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 Vince and Big Johnny: It doesn’t get much better than Vince McMahon. Opening a three hour Raw with Vince was a very smart move. Fans love Vince because he instantly transports them back to their favorite era in wrestling history. Whether you were a mark during the 80s, the new generation, or even the Attitude Era, Vince McMahon was a staple of your wrestling programming. Vince was always there, and so were you, so seeing him on TV is naturally exciting.
I thought the interplay between he and Johnny was funny, especially since Johnny continues to perfect his goofy absent-minded leader role. Seeing Vince drive a scooter off the ramp was funny, but slightly sad knowing that this is the end of Big Johnny’s incredible scooter gimmick.
Sheamus vs. Tensai: I loved this match and hope it turned some fans onto Tensai who were previously on the fence about the character. Tensai, as I’ve argued, is a great monster whom the WWE needs to simply let act like a beast in the ring. Allowing Tensai to dominate and be the big guy he is will certainly get him over like it did in the past. One thing I loved was how quickly the “Albert” chants died. Fans let it ride with it for less than a minute and soon let it go. Instead of mocking the man for his 90s character, they just enjoyed the match and stopped trying to be hilarious.
By the end of the bout, Sheamus was a little bloodied and Tensai had red marks across his stomach. Even though Tensai lost the bout, which in turn made Sheamus look really powerful, he still came off strong by taking out his aggression on Sakamoto in the end. I’m looking forward to seeing more Tensai against main eventers, per the choice of Johnny, in the near future.
Ryback vs. jobbers: Like I admitted last week, I actually really enjoy the Ryback matches. It’s funny to see local jobbers earnestly believe they’ll win, before suddenly succumbing to the same moves Ryback dominates with each week. The demonic, “feed me!” and “feed me more!” is fantastic on Ryback’s behalf at the end of his matches. He’s weird and a bit creepy, yes, but it’s definitely something original. I’m not afraid to admit that I kind of dig his character at this point, more so because I see where it can go rather than where it is now. Like Tensai, give Ryback a formidable opponent and his character is sure to get over with more fans. This formula worked great with Tensai against Sheamus this week.
Vader vs. Heath Slater: This was obviously pandering to longtime fans and hyping up the 1000th episode of Raw by bringing in former superstars, but I didn’t care. I loved this match. I love Vader. Fans are quick to forget how talented Vader was during the 90s. Both in WCW, and in the WWE during the 1990s, Vader was a perfect big guy. He was a domineering beast who had genuine wrestling chops. Have you seen the man do a moon-sault? It’s spectacular.
Vader is everything I think both Tensai and Ryback could be. Give these big guys a feud against an opponent that fans think they will lose to and see how fans start to react.
Christian vs. Ziggler vs. Swagger vs. Khali: Once Khali was taken out of this match, it really became something special. The energy was great throughout the bout and it served to remind fans what superb talents Christian, Ziggler, and Swagger actually are. While I’d love to see a Swagger, Ziggler, Sheamus three-way at No Way Out, I’m estatic to see Ziggler vs. Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship. Ziggler deserves to be in the main event scene more than any other mid-carder in the WWE right now. I have high espectations for this match at No Way Out.
Bryan, Punk, Kane segment: How can this feud possibly get any better? Please let this three-way continue for every PPV until Wrestlemania 29. This was one of the best promos on Raw in recent memory. Every guy let their true personality shine and even AJ got in on the action. Bryan called out Punk for becoming a shadow of his former antagonistic self, while Punk argued that Bryan isn’t worthy of being among the top talent in the WWE. I loved how Bryan worked the crowd, saying, “once you go Bryan, there’s no use in tryin’” and continuing to use the “yes/no” question and answer section.
When Kane came out to the ring, the tension was already quite high. However, Kane’s presence took things to a whole new level. Kane spoke very little, but his words were cutting. He basically pointed out that he’s done a lot of terrible stuff in the WWE and deserves the WWE Championship more than either of them. I couldn’t agree more!
AJ came out and made it clear that she’s playing every one of these men, in addition to being fairly crazy. Punk may think she’s just a crazy chick, but she definitely has some sort of control over Kane. By the end of this entire ordeal, it even seemed as if Punk had feelings for her. At the same time, Bryan’s unwarranted hatred for AJ adds even more layers to her persona. This is spectacular booking. Overall, I was more impressed with Bryan than Punk in this back-and-forth. Bryan’s lines were great and his anger seemed genuine. I love the fact that Bryan doesn’t take Punk or his abilities seriously, constantly smirking and laughing off his competitors before the match.
AJ/Punk vs. Bryan/Kane: Brilliant match with wonderful psychological games by AJ. I found nothing wrong with this match and hope to see AJ remain involved with Punk and/or Kane/Bryan after No Way Out. She’s a really great talent who deserves to remain alongside those in the main event on Raw. It’s been ages since I’ve felt this invested in a romance storyline in the WWE.
AJ’s acting was terrific. Her timid behavior going out to the ring and then insane antics when she was standing face-to-face with Kane was incredible. The last image we saw of this moment was a perfect way to leave audiences eager to see more at the PPV this Sunday. The final shot of her sitting in the middle of the ring, while Punk stares happily, leaving both Bryan and Kane bewildered outside the ring, was an awesome ending to this already perfect feud.
Kofi Kingston vs. Big Show in a steel cage: Kofi deserves singles competition, but not against Big Show. Sure Kofi got some solid moves in, but overall this was a showcase for Big Show’s power. I don’t think at this point fans need to be reminded how tough and mean the Big Show is.
Closing segment: This was going great until we heard the Big Show’s theme. Vince McMahon and Johnny going back-and-forth in the ring was spectacular on its own and didn’t necessarily need Big Show, especially since we already saw him looking tough against Kofi earlier in the night.
Cena’s addition made everything feel too congested. I know they need to build towards Big Show vs. Cena at No Way Out, but why not have Cena come out earlier and save Kofi from Big Show’s beating during the cage match? I wasn’t a fan of his approach towards the overall promo either. Cena basically came out and said, “Vince said X, Johnny said Y, Big Show suggested Z.” I don’t need Cena to summarize the arguments put forth on Raw. Cena’s promo felt closer to the set-up for a standardized test question than a wrestling promo. “If Big Show says X, what is the main idea of the promo?”
Once again, this week should have ended with the brilliant AJ/Punk vs. Bryan/Kane match-up.
Overall, I’d give this Raw a strong YES! If this superb episode is any indication of the kind of programs we’ll see once Raw goes to three hours permanently, then I’m very confident about the future of WWE television. As far as a go-home show for No Way Out this Sunday, I felt that Raw built very well towards each match, especially by adding a sense of anticipation to the World Heavyweight Championship match.