For Your Consideration…The RAW Judicial Review for 1/3/11

For Your Consideration…The RAW Judicial Review for 1/3/11

Welcome back to the longest running action-adventure, passive aggressive, looking-forward-while-looking-backward column on the worldest of world wide webs, For Your Consideration. I am your one year older and wiser host, Andrew Wheeler, and let me start off by saying Happy New Year. Cliché out of the way? Great, let’s get down to business.

Again I want to apologize for missing last week’s column, and for those of you who missed it, I did do a half-assed “Indiscriminate Number of Thoughts” that I think went up Wednesday. Chances are you can find the link at the bottom of the page, so I won’t bother trying to post it up here. It wasn’t by any means my best work (though that’s a pretty relative term) but it was something to tide you all over.

Tonight is the first RAW of 2011, and depending on how technical you want to get, the first RAW of a new decade. Will this be the dawning of a new era in the WWE, or will it just be the same rehashed material we’ve sifted through for the past ten years? Since those that don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it (coughTNAcough), I think it’s worth it to take one more glance at the bloated, rotting corpse of 2010 in…

One More Unnecessary Look Back at 2010

I know a lot of you have read full-on Year End columns until it’s pouring out of your ears, but it just goes against every fiber of my columnist being to not throw my two cents into the overflowing fountain of wrestling change (see, that’s a double meaning…so witty).

2010 was a very interesting year for the WWE. Looking back at the company that was in January of last year and where they are at now, there are certainly a lot of positives. While financially ’10 wasn’t their best year, it may have been a very important one in their long-term survival.

The first PPV of 2010 was arguably one of it’s best, Royal Rumble. The Rumble match itself deservedly made several Top 10 match lists because, quite frankly, it was entertaining as hell. There were several white hot storylines that existed going into the match itself, and combined with a few very welcome surprises, was just a well executed event.

Obviously, the match was built around Shawn Michaels. He had his quest to main event Wrestlemania against The Undertaker, and in his mind the only way to do it was to win the Rumble itself. That, folks, is a very simple story that the company has told several times before. Throughout the 90’s and early 00’s, there has always been that one “chosen one” who was destined to win the match. Shawn seemed like that guy, and when the WWE robbed us of his “moment”, it wound up making for a much more layered and complex story. For once, it seemed, they were taking a bit of a risk, and creatively it paid off.

Shawn’s potential downward spiral carried him into Wrestlemania, where he risked his career against Undertaker. A lot of people named that match as Match of the Year, and while I wasn’t as overly enthusiastic as most, I did very much enjoy it. My biggest gripe was that it just felt like the same thing for a third year in a row.

When Michaels retired Flair, we saw it coming. We knew that Shawn was going to be the man to put the Man into the AARP crowd, and it felt special (though decidedly less special now that Ric has constantly come out of his retirement after making a point to say that his previous retirement was going to be a real one despite the fact that we all know that there’s no such thing as a real retirement).

THEN, in 2009 we get Michaels/Taker, which was an epic match. That match was so insanely good that it took the Hunter/Orton main event and absolutely murdered it. Triple H and Randy stood no chance of being able to top that, matching the crowd’s lack of interest to Hunter/Jericho that followed Rock/Hogan.

By the time Shawn and Taker locked up at Wrestlemania, it didn’t have that “epic” feel to me. I didn’t for a minute think that Shawn was actually going to win, but at the same time I didn’t think he was going to really retire. I mean, what are the odds that two legends would retire within 3 years of one another in the EXACT SAME FASHION? It’s like making a sequel to Old Yeller and giving it the same exact ending and expecting us to be shocked again.

In my live Judicial Review for Wrestlemania (which is in my archives), I ripped the finish to pieces. I didn’t buy Cole’s over-praising of Michaels, or the “sincere” waves he gave to the fans because I didn’t believe he was actually retiring. If anything, I felt it was a cheapening of the Flair retirement. Before the show began, I thought for sure the WWE had a longer plan in mind for Michaels. I figured at the very least it would be Triple H that would cost Michaels the match, giving Shawn reason to come back and seek vengeance against a strong heel Hunter. Obviously he didn’t, so this was a case of me outsmarting myself.

Now that some time has past, it’s clear that Shawn’s Wrestlemania moment was something special. I would have liked for it to have been leaked that Shawn was leaving for real, if only so that I could really take the time to appreciate him leaving. Flair’s retirement was imminent, and everyone knew that his Mania match would be his “last”. We didn’t know that for Michaels, so I guess in a way I felt a little robbed.

