — MANU vs. MATT HARDY
Cole plugged that the Hardys would face Edge & Big Show on Friday night. Another example of the glaring gaps in the brand split. It’s like Miz, Morrison, and Matt Hardy, among others, have this magic pass that gets them on as many of the shows as they want. Lawler said if Manu, Cody, Snuka, and Orton are put together, they could rival DX and Evolution. He said every group needs a leader, and in Orton they have that. At 3:00 Manu dropped Hardy throat-first over the top rope. Cole noted that Orton let Manu he wasn’t happy with his loss to Kingston. This practice of bringing up past match outcomes is good as it makes every match seem a bit more important or potentially consequential.
Hardy avoided a Manu moonsault at 6:00. Hardy came back with a clothesline and Side Effect for a two count. Manu came back with a neckbreaker for a two count. He hit a corner splash, but Hardy came back with a Twist of Fate for the three count. “Does that mean Manu’s out of Legacy?” asked Cole. Lawler said based on what Orton said, he must be. He had said earlier he could make a case that he held his own for a while against the ECW Champion. Manu took in the ramifications of the loss as Hardy walked up he ramp celebrating his win. Lawler said Manu has to go to the back and face Orton.
WINNER: Hardy at 8:00.
STAR RATING: ** — Pretty much the definition of a two star match.
-Lawler plugged that the four-way match was next.
-A segment aired hyping Mr. Kennedy’s movie, “Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia.” This was about the authenticity of the weapons. Kennedy talked about the “awesome feeling” he got from pulling the trigger.
6 — RANDY ORTON vs. JBL vs. SHAWN MICHAELS vs. CHRIS JERICHO
Orton walked out first, Michaels second. Michaels seemed to have to work hard to psych himself up. He did some of his intro routine, but broke for contemplation a few times. JBL came out last. Lawler said JBL is an expert at taking advantage of the misfortune of others. He said he’s Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Ring intros took five minutes.
Michaels and Jericho began the match. Lawler said he’s surprised the arena can hold the egos of everyone involved in this match. At 8:00 Michaels did the Stevens Flip into the corner on a whip by Jericho. Jericho set up a superplex, Michaels fought it and headbutted Jericho to the mat. Michaels ten hit a top rope elbowdrop. When he stomped the mat to signal Sweet Chin Music, JBL tagged himself in and went for a Clothesline from Hell. Jericho ducked it and hit the Code Breaker. Michaels broke up the pin attempt, saving his boss. Michaels tagged himself in and superkicked Jericho as Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho. Michaels covered Jericho to eliminate him. Given this is an elimination match, there wasn’t much advantage to JBL trying to score the pin earlier rather than Michaels, since either way Jericho was potentially being eliminated.
Back from the break, JBL had Orton in a sleeper. Cole brought up that Michaels didn’t want to borrow money from Triple H because it never turns out good when friends borrow money from friends. Lawler said that is true. JBL dominated Orton in a largely silent arena for several minutes, including stomping on his hands. Orton got a bit of a crowd pop for his comeback attempt.
Orton finally took JBL down with a high dropkick. He followed with the Orton Stomp, drawing applause and whistles. He set up a Punt Kick, but JBL scurried over to tag in Michaels. Orton stopped Michaels quickly with a backbreaker. Orton set up an RKO at 19:00, but Michaels pushed away. Michaels nipped up and gave Orton an inverted atomic drop. He went to the top rope and hit a flying elbow on Orton’s chest. He connected with Sweet Chin Music to eliminate Orton. Michaels looked like he was ready to kick JBL, but stopped. JBL and Michaels faced off next. The crowd chanted, “HBK, HBK.” JBL pointed to the mat and asked Michaels to lay down. Michaels got emotional and struggled with the decision, contemplating the consequences of complying and not complying. The crowd booed as Michaels slowly got down on one knee. They cheered when he stood back up. Michaels said something to JBL, almost begging him to not make him do this. The crowd went back to “HBK, HBK” chants. JBL said, “You do whatI say.” The tension was drawn out over several minutes. Michaels dropped to a knee again, and then laid down, while looking up at JBL like a dog intimidated by his master. As JBL move in for the pin. Michaels rolled out of the way and stood up again. He seemed terribly conflicted. He could give JBL a countout win at this point, or get DQ’d for shoving the ref. There were other options here. Michaels instead closed his eyes and asked JBL to hit him with the Clothesline from Hell so at least he would be KO’d instead of laying down. As the crowd chanted “JBL sucks,” JBL hit Michaels with his clothesline for the win.
WINNER: JBL in 25:00.
STAR RATING: **1/2 — The content of the match was pretty methodical, but not bad a all. The finish was well done. There are some loopholes in the way it played out, but nothing that hurt the drama of the moment. Cena vs. JBL would hardly seem like a PPV worthy World Title match in 2009, but given what JBL’s character is doing with Michaels, fans will want to see him get his ass kicked.
