In last week's Smackdown recap , we talked about the implications the Internet has had on professional wrestling.
If there's one other element of this business that has changed perception and execution in the industry, often for the worse, it's the "art" of the swerve or the not-so-subtle hints at steering speculation that direction.
On Monday night's episode of Raw, Shawn Michaels returned to confront his friend Triple H about his match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Michaels wasn't exactly friendly with Hunter, taunting and mocking him through the show-opening exchange.
Michaels unsurprisingly shined on the microphone, showing he hasn't lost an ounce of his charisma and natural ability, and Hunter more than held his own, mostly with his steely glare. The promo wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination.
The issue with it is that HBK's attitude toward Triple H seems unwarranted, given the backstory of the feud. The segment ended with Michaels telling Hunter that he knows who will win at WrestleMania because he's been named the special guest referee.
Anyone who has watched wrestling for more than a year knows how the "swerve" here works. Michaels teases being against Triple H and helping Undertaker, undergoes a change of heart during the Hell in a Cell match (or even prior, given he'll be appearing against next week), acts as if he's going to help his former DX cohort win and then ends the match fairly, putting the Undertaker to 20-0.
There are several issues with this situation and the booking of the match as it stands.
First, if the situation above plays out, which I'll admit is pure speculation and has no basis other than past booking trends and wrestling stereotypes, it seems too obvious. The tension teased between Michaels and Triple H will have been for naught, as most fans will see through it.
Second, what is the long-term payoff? HBK seems to be enjoying retirement, and his departure from the business seemed more legitimate and serious than most, so the likeliness of the feud between the two friends continuing beyond April 1 is almost nonexistent.
Third, and perhaps most aggravatingly, this new wrinkle takes the focus away from Triple H and the Undertaker and places the emphasis more on HBK and Hunter's problems.
It's no secret I have never been a fan of a third Triple H vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania this year. The work building the match has been solid so far, but not even the inclusion of HBK pushes this match into the win category for me.
Seeing Michaels added was not a surprise at all, as it was even rumored for last year's match. Unfortunately, in this case, it only adds another layer to this already borderline over-booked feud.
The new wrinkle adds intrigue for some, but for me, it's just an unnecessary addition that won't pay off anywhere in the long run.
- Chris Jericho pinned WWE Champion CM Punk in a tag team match that also featured World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. The match was tremendously enjoyable, and the ending - a roll-up reversal - leaves the door open for things to continue at WrestleMania. I was worried about Jericho and Punk being in the ring together before the big show, but this actually left me wanting to see more.
- The videos of The Rock and John Cena promoting their WrestleMania match were enjoyable, for very different reasons. Rocky cut a promo recreating the Boston Tea Party, throwing a variety of Cena merchandise off a bridge and sang his own rendition of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" about the Boston native. Cena, meanwhile, cut a promo in an empty arena talking about the significance of the match. It was great to see super-serious Cena, proving that he can do more than just his goofy, over-the-top promos. The dichotomy of these videos drove home the point of how each competitor is viewing their upcoming contest.
Did The Rock really need three pre-taped promos and a live segment? Probably not. Admittedly, the videos did go downhill as they went on, and the live segment saw the crowd showing the hometown Cena no love. Cena cut another good promo, though he likely shot himself in the foot by referring to The Rock as "Rain Man." Insulting people with disabilities hardly fits in with the "Rise Above Hate" philosophy. In the end, it seems another round of the live promo war goes to Cena, who mocked The Rock by writing blatant notes on his arm with a Sharpie. The build between these two may not be the best all the time, but when they collide at WrestleMania, the environment will be electric.
- Santino Marella may not have won a world title at last month's Elimination Chamber, but he earned gold tonight, as he defeated Jack Swagger for the United States Championship. The two worked a decent match, and Marella continues to be shockingly over with the live crowd. He deserves this win for his work the past few months. Hopefully it turns into something positive for him, rather than another joke run like Swagger just finished.
- Cody Rhodes' mocking of the Big Show with past WrestleMania experiences fell short tonight. He showed a clip of Big Show at the WWE restaurant the night of WrestleMania X-8, but there wasn't really that much embarrassing about it. Apparently it was still enough to motivate Big Show enough to destroy The Miz in fast fashion. At this point, it's questionable what role, if any, Miz will play on April 1.
- Kane made quick work of R-Truth before eating an RKO from Randy Orton. Not much else to say about it, but after his loss to Cena, Kane going down this easily doesn't make him look like much of a threat.
- Eve Torres defeated Alicia Fox in a throwaway divas match with Kelly Kelly on commentary. It seems WWE may be building a feud between Eve and Kelly, but where does that leave Divas Champion Beth Phoenix? After the match, Zack Ryder returned from his injury - albeit with a cane. Eve greeted him with a kiss. WWE is going to make Ryder out to be even more of a chump if he falls for the jezebel's tricks.
- What was the point of the "GM swap" happening this week? Teddy Long did nothing as guest general manager. Michaels and The Rock were already booked. The one match Teddy promised - The Great Khali vs. David Otunga - never even happened, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. But outside of bringing Kofi Kingston and Aksana out for the U.S. Championship match, what exactly did Long do? Oh yeah, he booked that champions and challengers tag match. Teddy Long booking a tag match? It's almost unbelievable!
Santino Marella d. Jack Swagger to win the United States Championship
Eve d. Alicia Fox
Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan d. CM Punk and Sheamus
Big Show d. The Miz
Kane d. R-Truth
Tonight’s episode of Raw had it’s up and downs, and the final product is somewhere slightly above average. The tag team match featuring the two world champions and their challengers delivered from an in-ring standpoint and Marella winning the United States Championship was a good surprise pop. The show featured a lot of talking, between Triple H, HBK, The Rock and John, more than half the show consisted of promos. Most of it delivered, but there may have been slightly too much talking and not enough action to take the show to the next level.
Comment of the Night
“The way Santino was acting, I almost forgot the U.S. title doesn’t mean anything.” – Chad Smart, @my123cents