We all knew last week’s episode of Raw was gonna be a tough one to follow up but there were those who had confidence that WWE could deliver. If TNA can roll out energy-packed shows for weeks in succession, certainly a promotion with resources like WWE has can do twice as much, right?
Granted, fans from one region to the next can be as different as “Knockouts” and “Divas” so we should have guessed the New Jersey / New York fans would be a tough act to follow. Even though they made up for half the entertainment value last week, they also served as a barometer for what the fans at large think and feel about the way things are going in WWE. Perhaps there was some “on the fly” booking due to the Rock’s absence but, if that was the case, it worked to great effect. So what happens when your format is back on schedule and the fans in attendance of your event are more predictable and controlled?
Let’s find out.
Randy Orton / Sheamus vs Big Show
This was a match made on Smackdown by Booker T…a match that should have been the logical first choice in resolving a conflict arising from WM29. Perhaps having Orton and Sheamus go against each other last week was a good thing since now we know there is a significant amount of fans who are bored with them. This week, Raw opens their show with them and the fans offer a lukewarm reaction (in spite of what I hear Greenville crowds are like). It was all mailed in from start to finish. We didn’t see anything new or fresh from any of these guys in the ring and the fans were also pretty typical.
The Takeaway: At least Raw didn’t blow their wad on a bookend-variety match where they get the crowd pumped up in the beginning, offer two and a half hours of filler, and end on a high note. The opening was pretty standard fare which allowed any latecomers to the event to wander in and not really miss anything. Not the best strategy but whatever.
3MB / Brock Lesnar / HHH
You had to figure out before this got started that the Shield wouldn’t acquiesce to any demand these three clowns in 3MB were laying out, never mind come out to address them. So it was good that Brock Lesnar came to break things up (which the crowd popped for). He may have taken out three guys within a minute but those three guys were a joke to begin with. Anyway, Paul Heyman proposed the “old school steel cage” match against HHH for the Extreme Rules PPV coming up,
The Takeaway: First, it’s time to break 3MB up because they’re going nowhere but back in the storage shed until someone else needs a punching bag. Second, it’s obvious a significant number of fans still appreciate Brock Lesnar and what he does. Third, the way Heyman hyped the proposed match for the next PPV, what interests me is if the cage will be the standard hurricane fencing or the actual steel gated walls we saw in the mid to late 80s. If this match is to live up to the hype, the wise money would be on the latter. Something needs to be done in order for the cage to be relevant again in WWE.
Antonio Cesaro vs Kofi Kingston (US Title match)
What the hell was Cesaro doing as he entered the ring? Please, whatever that was, don’t ever do it again! The crowd didn’t seem into this match at all until about halfway through. It was a pretty standard match for a title that has lost almost all relevance.
The Takeaway: It took WWE long enough to realize Cesaro was never gonna be over as a champion. I guess Kofi was the closest thing WWE had to a #1 contender for the US title so they crowned him. The thing that bothered me about the match itself, though, is Kofi acted like he was beaten down and gassed after three minutes. He was selling exhaustion and having been punished after a relatively short match. Cesaro still looked fresh throughout which makes me question whether he was under-selling or Kofi was over-selling. Either way, no athlete should be exhibiting such melodramatics when we know he can go at least 20 minutes for a Money in the Bank match. We have a new US champion…and life goes on. It certainly didn’t help that WWE so starkly contrasted the lack of importance of that title by showing the Dolph Ziggler cash-in for the world heavyweight title.
Dolph Ziggler / Alberto Del Rio / Jack Swagger
This segment was kind of a mess which created an even bigger mess when it was done. Ziggy came out to show off the title he won last week, ADR came out to presumably invoke his rematch clause, Jack and Uncle Zeb came out to challenge Ziggy’s validity to the WHC title, and Jack injures ADR again.
The Takeaway: It all feels like a setup for the next PPV; rushed and compressed. To actually allow the rematch to happen tonight on top of the Swagger interruption would have been stupid and amounted to overkill in terms of trying to pack a six-week story into one or two. So we’re left with questioning if ADR is done and for how long, if Swagger gets the #1 contender position, if he has to face ADR later for that distinction, and is Uncle Zeb really necessary anymore? I understand Jack can’t talk very well but he can’t use the crutch of having a mouthpiece for the rest of his career. And why has WWE not suspended him over the drug policy violation yet?
Team Hell No vs Darren Young / Titus O’Neil
It’s a squash match considering the team challenging the champions.
The Takeaway: A blind man would have thought this was a “Divas” match for the lack of response given by the crowd. My guess is they expected it all to happen exactly as it did. What I’m having trouble with is why Young and O’Neil are still getting a match against the champions when all they’ve been doing is losing. How are these clowns still hanging around? They’d be better off in NXT…maybe. I can’t be sure their appeal would be any better there.
I’m still not convinced that Ryback is the guy to lead the next generation of WWE talent but the promo tonight was a step in the right direction. Yes, it did smack of the Bully Ray retrospective on TNA Impact where he illustrated (in pieces throughout the show) how the Aces & 8s con went down. The reason I’m guessing WWE did this one in a single segment is they didn’t wanna appear to have nicked TNA of the concept. And for once WWE didn’t make Ryback sound like a meathead with a third-grade vocabulary.