Shawn Michaels gave us two of the absolute biggest moments of 2010, which is proof that older, established stars can still be used to provide “moments”. Yes, Shawn’s retirement from the ring (*for now) was surprising, but it wasn’t his “big” 2010 moment. That came a few weeks earlier when, for the first time in a long time, he was in the ring with Bret Hart.

Bret and Shawn standing in a ring face-to-face and actually shaking hands was a sight I thought we would probably never get. It was on my list of “Hell Freezes Over” moments, and something that should have elicited a genuine reaction from longtime wrestling fans. If I were doing a “Best of” list, this would have probably been my moment of the year.

Bret Hart being involved in the WWE in any capacity was a very surprising and welcoming event…in the beginning. I was just as pumped as anyone to see Hart back on WWE television, even though I knew that we were seeing “what was left” of Bret. As much as I hate to admit it, hearing his music all those months ago actually did stir something inside of me. It was cool to hear it and to see him and for him to have his curtain call.

Unfortunately, there was a lot to not like about Bret’s return. First, there was the fact that it did take him a little while to get his promo legs back. He seemed genuinely happy to be back, but you could see where he would transition from legitimate moment to script a lot more than you would have 15 years ago. It was like seeing the strings on the marionette, and for me, it was kind of jarring.

Bret’s feud with Mr. McMahon had some decent promos and some nice moments, but Hart’s obviously limited physical condition wasn’t doing either him or Vince any favors. Their “attacks” on one-another exposed how frail Bret was, and it made me wonder if it was actually worth it.

Ultimately, Bret and Vince had a match at Wrestlemania. On a purely objective, non-emotional level, it was one of the worst matches of the year. Hart couldn’t afford to take a serious bump (nor should he ever have been asked), so the match was simply Vince McMahon getting the shit beaten out of him. Involving the Hart Family felt a bit forced, and their double-turn was incredibly awkward, but it was more of an insurance policy to distract from Bret more than anything. In the end, Bret broke Austin’s chair-shot record by wailing on Vince about thirty times. It transcended “vengeance” and veered into genuinely uncomfortable territory.

Bret and Vince did leave room for others to get to play in the sandbox. On top of the Shawn/Bret moment, we got to see Batista and Cena step into their feud and spawn the heat off for themselves.

Leave it to Batista to finally have everything click in his mind as he’s about to leave. Vince spent as much time on Dave’s growth as he did John’s, but injuries, awkward face turns and just overall lacking confidence held Batista back. I had been begging for YEARS for Batista to be turned heel, but the company didn’t actually do it until it was too late.

Heel Batista was a bit of a revelation. He played his role as the obnoxious, cocky, angry asshole a lot better than he had any right to. Batista’s feud with John Cena was a very welcome one, thanks in large part to some killer promos and a Wrestlemania match that actually delivered. Losing an asset like Batista in such close proximity to losing Shawn Michaels was a devastating one-two punch, and something that no one could have properly planned for.

2010 was a year of significant losses for the WWE roster. Thankfully, there were no untimely deaths in the WWE (which I guess we could credit to the Wellness Policy…or the conversion to HD), but the roster certainly was depleted.

This year saw Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho and Batista leave for at least the foreseeable future. In addition, Triple H, The Undertaker and CM Punk were all out (or are still out) with injuries. You look at those names and you suddenly realize that the WWE has been working without a lot of their established names. What did that mean?

First, there was the cementing of Sheamus as a main event threat. Sheamus had already won the WWE Title (albeit in weak fashion in a tables match), but rather than flame out, he showed that he had true staying power. Sheamus entered into what seemed like a thankless feud against Triple H, but to most people’s surprise, he was actually allowed to WIN the war. In the end, Sheamus was the man to put Hunter on the shelf, which allowed him to establish himself as a legitimate badass. Sheamus has had some great matches this year for a man his size and experience, and on the mic he went from fellah hew taks funneh to true main eventer. While he didn’t need to win King of the Ring (and get that stupid costume), it allowed him to not only have a good match with Morrison but also show that he was capable of being the heavy who can elevate another wrestler. Sheamus may be one of the most valuable talents the company has ever created, and a bona fide main event heel.

