Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday Night Raw: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

The "go-home" episode of Raw leading to Night of Champions should've been stronger in terms of in-ring content. It wasn't. Billy Gibbons & Dusty Hill of ZZ Top were your hosts for the evening, but you could've hired two actors to play the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame and it would've been the same.

As is standard procedure for the flagship, we open with talking points that take up the first 15 minutes or so. It starts with John Cena playing cheerleader, getting the crowd fired up. That's all well & good, but then the human buzzkiller, Randy Orton, comes out. Neither man remembered that the last time they & Triple H were in a triple threat title match on PPV, it was Wrestlemania 24 15 months ago, not two years ago, as Cena claimed. The other 2/3 of Legacy, Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase, come through the crowd, but along comes Triple H to sort-of even the sides. See, it's supposed to be Legacy vs. Cena/HHH in the main event, and it will be, as Orton deals himself in to make it a 3-on-2 handicap match.

The first match of the evening pitted former tag team champions Carlito & Primo Colon on opposite sides of a six-man donnybrook, with Primo teaming with MVP & Kofi Kingston vs. Carlito, Big Show, & Jack Swagger. With the exception of Primo, all are in a US title match at the PPV. Standard fare for the first bout of the night. Both Colons have new video packages, and Primo has a new theme, though older brother Carlito has the same tired song he's had for nearly 5 years. To illustrate the poor logic in the booking, it is Primo winning the match, pinning Carlito after a springboard head butt off the top rope. After the match, Big Show, who'd mistakenly laid out Carlito with a spear to set up the finish, spears Primo and lays out everyone else. All that says is that the colossus isn't going to be the winner on Sunday.

Through much of the evening, Gibbons & Hill are in their office, with microphones at the ready in case they decide to sing. There's a 3rd bearded guy with them, Santino Marella with a fake beard and a toy guitar that looks like something from either Rock Band or Guitar Hero. The other member of ZZ Top, Frank Beard, isn't as big a fan as the others are, I guess, and declined to make the trip. In separate skits, Gibbons & Hill line up three other matches leading up to the main event.

We come back from break, and we find "The" Brian Kendrick berating Jerry Lawler & Michael Cole for no apparent reason. Well, actually, there is a reason. Kendrick, who'd been hunting for a new tag partner after Ezekiel Jackson was drafted away to ECW 3 months ago, is openly campaigning to team with Chris Jericho vs. Legacy at Night of Champions. It's more likely, thinking back, that Kendrick's days with the company have been numbered. Lawler, despite not being in battle gear, is Kendrick's opponent. It was short, & to the point. Kendrick got some offense in against the Hall of Famer, but Lawler blocked Sliced Bread #2 (redubbed "The Kendrick" for this gimmick), and hit a fistdrop off the 2nd turnbuckle to pick up the win.

A week ago, Chris Jericho was lured into an impromptu match vs. Mark Henry, then walked out. This time, the Duke of Dullness decides he needs to get his heat back and takes it to the former ECW champion. Frustrated by his inability to put Henry down long enough for the 3, Jericho goes to the floor and fetches that ol' reliable steel chair, which he thrusts into Henry's gut for the intentional DQ. Jericho rears back for another shot, but the Olympic Powerhouse blocks, then bum-rushes Jericho back into the ring. A Code Breaker is blocked and countered into the World's Strongest Slam. Thanks for coming, Chris!

Now, it's time for an old school (as in, late 80's) interview, conducted by Josh Mathews, with Mickie James, who gets Maryse at the PPV for the "Divas" title. Mickie rips Maryse, who hasn't exactly been sparkling in the ring since coming over in the draft from Smackdown, claiming the champ needs a reality check.

Enter "The Miz" (Michael Mizanin), who happily puts over Maryse as being sexier than Mickie (highly unlikely), and claims that the 4-time women's champ will be working at a waffle house in 10 years. More than likely, we'll see her at the Kentucky Derby by then, as a horse trainer. Maryse finally shows up, doesn't say a word, and sprays hair spray in Mickie's eyes. Second time she's done that in as many months. All that says to me is that moving to Raw has done nothing but devalue the Montreal Minx as champion, and adding Miz to the mix will actually make things worse.

Chavo Guerrero has been turned into a comedy jobber ever since his Aunt Vicki abdicated as Raw GM last month. Twice in a 5 day period, Guerrero had lost to Hornswoggle, and obviously would've been better served wrestling someone more his size. Instead, he draws 'Swoggle again in a "Sharp Dressed Man" match, which is just a fancy way of booking a tuxedo match. Chavo's pant-legs have been stitched together, which of course means he's losing again. It didn't take that long, and Guerrero might've been more embarassed than anything to be revealed with chili peppers imprinted on his boxers. Oh, stop the pain!

The semi-final match of the evening was a women's tag match, billed as a "ZZ Top Legs match", after their 1983 hit. Kelly Kelly & Gail Kim were pitted against non-winners Rosa Mendes & Alicia Fox, who haven't earned pinfalls of their own although they have had some tag team victories in recent weeks. It's one thing for these ladies to look good in the ring, but another thing altogether to coax a 3-or-4-star match out of them. I've seen worse than this. Fox earns her first pinfall victory rolling up Kelly in an inside cradle dangerously close to the ropes.

Gibbons & Hill were brought out to meet the audience before the main event, and it was announced that basketball star Shaquille O'Neal will be next week's host in Washington.

The main event came and was as good as it could be. Surprisingly, there was no hint of animosity between HHH & Cena heading into Night of Champions, even with a pre-match skit with the two of them in HHH's dressing room. Legacy made rotating tags that were so frequent and so fast, it was hard keeping up if you were just tuning in for kicks. Right about now, though, Orton might be regretting the decision to add himself to the match. He made a blind tag to re-enter the contest with Cena seemingly ripe for the picking. HHH had cleared out DiBiase, and Rhodes was clearly spent. Orton went for his concussion punt, but Cena rolled out of harm's way and schoolboyed the champion to gain the fall, adding momentum for himself going into Sunday.

However, it won't be Cena taking home the gold at Night of Champions. Triple H is about to turn 40, and figures to celebrate by winning his 14th World/WWE title at Orton's expense. Cena just got married, so figure he'll leave after the PPV to go on his honeymoon and return in time for Summerslam. Later on this week, I'll have my picks for Night of Champions.

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