Nick’s Raw Review 7-7-08: “Is He Alive or Dead?”

Nick Paglino

What’s up wrestling fans? Bourbon Street was red hot tonight as Monday Night Raw rolled into town to determine the number one contender to CM Punk’s newly won Championship. Indeed the town was red hot, but I can’t say the show was. Instead, it was a show that seemed to plod along without much wrestling. No, you’re not reading my review from last week, it just seems that way because WWE decided to give us yet another talk show. I understand that things are exciting on Raw right now because changes are happening. You have new talents appearing on the show, new rivalries are budding, some good storytelling is happening, and there’s a sense of unpredictability in the air. But as much as I like change, I also like wrestling, and I wish WWE would remember that from time to time.

We start tonight’s show with an example of what I’m talking about. It took them 23 minutes to announce that the main event of Raw would be a Fatal Four Way match. Was that necessary? They couldn’t achieve the exact same result in 5 minutes? Or 10? I don’t even need more than 2 sentences to review the opening segment. After Vickie Guerrero said “Excuse Me” 458 times, each wrestler came out and explained why he should be the number one contender. John Cena made some jokes and then CM Punk announced a four-way main event match. It was fun, but dragged on way too long. (Ok, so 3 sentences).

Back from commercial break and it’s time for our first match of the evening, Rey Mysterio vs Santino Marella in Rey’s debut match since being drafted to Raw. The match itself was decent, but here’s the problem. I received a lot of feedback last week from fans claiming they were excited to see a Mysterio/Marella feud, but they forgot one key thing. Santino doesn’t participate in feuds. In order to be in a feud you have to win wrestling matches, and Santino doesn’t win wrestling matches. Therefore, he’s not in feuds. He jobs, then moves on. I love Santino’s mic work just as much as the next person, but I can’t fully get behind a competitor that is the WWE roster’s number one jobber. As funny as he is, creative has made him completely predictable as a wrestler. Who thought Santino would actually win that match? If you take away the belief that a wrestler could win a match, then you’ve taken away any reality that people will pay to see him lose. Because they know he will in advance. Edge is the company’s top heel right now. You want to see him get beat because you know the babyface can beat him, but somehow he’s able to cheat his way to victory. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give the opening bout 4 Stars.

Next up we cut to the back and Grish is set to interview CM Punk. I loved the light falling and the crew guy having to run in and pick it up. Did it fall in the same way the sign fell on Vince? Maybe, maybe not, but there seems to be some kind of a ghost in the Raw house. It’s subtle, and it’s intriguing. I hope they keep it up. Oh ya, by the way, jobber number two of the night, Snitsky, also showed up to let Punk know that he thought it was unfair that he won the title in his first match on Raw. Maybe since Snitsky hasn’t been on WWE TV since forever he didn’t notice that Punk won money in the bank. He wasn’t given a title shot, he took it. Anyway, Punk challenges Snitsky to a match later in the evening. Yawn.

Back from break and Mickie James is flirting with Cena in the back as Kelly Kelly arrives and lets us all know she is the newest member of the Raw roster. A funny little segment that leads us to our next match, Mickie James and Kelly Kelly vs Jillian and Layla. During the match, Cole reminds us why we don’t want him on Raw by claiming that Kelly is the most improved WWE Diva of the year. Really? No doubt she’s a little better than when she started, but she’s still extremely slow in the ring and her offense is not very believable. I really hope Melina and Beth Phoenix are back soon, because I dread the idea of Mickie having to work against girls like Kelly, Layla or Jillian. 3.5 Stars.

The next segment was great. As the Divas were still in the ring, JBL’s music hit, his limo came out, and we had ourselves a good old car trashing sequence. I really like the idea of John Cena aligning himself with Cryme Tyme, they seem to fit well together. Ever since he turned face, John Cena has been in dire need of some “street cred,” since his character had become The Doctor of Thuganomics that stopped being a thug. I think him and Cryme Tyme would make a team that has sort of a DX effect, where they could basically go rogue and do whatever they want whenever they want. There’s great possibilities here that can rejuvenate both Cryme Tyme and Cena’s characters.

Up next is CM Punk vs Snitsky in a yet another completely mediocre match. Snitsky has proven time and time again that he simply cannot pull off an entertaining match, and on top of that he wasn’t even given enough time to try. I understand what creative is trying to do here, but Snitsky no longer has the ability to put over talent because, like Santino, no one expects or believes he will ever win. 4 Stars.

