I was a little unimpressed with Raw this week, whilst the co-main events were both strong television contests, there wasn't really a lot else. There were some really uninspiring match ups, which was reflected by the Canadian crowd quickly becoming restless during bout like Alberto Del Rio vs. R-Truth. The returns of Edge and Goldust helped lift the anticipation for the show, but it was sadly back to that dragging feeling that had seemed to disappear since the start of the Triple H regime.
The show kicked off with WWE Hall of Famer Edge's first WWE appearance in just under a year, with an edition of The Cutting Edge. According to Edge his guest was scheduled by Triple H to be Edge's Rated RKO partner WWE Champion Randy Orton, but instead he had chosen to have Daniel Bryan on the show. Bryan came out and cut a good little promo, going over what had happened in recent weeks, saying that he enjoyed the struggle and knew he could beat Randy Orton. Edge did some good work motivating Bryan, before they were interupted by Randy Orton. With Orton getting some cheap heat from mentioning Cananda and Edge insulting Orton for being spineless and Triple H for not being able to pick talent. This of course drew out Chief Operating Officer Triple H. The Game and The Rated R Superstar went on to have some nice back and forth, with the two throwing around insults, like Triple H telling Edge he couldn't draw money and Edge telling Triple H that at least he didn't have to marry into success. It was an extremely entertaining exchange, but the problem was Triple H vs. Edge is not coming up in six days time, Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan is, and both sort of took a backseat in this segment. After Triple H had booked Daniel Bryan in a match with Dean Ambrose, with The Shield in Ambrose's corner and Big Show in Bryan's, Triple H had The Shield bring out a battered Christian, with Edge running to check on his friend/brother. Again, I'm asking the same question, what is the whole point of this stuff with Edge? He can't wrestle and isn't going to involved in a match, he simply should have been there to put others over.
United States Champion
with The Shield
Later in the night, Edge stormed into Triple H office and the two got face to face, with The Shield flanking the Chief Operating Officer. Triple H tore into Edge, telling him to leave the building. It was good television, it just wasn't good wrestling booking. Although with the news that Edge is going to on Smackdown this week, they do have somewhere else to go with it, so I'll reserve calling this a waste of time until Friday. Hall of Famer Booker T turned up again on Raw, and it would seem he has become the WWE's guardian angel, as he decided to speak to Big Show in the lockeroom. I thought Booker T's promo telling Big Show to ignore his pride and be a professional was solid, with Show leaving without giving an answer to Booker leaving things open for the main event. I'm quite enjoying how WWE have been using Booker T at the moment, even if there is no particular reason for him to be hanging around the locker room after being fired as General Manager of Smackdown a few months ago. Stephanie McMahon also caught up with Big Show, telling him he couldn't touch The Shield in the main event, I guess this was to give us some more of Big Show fighting with his conscience.
Bryan vs. Ambrose was very strong television contest, even if WWE spent most of the match showing us Big Show clapping away at ringside. Bryan spent a lot of the early part of the match in control, working over Ambrose with blows and submission holds. It was a slow start to the match with both wrestler just getting warmed up, with the only blemish seeing Bryan struggle to lock on a surfboard. The two did well to recover with Bryan continuing to roll, and The Shield paying off for Ambrose at ringside causing the distraction allowed Ambrose to send Bryan off the apron into the barricade. Ambrose was allowed to look good on his own, countering a Daniel Bryan comeback by moving out of the way of running dropkick in the corner to send Bryan crashing to the mat. Ambrose looked great working Bryan, with Bryan really selling the seriousness of the situation and Big Show going mental at ringside for some reason. The match then upped a level, with a number of
spots, including Bryan's back superplex on Ambrose, and then Bryan thwarting The Shield's attempted interference sending Roman Reigns into the steel steps and sending Seth Rollins into the table, only for Ambrose to take control again with a DDT on the outside.
The finish saw Bryan look absolute out of the match, with Ambrose doing a tremendous job working the crowd and yelling at Bryan, only for Bryan to jump up and trap Ambrose in a Small Package to pick up the pinfall victory. I thought this was a strong finish, that played up to Bryan's struggling character well and suited the match that had gone before it. After the match, Randy Orton came down the ramp, only for Bryan to hit a Suicide Dive and take it to Orton. Bryan on top didn't last long however, with The Shield quickly jumping on Bryan. Big Show then appeared to forget Stephanie McMahon's order grabbing a steel chair and attempting to chase away The Shield, but after Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had entered the arena, Big Show quickly backed away. After Orton had hit Bryan with an RKO, Triple H ordered Show to punch Bryan in the face once again. There was some more of Show playing with his conscience which is getting old quickly, luckily Orton was on top form barking order to the World's Largest Athlete which helped this segment a whole lot. With Show taking his time, Daniel Bryan found his feet again and hit Orton with a Running Knee leaving Orton knocked out, as Big Show left the ring. Bryan finished the show by celebrating with the WWE Championship belt. I liked the idea of Bryan being on top to close the last Raw before Night of Champions, it gives the Bryan and Orton rivalry something different, as seeing Bryan get beaten up each week, whilst Bryan does a great job would have gotten old pretty soon. It also gives the viewer hope that Bryan can beat Orton at Night of Champions, which could garner a few extra buys for the pay-per-view.
