Written by: Justin Rozzero
Monday Night Raw 1/21/08
Announcers: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
– We kick off this week’s show with our yearly tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man that is documented as being one of Vince McMahon’s heroes. After that we fade into a recap of last week’s main event segment and the man sized bump by Jeff Hardy. We then hit our opening animation and head into the arena where we are live in Hampton and broadcasting in High Definition for the first time. We get our look at the new set, which is the first major set change for Raw since 2002. The new Titantron is pretty damn big and is flanked by larger screens around the edges and we also have some new, sleeker graphics.
1) Shawn Michaels defeats Mr. Kennedy with Sweet Chin Music
JR informs us that Shawn Michaels is making the first HD entrance in WWE history and he gets a hell of a pop as usual. Kennedy is out next as Lawler informs us that GM Regal gave Kennedy a spot in the Royal Rumble earlier today. The bell rings and they trade armbars to start. Kennedy is able to hit a hiptoss, armdrag takedown and armbar and the crowd is hot and rowdy early on here tonight. Michaels reverses to a front facelock, but Kennedy turns it into a chickenwing. Kennedy goes for a leapfrog, but HBK stops short and takes Kennedy down for a 1. The two men trade off pin attempts and both do impressive bridges. Kennedy slugs away to gain control but catches a boot when he puts his head down on a charge. He recovers and hits a reverse elbow for 1 and then goes to a reverse chinlock. Kennedy turns him around and does a sweet looking neckbreaker, dropping Shawn’s neck on his knee and then holding it there to try and earn a submission. He lifts Shawn up and drops him back on his knee a pair of times and gets a 2 off it. Kennedy clubs Michaels with some crossface shots and gets another 2. Kennedy backs Shawn into the corner and lands some rights and then paintbrushes him a bit. He goes for a suplex, but Shawn slips out and hits a swinging neckbreaker. The crowd seems pretty partisan at this point, as Kennedy is getting some support. Michaels hits the flying forearm and follows with an inverted atomic drop. Shawn hits a scoop slam and then heads up top and comes crashing down on Kennedy with the big elbow. He pops up and starts to tune the band as Kennedy crawls to his feet. Kennedy dodges the kick and hauls ass to the floor, but Michaels comes flying out after him with a somersault Plancha. As they regroup on the floor, we go to break. When we return, Kennedy is working over Shawn’s back and continuing to talk trash to HBK. Kennedy stomps away at Michaels in the corner and then drills a running boot to the face for a 2 count. Michaels regroups and lands a few chops, but Kennedy reverses a whip and sends Shawn flipping into the corner. Michaels flips back down and catches Kennedy with a clothesline, sending both men to the mat for a 6 count before both get to their feet. Kennedy gets a jaw-jacker and goes for the Mike Check, but Shawn avoids it. Kennedy pushes Shawn into the corner and places him on the top rope. Kennedy is busted open under his eye, but he climbs up to try a superplex. Michaels blocks it and punches Kennedy down to the mat. He goes for another elbow, but Kennedy gets his knees up and catches Shawn in the ribs. He scoops Shawn up and hits the Green Bay Plunge for 2. Both men fight to their feet and Kennedy dodges another Superkick. Shawn grabs Kennedy’s leg and goes for his leg submission, but Kennedy slips out. Shawn kips up and lands SCM out of nowhere for the win. Man that was a really good TV match that kept rolling the whole way through. These guys have really good chemistry and the loss doesn’t really hurt Kennedy as he looked strong throughout, and hopefully this ends the feud for a while. Grade: 3
– We cut backstage where Randy Orton is sitting on a couch holding his neck. He starts talking and says that despite Jeff Hardy trying to end his career last week, Vince McMahon wants him to go to the ring and shake Hardy’s hand. McMahon says he knows how he is hurting all over, but yes, he wants him to shake hands. Orton says he took a vicious fall from the stage and then got crushed with the Swanton. He says he should be in a wheelchair right now and that there is no way he is shaking Jeff’s hand. Vince asks Randy if he knows how many times he shook hands with someone he despised, and that is why he carries Purell with him all the time. He says that perception is reality and if Orton shakes hands with Jeff, he may be perceived as being a gentleman who has softened a bit. But, the reality will be the exact opposite. He doesn’t care if Orton means it, but he should do it as a competitive advantage. Jeff almost took him out last week, but didn’t get it done, so if Orton shakes his hand and looks in his eyes, Jeff will be wondering if he can beat Randy and will realize he can’t. Orton contemplates and Vince gives him the ultimatum as we go to break.
