Monday, May 2, 2011

WWE RAW 5/2/11 --- The Rock's Birthday Celebration

WWE RAW 5/2/11
May 2nd, 2011
American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
Attendance: 16,000 +/- ?

We're less than 24 hours removed from the big Extreme Rules PPV, and we've got two new World champions in John Cena and for the very first time (finally), Christian. Tonight is a big night and a big episode of RAW though because it's The Rock's birthday and he is in the arena for tonight's show in what's being advertised as the "biggest birthday celebration in TV history". With the huge news last night that Osama bin Laden has been captured and killed by US forces breaking I'm sure we can also expect a patriotic tone to tonight's show, so let's jump right in.

We open with a video package showing new clips of the 9/11 attacks and George W. Bush's subsequent address to the nation. Fast forward to two nights later during the special September 13th live edition of Smackdown, which was one of the first big major public assemblies since the attacks. Credit to Vince, this was a hell of a show ten years ago (good god has it really been that long? I'm getting old) and the clips still put across the emotion of that night tremendously. We go to the live opening where the returning Lillian Garcia is in the ring to sing the National Anthem. Always nice to see Lillian again and she does a great job here as always. She leads the crowd in a big "USA!" chant after she's finished and this is quite the moment. New opening video package for the RAW theme song as well, highlighting some of the new members of the RAW roster who've come over in last week's draft.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Josh Matthews

Tonight John Cena defends his newly won WWE title against The Miz in a re-match in our main event.

The Rock's music hits next and The Great One is live and in the building tonight on RAW! He gets his usual monster pop that still puts most of the current roster to shame. On his way to the ring he throws up the "U" hand gesture sign for the Miami of University, his alma mater. As usual Rock takes his sweet ass time getting to the ring before he finally picks up the mic about five minutes later. "Finally, The Rock has come back...(long suspenseful pause)...home". As always the crowd is eating out of his hand the minute he begins speaking. Rock says he has one thing to say before we start..."We got him!" in reference to Osama, prompting another round of "USA!" chants. Rock thanks the men and women of our armed forces and decides to lead the crowd in an impromptu Pledge of Allegiance, which just about everyone in the crowd joins him in doing. Huge crowd tonight by the way, this place has to be nearly full. Rock shows a picture of himself in high school, rocking the Menudo-like mustache but makes up for it by claiming to have gotten more pie with that mustache than King Kong Bundy in a bakery. Next he recaps his time at the University of Miami and the Orange Bowl he helped them win and lets everyone know he's ready to party tonight. He gets midway through the "If ya smell" catch phrase before suddenly the lights flicker and Michael Cole gets on the mic as the anonymous RAW GM has sent an e-mail, but before Cole can read it The Rock tells him if he has the nerve to interrupt the Rock on his birthday, he should atleast be decent enough to come into the ring to read the email to The Rock's face. He calls Cole a "drunk hobbit jack-bag bitch", whatever the hell that is, and Cole is not amused. Cole says he's not the same kid that Rocky used to punk on TV ten years ago and that he's a winner now. Cole takes off his jacket to reveal a Kevin Garnett Boston Celtics jersey! As a Celtics fan, Cole just went up in my book. He brags about all the titles the Celtics have won and claims they're going to add one more this year. Hardcore heel stuff here for Cole in Miami, but as a Boston boy I'm loving this and Cole is coming off like a babyface to me. Cole gets into the ring and says that the RAW GM demands an apology from The Rock for his actions back at Wrestlemania, and if he doesn't apologize he's going to shut down the Rock's party tonight. Cole adds that he too wants an apology for all of the embarrassment that he's caused him over the years. The Rock apologizes to Cole and offers his hand to him, which Cole accepts, and then he says "Go Heat" and gives Cole the Rock Bottom and the People's Elbow to the crowd's delight. The Rock invites out Mr. 305, rapper and singer Pitbull, who gets a surprisingly big pop from this crowd. He sings a strange little Spanish song that sounds like a Taco Bell advertisement to me, but hey, I don't speak Spanish so what are you going to do. He continues performing and a bunch of Miami Heat cheerleaders come out to do background dancing during the performance. I'm not exactly a Pitbull fan, but the crowd seemed to enjoy this and he is a Miami celebrity, so it makes sense. Before the commercial break we get a pre-taped message from Lebron James and Dwayne Wade wishing The Rock a happy birthday and doing the "If ya smell" catchphrase. Cool that they were able to get those two to do that. Lawler and Matthews hype a match between John Morrison and R-Truth as we go to commercial. Fun opening segment that got the crowd all kinds of fired up for the show.