Next, there was the eventual winner of the Royal Rumble, Edge. Edge was a surprise entrant and unlikely winner of the Rumble. He was plugged into a feud with Chris Jericho that should have set the world on fire, but it was a very big misfire…initially. Edge just is not a very good face. When he starts doing his overly-face routine, he comes off as bland and boring. In short, Edge as a face is very much like John Slo-Mo-Rrison as a face. The WWE used every trick in their book to get Edge over in the past, but it never worked.

Edge would have worked wonderfully in a TV-14 Attitude world. His Rated R gimmick and controversial attitude as a heel would have made a wonderful antihero. Unfortunately, in the 2010 world of TV-PG, he was made a face by getting fans to chant “Spear”. Even worse, his Wrestlemania match against Jericho made him look like the biggest choke-artist since Lex Luger drove a bus around the country.

Thankfully, Edge was turned heel, but he and Jericho seemed to both get lost on the RAW roster. Edge also suffered some more minor injuries, and his feud with Orton was cut short when Randy also seemed to get bit by the ever-present injury bug. Edge was shuttled back to Smackdown by the GMail, where he’s been serviceable as a face who still acts kind of heelish. Sadly, his feud with Kane was very silly (effectively killing his brief run as Guy Who Hates Stupid Shit) and Smackdown in general is fairly listless.

Speaking of the GMail, this became the year that RAW actually got a convincing General Manager. Sure, it’s in the form of a laptop, but to my surprise, it works. When that little noise goes off, the audience is now – like Pavlov’s dogs – conditioned to respond. This gimmick allows the WWE to have a General Manager who is neither face nor heel and is spared stupid backstage segments that Teddy Long always gets put in. Best of all, it got serious heat on Michael Cole, who is showing that deep down he is a real prick.

Michael Cole was a breakout star in 2010. He seems to have finally come to peace with the fact that no one was going to accept him as Jim Ross’s replacement, and rather than play the aloof commentator, he’s embracing his inner snark. This has had it’s good and bad sides. On the positive, it’s been a fresh character who actually garners a genuine reaction from the audience. On the negative, when he switches into the role of regular commentator, it feels forced and uncomfortable. You can’t be the hated heel in the fan’s eyes one second and the man hocking Skittles the next. Thankfully, Josh Matthews seems to be showing serious promise as the bland commentator and may be plugged in as the third man on Monday Nights.

Cole’s heel antics have benefitted The Miz greatly. 2010 was a year of breakout stars, and The Miz is certainly near the top of that list. When he won the Money in the Bank, people were hesitant. First off there was the fact that we saw what happened to Kurt SwAngle earlier in the year. Swangle won the World Heavyweight Championship only to be forced to carry a go-nowhere feud with Big Show and ultimately be jobbed back to the midcard. Second, there’s the fact that everyone expected Miz to lose when he ultimately cashed it in.

The Miz got all sorts of boosts this year. His one-sided feud with John Cena in 2009 was a prelude for 2010, where he won the United States Title and made it seem like a big deal. Miz got much better on the microphone, getting fans to sing along with his promos in a way they do with few others. He seems different and…gasp…exciting, on top of being a mainstream talent. On top of Cole’s help, Miz got a big boost when he was named a coach for the new NXT concept.

The WWE loves bating Internet fans. They relish it because it’s a way to get a reaction from people who seem above getting worked up by the product. When the company announced that once ECW was finally allowed to sink to the bottom of the ocean it would be replaced with a competition show, we were skeptical. When they said it would feature Bryan Danielson, we said “Who gives a fuck? It’s Danielson on television!” When they said his name was Daniel Bryan and he would be subservient to midcarder Miz, we said, “Zuh?” Okay, so maybe everyone didn’t say zuh, but I’m sure some of you did.

I was fine with Miz being Bryan’s mentor because I saw what the WWE was doing. Daniel Bryan is one of the best living wrestlers, but he isn’t exciting to a Sports Entertainment crowd. The fans needed a reason to cheer for him above and beyond the fact that he could work. Bryan played well against The Miz, as both guys knew their role. Bryan was the clear ring veteran who figured he had nothing to learn from Miz, while The Miz played the Vince McMahon role as a guy who felt that being an indie darling meant nothing if you weren’t a Superstar.

In the end, The Miz got better and better. Now, as the WWE Champion, he has mainstream coverage that Vince loves and has the opportunity to compete in fresh main events, which the audience has been craving. While a lot of his success is a testament to his hard work (yes, he got his foot in the door thanks to The Real World, but that foot was repeatedly slammed in the door frame by guys like JBL), he owes a debt of gratitude to NXT.

