The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 04/02/12 by John Canton (Twitter @johnreport)
I’ve returned from Miami. It was an amazing five days that I’ll never forget. I’ll be posting my WrestleMania recap on Wednesday and I’ll write about my other WrestleMania weekend experiences likely on the weekend. For this column, as I do every Tuesday, the focus will be on Raw. Let’s get to it.
Live from Miami, Florida this is the Raw Deal…
In the locker room, John Laurinaitis addressed the WWE roster that was sitting together in one room. He said he won the right to be GM of both shows and wasn’t going to abuse that power. He booked Santino into a match against Ziggler & Swagger for the US Title. CM Punk showed up. He said he spoke for everybody. “We all consider you to be a giant toolbox.” JL said Punk would defend the WWE Title against Mark Henry. Laurinaitis: “Welcome to a new era. And that era is people power.” I guess that era also means that Smackdown talent gets title shots against Raw talent. I know it really doesn’t matter and you know who was going to win that Punk/Henry match, but from a logic standpoint I’d like some consistency. They ended up saying “people power” way too many times during the show.
The Rock entered the arena first. Huge ovation. One of the loudest reactions you will ever hear. It lasted for about four minutes. Loud “you still got it” chant from the crowd. I agree although he did appear to be gassed a bit during the Cena match. I’m not hating. Just saying. He said that they made history at WrestleMania and that it was great for him to truly say that “finally The Rock has come back…home.” When Rock said he wanted to thank John Cena, the fans started a “Cena sucks” chant and Rock put him over saying he gave him a tough match. He said it was an honor for Rock to compete with Cena in the biggest match of all time. “We made history at WrestleMania and we did it for the fans.” He didn’t say WWE Universe. I love him for that. Crowd was hot for all of this. Rock thanked friends, family and the people (the millions – three times). “In 1995, The Rock was cut from the Canadian Football League. Now do you have any idea how much you have to suck to get cut from the Canadian Football League?” I’m Canadian and love football, but don’t watch it. Rock said he stands before us as the People’s Champion.
“For those of you that think this is the end – well The Rock says this, he guaran-damn-tees that this is just the beginning.” It’s not really the beginning. It just means he’s not done after this. The loud “yes” chants started up from there followed by a “thank you Rocky” chant. That’s the first moment where I really wished I had stayed one more day to be at this show. Rock danced, a dude whistled, Rock pointed out it was a dude and said it was a John Cena fan to a big ovation. Funny stuff. Rock said he woke up with a vision that some people said was impossible. “Would the people like to hear that vision?” Loud “yes” chants again. “That vision is this: That The Rock one day will walk down that aisle as the jabroni beating, pie eating, trailblazing, eyebrow raising, one vision in mind, don’t need no revamping – The Rock’s going to be the WWE Champion.” Huge reaction to that with more “yes” chants. “Thank you. I love you. That will come true one day.”
That was an amazing promo. The question is when is he going to go after the WWE Title? Due to a busy movie schedule this will be the last time we see him for many months, I presume. I guess this likely means he’ll be wrestling at WrestleMania next year and possibly before that. They could do something where he’s in the Rumble, wins it and gets the title shot that way. I’m not sure. Let the speculation begin. On behalf of the fans I say thanks to Rock for coming back. I don’t know when we’ll see him again, but I’m glad he returned and made this weekend so memorable.
They aired a clip of a Cena promo pre-WrestleMania talking about how if he lost to Rock then he loses everything.
Santino walked out for his match. They went to commercial.
United States Title: Santino vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Jack Swagger
Hey, the US Title still exists! That’s nice to know. The heels dominated Santino early. It went to break about two minutes in.
Back from break, Santino made his comeback on his opponents. Loved the awkward headbutt on Swagger. Santino took out the Cobra, but Ziggler countered with a neckbreaker. Ziggler hit his Fameasser after Swagger held Santino for two, which led to them arguing. Swagger dropped him with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Santino came back, hit Ziggler with a slingshot into the corner and then the Cobra to the face for Swagger for the win at 7 minutes.
Analysis: *1/2 It was fun, but we didn’t get to see a whole lot of it due to the commercial thrown in there. I’d love for Ziggler to have a more prominent role, of course.
Post match, Ziggler & Swagger went after Santino. When Santino made it to the top of the ramp, Brodus Clay stood beside Santino. Loud “Funkasaurus” chant. This crowd ruled. Ziggler ran at Clay, so Clay dropped him with a headbutt that Ziggler sold better than anybody else possibly could. The segment ended with Brodus doing his dance along with his girls while Santino also joined in. Perhaps Brodus finally has a feud? I’m fine with that.
