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KELLER'S TAKE
KELLER'S WWE RAW TAKE 4/2: The Rock addresses his win, WrestleMania 28 fallout, Laurinaitis takes over

Apr 2, 2012 - 10:46:06 PM
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KELLER'S WWE RAW TAKE
APRIL 2, 2012
MIAMI, FLA.
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK


-I was disappointed with the way Raw began. Sure, it makes storyline sense to address John Laurinaitis taking over and he set the stage for the show. The stuff with Laurinaitis is just campy comedy stuff, and leading with it diminishes the gravity within the WWE Universe of what happened at WrestleMania 28. There is a list of major news items coming out of WrestleMania, that especially the day after WrestleMania, should be addressed in a serious way out of the gate:

--First, C.M. Punk is still the WWE Champion: "We'll hear from challenger and champion on this show and talk about how Punk won."

--Second, Sheamus won the World Title: "Watch Smackdown for more details."

--Third, The Streak is still alive. Undertaker is 20-0!

--Fourth, Rock beat Cena: "And up first on Raw, the winner of last night's Biggest Match in History was The Rock. He will speak next."

-To me, the "You've Still Got It" chant should be heard as a wrestler: "Other may say you've overstayed you're welcome or you're over the bill, but for the most part you can still live up to your glorious past."

-Rock sure felt more at home in Miami than Boston.

-I was disappointed he didn't rub it in a little he won. He said win or lose, what was important is they entertained the fans. What?! No!!! What mattered is he won. The reason to have a match is fight hard to try to win. He won. For all future matches to matter, for near falls to be worth agonizing or popping for, results of big matches have to matter. And there has to be a "thrill of victory and agony of defeat" played up afterward. If winners brush off wins, what's the point of getting worked up about the match in the first place? And getting worked up over rooting for a winner and a loser is what makes a match entertaining. Sure, you can sit back and analyze the star rating and be entertained. You can chant "You still got it!" or "This is awesome!" or "Five-stars!" but the best experiences I've had as a fan, the most entertained I've been, is when I was wrapped up in rooting for someone to win and someone to most definitely lose. So Rock blowing off his win as less important than "entertaining the fans" sort of defeats the whole point and is actually contradictory. The reason it was entertaining is because people had a rooting interest in a winner and a loser.

-Quotebook - The Rock: "In 1995, The Rock was cut from the Canadian Football League. Do you have any idea how much you have to suck to get cut from the Canadian Football League." Rock just lost a lot of Canadian CFL-WWE fans.

-Why is it funny that the fan who whistled Rock is a guy, and why is it a punchline that he's a Cena fan? Oh, because it'd be hilarious if a straight person was called gay on national TV because being gay is hilarious. Thanks, Rock. He's right there in the 1990s with Triple H and Shawn Michaels always using the "Seinfeld" line "not that there's anything wrong with that" which pre-dates almost any star being "out" and almost any gay characters in non-punchline roles on TV. He just sounds old when he goes there, and not particularly in step with WWE's anti-bullying theme. It's not a huge huge deal, but he's better than that and doesn't need to go there. Not in 2012.

-Quite the compelling hook at the end of his promo. He has a vision he will one day walk the aisle again as the WWE Champion. That sets up an interesting scenario for WrestleMania 29? Will he be the challenger next year? Who will be the champion? Will he win the Royal Rumble? If not, how else will a part-timer (at most) earn that stature? How long before it's set who the champ would be that he'll face? Interesting storyline and a fun one to bat around for the next nine or ten months. Of course, he could see his vision come true by winning at Summerslam or another event other than WrestleMania.

-Good. Good to hear Michael Cole pushing that John Cena will address his loss, and talking about it with a tone that suggests Cena will be devastated. They replayed Cena saying he had to win the match. Rock may have blown off the win, but at least Cena is apparently taking the loss seriously. By the way, if Rock's vision was to be WWE Champion again, shouldn't he have really been pushing the idea that the win over Cena is a huge achievement in proving he still has what it takes to be champion?

-At the start of the opening match 25 minutes into the show, Cole and Jerry Lawler got around to talking about the title changes at WrestleMania.

-For Dolph Ziggler to get elevate to the next level, a lot of people say he needs to break free from Vickie Guerrero. I don't really agree with that, but I don't feel strongly. What I do think matters more is separating Jack Swagger from Ziggler. When those two stand by each other, Ziggler looks too small. It just works against him being taken seriously as a rising main event heel, since Swagger is treated as a comedy figure but he just looks like a man and Ziggler a boy when they're sharing a screen.

-They have to walk a fine line with the Brodus Clay gimmick and keep it away from demeaning or belittling or just dated racial undertones and stereotypes. If they can find a way to do that, as the crowd reaction in Boston shows, the gimmick and character can work as he's got great energy, he's all-in with the gimmick, and it's a fun break from the edgier and more serious tone of much of the product. The key, too, is whether he can break away from being a lower card comedy figure or if he's just a novelty act to play around with Santino and Zack Ryder types.