NXT was a success despite being a failure. I said all last year that if NXT could create one new star that it was worth the entire experiment. Well, based on that framework, they certainly succeeded.

NXT spawned the biggest single angle of the year, and one of the biggest angles of the decade. When the NXT rookies attacked John Cena and became Nexus, some stars were born.

First, there was Daniel Bryan, who, thanks to a tie-choking incident was fired, became an indie martyr. Everyone wound up becoming a winner here. The indies won because they got Daniel Bryan for a few months at a point in time where he became obsessed with getting over the concept of supporting local wrestling organizations. Daniel Bryan won because he became an even bigger star than before when the WWE audience began chanting his name and guys like Shawn Michaels and John Cena came to his defense. And the WWE won because they generated controversy (which always draws eyeballs) and, when they brought back Bryan, got an even bigger star than when they fired him.

Next, there was The Nexus itself. When was the last time the WWE created a successful, sustaining stable? Nexus attacking Cena was brutal and shocking, which did set the bar a little too high for them to keep crossing. It didn’t matter, because Nexus was the angle that would not die. Despite an initial cooling off period and the fact that most of the people involved weren’t very good in the ring, Nexus had several “big” moments in their early stages.

Nexus was allowed to take out a host of Legends, eliminate Bret Hart, eliminate Vince McMahon and main event Summerslam. When they lost Daniel Bryan (their biggest established name), they adapted. When it became clear that a guy like Darren Young couldn’t hang, they dropped him and moved on. When they lost Skip Sheffield to injury, they just kept going. Nothing seemed to kill this angle, despite the fact that they were fast becoming The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team of the WWE.

When John Cena was unable to best Nexus, the fans genuinely took them seriously. They were forced to. This is how you get a heel stable over, and something that Vince always seemed hesitant to do. Sure, Cena did wind up getting his revenge, but it didn’t matter as 2010 came to a close with CM Punk joining the group.

The final big thing coming from Nexus was one of the biggest surprises of 2010. NXT created a new main event heel force in Wade Barrett. He went from Jericho’s protégé with the stupid jacket and flower to a legit World Title contender in less than a year. Barrett delivers one hell of a promo, and while he isn’t electrifying in the ring, he isn’t embarrassing either. Wade Barrett overshadowed Sheamus as the top rookie heel of the year, and is the breakout star of 2010…despite being buried under a pile of chairs.

The last big story of 2010 is the significant lack of a new established main event face. Orton was finally turned full-fledged face, but he isn’t a “new” name. It’s the same Orton as before, only now when he goes to kick someone in the head, the fans cheer. I’m talking about a new wrestler who breaks out as a face.

Faces sell t-shirts, generate ratings and put asses in seats. The WWE created a grand total of zero true main event faces in 2010. Our biggest names are still John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge and Rey Mysterio. No Kofi Kingston, despite the fact that he’s shown that he’s ready and deserves a chance. No John Slo-Mo-Rrison, who is only now getting a shot at the top after languishing for 10 ½ months. No Evan Bourne, who put on a great (and largely forgotten) mini-feud with Jericho before being forced to team with Mark Hey-Hey-Henry and then vanishing due to injury. No Daniel Bryan, who went from surprise Summerslam entrant to guy involved in a story with The Bella Twins.

The WWE created three quality heel main eventers in 2010 with The Miz, Sheamus and Wade Barrett. Those three are more than capable of handling the heavy lifting over the next 12 months. Along with the surprisingly capable Alberto Del Rio on Smackdown, they are going to be your top heels for the next year. Unfortunately, there is no companion face for any of them. 2011 should hopefully be the year of the face, especially when there are such compelling heels.

Nexus provides a nice opportunity for the WWE to create new faces at the lower level. When Gabriel and Slater held the tag titles, I thought for sure a capable tag team would beat them. Instead, it was Borscht Marinara, Kozlov and Santino. Sure, they entertain, but they aren’t a credible threat. This was a missed opportunity.

In the end, 2010 for the WWE was a year of significant roster losses, surprising storyline twists and new faces (well, heels, but you know what I mean).

Whew, that was fun. I know I missed a lot and I didn’t touch on TNA and ROH (I will get to them next week), but hopefully this will hold you until then. Remember, you can follow me on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/awheeler316), friend me on Facebook and, as always, post your comments in the section down below.

