Wednesday, June 23, 2021

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Raw Redux (May 17th, 2010): Nothing (and No One) Wasted

I think, if tonight’s Raw taught us one thing, it was this: less commercials means more Divas. Of course, that’s a bit of a leap in logic, but that fact is that tonight’s show, whilst being commercial free, featured more Diva face time than we’ve seen in a long time: 2 (count ’em, 2) matches, a backstage segment, and 2 faux-commercials. That adds up to a load of Divas being utilized, including 2 Divas that aren’t even technically apart of the brand. That’s a kind of efficiency I was beginning to think that the WWE didn’t know existed (that string of 1-minute-and-less matches didn’t help). Let us observe:

The beginning of our Diva-filled night was signaled by the appearance of a familiar face, home-country girl Trish Stratus. Unfortunately, that face was printed on a magazine cover rather than being flesh and bone, and we soon saw that Maryse was the face behind it. It was a slick move to get fans excited while risking disappointment, but it was smart to make Maryse be the one to “break the news”, so to speak. Let her be the one to put out the Trish Stratus bait and yank it back. It is a neat heat-generating maneuver that worked. Talking to the makeup woman, she details how Canadians suck and that fact that she’s French Canadian is a completely different thing. She starts trash talking Eve, and if summoned by the gods, Eve appears behind her, grabbing some baby powder and pouring it over Maryse’s head.

A makeup table fight ensues, with Eve smashing Maryse’s face against it a few times before the girls are separated. The fire in this feud continues to burn, and in this segment they showed real intensity. I mentioned this in the Post-Raw show, but I feel like whenever the WWE needs to inject some intensity in to a diva feud, they have the girls fight at the makeup station. But hell, it works! It allows the Divas to have a real, scrappy fight and makes the heat feel that much more real. It’s worked for countless Divas feuds before, and this one was no exception.

Later on, these foes faced off in a 6-Diva Tag Team match. Such words usually send visions of a clusterfuck flying through a Diva fan’s head, but luckily, the WWE’s head seem to be screwed on straight, time management-wise. I guess cutting out commercials really gave them room to stretch their legs, and this match benefited greatly from that. See for yourself:

Layla and Michelle McCool come to the ring, both wearing a Women’s Championship belt. So… is the title split? If so, I can see why they did it, but I’m disappointed that they aren’t really giving Layla the chance to be champ. It’ll come one day, I guess.. Laycool are followed by Maryse, as well as the team of Eve Torres, Brie, and Nikki Bella. Before the match can begin Maryse makes a move for Eve, and the two start fighting frantically. Their teammates manage to pull them apart, and once things settle down and the screaming stops, the match officially begins.

Layla and Eve start off with a tie-up, Layla catching Eve in a side headlock. Eve fights Layla off and shoves her to the ropes, and one the return Layla tries to bowl her over by the shoulder, but neither Diva budges. Layla tries again, but Eve keeps maneuvering out of her way until Layla gets fed up and simply sweeps Eve’s feet out from under her, going for an early pin. Eve kicks out at two, and Layla stays on the attack, kicking her a few times until Eve catches one of her high kicks, lifting Layla onto her shoulders and hitting a Samoan Drop. She tries for a pin, but only gets a 2-count.

Eve latches Layla into a sleeper hold, but Layla battles out pretty quickly. Eve, however, stops Layla’s offensive streak short with a neckbreaker. Another pin attempt, another 2-count. Eve brings Layla to her corner and tags in Brie Bella. Brie hits a leaping snapmare, then irish-whipping her into the ropes. On the return Layla pulls out an impressive tuck and roll into a pin out of nowhere. Brie kicks out. Layla keeps on Brie, stopping a hurricanrana attempt and battling her between the ropes. They trade blows for a bit before Michelle puts a stop to this with one boot applied directly to Brie’s face.

