Tuesday Morning Backlash: WWE Monday Night Raw Review (Edge’s Retirement, John Cena, The Miz, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole)

WWE Monday Night Raw was last night and you know what time that makes it – time for a review. As we move away from WrestleMania 27, the new direction of the show begins to take shape, and what a different shape it is.

Vince McMahon, in turning away from wrestling, has promised a product like we’ve never seen before. This week, he began delivering on that. Raw was a show of experimentation, of different emotions and new talent. Did every segment hit? No. It’s experimentation; everything doesn’t always work. All we can hope is that WWE correctly tabs what is and isn’t working.

The opening promo was an interesting one. Generally, when young guys get to come out for promos with big stars, they get immediately overshadowed, as the lower card guy talks, but the upper-card either comes out later or just gets the last word. That was not the case on Raw, as they worked down the card from John Cena to Randy Orton to John Morrison to Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero to R-Truth. Orton and Cena delivered their usual fare, so let’s focus on the others. Morrison actually had the content, but his stance was strange, as he faced slightly away from those he was talking to. It detracted from the message that he belonged with them and visual queues like that are important. Ziggler didn’t have the issues of Morrison, yet Vickie still absolutely blows him away. He’s going to be a top guy, or at least remain around the top since he’s so committed to his character, but Vickie really has to tone it down when he’s going to talk too. Finally, R-Truth said that he hadn’t had a one-on-one title shot is “what’s up” which is the opposite of what he means. I doubt anyone backstage knows that, though, so despite his promo being so off, he’s weak. More on these guys when they get in the ring to close the show, but, thus far, they each showed in their own way why they’re a step below Orton and Cena.

From here, the Bellas won the Divas Title for the first time. This is their first time with the belt, but is a questionable move. Is twin magic working to cheat to retain the title really that different from LayCool’s Freebirds-style act? I guess, ultimately, it’s irrelevant, as they’re placeholders until Kong shows up to change everything. I can’t recall a Diva ever getting pre-debut vignettes. Adding in the new Eve storyline where she calls out Divas for their selfishness means it seems that we’re getting a change to the division, finally. The Eve storyline seemingly portends adding depth to their characters, while Kong means they wouldn’t all be from the same cookie cutter mold. This is the most interested I’ve been in the Divas in recent memory.

Sin Cara had his in-ring debut with, strangely, no mention of Sheamus. That’s clearly the feud they’re going with, so apparently they thought it better to rest the Sheamus character whilst they build Cara up. This is a good example of how helter skelter the business can be, as it would have been far more logical to let Sheamus continue with Daniel Bryan for the time being while Cara got his squashes out of the way. Still, this is likely a one-week hiatus so it’s hardly unforgivable.

Cara was certainly a lucha on Raw. The spots were impressive, but nothing we haven’t seen out of the SAT, so take it with a grain of salt. Primo, as usual, blew some selling, then a big spot, throwing Cara off balance as he fell to the floor from the top. That’s why he’s rarely on Raw. Cara was, blown spot or not, impressive enough, since what passes for a high flier in WWE is Rey Mysterio, who hasn’t really flown much in almost a decade. His push will continue, but on a day Matt Cross was eliminated from Tough Enough, we’re reminded he’ll need more than just flashy spots.

APPLE, Santino, Daniel Bryan, Evan Bourne and Mark Henry acting as the Job Squad for Corre for one week is amusing, but I hope it doesn’t last. WWE hasn’t done a face stable in over a decade at this point. The problem is that with Santino at their head, there is simply no way they are taken seriously. Corre, on the other hand, are meant to be taken seriously, so there’s really no way for a feud between the groups to work. This one is in need of a re-thinking, although, again, it worked as a one-off to give the Corre a win.

The Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler angle got a minor new twist with Cole pissing off Jack Swagger to the point where it ends their alliance and, if you think their alliance has ended, you haven’t been watching long. This is pretty clearly set-up to get this feud going even longer, as Swagger is getting such great heat with Cole, they’d be crazy to separate them. This, along with Ziggler being with Vickie, seems like a quiet re-birth of the manager. Alex Riley and Ricardo Rodriguez merely further that and, moreover, they’re all paired with top wrestlers. Yet another everything old is new again experiment from WWE. Unfortunately, as good as that is, they took Lawler from wily vet to utter moron in just one night, as his choice of a tag match for he and Ross vs. Swagger and Cole is absurd. He could have made it 3-1 or, since he really just wants revenge on Cole, just a simple cage match. This angle has gone badly off the rails.

Triple H and Undertaker then got a video package about how great their match was, as various superstars discussed it. This is something Scott Keith has been yelling about for years – make your big matches and big moments matter. The focus doesn’t need to always be on great matches, but when it is and when one occurs, highlighting them and making them feel important just makes the entire show feel more important. This wasn’t strictly necessary, but is still something I’d like to see more of. The whole endeavor puts me in the same mindframe as TNA’s Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe from Lockdown that did one of their best buy-rates. These packages and ideas can’t be overused, but sparingly, they will help the product.

The main event gauntlet was, simply, a mess. Someone was getting a new-push here and they absolutely chose the wrong person in Truth. The guy just isn’t a good worker or speaker. I would guess that he made a big deal about having more to offer after being left off WrestleMania and is getting the “I like that he has balls” push from Vince. Still, I fully expect him to get this little push, prove, once more, he’s nothing special, and go away. Hey, it’s new talent. Be careful what you wish for, fans.

Nexus returning to take out Orton was predictable, as was Cena making sure he was going after the title again. That leaves Ziggler and Morrison right where they were before, feuding together. Those two feuds stay exactly the same after Wrestlemania, as noted last week.

So, that’s all from Raw. We continue our post-WrestleMania tradition of going with the exact same feuds for at least another month, with only minor twists changing things up. Still, while the feuds have been the same, the storytelling has changed greatly. They are trying different ways of getting their point across and, while I’m mostly emotionally done with these feuds, I’m also excited to see WWE try different ways of telling stories and hope this continues even if only the Divas division has born fruit thus far.

And as for Edge’s retirement? I’m happy for him. He gets to retire and hopefully fully recover and be healthy. Wrestling is poorer without him, but, well, his health is so far and away more important that I could not care less about the WWE Smackdown aspect of it. Wheeler will give a career retrospective later in the week and, as he’s Edge’s biggest fan, he’s far more qualified to do so than I am. Goodbye Edge. I’m happy you got to go out as champion, with your health.

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