Last night, the Road to WrestleMania tore through Albuquerque. The Pit, famous home of the University of New Mexico Lobos basketball teams, played host to the superstars of RAW one month before WWE’s biggest show of the year.
TODAY’S ISSUE: Gettin’ RAW at the Pit
The last time the Pit hosted a live WWE show was October 21st, 2005. It was a supershow, featuring big names from both RAW and SmackDown! However, the word WrestleMania must drive people out of the house, because the live crowd last night was bigger, louder, and rowdier than the supershow crowd from October ’05.
Sadly, there was no Mike Newell classic like The Rock versus Viscera on the card, but the show was entertaining nonetheless.
The night began with ECW’s regular ring announcer Jason Roberts coming to the ring, as the RAW theme song itself received a loud pop. The Albuquerque crowd was clearly ready to rock the Pit.
Three Team Tag Match: Cade & Murdoch versus The Highlanders versus Cryme Tyme. The first match of the night began after both the Highlanders and Cryme Tyme received very nice pops from the crowd. The Highlanders’ ovation was so big that it was a bit surprising, in fact. This was a solid opener, with lots of hard-hitting action, a quick pace, and very good double and triple-teaming. One nice move saw Robbie hook Murdoch in DDT position, and executing the move while Shad simultaneously delivered a forward Russian leg sweep to Robbie. Good three-man maneuver there. Cade and Murdoch garnered the first of many “You Suck!Ã¢â‚¬Â chants of the evening, before Cade fell victim to Cryme Tyme’s G9 tandem finisher. After the match, a dejected Lance Cade almost struck his partner Murdoch in frustration and anger. The empathetic crowd chanted, “fight, fight, fight!Ã¢â‚¬Â, of course, but the two rednecks failed to deliver. When they hugged and made up, the Albuquerque audience shit all over them. All in all, a very satisfying opener.
New addition? Kofi Houston versus “The MasterpieceÃ¢â‚¬Â Chris Masters. Next, the ring announcer was proud to introduce “the newest addition to the WWEÃ¢â‚¬Â, Kofi Houson. Houston is Jamaican, and somewhat resembles Elijah Burke. Supposedly this was his first night in the company (wink, wink). He put over the local crowd in his brief speech about there not being a better place in the world for him to begin his major league career than right here, in Albuquerque, New Mexico! To the shock of some, but not this seasoned wrestling fan, Chris Masters interrupted this charming moment and called old Kofi out on the carpet for a match right there, in that very ring. In the midst of a slow match with far too many rest holds, Kofi did throw a few very impressive, high elevation dropkicks. Masters earned the second “You Suck!Ã¢â‚¬Â chant of the night, before ending the “actionÃ¢â‚¬Â with his patented Masterlock submission hold. Although I’m no fan of Masters’, I was happy to see him slap on his full nelson and put this ham-and-egger out of his misery, so we could move on to something else.
Talk about a hostile crowd. Melina defended the women’s championship against Mickie James. Wow, was this a tough arena. A gentleman at ringside won the drawing to act as guest ring announcer for the match, and was booed out of the building when he truthfully answered the question about his hometown with “Cincinnati, OhioÃ¢â‚¬Â. Only the quick thinking of Jason Roberts got guest announcer TJ back into the crowd’s good graces. Roberts asked, “but you live here in Albuquerque now, right?Ã¢â‚¬Â, and held TJ’s hand by asking, “and which do you prefer?Ã¢â‚¬Â TJ wisely responded with “AlbuquerqueÃ¢â‚¬Â in unconvincing fashion, but it was enough to draw a mild pop from the crowd, who presumable were going to kick his ass outside after the show. I hope they don’t find out I’m from Jersey. With the near-tragedy averted for TJ, he went about his business of announcing the match.
By now you’ve noticed I haven’t written one word about the women’s title match yet, because there wasn’t much to say. Mickie was over with the crowd in a major way, as they popped for everything she did. Hell, she even reversed a simple arm-bar, a move we’ve all seen in 97.5 percent of the matches we’ve ever watched, and the crowd went bananas. This was a slow match with a few moments of hot action. Melina cradled Mickie in the corner and held the ropes for the victory, in a very heel champion type of finish. Nothing to write home about; or even to write about in your weekly column.
Popcorn match: Eric Perez (?) and Sonny Siaki versus Bret and Brian Majors. The DSW performers got the chance to shine in a RAW ring, and were cheesily announced as hailing from (you guessed it) right here, in Albuquerque, New Mexico! Sadly, the unoriginal crowd gave Siaki the third “You Suck!Ã¢â‚¬Â chant of the evening. The Majors looked like a cross between the Rockers and the Macho Man, but won the match when one of the two hit a nifty reverse Lungblower on Perez. Good for them.
Val Venis, still looking like a million bucks, was legally murdered by the Great Khali. Before the match began, Val Hogan-eared his towel, going from side to side of the ring to determine which section of the crowd was loud enough to earn this treasure from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Khali devastated Venis in a short encounter, and drilled him with a massive two-handed choke slam. Khali then covered Val for the pin by placing his boot on Venis ENTIRE chest. The shame. He lifted his boot off the ex-porn star at two, so as to keep the brutal beating going for one more devastating two-hand choke slam. This time when he stepped on Val’s chest, he didn’t move until the match was over. At three different moments when Khali raised his gargantuan arms to the crowd, he got at least a 50-50 face pop. Interesting. I’ll bet Vince’s strategy of “push large men down our throatsÃ¢â‚¬Â is to blame for Khali’s surprising popularity.
