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.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus: Vickie’s introduction for Dolph was met with an incredible amount of heat. Please keep this woman with Dolph for the rest of his career. She is absolutely fantastic and totally reminiscent of a classic 1980s heel manager like Bobby Heenan or Jimmy Hart. The mere mention of this match got me really excited. Sheamus may not be turning out to be a memorable World Heavyweight Champion, but he’s still a fantastic wrestler. Dolphin, as stated every week, is among the best in the business.
It’s a shame that most of the commentary during this match was focusing on how Cole can get out of his match against Cena later that night, because the work going on inside the ring was wonderful. Ziggler sells like no other, which definitely helped remind fans about the strength of Sheamus. Ziggler’s impeccable style looks so effortless and smooth, not unlike Randy Orton at his height. I’m hoping that this match is a hint that we’ll see Dolph work with more main eventers in the weeks to come, with a top tier program in the future. After Sheamus’s match with Del Rio at the No Way Out PPV, I’d love to see him work with Dolph. In a perfect world, we’d see a three-way match with Dolph, Sheamus, and Ziggler at the PPV!
Sin Cara vs. Hunico: As a wrestling match, I was okay with this part of Raw. However, as far as characters go, I still can’t get behind Sin Cara. If you’ll recall, Sin Cara was back on Raw after a six month absence following a knee injury. Unfortunately, I found Sin Cara just as dull now as I did during his previous run. Yes some of his moves are impressive, but the mood lighting and spot-fest style matches leave me bored. Can Sin Cara overcome this? Hopefully. Perhaps if Sin Cara gets rid of the mood lighting and we start seeing some depth or personality to the character, things will naturally get more interesting.
Beyond his character, this match overall wasn’t too bad. If nothing else, Hunico seemed to be a wrestler who understood how to work with Sin Cara’s style. This match seemed to personify why a cruiserweight division in the WWE would be fun to watch.
Ryback vs. two local jobbers: I want to believe that Ryback can be interesting. Monsters can be entertaining. Look at Kane or even Bam Bam Bigelow from back in the day. Fans seem really down on Ryback because frankly we haven’t been given much of a reason to be impressed. It doesn’t take too much skill to beat two unknown geeky jobbers every week. If the WWE really wants to get Ryback over and impress fans, they need to put him a feud with a formidable opponent. The crowd seems fairly dead during these segments because the idea of seeing Ryback beat up strangers is boring. Give the guy an actual feud and lets see what he’s got before we entirely dismiss the character.
CM Punk vs. Kane (Daniel Bryan on commentary): Kane and Punk put on a really great match, with near falls that had the entire audience energized. I think Punk’s elbow drop had one of the biggest crowd reactions in ages. This was definitely a pay-per-view quality performance. Speaking of pay-per-views, I was surprised that the announcement of a CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane triple threat match at No Way Out angered a lot of fans. We were all expecting another Punk vs. Bryan match after their near perfect bout at Over the Limit. I’m totally okay with seeing this three-way match since I know we’re guaranteed to see three great workers put on a fantastic match.
I’ve always been a big Kane mark and I’m confident in his ability to work well with the vastly different style of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. I think this triple threat features perfect archetypes of WWE personalities: a confident babyface, a cocky heel, and a demonic monster. In the end, I’m hoping to see Punk continue to work with Bryan, with or without Kane. That being said, after all his silly storylines and feuds that went nowhere, Kane needs to be in the WWE Championship picture.
I loved the fact that Bryan sat with the commentary team, but just stared at the match the entire time. He was smirking at Punk’s missteps, while appearing genuinely frightened of Kane. It’s these subtle moves that start to build layers between each man in a triple threat bout. Bryan becomes more obnoxious every week, while Punk’s babyface status seems to grow exponentially. Kane remains the unpredictable beast, which is making me eager to see what kind of chemistry they all display at No Way Out. At the same time, AJ’s tease of Kane at the end of the match somehow adds yet another layer to this already intriguing and complex program. Are we actually going to see a four-way romantic storyline between all these folks? This is fantastic WWE booking at its best.
R-Truth/Kofi Kingston vs. Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins: I’m fairly unfamiliar with Reks and Hawkins, but I thought they were a pretty solid tag team. Their involvement with Johnny’s “People Power” crew made them at least somewhat recognizable to the audience, since they could easily associate them with the heel figurehead of Raw. I’d love to see more of Reks and Hawkins, which we’ll hopefully see if the tag team division on Raw continues to bring out matches as good as this.
Michael Cole opening segment with John Cena: I don’t hate Michael Cole. I think he was a great backstage interviewer during the Attitude Era and his time spent with Tazz doing commentary on Smackdown in the 2000s was fantastic. Go listen to any Smackdown PPVs or episodes from that period and witness the chemistry between Tazz and Cole. I initially liked this Raw segment because we saw Cole shift back into his interviewer role by chatting with Cena. That being said, what then unfolded was perplexing. Why have Cena face Michael Cole? We saw Cole get involved in a storyline for WrestleMania last year and it wasn’t spectacular. After choosing Cole as his opponent later that night, Cena seemed to take it all in stride and laugh the whole moment off. Did fans really think that Cena could lose to Cole? What would that loss even prove?
My favorite programs in Cena’s career were when he seemed determined. During Money in the Bank last summer, Cena walked out to the ring with conviction. He was prepared for battle and what resulted was one of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Why not have Cena face an opponent that might actually beat him; one who fans can get excited to see later in the night? I’m not expecting Cena to have a five star match every night, but I’d at least like to see him fight actual wrestlers on Raw. We already had to see him face a non-wrestler at the last PPV, why do it again on Raw? One perfect moment in this segment involved Big Johnny. Miraculously, Johnny is still riding the motorized scooter, which continues to be probably the greatest thing in the history of Monday Night Raw.
John Cena vs. Tensai: YES. Not having to sit through Cena and Cole was a fantastic surprise, as was seeing Tensai come out as Cena’s comment. In this moment, we saw Cena fight with the determination that I mentioned was lacking earlier in the night. I’ve argued each week that Tensai deserves our time and patience, since he could potentially be a great monster character in the WWE. Cena fought hard and his win seemed to prove that he took everything seriously. Yes. Please do that every night and stop laughing this off!
The Cole beat down by Cena at the end felt unnecessary. How did this make Cena look strong? Was this entertaining? What was the point of beating up a weak commentator? This was an incredibly bizarre way to end the program. Segments like this at the end of Raw are the reason why fans complain that the entire program was terrible. This is the last moment left in the heads of fans and they carry it with them when forming an opinion of the whole night. Unfortunately, one bad segment often makes fans forget the brilliant work of Kane, Punk, Bryan, and AJ; Ziggler vs. Sheamus.
Overall, I’d give this Raw a WHAT? I think the night went downhill after the incredible Kane vs. Punk match, which included the brilliant work of Daniel Bryan and AJ. That match should have closed the show, especially since Kane walking away from AJ after her evil smirk would have enticed fans to tune into Raw next week. The opening and closing segments weren’t great, but I was glad to see underutilized talent like Tensai and the tag team of Reks and Hawkins featured prominently on the show. The build towards No Way Out isn’t too strong just yet. We know that Del Rio and Sheamus have a lot of heat, but will Ziggler get involved? The tension between Kane, Punk, Bryan, and even AJ, is at a boiling point; getting more intense and complex every week. I’m hoping that we see less concentration on the main event of No Way Out, Cena vs. Big Show, and more development on the rest of the card.