WWE Monday Night Raw last night (Feb. 27, 2012) emanated from Portland, Oregon, and featured John Cena beating The Rock at his own game, John Laurinaitis and Teddy Long continuing their push for permanent General Manager of both major shows, and Chris Jericho laying out CM Punk.
- To those disputing my claim that John Cena owned The Rock last night: simply put, the traditional roles of the two were reversed and it painted the former in a far more flattering light than the latter. For too long, Cena was just the guy with a bad comedy act who didn't bring much more to the table than a goofy smile and the notion that he's always around (as if we ever need to be reminded, Mr. I Get Three Entrances On One Raw). Rocky, meanwhile, was the cool guy we all remembered from the revered Attitude Era, the polar opposite of a goof. He brings it. Whether that be the funny -- and he actually can be funny, unlike Cena -- or the intensity, that's what we can count on him for. So when Cena was the guy spitting hot fire while Rock was bumbling his way into another catchphrase, it felt like a clear win for the good guy. Or the bad guy, as it were. Either way, I'm not sure how anyone could have ended last night's show thinking Rock came away better.
- To take it one step further, or to expand on my point, the game is different now. Throughout all these years of Rock coming back and marks marking out for it, the fact that he just did his schtick and took off was fine because it wasn't leading anywhere. We'll cheer for nostalgia every time but if the direction is clear and we know he's coming back for what is, by his standards, a prolonged program, we're not popping for nostalgia anymore. It's time to bring the heat and that's what Cena came with last night while Rock was doing the same old routine. You don't need to convince me you have cool catchphrases; I know this already. It's about the match now, and who the better man is in this fictional world we accept as something much more than that. Whether it was by design or not, Cena hyped the match, Rock just hyped himself. And Kung Pao Bitch.
- This isn't to say I hate catchphrases or that they're bad. To the contrary, in fact, I think there's a lesson to be learned here for all the mid-card guys struggling to get over. Come up with a good (read: actually good) catchphrase and it can help play a major part in making you a star. Repeatedly saying you're "awesome" isn't a good catchphrase. That's been done to death by far better men than you before, so find something new. But think of all your favorite wrestlers from times past or all the guys who were big stars. Now think if they had a catchphrase to go with them. Then think of today's stars and how many decent catchphrases they have. Uh-huh.
- During the Road to WrestleMania, I expect more than just video packages. I really do. I know they wanted to make sure Rock had plenty of time to stand in the ring and pander to the crowd while looking at his wrist notes but is there a good reason Triple H and Undertaker were nowhere to be found outside of a documentary style video of their WrestleMania 27 match that we've all already seen 50 times? That's not good enough and it reeks of a creatively bankrupt writing team. When done properly, those video packages can really help sell a match. When put in place of actual live angle advancement as promotion, it just makes me want to watch an actual movie. Because they'll do it much better than a three minute video taking up space on Raw.
- Rock and Cena weren't the only two bringing that thunder on the microphone last night. No, Chris Jericho and CM Punk accomplished quite a bit in the amount of time they went face to face to argue over just who exactly is the best in the world (at everything they do). I wasn't so high on this feud until last night (hey, I guess Punk was right and I just need to wait to let things play out, derp da derp) when they actually provided a thought with more depth to it than a whiny sidenote. Punk attempting to get to the deeper issue with Jericho's problem and exposing the fact that he's just jealous of Punk's success was done proper. Mostly because Punk's words last night were true. Jericho really never was "the man," though it's arguable that Punk only occupied that slot for a very short time. And that was killed off by Triple H, but I digress. It was classic Punk and Jericho, though, rooted in reality. Sometimes we get caught up in the riff raff of things like cryptic promos and light up jackets. It's hard not to when such an emphasis is placed on them. But ultimately, it's about two pro wrestlers having a pro wrestling match and we should care about the result. Punk and Jericho were fantastic last night because they made the result of their WWE championship match at WrestleMania 28 feel important. That's all that really matters at the end of the day.
- That said, it really sucks that those cool cryptic promos were explained away simply as "window dressing." I get it, yeah, they painted themselves into a corner and screwed their own story by having Sheamus win the Royal Rumble as a swerve, therefore killing the "end of the world as we know it" idea they initially had. But please don't ask me to look deeper and then when I do, tell me I had no good reason to.