I say it every week, but Jericho vs HBK is the best thing on Raw right now, and tonight they proved it again. These two guys deliver promos so well that when they’re doing it together they really create some intense drama. I like the fact that Jericho is not playing the typical whiny, one dimensional heel character. He has slowly transitioned from a face to a heel and his promos have layers. I am highly anticipating their match at The Great American Bash and hope that their feud continues on from there. This could be one of, if not the best, feud of 2008 if handled properly.

Kofi Kingston’s music hits after the break and in a non-title match we have Kofi Kingston vs Charlie Haas. This match was exactly like the other two singles matches of the night with one difference. Haas is a very talented wrestler. However, since he is rarely used on TV, it’s yet another case of predictability. But the announcers did put over an interesting point during this match. If Haas had won, then he would be considered an immediate contender to the Intercontinental Title. While I would never have recommended that creative allow Haas to win that match, as it would bury Kofi’s momentum, what’s wrong with the two of them having a competitive match? This would have been a perfect opportunity for Haas to really take it to Kingston and prove that he is worthy of a title shot. Much the same can be said about Santino Marella. If he wrestles competitively, then he will be considered a genuine threat in the ring. Kingston vs Haas was the best of the singles matches tonight, but still far from a great match. 5 Stars.

After the bout Kofi was attacked by Paul Burchill, which could be setting up a nice feud between the two. Not to mention the fact that Burchill really needs something right now, as he’s been on Raw for awhile and hasn’t accomplished much of anything, nor has he showcased any of his great wrestling talents. I hope this pans out to be a back and forth feud between him and Kofi, as Paul could be a great asset to Raw.

We cut backstage and while Batista is warming up for his match, we see a crazed fan run in front of the camera, perform Batista’s “cannon blast,” and then get chased off by security. Again, someone or something is subtly messing with the Raw broadcasts and I personally think it’s a great touch.

It’s now time for our main event of the evening, a Fatal Four Way match featuring Kane vs Batista vs JBL vs John Cena to determine the number one contender to CM Punk’s Championship belt. Finally, an exciting, solid length match. Too bad it was the first and last one of the evening. Batista picked up the surprise victory after spearing Kane for the 1,2,3 and he heads to The Bash to face Punk. 7 Stars.

Business picked up after the match when Kane seemed to snap and attacked a crew member, Michael Cole, and Jerry Lawler. It began when Kane demanded that Cole tell him if “he’s alive or dead.” We don’t know who Kane is referring to, but it may have something to do with the strange occurrences that have been taking place on Raw lately. This was a very well done bit. It simultaneously turned Kane heel and played into a deeper storyline that should unfold within the coming weeks. Kane always works better as the “insane” heel, so this was a smart move in my opinion.

Overall, I felt very ambivalent to this edition of Raw. There was some great stuff happening in the way of storytelling, but the wrestling lacked once again. Too many throw away matches and not enough excitement in the ring ultimately damaged the overall effect of the show. Out of a possible 9 stars, I will give tonight’s Raw 5 stars.

Nick’s Notes:

-With all of the changes that have taken place on Raw, how do you have a wrestling show that does not feature the new Tag Team Champions, Hardcore Holly, Jaime Noble, Cryme Tyme, Paul Burchill, Lance Cade, Chris Jericho and HBK in wrestling matches, but yet you allow Snitsky, Kelly, Layla and Santino to compete? I understand that storylines are being created, but when you have such a fresh roster of talent it would be nice to see them in some good matches.

-It’s funny how Lawler had to be the one to get beaten down by Kane. If it had been Cole then the Big Red Machine would have become the show’s top face. Poor Michael.

-Did we need to see the entire Edge, Batista, Punk segment from last week twice tonight? We didn’t even need to see it once as far as I’m concerned.

-Burchill needs a better finisher than a neck breaker. We all know he has one, too.

-So if Kelly didn’t know WWE had contracts, does that mean they never made her sign one? I know they want to put her over as being dumb, but that just made her look like she has amnesia.

-Line of the night was when Punk told Vickie her and Khali would make a great couple. Could you imagine the baby those two would make? Actually, they already have one: Snitsky.

-Here’s my prediction: Kane was the one that attempted to kill McMahon 2 weeks ago and he’s furious that the family will not release any information on his condition. He wants to know if Vince is alive or dead, and when he lost tonight, he snapped.

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