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TV REPORTS
KELLER'S WWE RAW REPORT 3/30: Final Monday hype for WrestleMania 25, Jericho vs. Lawler, Cena vs. Big Show

Mar 30, 2009 - 10:15:30 PM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

KELLERS WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 30, 2009
DALLAS, TEX.
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK


-The show opened with a scene of a hearse in the backstage area as Undertaker's music played.

-The Raw opening then aired followed by the camera panning the crowd and Michael Cole introducing the show. A fan held up a sign that said "Cena owns Dwayne Johnson." Not according to the movie box office returns. Jerry Lawler hyped that Undertaker would be hosting a "Funeral for Mr. WrestleMania" tonight. Cole plugged John Cena vs. The Big Show, so those who can't afford WrestleMania can at least see two-thirds of one of the main events on basic cable first!

1 -- ALICIA FOX & BRI BELLA & EVE TORRES & TIFFANY & KELLY KELLY & GAIL KIM & MARIA & MICKIE JAMES & MELINA vs. JILLIAN HALL & "GLAMAZON" BETH PHOENIX & NIKKI BELLA & NATALYA & LAYLA & MICHELLE MCCOOL & ROSA MENDES & KATIE LEA BURCHILL

Only the babyface team got a collective ring intro, as the heels were already in the ring. What's the over/under on how ridiculously short this will be? Seven minutes? Maybe less? It opened with Mickie vs. Jillian. Tiffany tagged in. Then Glamazon. Tiffany surprised Katie Lea with a small package at 2:00. That gives new meaning to "ridiculously short" match.

WINNERS: The babyfaces in 2:00.

-With the women still in the ring, Santino Marella walked out in a black robe and said he's a modern-day Gloria Steinem and Davey Crockett - an equal rights pioneer. He said he took his case to Jack Tunney, then noted he actually died a few years ago. He said he's challenging the women to a swimsuit competition. He said he's going to prove he has what it takes to be Miss WrestleMania. Lawler said, "This is going to be bad." He revealed his "Mankini" and began dancing. It was a really small black Speedo with some sort of suspender contraption that could also double as a parachute harness. Phoenix freaked out and insisted he put the robe back on. The Divas gane-tackled him and then threw him to the floor.

-A long video recap aired of last week's Randy Orton-Triple H-Stephanie McMahon angle with dramatic music and slo-mo special effects. There comes a point where it just seems too slick and overproduced, like a much-too-hard-sell. Rather than seeming to be "coverage" of what happened, it's coming across perhaps now as over-the-top movie trailers. They're well done, don't get me wrong, but I just wonder if the tone is ideal for selling a wrestling match as opposed to a movie (not that WWE's proven to be an expert as getting the fans out to the movies, either).

-They went to ringside where Lawler's music played. He took off his headset and entered the ring to face Chris Jericho. This is the match that should have been at WrestleMania, not Raw. It still seems like a missed opportunity to give Lawler his long-awaited and earned WrestleMania in-ring debut in a perfect circumstance, with several weeks of promo battles between the two of them. I suppose there's still a chance whatever happens in the next segment could parlay into a change of plans at WrestleMania.

[Commercial Break]

[C]

-A clip aired of Ric Flair telling Jericho last week he'd proudly be at ringside for his match at WrestleMania, followed by Jericho attacking and bloodying Flair.

1 -- JERRY "THE KING" LAWLER vs. CHRIS JERICHO

Lawler stood in his corner, looking not much different than in his prime. Lawler gave Jericho a death stare at he walked to the ring, showing one of those small things that gave him that "it" factor that made him such a draw in Memphis and such a valuable heel and babyface in different territories over the years. Jericho gave his tight-lipped, clenched-jawed bitter walk to the ring, staring right back at Lawler. After a test of strength, Lawler got in some punches. As the ref stepped between them, Jericho took a cheapshot. Jericho then dominated most of the first two minutes. Lawler made a comeback and dropped his strap. That didn't last long, though, as Jericho slipped on a Walls of Jericho out of nowhere for a quick tapout win.

WINNER: Jericho in 3:00.

