Wednesday, 4 September 2013

WWE Raw 2nd September 2013 Review

WWE television continues to be dominated by Triple H's “Reign of Terror”, with a number of wrestlers falling foul of the WWE Chief Operating Officer. Whilst at times the story does become a little bit overpowering, it has put a stop to the dragging effect that wrestling fans had become used to when watching Raw, as it gives a story to follow throughout the show.

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show

Raw kicked off this week with Triple H introducing WWE Champion Randy Orton, who cut a decent promo, winding up the Des Moines crowd, before asserting that Daniel Bryan should give up his WWE Championship shot at Night of Champions. Orton's monotonous tone lends itself well to heel promos, and he looks a lot more comfortable in his current role than he did six months ago. Triple H, got involved as well, blaming the fans for what is happening to Daniel Bryan, for having him confused popularity with what is good to business, with another solid heel promo. The only part that felt a little distasteful was Triple H burying Doink the Clown, claiming Doink was popular but not good enough to be WWE Champion. They could have chosen any number of former WWE wrestlers, so why chose someone who has only recently deceased? It pulled me out of the story straight away, which was a real shame. Daniel Bryan came out to reply to Orton and Triple H, with the best promo of the bunch. Bryan's felt like it came from a real place, as he spoke about the thing he had been told he couldn't do, with his passionate delivery really drawing me into what he was saying. Bryan finished the promo by saying he wouldn't give up his match against Orton, because he knew he could win, otherwise Triple H wouldn't be putting so many obstacles in his way. Triple H replied by placing Bryan in a singles match with Big Show for the main event. We'd seen Big Show fight with his conscience on Smackdown the previous week, so I was interested to see how it would play out tonight.

Booker T also turned up on the show, to give some advice to Daniel Bryan. With Booker telling Bryan not to rage against the machine, just be happy to make some money. Bryan was, of course, having none of it and even managed to fit in Booker's famous “Tell me you didn't just say that” catchphrase. It was a nice little segment, and a good way of using Booker T. Later on, Raw General Manager caught up with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to tell them that Big Show was refusing to fight Daniel Bryan. It would have been a nice little set up to a later segment, if Brad Maddox hadn't have fluffed his lines. Stephanie went to the ring to call out Big Show. WWE's MO at the moment seems to be uncomfortable television, as Stephanie preceded to tell Big Show that if he didn't face Daniel Bryan tonight he wouldn't be able to provide for his family and probably die. It was really quite an intense segment of WWE television, but was harmed by McMahon vastly under-estimating her age when she met Big Show, by around ten years or so. Show once again put in another top notch performance, holding back the tears, although I do wonder how long they can keep this emotional Big Show thing going before it becomes tiresome.

Big Show then went backstage to speak to Daniel Bryan. Show tried to reason with Bryan, explaining that he was in a no win situation. Bryan was having absolutely none of it though, saying he always does what is best for him, and that he would beat Big Show tonight. It set up the situation between the two well before they met in the ring, although by this point I'm not quite sure what I was meant to feel about either wrestler. The match between the two was more of a segment than it was a match. The idea behind the bout being that Big Show was reluctant to fight Bryan, with Bryan still attempting to prove himself against The World's Largest Athlete. The crowd was pretty quiet throughout, I think this is down to the complex nature of the story, it was difficult to get behind either man in this situation, but it was clear WWE were building to something. The finish saw Bryan dive off the top rope, with Big Show countering with an impressive looking Spear. With Show looking to be loading up for a WMD, he instead decided to leave the ring. With this Triple H and The Shield headed to the ring, and after Show had refused to get back in the ring, The Shield attacked Daniel Bryan, giving Bryan the disqualification victory. It was clear that this match was simply being used to build to something else, therefore the finish only confirmed this. Both men worked the match pretty well, with such an intense story to tell, facial expressions were key to getting the story over with the audience.

After the match had ended, Show attempted to save Bryan from The Shield but was reminded, that he would be fired if he interfered. The Shield then hit Bryan with the Triple Powerbomb, and we got into the real purpose of the whole angle. Triple H told Big Show to ball up his fist and hit Bryan with the WMD. I thought this was built up really well, with Show firstly refusing, only for Stephanie McMahon to come back into the arena to remind Big Show about his family. It maybe played out a little too long, but the tension certainly built up nicely, with moment where you believed Show wouldn't hit Bryan, but of course he eventually did leaving Bryan out on the mat. With Show leaving with Triple H and McMahon, it left you wondering if Show could be the next accomplice of Triple H's “Reign of Terror”, albeit a reluctant one. It does feel a little bit like deja vu though, if the Big Show storyline being more than reminiscent of what we saw from Show with John Lauranitis in 2012, as well as Shawn Michaels storyline with JBL in 2009. To close the show, Randy Orton came to ring to pose over Bryan with the WWE Championship. Some great heel work from Orton here, taking credit for others work, as well as really building my interest for Orton and Bryan's match at Night of Champions.  

