We open with an homage to The Ultimate Warrior with everyone including Vince McMahon onstage. It’s still completely and utterly surreal that seven days ago The Ultimate Warrior delivered a promo to the audiences of Monday Night RAW in New Orleans. I gave my thoughts on Warrior last week (which you can read here). It’s still tough to fully accept because this man was one of the reasons I fell in love with professional wrestling as a young boy. And it’s heartbreaking to know he left the world to soon especially after we how much he loved his family.
Rob Van Damm vs. Alberto Del Rio in a “Battle of The Middle Name Match:” I can’t believe that Rob Van Damm is still over this huge and is still as spry as he was 10 years ago, even with a little bit of a gutski going on. ADR is still solid in the ring, but you can almost tell that there’s something missing. Maybe he knows his push is over, maybe he’s just frustrated or uninspired — whatever it is, he’s just not as crisp as he was a year ago, although his step-up enzugiri remains a thing of beauty. RVD has a bit of rust and he missed a jumping karate kick by a mile and ADR sold it like a gunshot, calling Botchamania! Despite its sloppiness, this was still really, really fun and I loved the top rope trip/head bump on the top turnbuckle into the 5-Star Frog Splash, a very creative finish!
The Rhodes Brothers vs. Rybaxel in a “Everybody’s a 2nd Generation Wrestler But Ryback…And That’s Not The Only Reason Everyone Hates Him Match:” I think it’s still a bit ridiculous that after being two of the hottest commodities in the WWE that Goldust and Cody Rhodes have been relegated to doing the job to Rybaxel. Not that Axel and Ryback are bad, but The Rhodes boys are better than the spot they’re in. I think Curtis Axel is a really good wrestler, he’ll never be his dad in terms of talent but he’ll be a longtime WWE guy because he can work and make people look good. Cody is so nimble in the ring, his springboards are so crisp. I think the finishing spot, where Cody takes a Meathook clothesline while in mid-air (from another springboard) was another really intuitive finisher. Good stuff here.
Paige vs. Alicia Fox in a “Paige is My New Mickie James Match”: Love Paige, particularly the whole anti-Diva thing she has going on. The heavy, industrial theme music, the super-pale skin, the lip piercing, it’s the most radically different diva persona since Lita. By the way, she actually completely blew her finisher against AJ last week. That was bad. Alicia Fox is really underrated and has come a long way since being Edge and Vickie’s wedding planner. Holy shit that was wicked super kick to the gut. And my GOD, that finisher!! That’s some next level submission shit! Kudos to Sara Del Rey who taught her that.
The Usos vs. Batista & Orton is a “Face Paint vs. Bad Tats Match”: The Usos have also come a long way since debuting rather pedestrianly a few years ago. Last year this would’ve been complete squash, but now The Usos have become a force to be reckoned with and can hang with the main event guys. Of course, The Usos did take a hell of a lot of punishment for the majority of the match, but you had to expect that. That is until The Shield came out and kicked the hell out of both of Orton and Big Dave. I have to say Big Dave sold The Superman Punch like a million dollars.
Antonio Cesaro vs. Mark Henry in a “My Name is Paul Heyman Match:” Heyman, you sir, are a genius. He’s able to get so much heat on Brock even when he’s not present, but then, on a dime, he can get Cesaro over as a massive baby face (although I can see that changing). Just genius, people. Cesaro is a damn machine. His barrage of European uppercuts was awesome. The Neutralizer spot was awesome. This was short and sweet and got the job done for Cesaro.
Alexander Rusev in A The Squash Match Returns…Match: Natasha…I mean Lana comes out and the only thing she’s got going on for her is her looks because that accent (fake or not) is awful. Ted Arcidi, I mean Ludwig Borga, I mean Alexander Rusev comes out to beat the ever-loving piss out of Xavier Woods. Yes, the TNA and Cruiserweight curse has befallen the former Consequences Creed. Thankfully Woods shaved his awful mustache. Rusev wins the match a deep seated camel clutch called The Accolade. R Truth comes in, gets a pop and then gets popped in the jaw. Thanks for coming guys!
Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger in a “Two Tall White Dudes Match:” This was solid, but nothing to write home about. Keeping in the the spirit of the evening, it was a bit of an out of nowhere finish, but this done pretty well as it re-established The Brogue Kick as an out of nowhere finisher. Sheamus needs a good feud. His matches with Christian were awesome, but there was no heat, no reason for them to feud. I think a Sheamus/Barrett or a Sheamus/Cesaro series would be great. As for Swagger, he’s become a heel Tito Santana — a guy you can throw in the ring has a good name, who has an outside shot of winning a big match, but usually doesn’t.