STAR RATING: 1/4* -- Too short and not a lot to it. Lawler wasn't exactly flat-back bumping in those three minutes! Pretty much just a stand-up punchfest. Cole's commentary was surprisingly disconnected and stoic. He'd pause, sound like he repeated a scripted line fed to him by Vince McMahon, pause, and say another line. No passion at all. Given all that went into this angle so far, and Lawler's role in protesting Jericho's actions and now putting himself at risk physically to get revenge, you'd think Cole would seem emotionally involved somewhat in watching his broadcast partner fight. He didn't at all, and it was a real disappointing performance. Of course, with just three minutes of match time, he didn't have a lot of time, either, but he certainly didn't make the most of it.

-Afterward, Jericho taunted Lawler and verbally berated him. Lawler finally snapped and punched Jericho, who rolled out of the ring and retreated up the ramp. Jericho cut a promo, telling Lawler he wasn't going to return to the ring because he already beat him. He said on Sunday, he'll do the same to Jimmy Snuka, Rick Steamboat, and Roddy Piper, but he might not just make them tap or pin them, he might annihilate them like he did to Flair last week. He said he didn't start this; this was started by Mickey Rourke on the red carpet. He said because of Rourke's night of false bravado, his three friends will meet their demise at WrestleMania. He said only one name will be synonymous with the word legend: Chris Jericho.

-Cole plugged Cena vs. Big Show as the TV main event.

-A plug aired for the Hall of Fame ceremony airing on USA Network on Saturday night. It focused on Steve Austin.

[Commercial Break]

[Q3]

-Todd Grisham interviewed John Cena in the locker room. Edge interrupted right away and said given Cena's opponents at WM25, he has no chance to walk out with a title. Edge said it doesn't have to be that way. He said Big Show could pick them off at will, but it doesn't have to be that way. He said if they could put aside their differences, they could take out Big Show and then take out their differences on each other afterward. "Otherwise we're sitting ducks," he said. "So do we have an understanding?" Cena said it makes perfect sense and may be the only strategy to get rid of Big Show. "But I don't care," Cena said. "I'd rather lose on my own than win with your help." He said neither of those scenarios will happen because he's going to WrestleMania to become the World Hvt. Champion.

-They went to Cole at ringside. He said Randy Orton is planning his WrestleMania Address later. Cole interviewed Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase from backstage. They said what Orton has planned isn't just for Triple H, it's for the entire WWE Universe. DiBiase said after WrestleMania, everything you know about WWE changes forever.

-They showed the black limo backstage again as Taker's music played. A casket rolled out of the back and when the lid was lifted, Michaels popped up. His left eye is looking pretty bad these days. There's something going on with it. He said, "Expecting someone else?"

-Lawler walked back to the ring, shaking hands with fans on his way.

4 -- REY MYSTERIO vs. JBL

Cole told Lawler he "missed a lot" while he was "away." No follow up on the Jericho match or how Lawler feels about losing or anything. It's a small example of what's largely wrong with WWE's approach these days, as almost nothing is given the time and attention it deserves as they move right on to the next thing so quickly, from short match durations to rapid pacing of angles to brushing off wins and losses to featuring top stars against one another on TV so often that it doesn't seem special anymore. JBL walked out to his music after Rey's ring intro. He said tonight he's going to beat him tonight within an inch of his life to let him know that on the grand stage at WrestleMania, he will be history. JBL took early control, overpowering Rey. Rey avoided an elbowdrop at 1:00, but met JBL's boot on an attempting second rope springboard. They cut to an early break with JBL standing over Rey.

[Q4]

[Commercial Break]

JBL remained in control after the break, tossing him out of the ring with a fallaway slam. At 7:00 Rey began a comeback with a seated senton, enzuigiri, and an attempted 619. JBL avoided the 619, but Rey went right back to it and hit it, followed by a top rope splash for the win.

WINNER: Rey Mysterio in 7:00.

STAR RATING: *1/4 -- Fine set-up giving Rey fans a sense that he'll beat JBL for the belt at WM25. On the downside, it's yet another match at WM that's basically given away ahead of time, and it was pretty much rushed through so quickly it doesn't add any feeling of gravitas to the idea of the IC Title feud. JBL spouted his mouth, lost quickly, and Rey will either win easily or get screwed on Sunday.