Cody Rhodes 


WWE Champion

 Randy Orton 

(If Rhodes loses, he is fired)

For the second week in a row, Randy Orton entered into a, sort of, sub storyline against one of his former foes. Last week, we saw Orton engage in a battle with Christian, and this week it was the turn of Cody Rhodes. This week it was stepped up a notch though, as after a heated confrontation backstage, where Rhodes questioned Orton's motives in not wanting to face Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions, Triple H decided to place Rhodes in a match against Orton, where it was insuated that if Rhodes lost he would be fired from WWE. They even used the added in lines about Rhodes' upcoming real-life wedding (to former WWE employee Eden Stiles), to add to the importance of the match up. Whilst the idea felt a little rushed and forced, the execution was very good, with Rhodes especially standing out, with a nicely delivered performance. 

The match between the two was a really good television contest. For me, the most telling part about the match was that at the beginning, the crowd was attempting to get themselves over with a number of cos-players getting chants going for themselves, but by the end of the contest almost the whole arena was on it's feet, willing on Cody Rhodes. The bout built up nicely with Orton working over Rhodes keeping him on the mat with his now infamous headlock, alongside dirty tactics likes thumbs to the eyes to keep Rhodes' comebacks at bay. The stipulation gave something for Rhodes to fight and a reason for the crowd to get behind Rhodes, something that has been missing for most of Rhodes' face run, therefore as the match built with a number of near falls for Rhodes, off of moves like the Disaster Kick, the drama began to build and the fans began to get behind Rhodes. Rhodes' closest chance saw him reverse an RKO attempt from Orton into a Cross Rhodes, which got a massive pop, for a very close near fall. Rhodes' facial expressions throughout the contest really sold the desperation of his situation, whilst Michael Cole did an especially good job on commentary. 

The finish saw Rhodes attempt another Disaster Kick, only for Orton to duck, and with Rhodes hurting his knee, Orton took advantage with a kick to the knee, before finishing Rhodes off with an RKO for the pinfall victory. Having Orton pick up victories over former rivals like Christian and Cody Rhodes, in two top quality television contests, reminds the audience that Orton is capable of going it alone, and allows Orton to remain looking competitive when he heads into his Night of Champions contest with Daniel Bryan. It also gives the audience another reason to dislike Orton, as we can see that he is capable of defeating other wrestlers on his own he'd just prefer to have others do his dirty work for him, which is always the makings of a great heel. Rhodes' performance in this match was competitive enough that when he returns to WWE he should at least be in the same position he is now, if not slightly higher.

After the bout, Triple H came out and in a speech flooded with corporate bullshit about it being a difficult decision, fired Cody Rhodes. The speech was another solid heel promo from The Game as everyone could see through what he was saying, as his face told a different story. Rhodes did a great job of selling the situation as he walked up the entrance way and you couldn't help feel for him. Later in the night, with Rhodes being escorted out of the building by security, Josh Matthews managed to catch up with him, asking the kind of questions that get him beaten up by Ryback. Rhodes went on to delivery the single best promo of his WWE career, showing great emotion and talking about how his family had been treated in WWE. Rhodes might have walked out of the building, but once he's taken his time off for his real life wedding and honeymoon, I'll be very interested to see how WWE will have him return to television, hopefully it won't effect his recent push and we'll see Rhodes even higher up the card, he deserves it after his performance tonight.

CM Punk responds to Paul Heyman & Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel

Before we got to hear from CM Punk on Raw, Paul Heyman confronted Raw General Manager Brad Maddox in his office.  With Heyman verbally assaulted Maddox for allowing the WWE fans to put him in a situation where CM Punk could get his hands on him last week, it was certainly refreshing to see a Paul Heyman that looked weak for the first time in months. With someone like Heyman, it's the little things that count, such as Heyman beginning to grow out his facial hair, as it really helps to sell the idea that Heyman has been worrying about his match with Punk at Night of Champions. Before Maddox got a chance to reply WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H made another appearance on the show, to tell Heyman that he approved of the match at Night of Champions, because he enjoys seeing Heyman weasling his way out of situations, but this match doesn't seem like he can. For me, having Triple H opposite Heyman here didn't really work, it undermined the storyline with CM Punk and Heyman, and there really was too much Triple H on the show. I would have much rather them kept the Punk and Heyman storyline seperate, especially with Punk not exactly being a company guy.