The RAW Judicial Review for 1/3/11

“Yessir we promised you a great main event.”

We open with a recap of the Nexus/Cena/Punk angle. Cole keeps saying “Nexus and The Numbers Game” that I’m shocked someone hasn’t made that into a punk band. I will give kudos to WWE Production for tainting the Nexus attack with yellow, Punk’s attack with red and then turning the screen red-yellow when Punk put the arm band on.

After the promo, we get an uncomfortably close shot of Michael “Casual Male” Cole who lets us know that John Cena is hurt and won’t be there. Cole hypes the fact that tonight we will see the WWE Title Match as the inaugural bout of 2011. So I guess we can get the shenanigans out of the way early to set up the Fatal Fourway for the PPV.

How come on the awful Nickelback song they can say “balls out” on a PG show? That’s farking bullspit.

There’s pyro, there’s ballyhoo, there’s grooves, it’s a Playtone Record. Wait, no, it’s Monday Night RAW. Cole says that they’re in the desert, despite the fact that Phoenix is a pretty major city.

Justin Roberts points out that this is the first match of 2011, so I guess Ring of Honor doesn’t count. Who am I kidding, of course they don’t count. They’re wrestling when THIS is Sports Entertainment.

WWE Title Falls Count Anywhere Match: The Miz w/ Mizfit v. John Slo-Mo-Rrison

Awesome, The Miz is out first. I hate it when they have the champion come out first. Cole points out that he will be calling this by himself tonight because Jerry Lawler was assaulted by The Miz, which is cruel because we all know Jerry has a sodium problem.

Oh good, as we come out of the replay, we find out that Cole is joined by Josh “Mini-Orton” Matthews.

John gets his full slow-motion entrance as Cole calls this the biggest match of his career. You know, because the ECW Title thing never ever happened.

Miz jumps Morrison during his entrance, which is dangerous because he was almost sucked into the slow motion vortex. Miz and Mizfit double-team Morrison but an errant Miz punch knocks out Mizfit. Morrison rams Miz into the entrance ramp before hammering away on Mizfit. John bounces Mizfit off of the giant WWE logo, which breaks. Morrison climbs the WWE Sign and leaps onto Miz and Mizfit for two. Remember folks, he’s a student of Parkour. You know he’s butter cause he’s on a roll.

Morrison beats Miz up the ramp and launches him into the ring. Well, falls do count anywhere, so it would be crazy if it ended in the ring. Miz comes out of nowhere with an elbow for two before busting out the Randy Orton-esque stomps.

Miz props Morrison on the top turnbuckle as he tries for a superplex. John punches him off and hits a missile dropkick for two. Morrison hammers Miz into the corner as we get a replay of Morrison coming off the stage, which Matthews said he’s never seen despite a very similar spot being nominated for a Slammy like 3 weeks ago.

Morrison catches Miz with a Flying Chuck before hitting the running knee. Mizfit breaks up the pinfall, so Morrison beats the crap out of him. John props Mizfit on the barricade and hits a running knee, which was also a Butter Substitute style.

John then just kinda stands there and watches Mizfit for a good minute, which does nothing but make him look like an idiot. Miz looks stoned as we fade to…

Commercial.

We’re back and Miz has set up a steel barricade off the side of the stage and tries to suplex Morrison through it. John blocks the suplex and tries it himself but Miz breaks free. John then gets back-bodydropped through the steel guardrail for two.

Miz slowly lifts Morrison so that we can get a replay of his lackey getting murdered. Miz rams Morrison’s chest into the entrance stage and connects with a knee for two. He starts getting all flummoxed, which is a nice way to build up that Morrison is a tough guy. Miz hiptosses John onto the entrance ramp for two.

The Miz escorts Morrison down the ramp with a headlock, as is the custom in the Southwest. Miz rams him into more barricades before tossing him back into the ring. The Miz then starts kicking Morrison while yelling “I’m better than you,” which makes sense seeing as how he won the WWE Title and never had to have Batista’s sloppy seconds.

Miz and Morrison trade blows before John hits a spinning heel kick for two. John rams Miz into the turnbuckle and hits a Side-Russian Leg-Sweep. Morrison goes for Starship Pain but Miz blocks it and hits the Reality Check for two. Miz can’t believe that his old finishing move didn’t beat Morrison the same way Hunter used to be shocked when someone kicked out of the Spinebuster.

