RAW: Damage Limitation

Alright. Let’s stop dancing around the inevitable. Punk is gone. He hasn’t been officially future endeavoured and there is a part of me holding on to the fact that this might be the most ballsy, elaborate work in history. But as he’s been pulled from pre-paid AXXESS meet & greets and assessing the bizarre atmosphere on RAW this week, we can assume that at the very least he’s having an extended holiday.

There was a definite air of damage limitation on this week’s RAW. Fan-made signs enquiring as to Punk’s whereabouts were confiscated by security. In the same way that Rey Mysterio was booed at the Royal Rumble simply for not being Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton’s words made no impact on the crowd, who were otherwise engaged in repeatedly chanting for CM Punk. Being a bit of a tough-nut, their disinterest in his moaning about his lack of…(umm, what was it again?) made no impression on him either.

Needing to pacify an already volatile crowd Steph and HHH appeared on the ramp to instruct Randy to stop whining. To curry favour with the audience even further, they warned him that they had the power to strip him of his ‘face of the company’ moniker. If he didn’t cool his boots they might be forced to make someone else their favourite. Daniel Bryan, maybe. HHH even joined the Yes Movement. Turncoat!

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Daniel Bryan, who in the space of a week has gone from their whipping boy to potential poster boy. You can’t help but feel that even what would have been Bryan’s eventual triumph over ‘the man’ has been ditched in favour of keeping people from turning off.

The Shield won a three-man tag against Big E. Langston, Kofi and Rey Mysterio, but the crucial part of the story came when Dean Ambrose (unf) and Roman Reigns squabbled over who should have taken the pin. Poor Seth Rollins. As if his comedic tumbling the previous week hadn’t been upsetting enough. Now mummy and daddy are fighting again. I wonder which of them plays mum and which takes on the role of dad. Let’s think about that for a moment. Anyway, the bickering soon ended and their broken pieces were glued back together when the Wyatts appeared on screen hoping to capitalise on their moment of collective weakness. They didn’t.

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It also seems there’s dissent at Camp Real Americans. After losing a place in the Elimination Chamber to Christian on SmackDown, Jack Swagger was given a rematch, only to lose a second time. You can always tell when Swagger’s in a panic. His bottom lip bursts open, like that kid in school who always got stress-related nosebleeds on class trips.  Zeb Colter made his disgruntlement known in no uncertain terms and even Antonio Cesaro dropped and shook his head in shame. Time to disband these guys and start hyping Cesaro, lest he go the same way as Hero. At least, let’s not allow that to happen before I can successfully attend any British shows he might be booked on. Selfish? Me? Absolutely. It already sticks in my craw that I don’t get to clap eyes on Chris Hero’s colour-of-a-cornfield mane when he’s in the UK at the end of this month.

In further attempts to placate the ready-to-riot crowd, the New Age Outlaws were forced to put the tag titles on the line against Goldust and Cody Rhodes. Oh and they were forced to do it *MOVIE TRAILER VOICE* inside a steel caaaaage. New Age Outlaws retained in a match that went on for far too long, never really got going and made little-to-no use of the cage. Hey, Hunter? Where’s Punk?

Thankfully this was followed by Batista’s arrival. Now, hold on. I know this doesn’t sound all that exciting. But the small detail I deliberately omitted in the name of building tension is that our Dave’s back in the double denim. Yes!

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And not just top and bottom denim, but a matching burnout tee. Cor! But beyond my predictable giddiness at Dave-denim, the real star of this segment was Alberto Del Rio. Dressed in less impressive single denim, the promo he ripped on Dave was so convincingly impassioned you might believe there was some truth behind it. I mean, why would the guy who’s been consistently great but never truly trusted to carry the company along with the big boys feel cheesed off that Dave’s waltzed back in to steal a Wrestlemania headline slot? It was the first time in many months I’ve really sat up and taken notice of Del Rio. Their scrap was fierce and Del Rio was so pumped he returned to the ring to retrieve his rather fetching black blazer, before catching glimpse of Dave’s face and thinking better of it.

