Adam Martin here filling in for David Stephens for the first hour of the show.
We get the old school World Wrestling Federation open with the “Federation” crossed out and replaced with “Entertainment.”
The first ever WWF Monday Night Raw opening plays as we see current Raw stars spliced in to the opening. The sirens go off and we go live to the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. A series of pyro goes off above the ring. We go to ringside where Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler welcome us to the show. Justin Roberts is in the ring wearing an old school tux with a wig. Mean Gene Okerlund is introduced. Mean Gene said it is time to get “old school” tonight as he introduces “Cowboy” Bob Orton. They talk about his son Randy Orton defending the WWE Championship against Wade Barrett this Sunday at Survivor Series. Bob starts telling a story about Randy in school and seems to lose his train of thought and then says he doesn’t care if John Cena is fired this Sunday.
The Nexus music hits and out walks Wade Barrett. Barrett tells the old man to listen carefully and said Bob’s prediction of Randy Orton winning this Sunday is about as real as that cast on his arm. He said he owes nothing to the “old school” and he got where he is now because of hard work. Barrett said Cena will raise his hand in victory this Sunday. He added the only reason he didn’t bring out the Nexus to beat up Bob Orton is so he can be around to see what happens to his son on Sunday.
The Miz walks out out next along with Alex Riley. Michael Cole adds, “Finally, some sanity!” Miz said last week when he told Randy Orton he would be on his team he never thanked him and that was a bad move. He said in return he took out Orton last week in the main event and proved he can strike at any moment – including cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to become the new WWE Champion. Miz hints he might even do that tonight and how it would change things drastically, including preventing that little title match this Sunday and Cena would have to be in Nexus forever.
John Cena appears on the TitanTron. Cena said he will make sure Miz cashes in nothing tonight since he is putting a lot on the line this Sunday. He promises to protect Wade Barrett tonight and he is doing that just for him. Cena then challenges The Miz to a match tonight. Miz accepts. Mean Gene takes us out and tells us to hang on to our hats.
WWE Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler w/ Vickie Guerrero vs. Mark Henry
We get the classic backstage promo on screen during Ziggler’s entrance. Mark Henry came out to his old “Sexual Chocolate” song. Henry drops Ziggler on his knee and Ziggler rolls out favoring it. Back in the ring, Henry drops Ziggler with a big clothesline. Henry tosses Ziggler up on the top turnbuckle and hits a huge slap to the chest. Ziggler falls off from the force of it. Henry walks out, stares down Vickie Guerrero and tosses Ziggler back in through the ropes. Ziggler then starts taking it Henry with kicks and sledgehammers. More clotheslines by Henry on Ziggler followed by a big headbutt. Ziggler catches Henry with a kick to the gut, hits the ropes and Henry executes a big powerslam on Ziggler. Henry in for the cover and Ziggler kicks out after two. Henry gives a smile to the crowd, hits the ropes, jumps and misses a body splash when Ziggler rolls out of the way. Ziggler with a Fameasser, cover and Henry kicks out after two. Ziggler with his reverse neckbreaker, cover and Henry again kicks out. Ziggler then locks on a sleeper. The referee calls for the bell when Henry goes out.
Winner via submission: Dolph Ziggler
After the match, Vickie Guerrero jumps in the ring and grabs the WWE Intercontinental Championship. She celebrates with Ziggler.
Backstage, The Hart Dynasty are walking down a hallway. They talk about the British Bulldog and Dynamite Kid not always seeing eye-to-eye. Tony Atlas is nearby and talks about not seeing eye-to-eye with Rocky Johnson. He is spraying WD-40 on his arms and rambling on as The Hart Dynasty walks away.
Back live, Tony Atlas is still talking. Yoshi Tatsu is near him now and is annoyed. He pretends to stab himself.
In the ring, WWE Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater are in the ring.