Miz locks in the SCF but John rolls out in a fairly effeminate way. Miz charges Morrison but hits the steel post. John goes for Starship Pain and hits this time for two. Wow, I didn’t know The Miz got finishing move immunity. Guess he really is a main eventer.

Morrison goes for a knee but Miz rolls him up for two. Miz connects with an elbow but John just kicks him in the skull. Dang. The fans chant for a table, and that inanimate object has more heat than half the roster.

John goes for Starship Pain with Miz on the table but The Miz moves and John nails the table for two. On the replay you realize how that could have gone very badly very quickly, so kudos to Morrison for not killing himself.

Miz locks in another SCF attempt and this time hits it on the outside for the pin. That was a pretty damn spirited match and it made The Miz look like a more credible champion. Wow, good booking from the WWE right out of the gate. I guess there’s nowhere to go but down.

Commercial.

We’re back with members of the Phoenix Suns, which Matthews points out is part of the NBA. Vince Carter is there, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Vince Carter is still in the NBA?”

We get a new WWE interviewer named Scott something. Hope he doesn’t pull an Adamle. He’s with The Miz, who says that his win proves that he’s WWE Champion. Yeah, that’s the idea. Miz says that he’s awesome and his reign will go down with him as the best and most NBC Thursday Champion ever.

Cole is back on camera and he has a man-gasm over Miz’s win. We then throw to highlights of Melina/Natalya. That’s like following The Beatles with Hanson.

Melina, Maryse & Alicia Fox v.

Cole says that it’s red carpet all the way, but I don’t have the heart to tell him that Alicia’s red hair is fake.

Commercial

Melina, Maryse & Alicia Fox v. WWE Tramp Stamp Champion Natalya, Eve and Brie Bella

We only get one Bella twin? Odd. Brie starts it off with Maryse and they roll around on the mat. Maryse rolls out of the ring so Brie follows her. As she tries to run back in, Maryse drops her on her face. Maryse smacks her in the head a few times as Eve and Natalya respond by trying to get the crowd to clap. It’s kinda hard for the fans to clap when they’re at the concession stand.

Brie rolls out of the ring and does a switch with Nikki. Nikki gets whipped into the ring and hits an X-Factor for two. Alicia breaks it up. Natalya gets tagged in and she suplexes Fox. Nat gets dropped across the top rope by Melina, who now gets tagged in as the legal woman. Eve gets tagged in and hits a neckbreaker for the pin? Well, so much for Melina being a legitimate threat.

Commercial.

I love how the Royal Rumble commercial gives away the finish. Then again, I guess if they ended it with Tyler Reks saying he was going to win it wouldn’t pass the straight-face test.

WWE Tag Champions Borscht Marinara w/ Snukette v. Greek Booze

So Snukette is accompanying the tag champions instead of her former team. Floozy.

Vlad and one of the Boozers start it off. Vlad slams him as Matthews points out that this is Jimmy because he has a tattoo on his chest. Yeah, like I’m going to spend that much time figuring that out.

Santino and Boozer lock up as Marella takes him down with a legsweep. Boozer hits an elbow off the ropes before tagging in Other Boozer. Other Boozer punches Santino but Marella tags in Kozlov, who launches Other Boozer. He hits a headbutt and scoops up Boozer for a slam but there’s some kind of botch and Boozer gets tagged back in.

Other Boozer is in now and he drags Kozlov towards their corner but he fights back with leaping pushups. He tags in Santino and we get Wacky Offense for two. Kozlov botches getting knocked over the top rope, which is hard to do when you screw up GRAVITY. Santino goes for the Cobra but gets hit with a Samoan Drop for the pin. Kozlov goes nuts in the ring after the match and Santino and Snukette do a double-cobra on one of Greek Booze.

In case you didn’t know, Tough Enough is coming back to USA Network. Josh Matthews points out that he was on the first season and it made his career…almost a decade later.

CM Punk is in the back fixing his armband as we go to…

Commercial.

We’re back and here comes CM Punk, who is wearing his Nexus armband. Punk starts off by saying how much he loves being in Phoenix. If I didn’t know he was Straight Edge, I’d swear he was high.

CM Punk says he spent most of the day looking for John Cena, and he can’t see Cena. He says that Cena isn’t there tonight. So for all those weeks he was fired he was there, but now that he’s rehired he’s not at RAW? Lazy bastard.

