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WWE Raw: Old School gets an `A¿ for effort

For a guy like me who has been watching pro wrestling since the mid-70s, WWE's three-hour-plus Old School Raw on Monday night was a lot of fun.

It was very cool to see production features from the past as well as old sets and theme music. Even the padded barricades of today were replaced by the old metal guardrails.

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It was nice that so many "legends" returned as well, although that aspect didn't feel quite as special since most of them have made cameo appearances over the years.Not every segment involving the old school stars was a home run (I didn't really need to see The Brooklyn Brawler and Harvey Wippleman, for example), although the final segment – a Piper's Pit with Roddy Piper, John Cena, Wade Barrett and Randy Orton – was fantastic.

I was a huge Piper mark back in the day, but his occasional appearances in WWE over the past several years have been underwhelming for the most part. Instead of doing another comedic, rambling promo this time, however, Piper was focused and dead serious during his verbal exchanges with Cena and Barrett. All three guys delivered strong performances on the mic.

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Piper put over the importance of the WWE title – noting that guys such as him, Ricky Steamboat, Ted DiBiase, Jimmy Snuka and "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig never won it – and stressed to Cena that if he didn't "do the right thing" when he referees the title match between champion Orton and Barrett at Sunday's Survivor Series pay-per-view, he would be spitting in the faces of all of the legends. Piper also told Barrett that if he allows Cena to hand him the championship, he won't be a champion, he'll be a joke.

Things got physical after Orton showed up. Orton attacked Barrett, but Cena saved The Nexus leader by stepping between the two. The segment concluded with Cena – who vowed to call Sunday's match down the middle – delivering Attitude Adjustments to both Barrett and Orton.

WWE did an excellent job of creating more interest in the Orton-Barrett match and the ongoing Cena/Nexus/Orton saga, and it managed to do so by tying in an old school star in a way that didn't feel forced.

Other thoughts on Monday's show:

One of the highlights was Jim Ross making a surprise appearance and sitting in on commentary with Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole during the well-worked Daniel Bryan-Jack Swagger match. It's always a pleasure to hear J.R. call a match. The fact that he isn't part of the announcing team any longer is definitely the viewing audience's loss. As for Cole, I know that he has go-away heat with a lot of fans, but I find him to be an entertaining heel. I thought it was hilarious the way he was mocking Ross throughout the match. ...

Another funny segment was Mae Young's confrontation with LayCool. The octogenarian referred to them as "bitches" and "sluts." Attitude is back! ...

Speaking of which, I was surprised to see Mark Henry doing his non-PG "Sexual Chocolate" gimmick for this episode. The crowd popped for it and was chanting "Chocolate" during Henry's match against Dolph Ziggler. Well, the match was in Hershey, Pa., so perhaps that explains it. ...

The Ziggler-Henry match – won by Ziggler – was solid. During the match, Cole asked Lawler which old-school wrestler he would compare Henry to. Lawler said Bruno Sammartino. Well, Bruno was a strongman, so I can see that, but my first thought was Ken Patera, wrestling's original "World's Strongest Man" and a competitive weightlifter like Henry. ...

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I was glad to see Barrett finally demanded that Cena put on a Nexus t-shirt, although it's a little late in the game now – which Barrett actually acknowledged. ...

The Hart Dynasty finally split up. Tyson Kidd ended up being the one who turned heel, as he abandoned David Hart Smith during their loss to WWE tag team champions Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. I'm interested to see what plans WWE has in store for the talented Kidd. ...

It was awesome that Howard Finkel got to handle some of the ring announcing. I just wish he would have done it for the entire show. Finkel having words with Wippleman was a nice touch, as those two were on-screen rivals back in the day. ...

Another nice touch was having the late Lord Alfred Hayes' voice on the "promotional consideration" spot, and then having a Hayes impersonator list the sponsors. ...

The Iron Sheik appeared to miss his cue during his segment with Nikolai Volkoff, Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. Once The Sheik began cutting a promo on Hulk Hogan, it sounded as if WWE cut his mic. ...

Marella and Kozlov are now the No. 1 contenders to the tag team title, thanks to their win over Jimmy and Jey Uso. The Usos seemed to be gaining some momentum recently, so this result surprised me. ...

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Just wondering: Whatever happened to the Santino-Tamina story line? ...

When "The Doctor of Style" Slick came out I got the feeling that not many in the crowd knew who he was. Tito Santana didn't get much of a reaction either. ...

It was odd that Santana -- who always worked as a babyface in WWE -- introduced the heel Alberto Del Rio. Speaking of Del Rio, it was a nice treat to have him on Raw. He defeated Sgt. Slaughter, who didn't do a whole lot in the ring, but he certainly didn't embarrass himself. ...

George "The Animal" Steele doing his signature move (eating the stuffing from the turnbuckle) during the Kofi Kingston-David Otunga match brought a smile to my face. Steele's random appearance played a role in the finish, as Kingston slammed Otunga's head into the exposed turnbuckle en route to the victory. ...

I liked how The Miz was able to weasel his way out of a proposed match with Cena and have Alex Riley take his place. Cena versus Miz is a match that should be teased and built up before WWE delivers it. ...

The loss of CM Punk to injury apparently has created an opportunity for Ted DiBiase Jr. DiBiase attacked Bryan after the U.S. champion's win over Swagger, so he is likely taking Punk's place in a title program with Bryan. Earlier in the show, the Million Dollar belt story line came to an abrupt conclusion, as Goldust returned the belt to its "rightful owner," Ted DiBiase Sr., who in turn offered the belt back to his son. However, the younger DiBiase said that he was tired of hand-me-downs and that he had his sights set on bigger things. That story line wasn't clicking, so dropping it is a good idea. ...

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The backstage segment with Dusty Rhodes (wearing a blonde wig), DiBiase Sr., Irwin R. Schyster, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Tatanka, Kelly Kelly and Aksana dancing to Rhodes' old entrance music was corny but still somewhat amusing. Rhodes was disguised as Aksana's mother (you read that correctly) to lure Aksana into a trap. Kelly Kelly dropped a large net on her and Rhodes took the Million Dollar belt from her. Once the music started and everyone began dancing, Aksana – still under the net – danced, too. ...

The match between Barrett and R-Truth was decent. WWE wisely booked Barrett to go over clean to give him momentum heading into Survivor Series. ...

Cole on R-Truth's entrance: "Well, at least there was Eve." Amen to that.


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