Thoughts on the rest of the show after the jump.
- One of the things I hate about WWE, because they do this constantly, is when they get lazy as bookers and just throw something together to throw it together. I don't mind this when it involves guys low on the totem pole because they wouldn't have anything to do otherwise but when it means dragging down one of the brightest young stars in the company, it's maddening. There is no reason Dolph Ziggler should be anywhere near a tag team triple threat match. The concept is goofy enough, but having him tag with Jack Swagger, while it makes sense within storyline (kind of), is a terrible idea. Swagger is a black hole for heat, a guy I wouldn't care about if he punched my mother in the face. It's bad enough he's still latched to Vickie Guerrero's hip, who has the opposite effect Swagger does. She's got nuclear heat damn near everywhere she goes. Between the two, Ziggler ends up getting lost in the fray and that's not at all how it should be. He's one of the most talented performers on the roster. Figure out something to do with him that doesn't involve just cobbling a bullshit match together and sticking him in it.
- Did you know Swagger is U.S. champion? Ain't that something?
- I really liked the opening segment between Punk and Jericho but there was something so awesome about them arguing over who is the best in the world and it ending with Daniel Bryan's music hitting to come out for his match with Punk. There were many, I'm sure, who were thinking, "Screw these two idiots, the best in the world just got here." Really, though, MAH BOY D-BRY is one of the best things going today.
- Excuse me while I sign this petition to get CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan on every WWE show from now until the company goes under.
- Hey, Eve got some promo time. And -- surprise! -- the WWE Universe (oh you're damn right I'm calling you that for this one) chanted a "Hoeski" line at her. Good one! Super original too! I'm not on a crusade this week, defending the honor of a damsel in distress or whatever you want to call it, just pointing out how easily amused we can be. I'll say we because I don't want to come off as high and mighty here but you're probably seeing right through it. Whatever. Eve's promo was good. Empowering. The right decision, too, because if you're going to roll with it, take it the full nine.
- We've come to a point in pro wrestling (who am I kidding, we've been past this point for a long time) where wins and losses don't seem to matter like they used to. This saddens me for many reasons but mostly because it's not true and people don't realize it. The effect constant losing has on a wrestler is something that slips past our thinking minds and straight to the part that just accepts things without question. That's why I hate watching Mark Henry job each week. The dude is getting laid out by everyone from Big Show to Sheamus and it's sad, not because of who he's losing to or even how he's losing but because he's constantly losing and whether we admit it in our thinking brain or not, that matters. In fact, when you stop and actually do think about it, you've already changed your view on him without realizing it. He's not the monster who strikes fear into the crowd anymore. He's just a guy getting beat on TV. That's it. My heart bleeds for him a little today.
- Whatever happened to that Alberto Del Rio guy?
- John Laurinaitis and Teddy Long are awesome characters when pitted against each other. Well, Ace is great on his own merits but I dig this feud because he looks even better against Long, a dude who comes up short in every way imaginable. Seriously, how stiff can you be in your delivery of even the most basic lines? Yeah, Laurinaitis mumbles and stumbles through his promos but he does it in that affable way you can't help but fall for after hearing it enough times. Long is just annoying at this point. It will make it all the sweeter to see Laurinaitis running both Raw and Smackdown, which has to be where this little get up is headed, right? We riot if not, right?
- Go away, Miz. I don't want to hear you bitch and moan about not having a spot at WrestleMania. I don't want to hear you whine about your declining career, which you yourself are mostly responsible for. In fact, you're lucky you ever had a career with your soft disposition and complete lack of ability to convince me you could bust a grape. Just go away, Miz.
- Cody Rhodes, on the other hand, you just keep on keeping on.
This was a damn good show for a lot of reasons, the biggest being the actual build towards WrestleMania and two major matches on the card -- John Cena vs. The Rock and Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk -- heating up in a huge way. Solid B+ from me this week.
But that's me. Now it's time for you to give your thoughts on last night's show. How did you grade it, Cagesiders?