Layla tags in Michelle and she continues her assault on Brie on the outside of the ring before tossing her back in. Once inside the ring Michelle lays numerous knees into Brie’s midsection before tagging Layla back in. Layla hits s snapmare and goes for a legdrop, but no one’s home. Layla’s selling of that was pretty funny, but realistic too. Your tail bone’s gotta sting after that. Both Divas crawl to their respective corners. Layla tags in Michelle first, who runs in and knocks Eve off the apron. Before she can get to Nikki, though, Brie tags her in. Michelle doesn’t seem phased, and simply drags Nikki in over the top rope. Nikki quickly turns the tables, though, and hits a series of clotheslines and dropkicks. Michelle yells “get her off me!”. Both her and Layla love to cry for help during a match, and it works in a “silly heel” kind of way.

The hits keep coming for Michelle and Nikki continues her streak, hitting serveral snappy moves before going for the pin. Michelle kicks out at 2. Brie takes a page out of Michelle’s book, going over to the enemy corner and knocking Maryse and Layla off the apron. She climbs the turnbuckle (after kind of no-selling an attack from Michelle) and goes for a flying body press, but Michelle dives out of the way, and Nikki eats mat. Maryse takes the opportunity to tag herself in, much to Michelle’s chagrin. She hits the French Kiss on Nikki and gets the pin and the win for her team, though I’m not sure sure Michelle and Layla are doing cartwheels about how it ended.

Post-match Eve and Maryse reignite their fight once again, and the referee and Brie Bella manage to keep them apart. This goes on for a while, with Maryse charging at her a few times and making it feel like a real scraper. Eventually, cooler head prevail, and they separate.

The match was surprisingly good and inclusive for a 6-Diva Tag Team match. Usually, they shortchange a few Divas in those matches, but they utilized everyone pretty well and achieved a lot. Layla and Michelle played great heels/comedy relief, the Bellas got in some great offensive and sold Laycool’s attack well. Eve and Maryse managed to simmer their hate for one another on the outside, only letting it spill out before and after the bell, which saves the real confrontation for the PPV match, which is smart in a business sense. Layla is really coming into her own as a heel and as a performer, and I’m glad they let her get the majority of the ring time. Michelle, as, always, played the bullying her to perfection, and took the beating from Nikki well (the “get her off me!” sealed the deal). Michelle ad Layla manage to mix serious wrestling with comedy pretty well, with neither coming off too goofy. It was ap leasant surprise to see them on Raw tonight, and kind of makes me wish they were around every week to add that extra spark to Raw’s matches. Still, SmackDown’s their home, and the focus should be on Eve e and Maryse’s feud, which it was, for all intents and purposes. The match ended with Maryse sneaking out a win once again, which is irksome, but completely follows the pattern. It only makes the fans want to see Maryse get hers, and that builds anticipation for her match with Eve this Sunday.

Their match at Over the Limit has been built up pretty well, much better than their previous encounters. Their sudden cold blooded hate for one another may seem forced, but I can certainly feel the intensity, and I applaud the WWE for using tactics other than 1-minute matches to propel the story forward. Them having to be pulled apart not once, not twice, but three times in one night shows that these characters really hate each other, and builds excitement for their match on Sunday. Presumably, all that venom will finally be unleashed in the middle of the ring, given that Maryse doesn’t find a way to not wrestle. I wouldn’t put it past her, but it’s kind of hard to hide in a one-on-one match. We’ll see, but either way I’m looking forward to seeing these Divas let the hate flow free.

But wait, there’s more! Continuing to plant the seeds in their feud, Alicia Fox and Gail Kim faced off in a Mixed Tag Team match, teaming with their respective fellows (Alicia with Zack Ryder, Gail with Evan Bourne). This match was predicted by several of us last week, but the execution made it entertaining, so I don’t even care. Watch the match below:

It starts when Alicia and Zack Ryder interrupt guest GM Buzz Aldrin. He intimidates them, and brings out Gail and Evan. Zack and Evan start things off and wrestle until Evan goes for a pin attempt, and Alicia tries to break it up. Gail comes flying in (quite literally) and takes her out. For some reason, thing makes them legal in the match even though no tags were made. Anywho, Gail continues her assault on Alicia, irish-whipping her into a corner and straight into Zack. Gail nails them, and allows Evan to take of Zack. Gail climbs the turnbuckle and hits Alicia with a flying dropkick Gail goes for the pin, but Alicia kicks out at 2. Gail whips Alicia into the ropes, but Zack holds on to her, as a form of protection I suppose. Gail simply kicks him off the apron and continues with her business. She ducks a clothesline from Alicia and run the ropes, but Zack pulls the second rope down, causing Gail to spill out onto the outside.