MNM versus Jeff Hardy and Super Crazy. If I didn’t know any better, I might have confused Jeff Hardy with Stone Cold Steve Austin or the Rock, based on the mammoth reactions he got from the audience. I mean, Jeff Hardy is over in Albuquerque. Wow. At least eight separate chants of “Hardy, Hardy, HardyÃ¢â‚¬Â rang through the Pit from start to finish of this hot little match. Unfortunately, there were about three more “You Suck!Ã¢â‚¬Â chants as well in this match alone, one of which was issued to the referee when he prevented Super Crazy from diving over the top rope to body-attack his opponents. No worries, as when the ref leaned over to check on MNM, Crazy simply performed the plancha anyway, but sprung over the chant-eliciting zebra to get there. When Hardy hit the Swanton for the win, I thought the roof was gonna come off the Pit. As with all the matches that saw a heel lose on this night, MNM received pronounced boos upon leaving the ringside area after the victorious faces’ music came to a close. “What for?Ã¢â‚¬Â I wondered. Very well paced, exciting match.
INTERMISSION. Guess what fans? John Cena has personally autographed each and every copy of The Marine on DVD, so go get yours now! Maria brought us back from break by shooting t-shirts into the crowd, and the show was back in gear.
Kenny Dykstra versus Ric Flair. I was proud to be a wrestling fan when I saw and felt the respect, admiration, and enthusiasm with which the Nature Boy was met. The crowd couldn’t stop woooing for him, and you could tell he loved every minute of it. Flair led Dykstra through an old school, back-and-forth match that featured storytelling, good drama, and of course, an unsuccessful trip to the top rope for the Naitch. After enduring a Figure Four Leg Lock, Flair locked the youngster into the very same hold and forced Kenny to tap out rather strenuously, giving Flair the victory via submission. It’s an honor to watch the man work, and as often as I see him on television and think to myself, “Man, when is he gonna hang it up for good?Ã¢â‚¬Â it was amazing to see the crowd react to the living legend.
“Working Things Out For Next MonthÃ¢â‚¬Â Match: Umaga versus Bobby Lashley. Armando Alejandro Estrada came out with his IC champ first, in what was announced as a “special attraction matchÃ¢â‚¬Â. Estrada got very good heel heat during his promo about the Battle of the Billionaires, and the very mention of Lashley’s name drew a sizable reaction. Once his music hit, Albuquerque was lost its mind. The contest itself was a slow, brawling battle, featuring many familiar sequences including Umaga’s cross-ring butt-to-the-face, which incidentally is a much more harmful way to drive your posterior into another man’s head than the way his uncle-cousin-stepfather, Rikishi, used to do it. Lashley blocked the Samoan Spike by catching Umaga’s arms and powering out, before hitting a rather impressive belly-to-belly suplex on the Bulldozer. Estrada had seen enough and entered the ring, presumably to save face and prevent his man from being embarrassed via a clean loss, so the ECW champ won via disqualification. The crowd fought itself at one point with dueling chants of “Lashley, LashleyÃ¢â‚¬Â, “Bobby, BobbyÃ¢â‚¬Â, and “ECW, ECWÃ¢â‚¬Â. The WWE should include the correct chant of support for each wrestler in their online bio, to prevent such confusion. Post-match, Lashley exacted a measure of physical revenge against Umaga’s manager for his Estradaference, which the crowd ate up with a spoon.
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena defended against Randy Orton. Believe me when I tell you that Hulk Hogan, in his finest hour, has never heard an ovation with the intensity, duration, and merchandising power of the pop Cena got in the Pit. Everything he did was greeted with stronger and stronger waves of cheers. He saluted the crowd, they went nuts. He removed his title belt, the audience swooned. Forget his hat and t-shirt toss into the masses – I thought he’d just ended world hunger based on the deafening reaction. The ovation lasted for longer than five minutes, literally, and the man hadn’t done anything yet. You think that title’s going anywhere at WrestleMania? Think again. Orton’s job of getting heat with the crowd couldn’t have been any easier in this situation.
The match itself was a decent RAW main event or single-brand ppv effort. Nothing too amazing, but good pacing, heat galore on Orton, ref bumps and assorted shenanigans, and several hope spots and comebacks for Cena. Orton hit a nice elevated DDT with Cena’s legs on the second rope, eliciting quite a groan from the Chain Gang. While the ref was lying dead in the corner after having been brushed in the cheek by some cotton candy that accidentally caught wind from somewhere in the third row, Orton survived an unseen tap out to the STFU, and actually hit an RKO on the champ. Of course, the referee revived in time to witness Cena’s Superman Comeback, which was highlighted by an FU for the cover and the pin.
Overall this was a good show, and well worth the price of admission. WrestleMania fever was in the air, because everyone up and down the card worked hard, entertained, and heard a lot of noise from the crowd in the Land of Enchantment.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ My new personal proverb: “Luck is being dealt the right card at the right moment. Skill is knowing what to do when you get it.Ã¢â‚¬Â