Punk says he delivered in spades on his promise. He is a man of his word, a three time world champion and the recipient of Jane Lynch’s haircut. CM Punk says that Nexus begged him to be their new leader, so last week he led them like Moses led all those Comedy Writers, Accountants and Lawyers.

Matthews said that when Punk put the armband on, the mood was about to change. Yeah Josh, he joined Nexus, not Team Taz. Punk says that Hustle, Loyalty, Respect was a phony catchphrase to John Cena, but it’s how CM Punk lives his life. Punk tells Cena to stay home and watch as he takes over RAW.

Wade Barrett emerges from under a pile of chairs in the back. He says that Punk not being there has nothing to do with Punk and everything to do with Wade. See, since Wade was so reckless in the ring…I mean dominant in the ring…he’s the reason Cena isn’t there.

Punk says that Nexus needs new management. Wade says that CM Punk is a waste of skin, which is a lie because look at the artwork on his arms. Barrett says Punk isn’t a leader but rather a liar. He claims that Punk lies about being Straight Edge, so Punk says it’s time to settle it.

Nexus comes out and Justin Gabriel is growing quite the hair-met. Also, why does Husky bother putting on a hat but no pants?

David Otunga says that with all due respect, they both make good points. That made no sense. The GMail goes off, “and I paraphrase…” tonight there will be 3 participants in a steel cage match for the WWE Championship. It’ll be either Wade Barrett or CM Punk versus Sheamus versus Randy Orton.

Punk gives the spot to Wade Barrett. CM Punk says he’s a talker and if he has to fight Wade to get the #1 Contender Spot, he’ll just give it to Barrett. He says that if Wade wins, Punk will say Wade is the true leader of Nexus and he’ll work for him. If Wade loses, Punk says Barrett is out of Nexus. I haven’t seen this many people fight over who can rule a bunch of midcarders since the last time JBL held wrestling court.

Commercial.

Did you know that the WWE is as popular as Silly Bandz, which’ll be around forever like New Coke.

Cole and Matthews remind us that we have no Jerry Lawler tonight, so if you have a daughter, make sure she’s locked up tonight.

We relive the great Falls Count Anywhere match earlier tonight, which hopefully won’t be forgotten this time next year.

Ricardo Rodriguez is here to introduce Alberto Del Rio, who comes out in a fancy car. Del Rio should be careful, they are in Phoenix after all. Hope he has his papers.

His name is Alberto Del Rio, but you may call him JBLatino. Del Rio says that he will be the World Heavyweight Champion…which is on Smackdown. Clearly, he’s lost. Del Rio says his density is to destroy everyone…I mean…his destiny. Alberto says that on RAW, his name will be emblazon in the heart and mind of the WWE Universe. And no, that’s not the correct use of emblazon.

JBLatino calls the crowd “You people,” which gets interrupted by…ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Resurrection-Truth comes out in a denim vest as the cameramen strain to find some black people cheering. Truth says that what’s up is for him to go back where he came from. This is Arizona, they can make that happen. He promises to send him dere. He then smacks JBLatino in the face before yelling “What’s up” yet again.

JBLatino v. Resurrection-Truth

Truth fires off some punches before doing cartwheels and splits. He clotheslines Alberto over the top rope, showing that it is possible to do that move correctly. Truth leaps over the top and crashes on Alberto on the outside and knocks him into a…

Commercial.

We’re back and Truth is hammering away on JBLatino. The crowd counts along in English for fear of getting rounded up. Truth slams him for two as he shows he can go two moves in a row without dancing. Truth gets kicked in the chest and takes an armbreaker for two.

Alberto hammers away and gets two before locking in an arm rest hold. Truth battles back but his injured arm gives out and Alberto uses an armdrag to get two. That’s inventive. We get another arm rest hold, which allows Matthews to prattle on about the Royal Rumble.

JBLatino charges Truth but he lowers the ropes and Alberto again goes over the top. See Kozlov, it’s not that hard. Once back in the ring, Truth hits several clotheslines and a hiptoss for two. Alberto rolls to the outside of the ring and rams Truth’s arm into the ring post. Once he’s back in the ring, JBLatino locks in the Cross-Arm-Breaker for the win. It almost looks like Truth forgot that he was supposed to tap.

Commercial.

How does one leave their brain at a party and still drive home? Considering he had no cerebral cortex, the damage to that car is pretty minimal.

