Raw is BRET HART report by Todd Martin
WWE Raw Report
By: Todd Martin
Date: 01/04/10 from Dayton, OH.
The Big News: On a night when TNA pulled out all the stops, WWE was content to stand with a pat hand.
Bret Hart came out to start the show. His entrance music was remixed and I kind of wish they’d just kept the old music. Bret looked old and not in particularly good shape. Bret said that he wanted to come back to WWE previously but Vince always said no. He said he was grateful to talk to the “WWE Universe.” He thanked the fans and said he owes everything to the “WWE Universe.”
Bret asked Shawn Michaels to come out. Michaels did, and Bret called for a truce. That was greeted with boos. Michaels said Bret deserved what happened in Montreal for disrespecting him and the business. The crowd responded “you screwed Bret” and Bret said “I rest my case.” Michaels said there’s a big part of him that doesn’t regret any of that, but that another part of him knows in 12 years a lot of things have changed.
Shawn said that he always respected Bret but he felt that Bret didn’t respect him. He continued that when he thinks of Bret he doesn’t think of Montreal but instead Anaheim and the iron man match. Shawn said he’s ready to move on and bury the hatchet. Bret offered his hand in friendship. That got more boos than cheers, which says it all when you have two very popular faces. Shawn shook and that did get cheers. Shawn then teased sweet chin music but gave Bret a hug instead. Bret finally called out Vince McMahon but Vince didn’t come out.
Backstage, Vince McMahon was asked about Bret Hart’s remarks. He feigned not knowing what Bret said and added that he would engage with Bret on his terms. Thus, he announced he would call out Bret later on the show.
Maryse beat Brie Bella in the first match in the 8 woman tournament to crown a new women’s champion. They announced Melina was injured and wouldn’t be able to defend her title. I’m glad they did that rather than risking her health in a short angle or match. Brie used some throws on Maryse and a dropkick. Behind the referee’s back, Nikki threw Maryse into the announce table. Maryse was gaining control when the Bellas tried to do a switch. Maryse saw it happen so she just kicked Nikki and pinned her with the implant DDT.
This match utterly buried the Bellas, who were portrayed as cheating faces outsmarted and beaten fairly by the heel. And I say great. Put over Maryse strong. After the match, Miz came out and said that he might call Maryse back if she won the women’s title tournament.
MVP beat Jack Swagger, Carlito and Mark Henry for a shot at the US title. Swagger hit a power slam and corner avalanche on Carlito. Henry threw MVP over the top rope and gave Swagger a clothesline. MVP hit a yakuza kick on Henry, threw Carlito into Swagger, and gave Swagger the playmaker for the pin. This was mostly just spots, but it was fine.
Bret Hart met with Chris Jericho backstage. Jericho said he knows Bret really despises Michaels, and suggested Bret referee the tag title match later in the show. Bret said he really does want to put Montreal to bed. Jericho thought this was all an act. Bret got in yet another WWE Universe reference and said he remembers Jericho screaming in the dungeon.
DX beat Chris Jericho and Big Show. Before the match DX did comedy with Hornswoggle and Santino, who was pretending to be Chris Jericho. Hornswoggle then came to the ring with DX and was active throughout the match. I know it’s a children’s gimmick, but it’s hard for me to understate how much of a turnoff Hornswoggle is to me associated with a top act. I don’t think I’m in the minority on this either amongst guys in their 20s and 30s.
The heels worked over HHH. Show missed a Vader bomb and Michaels got the tag. He came in with flying forearms on Show but was crotched by Jericho when he went to the top. Hornswoggle ran in and gave Show a splash. Michaels covered but Show powered out. Michaels went for sweet chin music but was caught with a choke slam for two. Jericho tagged in, but Michaels avoided a lionsault attempt and a Walls attempt and go the tag to HHH.
HHH came in with a pedigree on Jericho, but Show made the save. HHH and Michaels then hit a combination pedigree on Show. Jericho attacked from behind sending HHH into Michaels and rolled up HHH for two. Jericho hit the code breaker on HHH but Michaels made the save. Hornswoggle went to interfere again but Jericho kicked him in the head. HHH went for a pedigree which was reversed into a Jericho Walls attempt but Michaels hit sweet chin music on Jericho and HHH covered for the pin. This was a very fun match.
After the match Jericho slowly got up and DX tried to get the crowd to sing goodbye to him but it didn’t take with the crowd at all. Probably because nobody with a brain could possibly buy that Jericho is gone. I don’t know why Jericho and Show lost, given Jericho helps Raw so much and they’ll bury their stipulations again when Jericho returns within the next two months. Really there should be a pool on how many weeks Jericho is gone.
Backstage, Randy Orton met with Vince McMahon. Orton had an offer for Vince in regards to Bret Hart, but Vince said that what Bret did to him was nothing compared to what Orton did to him. Orton responded that he knows Vince does business with people he dislikes, and he’d love to kick Bret Hart in the skull and send him out of the company. Orton said he would do that if Vince gave him the 30 spot in the Royal Rumble. Vince said that he has his own security and told Orton not to confront him again.
Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase approached Randy Orton afterwards. They said that they would return the favor from last week and sit ringside for Orton’s match this week. They added that if Orton lost, they would kick him out of Legacy and beat him up.
