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Thoughts on last night's Raw from LI

I had a good time last night at the special “All Stars” three-hour edition of Raw at the Nassau Coliseum last night. Here are a few thoughts coming out of the show.

. I remain a big supporter of WWE’s decision to provide a PG product that appeals to kids—and not only because I have a couple of kids of my own. Fans who aren’t parents may be against the move, preferring an edgier product that appeals to adults. But I really think that, in some ways, kids are the ideal wrestling fans. That’s because they appreciate the product the way they’re supposed to. They boo the rule breaking heels. They cheer the babyfaces. They get absorbed in the storylines of good vs. evil. Unlike older fans—including myself—who closely scrutinize such things as backstage politics and “work rate,” younger fans’ appreciation of wrestling is unfettered and uncorrupted. Some might call them “marks,” but, really, they get it a lot whole lot better than many of the so-called smart fans do. Watching the Nassau Coliseum seats filled with excited children who are emotionally invested in the WWE product, I think back to when I used to go to the Coliseum as a kid, passionately cheering on Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and fiercely booing “Adorable” Adrian Adonis. That’s the way wrestling is supposed to be watched. Somebody deliver this message to Dixie Carter.

. As much fun as I had last night, I’m still not a fan of the three-hour Raws. They’re just much too long, and tend to drag quite a bit. By the two-hour mark, I was looking at my watch. And by the time John Cena finally appeared for the first time on the show just before 11, much of the crowd was burnt out. I bet WWE isn’t thrilled about the long Raws either, but USA tends to lean on WWE to help artificially boost their overall ratings with the extra programming. And so we’ll get another three-hour Raw next week—one night after getting a three-hour pay per view. It’s hard to think that, for many years, WWE weekly television shows were just one hour long.

. It’s a real shame that, even with three hours to fill, WWE apparently could not find a way to give any television to Long Island’s own, Zack Ryder. Or, perhaps more accurately, WWE found a way not get him on. I totally understand the fact that, for all his underground popularity, Ryder is not a major player on television right now, and priority had to be given to promoting matches and storylines for this Sunday’s show. But you can’t tell me that on the same three-hour show that included a Santino Marella comedy match and a Diva can-can line, there weren’t three minutes available to give the hometown kid one of the highlights of his career, and of his life. If they didn’t want to do it for Zack, they should have done it for his considerable fan following. I would not be exaggerating by saying that Ryder was one of the most over acts last night, despite the fact that most fans missed his only appearance in the building during a throw-away match for the Superstars Internet show. There were loud “We want Ryder!” chants throughout the night, and dozens of fans with signs, headbands and Ryder T-shirts. Having Ryder briefly come out and take a Stone Cold Stunner would have been a memorable television moment. WWE apparently thought they were better off using the opportunity to teach Ryder a lesson in humility. With WWE’s pool of stars as shallow as its ever been, it’s hard to believe WWE would pass up the chance to help make a star in Zack Ryder. But it’s a widely held belief that the worst thing you could do in WWE is become popular without the company’s help.

. Speaking of “Stone Cold,” I think Austin has been doing some of his best work in years in WWE, and has been a welcome addition to the television product in his part-time role. For years after his retirement, Austin’s occasional television appearances typically fell flat, because he was being portrayed as something of a parody of himself. He’d come out, stun some poor fool, and drink beer. He’s still doing all those things, but his role as host of Tough Enough showed a new dimension of Austin as the wise, wrestling legend and father figure who may be tough on the outside, but also very kind and concerned on the inside. Even in his exchange with The Miz last night, Austin went out of his way to repeatedly put over The Miz for all he’s accomplished. That’s more than John Cena did in the last six months. It’s true that, generally, legends like Austin are best used very sparingly on TV. But, in a company filled with so many adults behaving as children and, it’s nice to have a real grown-up around, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Austin become a semi-regular part of the WWE TV product going forward.

. It’s a small point, but it’s worth noting that WWE has really made strides in improving the live experience for fans attending television tapings. It used to be that the live audience would just sit on their hands during the lengthy and constant commercial breaks. But last night, WWE did a good job of filling those typical lulls with video packages aired on the Tron, wrestler entrances, and other entertaining segments. It really helped the time pass by.

. If you live in the area but couldn’t make it to last night’s show, you’ll have another opportunity to see the stars of Raw and Smackdown in person this week when the WWE hosts a SuperShow Saturday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ. Tickets start at $20 and are available through Ticketmaster.

. I had a good time running into my pal Nick Malone, host of the Over The Ropes wrestling radio show and Podcast at the show last night. Nick does a great job with the show, which regularly features big guests and tons of great wrestling analysis. You can check it out from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday nights. I hope to be on the show this week, talking about this past Monday’s Raw, and also looking ahead to Sunday’s Capitol Punishment pay per view.

. One final, non-WWE related note: $20 for parking at the Coliseum? As Zack would say, are you serious, bro?

New York Sports