-A brief clip aired of Cena's in-ring promo on Smackdown on Monday. Then they showed Big Show approaching the entrance tunnel backstage for his match against Cena.

[Commercial Break]

-A video package aired on the Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow match at WrestleMania 11. It's not just sad watching this because Bigelow died young, but also seeing Reggie White among the football pros at ringside was also sad. These WrestleMania highlights are a great idea in general, but when the footage so often includes wrestlers who died too young, it really shows the scorched earth this collective industry's excesses have left in it's trail. You kind of brace yourself watching these, wondering how many prematurely dead wrestlers will be included and quiz yourself on how many significant matches were glossed over or ignored in order to not draw attention to the dead.

-They cut to Dallas Cowboys at ringside getting rowdy.

[Q5]

5 -- JOHN CENA vs. THE BIG SHOW

Cena's ring intro took place first. During Show's ring intro, they showed Vickie Guerrero watching backstage. Show battered Cena for three minutes, then headbutted him to the mat. Cole said this is the best Big Show has looked in a long time and he seemed focused on winning the World Title on Sunday. Lawler said it's WrestleMania, so Show better be focused. Cena teased a comeback at 3:00 to scattered deep-voiced boos. Show stomped away at Cena methodically. Cena avoided Show's second rope swinging elbowdrop. Cena climbed to the top rope quickly and hit a legdrop to the back of Show's neck. Show kicked Cena away as he went for an STF. They cut to a break just as Show slidekicked Cena to the floor.

[Commercial Break]

Show had Cena locked in an upperbody chinlock after the break. A clip aired from during the break of Show ramming Cena back-first into the ringpost and then whipping Cena into the security wall. They saved the best action for the commercial break, apparently. A graphic noted that WM25 starts an hour early and is a four hour event. Show set up a chokeslam at 10:00, but Cena countered with a DDT. He then went for an STF, but Show was too big to wrap his arms around. Show elbowed himself free. Cole asked if that showed that the Law of Physics will prevent the STF from being used on Sunday. Lawler said Show has proven himself anatomically superior. Show went for a KO punch, but Cena ducked and went for his Attitude Adjustment. Show avoided that and quickly countered with a chokeslam for a clean win.

WINNER: Big Show in 11:00.

STAR RATING: *3/4 -- Decent TV match.

-Afterward, Edge entered the ring and pounced on Cena with a mount and a barrage of punches. Show just leaned in the corner and watched. Several referees tried to save Cena. They eventually pried Edge off of Cena, who gave Cena a sinister smile.

-Lawler plugged Orton's address later. Then Cole threw to the Smackdown segment with Michaels addressing Undertaker and then Taker popping up through the center of the ring and attacking him. This is one of those angles that should have been a bigger deal and more memorable, but it was glossed over on Raw as just another angle on another show reduced to a brief video package. A wrestler popping up from the center of the ring once meant something and could sell tickets if presented well in the right context. They cut to Michaels approaching the entrance tunnel backstage.

[Q6]

[Commercial Break]

-No talk of "12 Rounds" at all. No attempt at a positive spin. No clips of fans leaving a movie theater talking about how good the movie was. It's as if it never happened.

-Michaels made his full ring intro. Lawler said there's a different look in his eye tonight. When he stepped into the ring, Taker's music played and then Michaels addressed the audience. He said he stands before everyone as a man unafraid. He said the wreath, casket, and entire procession isn't for him, it's for Undertaker. He said his undefeated WrestleMania streak will cease to exist. He said they've had epic battles in the past and it's always been the Showstopper who's come out on top. He said in his entire illustrious career, there's one thing he could never accomplish - beat him. He said Sunday would be no different. He said in recent weeks he's superkicked him in the face, treaded on the hallow grounds of his graves, and on Friday he showed "how my light will forever outshine your darkness." He gave most of the promo with his eyes closed. He said he's done it all without the slightest bit of consequence, without a hint of retribution. He opened the casket in the ring and it was empty. He said there will be no retribution - not tonight, not Sunday, not ever. He she used WrestleMania as an opportunity to show his peers and the world what he represents. "I take the fact that you don't think I can end your undefeated streak as a personal insult," he said. "I'm Mr. WrestleMania." He said every moment over the past 24 years is going to pale in comparison to what he achieves. He said the next day they'll talk about who won the World Title and who won the WWE Championship and they'll speak of legends and ladders and 70,000 people, but the one moment that will last a lifetime and etched in everyone's minds forever will be when he pins Undertaker at WrestleMania. The bell sounded and the lights went out.