-Interesting that Cole acknowledged that Lord Tensai is a former WWE star, saying he went to Japan and became a huge star over there and now is returning. It's good to fend off "smart" fans deciding to taunt him with chants of Prince Albert. WWE took some of the sting off of that. Between Brodus and Tensai, WWE is not going with the Alex Riley/Curt Hawkins/Dolph Ziggler/Drew McIntyre muscular sleek bodytype that was too common in recent years.

-Can Tensei get past the Kenzo Suzuki imagery and rise above just another flimsy Japanese heel gimmick and be more of a Vader badass big brute of a heel.

-Does Mark Henry getting a countout win over Punk mean he's done being buried now that WrestleMania 28 has passed?

-Quotebook - Chris Jericho: "I drink every once in a while, but never to excess, and I'd never drink and drive."

-Quotebook - Chris Jericho: "I promised you that you would be the reason you took your first drink, and that is what's going to happen. I'm going to lead you down the path to alcoholism just like your father."

-The crowd got a big kick out of Jericho slipping on the Jack Daniels he poured over Punk when he threw that first kick to Punk.

-Why did the crowd boo Sheamus when he ring intro began? Did they think someone else was the "neeewwwww World Heavyweight Champion" as Justin Roberts began his ring intro?

-I like the collage of pics they aired to the WrestleMania 28 theme song coming in and out of commercial breaks.

-That a good babyface follow-up for Big Show against Cody Rhodes - using his "embarrassing video" gimmick against him by showing that he got the last laugh.

-Quotebook - Michael Cole: "Miz looks like he's been reborn."

-Cena played up his solemn, subdued body language really well, barely acknowledging the camera as he stood on the stage and saluted the crowd. No funny, casual aside to the camera this time, either.

-Quotebook - John Cena: "I never thought of losing."

-Now we're talking, as Cena really dives into selling his loss the night before. This makes match outcomes seem like they really, really matter.

-The "Cena Sucks!" chants are replaced this week at least by "You're a Loser." Cena held out the mic to soak it up. "Will this be the day I finally lash out at the WWE Universe?" he said afterward. The crowd cheered him on to do that.

-Quotebook - John Cena: "I am a man, I was beaten, so I will man up and admit defeat. Last night at WrestleMania I lost to The Rock." He then said all he can do is wipe the slate clean and work hard to be the best he can be.

-Then the effect of the Lesnar rumors kicked in as the crowd chanted "We Want Lesnar." Cena absorbed the chants and didn't try to talk over them, but he also didn't react other than to say: "An always interesting crowd at Monday Night Raw. I actually want The Rock. I would like The Rock to come back down to the ring." He said he wants the world to know that Rock earned his respect and he considers him a champion and an inspiration.

-Quotebook - John Cena: "After last night I can truly consider him the greatest WWE Superstar in this industry."

-He acknowledged they went all out physically and even over the line verbally. The Lesnar chants kicked in again. He paused, didn't act irritated, let them play out, and then went back to his assigned topic.

-A Daniel Bryan chant broke out after Cena riffed on him and Cena broke into a smile and said, "This is why I love Raw."

-Cena again invited Rock out, but no Rock. Instead, Brock's image appeared on the screen. The crowd exploded, or as Cole put it, "The American Airlines arena has come unglued."

-Lesnar paced on the stage without a smile but a little hint of liking the reaction he got from the fans. Cena smiled. The crowd broke into a "Holy sh--!" chant. Cena nodded as Lesnar paced around the ring and his WWE theme song played.

-Lesnar then stepped up into the ring. Cole: "Oh, what a moment!" Lesnar reached out for a hand shake, but instead lifted Cena into the air and gave him an F5. Cole: "The landscape, the complexion of WWE has been drastically changed with one emphatic F5 for The Beast, The Freak!… Brock Lesnar is back. The anomaly has returned to Monday Night Raw." Lesnar played to the crowd as the show ended.

-This answers the question looming for weeks headed into WrestleMania, which is what can WWE do after WrestleMania that won't seem like a huge letdown. The way they did it, by literally transitioning from expecting The Rock to walk out and instead Lesnar walking out was symbolic and effective.

-Interesting to see Lesnar play to the crowd, and the way the crowd popped for Lesnar, can Lesnar even be portrayed as a heel? Cena didn't show any signs of turning heel in this promo. He outright said he was not ever going to do that. Was that a swerve and will he finally lash out next week because of the Miami crowd reaction to Lesnar this week? Or will WWE just let the fans decide when Lesnar and Cena feud? Or will WWE find a way, via an angle or a Lesnar promo, to effectively turn him heel?


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