WWE Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater vs. The Hart Dynasty
We start with Gabriel and Smith. Headlock takedown by Smith two times and Gabriel gets out of both. Gabriel with a series of body kicks. Smith drops Gabriel and drops a kick to the lower stomach. Smith with a belly-to-belly suplex. Smith follows with two more, cover and Slater breaks it up after the two count. Tag to Slater and Smith catches him with a powerslam. Smith drops a leg, covers and gets a two count. Smith with a clothesline to Slater in the corner and drops Gabriel off the ring apron. Slater fires back with a huge kick dropping Smith. Tag to Gabriel and they double team Smith with kicks. Quick tag to Slater and more double teaming with kicks. Slater with a big right hand that drops Smith, covers and gets another two count. Slater misses a body splash in the corner. Smith reaches out to tag in Kidd, but Kidd leans back and kicks Smith in the face. Gabriel then goes up and connects with a 450 Splash. Gabriel gets the pinfall to get the win.
Winners: WWE Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater
After the match, we see Tyson Kidd walking up the ramp smiling at what he did. We see a quick replay. Back live, an upset DH Smith is staring down Kidd who is still smiling.
Backstage, Mean Gene is with WWE Champion Randy Orton. He asks about his title match this Sunday. R-Truth walks up and interrupts. He said John Cena doesn’t have to make a choice this Sunday – he will choose free without question. Truth adds it may not be right, but it’s the truth. Orton said there is only one way he can ensure Cena won’t screw him over this Sunday and that is if he punts him in the head…tonight.
We get an “Update” from Mean Gene brought to you by WWEShop.com. Mean Gene shows off some “old school” WWE t-shirts.
Justin Roberts introduces Hall of Famer Howard Finkel. Cole adds, “Now it is REALLY old school.” Finkel introduces the legendary…Brooklyn Brawler with Harvey Wippleman. Brawler asks what is wrong with everyone. He expected a standing ovation and expects another one when his match is over. Wippleman issues a challenge on behalf of the Brawler to anyone from the “new school.” Ezekiel Jackson accepts that challenge.
Ezekiel Jackson vs. Brooklyn Brawler
Brawler hits the ropes and Jackson catches him with a shoulder block. Brawler attempts a scoop slam, but Jackson prevents it, sends Brawler into the ropes and takes him out with a big splash. Jackson with a clothesline to Brawler in the corner and then Jackson hits a modified Rock Bottom on Brawler. Jackson covers and its over quick.
Winner: Ezekiel Jackson
Back live Jackson screams, “That is domination!”
Later tonight: John Cena vs. The Miz.
Backstage, we see The Nexus. David Otunga said he stepped up on Smackdown and being the leader here, they should take care of R-Truth. Wade Barrett walks up and says leader? Otunga said he was calling himself “a leader” and that he beat a former World champion last week. Barrett said Otunga will be dealing with R-Truth tonight. Otunga said he has no problems with that. The Raw GM has something to say. Lawler thought this was “old school” meaning before laptops. The Raw GM announces that Otunga will not face R-Truth tonight as something else is planned for him. Instead, Wade Barrett will face R-Truth and it will give Barrett a chance to prove that he is WWE Championship material. Husky Harris said they have his back tonight. Barrett said he appreciates that, but he doesn’t need the help and wants to prove tonight he can beat anyone on the Raw roster. John Cena walks up and wants a “thank you” for taking care of The Miz tonight. Barrett tells Nexus to watch Cena’s back tonight after what Randy Orton said earlier. Cena tells them to hold off and that if Orton wants some, he can come get some.
John Cena is out to a huge reaction.
Before the match, The Miz said Cena must think he is always one step ahead of him and that if he takes him out right now then he won’t be able to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase tonight – keeping his Free or Fired match intact this Sunday. He said there is one thing Cena is forgetting – the GM never officially sanctioned this match. Miz said he wants to make a substitution. He announces his apprentice, Alex Riley, will take his place.
John Cena vs. Alex Riley w/ The Miz
Lock up and Cena with a snapmare takedown on Riley. Riley argues with the referee. Another snapmare takedown by Cena on Riley. Lock up, Cena takes Riley’s back and throws him down. Lock up and Cena pushes Riley to the corner. Riley catches Cena with an elbow and distracts the referee. This allows Miz to get in a cheap shot. Cena misses a splash on Riley in the corner and Riley starts kicking him in the corner. Miz yells at Riley to stay on Cena. Riley launches Cena to the corner and Cena bounces off with force. Cena with his flying shoulder blocks and twisting powerbomb plant on Riley. Cena does the “you can’t see me” gesture and drops five knuckle shuffle. Cena has Riley up and executes the Attitude Adjustment. Cena then locks on the STF in front of Miz and Riley taps out.