– As we return, the King is thanking Airborne for contributing the Royal Rumble theme song. We then head to the ring for our next match.
2) Beth Phoenix defeats Mickie James with the Fisherman’s Suplex in a non-title match
The Glamazon heads to the ring, women’s championship in tow, and JR thinks Beth and Uncle Jerry would make a good couple. And JR is even happier as Skittles returns as a sponsor this week. Mickie gets the nice hometown reception and we will see if she can parlay that support into a non-title win. JR says that Mickie guaranteed victory earlier today. The two ladies trade some offense to start and end up with a test of strength, which Beth wins by pushing Mickie to the mat for 1. Mickie wraps her legs around Beth’s head, but she gets scooped up on Beth’s shoulders. She slips off and hits a Lou Thesz Press and follows with a dropkick. Mickie gets caught while mounting Beth in the corner, but she gets turned around and shoved down to the floor. Beth follows her out and rams her back into the apron. Back in, Beth gets a near fall and then goes to a neck vice submission. Mickie punches her away out, and slips out of a Powerslam attempt to get a roll up for 2. Beth catches Mickie with a forearm, but Mickie returns the favor and then hits a flying forearm. Beth charges Mickie, but gets caught with a shot in the face. Mickie takes Beth down with a headscissors and gets 2. She starts to set up her DDT, but Beth picks her up and lays her across the top rope. She then pulls her off and crushes her with a sharp Fisherman’s Suplex for the dominant win. Another solid victory for the Glamazon as she continues to have fun TV matches every week. Grade: 2
– We head to the back where the Grish is with the Game. Last week, Vince told Hunter if he won here tonight, he would qualify for the Rumble. Hunter says he has no idea who his opponent is tonight and says that Vince has been locked up in a room with makeup artists to help make him look good for HD. He says the last seven Rumble winners have gone on to win the Title at Wrestlemania. He doesn’t care who his opponent is tonight, he will be in the Rumble on Sunday. He tells Vince it isn’t a promise, it is a guarantee. We zoom in and gaze into Hunter’s eyes and then head to commercial.
– As we return from break, we get a quick clip of the beatdown JBL put on Jericho a couple of weeks back. Jericho returns to Raw tonight. We then go backstage where Brian Kendrick is talking to Cody Rhodes about his qualifying for the Rumble. Kendrick says he has a chance to qualify tonight, but Hardcore Holly walks in and Cody says he has his back tonight against Carlito. Cody says he has a picture of Holly dressed as Carlito on his My Space page. Holly has no clue what My Space is and Kendrick’s reaction is pretty funny. Holly says anyone who gets in his space at the Rumble will be tossed out, including Cody. Cody and Brian talk about Holly the Grouch after he walks off and then we head back to the announce table as we take a video package look at Randy Orton’s life and career. The package is pretty good and hits all the high points of his career and made him look really good. We see Finlay and Hornswoggle walking backstage and we go to break.
– We are back and our Saw 3 Slam of the Week is the Mini Royal Rumble from last week.
3) Finlay & Hornswoggle defeat the Highlanders when Hornswoggle pins Rory after a Tadpole Splash
JR fills us in that Hornswoggle and Finlay are tagging up for the first time on raw. Finlay and Rory start things off and Finlay lays some stiff chops on both Highlanders. He slams Rory and lands on him with a cannonball, but Rory is able to hit a clothesline after a distraction. Rory goes after Little Mac, but gets bitten on the hand. He then hits a baseball slide to Robbie on the floor. Finlay hits the Celtic Cross on Rory and Hornswoggle comes off with the Tadpole Splash for the quick win and big pop. That was some harmless fun and helps put Finlay over for his big match with Great Khali coming up on Friday night. Grade: 1
– We see Chris Jericho walking backstage and he makes his return after this break.
