Raw: Lumberjacks bring predictable chaos
BRIAN ELLIOTT -- SLAM! Wrestling
Following last week’s triumvirate of television tapings in the UK, Raw returned to the good, old U.S of A on Monday, live from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Based on the feedback that I received to the show last Monday, there were a great many fans in North America who were hoping that the inanity shown then -- particularly in the Randy Orton vs Batista non-event -- wouldn’t find its way back across the water.
The hopes and fears of yours truly, however, were not immediately alleviated by the opening segment of the show, which saw virtually the entire Raw roster in the ring, to be addressed by Stephanie McMahon before the live crowd. Wearing her Sarah Palin-esque spectacles, she announced that she had been "inundated with questions and concerns" since Mike Adamle resigned as General Manager, and thus allowed the wrestlers an open forum with her.
Randy Orton was first up to step-up, literally onto a podium, to ask why John Cena had been given a title match in his first match back since neck surgery. Seemingly building up a McMahon family squabble, Stephanie replied that that decision had been taken by Shane without her input, but that Cena had been a top contender before being injured "by Batista" at SummerSlam.
Cody Rhodes was next, wondering why Orton had not been suspended for attacking Ted DiBiase, and causing him a concussion. Laughably replying that these grown men and women "are responsible for their own actions" (a statement many will recall from the WWE’s post-Benoit paranoia), Stephanie then reminded us that similar Orton actions previously cost CM Punk the Heavyweight Title, and thus he would have to wrestle Punk in a Lumberjack match later on the show. When Orton suggested that such a stipulation would cause chaos rather than conclusion, McMahon "respectfully disagreed".
With rapper Akon in the stands, Santino Marella -- who hilariously referred to him as "Acorn" -- delivered a protest rap at his Interncontinental Title loss to William Regal last week, to which Stephanie noted that he had already had two title rematches on the WWE European Tour, and thus wouldn’t be getting another one anytime soon.
JBL then took the microphone, and wanted to know the whereabouts of Vince McMahon, as he wanted to address the "problem" of Shawn Michaels with him. Stating that he was "out of the picture", McMahon said that both JBL and Michaels would be captains of opposing Survivor Series teams, which brought "The Heartbreak Kid" out from within the crowd of wrestlers, to wonder aloud if he could get retribution that night for JBL’s match-costing chair-shot on last week’s show. After being told to "be patient", Michaels pre-emptively apologised for his actions, attacking JBL to end the segment.
Match #1: Kelly Kelly vs Victoria
"Visiting" from Smackdown -- Michael Cole’s words, not mine -- Victoria was representing Divas champion Michelle McCool’s Survivor Series team, the opposition for whom will be captained by Women’s champion Beth Phoenix.
After grabbing an near fall with an "Arachnaphobia" sit-down backbreaker, Victoria’s side suplex was countered into a schoolboy for the pinfall in just ninety seconds. Then, following the match, Victoria attacked Kelly from behind, until the latter’s Raw teammates came to her aid, with Beth Phoenix hitting Victoria with the Glam Slam.
Winner: Kelly Kelly
Match #2: Batista vs Manu
After dismantling Cody Rhodes in Manchester last week, this time it was Manu’s turn to feel the wrath of "The Animal". Putting forth a good fight, however, he countered an early Batista Bomb with a Samoan drop, and worked on Batista’s shoulder by ramming it into the ringpost, as well as applying a nerve hold.
He even countered a second Batista Bomb, but after taking a Spear, was finally hoisted into position, and dropped forcibly for the 1-2-3.
After the match, with Randy Orton watching from the rampway, Batista claimed that he had wanted to get his hands on Orton for three years, and would do so at Survivor Series.
Next, in an odd turn of events, WWE Hall of Famer Chief Jay Strongbow was introduced to the crowd for no apparent reason, before Orton caught up with Cody Rhodes backstage, and berated him for not attacking Batista after the previous bout, stating that he would take it to Punk in their bout later on the show. Rhodes retorted that Orton should continue to talk himself up, because at the moment, "that is what you’re best at."
In a very pleasant surprise, even in injury down-time, Evan Bourne was afforded some TV time in an interview with Todd Grisham. Bourne said that while he was still in a cast, his ankle was getting better every day. In less of a pleasant surprise, his comments brought a seemingly mute Mike Knox out to confront Bourne, before the Bruiser Brody wannabe walked away without so much as a gesture. Though that seemed to make little sense, it seemed like the product of a MENSA think-tank, when compared to Shawn Michaels’ feigning of nerves before his tag team match alongside Rey Mysterio.
Match #3: The Miz and John Morrison vs Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels
This was another preview bout for the Survivor Series on Sunday, and largely saw Miz and Morrison control the contest by working over Mysterio -- including, remarkably, Miz using a backbreaker submission hold. Continuing the submission theme, Morrison also locked on an abdominal stretch, before also hitting a tilt-a-whirl rib-breaker.