Winner: John Cena
After the match, Randy Orton hits the ring and goes after The Miz. Nexus is in going after Orton. Orton fights off both McGuillicutty and Gabriel. Orton and Cena then have a stare down. They start brawling when WWE referees hit the ring to break it up. More WWE officials enter the ring, including Johnny Ace. The Raw GM has a message. And I quote. Orton and Cena have issues they need to work out before Survivor Series and since this is “old school” tonight, Cena, Orton, later tonight, both will be guests on Piper’s Pit.
Hot tag to David Stephens!
There’s the tag from Adam Martin, and I’m in. Thanks to Adam for covering the first hour for me as I was in class.
In the ring are Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik. Howard Finkel asks that the audience rise, and respect Nikolai Volkoff as he sings his national anthem. As he begins to sing, Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella make their way down to the ring. Santino apologizes for interupting, but says that Kozlov would like to sing the Russian national anthem along with Nikolai. A “USA” chant breaks out.
They begin to sing, but – well – it’s pretty bad. Santino interupts and says that quite honestly, it is terrible. Instead, he’d like to sing a song that he can relate to. Slick, yes slick (the first African American manger in the WWE) comes out singing.
Santino asks the Iron Sheik what he thinks about the song. Sheik says that without him, there would be no Hulkamania, and asks that no one in the crowd chant USA.
The Usos along with Tamina come out to their music. Jimmy Snuka joins them in their corner as they will take on Santino and Kozlov for the #1 Contenders slot for the Tag Team Titles.
Santino & Kozlov v. The Usos
Santino is in the ring with one of the Usos, and gets thrown to the mat with an arm drag. The other Uso gets tagged in and plants a boot to the stomach of Santino. Another tag in from the Usos. Santino is the one to hit an arm drag this time around, and drags Uso all the way to Kozlov in the corner. Santino tags in Kozlov, and then throws the Russian an incoming Uso package. Kozlov slams him to the mat, and then tags in Santino. Santino is used as a battering ram by Kozlov, and then goes for an arm bar cover. Uso kicks out.
Kozlov is tagged into the match, and slams Uso head first into the turnbuckle. Kozlov lifts him up into the air, which allows Jimmy to get a tag. Jimmy continues with a flying knee drop and goes for a cover. Kozlov kicks out. Kozlov is hit with a hard side slam, and another cover attempt. Kozlov kicks out. Santino is yelling for the tag from the apron saying that he is fresh. Jimmy elbows Kozlov in the guy, and then goes for a clothesline. Kozlov throws him out of the way, but doesn’t have enough strength to tag in Santino.
Jey gets the tag and runs into the ring. Jimmy hits a cheap Samoan drop while Santino is arguing with the ref. Jey goes for the cover, but Kozlov kicks out. Jey hooks the leg and tries for another cover, but again Kozlov kicks out. Santino is trying hard to get the crowd into the match. Kozlov is trying to power his way to the corner, but a series of headlocks are preventing the tag. Santino finally gets the tag as does Jimmy.
Santino hits an arm bar, dodges a clothesline, and then connects with a slam. Santino hits a running headbutt, and goes for the cover. Kozlov protects the ring, but Jimmy kicks out of the cover. Santino pumps up the cobra, and it actually works! This match is over!!
Winners & #1 Contenders for Tag Team Titles: Kozlov & Santino
After the match, Sheamus runs into the ring. Sheamus kicks Kozlov in the skull, and then does the same to one of the Usos. Santino is struggling to avoid him, and John Morrison comes to the ring to make the save!
Morrison hits a spinning kick from the apron which sends Sheamus spinning. Morrison then leaps into the ring, and kicks Sheamus right out. John Morrison grabs a mic and says that the reason he keeps doing this is because Sheamus is a bully. One thing that John Morrison has learned about bullies is that they must be confronted. He tells Sheamus that if he wants to pick on someone, then get in the ring because he is here.
