Monday Night Raw: What We Really Learned
Billed as the first-ever "Viewer’s Choice Night," where you'd get to decide all the matches, and all the stipulations, Monday Night's Raw claimed to be revolutionary—but what did it really teach us?
I'll work through the card, in a minute, but the first thing it really taught us was not to get our hopes up.
As warned by me, and others, on this very site, the selection process wasn't quite as free and open as some had allowed their expectations to think it would be.
At least two thirds of the components for every bout were decided, before each match, with one wrestler confirmed, and either the other wrestler, or the stipulation, also already per-determined by the WWE, so that the viewing public were left with only one choice, from three carefully selected options.
So what did the public decide?
The first bout of the night was set between Big Show and Chris Jericho, with the viewers being allowed the opportunity to select the stipulation.
The three options were Over the Top Rope Challenge, Submission Match, or Body Slam Challenge.
You know how you often here members of the IWC say they'd like to see more wrestling, and less silly stuff?
Well, based on that, you'd think that the submission match might be favorite to win this particular poll, wouldn't you?
If you did, you'd be wrong, as it turned out that over 48 percent of the public would prefer to see a comedy Body Slam Challenge.
Although in this case, what the public decided made very little difference, as Big Show and Jericho worked a little routine, whereby the World’s Largest Athlete not only body slammed Jericho, but also made him submit before throwing him over the top rope, effectively satisfying all three Viewer’s Choice options.
I have a feeling, whatever way the WWE universe had voted, we'd have seen the same thing.
The second bout of the night, and the second viewers poll, brought us the chance to decide the opponents for a matchup with the Unified Tag Team Champions The Hart Dynasty.
The three options given to the viewers were the Usos (w/Tamina), the Dudebusters, and The Great Khali and Hornswoggle.
This was actually the first serious poll of the night. The WWE have given minor pushes to the Dudebusters, and to the Usos, in recent times, giving us a look at two of the tag teams they'd like to push, in a rejuvenated division.
This was a chance for the universe to breath life back into tag team wrestling, so as you might expect, the result of the poll was...The Great Khali and Hornswoggle.
That's right, whilst many of us shout at the TV screen every time this gruesome twosome are anywhere to be seen, and whilst we scream for life to be breathed back into the tag division and curse the WWE for not listening to us, the truth of the matter is that the WWE are giving the audience what they want.
Over half the viewing public would rather see a stiff giant, and an incomprehensible leprechaun, than some proper tag team wrestling.
The next poll was to decide the stipulation in the match up between Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov.
Considering the way that Santino is booked I'm not even going to pretend that there was a serious option available to the viewers here, when they were asked to decide between a match, an arm wrestling contest, or a dance-off. Instead, all I'll point out is that only 9 percent chose the match, while 84 percent thought that a dance-off was a more appropriate choice to make.
It looks like the universe doesn't take either competitor seriously, so don't expect to see the WWE book either, in such a way.
Moving on swiftly, and after the painful sight of a dance off between those two swiftly can't come soon enough, the next vote was to decide the stipulation for a Diva Summer Spectacular.
The choices were a 6-on-6 Diva Tag Team Match, a WWE Divas Champion vs. Women's Champion, or a Diva Battle Royal.
At the request of 73 percent of the WWE Universe, 12 Divas participated in a Divas Battle Royal.
Next up, the viewers were asked to decide an opponent for Sheamus from a choice of Kane, Mark Henry, and Evan Bourne.
You know that push that certain sections of the ICW call for Evan Bourne to be given, and that he never is?
Last night you discovered why.
Only 9 percent of the audience voted for Bourne, despite the other two options being wrestlers that the WWE view as aging mid-card jobbers.
I know one or two Kane fans might take objection to that statement, and I promise you I mean no disrespect by it, as I have a lot of time or Glenn, he's a fantastic guy, and proved over the years to be a fantastic talent, but the truth is that the WWE have used him as a mid-card jobber, and that's how a lot of the universe sees him.
