Tink Holloway's Wrestling Digest

THWD: WWE Raw Find's It's Feet

WWE Draft RAW – June 23rd 2008

I have to admit to being mildly interested in this year’s Raw draft. WWE is in major need of a change and this was their chance to make those changes. I was convinced however that the creative geniuses behind the WWE would drop the ball again and provide us with an uninspiring set of roster switches which would barely affect the 3 respective rosters.

I had watched the previous weeks Raw with the usual resignation as once again NOTHING happened. So it came as some surprise when I received a text message from a good friend of mine saying ‘A great episode of Raw with a really strange ending’, I had suddenly become intrigued. Could it be that the WWE would actually see the light and make the changes to their set up which would not only reinvigorate the product but also remedy my own personal apathy towards their television shows? Had this week’s Raw been showcase to more than a perplexing push for Lance Cade? As soon as I got home I sat down at the computer and took in the action from Daily Motion (thanks to the people who put the WWE shows on there by the way!) here is the verdict…

The concept of the draft is a fine one; members of different rosters fight each other and win their brand a draft pick. Simple but effective, this ensures that each match has a reason to happen and that the outcome of each matters. Each year this is rightly seen as a ‘special’ edition of Raw because of it’s potential to really alter the landscape of the WWE, however, in my opinion previous year’s drafts have failed to live up to this hype. There was something about this year’s draft that promised to be different though and they started as they meant to go on for the night with the opening match. Granted it was Mark Henry who Triple H had to beat in order to win Raw’s first draft, still the match was watchable and it meant that things got off to a ‘headliner’ start. On the night, Rey’s transfer to Raw went down well and the crowd were enthusiastic, but I wonder what possibilities Rey has on ‘The Big Man’s Brand’, having bombed as a world champion on Smackdown, I find it hard to believe that Rey’s chances on Raw are going to be any better.

The next segment reminded me why I have to force myself to watch Raw these days rather actually want to do so. John Cena and Triple H had another one of their underwhelming stare-downs to barely audible reception and, as far as I’m concerned, the pair’s feud is never gonna get over whilst their ‘war of words’ is about nothing more than drawing heat out of who the better man is- if they want us to care, they need to give us a reason to. This monotonous confrontation was followed by match number two which pitted Finlay and Hornswoggle against Santino Marella and Carlito. Why the father and son combo are given any weight as a tag team is beyond me as they suck credibility out of the ever abused tag team division, indeed their push as a duo is nearly as perplexing Carlito still being employed by the WWE. The following draft pick for Smackdown was another decent one, Jeff Hardy’s style is conducive to making mistakes, mistakes which can be covered up by Smackdown’s recorded nature, furthermore, after almost reaching the heights on Raw he must be a big favourite to take the next step on the Friday night brand.

After another break at which point I started to realise that I’ve become quite fond of the Raw theme tune, we had match number 3. As little as I like Spark Plug Holly, I think that placing established names, with little else to do but take up space on the roster, in tag teams with younger guys who still aren’t quite ready for a solo push actually makes sense and should be done a little more often. Here, Holly and Cody Rhodes took on ECW’s Chavo Gurerro and Bam Neely. A short match with the uninterested Jerry Lawler, inexperienced Ted Dibiase Jr and clueless Mike Adamlee, this was far from satisfying, still CM Punk’s subsequent draft transfer to Raw was interesting. This pick at least guarantee’s that Punk’s Money In The Bank win won’t be wasted on the ECW Title. Long term however, I pessimistically believe that ‘Mr Straight Edge’s’ hopes of main eventing by this time next year are as small as they have been since he entered the WWE.

Next up the Michaels versus Jericho feud was given a little top up in the heat bank with Michaels further injuring the eye that was first hurt at the hands of the hanging monitor a couple of weeks previous. Jericho’s disillusionment with the crowds’ attitude and Michaels’ popularity is reminiscent of Bret Hart in 1997 and his presentation of Michaels’ history on Raw was a neat little idea which further progressed their programme. This angle should ensure that the conclusive (and no doubt splendid) match will be put back until the big event in August and that Jericho’s well advised heel run draws that much more heat.

My favourite tag team on the WWE roster were next; The Miz and John Morrison have the ability and potential to bring prestige back to the doubles straps and should be given an elongated tenure with the titles. The idea to tag up The Hardy Boys (being that both were now Smackdown superstars due to Jeff’s earlier draft pick) against the champions was an inspired one and elicited a fine reaction from the audience on hand. Rightly so, ECW got it’s draft pick when Morrison and Miz won the match, and for their troubles they drafted Matt Hardy to the WWE’s purple brand. I’m not sure how much of a difference drafting someone from Smackdown to ECW makes when they share their live shows and television programmes most of the time anyway, but the US title at least has been transferred to ECW with him.

