Photo credit: WrestlingFigures.com
Check back in with us at 8 PM EST for live Raw coverage. Follow along with a particularly grouchy Justin Henry on Twitter as he reviews 3 hours of WWE.
7:58: Already in a pissy mood. NCIS prior to Raw is a Caitlin episode, not a Ziva one. We had an agreement, USA. You air 7,000 nerve-wracking Psych commercials, and in exchange, you give me NCIS episodes chock full of Ziva. You reneging doucheknuckles.
8:01: USA proclaims that tonight is “MONSTER RAW”. Good, that means it’ll be different from the last three MEANDERING RAWS. The all-caps are strictly for emphasis, not yelling.
8:02: Punk and Heyman are out first with the urn. A man named Paul carries an urn, accompanying a talent that’s too good for 95% of the angles he’s in. Is this 2013 or 1995? Lawler acts like the “urn play” is disrespectful. Yeah, but if Punk melts it down into a necklace, he can reinvent himself as a lovable pimp in three years. So there’s an upside.
8:06: Quite a few cheers from the Philly crowd when Punk declares himself Best in the World, and the crowd sneaks in some ECW chants. Expect a mid-show rewrite where Heyman rips his own promotion.
8:09: Punk goes to hit the last words, only for the gong to hit, the lights to go out, and Undertaker to attack him in the ring. Heyman grabs the urn and runs and Punk retreats as well. Staredown ends the segment.
8:11: A Q&A panel of Hall of Famers will ask Rock and Cena questions TONIGHT! I hope someone asks how losing to Rock cost Cena his marriage. That’d be a good answer.
8:15: Fandango is here to probably not wrestle to the enjoyment of few. If WWE wants the crowd to cheer John Cena, have him refuse to wrestle like Fandango does. Problem solved. His theoretical opponent is Chris Jericho, who interrupts Fandango’s self-intro.
8:18: Jericho hits the ring in a fury, and it turns out that Jericho isn’t the scheduled opponent. Instead, he pummels Fandango, who bolts. Of course. Jericho stays in the ring, and Dolph Ziggler is sent out to face Jericho instead. Given AJ’s daisy dukes, this is met with no complaints.
8:22: Jericho sports a shiner as we go to break. If Dolph wins, doesn’t that make 5 straight televised wins for him? That’d more than double his all-time record, I think.
8:25: Dolph’s in control with a chinlock after what felt like the shortest commercial ever. They apparently skipped two commercials because Cole couldn’t wait to plug the WWE App. Patience is a virtue, Mike.
8:27: Ziggler hooks the abdominal stretch. Why couldn’t this happen during Old School Raw? This begging for a Monsoon, “You’re gonna win without wrapping the toe around!” lament.
8:28: Jericho knocks Big E off the apron, but falls victim to a blown DDT for 2. Jericho wouldn’t have to worry about distractions if he still had Ralphus. Jericho wins moments later with the Lion Tamer. Streak ends at 4. Sorry Dolph, it was a helluva run.
8:30: Big E lays out Jericho and Dolph legit hobbles away. Ick. Fandango and The Lady with No Name dance over Jericho, and punk him out. The fans chant “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE”, so Fandango shuts em up with a diving legdrop. Apparently, NXT Season 4 went unnoticed in my region.
8:35: Education portion of the coverage: Big E will be the first WWE talent to have his televised in-ring debut be a title match since Ted Dibiase in 2008.
8:37: Remember: WWE’s home is New Jersey. The song wouldn’t lie.
8:39: The Shield saves the audience from a cookie-cutter Sheamus promo. For some reason, this upset Orton and Big Show. Assholes.
8:41: Mark Henry gets a handicap match after the break. Now THAT’S a cliffhanger.
8:46: So Henry’s intended victims are the Uso brothers, who actually get some token offense, including the Headshrinker splash for 2. That doesn’t last.
8:48: World’s Strongest Slam. See ya. Henry obliterates them afterward to reinforce his bad-assery. Just make Henry the WWE Tag Team Champions. They don’t like pushing two guys together if they can help it.
8:50: “NOBODY SPLASH ME” > “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT”. Update your overused meme arsenal accordingly.
8:55: The horrid booking of the midcarders continues, not only with Ryback being scheduled to face 3MB later, but Cesaro faces Del Rio next. Being IC or US Champ is an honor. It’s WWE’s way of telling you, “Nobody can job to our main eventers like you can.” Ricardo introduces Alberto on crutches.
8:59: Alberto’s got a lot on his mind, what with Ricardo’s injury, and running over Santa Claus with his car. By the way, Cole just referred to something becoming a “vintage move” for Del Rio. “Vintage” now means “every day”, I guess.
