If the WWE had a word of the week calendar, their word last week would have been "bold". Obviously the cream of the bold crop was putting the title on and subsequently devoting an entire show to Jack Swagger, who just a month ago was struggling to beat Santino Marella. Perhaps not too far behind was the decision to award the Raw guest host gig to one of the NXT rookies. Bold is certainly an understatement when choosing a WWE rookie to be in charge of the Raw veterans, but of all the options, David Otunga was probably the best one. Although he struggles to speak like one, he actually does have a bit of celebrity status in the real world, and he has an actual character that had the potential to work as a host. The only question would be whether he could stand out among the crowd, or get walked all over like the Hollywood star he hopes to have.
Mr. A-List would be tested early, as Raw opened up in an unpredictable, combustible way. Smackdown champion and Raw superstar Jack Swagger was out first, and might I say, the suit is a nice touch. He looks a lot better in the suit than he ever has in that goofy singlet he stole from Kurt Angle. After he shows the audience a video of his championship victory, he actually cut a promo that didn't make me totally cringe. Let's not get ahead of ourselves and think he's The Rock just yet, but any improvement is notworthy and necessary. His bold (see, word of the week in full effect!) statement proclaiming Jericho as better competition than Cena, thus more worthy of his cash in, prompted the Raw champion to come out and put the young champion back in his place. At this point, it was business as usual with some good mic work, but the segment progressed from unpredictability to "what the hell?" status in a matter of minutes.
After Cena called Swagger unworthy of being a champion and challenged him to a match with his WWE title on the line, I began to salivate. The thought of a unified title is something I've been hoping for since the advent of 2 belts, as I believe the company needs one man at the top. However, it was not to be on this night, as Swagger (who was getting a lot more heat than I could have imagined, perhaps because nobody truly wants to see him as champion) started to explain why he wouldn't accept the challenge when Randy Orton's music hit! While most expected Cena to come out, I'm sure you could count the number of people expecting Orton to come out and one hand. However, he did have a good reason to, as he pinned Swagger last week and figured the champ might want a crack at revenge instead. Before he could answer, ShoMiz came out! If you had this combination of men in the ring at the same time in your predictions, go buy a lottery ticket now! I loved the unpredictability, and the combination of stars was so unique that no one knew quite what to expect. Miz proclaimed the show to be about the Unified Tag Champs, not the guys in the ring, and this prompted the guest host to finally show up and take care of business. Unlike other guest hosts, he actually did his job and made matches out of tension in front of him, but his acting needs a ton of work. He reminds me of Bobby Lashley in that he's jacked, but has the voice of a 13 year old boy. The voice just doesn't match the attitude. He did make matches though, and both were good choices, though one was presented totally wrong. First off, he booked Orton against Swagger which is definitely new and exciting, and then he booked ShoMiz against Cena and Batista which is interesting as well. The problem was that when he announced the latter, he said ShoMiz will face Batista and..................John Cena. While the result is good, he should have said Cena first, since Cena was the one in the ring. The excitement in the moment in between Cena and ...................... Batista would have been huge, as it would have been seen as more unexpected in that regard. Either way, an excellent opening segment that was really unpredictable and fun.
As good as the opener was, it would be easy to make the argument that the next segment was even better. About the only person who could disagree is Kofi Kingston. Ok, maybe his family would disagree too, but the segment did wonders for the other two men involved. Unfortunately for Kofi, it started with him getting squashed by Sheamus. I feel bad for Kofi, but until he develops a true character base, I'm not sure what the future holds for him. As for Sheamus, he continues to look legitimately tough, and his promos continue to improve. His promos remind me of an out of focus camera in that all the pieces are there but it's not always clear. He has some great lines in his promos, but there's no definitive structure for them and the lines don't quite flow into one another. Perhaps part of that is the language barrier, but it's something that he's hopefully working on. It was a nice touch though to call everyone pathetic for crying about HBK. Right now, there's no better way to get heat. Of course, this all leads to Triple H coming out, and it would have been a lot better had they not shown Trips on the monitor earlier. There's little in wrestling that can replace the pop from the moment a star's music hits, so when you show that star prior, it limits the pop a little. I loved the way their interaction played out, as nobody is better at non verbal confrontation than Triple H. After teasing being afraid and running away, The Cerebral Assasin went underneath the ring apron just as Sheamus did minutes earlier and got his weapon of choice, the trusty sledgehammer. After knocking Sheamus' now wimpy looking lead pipe out of his hands, we got a cool spot where Hunter swung the sledgehammer at Sheamus but missed and destroyed King's video monitor. Obviously, Sheamus retreated, which ended an awesome segment. While there was doubt with Sheamus after cheaply beating Cena and Orton, this feud is really solidifying him as a monster heel, albeit one who can be a little vulnerable due to inexperience. I know I say it every week, but it seems that this feud does get better every week, so what more could we ask for?
After an amazing segment, we got the divas segment. However, the shock of the night might be that I didn't hate it and that it had actual value to the division. It was somewhat amusing to hear Maryse make fun of all the competitors as they made their way to the ring, though her insults should probably be scripted because some were pretty lame. Of course, her 50 percent insult success rate still puts her atop the Divas division in mic skills, so I'll let it slide. Just a side note, Kate Lea had new music and I like it a lot. It fits her well and I hope she gets a real opportunity moving forward. That opportunity didn't come in this match, as the Divas awkwardly battled in long dresses in an over the top battle royale to determine the #1 contender to Maryse's title. The match came down to Jillian (eek) and Eve, with Eve getting the victory after Jillian realized that she never eliminated Eve. The only problem I had with the match was that it was an "over the top" battle royale and at least half the divas were elminated through the middle ropes or the bottom. Not exactly living up to the title, but it did the job, which was to make Eve #1 contender. She has been hot for weeks and has certainly proved that she deserves the opportunity, which she will get next week. Funny exchange at the end where Maryse commented that the belt would need extensions for Eve, to which Cole said "so you're saying she's going to win it then?" For some reason, the Cole/Maryse banter always seems to work.