When we return from commercial we're joined by the Hall of Famer Jim Ross at the announcer's table! I really wish they'd just bring him back full-time since he shows up to commentate on RAW every week anyways. John Morrison comes out for his match against Truth next, but before he can even get to the ring he's jumped from behind by R Truth, who gives him the What's Up (reverse STO) on the ringside floor. We cut to commercial again and as we return we get another birthday message for The Rock, this time from Jimmy Kimmel.

Maryse vs. Kelly Kelly

Hey, look, a wrestling match! Oh wait it's the divas, nevermind. Atleast they chose the two hottest divas. Hopefully Kharma comes out to destroy these two, and literally as soon as I type that, her theme music hits and here comes the former Awesome Kong. She hits the ring and gives Maryse the big implant buster, which I guess is going to be her new finisher in the WWE. She sets her attention to Kelly next but just walks off instead, leaving Kelly a frightened mess in the ring. We never heard a second bell, but it's obviously a no contest within seconds. [N/R]

Backstage The Miz complains to Alex Riley about losing the title last night before promising to win back the title later tonight. The next birthday message to The Rock is from his Fast Five co-star Paul Walker, who looks like he's aged 20 years since I last saw him. When we return we get another birthday message, this time from his co-star in The Other Guys, Samuel L. Jackson, who looks like he's about to go to the park to feed some pigeons. Backstage The Rock is talking up the divas about singing a Happy Birthday song to the First Lady. Teddy Long and Vladimir Kozlov wish him a happy birthday as Santino walks up dressed as The Rock's new character in the Fast and Furious film. Hornswoggle runs in moments later dressed as The Scorpion King but he has a tooth ache apparently, so he calls in the Tooth Fairy, played by the Great Khali. This is one bizarre segment. To sum up my feelings, here comes Ron Simmons to say his trademark "DAMN!" for the first time in a few years. Always nice to see Ron, who like The Rock is also a former Florida college football great. Our next birthday message is from Steve Carrell, who does a great job wishing The Rock a happy birthday against his will.

WWE Title Match
John Cena
© vs. The Miz

Cena surprisingly doesn't get booed out of the building in The Rock's hometown. Surprising to see this go on at the half-way point in the show, so I'm guessing the end of the show will feature some interaction between Cena and The Rock. This has got a big match feel to it and the thing hasn't even started yet. Miz tries working a side headlock to start but Cena shoots him off quickly and gives him a hip-toss dropkick combo for a quick one count. Big bulldog gets another near fall for Cena. Alex Riley jumps up on the apron and quickly eats a clothesline from Cena, but it gives Miz enough time to deliver a clothesline of his own to Cena. Miz ties up the ref while Riley attacks Cena on the floor. Back inside The Miz hits a double axe-handle off the top for a near fall as we cut to commercial while the dueling "Let's Go Cena!" "Cena sucks!" chants start up. When we return Miz delivers a neckbreaker to Cena for a close two count. It's astounding how much better the in-ring action comes off with Jim Ross back at the commentary booth, as everything immediately becomes more credible just from his play-by-play. Miz misses his running clothesline into the corner and gets hit with a pair of big shoulderblocks from Cena. Cena hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle and goes for the Attitude Adjustment, but Miz appears to poke him in the eye and then gives him a big boot. Cena grabs The Miz and locks in the STFU but Miz gets the rope break quickly. Miz comes back with a high-impact DDT but Cena gets the shoulder up at two as this crowd is red hot into this match. Riley distracts the ref for a bit while The Miz exposes a turnbuckle pad, but Cena blocks getting thrown into it and tries for the Attitude Adjustment again, but Miz counters with a great reverse DDT/neckbreaker combo for another close two count. Miz looks for the Skull Crushing Finale, but Cena blocks it and gets tossed into the ref, sending him to the floor. Cena locks in the STFU again and The Miz taps, but there's no ref. Cena celebrates like he's won while Riley hits the ring to interfere. Cena tries for the Attitude Adjustment on Riley but Miz slams the steel briefcase into Cena's midsection and delivers the Skull Crushing Finale. The ref recovers and goes to make the count but somehow Cena kicks out at two! Miz gets up and walks right into the Attitude Adjustment from Cena though, but he too shockingly kicks out at two! Kicking out of the Attitude Adjustment? That definitely gives Miz some credibility points. Riley distracts the ref again and The Miz grabs the WWE title belt and smashes it into Cena's face, and gets the cover for the cheap win and seemingly wins back the title at 9:19 (shown)! The ref sees that the title belt is already in the ring though, and he reverses the decision, DQing the Miz and giving the title back to Cena. Creative finish to a very hot and exciting television title match, this was probably the best singles match these two men have had together yet. ***