CM Punk came to the ring carrying a singapore cane, like the one Paul Heyman used to beat him with, and you just knew you were in store for another great promo from Punk. With Punk beginning his promo talking about promises, Punk went on to talk about how he didn't want to wrestle, he wanted to fight. Punk really went for the anger he felt towards Heyman after the beating he received last week. Punk went on to guarantee that at Night of Champions he would get his hands on Heyman, and that if you purchased Night of Champions you would see him destroying Heyman. It was clear that Punk was having a lot of fun with the reaction he was getting from the live crowd, and is enjoying performing at the moment, and with such a great storyline for him to really get his teeth into who can blame him. 

Punk is great at coming up with little one liners that really send the promo home, “Last week he said I'd broke his heart, at Night of Champions, I'm gonna break his face” was another one of those, and I'm sure will be appearing on the hype video for the handicap match at the pay-per-view. Bringing the promo full circle, Punk finished with the line “I Promise”. A lot of the guys in the WWE locker room should be studying Punk's promos and how he tells complete stories within them, that are easy to follow and flow well, as it's rare that you see a promo from someone in WWE that is so rounded. Both Punk and Heyman have been fantastic on the microphone since this feud started, and have both been able to sell pay-per-views on their words alone, because they are that damn good at them. Punk's promises here, I'm sure will have garnered some extra buys for the pay-per-view because who doesn't want to see Paul Heyman get his arse kicked, even if he is a genius.

The real question for me coming out of this promo, was... What's going to happen to CM Punk once this storyline is over? He'd fit into a logical role fighting against Triple H and his group, but that wouldn't really work with Daniel Bryan already filling that role well. A possible run opposite Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship would help elevate that belt and do wonders for Del Rio, but with the way the World Heavyweight title has been treated over the last few months, that would seem unlikely too. Maybe they'll keep the storyline going on past Night of Champions, a rematch against Brock Lesnar would be mouthwatering, especially at the upcoming Hell in a Cell event, but with Lesnar only working limited dates that seems less likely again.  It's difficult to see where Punk fits into the current landscape of WWE after this, but it remains that he will be very valuable asset to the company for years to come, so they had better find him something to do and quickly!

Best of the Rest (In The World)

Elsewhere, in a rematch from this week's Smackdown, Rob Van Dam, accompanied by Ricardo Rodriguez took on World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank winner Damien Sandow. Personally, I thought this was a much better contest with the two getting a lot more time here than they did on Smackdown. It did however look to be over fairly quickly after Van Dam had hit a spinning wheel kick, he read for the top rope, only for World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio to enter the arena, causing the distraction and allowing Sandow back into the contest. Sandow got in a lot more offence in this match, looking good in control of Van Dam, with a number of nice submission holds, that gave Rodriguez the oppurtunity to really get the fans going at ringside.

The finish featured a nice near fall for Sandow, managing to roll Van Dam up as Van Dam attempt to jump to the top rope for a Five Star Frog Splash. With Van Dam managing to escape, he hung Sandow up on the top rope, before hitting the Five Star Frog Splash for the pinfall victory. It was a better finish than their match on Smackdown, allowing Sandow to look much more competitive, as he did throughout the entire match. Sandow might still be looking for that victory, but at least he didn't look completely stupid in the match. With Van Dam and Del Rio staring off to the close the segment, I couldn't help but think that once again WWE has failed to really go with a story for the World Heavyweight Championship. With Ricardo Rodriguez now mananging Van Dam, there was a lot for them to do, but it's certainly taken a backseat to the Triple H and Randy Orton partnership that is currently dominating WWE television. 

Bray Wyatt also made an appearance on Raw, in a pre-recorded promo segment, flanked by his Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Wyatt has become known for his unsettling, yet excellent promos, and this was business as usual. Using the story of Icarus, Wyatt told us a story about his old enemy Kane, and how Kane had come to close to the fire. Wyatt began singing and the promo segment got weirder, with Wyatt finishing off by claiming that Kane was burning, whilst apparently suffering from a nervous twitch that made him say “Where's Kane?” Wyatt's interesting promo style, partnered with some great work from the WWE production team, splicing together images of The Wyatt Family's attack on Kane at SummerSlam, led to a captivating piece of television that I couldn't take my eyes off.

