Last week, John Cena's losing slump continued and Brock Lesnar delivered some of the nastiest trash talking seen in years. The two superstars will meet face to face in a special contract signing, just six days before their pay-per-view showdown. We're live in Detroit tonight for a special three hour episode.
Chris Jericho defeated Kofi Kingston
Lord Tensai defeated R-Truth
The Big Show & The Great Khali defeated Cody Rhodes & Alberto Del Rio
Nikki Bella defeated Beth Phoenix to Become Divas Champion
Mark Henry defeated Sheamus
Santino Marella & Zack Ryder defeated Epico & Primo
Brodus Clay & Hornswoggle defeated Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: WWE Raw, Monday April 23rd, 2012
This week, the WWE GM has stuck Teddy Long with the job of ring announcer. The deposed SmackDown boss does his best to get us hyped for the in-ring contract signing, happening in mere moments.
Contract Signing: John Cena and Brock Lesnar
Cena hits the ring, nervously anticipating the arrival of his Extreme Rules opponent. Brock's music plays, but he's nowhere to be found. Instead, General Manager Johnny Ace struts into the arena. He publicly chews out Teddy for botching his one job for the night. It appears that Lesnar has not arrived yet, and he will sign the contract on his time. Ace wants Cena to get out of the ring and enjoy tonight's show -- because it could be his last. But before Mr. Excitement can finish getting out his official company line about "People Power!" he's interrupted by newly-minted Hall of Famer, Edge.
Edge is here because his contract is expiring in a few days, and it was imperative that he talk to Cena. Edge considers Cena to be his greatest rival, but John no longer resembles the fighter he used to be. The Rated-R Superstar feels it's time for Cena to finally get over his big loss to the Rock, and come back fighting. He reminds John that Brock doesn't possess a passion for wrestling like they do; he's only in it for the money. He finishes up his tirade by informing John, that he's not asking him to beat Brock, he's telling him to.
Verdict: Good. Really just a teaser for what's to come later, but the surprise Edge cameo made it worth it.
Match #1: Chris Jericho vs. Kofi Kingston
Gee, I wonder who's going to win. The legend with incredible psychological momentum going into a Pay-Per-View main event... or Kofi Kingston. The Boom Boom Superstar puts up a valiant effort -- even dragging the fight past a commercial break! -- but the writing was always on the wall. Jericho gets the win with a Codebreaker-Walls of Jericho combo.
Winner: Chris Jericho
After the bell, the "Best in the World at What He Does" grabs the mic to remind everyone of what he's capable of. At Extreme Rules, he'll prove that C.M. Punk is an extreme failure of a champion, in front of his extremely alcoholic father, his extremely drug addicted sister, his extremely morally-lapsed mother, and his extreme wannabe fans. And he'll prove his point with an extreme beating. Jericho finishes "dropping a pipe bomb" by revealing that he bought a special gift for the champ tonight.
Hey does anyone know what the theme of the pay-per-view is supposed to be? It's not clear to me.
Verdict: Good. It was predictable but a good display of athleticism.
Recap: Brock Lesnar's Debut
Producers highlight his first pay-per-view match against Jeff Hardy at Backlash 2002.
* They conveniently ignore his actual debut when he blasted Al Snow and Spike Dudley with genuinely dangerous chair shots that would get Senatorial candidate Linda McMahon in some political hot water.
In the GM's Office: Johnny Ace and Eve
Big Johnny is pleased to welcome Eve into his official cabinet as an "Executive Administrator." The manipulative diva looks disappointed, like she was expecting something more lucrative. Laurinaitis tries to hug it out, but she's happy to keep it at a professional handshake.
Recap: Brock Lesnar's Trash Talking Extravaganza
In case you missed it from last week. Worth hearing again just for the references to Cena's p*** and s***.
In the Locker Room: Josh Matthews Interviews C.M. Punk
The WWE World Champ reveals that the gift Jericho left him was a gift basket of various cocktails. Punk unloads them onto Matthews, but keeps a bottle of Jack Daniels for himself. He's going to "re-gift" it on Jericho's head when they square off in Chicago.
Match #2: R-Truth vs. Lord Tensai
I highly doubt Little Jimmy will supply the same moral support that Tensai's deshi Sakamoto provides. Before the match gets underway, we're treated to some pre-recorded comments (in Japanese) from Tensai.
During the contest, the crowd heckles Tensai with chants of "Albert," acting none too impressed with his eight-year dominance of the Japanese wrestling scene. Truth puts up the most valiant effort anyone has had against the Lord so far -- even dragging himself to his feet after a "Tensai Ichiban!" powerbomb. But he falls victim to the poison mist-cranial claw.
