In the interest of snappiness, I’m going to try and sum up my notes from Raw as concisely as possible. Knowing me, that means only 1,250 words. I hope not, for the sake of you readers.
So the show kicked off with a pretty amazing segment that I did not see coming at all. Stephanie McMahon came out to the ring and said she had made an “executive decision” and barred Triple H from competing on the show. The crowd reacted badly to this and booed her. Papa Vinnie came out (sporting Attitude Era hairstyle) and backed her up, calling the fans selfish. This was such a great throwback to the past, seeing these two in the ring. Then The Shield made their way down through the crowd. As the commercial break came in, I was expecting the worst for the McMahons. When the show returned, they were actually just coming out for their six man tag-team match. A bit of an anti-climax but still a solid start to the show.
The Shield v Randy Orton & Team Hell No
As the match started, all I could think was when will these guys ever break up? I’m loving the slow (or maybe not so slow anymore) build on Daniel Bryan snapping, but I kind of want the matches to end. Bit of a side-note but, I still haven’t sorted out my new phone yet, so I wish they would stop teasing me with the app. As for the match, it was typically great. I’m actually bored of saying how great matches involving The Shield and Daniel Bryan are. The American Dragon set off on his classic flurries as usual, with the highlight being a hurricanrana on Seth Rollins which flipped him from the top rope down onto Dean Ambrose on the canvas. Ambrose got the win on Bryan in the end, but we all know who got over most in this one.
Now for another McMahon segment. Triple H storms into Vince’s office and declares that he will defy his wishes and opts to wrestle against Curtis Axel in the main event. When Mr. McMahon reacts badly to this, Steph actually turns to stand side by side with Hunter – a metaphorical nod to the future direction of the empire.
The Usos v Prime Time Players
It’s always a pleasure to see a rare Usos match. I talked about them in the first episode of my new YouTube Q&A series Unsanctioned (check it out here) I think they have a load of potential and promise. Perhaps they actually are going to try and reinvigorate the division? Jimmy and Jey get the surprise win with a super splash from the top rope. Good times! :D
Alberto Del Rio v Big E. Langston
According to Micheal Cole, this was the “rubber match” between these two. I guess the score must be 100-100 by now. I don’t want to take anything away from the guys in question. They are both terrific athletes but I think they have had quite enough TV matches together in Ziggler’s absence. Nonetheless, they had a fairly good match again and still managed to entertain me. The dominant Langston punished Del Rio with a hard Irish whip into the barricade and a triple back-breaker. However, Del Rio picked up the win, against the run of play (as us Brits would say) with an interesting move: an arm-breaker into a unique pin cover. You have to be two good workers to have a good match during such a rinsed angle, and they did.
Cody Rhodes v Sheamus
This was a nothing match, because Sheamus has nothing going on. Cody tends to be used for filler with main event guys who are lost in the shuffle, because he is a tremendous worker. These two had an excellent match in my opinion, especially Rhodes, who continues to impress me consistently. He is so shockingly underrated. A terrifically sound performer, who was particularly innovative in this match, especially by modern WWE standards (This went on to be somewhat of a running theme throughout the show) However, Sheamus won with the Brogue Kick, not surprisingly. Sandow’s commentary was exquisite. Sheamus struck Sandow and I guess the feud between those two will continue.
Hunter then left the arena in a limo, and told Steph to deal with it. This was quite a change of heart from earlier in the night. He told her to tell Vince that he is wrestling Axel next week and that is that. This left me begging the question, will he come out later on in the show though?
One thing that was interesting about this show was the layout. Three terrific matches back to back with no filler segments in between, followed by three promos that were uninterrupted by matches. Strange but really cool, in my opinion.
The first of which was Cole and the Gang telling us that Kofi Kingston was injured and will be out for a month or two. This leaves the lucrative spot of Top Jobber up for grabs. Which mid-card face will be lucky enough to land it though?
Then Ryback and Daniel Bryan bumped into each other in the backstage area. These two have been on the same team against The Shield multiple times in the past, but their characters couldn’t be further apart now. The real life road buddies got into a bit of a disagreement and a match between them was booked for later in the show. Now Daniel Bryan is wrestling twice a night. He is getting bigger pops than John Cena, so much so that they want him out their stirring the crowd up twice.
The third and final promo of the three saw Vince McMahon pay great props to young Curtis Axel, alongside Paul Heyman backstage, continuing this pseudo-heel role he has been playing all night. He puts the kid over big time, citing his massive potential to succeed in the business, but does then place him in a No Disqualification Match with John Cena in the main event.
Fandango v The Great Khali
The crowd were pretty hot for most of the show, and credit to them for Fandango-ing along. They were loving it. Summer Rae looked particularly incredible as she helped him make his entrance. She gets more amazing each week. I was super hungry at this point so I took my chance to go and make some toast, in the safe knowledge that Khali was in the ring ending any possibility of entertainment. When I returned I saw hat something had happened but not surprisingly it didn’t involve Khali. Something happened involving The Miz and Wade Barrett. I’m not quite sure what but for some reason one match seems to be over, and another is about to begin. That wasn’t the only time this happened in the night.