Sheamus takes off his shirt and looks to enter the ring with Morrison, but then he backs away and heads up the ramp.
David “A-List” Otunga v. Kofi Kingston
The two square off and feel each other out. Kofi dances a bit and dodges a clothesline. Kofi connects with a front headlock, and tries to pull Otunga to the mat. Kofi is sent into the ropes and goes for a crossbody. Otunga catches him in the air, and slams him down to the mat. Otunga lifts him up and hits another scoop slam, and then another. Cover attempt, but Kofi kicks out.
Otunga cinches in a rear headlock, as the crowd gets behind Kofi. Otunga hits a few axe handle chops to the back of Kofi’s neck. Otunga whips Kofi into the ropes, and then plows into them himself to hit a devastating elbow. Kofi is on his stomach now, again in a headlock. Kofi gets to his feet, and attempts to punch his way free. It works, and then Kofi follows up with a series of kicks and punches backing Otunga into the corner. Kofi hits a high dropkick and looks to follow up with a clothesline. Otunga was thinking the same thing, so both men crash to the mat.
George “The Animal” Steel makes his way down to the ring, and crawls his way in. Steele’s green tongue is in full force tonight, as he looks at the turnbuckle. The referee tries to stop him, so Steele heads to another turnbuckle. This one he eats! Steele finally leaves the ring. Otunga is baffled by what just occurred. Kofi throws Otunga head first into the turnbuckle, and follows up with Trouble in Paradise. This match is over!
Winner via George “The Animal” Steele eating the turnbuckle: Kofi Kingston
John Morrison is in the back with Arn Anderson. He is talking more about why he went after Sheamus, and says he is tired of the bullying. Sheamus runs up to Morrison and kicks him in the face. Sheamus says that he accepts Morrison’s challenge for a match. It will be at Survivor Series!
Oksana is with the Million Dollar Belt backstage. Jim Duggan yells at her for stealing the “USA” chant gimmick. He says that Oksana’s mom is right over there. She walks up to her, but it is actually Dusty Rhodes in a wig! He tells Kelly Kelly to “drop it”, and apparently Kelly was behind the backdrop with a net! It falls on Oksana, and Goldust walks into the shot. He takes the belt and says it isn’t her. In fact, it is time to do the right thing and return it to its rightful owner.
Ted Dibiase Sr. along with IRS come up to take the belt. Dibiase Jr. then comes into the shot. Senior offers the belt to Junior saying that it is his. Junior declines, saying that there is something else he wants which isn’t a hand me down. Cody Rhodes then walks over to stand with Goldust. Goldust asks if Cody will teach him some dashing tips. Cody stops Goldust from breathing on him and walks away. Goldust follows after asking him to, “help a brother out”.
Dusty says he has an idea, and “Common Man” starts to play. He begins to dance along with Kelly Kelly, IRS & Dibiase Sr. Out of nowhere, Tatanka decides to join in. Soon Jim Duggan returns and then all let loose. Ron Simmons walks into the shot, pauses, and says “DAMN!”.
R-Truth is in the back with Eve Torres, and they are practicing his theme.
R-Truth w/ Eve Torres v. Wade Barrett
The two square off with Wade connecting first with a boot to the gut. Truth follows in suit, but gets backed into the corner. Wade whips him across the ring, but Truth cartwheels out of the way and hits a spinning wheel kick. Truth then clotheslines Wade out of the ring. Truth flies out of the ring with a somersault plancha!
Truth and Wade both roll back into the ring. Truth goes for a crossbody but gets countered into a swinging side slam. Wade follows with a suplex and a cover. Wade kicks out. Wade then slams Truth down to the mat, and heads up to the second rope. Barrett connects with an ~EPIC~ elbow drop. Truth kicks out of the cover. Wade tries for another cover, but again Truth kicks out.
Truth tries for a quick roll up, but Wade escapes. Wade wrenches back on the neck of Truth with a headlock. Truth gets to his feet and attempts to kick his way free. Wade whips him into the corner. Truth dodges a splash and bounces off the ropes to hit a clothesline. Truth goes for another roll up, but Wade kicks out.