9:00: Colter comes out to watch as Del Rio superplexes Cesaro. With both men down, Swagger comes out of the crowd and attacks Ricardo, smashing his leg into the barrier. Del Rio jumps into the crowd and attacks. I’ll be damned, it feels like an actual WRESTLING feud!
9:02: Cesaro wins via count out. Cesaro’s count out victory gives him lots of momentum heading into the WrestleMania pre-show battle royal. Del Rio attacks him as a sore loser, and hooks the cross-armbreaker to no reaction. Then he gets booed when he appeals for cheers. I <3 my Philly people.
9:09: Rock must love the Kids Choice Awards. I figured he’d accept the award via satellite.
9:11: Team Hell No takes on the Prime Time Players, and thankfully Titus isn’t in his “Pancake Patterson” role that the needlessly-esoteria-loving fans seemed to enjoy. This is why I can’t get into CHIKARA: I refuse to believe that “random” always equals “enjoyable”. To each their own, though.
9:15: Titus and Darren execute some good tandem offense as Cole dares to try and be funny by claiming he wanted a piece of AJ. The awkward laughter that followed kinda shows the problem with Vince on headset: when they improvise, they don’t know where to go with it, because they’re so used to being told what to say next.
9:16: Cole to Lawler: “You’re Mr. Six Days Off!” Cole’s TRYING to win my heart tonight. He’s headed in the right direction.
9:17: Kane finishes Young with the chokeslam as Jacked Dolph watches from the apron. Enjoyable little match. I hope the PTP get a chance to run before the act becomes stale (and no, Pancake isn’t gonna save it).
9:22: Brock/HHH video package, namely showing last week’s contract signing. “Loser’s Wife Gets Drained of All Their Plastic” would be many buys.
9:24: Fearon Derry of WBCB is live at the event, and his theory is that the Usos killed the crowd. This is why we can’t have tag teams, people. He also blames Fandango, which comes as little surprise.
9:25: Triple H is here to awaken the crowd with his verbal skills. Theme is HHH might retire after WrestleMania. Apparently, “End of an Era” is also “More than Once in a Lifetime”.
9:29: Fearon has informed me that this crowd is “selective with their cheers.” That’s like saying Louie Anderson visits Saladworks “once in a while”
9:30: Triple H wraps up his shortest promo ever, and then Wade Barrett comes out to compete. I have no idea why–wait, hang on. OHH, THE PART-TIMER KICKED BARRETT IN THE NUTS. Anyway, I have no idea why nobody can get over.
9:36: An injured Barrett takes on Miz next. Miz hits an inverted atomic drop to start, because BALL SHOTS ARE FUNNY. Not when you’re losing money on Stampede Wrestling, they’re not.
9:38: Getting tired of hearing about Dead Man Down. It got CRUSHED at the box office by Oz, The Great and Powerful. Which means Kevin Nash holds down movies as well.
9:44: Back from break to the crowd chanting “BORING”. I know it was real, because Fearon just texted to see if it made air. I like having a man on the inside. You can turn that last sentence into any entendre you wish, I don’t care.
9:46: Barrett avoids having his Skull Crushed, and instead Changes Miz’s Winds for 2. The two exchange attempted finishers and pin attempts as the crowd slowly comes to life.
9:48: Fearon: “It’s like they’re saving their proverbial load for next week. Which leaves Philly (and most of the wrestling world) with blue balls.” My friend needs to get laid. Any ladies reading out there?
9:49: Barrett submits to a figure four after crotching himself on the top rope, as Lawler makes the Flair connection to continue the coattail riding. If Miz wins the IC title and refuses to give it back unless he gets $35,000, then Flair’s too heavy an influence.
9:51: Team Hell No argue over AJ, and Kaitlyn interjects herself, hanging out in the corner of the men’s locker room for some reason. Kaitlyn rips AJ, who’s eavesdropping, and she attacks. Why can’t that be a Divas’ title match? And why was Kaitlyn hanging out in the men’s locker room?!?!
9:56: The Hurricane Sandy auction promotes a chance to have lunch with Charlie Sheen. You can add the punchline yourself.
9:57: The Shield takes on Khali, Ryder, and Gabriel. The internet is torn: they like the Shield going over, but complain that Ryder gets buried. Irresistible force, blah blah blah.
9:59: It occurred to me that, if the Shield were really fighting WWE injustice, they’d job to Zack Ryder and kick off his push. Instead, they take turns teeing off on Long Island Iced Z. That’s a delicious irony.
10:00: Ambrose traps Gabriel in a bow and arrow, and Rollins drops a flying knee on him for the win. Khali takes the Shield Bomb, but the babyface brigade comes out to ruin the fun. Show, Orton, and Sheamus need a name. I recommend The Prom Night Pimples.
10:06: Jericho comes out of Vickie’s office, and informs us he’s facing Fandango at WrestleMania.