Ellen DeGeneres and Tyler Perry both wish The Rock a happy birthday.

When we return we see a video that was shot after the Extreme Rules went off the air last night in which John Cena got on the mic after he won his match and announced to the live crowd that Osama bin Laden had been caught and killed (or as he put it "compromised to a permanent end"). Cena says he feels damn proud to be an American, and the show ends with a military theme playing as he salutes the ecstatic crowd. I saw this on YouTube last night and it was a great moment then, and looked even better on HD film here.

Rey Mysterio/Kofi Kingston vs. Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre

Alberto Del Rio comes out to ringside first to join the commentary team, for what reason, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps he'll be restarting the feud with Rey? Swagger and Mysterio start us off, and these two have always had very good chemistry together going back to their great series of matches last summer. Rey and Kofi utilize a bit of double-team offense on Swagger to start. We cut to commercial and when we return Swagger is working a headlock on Kofi. The heels isolate Kofi in their corner for a few minutes, building up heat for the eventual hot tag, and Kofi gets that hot tag moments later and cleans house on Drew with a big hurricanrana and a stiff kick that gets him a near fall. Kofi takes out Swagger and hits the Trouble in Paradise on Drew, and Rey follows it up with the 619 and a top rope splash for the win at 5:35 (shown). After the match Rey dropkicks Del Rio and they have a stand-off. Average formula tag match with a hot finish. **

Ludacris and Dan Marino both wish The Rock a happy birthday. Marino sounds like he's reading off a cue card.

Backstage The Rock congratulates Christian on his title win last night. I was hoping these two would interact at some point considering Christian was The Rock's self-proclaimed "favorite wrestler" back during his 2003 heel run, and I'm glad they were able to fit a bit of interaction between the two into the show. Vickie Guerrero shows up to crash the party with her boy-toy Dolph Ziggler and they give The Rock his birthday present...Mae Young. Wow she looks even more ancient than usual. Vickie and Dolph laugh about how old Mae is but The Rock shuts them up quickly by telling Vickie she'll never look as beautiful as Mae Young. He puts the both of them in their place and thanks Mae for coming out and then gives her a big kiss on the lips and tells Dolph that he gets more pie in one night than Ziggler does in a lifetime. He turns around though and standing right in front of him is John Cena, with the WWE title on his shoulder. He tells The Rock he's going to keep the title all the way until Wrestlemania 28 (cue the braindead pseudo-smarks crying their eyes out over another long Cena title reign) so that their match will be a title match, as promised. Rock tells him to "Just Bring It" and Cena wishes him a Happy Birthday before taking off. I've got goosebumps from that interaction.

George Lopez wishes The Rock a happy birthday and tapes on a lame eyebrow, proving yet again that you don't have to be funny or talented to have your own television show.

Kane vs. Mason Ryan

Ryan is accompanied to the ring by CM Punk, who's been notable by his absence tonight. I guess they don't want to give him much TV time if he really is going to let his contract expire and take a break from the WWE. Big Show is nowhere to be found surprisingly. JR lets us know this isn't going to be a "catch as catch can classic" (say that five times fast), which is a nice way of saying this is going to suck. Kane tries a side headlock but Ryan fights it off and takes him down with a shoulder-block. He scoop slams Kane and whips him into the corner only to eat a big boot from the Big Red Machine. Punk goes into the ring to try and interfere and Kane fights him off, but the ref calls for the bell anyways and DQs Ryan at 1:40. After the match the new Nexus hits the ring to attack Kane but he fights them off. He goes to chokeslam Ryan but Mason blocks it and delivers a side-slam as the Nexus continues the beatdown until the Big Show runs out to make the save, but Ryan takes him down as well with ease. That was one minute and forty seconds of my life I'll never get back, but the post-match stuff did a good job of putting over Mason Ryan as force to be reckoned with. DUD

Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa wish the Rock a Happy Birthday, as does Craig Ferguson.

