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.
Opening segment with Cena/Big Show/John Laurinaitis: This is the John Cena I enjoy. Rather than the goofy John Cena who laughs everything off, we got a more serious Cena this week. John was pissed about Big Show’s interference in his match at Over the Limit with Laurinaitis and expressed that perfectly. The new heel Big Show didn’t impress me much, mostly because I find it hard to take his anger seriously. I can admit that Big Show certainly helped progress a storyline between himself and Cena. If nothing else, seeing John Laurinaitis come to ringside in a Jazzy scooter was by far one of the greatest moments on Raw this year.
I think it’s great that Johnny’s entourage continues to grow. Bringing along Hawkins/Reks and Titus O’Neil/Darren Young to his crew is a welcome addition. It doesn’t hurt that the Johnny’s People Power gang puts the focus on unknown young talent in the WWE. Things progressed quickly in this episode of Raw and accomplished this quite seamlessly. In a short amount of time, the WWE prepared us for a handicap match featuring Cena and Sheamus against three mystery opponents, which instantly added some suspense to the program.
I’m very surprised that Cena let a Mystery Raw GM reference slip. I was almost certain that the WWE would never acknowledge that awkward storyline.
David Otunga vs. John Cena: I’m a broken record at this point, but Otunga is a fantastic performer with a succinct character who deserves a higher profile feud. This match wasn’t long enough to convince too many viewers of Otunga’s skills, which is why we need to see a longer feud for the man alongside an equally talented opponent.
Orton vs. Del Rio: The back-and-forth between Santino and Ricardo Rodriguez was funny before Del Rio’s entrance, but I do think Alberto needs to drop the vehicle gimmick. It’s over-done and doesn’t necessarily add heat to his already excellent character. Del Rio is one of the most fully-developed characters the WWE has debuted in years and the car entrance gimmick doesn’t matter anymore. The fact that Del Rio is wealthy doesn’t play into his sneaky heel persona anyway.
Del Rio and Orton put on a superb match, with an interference by Jericho in the end to hint at a feud between he and Randy. Yes, please. Jericho’s anger at the end of this segment was visceral and intense, which is exactly what I’ve been waiting to see from this man for weeks.
Daniel Bryan and CM Punk segment: After putting on what is most likely the Match of the Year at Over the Limit on Sunday night, Bryan came out on Raw for revenge. The finish at Over the Limit left an opportunity for Bryan to demand a rematch, since it was unclear if Punk tapped before the three-count. The finish was perfect and while it certainly wasn’t clean, it opened the door for a strong feud to build. Hearing both Bryan and Punk tell their sides of the story regarding the finish added a light-heartiness after such an intense match the prior night. Punk doesn’t seem to take Bryan seriously unless they’re wrestling, often smirking at Bryan during promos like he’s a child, which blurs the lines between a traditional heel and babyface.
Bryan came out to a sea of YES chants, which was great to witness. I love how Bryan is now utilizing YES into his promos and the YES Lock. While applying the YES Lock to Punk at Over the Limit, Bryan would lean back and stretch Punk’s back while screaming, “YES!” which was very creative. I like that Bryan is using the word as a means of audience participation, while furthering his argument. By asking the audience if CM Punk tapped at Over the Limit and then chanting, “yes! yes! yes,” Bryan easily displayed his unique showmanship. Daniel Bryan isn’t your traditional heel, but fans still seem to be embracing him. While Punk is obviously a babyface, the dueling Punk/Bryan chants at Over the Limit seem to indicate that Daniels is becoming a bigger fan favorite and creating even more interest in this feud as it progresses to No Way Out.
I loved everything about this segment. This promo recalled an altercation on Smackdown where Bryan tricked Kane into thinking Punk was the one who hit him with a chair. As a result, Kane mistakenly beat up Punk while a smirking Daniel Bryan waited on the ramp. This week on Raw, Punk got his revenge by sitting on commentary while Kane took on Bryan this week on Raw. It’s great when a feud on Raw translates across programs onto Smackdown and comes full circle the next week. Punk on commentary was cutting with all of his words against Bryan and his attack on Daniels at the end of the match was excellent.