Truth hits a facebuster, but again Wade kicks out. Barrett gets to his feet and is looking for the Wasteland. Truth falls off his shoulders, and gets met with a boot to the skull. Wade lifts Truth up again, and this time he does connect with the Wasteland. This match is over.
Winner via Wasteland: Wade Barrett
Ricardo Rodriguez is out in the ring to introduce Alberto Del Rio. Tito Santana interrupts, and says that he’ll be the one doing the introduction this evening.
Alberto Del Rio is driven out to the entrance ramp, by none other than Chavo Classic! Del Rio gets into the ring with mic in hand. He demands respect from the audience, while riding down the legends present tonight, and of course America.
Sgt. Slaughter comes down to the ring and calls Del Rio scum and slime. He says if Del Rio wants respect, then he should face him in the ring right now. Del Rio accepts.
Alberto Del Rio v. Sgt. Slaughter
Del Rio is strong at first with a series of kicks and punches. Slaughter locks on a cobra clutch, and Del Rio starts to falter for the first time in this match. It doesn’t last long as Del Rio connects with a kick and sends Slaughter to the mat. Cover attempt, but Slaughter kicks out.
Del Rio locks on a headlock. Slaughter attempts to hulk his way free, but Del Rio manages to hold the move. Del Rio connects with a standing enziguiri and this match is over!
Winner via being young enough to still wrestle: Alberto Del Rio
After the match, Del Rio continues the attack by locking on the arm bar that has taken out Christian and Mysterio. MVP runs down to make the save!
Mae Young is introduced to the audience by “Mean” Gene Okerlund. She is flanked by the Bellas. We see a video package highlighting her wrestling career, especially on RAW in segments.
LayCool’s music hits, and they come out to talk to Mae Young. Michelle says that they are confused, “is this old school RAW, or like Jurassic Park?”. They say that Young is old enough to be Betty White’s grandmother. They continued to mock her for being old. Gene asks Mae if she has anything to say. She says that she wants a match with those, “sluts”. She wants it to be no disqualification with those, “bitches”.
LayCool says let’s make it falls count anywhere, ring the bell. Eve, Gail Kim and Natalya come out to help.
Mae Young v. LayCool
The Divas lay out LayCool, and then bring Layla over to Mae Young. She slaps her across the face, and picks up the pinfall. This match is over!
Winner: Mae Young
Jim Ross is introduced and heads down for commentary!!
Daniel Bryan v. Jack Swagger
Bryan and Swagger lock up. Bryan is sent to the mat, and looks for an arm bar. Swagger tries to convert into the ankle lock. Both men break free. Swagger runs behind Bryan and connects with a huge takedown. Swagger doesn’t release the hold, but Bryan slithers free. Bryan whips Swagger into the ropes and connects with a dropkick. Cover attempt, but Swagger kicks out.
Bryan is whipped into the ropes, but flips his way free. Swagger connects with a clothesline. Cole has thus far spent the entire time on commentary attacking Ross. JR, to his credit, has pretty much ignored Cole the entire time.
We are back as Ross is putting over the success of Daniel Bryan. Swagger rolls with him all the way out of the ring. Swagger punches Bryan in the face. Swagger gets back into the ring, but is met with the boot of Bryan. Daniel pulls down on the top rope, and Swagger tumbles to the outside. Bryan follows up with a baseball slide to through the ropes. Bryan then leaps on the apron and connects with a huge flying knee!
Swagger makes his way back into the ring, and Bryan takes to the top rope. Daniel leaps and hits an staggeringly beautiful missile dropkick. Bryan goes for the cover, but Swagger kicks out. Bryan launches himself across the ring and goes for a kick to Swagger. Jack moves out of the way and then follows up with a second rope splash. Bryan kicks out.
Daniel attempts to connect with the LeBelle lock, but Swagger counters free. Bryan gets to his feet and hits a strong kick to the skull of Swagger. He goes for the cover – and this match is over!
Winner via Kick to the Skull: Daniel Bryan
After the match, Ted Dibiase Jr. comes through the crowd and jumps in the ring. He connects with Dreamstreet and Bryan lays helpless in the middle of the ring. Dibiase’s music hits, and Maryse comes to escort him to the back.