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Speaking of those flying uncomfortably under the radar, Dolph Ziggler was teamed up with R-Truth and Xavier Woods to go up against the Wyatts. The match had all the bumps and jumps you’d expect, with Bray Wyatt pinning Dolph for the win. To match their video interruption earlier in the evening, The Shield made their own video based gift, with Dean Ambrose (unf) mocking the Wyatts’ scare tactics and his fellow warriors warning of retribution. This was met with the usual psychotic laughter in the ring. Standard but still pleasing fare.

This took us to a long main event between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, the winner of which would become the McMahon-Helmsley’s favourite boy. It was a long and involved match where both gave a lot, but it was flat. It was missing something. Despite some interference from Kane, Bryan still won the match, but it didn’t have the shine it should have. It’s not enough just to give us what we want. We need the backstory to make it mean something. That’s where promoters get wrestling fans all wrong. It’s about the journey. I wonder if that’s the line they’d be following if Punk was still around. And the fact that Orton and Kane continued to pummel Bryan after the bell means it’ll all probably flip-flop back the other way quicker than a Westminster sex scandal come next week. It just didn’t make sense. Unless Kane interfered to make sure Bryan didn’t win, what was the point?

Can you say ‘state of flux’?

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N.B. This week, in an attempt to skip what I thought were just the ads, I watched RAW via the Sky Sports On Demand service. Unfortunately, I only realised after writing this that they’d cut out several mid-card matches, linking segments etc. I’ll have seen all the missing pieces before next week, but just a warning to those in the UK. It gives a skewed view of the show and I’m going to be complaining to Sky about it.   

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Smackdown(lite): Hamlet, Hair, Hobos and Hugs

Same arena, same crappy set, different day. Yep, Smackdown too was from the London O2 arena this week. Well, why spend 24 hours moving to a new city when you can stay where you are and drink the hotel bar dry. I’m talking to YOU, Miz. Twitter is so much fun.

I think I have an apology to make. I TOTALLY missed the fact that the set had a red phone box on it. I only noticed it when I watched Smackdown. That really tops it off. Because I don’t think those things even exist any more…apart from as novelties. WWE set designers: when you return to these shores in November you must try harder or I’ll pound ya!

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So we begin with Edge. If I hadn’t enjoyed Smackdown so much this week, I’d quite happily have ditched the rest of it and just recapped Edge’s soliloquy. Seriously, it was like an Ontario Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet. It was a thing of beauty. But Smackdown was worthy of a full run-down so this will have to be a long one.

You know, if all this were real, I’d be wrapping a patchwork quilt around Edge, making him some tea, and calling Social Services. In fact, he was so convincingly deranged on SD that I was inches away from being sucked in.  But then I realised that no man who is so up-to-date with his blonde highlights roots could be losing the plot, and I came back down to earth.

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By  the way, if anyone knows what brand of sunnies he’s wearing there, let me know. I WANT! Actually, maybe I’ll just ask him myself on Twitter.

It started well. Edge was calm, collected, cool, cucumber-esque.  But then he started recalling John’s resolve and  began descending in to desperation. He reminded us of the whooping he gave John on Raw and suddenly realised how alone he really is. GOD, I eat this stuff up. The spotlight in the ring, all those long camera shots followed by extreme close-ups. Oooh yeah! He told us once again that he feels worthless without the title, ran his fingers through his beautifully coiffed tresses and…..

“My wife Vickie can’t help…….I have no friends……in your own words John, I’m a desperate man!”

At this point I was so involved I felt like putting my hand on his shoulder and saying I, will be your friend.” Yes, you are correct, I AM a loser.  Nevertheless, he went on to prematurely declare himself the Last Man Standing. Fabulous. (Copeland….let me know who does your highlights too, please.)

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Now that I’m emotionally spent I could do with some light relief. Unfortunately, Todd Grisham’s crack about the Queen’s crib and BBQ ham didn’t satisfy. Must be one of those American jokes I don’t understand. Like Sarah Silverman.

