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.
Openings segment with AJ backstage: What a fresh way to kickoff Raw. I liked the concept of having a backstage segment before the opening package for Raw airs. AJ continues to perfect her image as an insane Diva, while somehow managing to add new dimensions to her character every week. It was cinematic gold when the camera pulled back to reveal that AJ was talking to a mirror, practicing her eventual break-up speech to Bryan, Punk, and Kane. What makes this even better is that throughout the night AJ broke up with none of these men, making us question why she was practicing this speech in the first place. AJ’s transition from crying into maniacal laughter was top-rate. This woman’s acting is exceptional and something we’ve been missing among the Divas in recent years.
There was a lot of AJ this week. We saw an opening video package focusing on AJ’s involvement with AJ, Punk, and Bryan, and a Twitter campaign that ran throughout the night asking whom AJ should be with. Her appearance in the Divas battle royal, in addition to her backstage segment with Punk and Kane, made her a big focus on Raw. Considering how much time was devoted to AJ throughout Raw, I have a feeling that the WWE see’s something special in her. I’m yet to hear too many fans complain about AJ. While some may not be entirely sold on the romance storyline, most seem to agree that AJ is a fresh star who puts on a captivating performance every week.
Punk vs. Kane vs. Daniel Bryan: How much more can I praise this program? Every week I write about how Punk, Bryan, and Kane continue to steal the show every week with their spectacular matches. What’s more impressive, is that this program is still happening. I love the fact that Bryan, Punk, and Kane are all firmly planted in the main event scene. This is a great change from a year or two ago when Cena and Orton seemed to dominate every main event program.
The backstage segment with AJ and Kane afterwards seemed to suggest that they’re pushing Kane out of the picture from this program. This was further emphasized when it was announced that we’re going to see Punk vs. Bryan at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view next month. I’m happy to see Punk feud with Bryan, trust me, but I think Kane was a perfect addition to the feud. Bryan and Punk brought out something in Kane that we rarely see; they truly let fans see a new side to his wrestling abilities.
“I don’t do relationships [...] I’m a monster, I wear a mask, my only source of pleasure is eviscerating people. Even I find you mentally unstable.” – Kane to AJ.
Cena promo with Jericho: Despite being a tremendous Star Wars fan, I wasn’t insulted at all by Cena’s promo unlike some other fans. I found the back and forth between the two to be a little ordinary. I would’ve been excited to hear that Jericho would face Cena at Money in the Bank. Instead, we learned that both men will be in the Money in the Bank ladder match.
I’m slightly disappointed to see Cena announce that he’ll be in the Money in the Bank ladder match at the PPV next month. Money in the Bank ladder matches are supposed to be a means to push young talent. Cena doesn’t need to win a briefcase, and honestly, neither does Jericho. Money in the Bank is a great way to jolt a talented younger wrestler into the main event scene. What’s the point of having Kane, Big Show, Cena, and Jericho vie for a spot that they already occupy?
Diva battle royal: Once again, AJ was the focus of their entire bout. This wasn’t supposed to be a great match; instead, it was a showcase for AJ’s complex personality. My favorite part was seeing AJ scream, “YES! YES! YES!” after her win, clearly channeling Daniel Bryan. Her behavior at the end is complicated by the fact that she was flirting with Punk earlier in the night in a backstage segment. The love triangle being broken down to simply Punk, Bryan, and AJ is quite compelling and perhaps the only romance storyline in the WWE that I’ve cared about in years.
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho: We haven’t seen these two men fight one-on-one during Raw in nearly two years, and I honestly wish we got to see more. This was a decent match, but it ended far too soon. Like recent weeks, we saw a solid performance which ultimately soured when Big Show did the run-in at the end. What was stranger was how Jericho just stepped out of the match and let Big Show take over.
Jack Swagger vs. Santino Marella: Please give Swagger the U.S. title before it becomes entirely irrelevant. Santino certainly can make people laugh without a belt around his waiste. Give Swagger a U.S. title feud that makes people love this title. Let him fight David Otunga, Drew McIntyre, Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Tyson Kidd, or countless other brilliantly talented mid-carders.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler pole match to be the #1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship: This was a strange match. Ziggler, as I’ve always argued, is an incredible talent. Del Rio is equally skilled in the ring. However, the pole match concept always goes over a bit awkwardly with fans. Unlike people like myself who have grown up watching WCW and thus seen dozens of pole matches, a lot of people in the arena and at home didn’t seem to understand the rules.
Sheamus’s appearance at the end was even stranger, who simply came out to say that there would be a threeway on Smackdown. Why bother wrestling on Raw, then? Should we disregard the entire pole match? Why was Sheamus excited to face two men, as opposed to just one? Why does he have the authority to make this bout?
Overall, I did enjoy Raw. It’s a fairly confident YES! However, I’m getting very tired of the show ending with a terrible Big Show run-in or match. Bryan, Punk, AJ, and Kane continue to be entertaining, but the Cena storyline with Money in the Bank confused a lot of fans. Are Big Show and Cena essentially going to cancel each other out in the Money in the Bank ladder match? If that’s the case, why not just have them do a singles match at the PPV?