Justin Roberts once again thanks J.R. for joining in on commentary. His music plays, and as he goes to leave he smacks Cole across the face with his cowboy hat!
Justin Roberts thanks the legends that were in attendance tonight, and they all come out on the entrance ramp to be formally introduced to the crowd.
Piper’s Pit w/ John Cena & Randy Orton
Piper is introduced and he makes his way down to the ring. He talks about why it is important to stand up for the WWE, and then introduces John Cena. He tells Cena that at Survivor Series, Cena must do the right thing. Piper was never the WWF Champion, but he tells Cena that he must do the right thing.
Cena says that he is tired of hearing people say that to him. All he has been hearing is that it is free or fired for him. Cena says that he looked up to all of these legends over the years. If Cena were to hand the Title to Barrett, then that is all that he will be remembered for. He can’t do it. Someone in the audience says “I love you John”. Cena responds with “damn right”. He says that if he doesn’t call the match down the middle, then his entire career was for naught. Piper cheers him on.
Wade comes down the ramp, and says that Cena spoke very well. But that’s all it is. Just words. He says that the bottom-line is that Cena will either raise his hand, or be fired. Piper tells him to shut up. He says that if Wade is handed the belt, then he is nothing but a joke. Wade says that’s a funny word to use. Because tonight is Cena’s final RAW with the Nexus, and possibly his final RAW ever. So, there is something that he wants to do, which he should have done weeks ago. Wade hands him a Nexus shirt. He tells Cena that if he doesn’t put it on now, then he will fire him on the spot.
Cena hesitantly complies. He asks Wade if he is happy. Cena says he hopes so, because he is only his boss until Sunday. After the match, win or lose, he is going to smash in Wade’s face. Wade says that while Nexus has been banned from ringside, as soon as the bell rings, they will run down to help Wade. Barrett says that he has Cena’s number.
Orton has finally had enough, and comes down to the ring. He tells John that after last week, he has been thinking about taking out Cena so that none of this would be an issue. Cena tells him that he is right here, so what is stopping him? Orton says nothing, but there is a better option.
Orton runs at Wade! Orton starts to attack Wade and is setting up for the punt. Cena steps into the middle to separate the two. Orton responds by hitting the RKO on Cena! Orton grabs Wade and throws him out of the ring. Orton then goes for a punt on Cena, but John moves out of the way and hits an Attitude Adjustment on Orton! Wade then comes into the ring to celebrate with Cena. John responds by lifting Wade into the air, and hitting an RKO on him as well! Cena rips off his Nexus shirt and throws it on Wade as the show goes off the air.
As a longtime wrestling fan, this was a very impressive show tonight. The WWE clearly went all out and threw everything that they had into this show. From the ring, to the graphics, to the talent, EVERYTHING was “old school”. With all of the past WWF elements, it was a fun show to watch. That being said, the audience in attendance was lacking in both passion and emotion tonight.
At the end of the show, I felt a sense of remorse that I wasn’t expecting. I think the reason that an “old school” RAW fell flat in terms of arena audience response is because the target audience base of such a show barely exists. I know, I know – most of you reading this recap do remember. You do feel, and appreciate, the nostalgia. But, we aren’t the average fans.
Look out into the audience and you will see a sea of young faces, hanging to every word of their hero John Cena. I watched tears stream down the faces of impressionable minds as the “bad guy” Wade Barrett defeated John Cena at Bragging Rights and made him a virtual indentured servant.
Like it or not, the young fans, the vocal fans, don’t appreciate the nostalgia. Actually, I shouldn’t phrase it that way. They don’t remember the nostalgic characters, which is assuming that they even watched the celebrated past events at all.
Then, there is the depressing element. Fans don’t want to see weak idols. Sentimentality aside, it almost feels cruel to usher stars of the past into the ring long after their era. Like a decrepit old king, they wave to the audience for a chance to seep into the adulation which they once received.