First match of the night is Matt Hardy & Kane Vs Jeff Hardy & CM Yum.  The whole Matt/Jeff ‘I quit’ thing is kind of redundant now, being that we all know Jeff won’t be resigning his current contract. Apparently he’s tired and just wants to do something else for a while.  I kind of admire him for having the courage to do that when he’s so popular at the moment. Ooh, serious mo there. Back to the match. It wasn’t bad actually. Some nice little shimmies. And surprisingly long for a Smackdown match. Matt pinned Jeff FTW.  I notice you’re having some make-up slippage issues there, Jeffrey. Try Revlon Colour-Stay Foundation. It can be a bit cakey if you don’t put it on with a light touch, but it does last. Even on oily skin. And it’s reasonably priced too.

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Big Show/Undertaker was kind of slow and tedious. I felt like I wanted to find their wind-up key and make things go faster. So, to continue the hair and beauty theme (which I swear was totally unplanned) I found myself thinking about how I’d change Undertaker’s fake-tan to a less vibrant shade of tangerine and teach him how to use eyeliner so he doesn’t end up with a harsh line. Smudge, babe. Smudge.

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After a huge punch from the ginormous fist of the Big Show, Undertaker was deemed unfit to continue. Taker stumbled to his feet looking like a wasted hobo, and countered to regain his dignity. Buh-bye Big Show. Enjoy Raw!

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Time for some lady action – Gail Kim v Maryse. I don’t know what it is about Maryse, but I’m not liking her. Something doesn’t sit right with me. And it’s not that “Bitch is more beautiful than me so I hate her guts” stuff either. Todd Grisham dared to say “that this French-Canadian is less popular over here in the United Kingdom than she is in North America.” Ohhh that’s what it is. The British have an involuntary hate of all Frenchness. (Apart from the cheap wine we like to sneak over on the ferry from Callais). And I thought it was just the irritating hair-flicking and the evil-claw-hand. Now I understand. On the flip side, I kind of like Gail Kim. But every time I see her I think of the ‘Cool Asians’ in the cafeteria scene in Mean Girls.  Observe…….

Say what you want about Li-Lo’s debauched lesbian lifestyle, Mean Girls is one of the greatest films ever created. End of. Back to the business of grappling.  Maryse won and flicked her hair so hard she did her back in. Whooda thunk it? Weighty hair weave really is bad for your health.

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Jeff Hardy did a strange, swirly promo for Backlash, which I can only think was shot by some guy thinking “I spent four years at film school to work on this shit, I’m at least gonna be creative and maybe then I’ll get a movie gig.” Yah. Ok. Well….moving on. I can’t be bothered to talk about M.V.P and Chavo…..you just need to know that Montel won the match. Another one disappearing to Raw. His exit from the ring was interrupted by Dolph Ziggler. Umm. WHOOOOO? I’m so not into this guy. Firstly he has the hideous hair of Billy Gunn, then I can’t hear his name without thinking of Dolph Lundgren (remember him in Rocky IV) and apart from that he just seems like a complete tosser. Not a partial tosser, a complete one. I hope he doesn’t get any undeserved pushes. I will be pushing him straight back the way he came.

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We’re not getting the new WWE Superstars show over here yet (correct me if I’m wrong). I downloaded it last week but haven’t bothered yet this week. Thankfully, the John Cena interview from Superstars was repeated on SD. Lovely. But poor John was not feeling himself. He seemed a little blue. Awww. What’s up, sweetheart? He took a microphone, told Grisham he didn’t want to talk to him, looked straight in to the camera and said “For once, I’d like to talk to YOU.” That’s it. I was gone. Whatever words came out of his mouth, in my head, all I heard was this……..

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I gave myself a wrestlegasm with my own thoughts. Errrrrm, yeah. So….back in the realms of reality, the show ended with Shane and Batista Vs Rhodes and DiBiase. Kind of predictable, but fair play to Shane, he had a good go. He looked absolutely knackered by the end of it. Maybe if he wore less clothing he wouldn’t get so warm. Just sayin’. Shane made the pin, by the way. Oh and he even overcame his fear of boy juice and gave Dave a squeeze at the end. Nice.

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FAVOURITE CROWD MEMBER(S) OF THE SHOW

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These three who, despite possessing 0% dancability, rocked it out to M.V.P’s entrance music. You shake those tail feathers, fellas!