Alicia brings Gail back into the ring and goes for a pin. Gail kicks out at 2. Alicia hits a suplex and bridges it into a pin, but still only gets a 2-count. Frustrated, shoe goes for yet another pin, with exactly the same outcome. She claws at Gail’s face, but gets hot-shotted by Gail and stumbles over to tag in Zack. This brings in Evan, and the guys wrestle on.

Eventually, Evan has Zack set up for a Shooting Star Press, but Alicia shoves him out of the ring and (presumably) out of harm’s way. Not missing a beat, Evan then simply nails him on the outside of the ring. Alicia drags Gail into the ring, but Gail hits the Eat Defeat out of nowhere, getting the pin and the win. Evan and Gail celebrate with Buzz Aldrin.

For a Mixed-Tag match, that was pretty entertaining. Usually the Divas get shortchanged a bit or the flow of the match seems sloppy through the “girls must fight girls and guys must fight guys” rule, but they worked pretty seamlessly, switching from superstar to Diva action fluidly. Gail and Evan’s highspots were as exciting as always, and Alicia got the chance to show off that attitude of her in her interaction with Buzz Aldrin and her fiesty-ness in the ring with Gail. Both teams were showcased well, and it leaves me the hope that this feud can continue and give Gail and Alicia real room to stretch their legs. They work great together, in my opinion, and having male counterparts only makes the feud that much more interesting. I just hope we don’t get stuck in an endless cycle on Mixed Tag matches, because they can all be a good as this one. But as long as the dynamic sticks, I’m all for the team interaction.

And, to cap off my coverage, I figured I’d include some of the faux commercials the WWE put together to celebrate their commercial-free status for the night. Because nothing says “more wrestling, less pointless breaks” like (WWE produced) pointless breaks. Okay, so they were funny (for the most part, anyways), and allowed several of the Superstars and Divas to work their comedy muscles. Two in particular stood out to me due to their inclusion of certain Divas. One with Goldust, for instance, featured indy wrestler and WWE hopeful Cherry Bomb being “seduced” by Mr. Creepy in one of many spoofs of those Geico commercials where the guy responds to questions about Geico’s ability ot save customers’ money by asking a rhetorical (and zany~~~) question:


skip to 4:30

The next (and in my opinion funniest) commercial featured Santino in a spoof of those Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials. Santino plays his role to perfection, and Jillian turned from seductive arm candy to spit-take target in one fell swoop, and didn’t miss a beat. While it definitely sucks to get spit on, Jillian can take solace in the fact that her reaction made me laugh harder than anything else in the entire night did:


skip to 2:50

Two entertaining matches that furthered two separate Diva storylines, a backstage segment that hit its mark, and two comedy skits that worked well and showcased Divas that otherwise would have been absent from the show. Not to mention, a little birdy told me that Natalya got to slap the taste out of Chris Jericho’s mouth. That’s a success in my book. I don’t know who booked tonight’s Raw, or if its commercial-free status really had anything to do with it, but it’s like night and day, comparing to the miserable tripe that was cooked up on Raw just months ago. I love the effort that’s being put into the Divas, and it almost like the writers discovered what the word “foresight” meant and have begun to actually apply it to their booking. Kudos to everyone involved, even the two invaders from SmackDown.

All in all, it was a whole lotta Diva goodness packed into one 2 hour show. And you know what? It worked. Nothing, in my opinion, seemed rushed or shoe-horned in. It was refreshing and exciting, and I hope to see more of it when the advertisers return next week. I don’t expect the same Diva surplus, but the sentiment should remain the same, it being that every Divas has a purpose; you just need to find it and take full advantage of it.

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