(If Goldust wins, Cody Rhodes is rehired)
Luckily, the match between Goldust and Orton did not disapoint. It was drama filled from the offset and built up really nicely from the beginning, with Goldust attacking Orton with a series of punches getting over the emotion of the situation well. Goldust really took it to Orton in opening section of the match, with the WWE Champion unable to take control, which the crowd absolutely loved, giving Goldust a rousing rendition of “You've Still Got It”. A thumb to the eye gave Orton control of the match, and decent amount of heat, and bar a short comeback for Goldust to head to commercial Orton dominate for the main body of the contest, with a number signature moves and mannerisms of Orton, including the back suplex onto the barricade and the dreaded Randy Orton headlock of doom, which allowed Goldust to build towards a comeback and the strongest section of the match. The match was certainly helped by the strong story heading in, with red hot Toronto crowd 100% behind Goldust, making a number of near falls for Goldust feel even more dramatic, including a school boy roll up after Orton had almost collided with the referee. The best false finish for me saw Orton going for the RKO and Goldust hitting Cross Rhodes in a repeat of last week's false finish with Orton against Cody Rhodes.
The finish saw Goldust arguing with the referee following the previously mentioned Cross Rhodes near fall, allowing Orton to attempt to roll up Goldust, getting a near fall, before Goldust got to his feet and ran straight into an RKO from Orton to give the WWE Champion to pinfall victory. A very enjoyable finish, that built upon the drama that had been layered into the match well. Of course, it was never in doubt that Randy Orton would be picking up the victory here, he is the WWE Champion and it would have been silly for him to lose to someone not even employed by the company, especially with Cody Rhodes still expected to be taking more time off, however the match did a good of making people think otherwise at certain points, as well as continuing a strong string of matches for Orton at the moment.
Later on in the show, Stephanie McMahon approached Goldust in the backstage area, and was in full on bitch mode. McMahon ripped into Goldust, calling him a loser and adding to his emotional distress by reminding him that he let his brother down by losing the match. There is no doubt that Stephanie is fantastic heel, and this proved it for me, a lot of fans legitimately don't like Stephanie and this promo will certainly help towards that. Goldust crying was maybe a bit too far, you can understand, sort of, understand why he might be, but at the same time there has been a lot of crying on WWE television recently, and it's not usually considered a trait of a face to go around crying their eyes out every five minutes. So when will we next see Goldust? I would be surprised if Goldust wasn't in the next Royal Rumble match in January, but due to Goldust's excellent in ring performance I wouldn't mind seeing him sooner as it feels like he still has something to offer the company on a semi-regular basis, at least.
Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel
with Paul Heyman
Backstage, Paul Heyman has slipped on some water. Yes, Heyman had slipped on water. With Heyman refusing to be seen by WWE doctors, instead saying his own doctor would see him. It was clear what had happened from the beginning, and it all felt a little bit like a shitty slapstick comedy. Heyman later came back out to the ring, with Curtis Axel and Heyman's Doctor, stating that he wouldn't be able to compete at Night of Champions, whilst also getting cheap heat for some comment about Canadian Healthcare. Heyman played his role really well here, trying to weasle his way out of the match once again. Bizarrely, he was interupted by Raw General Manager Brad Maddox, who headed down to the ring to thwart his plan. It just didn't suit the Maddox character to be the one stopping Heyman's plan, he is after all a heel and part of Triple H's new Corporation. There then followed a really awkward couple of minutes where the WWE doctor examined Paul Heyman, which probably didn't need to be shown on television. The WWE doctor went on to declare that Heyman would be able to compete at Night of Champions.