The debut of Lord Tensai was next. It was the man formerly known as A-Train, as I’m sure most are aware. He had tattoos on his chest and some Japanese writing on his head. He had an assistant named Sakamoto with him.
Lord Tensai vs. Alex Riley
This was a squash that took about three minutes. There were some brief “A-Train” chants and also some “yes” chants because this crowd loved chanting that word during the entire show. Loud “Daniel Bryan” chant as well. The announcers acknowledged that he was in WWE before, but didn’t say what his name was before. He won with a double choke bomb, which led to the ref ringing the bell because Riley was hurt so bad.
Winner: Lord Tensai
Analysis: 1/2* After the match, Tensai spit something on his hand and then gave Riley the claw, which had some kind of substance on it. I thought the debut was okay. The announcers put it over as being very impressive and scary. I’d agree with that assessment. It will be interesting to see what role he’ll have going forward. I’d imagine he gets a strong push very soon.
The WWE Champion CM Punk was shown walking in the backstage area.
Back from break, they aired Cena’s “in the stands” promo saying that nobody will remember second place. He said WM28 was his legacy. Cole wondered how Cena would react and promised that Cena would be out later in the show.
WWE Title: CM Punk vs. Mark Henry
Punk walked into the ring selling the back injury from his match on Sunday with Chris Jericho and Henry was the perfect opponent for him to go up against because of his power based offense. Henry’s at his absolute best as a worker when he’s working over a smaller wrestler and trash talking the whole match. I liked the spot where Henry went for a bearhug, so Punk gave him a series of elbows to the head and then dropped him with a DDT. The offense didn’t last long as Henry continued to dominate the action with a boot to the face. Punk avoided a corner splash and missed on his attempted springboard clothesline. They went to break at the six minute mark.
Back from break, Punk went to the top for a double axe. Henry countered with a knee to the gut. Was that another “Daniel Bryan” chant I hear? Yes I do. Then a “CM Punk” chant one more time. Every time Punk kicked and chopped Henry the crowd chanted “yes.” A hard kick to the head knocked Henry down. Punk hit the Flying Elbow off the top. Punk couldn’t hit his bulldog out of the corner. Henry dumped him over the top to the floor so Punk took the bump on his side rather than the traditional flying bump over the top. Punk got counted out at the 13 minute mark.
Winner: Mark Henry via Countout
Analysis: *** I really enjoyed this match. The hot crowd helped, but also the story told in the match was perfect in terms of it being the smaller babyface champion trying to hold off a dominant heel challenger. I’m fine with the finish because it will allow them to go back to the feud if the opportunity presents itself and they can probably put on another good match.
Post match, Henry gave Punk the World’s Strongest Slam on the floor outside the ring. John Laurinaitis showed up to say that he saw problems on the horizon for Punk, including a natural disaster. It should be pointed out that Tensai means “a natural disaster” so that likely suggests Punk will be feuding with him very soon.
Chris Jericho walked out with a microphone. He had a different shiny jacket on. He said he and Punk should celebrate their classic match with a drink. Jericho said he’d lead Punk down the lonely road of alcoholism. Then he opened up a bottle of something and poured it on Punk’s head. Jericho slipped on the liquid as he hit him with a kick. He continued as if nothing had happened. He got another bottle. It looked like Jack Daniels. Then he broke the bottle on Punk’s head. What was the liquid? Not sure. Ice tea perhaps. It was a strong angle that keeps the Punk/Jericho story going, which is fine by me. I’d expect a rematch at the Extreme Rules PPV in Chicago, which means it will have a stipulation as well.
Back from break, we saw pictures of Sheamus beating Bryan with the Brogue Kick in a matter of seconds. I’ll write more about it on Wednesday. Needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of that moment.
The new World Champion Sheamus was introduced. He got a good pop. The crowd was strongly behind D-Bry at WM28 though, so it wasn’t a massive ovation. Before Sheamus could say anything, Alberto Del Rio’s music started to play and he arrived in the arena along with Ricardo Rodriguez, who did a wonderful entrance. I’d still love to know why they kept ADR off of WM when he had returned from his injury a few weeks ago.
