Have you ever watched a movie and immediately felt like you were watching a masterpiece? It's happened to me maybe 2-3 times, and each time, a sense of euphoria and "all is right with the world" came over me for at least a small amount of time afterwords. Though I don't think I've ever gotten that feeling from a wrestling show, this Monday's Raw came awfully close. This show masterfully combined the culmination of an amazing career with a glimpse into life without "The Showshopper". If this show was any indication, although Raw is losing one of the all-time great performers, the future looks brighter than it has in a long time. Let's see how it went down.
After it being announced that Shawn will give his farewell speech presumably at the end of the night, the show opened up with the embittered former champion Batista. I love his non verbal actions as a heel. The first thing I noticed was his disdain with the audience, followed by perceived anger towards the stagehands for not having the spotlight on him right away. These actions are really making him look like a pompous ass, especially since he doesn't have the title around his waist anymore. I've never been more intrigued by Dave Batista as a performer and I feel like this is the role he was born to play. As for his speech, it was good until he said "John Cena can't beat me". He does realize he lost already right? I know he said that the loss was a blip on the radar screen, but you can't say a guy can't beat you when he did the very first time you tried to back up all the trash you were talking. This is exactly why I thought Batista needed to win on Sunday and I stand by that. As it is, he will probably get a rematch, and I do hope he wins it, but the program is weaker as a result. Batista's comments led to Cena coming out and calling him out for tapping out to him (along with the crowd, though this is about all the crowd did, they were pretty lame). Cena challenged Batista to a rematch right then and there, but in typical heel fashion, he declined. This led to Batista retreating and Jack Swagger nailing Cena with the Money in the Bank briefcase a few times! Talk about unpredictability! He called for a ref because he wanted to cash in the briefcase right there, but by the time a ref made it to the ring, Cena had regained composure and tried to lock the STF onto Swagger. This led to Swagger deciding against a cash in, but gave him something he hasn't had in months......crowd heat. This briefcase might actually help him after all.
Keep in mind that in between every match and segment, there was a video of an important part of HBK's career. I won't mention each one where they happened, but if you haven't seen yet, the videos were: his debut, Barber Shop superkick where he split from Jannetty, ladder match with Razor Ramon, iron man match with Bret Hart for first title, Degeneration X, and matches with the Undertaker. If I forgot something, please let me know, but I'm pretty sure that is what was covered throughout the night.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can talk about each segment without interruption. After a heated opening segment, we were treated to a lot of legends making their way to the ring. The only problem was, no one quite knew why they were out there. Lucky for us, the two guys from "Hot Tub Time Machine" that are most inconsequential came out to inform us what they had booked as guest hosts for the night. I did like that they actually booked two matches (at least they said they did), but I was a bit skeptical about their "hot tub match" with the WWE divas. More on that later, but for now, they booked Cena and a partner of his choosing to face Batista and Swagger, and the match featuring the Legends of the 80's (remember their movie takes them back to 1986) is a lumberjack match between Christian and Ted Dibiase. Man, Christian gets an unbelievable crowd reaction, even from l lackluster Phoenix crowd. Dibiase got a few boos, but nothing major, as his entrance also featured the announcers selling Cody Rhodes as out with a concussion. This could certainly benefit Rhodes, as time off could allow the fans to miss him and a return in the right storyline could jumpstart his singles career. As it stands, his former partner had a decent showing against Christian but came up short. The news though, was that after the match, Ted's father came in the ring to help his son up, but young Ted pushed his father off. It seems Ted's character is going to become more egotistical and all the hopes of internet fans for Ted to be managed by his father died in that instant. I think it's better for Ted to forge ahead on his own. I know that Randy Orton's father managed him for a while and it certainly helped Orton, but I would argue that Cowboy Bob as a personality wouldn't overshadow his son, while the Million Dollar Man would easily have the spotlight and that would not benefit young Ted. Either way, it was good to see Ted against a quality ring worker and it's a good start to his singles career, even with a loss.
Next, we get to see what the "Hot Tub match" will actually be, and if nothing else, it is a fun idea for the male viewers. The "match" is simply who stays in the hot tub the longest, but the real winners are the audience as Tiffany and the Bellas are in expensive swimsuits and look fantastic. O yeah, Rosa Mendes is in there too, and while her body looks good, that face is one not even a grandmother could love. Of course, Zach Ryder was dating her...........but I digress.
Back to the stage, Triple H is out to cut a promo. He talks about his best friend and you can see the real emotion pouring out. He ends the piece by saying he wants to say something to Shawn he's never said before, and just as he utters those words, Sheamus attacks him from behind with a pipe! As shocking as the attack was, and it left Triple H motionless for a good few minutes, what was more shocking was that Sheamus was wearing a shirt! I've been saying for months that Sheamus cannot keep coming to the ring in just his trunks, and the shirt actually gave him a pretty cool look. Although the black shirt on his pale skin is quite a contrast, it made his arms look bigger and legitimately intimidating. Couple that with the brutal attack and Sheamus is really growing into a devastating heel. I would argue that in kayfabe, Sheamus looks to be more dangerous than Batista. Yes, I am that convinced by his actions.
I'd like to skip over the next match, but since the WWE didn't, I won't either. It was a Wrestlemania rematch, but it was the last rematch anyone would want to see. If you guessed the divas match, you are right, but please don't run away! The match was short, and by short, I mean literally like 5 seconds. As Maryse did her pose (which is getting old by the way), Eve rolled her up for the pin and the win. Afterwords, a little brawling and horribly, a little bit of Vickie Guerrero skin sighting, but I'm just happy this segment was kept to under 5 minutes. I sincerely hope that the Divas can get out of this rut soon, as this segment was just about the only downside to an otherwise fantastic Raw.