Winner: Lord Tensai
Verdict: Good. It wasn't bad and I'm glad Truth wasn't portrayed as a total chump. But I miss the element of danger that his crazy man routine used to possess. The whole affair was just fine.
In-Ring Interview: Kane
With just six days to their Falls Count Anywhere showdown, Kane wants to treat Detroit to a Jerry Springer-style "Final Thought." Orton couldn't beat Kane at WrestleMania in a match with rules, so he stands no chance in their Extreme Rules showdown. Furthermore, he's disappointed by how quickly Orton fell in trying to defend his father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton; Kane has realized that RKO is not a man.
Orton appears on the big screen. Since Kane took out Randy's father, he's decided to return the favor. The Viper reveals that he's kidnapped legendary macabre manager (and the Big Red Machine's papa) Paul Bearer. He throws the unconscious Bearer into a meat locker (complete with Fright Fest-level fog machines) and locks the door shut.
Kane however just laughs. While Paul Bearer may have his sired the Masked Monster, he considers the devil to be his true father; so poor Paul is out of luck. Since Orton's plan just went S.O.L., he says "screw it" and charges the ring for a brawl. He gets ahold of a lead pipe and blasts Kane in the face. The Devil's Favorite Demon runs away through the crowd, while Orton soaks up the cheers of the crowd.
So is anyone going to rescue Paul Bearer?
Verdict: Ugly. The cheesiness of this feud is getting unbearable. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a wrestling fan.
Backstage: Chris Jericho is Interrupted by Alex Riley
A-Ry informs Jericho that he caught Punk drinking from the bottle of whiskey. Chris goes to investigate, and spies the champ acting like a "C.M. Drunk."
Match #3: Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes vs. The Big Show and The Great Khali - Tag Team Match
Del Rio's ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez tries to outdo the car horn on the Porsche of the Mexican Aristocracy. The whole thing sounds like "Dumb and Dumber's" most annoying sound in the world. As Cody marches to the ring, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler inform us that Cody will get his WrestleMania rematch for the Intercontinental Championship, this Sunday at Extreme Rules.
Khali, still sporting a noticeable limp after Rhodes clipped his leg on Friday Night SmackDown, is ready for a fight. Irony deals a cruel hand when Show hurts his own knee during the contest, barely managing to stand on it. Del Rio and "Dashing" take turns attacking the giant's vulnerable leg, with Rhodes trapping Show in his newly-perfected Figure Four Lock. The World's Largest Athlete recovers to lay out Cody with a choke slam.
Winners: Big Show and Great Khali
Verdict: Bad. Cody better win at Extreme Rules, otherwise this has been a month of anticlimactic boredom. Big Show already won, why is he picking on this guy?
Announcement: Extreme Rules Pre-Show - Live on YouTube
Santino Marella defends his United States Championship against The Miz, on the web-based hype job for the pay-per-view. Innovative use of YT, but that's a BIG dropoff for Miz.
In the GM's Office with Chris Jericho, Ace and Eve
Chris Jericho makes the case that because Punk is drunk on the job, he needs to be stripped of his World Title. Eve cites official legal language from the WWE Rule Book, stating that Jericho's complaint has merit. Johnny decides to have arena security conduct a field sobriety test, and if Punk is found legally intoxicated, he'll strip Punk of the title and award it to Jericho. And because he can make someone else do the dirty work, he's ordering Teddy to oversee the proceedings.
Wait, didn't we all already see Punk drinking? What kind of "proof" does Johnny need?
Entering the Arena: Brock Lesnar
Josh Matthews tries to get an official word with the UFC champ, but when he implies that Lesnar could lose on Sunday, Brock pushes him into a wall. The corn-fed meathead finally lets go and begins walking away, but he catches the diminutive Matthews muttering "Just trying to do my job." So the War Machine turns around, grabs Josh and throws him into interview set.
When we come back from commercial break, paramedics are tending to Matthews, fitting him with a neck brace and loading him onto a stretcher.
Match #4: Divas Champion Beth Phoenix vs. Nikki Bella - Title Match
Before the ladies can get underway, Eve interrupts. She's tired of the Bella Twins' constant chicanery, and with her new position of power, she is changing this match to a LumberJill Match. Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox and the rest(!) traipse their way to ringside with all the verve of a "Don't Ask Me, I'm Just a Girl!" Malibu Stacy doll.
It's a typical Beth Phoenix bout, where she literally carries her opponent through the motions, but it gets real ugly when it looks like Phoenix legitimately hurts her ankle jumping from the ring to the arena floor. Everything breaks down, the Bellas look like deer in the headlights and it gets mercifully wrapped up when Nikki rolls up Beth to win the title.
Winner and New Divas Champion: Nikki Bella
After the match, cameras try not to focus on trainers tending to Phoenix.