So, when will Kane return to WWE television and how will he interact with The Wyatt Family, upon his return? Personally, I'd like to see Kane return as part of the Wyatt Family, with very little explanation as to how he was now working with the group, building to a much bigger match between the two further down the line when everything is revealed, maybe even some intervention from Kane's brother The Undertaker. However, if WWE are looking to finish the story earlier than that, it could work equally as well if Kane came back seeking revenge on the Family, and with Hell in a Cell looming they could have the perfect playground to settle the score. 

Dolph Ziggler was also in action on Raw, with Triple H announcing he would be facing a mystery opponent. With Ziggler in the ring, he was ambused from behind by The Shield's United States Champion Dean Ambrose, who eventually sent Ziggler shoulder first into the ring post. With Ambrose mouthing off to Ziggler on the outside, it looked like we would be getting Ziggler vs. Ambrose, only for WWE to throw us a swerve and send Ryback down to the ring to pick up the pieces. The interaction between Ziggler and Ambrose was a nice little teaser of what we could get between the two if given the oppurtunity at Night of Champions, a longer feud would certainly be an entertaining one. Apart from a short comeback from Ziggler, Ryback destroyed The Show Off, throwing him around the ring before finish him off with Shellshocked. It wasn't a particularly pretty match, but it did it's job for both competitors. It will be interesting to see if Ryback continues to be associated with Triple H's regime, it could do wonders for the Human Wrecking Ball. 

The Diva's Championship picture was also cleared up this week, with a triple threat to decide the number one contender for the title at Night of Champions. One week after her infamous “Pipebomb” promo, Diva's Champion AJ Lee was at ringside to provide some great commentary for the match. The match saw three stars from Total Diva's battle it out, with The Funkadactyl's Naomi taking on Natalya and Brie Bella, with the rest of the cast at ringside. The bout was actually half way decent, with some okay spots, including a nice sun set flip from Naomi, as well as nice reversal out of the Sharpshooter into a Small package, once again from Naomi who was undoubtely the star of the match. The finish saw Natalya seemingly setting up Bella for a Fallaway Slam, only for Naomi to hit the Rear View, with Naomi seemingly about to get the victory, AJ Lee broke up the pinfall and a catfight ensued. It was a shame that after a decent match, the women of WWE were backed to rolling around the ring, and it all looked very awkward with everyone beating on Lee. It was later revealed that AJ Lee would have to face all three women in a Fatal Fourway bout at Night of Champions. 

The Miz was also in action on Raw, and there must be something wrong with me, because I'm actually starting to like The Miz again, although I think a lot of it has to do with his performance on Smackdown last week. Miz was in action against Fandango, in what was decent short contest. The bout had a number of interesting spots that kept me interested, with an ongoing story between Miz and Summer Rae, after Rae tried to attack Miz only to be brought in for a cheeky little dance, before Rae would get her revenge later on with a slap to The Miz. The finish saw Fandango escape a Figure Four Leg Lock attempt from The Miz, sending him into the turnbuckle, Miz would then miss his signature clothesline in the corner, allowing for a really nice springboard leg drop from Fandango. But with Fandango's knee playing up as he tried to pull Miz back to the centre of the ring, Miz tripped him into a Figure Four Leg Lock to pick up the submission victory. It was a shame that Miz struggled to lock in the Figure Four, as this bout had been pretty solid up until this point. I reckon this will be the end for the short feud between Miz and Fandango, as it doesn't really have anywhere else to go.

The Prime Time Players continued to roll in tag team action, with Darren Young and Titus O'Neil taking on Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal of 3MB, accompanied by stablemate Drew McIntyre. It was solid entertaining tag team action with both teams playing their roles well. It was more competitive than I had imagined with Slater spending a lot of time in control for his team, after a nice spot where he pulled the legs from underneath Young who was perched on the top rope. The finish was also sound, with Young managing a hot tag to O'Neil who steam rolled through Mahal, including his impressive Fall-away Slam. With Slater breaking up a pinfall attempt from O'Neil, Young took out both Slater and McIntyre, before Mahal managed to bundle Young out of the ring. Mahal then turned around straight into a Clash of the Titus, to give O'Neil and The Prime Time Players the pinfall victory. The crowd loved the Prime Time Players, and I'm beginning to warm to idea of them as faces, as well. 

Oh yeah, they also showed the same vignette for Los Matadores. Twice.


My final thoughts on this week's Raw.

1. WWE's programming is becoming uncomfortable at points, but in a way which is really rallying the viewers behind Daniel Bryan.

2. Cody Rhodes pulled out his best all-round WWE performance to date, hopefully he won't be off our screens for too long.

3. CM Punk and Paul Heyman were the perfect on-screen partnership, but they're even better as enemies. 

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