Fans loved seeing Punk and Bryan work together, but hated that the storyline was non-existent going into Over the Limit. It’s clear that this feud is going to continue into No Way Out, which is fantastic. Their next match may be even better if we get the opportunity to establish a strong feud this time. We’re starting to add dimensions to their problematic relationship. The addition of AJ brings added drama, while the ambiguity of their Over the Limit finish left both Punk and Bryan looking strong following the PPV. This is an incredible program thus far.
CM Punk/backstage with AJ: I’m comfortable finally saying that AJ is my favorite Diva at this point. Her acting skills are exquisite, and what little I’ve seen of her wrestling abilities has impressed me. AJ reminds me a lot of Mickey James around Wrestlemania 22 when she feuded with Trish Stratus and came off as an insane fan. It looks like we’re getting a CM Punk/AJ/Daniel Bryan romance storyline, which I’m very excited about. Bryan has made it clear that he’s “over” AJ, but if he chooses to become interested again solely to piss off Punk then things could get very interesting.
Christian vs. Jinder Mahal: I love babyface Christian. I’ve always been a huge fan of Christian, even preferring him over Edge at some points in his career (e.g. feud with Jericho). However, his heel turn last year didn’t sit well for me and became stale after a billion matches with Orton. The crowd seems really behind Christian, which could translate to his best run in years. Is it weird that the WWE put the Intercontinental Championship title on Christian? No, especially since Christian is the type of superstar who can easily oscillate between the midcard and main event scene.
Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix: Beth came off the heels of putting on a fantastic match with Layla at Over the Limit. It was easily the best Divas PPV matches this year. I’m finally able to stop sitting through a Divas match and simply wait for Kharma to come out. For the time being, I think the division can function well without Kharma, though I will obviously be happy if/when she returns. Kelly Kelly put on a typical one-dimensional performance, but Beth’s aggressiveness saved this match from being simply an ordinary affair.
Handicap Lumberjack Match, Cena/Sheamus vs. Ziggler/Swagger/Tensai: I saw a lot of complaints about this match, but I loved the whole thing. Ziggler and Swagger continue to prove why they’re two of the most talented young performers in the industry. Likewise, the now abbreviated “Tensai,” who apparently lost his lordship, came off like a dominating big guy as he tossed Sheamus and Cena across the ring. It’s a shame that the WWE doesn’t seem to acknowledge that this is the man who beat CM Punk and John Cena clean on Raw in the past. The addition of lumberjacks was interesting if only because it further exemplified Johnny’s power over the roster. It’s quite a feat for man with crutches who drives a scooter to appear strong and influential.
I enjoyed this bout until the end. Eventually, the lumberjacks stormed the ring for a giant brawl. This wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Soon the babyfaces ran out to join in the fun. Again, this is nothing revolutionary. However, seeing everyone, even Punk, in the massive fight was a truly exciting moment and harkened back to a similar altercation during the Invasion angle. However, having Raw end with Cena get knocked out by Big Show backstage, thus leaving the chaos in the ring to presumably continue, felt weird. There’s a lack of closure when a program ends amidst a gigantic battle in the ring.
I think Tensai wrestled quite well during this match and deserves more praise. Sure, he’s a cartoonish character, but so are many performers to a certain extent. Working in a tag match helped Tensai since was able to do lots of power spots without any of the silly mist gimmick. Tensai dropped the headgear and robe part of his character, which I’m fine with because he looks tougher coming to the ring as is anyway.
Overall, I’d give this Raw a reluctant YES. I wish we had gotten more interaction between Triple H and Paul Heyman this week, especially since their tension was so strong last week. Likewise, it would have been nice to see a conclusion to the giant brawl at the end of Raw. Perhaps the babyfaces clear the ring and we see a stare down between Cena and Big Show? Bryan comes out to dropkick Punk onto the floor? They could have easily used that massive fight as a means to help build towards No Way Out. Instead, it was ignored in the final moments and left fans a bit perplexed.