Chair Shots: Shawn Michaels still the showstopper on WWE Raw

If last week's Raw was a complete dud, this one was only a minor step up with the return of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Micheals and his interaction with former DX teammate Triple H meeting expectations, and everything else seemingly running in place.

Michaels and the Game had a really good segment advancing the story of Triple H rejecting the Undertaker's WrestleMania challenge. HBK kept insisting that Triple H was just playing mind games with Undertaker. Michaels started asking if Hunter "married that chick and became one of them." Great line. Michaels called him a coward and a sell out, which got a big pop from the crowd. Hunter revealed that, as the man who stands to inherit the WWE, he has to view Undertaker as a brand rather than just as an opponent, and it's not good for business to "kill the brand."

HBK continued to egg on Hunter, telling him he didn't buy it unless he could look him in the eye and say "no," he didn't want to end the Undertaker's streak. I think to everyone's surprise, he did it. Michaels walks out, bumping Triple H's shoulder as he does. As Hunter goes to leave, the Undertaker's gong hit and we got another impeccably produced video package of Taker asking for Triple H to give him what is his, presumably a rematch. Undertaker then used a razor to start cutting his hair, which I guess is suppose to explain away why his hair will be shorter (he shaved if off over the summer) when he eventually does fight at WrestleMania. It also furthers the angle that Undertaker has become obsessed with Triple H.

I'm going to applaud WWE on this storyline. Every time Triple H says no -- despite the fact I know better and that he will eventually accept the challenge -- a piece of me wonders, well what if he doesn't? Michaels, as usual, was masterful here. He's the only person you can really buy saying these things to Triple H and the Game not kick the crap out of him. I'm really curious to see where this goes now. Undertaker is advertised to appear at next week's Raw on Feb. 20. Neither Taker or Michaels are expected to appear Feb. 27 (however, the Rock is advertised), but both (and the Rock) are scheduled for the March 5 Raw, which should be huge. That's also the date I predict Triple H will finall accept the Undertaker's challenge, after some more goading from Michaels, with HBK possibly inserting himself into the middle of the match in some capacity.

As good as this segment was, the rest of Raw really brought the whole show down. In particular, until the John Cena-Kane-Zack Ryder-Eve Torres storyline was just painful to watch unfold until the final few minutes, when it was saved by some high drama and a huge spot that saw Kane push Ryder in his wheelchair off the side of the stage that looked legitimately dangerous.

Essentially, Kane was stalking Eve again right around the corner from where Josh Matthews was trying to interview Cena about the Rock. I'm not sure if the camera cut too quickly or what, but Eve seemed to willingly climb into the ambulance while Kane just stood there. Anyway, Eve eventually got out of the ambulance and jumped into Cena's arms, where she kissed him. Naturally, when the camera panned, Zack Ryder was sitting there in his wheelchair, holding roses and chocolates for Eve. Awkward. Back from commercial, Eve is apologizing to Ryder, and eventually tells him she "just wants to be friends." We've all been there. Eve gets more heel heat for this than anything Kane has done over the last few months, by the way.

Cena came out to address the crowd, apologized to Ryder, told Kane would beat him at Elimination Chamber, and said he had words for the Rock, before Ryder emerged at the top of the stage, walked on crutches to the ring, eventually got in the ring and slapped the microphone out of Cena's hands, then slapped Cena, saying he was never really Ryder's friend. Ryder tries to punch him, but Cena blocks and puts up a fist of his own, leading to Ryder landing on his already injured back. He crawls out of the ring and eventually gets back to his wheel chair. Kane shows up on the big screen, tells Cena he's finally embraced the hate, then shows up on stage and shoves Ryder over the edge, wheelchair and all. Ryder was being put on a stretcher as Eve came out crying and Cena looked on distraught as the show faded to black.