The WWE next decided to start remedying their poor commentary situation by having an announcers only draft match which pitted Melina and Mickie James against Victoria and Natalya. Whilst the Diva’s progress has been slow since the Women’s title was reinstated 10 years ago, there is at least a division of sorts these days rather than just Sable and the nearest big boobed contender, still this certainly doesn’t warrant the creation of a second female belt. This match ended in a double disqualification resulting in both Raw and Smackdown getting an announcer draft each and Jim Ross being sensationally drafted to Smackdown whilst Michael Cole went the other way. Whilst some may be concerned that ‘the best in the business’ is no longer on Monday nights the commentary teams definitely needed a shake up and with a bit of luck these new pairings will make for a fresh new sound to both programmes.

John Cena never get’s booed and enjoys the adulation of the crowd, that is until he steps into the ring and starts fighting. When he walks down to the ring the fans adore him and his refreshing non-metal entrance music, then he starts throwing those terrible punches and the crowd turns on him, consequently, despite the fantastic heel that Edge is even he can’t repel the crowds enough to make the fans cheer the intended face. Credit to both though, their feud from late 2006 has clearly familiarised the two with each other and they put on a decent match in spite of the lame countout victory for Cena. As such Raw got the draft pick and Batista was the man moving to Monday nights. With Batista having done everything possible on Smackdown he was certainly due a move to Raw and this one made a lot of sense- Cena Vs Batista at Wrestlemania 25 anyone?

Next up ECW’s Tommy Dreamer took on Smackdown’s MVP. Due to Tommy’s limited ability this match was most notable for Mick Foley’s continuation of the WWE’s general mockery of Mike Adamle, and Tazz’s interjection to remind Mick and Mike that there was actually a match going on. Unsurprisingly MVP picks up the duke and Smackdown gets another draft. ‘The Samoan Bulldog’ as Mike Adamle put it, becomes the latest star to jump from one brand to another and he then proceeds to show his dominance by beating down Dreamer and his protégé of sorts, Colin Delaney.

Kofi Kingston Vs JBL was such a foregone conclusion that I was tempted to spin through it, however, Kofi managed to put up a decent fight and was given the chance to maybe leave a slight impression on the fans watching . JBL’s victory meant that Raw had another draft pick and they managed to land the ECW Champion Kane. With another title swapping brands, all of a sudden I had become very worried about a mass title change at Night Of Champions.

Raw, Smackdown and ECW each had 5 superstars in the 15-man tri brand battle royal, the winning brand in this one would receive 2 draft picks for their troubles. The WWE used this to draw more attention to the drafts already made with Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Batista, Kane and CM Punk all competing for their new brands. Unsurprisingly ECW was cut down to size quickly and Raw dominated for the most part (the WWE is never subtle about exposing Smackdown and ECW as the inferior brands). Eventually it came down to Triple H and Cena for Raw and Big Show and Edge for Smackdown. After Cena and Triple H eliminated Big Show, Cena turned his back on Triple H and Edge managed to eliminate them both, winning Smackdown two valuable drafts- the first, Mr. Kennedy, was not overly impressive- Kennedy’s star potential is not as glaring as it was before his suspension last year. The second draft was in all fairness the biggest of the night- Triple H! Though thecommentators did the bare minimum to hype such an event occurring, ‘The Game’s’ switch to Smackdown was the most surprising and the most important of the lot.

Finally came the big angle of the night, and the reason my buddy had text me about ‘the weird ending’, Vince presented a lucky person with the $500,000 in the McMahom Million Dollar Giveaway and then a series of events occurred that wound up with McMahon being buried under a piece of the stage which had collapsed onto him. Triple H, Cena, Edge and others then attempted to lift the piece of stage off of the WWE chairman and the commentators kept silent in order to lend credence to the authenticity of the events. As Raw went off the air we were left with images of the EMT’s tending to McMahon. This was the latest in line of a string of bizarre story lines that we’ve seen on a WWE television over the last year (ironically, beginning with McMahon’s ‘death’ in a limo explosion) that deserve a blog of their own, and as such I won’t go into any further detail.

So Raw managed to do what it had failed to do for about the previous 4 years, to hold my attention for the duration and impress me with the effect it had. The draft was an exciting one with some real changes that look set to shuffle the WWE deck and make for new story lines and feuds in the coming months. Jeff Hardy, Mr Kennedy and CM Punk should all benefit to varying degrees from their trades, meanwhile Batista and Kane have opened up a whole can of fresh options in their respective careers. The swapping of Michael Cole and Jim Ross should make for a pleasantly unfamiliar style on Raw and Smackdown for a while and Vince McMahon’s strange accident at the end of the show at the very least provides intrigue and apprehension in equal measure. Triple H’s defection to Smackdown should do wonders for ‘The Blue Brand’, in terms of TV ratings and house show attendance- the show is guaranteed attention now that the bosses daughter’s husband is on the show. Most of all for me though it has meant that for the first time in I don’t know how long, I will be tuning in next week and I may even catch Smackdown too, and surely that is what it is all about? A great Raw indeed!