FINAL THOUGHTS (6.5):A solid show start to finish with a meaningful main event and the Legacy challenge gave significance to three other matches. The Goldust segment was just not TV-worthy and one of the more head-scratchingly pointless segments in the history of Raw. The Michaels-JBL storyline is an effective ongoing drama to hook fans with both wrestlers playing their parts well, if not slightly melodramatically on Michaels’s part.
James Caldwell, Torch Columnist (7.0)
Chris Jericho vs. C.M. Punk carried the in-ring portion of the show, while Trish Stratus’s one-off return was a memorable moment to make this a strong “thumbs up” show. WWE was also effective in continuing to bridge the gap to Royal Rumble with a few extra weeks in-between PPVs. They had four matches that mattered, leading to what-should-be at least a 30-minute elimination match on next week’s show featuring four of the top stars in the company. Good concept to build and build to the Royal Rumble.
First, though, we need to know what happened to Jim Duggan. Where was Cryme Tyme leading him to last week? This needs to be resolved. In any event, Jericho vs. Punk capitalized on a hot crowd and both men delivered a really compelling performance with Punk actually gaining some points in defeat based on him breaking free of the Walls of Jericho several times and being a second away from victory. Very strong match with a great finishing sequence.
JBL vs. Rey was surprinsingly good. The second-half of the match was very strong with Rey kicking out of several believable pin attempts before Shawn Michaels interrupted to advance his program with JBL. Of course, Triple H was needed to tie up some loose ends on why Michaels would resort to working for JBL rather than taking a loan from the First National Bank of WWE. When storylines don’t make sense, just call upon Hunter to right the wrongs.
Sim Snuka, or whatever his name is, showed great charisma in 15 seconds backstage. Couldn’t possibly be the same person who showed a complete lack of substance doing the greasers gimmick. … Manu vs. Kofi. Why? … Women’s Title and IC Title are both stuck in the middle of nowhere. Punk vs. Regal hype should be happening for the IC belt and Beth needs an actual opponent and/or program. Melina? Candice? Mickie? Pick one and run with it.
Bruce Mitchell, Torch Columnist (7.0)
Sometimes it’s the right thing to save the surprise for the main event, instead of building anticipation and maybe ratings by announcing it ahead of time. Telling fans a week ahead of time that Trish Stratus would make one appearance on Raw probably wouldn’t have moved the ratings, and definitely would have made for less immediate TV than what we got tonight- a genuine feel-good WWE match, instead of a contrived one.
Chris Jericho had a good, heated win over C.M. Punk. The explanation as to why Shawn Michaels didn’t go to Triple H was pretty good, but Michaels helping JBL to a DQ win over Rey Mysterio wasn’t. Randy Orton continues to grow as a big time main event act, even if fans cheer him on.
Greg Parks, PWTorch.com Contributor (7.0)
WWE has been on a roll the last three weeks or so with a string of solid Raws, thanks in part to more of a concentration on solid in-ring action, as well as more meaningful backstage segments and getting away from the lame comedy that used to bog down the show at times.
I don’t think we’ve seen the payoff to the Kane-Kelly Kelly angle yet, as Kane hinted toward future evil deeds. I hope WWE remembers it down the road and makes it mean something. There wasn’t much to the Kane vs. HBK match. It was of the basic, no-frills kind. Michaels was a little too excited coming to the ring too for a guy who has lost it all. Kofi vs. Manu was not smooth and I really think Manu should’ve gone over here, but it did lead into the storyline with Sim Snuka and Randy Orton later in the show. I feel like Orton is the Main Event Mafia and the rest of The Legacy is the Frontline in that they can never do anything right or do anything better than Orton.
The show-long angle with John Cena and Santino Marella was an odd detour from Cena’s current storylines and feuds, though they do have some time to kill before the Royal Rumble. Plus, the payoff of Trish Stratus’ return (however brief) was worth it. Triple H had a good segment backstage with Shawn Michaels; admittedly, while the angle has a lot of holes, they have been trying to patch them up week-to-week. The Divas tag match was bowling-shoe ugly and seemed to be a backdrop for William Regal to plug his I.C. Title. At least the title is now worthy enough to be on every week in one form or another.
Rey vs. JBL was surprisingly entertaining, and it’s obvious how much better JBL has gotten in the ring since losing weight. The ending made sense, but the DQ in that case should be used at the referee’s discretion, since he had to know Shawn slapped JBL to earn his boss the win. Orton cut a pretty decent promo on the now-injured Batista. Kelly Kelly’s backstage segment with the tag champs and Dolph Ziggler was well-done and call me crazy but I think Kelly’s acting has improved in the last few months. Jericho vs. Punk brought the awesome, helped by the crowd. But as James referenced….what happened to Duggan? Did they not want to bring him out in Canada for fear that he would be booed? Inquiring minds want to know!