– We return from break and get a recap of JBL’s fantastic promo from last week. We then head back to the arena where Chris Jericho makes his return to Raw after the rough beating he took from JBL. Jericho has the mike and the crowd is serenading him with a “Y2J” chant. He says he could come out and rant and rave about how he would rather face JBL here tonight instead of waiting until Sunday. He says that JBL refused to enter the building upon learning Jericho is here. He says JBL is the coward and not him, as he claimed last week. He says he was watching with his children last week and his son asked Jericho if what JBL said last week true. He assured his son it was not, but he saw doubt in his son’s eyes. He says JBL has made this personal, despite claims that he didn’t want to do so. Jericho says that after 17 years he has never been treated like he was by JBL. However, JBL made a mistake by not finishing the job as he is still here. He may have been beaten, bloodied and punched and kicked by the biggest and baddest of the business, but he was never dragged around by the throat before. But, despite that, he is still here. He puts over the importance of Madison Square Garden, but says that on Sunday he isn’t worried about having a good show or spectacle, he is only concerned with having a fight. And with that, he is done talking. Man that was a killer and wickedly intense promo for Jericho. This feud has had a great buildup and Jericho put an awesome punctuation on it as they head home to the blow-off match. That may have been one the best non-comedy promos of his career. As he heads to the back, JR and Lawler run down our Royal Rumble card. We then cut backstage where Jeff Hardy is staring intently. We then hear the grizzly voice of Mr. McMahon as he tells Jeff to never risk his own body or another competitor’s life like that ever again. He tells Hardy to go out and shake Orton’s hand, saying it will cause a lot of speculation and talk about what Jeff Hardy is willing to do to win the WWE Championship. Jeff tells Vince he doesn’t need to worry as he will go out there and be sure to give everyone something to talk about.
4) Umaga defeats Brian Kendrick with the Samoan Spike
JR lets us know that Paul London is on the sidelines healing, so Kendrick is attempting to qualify for his first Rumble. William Regal appears on screen and says that he is putting the finishing touches on Triple H’s qualifying match. He tells Kendrick that he will have to face someone that has already qualified for the Rumble…and that man is Umaga. Poor Kendrick looks despondent and Lawler wonders what Kendrick did to have such bad luck. He charges to start, but Umaga just shoves him down and lands a few varied strikes. Umaga charges into the corner, but Brian dodges and he hits the post, as usual. Kendrick kicks away at Umaga’s legs, but he gets drilled with a chop to the throat. Umaga scoops him up and puts him in the Tree of Woe, but Kendrick dodges the diving headbutt attempt. Brian heads up top and hits a missile dropkick, but Umaga stays on his feet. Brian keeps hitting Enziguris and kicks, but Umaga just staggers a bit. Kendrick charges, and Umaga tosses Brian in the air and then crushes him with a sick Samoan Drop. Umaga lifts him up, tosses him into the air with one hand and nails him with the Samoan Spike for the win. My Lord did Kendrick take some nasty bumps in that match, which helped make Umaga look dominant again after eating some losses lately. I also liked how they added the drama of Kendrick trying to qualify instead of just having a basic squash match. Grade: 2
– Backstage, Mickie is crying and Maria asks her what is wrong. Mickie says she has tried everything and is frustrated that she can’t beat Beth Phoenix. Maria tries to console her, but Mickie is too upset. Ashley shows up and asks what is wrong, but Mickie takes off. Ashley says she was at the Playboy Mansion and Hefner had a great idea. Santino walks in and says he knows the question, and the answer is “Thanks, but I don’t need Maria to buy me a free subscription to Playboy.” He asks why he would pay for the cow when he has someone who lets him milk it for free. Maria is confused and Santino whisks her away as we head to break.
