Tuesday Morning Backlash: WWE Monday Night Raw 2/28/11 Review (Rock vs. John Cena, Wrestlemania 27 Build, Triple H Buries Talent)

Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Backlash. Tuesdays are, from now on, going to mostly be a Raw Review. We’ve got a Recap, thoughts, and commentary, so why not complete the coverage with a review of the show? Let me know if you like the ideas and format in the comments below.

Opening Raw with Triple H cutting a promo wasn’t a terrible idea. There’s a lot of nostalgia in place for H since he hasn’t been seen in nearly a year, so letting him come out and talk is both a good way to play off of that and a good way to build heat for the Undertaker Wrestlemania match without having them have to come into contact again. Again, this segment was a very good idea… until Triple H actually opened his mouth.

It is an oft spouted truism that you never speak ill of your opponent. If you do, and the guy beats you, then you lost to a nobody and if you beat him, then you’ve accomplished nothing impressive. Triple H didn’t violate that rule (this time) in that he spoke glowingly of Undertaker, but, instead, he buried the entire rest of the locker-room stating that he and Taker were the only two that mattered and they were more important than everyone else. Well, geez, I sure do feel stupid for watching and covering all those Pay Per Views the past year that didn’t feature you or Taker, Hunter, but did feature all that inferior talent. You can’t make it up. Then, to punctuate his statement of no one else mattering, H annihilated Sheamus completely casually. Sheamus has been crowing all year about putting Triple H out and didn’t even warrant a match or word to be brushed off.

There’s a rumor going around the ‘net about Kevin Dunn being down on Sheamus for his running away against Nexus. That sounds too ridiculous to be true, as I’m sure that’s the kind of thing that should be booked, not winged, but something is clearly up with Sheamus. Against John Morrison he essentially made a star, putting on great matches. After that feud, he’s jobbed cleanly to Mark Henry, got killed by Triple H, then pinned by the returning Evan Bourne. I’m not saying Sheamus is being squashed, but this entire situation bears watching.

The pin of Sheamus is a fairly big moment for Bourne since so much of his career has been being Sheamus’ ragdoll. I’d be more excited about Bourne if I thought they had any plans for him, but I cannot imagine them pushing Bourne when they have Sin Caras/Misitco. The win over Sheamus here really should have gone to Daniel Bryan. Bryan had that nice set-up for a feud with Sheamus last week. Instead, Bryan got crushed, as WWE has belatedly noticed they need to make Miz look dangerous. That really should have been R-Truth or Morrison’s spot, with Bryan beating Sheamus. I suppose they were too short on time to have Bourne debut and beat Tyson Kidd or Ted Dibiase, but, all around, even if those became Superstars matches in the long run, it would be a more coherent bit of booking.

The Rock and Shawn Michaels both gave promos. It’s really sad that both felt more live and, in the Rock’s case, more interactive than Triple H’s real promo in front of a crowd. Let’s cover Rock first: he was great. Everyone will now expect the Rock vs. John Cena build. I’ve already seen it mentioned as a Summerslam main event. However, I remember Wrestlemania 15. Mike Tyson was involved in the Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels match, clearly allied with HBK and it seemed they were setting up an Austin vs. Tyson feud long-term, only for Iron Mike to ally with Stone Cold last minute against the heels. That’s probably what we’re getting with Cena-Rock. They’ll verbally joust until the Miz does something abhorrent, or, really, just gets in The Rock’s face, and we’ll end Wrestlemania with a Rock-Cena handshake and celebration.

Shawn Michaels, it has been remarked numerous times, really is HBK. It isn’t really even much of an exaggeration on his real personality; he’s so over the top. The same can be said of Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, Triple H, and Scott Hall. Notice a trend? Every wrestler doesn’t have to live his gimmick- Taker’s a big biker not a Deadman and was less successful as the former when compared to the latter- but for a cocky heel it certainly pays off to be a cocky heel in real life. Luckily for Shawn, he gets to be a three-dimensional character due to being around for so long and having the boss’ ear for so long. Besides Daniel Bryan (thanks Michael Cole and Miz), pretty much every relatively new talent, and I mean from Orton and Cena on down, are very much cartoons. People can claim that’s because of TV PG, but numerous PG shows, Toy Story 3 for example, show great character depth without necessitating over-the-top violence or language. Caring about characters might get me to tune into Raw, but rooting for people will get me to pay for a PPV. That’s what we’ve lost with HBK leaving. When Jericho punched his wife in the mouth, it mattered. Who inspires that attachment now?

Jack Swagger has been off of television for a long while. Many consider him to have been in the doghouse, but it is at least as likely he was off television to wipe away the stink of him being fake-Kurt Angle. Being fake anyone is an iffy proposition, but to try it with an athlete as intense as Angle was bound to fail and Swagger came off goofy without seeming dangerous, while Kurt walked the line between the two. Swagger has all the physical tools needed to be a huge star. He’s huge, agile, can talk a bit, and knows his wrist-lock from a wrist-watch (I miss Gorilla). Working with Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole could be the best thing to ever happen to him. Cole will transfer a bit of that nuclear heat, while Lawler can teach him all the things physical gifts don’t grant like timing and when to make a comeback and how to make the crowd react to your big moves. Part of me really hopes Ted Dibiase is in this, as well, so he can be the guest referee and turn to aid Lawler. It’s more likely, though, that we get A-Ri here, since he can no longer be with the Miz. Lawler has to get the big win here and beat humility into Cole. The mystery GM, potentially Kevin Nash (he fits best of all those currently around, in my opinion), or Stone Cold, to get some visibility before Tough Enough, can take out the goon squad for Lawler’s payback. Some house shows until then and perhaps a bit after between Swagger and Lawler could make a world of difference in Swagger’s career.

I love Orton running the gauntlet of New Nexus members on Raw. That gives us time to build to Punk vs. Orton each week without them having to ever do the over-done pull apart brawls or face gets advantage then heel escapes and generic beatdown sequences we all know too well. Punk can now come out, cut a promo, and then Orton wrestles a match. Punk’s promos generate such heat that fans will be desperate to see Orton finally get his hands on Punk at Wrestlemania. This one, however, has some legs, so I fully expect all of New Nexus to be banned, only for someone new to turn up and cost Orton the match and keep this going. We got more than eight months of Nexus vs. Cena. We aren’t only getting two-three of Orton-Nexus.

Sin Cara/Mistico is going to get a huge push. If you’ve read any of Chris Jericho’s new book, Undisputed, then you should share some of my concerns about this. It took the distinguished Mr. Del Rio quite awhile to learn the WWE style for a push. Jericho came from WCW and took quite awhile to learn the WWE style and was the victim of a stop and go push. Sin Cara might get it immediately, but as he’s likely the last big star WWE can sign from outside the company, if he doesn’t get it, and WWE halts his push, it’ll be a huge, irreplaceable wasted opportunity. As much as I want the big debut, I’d prefer some FCW time then the big debut to be safe.

The John Cena vs. Alex Riley main event in the cage was abysmal. Part of it was Cena sold extremely awkwardly all night (notably at the end when Miz hit the SCF and he tossed his hands straight over his head) and part of it was because A-Ri wasn’t experienced enough to know how to time the slow climb and kept ending up in awkward spots because of it, but most of it was due to escape cage matches sucking. When the purpose of the match is built off avoiding contact and escape, you’ve fundamentally changed what wrestling is. Long ago, Jimmy Snuka figured a way around this by making the escape a physical confrontation and excuse for a huge spot. WWE, not willing to risk injury, although they could have with A-Ri, played it safe and had a main event that fell flat, like most of Raw.

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