Mysterio eventually made the tag after countering Morrison’s springboard offence, and Michaels went to work on Miz with an atomic drop, and his patented top-rope elbow. When he went for Sweet Chin Music, however, Miz saw it coming and ducked, but he couldn’t avoid it a second time, after Mysterio had also delivered a 619.
Sensing an impending pinfall, however, Morrison immediately cracked Michaels with his own version of the superkick, allowing Miz to grab a beautifully-clean pinfall.
Winners: The Miz and John Morrison
After WWE champion Chris Jericho suggested to Stephanie that John Cena is a disruptive influence on the company, and that things would not be the same for her after his return, CM Punk spoke of having to work for everything that he had gotten thus far in his career. Comparing himself to Orton, whom he said had been mentored by Bob Orton, Triple H, and Ric Flair, he said that payback would be his for Orton’s part in his loss of the WWE Title.
Match #4: Cryme Tyme vs JBL and Kane
After Kane informed us -- and Survivor Series captain JBL -- that he enjoyed "finding victims and electrocuting their groins with car batteries" (that’s verbatim, folks) the pay-per-view tag team partners faced Cryme Tyme.
The more regular of the two teams showed that continuity with frequent tags, until the financial expert managed to tag in Kane. From there, he took control on JTG, landing his top-rope clothesline, before preparing to finish the bout with the chokeslam.
Not one to be overshadowed, however, JBL tagged in on the blind side of his partner, and hit the Clothesline From Hell for the win. After the match, Kane seemed to grudgingly appreciate JBL’s captaincy of the Survivor Series team.
Winners: JBL and Kane
Backstage, Mike Knox attacked Kofi Kingston as he was talking to Evan Bourne, rendering the former Ring of Honor competitor defenceless as he attacked his injured ankle with Bourne’s own crutch.
Match #5: William Regal vs Matt Hardy
Following on from his babyface interview in England last week, Intercontinental champion William Regal was a total heel here, noting that the fact that Akon was cheered more than he was, was "the very essence of what is wrong with this country".
Regal seemed eager to begin this non-title champion vs champion bout with ECW title-holder Matt Hardy, who was wrestling with a torn PCL following his ECW Title match with Finlay. That eagerness seemingly transferred itself to Hardy, too, as both brawled to the outside at the very beginning of this contest, and failed to beat the referee’s count of 10. The two had to be separated by a bevy of WWE referees.
Winner: No contest
Having been allowed time by Stephanie to speak about his title match with John Cena on Sunday, WWE Champion Chris Jericho took the opportunity to remind everyone of his title history, including how he defeated The Rock and Steve Austin to become the first Undisputed WWE Champion.
His reason for this was to complain about the lauding of John Cena, despite the fact that Jericho is, in his own words, "at the top of his game" and "the centre-piece of Raw". He claimed that Raw would be saved after his defeat of Cena at the Survivor Series.
Match #6 -- Lumberjack Match: Randy Orton vs CM Punk
Thirty wrestlers lined the ring for this Lumberjack contest, which meant bad news for both competitors in the early going here, as Matt Hardy made sure to keep Orton in the ring, and Mark Henry did likewise with Punk.
Following Orton’s usual chinlock effort, Punk struck with one of his first big moves of the match, a swinging neckbreaker. Using his array of kicks and open-hand slaps to set other moves up, Punk also struck with a bulldog, but when he went for the Go To Sleep, Orton hit his inverted headlock backbreaker, and set up for the RKO.
Punk countered with a dropkick, however, sending Orton flying into the lumberjacks. As they helped Orton to his feet, Punk flew off the top rope with a crossbody onto Orton and several others, but when he was distracted back in the ring by Regal, Orton was quick to return and strike with the RKO for the pinfall.
After the match, Orton set up for his Concussion Kick, but was speared by Batista, who in turn was knocked out of the ring by JBL. Soon, all of the lumberjacks were in the ring, causing the chaos that Orton had predicted, as the show faded to black.
Final thoughts: Following last week’s throwaway Raw -- which, to be fair, did feature a reasonable Jericho vs Michaels TV main event -- the "go home" show before the Survivor Series PPV at least did its job here.
By not having WWE champion Jericho compete here, more anticipation was built for his match with John Cena on Sunday’s show, while the preview bouts of the traditional Survivor Series tag team matches at least did a good job of reminding fans what those match-ups will be, even if there was little or no wrestling on occasion to speak of.
That cannot be said, however, of The Miz and John Morrison vs Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels bout, which was a fine TV match, which gave the former team an important, credible win, having been beaten handily by DX two weeks ago.
It was the sort of win that was convincing enough to establish Miz and Morrison’s credibility, as a team that the fans should start to take seriously.
Brian Elliott is a British journalist, who covers soccer, MMA, and professional wrestling. Despite what several in the company may think, he always gives WWE credit, where credit is due.