Nexus is in the back with Wade. Barrett says that he’s the true leader of Nexus and he made them all stars. He said he made Gabriel and Slater champions and he can make everyone champions. Wade says that Punk is selfish and he’s going to use all of them for his own gain. CM Punk wanders on screen and sums this all up by saying that he wishes him the best of luck. Yep, nothing better for your career than to be wished best of luck.

Randy Orton is in the back staring into space before New Guy shows up. Orton says last year meant nothing to him because all he remembers is Miz beating him for the title. Uh oh, he’s going senile. Randy says last year he was too nice and he showed human compassion and hesitated kicking Jericho in the skull. He’s resolved to the fact that nice guys finish last and that clichés are better than promos.

#1 Contender Match: Randy Orton v. Sheamus v. Wade Barrett

Commercial.

Sheamus is out first and you gotta wonder whose rental car he dinged up to be forced to wear that outfit. Wade Barrett is out next but we cut to a graphic about John Cena returning next week. I hear voices as Randy Orton come out, and they’re telling me that they’re shocked how minimized Orton’s felt over the past few weeks.

Wade tries to escape first so Sheamus and Orton double-team him. Sheamus tries to escape but Wade and Orton stop him. Wade goes for Baba O’Reilly but Orton slips out thanks to all that baby oil and tries to escape, but the heel stop him.

Sheamus stomps Orton in one corner while Wade tries to run out over the top rope, despite the fact that there’s a DOOR. Sheamus clotheslines Wade down and he tries to escape, looking like a full moon on a dark night. Cole points out that he’s gingerly climbing, which I guess was his attempt at making a funny. Orton pops up and clotheslines Sheamus down so he can go to the door. Then, when he’s really far away from the door, he turns around and coils like a viper. He does realize he isn’t really a snake, right?

Commercial.

We’re back and Orton is perched on top of the cage with Sheamus holding his leg. Sheamus slips and Randy almost breaks free but Sheamus gets a front facelock, which Cole calls “high drama.” Get it? Because they’re dangling off of a steel cage. Today’s JR’s birthday and instead of calling wrestling he has to listen to this.

Barrett shows up and finally they pull Orton back in. Randy responds by laying them out. He dropkicks Sheamus into the cage and then licks his lips as he goes for the Second Rope DDT. Wade tries to escape, but Randy stops him. He must have equally-beady eyes in the back of his head.

Randy goes for two Second-Rope DDTs but they thankfully break up the nonsense. Sheamus backdrops Orton into the cage and everyone’s down and holding their heads.

Sheamus climbs slowly but Orton stops him. Wade jumps Randy from behind as he holds back Orton for Sheamus to wail on him. The heels hit a double-suplex before turning on one-another.

Sheamus whips Wade into the turnbuckle, but Barrett reverses. Wade climbs out of the ring but Orton catches his leg before slipping off (that damn babyoil). He climbs back on and props Wade on the top rope and superplexes him off it. Cole reminds us that this is Monday Night RAW, in case we were confused.

Sheamus hits a Drinking Problem Backbreaker on Orton and then bounces Wade’s nose off the cage, which seems to fix it. He then rams it against the cage again, which once again breaks it.

Sheamus climbs to the door but Orton stops him. Sheamus now tries to climb over the top but Barrett cuts him off. Wade and Sheamus trade punches until Barrett hits a pumphandle slam. Randy comes out of nowhere with some punches but he gets put down with a sideslam. I guess Wade’s trying to injure all of RAW’s main event to be champion by default.

Wade and Sheamus fight on the top rope as Sheamus’s head gets rammed off the top of the cage. Barrett is all alone and instead of climbing out, he goes for an elbow and gets caught in the ribs with knees. Well, there’s his punishment for injuring Cena.

Sheamus gets to his feet and he measures for the bicycle kick but Orton comes out with clotheslines. He hits the Vintage Scoopslams on both guys before hitting an Angle Slam on Sheamus. Randy connects with the Second Rope DDT but Sheamus tries to climb out of the ring only to be stopped.

Orton and Sheamus are now both down and as Wade climbs out of the ring, Punk runs out and offers his hand to help Barrett. Wade takes it and gets lifted up so that he can rip off Barrett’s armband. He kicks Wade down to the mat and heads to the back.

Sheamus demands that the ref opens da doah before hitting the bicycle kick. He goes to the door but gets hit with an RKO. Randy slowly climbs out of the ring as the fans celebrate.

This has been for your consideration.

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