The Raw Story: In Foley We Trust

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Thumbs Up: A Fun Opening Segment (For Once)
There was so much here to enjoy. A surprise appearance by WWE legend Mick Foley is always welcome. Better yet was the fact that his little spiel on wanting to compete in the Royal Rumble actually made sense. Then the mighty Dolph Ziggler entered and informed Foley that the reality is he's all washed up. CM Punk joins the mix to back up Foley, only to have John Laurinaitis interrupt him for the umpteenth time.

It was the perfect mix of showcasing young talent and giving us our nostalgia kick for the night. Three of these guys are exceptional with microphone in hand, while the other (poor Johnny Ace) is so bad that he’s good. All while being entertaining, this segment built up the Royal Rumble (because that’s what should actually matter in the grand scheme of Raw) and advanced storylines while teasing a potential new one between Foley and Ziggler.

Thumbs Down: Short Tag Matches
Here we have four guys (Bourne, Kingston, Epico and Primo) with complementary wrestling styles in a tag title match — let them have a few minutes to show off their abilities and entertain the crowd. This is, after all, a wrestling show. The pacing was quick, both teams worked well together and against one another, and it was a lot of fun to watch. That said, it's a letdown when they only get about five minutes to perform their magic.

Thumbs Down: Boo Boo Boo, You Know It!
Zack Ryder’s shtick is starting to get annoying, and the crowd at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Ca. apparently agrees. Ryder is seen backstage and, as far as I could tell, got more jeers than cheers. This is what happens with WWE. The fans ask for something — in this case, Ryder — so they give it to us in unhealthy quantities until we regret ever asking for it.

Let me be clear: I think Ryder is great. His being annoying is more a fault of WWE for sticking him on TV far too often than it is anything that he’s doing. Taking two full segments to change a damn tire last week didn’t help, either. Reports are that the big escape segment with him and Eve last week had a ratings drop of more than 544,000 viewers — and that’s because watching the melodrama of someone changing a tire, when we should be watching wrestling, is bad TV. Not Zack’s fault, but that figure made it no surprise what would come next.

Thumbs Down: The All-American American as the United States Champion (strong irony)
With little-to-no build, Jack Swagger wins the United States Championship over the “injured” Ryder. It was nice to see Ryder have enough pride to defend the thing while injured instead of bailing, but this was about as weak a way of changing titles as possible. (Not as bad as having the tag titles change hands at a house show, but I digress …)

The new United States Champion, Jack Swagger
  • The new United States Champion, Jack Swagger
Let’s see what Swagger can do as champ. I have no problems with him holding the title, it’s just the way it happened — so abruptly that it made the supposedly coveted gold seem unimportant yet again.

Thumbs Up: The Live Crowd
A good crowd is an aspect of wrestling that can sometimes be overlooked. Even the worst of WWE events can be, at the very least, covered up by a hot crowd. From start to finish, this Anaheim crowd popped for the faces and gave heat to the heels.

Best of all, they let Perez Hilton have it with the booing. The fact that he was coming out to do the ring announcing for a diva’s match certainly didn’t help his cause. Nobody likes to watch divas matches, and apparently nobody hates them any less when Perez Hilton is involved.

Thumbs Up: Laurinaitis Throwing His Weight Around

In a backstage segment with Zack Ryder and Eve (because we hadn’t already seen enough of them for one night), Johnny Ace put his employee in her place by essentially telling her to shut up and respect authority. I’m not a fan of disrespecting women (as I make clear in my review of Contraband — another shameless plug), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it hilarious. Laurinaitis’ character continues to grow, and fans should be pleased because it was desperately needed.

Thumbs Up: Wade Barrett, Unintentional Comedian
Full disclosure: I’m a huge Wade Barrett mark. He came out to interrupt R-Truth by addressing him as such: (paraphrasing) “Listen R-Truth, if that even is your real name …” I enjoyed a nice belly laugh on that one.

Of course it’s not his real name. Barrett knows that. I would assume that he realizes R-Truth is just a character on a TV show, and that said character is being played by the real man Ron Killings. But Barrett went ahead and sort of unintentionally broke the fourth wall by questioning his name.

Thumbs Up: Being a Good R-Truth
I’m not fully behind the idea that R-Truth can get over with the crowd as a comedic baby face, but his promo Monday night was fantastic. For the first time since his return, the crowd seemed to respond well to him, so I’ll give a cautious Thumbs Up to that. I’m still not sure the WWE can continue to make it work, and I will be hugely disappointed (though not surprised) if we see Truth regress back to the lower mid-card as the plain baby face he was a year ago.

Thumbs Up: Actually Building Up to Pay Per View

Teddy Long came out to announce a four man over the top rope match between Truth, Barrett, The Miz and Sheamus. I was all for it. In showcasing four potential Royal Rumble winners in a match of the same style, it gives the audience a taste of what we’ll be seeing come Jan. 29. Building up a Pay Per View event is always a positive, especially when they do it by simply throwing four guys in a ring and letting them work.

