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By Buck Woodward on 2009-01-06 12:48:01

Last week's Raw received a pretty mixed reaction from viewers, with some feeling it was a worthless show, while others just saw it as a weak effort in comparison to several previous episodes that had been strong.  So, this week's show, at least to me, was better than last week, but not as strong as those other ones.  Still, I am enjoying the emphasis on storyline development, both good (Phoenix-Melina, JBL-HBK, Punk-Regal), middle of the road (Legacy) and bad (Kelly-Kane).  It was also nice to see WWE take some steps towards the Rumble with the first Raw names being thrown into the mix.  The biggest plus for Raw these days is their attempt to keep you coming back for more.  At the end of this show, we had two big matches for next week (Cena-HBK, Punk-Regal) and the knowledge that Vince McMahon will be back soon.  With the ratings goes up last week, WWE has to make sure they keep giving fans a reason to return, and they are doing that. 

Onto my thoughts on the show. 

The Matches:

The mixed tag match was perfectly fine as another bit of build for Melina vs. Beth Phoenix at the Royal Rumble.  Once again, the story of the match was Beth Phoenix overpowering Melina, but she refuses to give up against her bigger opponent.  Goldust and Santino worked well together too, but this was about the ladies, and Melina scoring the sweet top rope face driver and jacknife cradle for the pin made sense to giver her momentum for the title match.  Psycho fan Rosa attacks again, and this time Melina goes after her.  They could turn this into a storyline where Melina needs to keep her eye on the prize, and not allow Rosa to cost her an opportunity.

After weeks of setting up CM Punk vs. William Regal, WWE decided to make us wait longer.  The match started off strong, and I liked Regal using Layla to block the tope.  I also liked Regal grabbing the referee to block the GTS... until it led to the cheap DQ ending.  How many matches have we seen where a referee gets tugged or shoved and the match continues?  So, we get a DQ, but not to fear, we'll see a rematch... someday.  Okay, they did tell us later it would be next week, so at least we won't be waiting a month for it. Still, after waiting for the bout, this was annoying. I also hope this doesn't lead to a cheap DQ title change.

I always hate the "promo, entrances, two seconds of action, commercial" format that WWE used for the Miz & Morrison vs. Kingston & Mysterio match.  Once we got past that, it was a really enjoyable tag team bout.  The crowd loves Rey and Kofi, so they got into the babyfaces selling as Miz and Morrison worked them over. We then had the hot tag to Rey and a bunch of nice spots at the end. Morrison hitting the mid air kick as Rey went for the springboard was a fantastic finish.  Kofi hurting his knee on the bodypress over the top was a nice set up for him being unable to make the save. Knox comes out for the post match attack, as I expected after his loss last week.  Good bout, and the attack got Knox his heat back after the loss. 

Jillian Hall deserves some sort of credit for keeping this singing gimmick going for so long.  Then again, her work in the match with Kelly Kelly showed there is more to her than bad singing.  I liked the logic that this match was set up by Jillian eliminating Kelly in the battle royale last week.  Attention to detail like that is something I want to see more of from WWE.  Anyway, Jillian was just fantastic here, counting along with the referee, tossing Kelly around, and keeping the crowd into the match.  Jillian actually had the much stronger showing here, but it wasn't a surprise that Kelly went over (with a really sweet legdrop to the back of the head).  Jillian then pounded Kelly some more, and Kane entered.  Jillian wisely left, and Kane informed us that he will face Randy Orton next week.  Apparently, this bothers Kelly, despite being kicked to the curb by Orton last week.  I'm failing to see where Kelly is supposed to get sympathy over being concerned for a heel that dumped her. Whatever, I guess it will help bring Orton more fan support.

Cryme Tyme vs. Cody Rhodes & Sim Snuka was an okay bout, but it obviously didn't have the crowd energy of the earlier tag bout.  Rhodes was really the standout here, and his work has been really good lately.  I liked the variation of using the corkscrew DDT after several weeks of using a standard DDT as a finisher.  It was a clean win for the heels too, which doesn't bode well for Cryme Tyme.  Then again, it's not like a tag team can do any better on Raw than they have at this point.  Even if they had the belts, they wouldn't get any more TV time than now.

