San Jose RAW Crunch Time, Punk vs. Rock Match Strategy, MLK, Harbaugh/Pillman Connection, Random Thoughts, Order JR's Today!

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Tonight's Monday Night Raw from San Jose is a must win broadcast for all involved in @WWE. It's the last RAW before this Sunday's Royal Rumble from Phoenix headlined by @TheRock challenging @CMPunk for the WWE Title. Some fence straddlers will likely make their decision to buy Sunday's first PPV of the year and the 'official' kickoff on the road to WrestleMania on April 7 outdoors at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey by what they see and feel tonight.  

First of all let me say that I am in no way preconditioned as to what might or might not occur tonight on the West Coast.  I'm a fan and will watch the three hour broadcast live as it happens on USA just as the approximate 4.5 million viewers did last week.

These 'go home' shows should put added pressure and a keen sense of urgency on every one involved in the event. Camera men, techs, talents, broadcasters, etc should all be prepared to up their game tonight so that it leaves the viewer wanting more and with more questions than answers. The object of tonight's Raw is simple...sell the Royal Rumble in as an entertaining way as possible.  

If this show is approached as "business as usual" then there's a good chance that those with that mindset need to either be turned out to pasture or have a fire lighted under their backside.

Tonight's show will likely have two, primary destinations. 1. The WWE Title Bout and 2. The Royal Rumble match itself. What other stories need be told?

The onus of selling this PPV this Sunday seems to largely weigh on the shoulders of Rock and Punk. I have no issue with that because I still look upon the WWE Title as the centerpiece of the company. All titles are important but within WWE, or at least when I was there full time on the road and in the office, the WWE Title was the bellcow. Still is as I perceive it. 

I'm very curious as to how  Rock, the challenger for the WWE Title, and WWE Champion Punk interact tonight. I think these two will have a compelling match Sunday in Phoenix that will likely and arguably be more physically demanding than any bout that the Rock has had in WWE in perhaps a decade. 

Punk's in ring approach and physicality is unique and not a traditional catch as catch can style as many of his peers utilize. I see Punk using a variety of stiff kicks at the Royal Rumble and challenging Rock with a variety of submission holds that one can only assume isn't something that the "Great One" is comfortable defending. Time will tell.  

I also expect the WWE Title bout to exceed 30 minutes bell to bell and if that assumption is accurate that's another figurative notch in Punk's favor. Rock is obviously in great physical condition but nothing prepares one for a big match like competing in the ring several days prior to said big match. I'm guessing Rock has been in the ring preparing but that type of prep pales in comparison to actual performing and competing in a ring surrounded by paying customers. Every top wrestler I've ever known says that no amount of cardio training can replace actual in ring work to build up one's wind and get one ready for a major bout such as headlining the Royal Rumble. 

The physicality between Punk and Rock last week in Houston was strong. The sell out crown ate it up and I received tons of feedback on it. It was easy for me to visualize what I saw in the brawl and it re-enforced that I really wanted to see the bout at the Rumble. 

Without question, John Cena is the focus of the Royal Rumble match which is not to say that several others competing in the bout don't have the opportunity to maximize their minutes and forward issues in which they are involved or to start new ones.

The winner of the Rumble match theoretically has his ticket punched for a main event slot at WrestleMania. I can more easily emotionally invest in a multi person bout such as the Rumble match if something significant is at stake and it certainly is in this WWE HOFer Pat Patterson creation. 

There is no more important stretch of time than now until April 7 for anyone who earns a living in WWE. The Road to WM29 is crucial on so many platforms and the momentum built from it goes far beyond April 7. For a pure, sports fan it's akin to a long playoff run. Win or go home and if one does 'win' the ultimate prize is indefinable.

The same sentiment goes for every minute of TV that WWE produces this week because this is the last opportunity to speak directly to the PPV consumer. I'm sure that @MichaelCole, @JerryLawler, @WWEJoshMathews and @JCLayfield will be on top of their game and won't approach this week's work like it was business as usual. (BTW, I enjoy the Layfield Report App and have it down loaded on both my IPad and IPhone. I suggest that you do as well especially if you like to save time and get your news on a variety of topics in one spot.)  

Excited to see what the next WWE Tryout camp brings us. The camp will be in Tampa in early February. Over three days there we will learn a great deal about the prospects. My only advice to them is to come prepared to work hard, to listen and to be in the best physical shape of their life. Their cardio will be tested early and often.