Token backstage comedy segment was next, and this week's wasn't horrible. It was short and featured mostly Santino. That's a good formula for comedy, as others seem to be one trick ponies. This segment featured Santino thinking the "A-lister" was an "A-teamer", and to his chagrin, Mr. T was not there. Funny stuf which ended with one of Otunga's posse members diving over a table at Hornswoggle who was stealing some of Otunga's 427 green M&M's. I actually laughed at this one a little, and if each comedy segment is kept to under 2 minutes with a similar formula to this.
The hour one main event was the Tag Title match made by Otunga. As everyone cringed at the idea of enemies winning the belts for the 74th time, the other logical match ending occured. After a short but decent showing from Miz in the ring with Cena, Cena went to tag Batista who jumped off the ring apron and headed to the back. Obviously not happy with this, Cena left the match and fought Batista on the ramp, resulting in being counted out. Mr. Otunga was not happy with this outcome and decided that ShoMiz would defend the titles again, this time against Cena and........him? Well, he's the host, so why not? At least he's somewhat trained, unlike past hosts who have stepped into the ring.
The next next was one the internet community has been yearning for. Ted Dibiase came out, but this time, he was carrying the Million Dollar Belt! I'm not so sure it was the original belt that his dad used (given that it didn't shine at all), but if it wasn't, it looked enough like the original to get the point across. The story being sold here is that Ted Jr. feels like his dad was never really a father to him since he was never really around, but since he is the Million Dollar Man, their relationship was always based on what father could give son. Ted explained that his father gave him the Million Dollar belt to smooth things over from last week's debacle and he's grateful for being "the fortunate son". The lines were well written (trust me, Ted didn't come up with that stuff on his own), but young Dibiase has to work on his delivery. I went to school in Arizona, so I know dry, and THAT was dry. All this talking led to a rematch from last week, but this time, no legends acting as lumberjacks. Instead, just a regular singles match that turned out very well. The old Ric Flair addage "he could have a good match with a mop" could be applied to Christian, because he never seems to have a bad match. Unfortunately for Captain Charisma, one mistake late cost him, and Ted evened the score. Great win for Ted as its arguably the biggest of his career, but I worry for Christian. He won last week perhaps due to outside factors, and this week he loses clean. As much as I like him, I fear he'll never get to the top where he belongs.
After some recap videos was the Orton/Swagger match. The only bad thing about this match was Swagger's entrance. Admittedly, it's less goofy, but what ruined it for me was the stupid looking cape thing he was wearing. He looked like the white Apollo Creed! For all the faults outside of the ring with Swagger, he has little inside it, as he wrestled well against Orton. For two guys who have never worked together before, there was a lot of chemistry there. I guess that's what happens when two guys posess talent. Of course, Orton is the veteran and the bigger star, and he picked up the victory, sending Swagger to Smackdown a bit downtrodden. While some might question this booking decision as it "makes the champ look weak", having the young, inexperienced champ go over the cerebral Orton would have made Orton look weaker. Perhaps a different kind of finish would have helped, but I don't have that big a problem with it.
The main event was the restart from before, with Otunga substituting for Batista. That's fine, but don't show Otunga's entrance anymore. It's not his music (not that he has music) and the pants ripping thing is just hard to watch. I prefer he come out during commercials and just be shown in the ring. As far as the match, decent except for when Otunga is in the ring. He got to do a grand total of 1 move and did it 3 times. I'm glad he got such wonderful exposure with the main talent......Even though his wrestling did nothing, he made his presence felt, as he avoided Cena's tag, leading to Cena taking the Knockout Punch again for the loss. As I've been saying in my NXT reviews, THIS IS HOW OTUNGA NEEDS TO BE! He is custom made to be a jerk of a heel. Hopefully he can build on this. Of course, Cena won't see the kid as A-List, but he might have him on a different kind of list.....
After the match, Batista attacked Cena (what a surprise) and after an unnecessary introduction by Otunga, Batista announced that he's invoking his rematch clause for Extreme Rules and that Cena won't be making anyone tap because it's a Last Man Standing Match. If the rumors are true about Batista, this is perfect, as he can be "knocked out" for a few months while he shoots his movie. Unfortunately, he'll have lost twice and coming back as a brutal heel might not work since he can't seem to win matches.
I thought this was a really good Raw. Granted there was a distinct lack of mid-lower card talent featured, but each match served a purpose and there were 2 excellent TV matches in Christian/Dibiase and Orton/Swagger. It seems pretty clear that Triple H and Sheamus will have another match at Extreme Rules while Cena and Batista are confirmed to do so. Outside of that, I'm not sure what other feuds will have their place on that card, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of this show. There is a growing sense of "what will happen next?" with recent Raws, and that sentiment is absolutely necessary for a wrestling show. While I expect the ratings to go down due to the NCAA championship game, that doesn't take away the fact that it was a solid show and things continue to look bright moving forward.