The Takeaway: WWE had better make this mean something because this promo bespeaks bigger things in the future than just another PPV loss for the big guy. He needs an extended rivalry if WWE wants the fans to take him seriously.
Wade Barrett vs R Truth
This is a decent match on paper. It was fairly standard from start to finish…except for the outcome.
The Takeaway: Okay…so you job out Barrett to Miz at WM29, have him regain the IC title on Raw the next night, and job out to R Truth a week later? Forgive me, WWE, but I thought you were supposed to make your titleholders look stronger. Why are you making us question you for things like this? It’s not as if any of us think you’re gonna pin the title on Truth at any time in the future but seriously…if you’re gonna have Barrett lose to someone, please make that opponent believable!
Great Khali / Santino vs Cody Rhodes / Damien Sandow
The Khali clown show rolls in and does more to tarnish what could be a great team in Rhodes Scholars than anything. I also feel bad that Natalya is being lowered to this role when the “Divas” are hurting for talent. And the midget is still hanging around.
The Takeaway: Nothing to see here. No, really. I fast-forwarded through this one and missed nothing. Moving on…
I think this segment was a big mistake. Awful. This guy might be a future top draw someday but it’s not looking that way here. He’s more show than go.
The Takeaway: Now that WWE has openly acknowledged this “Fandango’ing” thing, it’s no longer cool. That was something that belonged to the fans. The WWE claimed it as a tool in hopes of getting the fans more involved and now it’s all marketing. Let the fans have their own thing without trying to sell it a week later.
Dolph Ziggler vs Jack Swagger
It’s a non-title match but it ought to be pretty decent. Good amount of back and forth. Nothing outstanding about it but still okay. The outcome was crap, though. The post-match activity made the picture even messier.
The Takeaway: Lemme get this straight. You have Ziggler cash in his contract and win the WHC title against an injured ADR only to lose a match to Swagger a week later? What did I say about making your champions look weak? Does WWE even understand the image they project onto their characters when they script these things? To make matters worse, you allow a still injured ADR to get over on Swagger as he celebrates his win over the champion? I don’t even know where WWE is headed with this but it’s a mess that isn’t going away any time soon.
We saw Mark Henry attack Sheamus backstage during Smackdown a few days ago so tonight’s attack is no surprise. Same setup, same premise, same result. Right down to the stupid officials swarming in like they were hanging out nearby or something.
CM Punk addresses the fans for the first time since WM29 and speaks about how he couldn’t enjoy his WWE title reign because he was looking ahead to the next big thing. First he acknowledged his loss to the Rock and then the loss to Undertaker. In the end, he seemed to become at a loss for words as the fans exchanged chants of “Undertaker” and “CM Punk.” Then…he takes a slow walk out of the arena through the side stage area.
The Takeaway: Okay, we get it. You’re setting up a feud between Mark Henry and Sheamus. I hope this is even a sliver more compelling than setting Sheamus up with Randy Orton. Speaking of Orton, where has he to go now? Is he gonna be left alone to face Big Show? If so, I’m not sure I can muster any excitement about that. As far as CM Punk, it appears he’s letting Paul Heyman go, judging from the way he just walked out. That’s okay with me. Punk never needed a mouthpiece the way Brock Lesnar does. His never-ending quest for respect also seems to have ended with the fans chanting his name in the same breath as Undertaker’s. Furthermore, I think Punk is gonna begin his time off now to rehab himself. The manner of his exit makes sense that way. When he comes back, it will be a hero’s welcome.
This is NOT how to end Raw (part 1)
Teddy Long is either turning heel or he’s gonna take over on Raw…or both. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
Anyway, this is a “Divas” match. The Bella twins do the “twin magic” gimmick and no one cares. As usual.
The Takeaway: the “Divas” have to be the most disposable entity in this industry. No one cares about them and the vast majority of them are terrible. There’s nothing compelling about any of them, they’re interchangeable, devoid of personality, and given nothing to do. And seriously…WTF is with putting that throwaway match in the main event position? Does WWE have no concept of what makes a main event anymore?
…and part two
John Cena has to end the show as usual. The fans are getting on to him about being boring along with the usual noise. Cena talks way too much and tries too hard to sound tough. But listen to all those kids in the crowd cheering him on. He makes a challenge to Ryback, the big guy walks away, and the Shield enters to take out the champ. Ryback stands at the top of the stage and does nothing to no one’s surprise.
The Takeaway: It was another Cena promo punctuated by an attack by the Shield. The crowd, incidentally, couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted. Were the trying to put Cena over as a guy they don’t hate so much anymore or do they want him destroyed with their chants of “one more time?” All I know is we need to prepare for SuperCena being shoved down our throats for the foreseeable future. And I’ll say it again: it’s easier to turn Ryback heel than do anything at all to Cena’s stale, boring character.
So there it is. This week’s Raw looked like a stale, disorganized mess compared to last week. Whoever the writing team was last week will probably never be seen again in favor of the “business as usual” approach we got this episode. I, for one, expected it but was somehow still disappointed because WWE has a way of making you think it’s finally learned something from the past few years only to yank the floor from under you, making you feel foolish for having that much faith in them.
Shame on you, WWE. You should feel bad about this.