Thumbs Up: Here Comes John Cena
When he appeared on the screen, I looked at the time to see that it was 10:10 p.m. That means it took 70 minutes for John Cena to appear on Raw. After the past few weeks of Raw Supershows seeming likeRaw SuperCenaShow, this was a nice break. Have you notice that the better episodes of Raw don't seem to feature Cena in the opening or closing of the show? Interesting …

I do like where they’re going with Cena’s character. The last two weeks in particular, Cena has shown a more aggressive side. Dare I say that he’s even showing some heel tendencies? Seeing him beat the living hell out of Jack Swagger first got me angry, because I was thinking that Cena was going after the wrong guy. Swagger really did nothing wrong — he didn’t know Zack Ryder wasn’t cleared to compete, and even so, his concern is about winning a title. But then I realized, the whole point is for Cena to attack a guy who doesn’t deserve it. That’s what a heel would do. If Cena ultimately doesn’t turn heel (you could easily make the argument that he already is the most effective heel in the company at this point, seeing as though half the fans hate him anyways) then it will be all for not. But, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the teasing of the heel turn and the “will he, won’t he” storyline. Anything new brought to the table for Cena’s character is an improvement from him chasing the title.

(A small Thumbs Down for having it be Swagger who Cena ripped apart. You don’t need to bury your newest champion on literally the same night he won the title. Can’t it wait a week?)

Thumbs Up: The Funkasaurus’ Entertainment Value
This whole Funkasaurus gimmick is fun to watch. Brodus seems to actually enjoy himself, the music is catchy, the dancing is hilarious, and I can't find a in-ring trademark for a wrestler than Brodus calling out his moves as he does them. “Suplex, baby!” Keep talking to the audience, Brodus. We’re listening … at least for now.

Thumbs Down: He’s Nothing More Than a Gimmick
At the same time, I’m becoming more and more certain that Brodus is merely just a joke in the eyes of the WWE brass. His match against JTG last night was almost move-for-move the exact same as his re-debut match last week versus Curt Hawkins. Him squashing guys who are rarely on TV is no way to build a superstar. Unless the man from Planet Funk is set up with a feud or a purpose in the very near future, this gimmick will get stale and Brodus will unfortunately be another victim of the WWE Creative team’s lack of, well, creativity.

Thumbs Up: Taking Lemons and Making Decent Lemonade
Raw effectively and efficiently showcased its main storyline on Smackdown by showing a quick recap, followed by a solid heelish promo from Daniel Bryan. It keeps the company’s “B” show fresh in our minds, and continues to help Bryan build heat with the audience.

And let’s be honest here — this feud between Bryan and Big Show could have run its course before it even began. Big Show is past his prime, and Bryan has never particularly gotten over with the crowd. But I’ve got to tip my cap to the Smackdown writers here. They’ve taken this storyline and made it worth watching.

Thumbs Down: WWE and Twitter

  • Oops
After Daniel Bryan cut his promo, Michael Cole chimed in to inform us that "Daniel Bryan" was trending worldwide on Twitter. The little graphic in the corner of the screen also popped up as usual. It turns out that both Michael Cole and the dude in charge of the graphics were wrong. While a minor gripe, it was actually "Daniel Bryan's" trending on Twitter. Here's my problem with it: if it's the WWE's prerogative to alienate its audience by going on and on with this Twitter nonsense each week, then at least be accurate in your annoying statements.

Thumbs Way Up: Chris Jericho
Jericho’s night overall was the best thing since whatever it was he last did. The man is just money. I had two favorite moments tonight involving Y2J:
1. His ring entrance, which was interrupted by a commercial break. When they returned from break four minutes later, Jericho was still pandering to the audience.
2. When he bailed on Punk, the fans and the match, which finally brought out some boo birds, the camera cut to him walking up the ramp. He was still pandering, this time more to himself than the audience, as he kept pumping his fists and yelling “yeah, yeah!”

Thumbs Down: Giving Away Your Best for Free
The main event which saw Punk, Bryan and Jericho (kind of) take on Ziggler, Mark Henry and David Otunga in a six man tag team battle also saw too much of the upcoming WWE Championship match occurring on free TV. I’m fine with Punk and Ziggler exchanging punches and what not, but they got a solid few minutes in the ring together to essentially give away for free what we’ll be seeing at the Rumble. Look, the Rumble is one of WWE’s bigger pay events and I imagine it will have a solid buy rate regardless of how great Punk and Ziggler’s match may or may not be, but let’s save it for then, okay?

Thumbs Up: A Strong Finish to a Great Show
Simply put, Monday’s main event was an example of why wrestling is fun to watch. Much like the show’s opening, the last segment was nothing but quality television. It’s the little moments like these that can erase months of bad shows and give the wrestling faithful something to hold on to. Punk’s work on the mic was his best since pre-Money in the Bank ’11, and seeing Foley win (kind of) the match via submission by using Mr. Socko along with Laurinaitis cutting an intense promo of his own are all things to be thankful for.

It has us interested and wanting to know what will happen next. Because honestly, who knows exactly? It would seem that WWE has plans for Foley to take over as the Raw GM sometime in the near future, and you can most certainly bet on seeing Punk and Laurinaitis headlining the Elimination Chamber PPV. (I wouldn’t be able to talk enough about how well they’ve built the Punk/ Laurinaitis feud). And this all occurs while Ziggler doesn’t get lost in shuffle, as he continues his feud with Punk and planted the seeds for a potential showdown with Foley. This was great stuff.

Welcome to the second Raw Story here on Daily Loaf. A few miscellaneous thoughts before getting started:

• Who exactly am I and what am I doing here? Both valid questions, which can be answered by reading my introduction post from yesterday.
• My format for these columns is relatively simple: I'm using "Thumbs Up" and "Thumbs Down" to indicate whether or not I like a specific portion to the show. (Thanks, Roger!)
• If you love me, hate me, or just want to share your thoughts on Raw, your remarks are welcome in the comment section below. Talk back, people!

Now on to the column...

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