The bell sounded again and the lights came on. Taker was standing center-ring and there was no sign of Michaels. Taker began tossing around the funeral set, kicking pictures of Michaels off their stands. He paused and looked at the casket suspiciously. He approached it slowly. He lifted it and it was empty. He slammed his hands against the edge of it and brushed his hands through his hair. Michaels then crawled out from under the casket (even kids know to look under the bed!) and superkicked Undertaker. MIchaels's music played as Taker writhed on the mat and struggled to get to his feet. Cole asked if Michaels went too far and will thus meet his fate on Sunday. Michaels smiled and walked off the stage.

[Q7]

[Commercial Break]

-There was a basic commercial for "12 Rounds" with some positive reviews snippets from critics. Well, two critics. One from Hollywood.com said "Undeniably entertaining" and Reel.com said "Move over Jackie Chan."

-A clip aired of the Michaels-Taker angle from before the break with Cole and Lawler commenting. They showed Lawler and Cole on camera plugging the Hall of Fame ceremony, focusing on Steve Austin. Lawler and Cole talked about the entire class. Lawler said he has the honor of hosting the event. Cole and Lawler then ran down the entire announced WM25 line-up.

-They cut to Rhodes and DiBiase backstage giving instructions to security team members.

-Ring intros took place for C.M. Punk and Kane.

[Commercial Break]

-WWE Fact: Did you know that "12 Rounds" bombed at the box office, thanks to disloyal WWE fans who failed to show their support for John Cena's attempts to become as big as The Rock, Steve Austin, and Hulk Hogan? Actually, while some in WWE may have been tempted to run that, it bragged about the WWE Encyclopedia shooting into the top ten of the New York Times Bestseller list and debuting on the Nielsen Sports Bookscan List at no. 1.

-Cole plugged the Variety cover story on WrestleMania and WWE becoming a global brand.

-A brief video package aired on the Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy match, with a lot of childhood photos and clips.

6 -- EIGHT-MAN BATTLE ROYAL with C.M. Punk, MVP, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Kane, Mark Henry.

Henry lifted Finlay and almost dumped him, but Finlay escaped. Henry then tossed him to the floor anyway at 1:00. Hornswoggle yelled at Henry, who bent over the top rope to yell back. Several wrestlers dumped Henry.

[Q8]

Shelton and MVP battled on the ring apron and Kane knocked them both to the floor at 4:00. Kofi, Punk, and Christian triple-teamed Kane. He fended them off. Punk backdropped Kofi to the floor. Kane dumped Christian over the top rope onto the apron. Punk rolled back into the ring. Christian tried to dump Punk, but Punk held on. As they fought, Kane caught his breath. Punk gave Christian a running knee, but Christian came right back by tossing Punk over the top rope. Punk held onto the top rope and flipped back in. Kane then tossed Christian into Punk and both tumbled to the floor, giving Kane the win. Afterward Kane brought a ladder into the ring and climbed it and pulled down the briefcase hanging over the ring.

WINNER: Kane in 6:00.

STAR RATING: 1/2* -- Not much to it. I'm not sure if a great way to sell the MITB match is to suggest Kane is the favorite.

-They showed Orton, DiBiase, and Rhodes heading to the ring. Rhodes and Orton sported the new Legacy t-shirts, black shirts with bursting flames and an "L" on a shield. A good look and it could do solid merch business, especially given how WWE hasn't pushed a faction at a main event level with merchandise in a long time.

[Commercial Break]

-A video hyped that Kid Rock would be at WrestleMania 25.