– JR reminds us that Mr. McMahon will be on Celebrity Apprentice this week and we take a sneak peak at the episode and behind the scenes talk about it. We then cut backstage to see Triple H warming up for his match before going back to ringside, where Lawler has 3D glasses on. JR tells him it is HD, not 3D. And with that, we get a video package on the life and career of Jeff Hardy before heading to commercial.
5) Carlito defeats Hardcore Holly with the Backstabber
Carlito heads out to the ring and is flanked by Santino Marella and Maria. We get a quick recap of the Trading Places match from two weeks ago and then Hardcore Holly makes his way out alongside his co-champion Cody Rhodes. I like that they are wearing the belts, which always makes them look more important somehow. We get a lockup to start things off and Holly blocks a hiptoss and hits a modified Urinage. Carlito gains control and gets a 1 count. He stays on Holly and kicks him in the back before hitting a reverse elbow for 2. Carlito continues to slug away and then goes to a reverse chinlock. Holly punches his way out and lands a couple of chops in the corner. He hits a suplex for 2, but Carlito slides to the apron and pulls Holly onto the top rope neck first. He slides back in and goes to a surfboard submission. Holly escapes again and hits a clothesline and back body drop. He gives Carlito the abdomen kick while he is draped on the ropes and then loads him up for the Alabama Slammer, but Santino hops on the apron and distracts Hardcore. Carlito slinks up from behind and hits the Backstabber to pick up the big win. Cody gets in the ring and apologizes to Holly as we cut backstage to see Triple H walking as his qualifying match is next. Grade: 1
– We are back and take a look at Times Square while they pump up this Sunday’s Royal Rumble at MSG. We get a flashback to the 2002 Rumble, which featured the return of Triple H from his first quad injury and his big win, last eliminating Kurt Angle.
6) Triple H defeats Snitsky, Mark Henry and William Regal in an Over the Top Gauntlet to qualify for the Royal Rumble
We head back to the arena and it’s time to play the game. Triple H makes his way out to a huge pop as he has one last chance to qualify for Sunday’s Royal Rumble. And the mystery opponent is…William Regal? Nope, he is just out with a microphone. Regal says it isn’t who his opponent is, but rather, who they are. He says in order for Hunter to qualify, he may have to potentially face up to 3 opponents in an over the top rope gauntlet. He needs to toss all three men out, but if he gets tossed at all, he is done. The first opponent is Snitsky, who makes his much anticipated HD debut. Snitsky rushes the ring and the two men trade some shots to start. Hunter lands a knee to the face and then tries to toss the big man out. Snitsky hits Hunter with a sidewalk slam and then drops an elbow. He lifts Hunter up high and tries to toss him, but Hunter slides down the back and fights him off. Snitsky charges with a boot, but Hunter ducks and Snitsky ends up straddling the top rope. Hunter charges and knocks him over for the first win. Regal introduces the second opponent: Smackdown’s Mark Henry. Henry hits the ring and Hunter slugs away and then hits a face crusher. Henry regroups and takes Hunter out to gain control and then tries to push him out over the top. Henry scoops Hunter up and drops him with a backbreaker. Henry tries to toss the Game again, but he blocks it and hangs on. Henry misses a charge in the corner and Hunter tries to pick him up for a slam, but Henry shifts his weight and falls back on him. Henry charges again, and this time he catches Hunter in the corner and splats him. He lines Triple H up and charges, but Hunter drops down and Henry soars over the top and is eliminated. Regal tells whoever the third man was to stay backstage and then charges the ring himself. Regal pounces on Hunter and takes advantage of the weakened state he is in. Regal picks him up in a fireman’s carry and tries to put him out, but Hunter pounds on Regal’s head and escapes. Regal charges, but Hunter hits him with a Spinebuster and then tosses Regal out to qualify for the Royal Rumble. Regal is livid as he heads to the back and Hunter celebrates in the ring as we head to our final break of the night. Grade: 2