John Cena & Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton & Chris Jericho was what you would expect, with the match built around whether Michaels would turn on the champion or not.  I liked the early tease when a blinded Cena almost gave the FU to Michaels.  The crowd heat was high for the beatdown of Cena, and then Michaels did a nice job with teasing a turn as he got the hot tag.  My favorite part of the match though was the sequence with Jericho and Michaels, as Jericho blocked the reverse atomic drop, Michaels blocked the Lionsault and Jericho blocked the top rope elbow.  Those two are just magic together, which is why their feud was one of the highlights of 2008.  Anyway, the finish was that Michaels didn't turn on Cena, but that JBL had arranged for Michaels to face Cena in a singles match next week.  So, we can look for more of "conflicted Shawn" next week on the show. 

The Angles:

I liked the opening segment with Randy Orton and Chris Jericho protesting what happened last week, since it really was more of a three-way handicap match than a Fatal Four Way.  What really made the promo was Jericho told the truth, he and Orton did wrestle the match "honestly" (so it now makes sense why the Legacy didn't interfere). JBL then came out to remind us that Jericho and Orton are heels that would have done the same thing, but the segment really took off when Jericho and Orton turned their attention to Michaels, with Jericho pointing out how HBK is a phony and Orton bringing up the Ric Flair retirement match. Just a really good segment, then WWE logic entered with Stephanie McMahon.  Jericho and Orton are in the Rumble, which is fine, then JBL makes the decision that Michaels won't be in the Rumble and Stephanie... doesn't really do anything.  As Dave pointed out in his Elite hotline last week, at what point does Stephanie take issue with her contracted performer, Michaels, working for JBL and putting those duties ahead of his WWE commitments? Then, Stephanie puts Jericho & Orton against Michaels and John Cena, so we can all see what Michaels will do.  Um, why is John Cena getting potentially screwed because Stephanie wants to see what Michaels will do?

CM Punk's promo was pretty simple.  He tried to get you to care about the Intercontinental Title by mentioning the glory days of the belt, and then reminded us of his history with Regal, setting up their long awaited match. 

The JBL-Shawn Michaels backstage bit was interesting, and not because JBL wanted Michaels to kick Cena's head off to weaken him for the Royal Rumble.  The important part was JBL revealing his real intentions with all of this.  He wants to main event Wrestlemania in his former home state of Texas.  The World Title is just his way of guaranteeing he gets that spot. 

Manu wants another chance to join the Legacy, and points out that Orton lost his match last week, just like he did.  Someone should probably tell Manu that when you want to join Randy Orton's group, pointing out Orton's faults isn't the best tactic.  Orton delivered a pretty good promo, although comparing Bob Orton to Afa the Samoan really doesn't work out well to me.  But otherwise, Orton cut one of his better promos here.  Then Manu, being a tough guy ... did nothing.  The fact Manu didn't do a run-in later in the show doesn't seem to bode well for him.  He got punked out and did nothing in response. 

Did you ever think you'd see a Raw where there are two Diva matches, yet Mickie James just stands around backstage looking hot while Dolph Ziggler introduces himself to her?

I'm glad John Cena asked Michaels if he was going to be JBL's "puppet" during their locker room talk.  Michaels protested, but that is what Michaels has become.  Of course, this segment was just a reminder that "What will Shawn do?" is the theme of the main event.  

Randy Orton dropped the bombshell on Snuka and Rhodes backstage that he only wanted the wrestler who got the pinfall in the tag match for The Legacy, feeling that person had more killer instinct.  So, Snuka gets shown the door, and Legacy is now Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton.  There's a lot of directions they can go with this storyline, like Snuka & Manu teaming against Rhodes & Orton, Ted DiBiase returning to form his own stable, the possibility of the Colons or DH Smith or another second generation star from developmental coming in for a spot in the group, etc.  Lots of potential here.

Santino Marella was his usual humorous self in talking with Stephanie McMahon, and why do I have feeling Rosa will end up being a wrestler soon, since she is "banned" as a fan?  Anyway, the real bombshell of this segment was that Chris Jericho had been in touch with Vinnie Mac, and he will make his glorious return to TV in two weeks, which seemed to concern Stephanie.  Looks like another McMahon-McMahon feud, just in time for the Road To Wrestlemania.

What To Make Sure And Watch If You DVR'd The Show: Wrestling wise, I would check out Mysterio & Kingston vs. Miz & Morrison and the main event.  After that, check out the Diva matches.

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