The final few minutes were good, but seeing Eve willingly climb into the ambulance ruined the whole thing from the get-go for me. And Cena seemed to embrace the kiss a little more than he embraced hate. I mean, who can blame him, but it's weird to see him go all in, including putting his arm around her, only to say, "what the heck was that?" as soon as the kiss was over. This is more to the former point than the latter, but I'd accept this a lot more if it turns out Eve has a bad side and has been working with Kane all along, setting up Ryder and Cena in the process. Eve's going to get booed now, so you might as well go all in. Embrace the hate, Eve ...

(Editor's note: I rewatched the Eve-ambulance/kiss segment on again, and they did some edits to take out her climbing into the ambulance while Kane stood around. So that's on the production team cutting to the camera too fast. And this is why it makes more sense to do pre-tapes backstage.)

A majority of the show centered on highlighting the six participants in the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match. A show opening debate was very "meh" and I think the quarter-hour ratings will probably reflect that. Shockingly, I thought the star of the segment was Kofi Kingston. After the Miz called him an afterthought, he cut a strong promo and, for the first time since this match was announced, I felt like he belonged in a WWE title match.

The end was kind of sloppy, as Chris Jericho left his podium to get in CM Punk's face, and took a Trouble in Paradise kick from Kofi for his troubles.

A few other quick thoughts on the debate:
-- R-Truth as a face seems forced. When he was a heel and did crazy promos, it was funny. Now, it seems like pandering.
-- The Miz still seemed rattled from all of last week's botches. He had trouble with his promo, which has never really been an issue for him before. He needs to shake it off.
-- Jericho's new character seems a lot like his old one, which the exception of the use of "wannabe." That's not a problem, really, his old character was great, I just thought he wanted to do something different.

Kingston and Jericho had the best match of the night, which isn't saying much. Kingston looked like he belonged, which is what Jericho does best. Kingston escaping the Walls of Jericho by getting to the ropes was big for him. Jericho won after a thumb to the eye and a Codebreaker in about 7 minutes.

The booking of Ziggler-Truth was pretty well done, in my opinion. Ziggler dominated, but got rolled up and pinned while he was showing off and doing sit-ups. Truth is booked to go over a lot here recently, but I think he's already hit his ceiling. Ziggler, I hope, doesn't start losing lots of matches when he shows off too much, because that's a waste of what he can do.

Punk squashed the Miz, which was a real shame. Given time, I think these two could put on an entertaining 12- or 15-minute one-on-one match. Miz is clearly in the doghouse right now. I fully expected Jericho to interfere and cost Punk the match, to put Miz over as a credible threat in the chamber. But it's clear this match is about two men -- Punk and Jericho -- and the rest are just filler. ...

Smackdown's requesite segment saw Randy Orton and Big Show continue their spat from the end of Friday's Smackdown, with Daniel Bryan on commentary. This match was going great until a botched RKO kind of ruined the ending. Show sold the move while it looked like Orton was expecting him to counter and shove him into the ropes. They redid the spot, Orton hit the RKO, then Bryan ran in and hit both men with the World Championship. Just as the Raw chamber match is all about Punk and Jericho, it's pretty clear to me that -- at least from this segment -- the Smackdown chamber is all about these three individuals. ...

Good news: Another title match was added to the Elimination Chamber PPV lineup. Bad news: It's a Divas match. Tamina Snuka squashed one of the Bellas with Beth Phoenix on commentary, continuing her roll as of late, and it was announced she'll get a Divas title shot Sunday. All kidding aside, this should actually be a decent match. Tamina doesn't have the look of your average model Diva, so she'll come across as a bit more of a threat to Beth. Her finisher, the Superfly Splash, is very over too. ...

Perhaps the biggest piece of news on this show was that David Otunga has a plan to not only help John Laurinaitis become the permanant general manager of Raw, but also the permanent GM of Smackdown. It was such a short segment it seems to have been glossed over in other Raw reviews I've read, but I think this was planting the seed for something potentially huge. I wrote in my Smackdown recap a few weeks ago I thought Teddy Long would be written off TV sometime between Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania in favor of a heel authority figure on Smackdown. This tells me I'm on the right track. ...

Speaking of Smackdown, it was announced that Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan will face each other again in a rematch from last week.