With Heyman losing it with Maddox, CM Punk headed down to the ring to rescue the segment. Punk, weilding a Singapore cane again, caused Heyman to forget about his injured leg and run for the hills, with Axel quickly following him. Punk then took his frustrations out on Heyman's Doctor, hitting him with a number of extremely vicious singapore cane shots, that got over what CM Punk can do in the ring when given the chance and made him look like an arse kicking machine. I thought up until CM Punk coming out, this segment was really quite poor, with the exception of Heyman's short time on the mic, feeling extremely goofy in a storyline that has felt very real up until this point. Even with Punk coming out, I still think this is one of the weakest parts of the Punk-Heyman storyline which is a real shame, so close to the pay-per-view.
With Night of Champions just a six days away, I'm beginning to wonder if this storyline has enough legs to take it past this weekend, after already being so strong for the last three months. Whilst I would love to see Punk and Heyman continue their rivalry, it does risk becoming stale pretty soon, with not exactly a lot more space for the story to go. It's a bit like a sit com series, where you've really enjoyed the first three series, and you'd love to see the characters again, but doubt that the writers could come up with situations for those characters to be in, that would be as funny as the situations they have been in before. Part of me is telling me Punk isn't going to be able to get at Heyman at Night of Champions and his frustrations will continue to build, into the next pay-per-view, and the other part of me is saying Punk is going to beat the shit into Heyman and move onto something else, that's why I'm still interested in the Handicap match at Night of Champions.
Best of the Rest (In The World)
The match between Ryback and Van Dam was short and really offered nothing of interest. Van Dam dominated Ryback for the majority of the three minutes, hitting a number of signature moves, before heading to the top rope to hit the Five Star Frog Splash. Ryback, however moved out of the way, with Van Dam diving to the outside for a nasty looking collision with the barricade. The finish saw Ryback send Van Dam groin first into the ringpost to give Van Dam the disqualification victory. The segment closed with Ryback delivered Shellshocked to Van Dam. I don't really see what this segment was supposed to achieve, Van Dam destroyed Ryback in the regular part of the match, but the got taken out by Ryback, so this match did absolutely nothing for nobody and with Ryback not booked for Night of Champions made even less sense.
The aforementioned Alberto Del Rio was also in action himself earlier in the night, taking on R-Truth, in a match the Toronto crowd couldn't care less about and to be honest neither could I. R-Truth's now feels completely out of place on Raw, his gimmick is incredibly stale and having not won on Raw since April, he doesn't really have any fan support. The in ring contest actually wasn't too bad, with a nice springboard dive to the outside from R-Truth being the highlight of the bout for me, but I wasn't really presented with a reason to care, either by the competitors in the ring or the commentary team. The finish saw Del Rio duck R-Truth's Corkscrew Scissors Kick, hitting a horrible looking Tilt-a-Whirl Slam, before locking in the Cross Armbreaker to get the submission victory. I thought the finish here was really weak, especially with Del Rio botching his slam, which would usually have been a shoulder breaker.
I said after my Smackdown review that the Del Rio-Van Dam feud was beginning to gain momentum, and any momentum it had was killed here on Raw. Del Rio buried Van Dam in his promo, then Van Dam ended up getting a beating from Ryback, with Rodriguez doing absolutely nothing and Del Rio had a match no one gave two donkeys about with R-Truth. I couldn't tell you who is going to come out of Night of Champions with the World Heavyweight Champions, and to be quite honest I really couldn't care anymore. That belt is in dire need of an image, which Del Rio's reign is unfortunately not bringing to it, I'm still miffed as to why they dropped Del Rio's feud with Dolph Ziggler before it's conclusion.
We also got the return of Santino Marella in his first televised match since late April, as he took on Antonio Cesaro of The Real American's. The bout was a lot of fun, with Cesaro dominating the early going, including a ridiculous Giant Swing that went on forever, the crowd going nuts and Cesaro looking like superman. A fun Marella comeback, with all his signature reversals, built up nicely to a Cobra attempt from Marella, with The Cobra being crazily over with the crowd for someone. The finish saw Cesaro back in control, but unable to keep Marella down, with Cesaro shouting some expletive at Marella that was cut by the Sky Sports censors, Marella countered with judo throw hooking the leg to pick the pinfall victory. It was basically the same ending they used later on for Bryan vs. Ambrose (without the judo stuff), and yeah, it does suck a little that Cesaro lost, but Marella probably doesn't get enough credit for his matches, which are almost always entertaining, so I have no real problem with him winning on his return, and the match was some good old harmless fun.
Once again there was some Los Matadores promos, the same ones we've seen for weeks and I cared even less than I did before.
My final thoughts on this week's Raw.
1. WWE closing the show with Daniel Bryan celebrating and not a crying Big Show is what's good for business.
2. Bringing Goldust back was a stroke of genius.
3. Apart from Bryan/Orton and Punk/Heyman&Axel, I'm not particularly excited for Night of Champions.