Del Rio said he was a new challenger for Sheamus. The crowd was chanting “Si! Si! Si!” for him. That was fantastic. I love this crowd! Sheamus said people don’t want to see him talk. They want to see him Brogue Kick somebody in the face. Del Rio said JL gave him a match on Smackdown. If Del Rio wins, he gets a future World Title shot. A loud “Daniel Bryan” chant started up once more. Del Rio’s microphone went out. Oops. Sheamus ended up hitting Del Rio with a Brogue Kick to end the segment. I thought Del Rio should have sold the kick a bit more by laying on the ground for a few seconds instead of simply rolling out of the ring. It was fine for what it was.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan was with AJ. They were watching Sheamus on a monitor. Josh Mathews tried talking to him about his 18 second loss at WrestleMania. Loud “Daniel Bryan” chant from the crowd. Bryan said nothing to Mathews. He just stared at him. Josh left.
They plugged Cena coming out later to call out The Rock.
More still shots from WrestleMania, this time focusing on Alex Rodriguez and girlfriend Torrie Wilson sitting at ringside. The same Torrie Wilson that referred to myself as a “good friend” with pic included of the two of us. She’s outstanding. She doesn’t watch much wrestling anymore, but does a lot of appearances at wrestling conventions.
They showed Machine Gun Kelly at ringside. He got booed again because he did John Cena’s entrance at WrestleMania.
Cody Rhodes vs. Kofi Kingston
It’s weird seeing Cody without the IC Title. They worked for a bit with Cody dropping Kofi with the Disaster Kick. That was the cue for the Big Show, whose music started up. He showed him a clip from WrestleMania. They were still shots of Big Show knocking out Kofi with the punch to win the IC Title at WrestleMania. Cody turned back around and Kofi hit him with Trouble in Paradise for the win. Match went about two minutes.
Winner: Kofi Kingston
Analysis: NR More of an angle than a match. It was a good babyface moment with Show continuing to get his revenge on Cody. The match was pretty much an afterthought.
They aired the video from last week where Cena talked about how nobody remembers second place. Cena said he had to win the match more than anything in his entire life. Friends are speculating that Cena may “hang it up.” That was lame by Cole. Nobody would believe that.
Back from break, they bragged about Twitter trending by saying 14 topics were #1 on Sunday. I’d rather brag about the $8 million they made in ticket sales.
In the locker room, Mark Henry was approached by a returning Abraham Washington. Abe wanted to represent Henry as guidance for his career. I guess he’ll be Mark’s manager? I’m fine with that. They need more managers.
The announcers went over some of the big moments from WM28 by focusing on Rock’s win, Undertaker’s win and Team Johnny’s win. Lawler blamed Eve for it.
Eve showed up on the ramp. She talked about how she had her WrestleMania Moment when she kicked Zack Ryder in the nuts. Loud “we want Ryder” chants. She was happy that Laurinaitis was running both shows. “Let’s hear it for people power.” Not a very good promo.
They played a clip from earlier in the show when Rock thanked John Cena.
The Miz vs. Zack Ryder
Why not have a segment where Ryder talks about what happened with Eve? He deserved a promo on this show. He’s one of the worst booked characters on the show that needs to be more angry at a moment like this. Miz was in a celebratory mood since he got the win for Team Johnny. Miz snapped on a chinlock in this match that didn’t even get three minutes. Ryder fired himself up for the babyface comeback and hit the Broski Boot for a two count. Miz countered a neckbreaker by tossing Ryder shoulder first into the turnbuckle, which led to the Skull Crushing Finale for the win at about 3 minutes.
Winner: The Miz
Analysis: * Ryder is such a poorly booked character that even when a heel like Cole rips on him you believe it because it’s true. Whoever books finishes must love the “throw the guy into the shoulder” spot that because they do it on one show per week it seems.
They showed John Cena’s locker room. There was an attempt to convince us that he had just arrived to the show.
More pics from WrestleMania. The set looked amazing except for those damn palm trees that blocked my view. I’ll have more on that on Wednesday.
The announcers plugged Randy Orton vs. Kane (Smackdown guy vs. Raw guy technically) and Sheamus vs. Del Rio (Smackdown guy vs. Raw guy also). If Del Rio wins he gets a future title shot.
John Cena Main Event Promo
Cena walks out in his new green ring gear. Blame the loss on the color change? The crowd was loud for Cena, a mixture of cheers and boos. “I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened the only thing to do is to do it right.” He mentioned that he talked a lot prior to WrestleMania. He said he wasn’t going to make excuses and that he meant every single thing that he said. He said he never thought he was going to lose because if you think like that then you have already lost. I like how he was gracious in defeat. He addressed the speculation about how he would react to the fans. The crowd started up with a “you’re a loser” chant. That’s fantastic. Cena asked if this would be the day when he lashed out at the WWE Universe. Their response? “YES! YES! YES!” He said that will not happen. He said that as a man he will admit defeat. “Last night I lost to The Rock.” More “yes” chants. Cena thanked those that supported him from his friends and family to Machine Gun Kelly, who got booed again. He said if he let anybody down he apologized and will work his ass off to try to be the best that he can be.