Verdict: Ugly. Beth, like a trooper, limped her way to the finish. However that injury probably just threw all the storylines into chaos -- especially since Cole and Lawler spent the whole match talking up her dominant reign, and how she was close to breaking the record for longest-reigning Divas champion.
Oh well, I guess writers are going to have make us suddenly care about Natalya and Tamina, since they're going to be very busy carrying all the models to something resembling "athletics."
In the Locker Room: Teddy Long and C.M. Punk
The Champ responds to the news that he needs to take a sobriety test, by flipping out and beating the hell out of a stool. Seems pretty sober to me.
In the Ring: The Field Sobriety Test
So this is happening. In order to make sure Teddy doesn't screw anything up, Jericho hurries out to monitor everything. The cops say "ok" -- because this is pro wrestling, and that's how these things work.
Punks does his best to not stumble during his entrance, gets in Teddy's face to tell him what his problem is and accidentally (hilariously) refers to it as the "WWF Universe." He refuses to recite the alphabet backward on the grounds that it is "stupid." Cops try to make him walk in a straight line, but Punk won't finish this task either because Jericho is "distracting him."
The police come to the official conclusion that he's intoxicated. Detroit naturally boo's the police for doing their job. Teddy has no choice but to order Punk forfeit the title to Jericho. Chicago Made begs to get one more chance to prove his sobriety. He begins reciting the alphabet backward and walking (and Moonwalking and Flair Strutting) in a straight line; while Jericho watches intently to see if he screws up, Punk turns on him and delivers a thorough beating. Jericho retreats and Punk stands triumphantly, having gained the psychological edge.
Verdict: Bad. Punk was entertaining as a mock-drunk, but everyone saw this coming from a mile away. And Punk went to really elaborate means just so he could get close enough to Jericho to punch him a bunch of times. He probably could have done that simply by ambushing the guy in the locker room. I don't know... they had fun with it, but it dragged on for way too long. Sorry guys.
Recap: Brock Lesnar Destroys Hulk Hogan
Producers again keep Linda McMahon from falling into a nasty PR battle, by editing out the buckets of blood that Hogan smeared all over Lesnar's victorious chest.
Match #5: World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. "The World's Strongest Man" Mark Henry - Non-title Match
Per order of General Manager Johnny, Daniel Bryan is announced as the Special Referee for this fight. And cue Detroit breaking out in a massive "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant.
Throughout the slugfest, Bryan taunts the Great White to hit him, but Sheamus knows if he lays his hands on another referee he'll be fired. The Celtic Warrior walks right into a Henry clothesline, and Bryan makes a very fast three count.
Winner: Mark Henry
Bryan gloats over the stunned Sheamus and throws his ref shirt right in the loser's face. But doing so unwittingly relieves him of his refereeing duties -- which makes him legally susceptible to an Irish a**-kicking. The anti-bullying spokesman proceeds to beat up the man he blames for his sports defeat; Mark Henry realizes this hypocrisy is overwhelming and comes to Bryan's aid. The Vegan Superstar proceeds to lock Sheamus in the "Yes!" Lock. He finally relents and marches up the ramp, exclaiming his affirmative catchphrase.
Verdict: Good. Producers seem to have done an effective job at damage control regarding Sheamus and Bryan's characters. Hopefully, their match on Sunday night will make up for the 18 second debacle that people paid $55 to see. Now they just need to stop treating Mark Henry like an afterthought.
Backstage: Sheamus Limps Away
After the break, Matt Striker tries to get an official comment from the embarrassed champ. Sheamus reiterates that Bryan is a little snake, then provides a quick history lesson by reminding audiences what happened to all the snakes in Ireland. The only difference between then and now is that Sheamus is no saint.
Match #6: World Tag Team Champions Epico & Primo (with Rosa Mendes) vs. Santino Marella and "Long Island Iced Z" Zack Ryder - Non-title Match
The champs are allowed to look a little bit more competent this week. Cole spends the entire match ragging on Ryder for being "a goof." Naturally, he's incredulous when Santino secures the victory with the Cobra.
Winners: Santino and Zack Ryder
Verdict: Bad. The crowd was happy and it was a fine three minute outing. But I guess Primo and Epico's characters are "champions who always lose."
Backstage: Kane Limps By Paul Bearer's Icy Grave
He pulls Bearer out of the meat locker -- So everyone just left him there? Even the cops we saw administering the sobriety test? -- Then Kane says he's saving his daddy from the Red Man himself and pushes him back into the locker and slams the door shut. So Paul Bearer is dead then?
Backstage: Epico and Primo Argue
The champions bicker over who's to blame, when they are interrupted by AW. He doesn't understand why they didn't have a match at WrestleMania; he hands them his card and explains that if they're tired of being overlooked, they should give him a call.