The Miz v Wade Barrett
Not sure exactly what happened in the previous match, but apparently Barrett ambushed Miz and then those two found themselves in a match. Wade was in control of The Miz who was weakened by the earlier attack, when Fandango came down to dance on the stage a little. This distracted Wade, allowing Miz to pick up the win with the figure four leg lock. When will they announce the triple threat match between these guys at Payback already? It better not be on the pre-show!
And now for the contract signing between Chris Jericho and CM Punk’s representative Paul Heyman. So now he is signing stuff for him too? The divide is brewing. These contract signings are so played out and make no real sense but I don’t blame them for taking any chance to get these two together with microphones. When referring to their match at Payback, JBL cried out “Somebody call the Sheriff. These boys may just steal the show!” – They don’t call the man a Wrestling God for nothing.
The promo featured some excellent mic work from both guys again, as expected. Jericho mastered the cheap pop, and they both put over the Payback match very well. Then before leaving the ring after all was signed, Jericho stuffed the paper contract down the front of Paul Heyman’s trousers. Not sure what message he was trying to send there, but it seems a tad homoerotic, don’t cha think?
AJ & The Bella Twins v Kaitlyn & The Funkadactyls
I wasn’t really paying attention but there were a lot of divas in the ring all of a sudden. Six man tag-team match I guess. I’m not going to even pretend that I paid attention to this and try to critique it. When the divas division takes more inspiration from NXT and TNA, I will start to care. At the moment, it’s just glorified soft-core pornography.
This was followed by an absolutely epic locker room promo by Kane and Daniel Bryan. Kane put him over so much as a completely die-hard hero like figure, only for D-Bry to snap and just act like a total douche, telling him not to come out to ringside during the match. I know that he is going for this new aggressive, insane angle, but it does seem that he is being a bit too much of a dick to not be turning heel.
Then another bone chilling Wyatt family vignette. This one featured a woman tied to a tree branch with rope. Crazy stuff, can’t wait for these guys to debut! – “We’re coming”
Daniel Bryan v Ryback
Daniel worked the crowd to perfection as always, and just may be the most over character in the whole company right now. However, Ryback rules. He came out in the ambulance again ready for feeding time. What a legend! This encounter between the two real-life road buddies was Bryan’s second of the night. It was an excellent one. There were spells of power and dominance by Ryback, interspersed with impressive high flying and submission work by Bryan. My particular favourite moments being his reversal into the half Boston crab and use of the Indian death lock. The King pointed out that “Your legs are not supposed to bend like that” and Cole described his one-time nemesis as a “Submission master”
Bryan then moved onto his “vintage” striking, before being silenced by a Ryback clothesline out of the ring over the top rope. But the little warrior came flying back with more trademark flurries, before again using the flying headbutt made famous by double homicide/suicide specialist Chris Benoit. He then locked on the Lebell Lock (forget this Yes/No bullshit) – This was sold amazingly well by Ryback for quite some time before he finally, just about made the bottom rope. Bryan then attempted a suicide dive through the ropes, only for Ryback to use his momentum against him and direct him onto the announce table. He then decided to put Bryan through a table, therefore making D-Bry the winner by DQ.
This was an excellent match which either proves that Ryback can have a great match if he has the right opponent, or that Bryan can have a great match with anyone regardless. John Cena then came out to help prevent Ryback from inflicting more damage. Cena got a surprisingly big pop from a fairly intelligent crowd. This goes to show again how over Bryan is. Just by helping the guy, you get put over more. Curtis Axel then makes his way to the ring for the main event match. This idea of putting two matches together in succession was executed brilliantly once again.
John Cena v Curtis Axel
A solid main event. Not the best match on the card, but quite solid. Axel is technically sound and that’s clear for anyone to see. Submissions and suplexes galore. Back-breakers. The No DQ rule was a bit pointless though, and only really allowed for a few chair shots. I think it was just a ploy to make people want to continue watching on to the main event. One particular highlight was Curtis Axel reversing the STF with an iPad head-shot. Hilarious! Ryback then came out and destroyed Cena. The match ended in a No Contest. Axel is still undefeated, but is still yet to pin anyone on Raw.
Okay, so I’ve ended up going over 2,000 words. My bad. When you have a show as great as this one, it’s hard to be snappy. I thought the episode was excellent from top to bottom. A very, very solid three hour edition of Monday Night Raw. You can really see some of the effects of the new Triple H/Stephanie McMahon era starting to show. There is still a lot of work to be done, but you can see the improvements happening. Excellent wrestling, weapons, great promos, story and character development, and all of this on TV. You can’t complain too much about that.
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