He transitioned to the idea that he was there to call out The Rock. He said he’s not there for that because they settled it last night. Loud “we want Lesnar” chant. Cena stopped to ponder that chant and said it was always an interesting crowd at Raw. He invited Rock to the ring not to talk trash or fight. He said “Dwayne Johnson, after all he’s been through with me, has earned my respect.” He called him a champion, an inspiration and he can truly consider him the greatest WWE superstar in this industry. More “YES! YES! YES!” chants. Cena says we should have one more celebratory moment for The Rock. Cena talked about how tough the last year was. Another “we want Lesnar” chant. I guess the crowd was ready to move on. Cena said he came up short and that The Rock was the better man. More “yes” from the crowd so Cena busted out the “YES! YES! YES!” himself. Haha that was fun. He looked into the camera: “Daniel Bryan, you owe me one.” Loud “Daniel Bryan” chants. Cena wants to congratulate Rock on his victory. He looked at the entrance.
No sign of The Rock. Instead, the music of Brock Lesnar started up. The arena exploded in cheers! Wow! That was an amazing reaction. It looked like everybody was standing up and they were cheering loudly for the former WWE Champion. Over the weekend we got word that he had signed with WWE, but didn’t know when he would appear on screen. Everything about the return was awesome except the awkward fan that tried emulating the Lesnar entrance. The crowd chanted “holy shit” as Lesnar walked around the ring. Cena enjoyed that reaction. Lesnar walked into the ring. Cena applauded him. Lesnar extended his hand, Cena shook it and Lesnar put him on his shoulders. F5 to Cena. That’s one of my favorite finishing moves. Cena sold it great while Lesnar was standing over him. When the camera focused on Lesnar’s face it looked like Lesnar said he had been waiting a long time to do that. Lesnar celebrated as the show came to the close.
Wow. What a memorable ending to Raw. You don’t see great moments like that very often. Cole was yelling about how the landscape and complexity of WWE has been changed due to Lesnar. I liked that line because he is a big name for two reasons. The first reason is because he’s a former WWE Champion that hasn’t been in WWE for eight years. The other reason is because since leaving the company he has become a bigger star thanks to his UFC career, which has now ended. It was reported on PWInsider that his deal calls for two appearances per month for the next year with additional ones to be negotiated if all parties agree. In other words, he’ll be on most editions of Raw between now and WrestleMania 29. I have no idea if they’ll do Lesnar vs. Cena right away or if they will wait a few months on it. I think Lesnar vs. Rock is a possibility at WrestleMania 29 although that depends on if that would be the WWE Title match. It’s hard to say at this point. What matters is that Brock Lesnar is back. I’m a huge fan. Always have been. Yes, he left eight years ago and it upset a lot of us. If WWE can forgive him, I think fans should too. He wants to be back in the business where he first became a star, so let’s embrace him. Welcome back, Brock. We missed you.
Three Stars of the Show
1. The Miami crowd – Amazing performance. Thanks for making me wish I was there! Yes!
2. The Rock – That was an awesome promo. I’ll miss him while he’s gone and look forward to his return whenever that is.
3. Brock Lesnar – Welcome back.
8 out of 10
Last week: 6
2012 Average: 6.32
2012 High: 9 (January 30)
2012 Low: 4 (January 9)
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6.5, 6, 7, 6
A score of 8 makes this the second highest rated Raw of the year for me, behind only the 9 I gave the January 30 show.
The Miami crowd was incredible. I’m not sure what percentage of the crowd were people from the area and what percent were people who had come into the city over the weekend, but they all deserve a lot of praise for this performance. I’ll never forget this Miami crowd. It was one of the better crowds in the history of WWE.
It was a very newsworthy show since Rock talked about how he was going to go after the WWE Title, Lord Tensai made his debut, the “people power” era officially began and Brock Lesnar made his big return. The Raw after WrestleMania is usually one of the better shows of the year. This one didn’t disappoint.
It’s a shame there was no Daniel Bryan on the actual broadcast other than that quick backstage segment. The crowd really wanted to see him and instead he was only a part of the dark match. Is “yes” the new “what” chant? I hope so. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also more current.