Luckily, the next segment was one of the best I've seen in a while. It started with Bret saying his thank yous for his return and getting an amazing pop showing a shirt of him and Owen. It was a very cool moment and it showed that no one will ever forget Owen and his tragic accident. Staying with the theme of unpredictability, Bret finishes his speech and out comes.....ShoMiz? I jumped out of my chair as I salivated at the interaction of a hot young star with a Hall of Famer. The actual interaction almost lived up to my insanely high standards, as Miz spouted such gems as "I won at Wrestlemania, which leaves me 17 wins from tying the Undertaker" and "you are the most overrated there is, was, and ever will be." Just having Miz standing toe to toe with a legend and not back down is wonderous for him and he just gets better and better every week. However, Miz's comments inspired Bret's family and legacy to come out and defend him. This of course means The Hart Dynasty, and their very appearance left fans salivating at the possibility of a ShoMiz/Hart Dynasty feud. At first, ShoMiz walked away, but Miz got cocky and accepted the Dynasty's challenge for a match. Pretty good match for teams that have never fought before, and it ended when Big Show pulled Miz out of the ring while locked in the Sharpshooter and ask "are you going to be stupid anymore". They walked out and got counted out, leaving the Harts with Uncle Bret to celebrate the countout victory. This is unbelievably fantastic for the Hart Dynasty as they might actually have a character base now, but for ShoMiz, the momentum from Miz's promo might have been killed as they kind of look like cowards. I will reserve judgement, but I don't want Miz to be booked as someone that should lose but sneaks out so he doesn't. He needs to look like he can beat people if he is to have a future in this business.
Before the main event match, the "Hot Tub Match" is culminated by the hosts creeping out Tiffany and Rosa, leaving the Bellas in the hot tub. Craig Robinson (another star of the movie) appears on the screen and says the Bellas win and it's time for someone new to get in the hot tub. This leads to Mark Henry getting in and it kind of reminded me of his "Sexual chocolate" days. Thankfully, no sign of Mae Young this time. There was a Hornswoggle siting though, as he bit one of the hosts to end the segment. It was short and actually funnier than most of the weekly segments of stupidity. If Hornswoggle is going to be employed by WWE, I prefer his usage to be relegated to 30 seconds backstage and this segment was just fine for him.
Onto the main event, Swagger comes out first and tells everyone that he was toying with us before and that when he cashes in the briefcase, he is the odds on favorite to win the title. He's also the odds on favorite to earning promo lessons, as he still isn't grasping a crowd with his promos. Plus, he really has to drop this "All American American American" thing. It's stupid and I don't think anyone understands it anymore.
As for the match, Cena came out and announced that Batista used to be friends with his partner and it's.............Randy Orton! I think it's safe to say that Randy is a face at this point, as his pop was easily the loudest of the night (though Christian's was pretty big too). The match was pretty good too. Hell, how could it be bad with 3 of the biggest names in the industry in the same match? Think about how great it was for Swagger too, as he was associated with all those men and held is own. I have never doubted that he could in terms of ring work, but again, his character and promo skills are lacking. He should take a look at Orton though, who was so good as a bad guy that he is perhaps the most beloved superstar at the moment. The pops he got for the RKO's he hit on Batista and Swagger were almost at Stunner level. The future looks to be not just on the broad shoulder of John Cena, but it seems Randy Orton is ready to do his part as top face of the company. In case you haven't figured it out by now, Orton's RKOs won the match and would be a great ending to any other Raw.
On this night though, the spotlight was purely on The Heartbreak Kid as the night drew to a close. Anyone watching had to be blown away by the realism in his voice. I can't imagine that anyone doubts his retirement at this point as I truly believe he is happy with his decision and is ready to move on with his life. I thought his speech was more real and pure than Ric Flair's could have ever been, but then again, I never really liked Flair and think he's a phony piece of garbage of a man. This Shawn Michaels has become a man that I believe everyone respects, and the moment was just perfect. There were no gimmicks, no family, no legends, just HBK saying his goodbyes. The people he thanked and the words he chose were from the heart and I truly believed every word he said, especially when he broke from the speech and addressed the crowd's "one more match" chants by saying that he didn't want to break his word to anyone and believes this was it. Perhaps a shot at Ric Flair, but I believe it's more that Shawn truly is ready to move on and has taken the steps necessary to retire. I also loved how it ended, with Shawn walking out and his best friend hugging and kissing him on the ramp. I'm not sure if Shawn knew that Hunter would come out, but it was a beautiful, real moment in the otherwise fake world of professional wrestling. As Triple H left to give Shawn his final goodbye, he left the DX glowsticks in an X that I found oddly perfect for the situation. Shawn's wave and mouthed "thank you" ended the broadcast and ended a phenomenal career.
This Raw would have been a must-see for just the retirement speech alone, but a funny thing happened on the way to the speech. A combination of heated feuds and new encounters entertained throughout. Older stars were working with younger ones and each interaction seemed to be better than the last. This truly was an amazing edition of Raw and I am really looking forward to seeing where some of these programs go. In particular, I'm very excited for Orton's face run, ShoMiz working with the Hart Dynasty, the continuation of Triple H and Sheamus' feud, and where exactly Swagger will go with his briefcase. There is a lot to like right now, and tonight's episode truly felt like the dawning of a new era. While it's hard to say that I'm excited given that one of my favorite wrestlers of all time has now hung up his boots, I truly am. There was just a different feel to this show and I hope that feeling continues week to week. I have posted the second half of Shawn's speech if you haven't seen it yet. I recommend watching both parts, but here is the end of The Showstopper's career. In honor of the man, I end by saying The Mouth of The South Shore has left the building!