Damien Sandow cuts a promo…and then eats a chokeslam from Big Show.
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena Promo: Bray Wyatt & The Family comes out and delivers yet another brilliant, brilliant promo that’s so evil and maniacal…he’s just killing it each and every week. I’m a little torn on Cena’s promo. The beginning when he started yucking it up it was fine but then he gets to the typical “silly Photoshop” pics and things started going off the rails. Then Bray challenges Cena to be serious…and the promo is saved because when John Cena “gets serious” he can deliver on the mic. I loved his intensity because it showed for the first time in a long time that Cena was pissed and he cared about fighting an opponent and not just making poop jokes. The whole thing is capped with an awesome moment…the crowd singing and swaying to “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”….Cena looks freaked and we cut to black. That was a hell of a promo on both sides.
Santino & Emma vs. Fandango…and Layla!: First off, let me say this, Layla is an incredibly beautiful woman, and I think she’ll be a great valet for Fandango. (Bonus points for the Fandango’s promo in the “Goldman Box.”) Also, Summer Rae will work better as a heel, she had a great feud with Paige in NXT so it makes logical sense and since she’s a hot commodity on Total Divas, why would you keep her tied to a lower tier heel? This match was pretty worthless. The Santino/Emma “relationship” is so forced that I think it’s hurting Emma more than helping. She can go in the ring but you wouldn’t know that from her work so far.
Stephanie McMahon as Vince McMahon and Glenn Jacobs as Kane: As expected Kane is back in the mask after Stephanie does her best impersonation of her dad. People may groan that Kane is next for Daniel Bryan, but you know what, it’s a logical move. Kane and Bryan have a long history and they’ve have solid matches together. We also got a sweet montage of Kane as The Big Red Machine. This was your only shot of Zack Ryder on the show.
BO-lieve!: I love everything about this dopey character. I think he can be a huge heat magnet, can’t wait for him to debut.
Adam Rose…HEY!: Well, this gimmick is either going to sink or…really sink. I mean I love it, it’s really fun and the vignettes are great, but I think the WWE is going to drop the ball and this character will end up sharing the ring with DJ Gabriel, Alex Wright and 3 Count in the next Gimmick Battle Royal.
Bad News Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler in a “Battle For The Love & Affection of Michael Dworkis’ Match: First, let’s talk about how Barrett has the cape (and theme song) from Gerard Butler in 300. And with that entrance, the WWE tipped its hand at who was going to win. It makes sense Barrett needs to get a new push while Dolph can keep jobbing and the people will love him. The crowd was firmly behind both men and Michael Dworkis must’ve done a 450 out of sheer joy that Barrett won. The match was really strong and I think these two could have a really good feud if Ziggler was ever allowed to win a match. How is Ziggler’s top rope face buster not a finisher? That’s a spot to end a match, not false finish. I mean Barrett can win a spinning elbow, but a top rope face buster is “meh?” Either way, I like the fact BNB is advancing and facing Sheamus. In fact, give me Cesaro vs. Barrett, that’ll be awesome.
The Shield vs. HEELS INC: Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Fandango, 3MB, Titus O’Neil, Ryback, Curtis Axel, Alexander Rusev, Bad News Barrett: Oh, I love this! First off, let’s talk about how bad ass The Shield’s half-masks are. Second, this is such an old school thing to do, I feel like this was something ripped out of the Skandar Akbar/Devastation Inc. or Corporate Ministry days. Titus O’Neil had a killer spot where he just tosses Seth Rollins a rag doll. I like the inclusion of Rusev in this as it gave him a spot to really be a bad ass on someone more than El Jobberino #2. Reigns had a crazy awesome spear on Ryback. Then of course there was the melee spot which allowed Seth Rollins to do the Top Con HELLO! God damn, I love just how tough and rugged The Shield is and the WWE did a great job reinforcing this by putting them in a situation where 11 guys had to finish them off.
And then there were three….Evolution is back together. BRILLIANT. The Shield vs. Evolution, that’s going to be such a barn burner of a match at Extreme Rules. Triple-H is putting his name and reputation on the line and putting over The Shield like he did for Daniel Bryan. It also turns Batista heel, which the people wanted anyway. It also allowed Orton to be a true heel and not a wimp anymore, again which the fans wanted. Then they make Roman Reigns the man, the guy who keeps getting up and the one Triple-H zeroes in on and pedigrees.
That’s how you end RAW!
all photos credit: wwe