Sheamus beat Evan Bourne. Sheamus came out for a promo. He said that John Cena couldn’t beat him last week and that he will face a new challenger at the Royal Rumble. Evan Bourne came out and said that if given the opportunity he can beat Sheamus. Sheamus said that if Bourne beat him, he would give him Bourne a shot at the Royal Rumble.
Bourne went on offense quickly and hit the shooting star press but Sheamus powered out at two. Bourne came off the top again but was caught with a fall away slam and then a big boot and razor’s edge for the pin. Sheamus did the best job I’ve seen yet in this segment carrying himself as a star. I think he’s getting better on the mic too although he’s still quite limited as a performer.
The announcers acknowledged the passing of Dr. Death Steve Williams and put him over. They talked a little about his career and aired a graphic for him. I’m glad that they did and wish they would do this every time regardless of the circumstances of the person’s death (well, beyond a Chris Benoit situation, obviously).
Randy Orton beat Kofi Kingston. Orton worked over Kingston. Following a double crossbody, Kingston came back with a European uppercut, side Ghanan leg sweep and boom drop. Kingston set up for trouble in paradise but Orton went to the outside. Kingston pursued with a tope and hit the S.O.S. for two. The finishing sequence saw an RKO blocked, trouble in paradise blocked, and then Orton hit the RKO for the pin. Boy did they drop the ball on poor Kofi. DiBiase and Rhodes seemed disappointed at ringside.
Vince McMahon came out for the final segment. He said that Bret and Shawn put Montreal behind them so he will too. He thanked Bret for hosting and Bret came to the ring. Vince said that he really does believe Bret screwed Bret and he hasn’t forgotten the things Bret has done. He said he hoped Bret would apologize.
Bret responded that he is looking for closure. He got what he wanted from Shawn, and this was the chance for them to make peace. Vince reminisced on Bret’s career and how he fought to the top. Vince said he felt like a father figure to Bret, and wanted to nominate Stu Hart for the WWE Hall of Fame this year. Vince thanked Bret for being the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. They shook hands and Vince raised Bret’s hand. They paraded around the ring until finally Vince kicked Bret and walked off to end the show.
WWE has so many advantages over TNA in so many ways that it didn’t really need to respond to TNA’s challenge. And for the most part, it didn’t. This was just a standard Raw show, with only the return of Bret Hart standing out as something different. WWF didn’t change what it was doing much opposite Nitro at first either.
As far as the big angles with Bret Hart, I didn’t care for them much. Bret’s return to WWE is still very young, so of course there is plenty of time left for the angle to sink or swim. But tonight’s show seemed designed to take the raw nerves out of the whole angle. Bret twice referencing WWE Universe in the first two minutes, a term I don’t believe he’d use in a million years in real life, sent home the message that Bret was delivering WWE-scripted lines.
Hugging Shawn Michaels was not something that rung true to me either, having read Michaels’ and Hart’s books years after Montreal where they clearly still didn’t care for each other at all. And even if it is authentic, it isn’t what the crowd wanted to see.
WWE will have plenty of time to contextualize and explain the ending of the show, but I tuned out with much less interest in a Bret vs. Vince feud. They spent five minutes memorably burying the hatchet, and it was that part of the segment that stood out in my mind. Vince kicked Bret at the end, but that just felt like any old pro wrestling angle.
Emotionally, it felt like there was closure of the “real” issue between Bret and Vince, followed by the opening of a storyline issue between Bret and Vince. Vince reminiscing about his happy memories of Bret’s career felt much more authentic than him kicking Bret at the end, so that’s what I was left with.
Bret’s appearance, unfortunately, also hurts the angle I think. It doesn’t matter as much if it’s a guy who got by on promos, but Bret’s greatest strengths were his wrestling ability and skill. I love seeing Bret because he’s one of my all time favorite wrestlers and I’ll always remember his career fondly, but I’m not sure what younger fans are thinking. On second thought, if I have to suffer through Hornswoggle, they can live with Bret.
TNA is a promotion with some serious and obvious flaws, but watching Impact and Raw tonight, it felt like TNA is the hot promotion and WWE is the stale one. WWE is so fixed to its narrow formula vision of sports entertainment that it feels like you know everything that’s coming. The music openings for all WWE shows are the same. The fireworks are the same. The backstage segments are the same. The matches are the same. The comedy is the same. There isn’t the feel of unpredictability. Everything feels sanitized, and aimed at a young and unsophisticated audience.
TNA’s opening segment, for better and worse, was emblematic of how TNA is different. You had this ridiculous finish with a cage gimmick match ending in a no contest. Homicide is supposed to climb out the cage but he can’t make it. The crowd turns on the promotion. Homicide falls off the top of the cage and the camera misses it. And then Jeff Hardy just shows up unadvertised. In a lot of ways it was a disaster but it was also exciting to see performers out there without a seeming safety net.
If TNA tonight showed WWE that it needs to be more unpredictable and varied, watching WWE and TNA also sends the message that TNA needs to be much clearer with its storylines. WWE is always very careful to explain what’s going on, and that’s a good thing. You get video packages explaining the angles and they try to tie everything together.
Impact, by contrast, was full of inside references and rapid fire references to all sorts of things happening all at the same time. TNA needs to make sure their product is available to more than just the most hardcore wrestling fans. I’m not sure that tonight’s show was, even if I found it more enjoyable than Raw.