10:08: The Reunited Yet More Rhodes Scholars rip into Philly sports fans. Which Bella got the knocker implants? Maybe it’s the one dating Cena; he’s probably hiding his money from his wife’s lawyer in there.
10:13: The Scholars are facing Brodus and Tensai, which isn’t a bad thing. Between the Bella’s fake knockers, and Naomi’s oversized dumper, this is the most curves since the Attitude Era. Hopefully that also equals the end of the anorexic lingerie model phase. This company needs REAL women. With fake breasts, of course.
10:16: Dual catfight at ringside leads to Cody hitting a stunned Brodus with the Disaster Kick for the win.
10:17: Cole talks about GI Joe: Retaliation with The Rock and someone apparently named “Shannon Tatum”. Wasn’t he in 3 Count?
10:23: Ryback’s here to outdo Mark Henry’s mauling of young and potentially useful midcarders, taking on 3MB. He should just kick all 3 in the balls and walk away.
10:25: McIntyre dares to stand out with a WILD flying one-foot dropkick to Ryback’s head. Pumped in “FEED ME MORE” chants kick up. Remember when WWE used to make fun of Goldberg with Gillberg? Ahhh, 1999 was a lifetime ago.
10:28: Ryback crushes Slater and Mahal with a double Shell Shock, which woke the crowd up. They’re coming and going more than a pendulum.
10:30: Ryback vs. Henry in a weightlifting contest is a featured attraction for Smackdown. If only John Tenta were still with us; they could do push-ups with him on their backs.
10:31: Kaitlyn vs. AJ next! I take full credit for the match happening. Who’s reading my live rant, Gewirtz?
10:35: Cole acknowledges that Arnold Schwarzenegger will induct Bruno into the HOF. He’s finally paying WWE back for them promoting that awful End of Days movie.
10:36: Kaitlyn vs. AJ is next, and the winner gets the vague promise of better music. Oh, wait, no Kaitlyn got new music! I’m gonna miss her awful funhouse mirror song! I hope CM Punk doesn’t exploit the death of that tune while I try to mourn its loss.
10:39: Fun match so far. This is like Lita/Trish, if Lita/Trish didn’t have the vague promise of continued TV time and company backing. Kaitlyn misses a spear into the barricade, and AJ taunts her from the inside. AJ wins via countout. Still better than every Aksana match ever. They could have had dual aneurysms on the mat and it still would have won.
10:46: Hall of Fame panel time. The Hall of Fame panel: Pete Rose, William Perry, Johnny Rodz, and Drew Carey. Or so I wish it would be. It’s actually Booker T, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes, and Bret Hart. Okay, that’s pretty stellar group.
10:50: No wonder Natalya didn’t come out with Khali. Bret threatened to set the creative staff on fire if they didn’t knock it off. Also, this explains why Cody prefers the Bella with the fake juggs: she reminds him of Dusty.
10:57: Foley gets the first question, asking Cena if he’s prepared for the aftermath if he loses to Rock again. Cena’s more prepared for the aftermath in victory, so he’ll take the risk. Cena references Donovan McNabb, and the Philly fans boo. Yeah, because to hell with 5 NFC Title game appearances. I’m ashamed of my people for a moment.
11:03: Rock’s rebuttal is playing his own hardship card. Geez, there’s still three more questions to go! At least the crowd’s fully awake, backing Rock and buying his love of Pat’s Cheesesteaks. My easily led brethren. No wonder Ed Rendell was mayor for so long.
11:06: Bret asks what changed between the two men from a year ago. Rock says he respects for Cena not complaining in defeat. Cena calls Rock a man of his word. I kinda take umbrage with that statement. Cena hopes Rock takes his defeat with as much class.
11:09: Booker asks Cena why he’s going to win. Cena says he “has to”. The last time someone said they “had” to beat Rock at WrestleMania, Vince was helping him beat Rock half to death with a chair. Rock calls him out, and Cena claims that Rock didn’t beat him last year, Cena beat himself. Cena goes borderline manic, and is upset with himself for losing. Wow, when does Cena ever act like this?
11:12: Cena goes on to claim he’s better than Rock, and even Rock knows it. Rock responds by saying if Cena had him beat, he would have beaten him. Rock quotes the ailing Flair to drive his point home.
11:15: Dusty (who looks terrible in HD) gets the final question, what does each man really want on April 7? Cena wants to win the big one, and dominate Rock, finally having Rock accept him as the better man. Rock levies the same insults he levied a year ago.
11:18: Rock wants a fight right now and Cena is happy to oblige. The brief skirmish leads to Rock landing a Rock Bottom to stand tall. The legends seem disinterested, which is pretty funny actually.
OVERALL: These three hour shows week after week don’t do WrestleMania any favors. The final segment had its moments, and there were some decent matches, but….they just drag.
On a side note, anyone else thinking Cena’s for-sure turning heel now at Mania?