Welcome to The Raw Report.
Every week I’ll be dissecting WWE’s Monday Night Raw and analyzing what worked, what didn’t work, and what left audiences thinking wtf by breaking the show down into three categories: YES!, CHANGE THE CHANNEL! or WHAT?
Let’s get it on.
Triple H and Paul Heyman opening segment – Brilliant opener. This is how you raise the energy right from the opening of Raw. Heyman’s whiney, “what are ya’ doin?!” as Triple H grabbed him by the throat was superb acting. While I would have certainly loved to see more back and forth between the two, I found both men to be in top form during this segment.
Triple H cut a wonderful promo about Lesnar, criticizing Brock for leaving the business and offending legends such as Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels by his recent behavior. Instead of burying Lesnar, like many assumed Triple H was doing, I felt that the COO had a clear argument running throughout the promo: Lesnar is a bully who quits the second he faces strong opposition. Maybe Triple H is that one obstacle that Brock won’t be able to simply quit and avoid? Heyman, in turn, informed Triple H that Lesnar is suing the WWE, which added a bit of suspense to Brock’s relationship with the company. The WWE seems to be planting the seeds for a much longer program between not only Triple H and Lesnar, but Brock and the entire WWE infrastructure. I’m excited to see where they go next.
CM Punk/Santino vs. Daniel Bryan/Cody Rhodes – Oddly enough, I found Bryan and Cody worked really well together. I’m not sure what purpose Santino served in this match, other than the WWE not being able to find a better babyface to team with Punk. Why not bring Alex Riley back up? Or maybe even Zack Ryder? Punk’s angry facials to Bryan throughout the match were superb. Seeing Bryan simply laugh in Punk’s face from across the ring only further built his heat to fans at home. I loved that fact that Bryan ended the match by staring Punk down as he walked up the ramp, smirking the entire way. It’s interesting how Bryan doesn’t take Punk seriously, yet desperately wants to win the WWE Championship.
While many fans complain that there’s no build to Bryan/Punk, I can only slightly disagree. Obviously we haven’t seen the two interact enough. However, I think Bryan is already such an established heel, that it’s almost obvious why Punk wants to beat him. Who wouldn’t want to beat up Daniel Bryan after the way he behaves on TV each week? (besides me. I love Daniel Bryan). The crowd was hot during this match, giving Bryan plenty of heat and throwing out some vivacious “YES!” chants. I’d love to see Bryan take the title at Over The Limit, which could possibly lead to a feud with stronger builds at No Way Out or even SummerSlam. It would be fantastic to see Punk in pursuit of the WWE Championship again, which we haven’t witnessed all year, since it could impact the growth of his character.
I am somewhat bothered by the fact that the WWE isn’t acknowledging Punk and Bryan’s long history as competitors. Granted, WWE.com featured a piece about the two fighting in the independents, but it would be great to hear them cut a promo about working together since Ring of Honor. Why not explicitly discuss the fact that these two have been pursuing dreams of being world champions across the globe for ages? I’m hoping that we see these two work more throughout the summer. I think a Bryan/Punk feud could definitely draw in fans of indie wrestling who may not pay attention to the WWE.
Beth Phoenix vs. Alicia Fox – Oddly enough, my favorite part of this match had nothing to do with Alicia Fox, one of the main participants in the bout. WWE Diva’s Champion Layla, who was on the ramp during this match, caught my attention right away. She’s obviously a babyface, but her interaction with Beth had a heel slant. I’m actually very excited to see Layla vs. Beth, even if we don’t get that elusive Kharma return that we’re all waiting for.
Brodus Clay/Kofi Kingston/R-Truth vs. Jack Swagger/Dolph Ziggler/The Miz – This match, despite having Brodus to occasionally drag things down, had a lot of positive aspects. Kofi was spectacular and further proved how badly he deserves a big picture feud in the WWE. Likewise, Swagger/Dolph continued to remind fans that they’re the best tag team to come around in ages. Dolphin especially sold every move so well that it kept me engaged the entire time. Even Miz got a few solid spots during the match. Of course, a lot of fans whined about Brodus/Kofi/R-Truth dancing with young fans in the ring at the end, but it was nothing more than typical babyface celebration in my eyes.
Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho – This was a very good match and did an excellent job of building towards the fatal four way match at Over The Limit. It’s amazing that within just week, the WWE utilized both Raw and Smackdown to help enhance the tension between Del Rio, Orton, Jericho, and Sheamus in preparation for their World Heavyweight Championship match at Over The Limit. Ideally, this is what both shows should be used for: allowing storylines to flow smoothly and seamlessly across brands.
CHANGE THE CHANNEL!
Kane vs. Big Show – This match defines unnecessary. Big Show’s awkward bump after Kane’s chokeslam was tough to watch. Again this week we continue with the theme of “poor Kane.” Kane deserves a solid feud more than a lot of guys in the WWE right now.
Big Show’s firing – This segment went on WAY too long. There is no need to see Big Show blubbering like a confused child. You may ask, “but James, aren’t you happy to see that Big Show is FIRED?!” While Big Show probably should consider retirement soon, this kayfabe firing, like all kayfabe firings, will ultimately prove to be forgettable.
John Laurinaitis/Cena segment: When Cena is good, he’s damn good. However, when Cena is bad, he’s terrible. This was a bad segment. Choosing to close the show with this interaction was ridiculous. Cena acted silly and treated the severity of his match against John Laurinaitis like an elaborate farce. It’s okay to be funny in the ring, look no further than Punk’s promos last summer with Cena to see how well comedy can enhance a feud. But there has to be a balance between humor and seriousness when leading into a PPV. This segment was solely Cena teasing Johnny. Why would fans tune in to a PPV where not even Cena seems invested in the outcome?
This bit encompassed everything fans complain about when they discuss John Cena; his inability to balance humor and seriousness in the face of a difficult opponant. Cena laughed everything off and acted as if his Laurinaitis was a joke. Of course, Johnny is hardly as tough an opponent as Lesnar, but Cena should at least make fans believe that we’re going to see a big match. Cena mimicked Ace in the style of Jim Carrey, proving that a bad joke from the mid-90s is still a bad joke in 2012. Humiliating Johnny would have been hilarious if Cena wasn’t facing him at Over The Limit this weekend. It’s already difficult to see Johnny as a formidable opponent for Cena, given both his age and history of being a corporate goofball on camera, but Cena certainly did nothing to help convince fans that they should purchase Over The Limit.
As a regular episode of Raw, I’d give this show a rousing YES! However, as a go-home show for Over The Limit? I can’t help but throw out an apathetic WHAT? The opening segment kicked off strong, and the build-up for the four-way match at Over The Limit was very good. However, the closing segment was terrible. We left Raw on a sour note, giving fans little reason to want to see Johnny and Cena fight this Sunday. The lack of build between Bryan and Punk is equally disappointing, unless we’ll be seeing the two work together at No Way Out or even SummerSlam. I am looking forward to Over the Limit just to see Punk and Bryan in a WWE Championship match.
Essentially, I want to enjoy the idea of WWE taking the risk to even let that match happen. I’m also very excited for the fatal four way match, which seems to have grown leaps and bounds in just a week. I just hope that the rest of the pay-per-view doesn’t spoil the whole night.