Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Plot Thickens

Last night’s edition of Monday Night RAW began and ended with a bang.

Right out of the chute we had a top notch Triple Threat Match between Randy Orton, Edge and Chris Jericho. I’ve always been a fan of Triple Threat Matches (especially ECW’s Three Way Dances), but the success (or lack thereof) of the match depends on the wrestlers. I know that some people like to see crazy three-way spots like you’ll see in your average indy match, but this is WWE, so I didn’t expect anything like that. What I did expect was a solid match between three of the feds best workers, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There were a ton of near falls, almost no breaks in the action (save one Jericho reverse chinlock that might have lasted all of 45 seconds) and a satisfying, clean ending (with Orton hitting both Edge and Jericho with RKOs). Orton’s victory guarantees him a match at SummerSlam against the WWE Champion (right now it’s Sheamus, but that could change – more on that in a bit). Frankly, Orton deserves the spot. Since his face turn, he’s continued to be near the top of the card, but this will be his first time main eventing as a face. Overall, I’m very satisfied with how WWE has handled Orton’s face turn. It’s much like they did when Steve Austin became a face after his epic WrestleMania match with Bret Hart many years ago. Orton’s personality hasn’t changed. All that’s really changed is that he’s now wrestling heels and being cheered by the fans. Memo to Vince Russo: that’s how you do a face/heel turn.

After the match, Edge and Jericho had a confrontation that played out pretty much like I expected but led to something I really didn’t see coming. Edge called out Jericho and both ended up calling out the Nexus. Nexus ended up beating the tar out of Edge while Jericho cheered them on, and then (predictably) Nexus turned on Jericho and beat him up, too. Predictable as it was, it was the logical next step in the ongoing Nexus storyline.

It’s been a very long time since WWE had an angle like this, and I’m very pleased with how it’s played out so far. Nexus hasn’t been too overexposed (much like the nWo came to be), but they’re still a constant presence on RAW. Whereas the nWo dominanted every angle on Nitro, there are still other non-Nexus angles on RAW, which leads me to your friend and mine, The Miz.

When The Miz first burst onto the scene, I immediately dismissed him because of his reality show background. I didn’t think he was a very good wrestler nor did I think he had any business in the big leagues with his amazing lack of experience. But The Miz paid his dues and rose up through the ranks and is now to the point where he’s going to be a WWE Champion soon. When The Miz won Money in the Bank on Sunday that was WWE’s signal that The Miz had finally made it. Each and every wrestler who has won the Money in the Bank has gone on to be a WWE or World Champion, and The Miz will be no different.

Last night Sheamus came out and cut a promo about how he’d called a truce with Nexus and did his usual spiel about how he’s beaten John Cena and so on. On cue, out came The Miz to cut a wicked promo on Sheamus (right down to a hysterical impression of Sheamus’ use of the word “fella”). It was a shining moment for The Miz who even got a few cheers during the head-to-head confrontation.

After Sheamus beat Evan Bourne (still gaining acceptance), The Miz jumped into the ring and clocked Sheamus with the Money in the Bank briefcase. For a minute or two, it looked like The Miz was going to cash in his title shot then and there, especially after hitting Sheamus with the Skull Crushing Finale on the briefcase. But before The Miz could get the fall, out came R-Truth (continuing their budding rivalry) to prevent The Miz from becoming WWE Champion.

However, it’s only a matter of time, and y’know what? It’s well deserved. It’s obvious to me that Miz has worked his ass off to become a better wrestler both in the ring and with his promos. I don’t know when I’ve seen a wrestler improve this much in a very long time. He’s also made a big commitment outside of the ring to do whatever WWE management asks of him. Things like that win serious brownie points with Vince McMahon who is 100% behind the push The Miz is getting.

The middle part of the show was little more than filler – a Divas match that was only contested to further the John Morrison/Ted Dibiase feud and a tag match with Santino and Kozlov vs. Regal and Ryder that was pretty much a squash for Santino and Kozlov. It’s nice to see Santino actually wrestling and not being limited to just comedy bits with the Guest Host, a concept that (thankfully) has been de-emphasized.

The last part of the show was once again devoted to the ongoing battle between John Cena and the Nexus. It started with Wade Barrett defeating Mark Henry semi-cleanly (though Barrett nearly injured Henry with a botched fireman’s carry slam that probably looked even worse in person than it did on TV). The rest of Nexus came to ringside after the match, and out came a very downtrodden Cena. Barrett offered Cena a spot in Nexus, and after teasing that he might accept, Cena left the ring, seemingly with his tail between his legs. And that’s when things got interesting…

Cena once again vowed to take out each and every member of Nexus, by himself or with a little team he’d been gathering behind the scenes. And just like that, business picked up. Out comes Edge, John Morrison, The Great Khali, Chris Jericho, and R-Truth, all victims of the Nexus in the past (except for Khali, but they needed a big man, so there you go). As Cena and his team stood there, I wondered who the 7th man of the team would be. It couldn’t be Orton or Sheamus or The Miz. No way would it be Evan Bourne. Would it be someone from Smackdown? Maybe Triple H would make a surprise return. When the 7th member’s music hit, even I was shocked – it was Bret Hart.

Bret Hart’s return engagement with WWE had seemingly ended a few months ago when Bret went away after being attacked by Nexus. Rumor had it that Lloyd’s of London (the holder of Hart’s insurance policy) didn’t like him getting involved in wrestling again. Other reports said it was Hart’s fiancée who was against Bret being a big part of WWE again. Whatever the case, I really thought he was done for good this time. So, when he came out, I was pretty much blown away. Kudos to WWE for keeping his return a surprise. However, I think I’m starting to see where this angle is going.

Of the six men on Cena’s team, the only one who could legitimately be in cahoots with Nexus (and make it seem shocking) is Bret Hart. Okay, maybe Cena would be even more shocking, but that would be a terrible idea – have him continually beaten up by the very group he formed; that’s Russo-bad booking. So, right now, I’m predicting that Bret Hart will turn against Cena et al at SummerSlam and reveal that he is the brains behind the Nexus. Maybe it’s too obvious. Maybe it will turn out to be Triple H as has also been rumored. Whatever the case, we’re set up for a doozy of a 14-man(!) tag team war at SummerSlam between Team RAW and the Nexus.

WWE is doing an excellent job of both building toward SummerSlam and furthering the Nexus angle on RAW. At a time when WWE really needs some solid booking, it’s delivered big time. The question remains whether or not the momentum will continue between now and SummerSlam. For once, I’m really looking forward to finding out.



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