Thought a cool story for NFL journalists would be to ask Ravens Coach John Harbaugh how it was to room with the late, Brian Pillman while both were playing football at Miami of Ohio. I've been told that Brian was a legend in his own time while at college and was just as much a free spirit and a 'character' then as he was when he got into the wrestling biz. 

I helped bring Brian from Calgary to WCW in Atlanta thanks to former Bengals strength Coach Kim Wood recommendation and who got me tape on Brian which  forged Brian and my relationship with the Cincy native that I will always consider special. Rarely a day goes by that I don't think of Brian. 

Thought it was really cool to watch the Presidential Inauguration today which is also the late, great Martin Luther King's birthday. After Dr. King's assassination in Memphis, I never envisioned the USA having a holiday in King's honor. I'm proud that we do. I also, as a young man, never envisioned a black man being elected as President of the United States. Especially when one grew up in a county in Eastern Oklahoma that had a local law that "a black man could not see the sun set within the county". Sad, right? I've long found this matter to be embarrassing but as best I know that ignorant and unconstitutional law has been history for years. It was in full affect in the late 60's and I graduated high school in 1970. 

This matter is reminiscent of many old school wrestling promoters who had essentially a "quota" of how many men of color that they would allow in their territory at one time. Thankfully, those days, too,  are behind us. 

I 'pushed' on my 49'ers vs Falcons bet as  I thought San Fran would win but not by the 4 points that ATL was getting. I was on the right  side of the Ravens-New England game as I had Baltimore +8 in a game that they won outright in NE. Still thinking about the Super bowl and likely won't make my pick until days before the game on February 3.

If I were in San Jose today I'd grab lunch at Ike's Place. @ikesplace has awesome, creative, healthy sandwiches the likes that I've never experienced any where else. I wish we had one here in Norman. Of course, no visit to the Bay Area is complete without a visit to Original Joe's...a Pat Patterson favorite after working in the Roy Shire wrestling territory there for 15+ years. The wait staff at Original Joe's are as colorful as Patterson himself.

CBS is carrying Super Bowl 47 in two weeks & I hope that Jim Nance and Phil Simms don't over talk it. Those two have a habit of forgetting that the game is on TV at times and thus over talking the broadcast. That's just a personal opinion but often times the pictures tell a better story than any broadcaster could ever dream of describing.

Enjoyed UFC on FX Saturday night for the most part. Big drop  off  between broadcast teams as Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan are simply the best at what they do. Perhaps I'm just very comfortable with them. The other guys did fine but their voices did not make me feel that I was experiencing a 'Big Event.' A pet peeve is announcers talking over most of a fighters entrances  when the crowd noise is significant and adds to the emotion of the presentation. The San Paulo live audience added to the show and @UFC mic'ed them well also.

For those MMA purists who happen to stumble upon this blog, I'm a big fan of #UFC but in no way proclaim to be an expert in the genre. However, I do think that  I have a decent feel for TV production and broadcasting after being in it for close to 40 years now. I'm often 'gut and quartered' when I express my personal opinion on #UFC or MMA in general because I'm a "pro rasslin guy." Shame on me. 

If you are in the UK area check out @americansoda website and take advantage of their great deals on JR's products. My friends there in Manchester are doing a great job sell our goods throughout the UK and in Europe. 

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 Thanks for the always insightful thoughts, sir!  I'm one that is on the fence about ordering the Rumble, so I am optimistic that Raw will deliver tonight.  I had a question that has been bothering me all morning.  Do you remember when the Fabulous Freebirds with Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin fought as two masked British (I believe) men for one time in WCW for the tag team championship? I want to say you were announcing that one from Peachtree St.  Thanks!

Sorry, the question was what was the name of that tag team they fought as before taking off their masks to reveal that they were the Fabulous Freebirds?

So the WWE has a secret program going on for the last 10 years ? Apparently this program stars The Rock and he is toiling as a mid-card talent trying to get HIS BELT BACK. Wow ! This would have been great for marketing had someone seen it.       CM PUNK   2 .... Dwayne Johnson... 0.    

 Yeah, I didn't follow Rocky when he said he spent the last ten years earning respect.  He deserves the WWE title because he starred in "Game Plan" and "Tooth Fairy"?  Sure, he beat John Cena in 2012... but before that, his last singles match was a loss to Bill Goldberg in 2003.