A few days ago on this blog, I asked the question of whether RAW 1000th episode would be any good. I didn’t doubt that it would be a mostly entertaining show, based on WWE was planning, but had concerns that it wouldn’t do much to prepare more stars for the future.
So what is the answer to the above question? Well the short version is: yes, it was indeed a good overall show that provided many great memorable moments. But the long version? A different story altogether….
In this piece, I will be taking a close look at what I felt was good and what was not so good, the reasons why, and what it could potentially mean going forward.
The biggest highlight of the night for me was the one-off regrouping of D-generation X members HHH, Shawn Michaels, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac. After Vince McMahon’s surprisingly humble and understated opening, HHH and HBK kicked things off to an impressive reaction. After starting their popular routine, Michaels paused to tell Hunter that he felt something was missing: “Didn’t there used to be more of us?” That line got massive pop, and with it the others arrived in the familiar jeep and joined in with the heart-warming nostalgia piece. They span off all the classic catchphrases and HHH got in a few insider jokes (which worked well in context). All the guys seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves, and rightly revelling in the crowd’s reaction.
D-X role in the Attitude era sometimes feels understated, but this show was proof of how over their characters, and the whole concept of D-X, was during the 1998-2001 glory days. Admittedly it was of no real relevance to the current or future product, but on a night that was celebrating the best of RAW, it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Brother of Destruction
Much like the above, the return of The Undertaker and re-uniting with his ‘brother’ Kane was all about nostalgia for the Attitude Era; the Brother of Destruction were never more over (as a team) than during this period, and they’ve been involved in many a classic RAW moment. I’ve been a die-hard fan of both since their respective debuts, and was heartened to hear a “this is awesome” chant break out at one point. But few quibbles made it fall just behind the D-X reunion for me. One minor one was that I would like to have seen them more classic attire to befit the occasion. A somewhat more major one was that a whole bunch of lower card guys had to get slaughtered in the process.
I know full well that it was inevitable in an angle like this, but the fact that something similar happened a few other times on this show didn’t help. Still, the audience lapped in up, so almost seems remiss to nick pick.
C M Punk heel turn
Much more engaging and entertaining as heel, thanks to his self-righteous character naturally lending itself to villainy, it was a relief to finally see Punk go back to the dark-side. He did it in spectacular, show closing fashion too, pounding his more-than-likely ‘Rumble opponent The Rock, and being the lasting talking point as RAW went off the air. Probably the only sensible thing WWE did with long-term planning in mind, it has opened up a fresh new batch of scenarios leading into Wrestlemania 29. Props should go to The Rock for selling it well and allowing himself to shown as vulnerable in his first appearance for a while.
The only real grumble here is that the actual bout between Punk and Cena wasn’t very exciting; they should have rammed it with near falls to crank the tension up, as the pace often felt too slow which drained it of much atmosphere. The DQ ending also felt cheap, but if they are planning a rematch at Summerslam then it mostly made sense.
Reaction to HHH
The HHH/Lesnar segment got off to a slow start; the banter between HHH, Heyman and the Stephanie McMahon wasn’t very interesting, in-spite of how competent they all are on the mike. It wasn’t until Lesnar finally ran out to confront the Game that things picked up. The reaction to Brock was somewhat muted, but given how little he has been on the programming, that wasn’t surprising. However, whenever HHH got any moves in during their mini-brawl, the audience erupted; it is one of the loudest face reactions to Helmsley I’ve ever heard. Clearly the crowd was on a HHH-high after the D-X reunion, but hopefully The Game can ride the wave of popularity all the way to Summerslam. It is exactly what is needed to give their match that special aura, as the anticipation was fairly low for many before this show.
IC Title Match
OK, so the outcome of the battle absolutely sucked; why The Miz, after his destruction by Cena and subsequent months of burial, was selected as new champ is anyone’s guess. But from an in-ring action stand-point, the bout was the best of the night. The fans seemed underwhelmed, but for me this had the pace and flow the main event should have done. It was a shame to see an ultra-talented mid-carder like Christian, who was gaining momentum, lose on the most watched episode of the year. And Dolph Ziggler would have been a much better choice, if they had to do a switch.