-Orton's music played as he walked to the ring. He said at the age of 24 he became the youngest world champion ever (in part to wipe out the just-departed Brock Lesnar's record as the youngest champion ever). He said it was the greatest moment of his life, but it was short-lived because the next night on Raw, his mentor and the man who claimed to be his friend turned on him in a fit of jealous rage. They went to the flip of Triple H and Orton hugging, Batista lifting Orton onto his shoulders, and then Triple H and Batista turning on him as Ric Flair watched followed by a beatdown and a Pedigree. Back live to Orton, he said that night everything started to fall into place. "Triple H ruined my life, so I made a vow to myself to ruin his." He said he had to wait until he found the talent to start a group of my own and when Triple H was more powerful than he ever had been before and when Triple H had something he cared about more than the WWE Title. He said that began in January when he won the 2008 Royal Rumble. They went to a clip of Orton winning the Rumble.

[Q9]

Orton said he earned the right to face Triple H and take his title at the "25th Anniversary of WrestleMania," but he said that wasn't enough. He said he had to raise the stakes and take everything away from him that he valued, so he chose his family - the most powerful family in WWE - the McMahons. He named Vince, Shane, and "his sweet wife Stephanie." They went to clips of Vince and Shane taking beatings from Orton. He said he knew Triple H would retaliate, but he would accept that because he needed Triple H to feel in control and let his guard down. That allowed him to then move on to Stephanie. A clip aired of last week's angle, which oddly hadn't been talked about much up until this segment. For an angle to really get over as something beyond typical and more heinous than almost anything else fans will ever see, you can't go back to business as usual with a Diva Battle Royal the next week at the start of the show and not talk about it for nearly two hours other than a video package.

Orton said if Triple H thinks he can use a sledgehammer to get his revenge, he's wrong. He said he talked to Vickie Guerrero because if Triple H is disqualified or even counted out, he loses the WWE Title. He said if he even shows a sledgehammer, he'll be DQ'd. He said he could win the title without lifting a finger. He said he's taken everything from him except the WWE Title. He said that comes this Sunday and then the entire landscape of WWE changes, "the balance of power shifts permanently." He said top superstars will climb the ladder to try their best to impress him so they can one day stand at his side. Then his ascension to the top of the business will be realized. They cut to the parking garage and a car sped up. Orton got panicked and called for DiBiase, Rhodes, and security guards to come out and guard the ring.

The limo doors opened and no one was inside. Orton said he had no trouble taking care of this tonight, and walking to WrestleMania with the title because he forfeits it now. Instead, Vince McMahon's music played and he strutted onto the stage. The veins in Orton's neck bulged as Vince took off his tie and rolled up his sleeves. Then Shane McMahon walked out in jeans and a pullover collared shirt. He danced a little. And then Triple H walked out onto the stage wearing his Affliction rip-off, I mean inspired, t-shirt. He turned toward Orton with that look of I'm-going-to-kill-you rage. The Family looked at each other, nodded, and then made their way to the ring. They easily beatup the security guards and then walked toward the ring. The heel trio met them on the floor at ringside and they brawled. Is this Backlash's main event, perhaps? Triple H got a nice pop when he tackled Orton and pounded on him. They rolled around and exchanged punches as the show ended without any commentary from Lawler or Cole.

-A commercial gave a final pitch to the event on Sunday.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Okay final hard sell. There's a lot of ways they could have gone with the final hype, and focusing on Orton-Triple H was probably smart. Having Shane and especially Vince show up at the very end gave a nice sense of importance to the final angle. Treating Vince and Shane as near-equals of DiBiase and Rhodes is silly, but McMahons are McMahons, after all, no matter what age. The Michaels-Taker final angle felt about right. Building up Show as unbeatable and a heavy favorite was a strange angle to take, but welcome over the long triangle (but there's still Smackdown on Friday). Everything else was a blur and overall poorly promoted overall in recent weeks. Certainly the Jericho angle fizzled in the final week with no new twist, as it appears WWE gave up on that being a significant selling point for the show. I don't think this was a show that will save WrestleMania's buyrate from being a disappointment. They did what they felt they could with the hand they dealt themselves going into this week.

What did you think of Raw? Send us your name, hometown, 0-10 score, pick for best segment, and a paragraph of thoughts on whether this was a good final sell for Sunday's big event.


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