Match #7: "The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay & Hornswoggle the Leprechaun (with the Funkettes) vs. "The Show Off" Dolph Ziggler & "The All-American-American" Jack Swagger (with Vickie Guerrero) - Tag-team Match
This match is sponsored by those gross Doritos Tacos from Taco Bell. So that means Cole and Lawler go into overdrive on the forced advertising patter. Like everything out of their mouth is "The Fukettes are spicy, but not as spicy as the new Doritos Locos Tacos." Sigh. Everything about this is the embodiment of American culture.
Ziggler has way too much fun kicking the stuffing out of 'Swoggle. When Brodus gains the advantage, Vickie gets fed up and rushes the ring. She smacks Clay right in the face.
Winners By Disqualification: Brodus Clay & Hornswoggle
Guerrero finds herself surrounded by good guys and good girls. She tries to get out of dodge, by dancing her way to safety, but Hornswoggle bites her in the butt. "I can't believe we just sat through that" Michael Cole mutters. At least you're getting paid, Michael.
Verdict: Ugly. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a human.
Recap: Brock Lesnar's WrestleMania Debut
His debut was also the main event -- a world title bout against Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. The manipulative editing strikes again; this time they erase Brock's scary top-rope close-call where he almost broke his neck. In fact, it was that near-accident that spooked him out of pro wrestling and into the UFC.
SmackDown Preview: Sheamus and Mark Henry Face Off In a Rematch
Plus, Michael Cole will be conducting a special interview with Randy Orton.
Contract Signing: John Cena and Brock Lesnar, Take Two
Johnny Ace is here to make sure everything goes peacefully. This Sunday's PPV is the first big show with him in charge, and it's the first show of the "People Power!" era. Lesnar, all business, makes his way to the ring. Cena's music plays, but he's nowhere to be found. Brock doesn't feel like playing any games, and he needs to go over some new paperwork with Mr. Excitement. He explains that his tardiness tonight was due to his distaste for the current contract offered to him. If he's going to be the new face of WWE, and if he's going to fight Cena on Sunday, then it's going to be on his terms. Which is why he has a new contract for Johnny to look over.
Brock is no longer a naive farm boy, he's an enterprise. WWE needs Brock Lesnar, so they need to comply. From here on out, Ace needs Brock's approval on anything that involves him. Furthermore, he wants Vince McMahon's private jet to chauffeur him to and from Raw. He'll show up on Raw when he wants and how he wants; he will not be Johnny's puppet. He will not be held liable to fines -- in fact, he wants a salary upgrade too. The crowd chants "You suck!" but Brock lets them know he's not annoyed by that. His final order of business is to change the name of the show from "WWE Monday Night Raw" to "WWE Monday Night Raw Starring Brock Lesnar." Ace, slightly terrified for his life, agrees to the terms.
John Cena finally makes his entrance, sporting his old-school "Doctor of Thuganomics" chain. Brock sits confidently -- like the king of '80s jock a**hole bad-guys -- kissing his fists. Without saying a word, Cena signs the contract. The two men stand off, staring each other down. Lesnar exits to a chorus of boo's -- and we're out!
Verdict: Good. For years, people thought John Cena's dream opponent was The Rock, but maybe it's actually Brock Lesnar. John's first high-profile feud was with Lesnar back in 2003, John became the company mascot after Brock quit. John is a die-hard WWE fan, Brock genuinely only cares about the paycheck. Their color schemes, their sportsmanship, their demeanor with fans -- everything is a polar opposite. Their connected history and their disparate personalities make them linked forever in wrestling lore.
People busted Cena's chops for years, but WWE has found the perfect way to make us love John's schtick: they're giving us exactly what we wanted (a bad-ass like Brock) and showing us that it's even worse. Luckily, Cena is also stepping up his game, by dialing it back. By saying less, he's doing a lot more -- and dare I say it, he's starting to look cool.
Show Verdict: Good (5), Bad (3), Ugly (3). In the show's defense, it has been steadily improving, thanks to the involvement of Brock and the Rock. So chalk up the number of misfires in tonight's show to the fact that they had three hours to fill, six days before a PPV, a mere four weeks after Wrestle-freaking-Mania.
Extreme Rules: Live This Sunday on Pay-Per-View
Main Event: John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar - Extreme Rules
WWE World Title Match - C.M. Punk (Champion) vs. Chris Jericho - Chicago Street Fight
World Heavyweight Title Match - Sheamus (Champion) vs. Daniel Bryan - Best 2 Out of 3 Falls
Randy Orton vs. Kane - Falls Count Anywhere
WWE Intercontinental Title Match - The Big Show (Champion) vs. Cody Rhodes
Follow Eric Larnick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Hi_HorseLarnick