The Rock's music hits again and he comes down to the ring as JR and Josh put over all of the money spent on The Rock's Team Bring It t-shirts going to the Wounded Warrior Project. He asks the fans if they had a good time tonight, which he gets a great pop for of course. He thanks his family at ringside tonight and holy crap all-mighty they apparently passed out birthday hats during the break as almost everyone in attendance seems to be wearing one. The Rock gives the fans his word that next year's Wrestlemania will be the biggest Wrestlemania of all time...when suddenly Mr. McMahon's music hits! The Chairman of the Board is in attendance! Vince comes out to the stage with a mic and wishes The Rock a happy birthday. You should be on your knees kissing the man's feet right now Vince considering him just showing up at Wrestlemania got you one million buys. He thanks The Rock for all he's done and gives The Rock his birthday present, an excellent video package highlighting The Rock's life and career, his family, and his comeback this year. Really great video package that not even P. Diddy's music could ruin. After the video package R&B singer Mya comes out and leads the crowd in a big Happy Birthday song. I always felt awkward when people were singing me the birthday song on my birthdays as a kid, so I can't imagine how awkward it must be having 16,000 people sing to you. Nice way to close off the show and it's clear that The Rock appreciates everything that was done for him tonight. He thanks everyone one final time, asks if they smell what The Rock is cooking, and that finishes off the show as streamers fall from the ceiling and The Rock's music plays us out.

Bottom Line: This was definitely a different kind of show, so be forewarned going in that if you're a fan of wrestling-heavy shows and dislike sports entertainment, you'll probably hate a large portion of this show. Still, even for the wrestling fans, we still got a great TV match tonight with John Cena and The Miz and the rest of the show was extremely entertaining and a fun night of festivities for both The Rock and the WWE fans. In the long run it's a bit of a throwaway show, but it's an extraordinarily entertaining one at that. Thumbs Up.

Score: 7/10


JGlass said...

I was expecting to hate this shit as I am SO over The Rock, but I wound up really enjoying the show. I found The Rock pretty amusing, and the Cena/Miz match was phenomenal.

I really hope we don't get more Rey/Alberto. They can put on a good feud, but I say save it until next year's Mania. Let Rey use his talents on someone else, and give Del Rio a strong push against another RAW face... perhaps Big Show or Kofi?

I think Vince is foaming at the mouth to get Skip Sheffield back. He's a huge guy with a natural face look on a roster full of midcard heels and plenty of room to move up on the roster. I can't think of a better environment to cultivate a young face with a big future.

SSC said...

Nice review X, pretty much agree with everything. I found it to be a highly entertaining show, and loved the finish to the Miz/Cena match.

Barbosa said...

I have to say that as someone who finds the Rock less entertaining and more time-wasting along with a myriad of vacuous celebrities I hated the whole birthday celebration.

It is a real pity that an excellent TV match between Cena and Miz along with all of the other hangover from Extreme Rules was swamped by it, particularly as it added nothing to the build between Rock/Cena or to the product as a whole.

A massive waste of time, especially when you consider that there are only three weeks to Over the Limit

SSC said...

I gotta disagree Barbosa, I mean the Rock is already slated into this years Mania main event, so it's not like he's just some random celebrity, he's going to be wrestling in one of the biggest matches in wrestling history, and just that 20 second interaction with Cena & the title added major build to there feud.

It had also been advertised for a while that this show was to pretty much be all about The Rock, but even with that it was anything but a massive waste of time, they managed to progress more storylines last night than on an average episode of Raw.

Kharma story line was advanced
Rock/Cena was advanced
Mason Ryan was given a massive push
Miz was elevated in a loss and kicked out of the AA on free tv.
Cole got a little just dessert
R-truth/Morrison was pushed

Even with the lack of actual wrestling they still managed to push multiple storylines and wrestlers all while having loads of A-list celebrity's and tons of entertaining backstage Rock segments.

On top of it all, we got one of the greatest Ron Simmons Damns in the history of that type of segment. After sleeping on it, I'd have to say this was one of my favorite Raw's in a good while.

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