Having been trounced by Kane, and only narrowly having beaten Mark Henry, in answer to the WWE's real question, which was, "Do you want Evan Bourne to be pushed?" The answer they got was a resounding no, so don't expect to see Bourne competing for a World title anytime soon.
The next viewers poll asked the WWE universe to pick tag team partners for R-Truth, and Miz.
The options for R-Truths partner were John Morrison, MVP, and Christian.
This really wasn't much of a choice, as MVP and Christian are both seen as long term mid-carders, and with both aged 36 now that's never going to change, with the only way being down, for the pair of them, where as John Morrison is seen as someone who still hasn't had his main push, so there was no surprise when the majority of those watching voted for JoMo.
In fact John Morrison polled more votes from the universe than the other two combined leaving the watching management in no doubt that he's perhaps safe for a push, whilst also confirming that they were right to put Christian, and MVP in the lower mid-card, as the public is no longer behind them.
Expect to see Morrison get another push out of this, some time in the future, and expect to see Christian continue losing mid-card feuds, and have the occasional tag team outing with Hornswoggle.
To decide the Miz's tag team partner the universe were offered the choices of Dolph Ziggler, Zach Ryder, and William Regal.
This was actually an interesting selection because, whilst Regal was expected to, and indeed did, poll lowest, both Ziggler and Ryder have been treading water in the mid-card region, and both share a lot of similarities, appealing to the same viewer base, and playing similar characters, so it was a great opportunity for the WWE management to see which one to push more, and which one to bury.
In the end the universe gave Zack Ryder 45 percent of the vote, and Dolph Ziggler 38 percent.
Not hugely convincing for either, but it's Ziggler that needs to watch his back from here on in.
If he doesn't improve his stock rapidly we may well see him fade from the roster when his contract expires.
Between this bout, and the next viewers poll we saw a quick match between Randy Orton and Edge, if the word match can be used to describe it.
I know this matchup wasn't decided by a viewers poll, but I thought I'd mention it as it answered the ridiculous rumors circulating about Orton's future within the company.
The fact that the WWE are still pushing Orton, even when he's injured, and unable to compete, shows how important the WWE sees him to the brand right now, and how much they value his air time.
The penultimate poll of the night is actually a difficult one to read.
The public were asked to decide an opponent for the self-proclaimed "Chosen One" Drew McIntyre from a choice of Yoshi Tatsu, Goldust, and a Mystery silhouette.
It's a difficult one to read, as I don't think the universe truly cares enough about McIntyre yet, and there is always something alluring about choosing a Mystery option, however Yoshi Tatsu is probably packing his bags by now, having scored a mere 4% of the vote.
To be fair, Tatsu just hasn't got across with the WWE universe, an it looks like he never will now, and whilst it would have been cruel to see, I firmly believe that had the three options last night been Yoshi Tatsu, a bag of Cheetos, and a can of paint, poor old Yoshi would still have come last with about 4 percent of the vote.
This brought us on to the main event, and who did we want to see facing the champion John Cena?
The options were Jack Swagger, Rey Mysterio, and CM Punk, and again the question was cleverly crafted, to allow the WWE to put on the type of fight they wanted, but also to gauge the publics view of certain wrestlers.
Has Mysterio still got the following, has Swaggers push worked, is CM Punks SES getting boring?
Forty-five percent of the public answered by selecting Punk to face Cena, where as only 32 percent voted for Mysterio, and a mere 23 percent voted Swagger, telling the WWE that when it comes to Swagger, they still have work to do.
What did last nights Raw really tell us?
It told us that no matter what we might want personally, the public do want to see Hornswoggle and silly skits, that our favorite non-main eventing wrestlers are probably mid-carders because that's how the public sees them, and that whilst some of us might want more tag teams, more wrestling, and more young superstars, the paying audience often has other desires.
We also learned that sometimes, when we're complaining about the WWE, it's not so much that the WWE are doing it "wrong," it sometimes just a case of them giving the rest of the public, the majority of he viewers, what they really want, and that sometimes we're just a minority, shouting from the sidelines.
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