The best comparison that I can draw is to “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve”. Generations of Americans grew up looking forward to the broadcast. Countless champagne glasses have clinked together in a toast towards the future, first kisses of the new year have been shared with loved ones, and destined to fail resolutions have been made; all with the comforting timbre of Clark’s voice in the background. But, there is a time to move forward. Ryan Seacrest is the new “John Cena” of New Year’s Eve. And he does a commendable job. Sadly, Clark suffered a stroke several years ago which no doubt hastened the changing of the guard. Yet, just as the WWE does from time to time with past talent, ABC brings out Clark for a couple of minutes each year. His appearance is now routinely one of the most painful parts of my New Years Eve. It hurts to watch him struggle to speak because I’m genuinely empathetic to his fate.
The past must be remembered. Please don’t take this recap to mean that I’m disrespecting the past in any way. I strongly support the WWE Hall of Fame. I even understand why the WWE did what it did tonight. But understanding “why” didn’t make it any easier to watch tonight’s show.
Professional wrestling is an entity unlike any other in the entertainment industry. The demoralizing truth about wrestling is that so many have died at too young of an age. Watching tonight’s nostalgia show imposed a crushing sense of loss on my conscience. For every star of “Ye Olde Rasslin'”, five more seemed to spring to mind that should be present, but aren’t. It felt like the talent on the show was a collection of those not contractually obligated elsewhere, and who happen to still be alive. I hate to phrase it in such a grisly manner, but it is true.
After the January 4th edition of RAW, I told the anecdote in my recap of my five year old (at the time) brother watching the show with me. He’s a fan, or at least as much as you can be at such a young age. He has a couple wrestling shirts, and when I’m home from college, knows that Monday is wrestling night. Like a lot of fans, I had a decent collection of wrestling figures when I was little, and of course a miniature ring. As I’m currently 22, you can imagine what the selection of stars are that my brother de facto inherited from me. Some of his selection includes: Hulk Hogan, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, The Bushwackers, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and of course Bret “Hitman” Hart.
Luke, (that’s my brother’s name) has always been drawn to Hart for some reason. Or, as he affectionately calls him “Hitman Hitman” Hart. The week leading up to Hart’s return was one of excitement. I don’t know how he connected all the dots, but he had seen the commercials and knew that Hart was going to be on RAW. Put yourself in my brother’s shoes and imagine his mindset leading into the show. He’d seen some pictures, and maybe some clips, but it was the action figure which cemented the notion in his young mind of who Hart was, is, and ever will be.
Then, reality crept in. Reading this you may scoff at the notion of a miniature figure embodying a larger than life character, but in the mind of a young fan, it does. To the day I die I’ll never forget my brother’s reaction to seeing his hero that night. As a disheveled, gray haired, shell of the Hitman staggered out to the ring, my brother began to cry. With the wide eyed disappointment you’d only expect from a cartoon, he shook as he painfully said that “Hitman Himan is too old and can’t fight”. Watching McMahon low blow him was too much, and Luke fled from the room crying. His hero had fallen.
Tonight, almost a year later, I finally understand and feel the emotion that my brother had on that night. Tonight, I saw so many icons and heroes that had become debilitated over the years. Golden locks have been replaced with gray and white hair. Bodies that once glistened with oil and muscles, have been replaced with the rustic look of an old broken in baseball glove.
Watching RAW tonight was a sobering experience. I have so much respect for the sacrifices that have been made over the years by wrestlers. Many have given their lives to the business as a result of their lifestyle and the bumps that they take. There is no offseason in wrestling. The truth is that wrestlers are constantly injured, and in the WWE where they work between 250-300 dates a year, their bodies never truly have a chance to heal. I know in my heart that 20 years from now, John Cena, Randy Orton and HHH will take the places of today’s veterans that were featured on RAW tonight. It’s honestly a humbling realization, and not one that I take lightly. As painful as I found tonight’s RAW to watch, it was a humbling experience. Seeing the gods of wrestling’s past reduced to discarded elders, provides perspective on the present.
It’s cliché to say, but thank you. Thank you to all of the stars past and present. For a wrestler, every bump, and every match, is one closer to their last. It’s important to try and appreciate our favorite wrestlers of the current roster as they are now – because our heroes won’t be around forever.
– David Stephens
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