Still they both gave a great effort and performed admirably. The introductions by the legendary Bret Hart were also a welcome touch, even if his mention of Mr Perfect lent it a bit of melancholy. Pity they didn’t allow him to talk more; Bret would have been the ideal choice to help emphasise the importance of the IC Title.
The AJ/Bryan Wedding
Totally flat and lacking the usual zaniness that accompanies WWE weddings, this segment was mostly a massive failure for me. The fans didn’t seem to give a toss about Slick, but given that the other nostalgia was geared directly at the Attitude Era, it doesn’t seem shocking. If WWE had thought to add a few more pre ’98 faces, then he may not have seemed so irrelevant. But then, there wasn’t a whole lot (good) that was memorable about the New Generation Era, was there? I’d half expected to see The Godfather arrive to tempt Bryan away with his bevy of Ho’s, but alas it wasn’t to be in these PG days.
The end (of sorts) in which AJ was revealed as the new GM was another dud; after the build up of both story threads, it was a disappointing end, and the audience showed their apathy by barely reacting, and I did the same at home. With nothing much else to say about it, lets move onto the next bit, which followed this directly…
The Return of The Rock
It do love The Rock, he is phenomenal talent on the stick, and a tremendous worker (when he pushes himself); unfortunately, the booking logic during this angle was totally fucked up, and soured the appearance of one of my long-time faves. Announcing that you have been granted a World Title match 6 months from now, despite not being a full time wrestler or having done anything in particular to earn it, feels like a huge slap in the face to the full-time guys. When The Rock was thrust into the main event of WM 28 after several years in the wilderness (i.e. Hollywood), there was a lot of talk of backstage resentment. In that instance, it wasn’t justified; The Rock main event status on the show was a larger factor in its record-breaking gross than any other, and everyone in the company benefitted from it financially. Also, The Rock was facing Cena in a legend Vs legend, once-in-a-lifetime capacity, and nothing other than pride was on the line.
However, returning again after a several month absence, and injecting yourself straight into the future Title picture is another kettle of fish; a championship shot is something that should be emphasised as being earned through hard work, not how big a name value you are. The belt is there as a reward for the full-time guys, a show of faith that WWE believes you have reached the upper echelon and can draw big. Unless he is intending on resuming full-time duties, The Rock should be kept out of the title picture; he already firmly entrenched in the top-bracket and there are many other legends he could work with instead. If they want to book Punk Vs The Rock, it should be done at ‘Mania, and be non-title.
Another casualty here was Bryan, who after suffering through the lousy wedding, was insulted by Punk and The Rock before being left flat on his back with a Rock Bottom. It really wasn’t his night at all.
Charlie Sheen on Skype
What can I say about these interminable moments really? Worst celebrity involvement in WWE ever? Quite possibly. At least they were all pretty short, but really they should never have happened. Still, being a long-term WWE fan, I’ve developed the ability to block these things out of my memory.
No Stone Cold
For all the brilliant nostalgia, it was totally gutting to not have a live appearance from the most important character in the history of RAW’s evolution. The montage of clips they ran somehow made it worse; being reminded of some of the wonderful moments he created only made his absence more disappointing. Some are speculating that Austin might be convinced to return for a feud and match with C M Punk at WM 29, but seeing how he didn’t make himself available for this show, it seems unlikely.
The show definitely had more great moments than bad, even considering the gaping flaws in the entire Wedding segment, and provided a solid 3 hours of entertainment that most B-level PPVs don’t. But the problem was that most of the fun and satisfaction was gained through pure nostalgia; trading off past glories was the theme of the night and although it was done in a joyful and affectionate fashion, it did nothing to prepare WWE for the future. The interactive elements gave me some encouragement and obviously Punks heel turn was smart decision, but Punk is already well established and as I stated before, unless WWE makes more new stars, then the interactive advances will become redundant. That said, I am more enthusiastic about seeing where WWE goes next than I have been for a long time, and that in itself is big positive for me.