– We are back and the Boss is heading out to the ring to moderate our handshake. He says “Let’s hear it for Vince McMahon in HD” and strikes a funny little pose. He then introduces the participants: Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy. Orton takes his time as he hobbles to the ring, selling the injuries from last week. Hardy is out to his usual loud pop as all the build up for his big championship match is finally reaching its apex. The “Hardy” chant continues as Vince smiles in the ring. He says normally he would hype the match for the Rumble, but this match needs no hype as it has been boiling. He wonders whether we will see any crazy dives or devastating kicks to the head at the Rumble, but says we know we will see two extraordinary athletes leaving it all on the mat until one is left as Champion. Vince asks them to put differences aside and shake hands, but gives them an opportunity for some last minute comments. Orton is up first and says that ever since he found out that Jeff Hardy was his opponent at the Rumble, he was relieved. He may have done some great things, but he has never been close to being WWE Champion. Orton does admit that he underestimated him, and that every time he closes his eyes he sees Hardy crashing on him from thirty feet in the air. He congratulates Hardy but tells him he won’t win the title Sunday, though he has won Orton’s respect, which he claims is almost as important. Hardy has the mike now and the crowd fires up another “Hardy” chant. Jeff says he doesn’t care about earning Randy’s respect and that he didn’t land a thirty foot Swanton to impress him, but rather to hurt him. He did it for Matt, and because he waited too long for this opportunity, and to show Orton he will do anything to win the title. He tells Orton if he is going to shake hands with people he respects, he better get in the back of the line because there are a lot of people here he respects more. He goes out of the ring and shakes hands with JR, Lawler, Lillian Garcia, Ryan the fan, Bobby the fan, Cory the fan, Ethan the fan, Justin the fan, Kevin the fan, Chris the fan, Wayne the fan, Jordan the fan, Christina the fan and Brian the fan. He finally gets back in the ring and stares down Orton. Randy extends his hand but Hardy is motionless. Orton pulls back and then extends it again and this time Hardy lands the Twist of Fate to a huge pop. Hardy stands tall over Orton’s prone body as JR gives us the last hard sell for the Rumble and we are out.
The opener was really good as Kennedy and Michaels continue to have hot, rock solid matches. Michaels picks up the win in the rubber match and I hope they give the feud a break for a bit and maybe revisit it later in the year. Either way, Kennedy continues to bring the intensity and is starting to get back to the level he was at on Smackdown back in 2006 and early 2007. Beth picks up another dominant win and continues to be the Alpha Dog of the Women’s division. Candice’s return and title match should be pretty fun to watch to see if she can dethrone the Glamazon. I enjoyed all the Rumble build up all night, as well as the nice video packages to help legitimize Orton and Hardy and get them over to any casual fans that may be tuning in on USA HD in addition to building their Rumble match up. The video department is so great at these things and they really need to do more of them for the big matches. The Jericho promo was top notch and he hit a big time home run in adding some last minute build to an already red hot feud. Both men usually deliver when it counts, so I think they could steal the show on Sunday if given the right platform and time. Umaga looked dominant again and Kendrick sold like a champion for him, which gives him some momentum for Sunday. The seeds continue to be planted for Maria’s Playboy shoot and it can’t come soon enough. Carlito picks up a big win and it looks like Rhodes and Holly may be heading towards a title loss and feud sooner rather than later. Triple H qualified for the Rumble, as expected, and it will interesting to see where he places on Sunday, as there is some intrigue over who will win the big match. The main event promo was great and Jeff Hardy continues to come across as a major star and I am glad they had him lay Orton out instead of going the respect route. I also liked how they had JR add some depth to the different characters by talking about conversations he had earlier in the day. Little things like that help add some legitimacy to the wrestlers and angles and was something Monsoon, Ventura and Heenan did all the time back in the day. All in all, the last Raw before the Royal Rumble was rock solid and hummed right along. We had that one big anchor match and the show never really slowed down after that. I think Raw is finally getting in a solid episodic groove here in 2008 instead of the up and down and shaky weekly episodes we got for most of 2007. The PPV should be good as it has been built up really well over the past 6 weeks and all the matches have intrigue and depth to them. Final Grade: A-
MVP: Chris Jericho
Runner Up: Shawn Michaels & Mr. Kennedy
Non MVP: William Regal
Runner Up: Mickie James