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A live perspective on Raw is Shaq

Shaquille O’Neal proved on Raw Monday night at Verizon Center in Washington that if there ever was a professional athlete who is a natural for pro wrestling, he is it. To me, it’s a question of when, not if, Shaq dons the tights at a WrestleMania.

As I expected, he was by far the most entertaining of the celebrities who have hosted Raw the past three weeks. Shaq has a presence, charisma and a playful charm that makes it hard not to like him.

He’s also a wrestling fan – and it showed. Shaq, who has done angles in the past with WWE and WCW, interacted well with the wrestlers both in comedic and serious situations. The opening segment that featured a verbal confrontation pitting Shaq against Chris Jericho and The Big Show was tremendous. The spot at the end of the show in which Shaq got physical with Big Show was good, too.

What really made it all work is that Shaq, at 7 feet 1 and 325 pounds, is believable as a guy who can handle himself against even the biggest of wrestlers. This isn’t like Hulk Hogan selling for Jay Leno or William Shatner decking Jerry Lawler.

More importantly for WWE is that the company got its SportsCenter moment when Shaq and Big Show squared off. That type of mainstream exposure is what the celebrity guest host concept is all about.

Other thoughts on Monday’s show:

I don’t know how it came across on TV, but I thought it was a hot crowd, especially compared to the audience in Philadelphia Sunday at the Night of Champions pay-per-view. Not surprisingly, John Cena, Triple H and Randy Orton got the biggest reactions. Cena was mostly cheered. During his match against The Miz, a “Cena sucks” chant was quickly drowned out by a “Cena” chant. At least I think it was. It was hard for me to tell due to the shrill screams from the teenage girl sitting behind me. Apart from the three superstars, the wrestler who got the loudest ovation was Kofi Kingston. He is one good story line away from being a breakout star. ...

I like the Beat the Clock Challenge as a way of determining the No. 1 contender for the WWE title at SummerSlam on Aug. 23, but I wish this one would have gone down differently. When the five participants were announced – Triple H, Mark Henry, MVP, Jack Swagger and Cena – I knew immediately that MVP and Swagger didn’t have a chance. I was really hoping that WWE would think outside the box and give Henry an opportunity, especially since he already has a pinfall victory over WWE champion Orton. Anyone but Triple H or Cena. Of those two, however, I’m glad it was Cena who won. Orton versus Cena isn’t anything we haven’t already seen, but at least it’s fresher than Orton versus Triple H. …

Just how bad did I want to see Henry win Beat the Clock? So bad that I actually cheered for The Miz against Cena. Honestly, Miz immediately won me over when he busted on the Washington Redskins. In all seriousness, Miz really is starting to grow on me. After he cut his promo and we were in a commercial break, Miz’s music kept playing … and playing. Miz grabbed the mic and said, “Are you tired of listening to my entrance music?” When the crowd said yes, Miz paused and said, Too bad! Play it again!” …

The fact that not all five of the Beat the Clock participants won their matches makes it more believable and unpredictable, but I also think it speaks volumes that it was MVP and Swagger who did not go over. It’s painfully obvious at this point that MVP is what he is in WWE, and unfortunately, it isn’t a main-eventer. After going to a double count-out with the returning Chris Masters, I suppose we’re going to get a MVP-Masters feud. I can hardly wait.

As for Swagger, he may have lost some of the shine off his golden boy status. I have heard rumblings that some in WWE believe he is not as respectful of the veterans backstage as he should be. That’s a big no-no. I’d like to believe that Swagger’s loss to Evan Bourne was done to kick off a program between the two and was not the beginning of a burial of Swagger. …

Masters sported a ripped physique but was not freakishly large. A smattering of fans chanted “Welcome back” when he was introduced, which I found a little surprising. I think Masters is OK, but to me there’s just something missing. …

When Triple H got the Nancy Kerrigan treatment from Ted DiBiase Jr., I thought for sure it meant that Triple H would just beat Cody Rhodes with one leg in his Beat the Clock match. I marked out when Rhodes survived and Triple H was eliminated. Sorry, Trips. It’s just business. Nothing personal. …

With Triple H facing DiBiase and Rhodes next week in a handicap match, I can see where this is leading: DX versus Legacy at SummerSlam. …

Henry and Carlito didn’t work well together and the crowd never really got into it. Instead of booking it to go nearly seven minutes, it probably should have been about half of that. …

When Shaq told Jericho and Big Show that they would have to face Cryme Tyme in the main event, I was surprised that they didn’t burst out laughing. Why is Cryme Tyme on Raw, anyway? Aren’t they exclusive to Smackdown? …

Shaq kissing Jericho on the head was a nice touch, and Jericho’s reaction was great. It also was funny when Big Show told Shaq that he wasn’t going to fight him, and Jericho looked up at Shaq and said, “And I’m not going to fight you either.” …

The comedy bits Shaq did with Santino Marella and Hornswoggle were pretty funny. As silly as it was, I laughed out loud when Hornswoggle wiped out trying to dunk a basketball. I wonder if Jesse is upset that Marella stole his white rapper gimmick? ...

Could someone who watched Raw on TV tell me how it was explained that Michael Cole could be calling a match and then a few seconds later be in a backstage vignette with Shaq?

Who is more humiliated these days, Chavo Guerrero or The Brian Kendrick? I called the blindfold match between Guerrero and Hornswoggle two weeks ago. How much longer can WWE keep this angle going? As for Kendrick, his if-you-blinked-you-missed-it loss to Kingston was especially disappointing because I really wanted to see those two wrestle. …

There have been rumors of a Gail Kim heel turn, and we may have seen the start of it here when she tagged herself into the six-women tag match and scored the pin. I like Kim better as a babyface, but a Kim-Mickie James feud for the Divas title could be real good. …

I was surprised that Maryse wasn’t on the show, but then I read on pwinsider.com this morning that she likely will have to undergo knee surgery. She was in Birmingham, Ala., Monday to see renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews about ongoing issues with her kneecap.

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