Memorial Day Tribute: Say what you will about WWE pandering to it’s fans, at least it has the respect to give back to our troops.
Opening Segment w/Paul Heyman & Curtis Axel: Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel came out after Ryback left to challenge John Cena. I like it, it gave Axel the spotlight again, and showed he was willing to fight. And at least John Cena looked like he takes this challenge seriously. Short but effective segment, and good build for the main event later.
Del Rio def. Big E Langston: Good continuation of last weeks rivalry, and a great way to keep Ziggler spotlighted while he’s on the sidelines. Still wish they would actually put him on the show (does a concussion mean he can’t talk on the mic?). Del Rio wins by smacking Big E into a ringpost. Wasn’t quite as much fun as the match from last week, and feels like a general retread, but I enjoyed seeing Del Rio pick up the win because of AJ’s mistake. Also, Del Rio deserves the win and, because of the fluke, keeps Big E from looking weak. Didn’t like the argument at the end between AJ and Big E Langston – are they setting up a potential breakup? I hope not. It feels too early.
Daniel Bryan and Kane backstage segment: Fun segment. I liked the surprise appearance by Bret Hart, and thought the pep-talk he gave to Bryan was entertaining. Plus, Bryan’s line – “And you? You’re just Kane.”
Dean Ambrose def. Kofi Kingston to retain the IC Championship: Besides the early commercial break, I enjoyed this. These guys match up very well. The crowd seemed reluctant to get into this at first, but the multiple near-falls drew people back in. Anti-climatic ending, with Kofi getting knocked out on the steel steps, but it made Ambrose look DOMINANT. Very good for him, and glad to see him win this one on his own. The brawl afterwards between Team Hell No and The Shield made sense, and was a perfect lead-in to the next segment.
The Shield def. Team Hell No to retain the Tag Team Titles: This rivalry has been a ton of fun. These two teams have a lot of in-ring chemistry, and I love the fact that each one has a “big guy/small guy” dynamic. This match isn’t quite as good as their fight last week, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it. The distention at the end between Kane and Bryan, which causes Kane to lose the match, still feels somewhat forced. Also, Daniel Bryan is insanely popular, so I question WWE’s decision to have him be the cause of Team Hell No’s downfall while treating Kane like the sympathetic teammate. On the other hand, I like Bryan a lot more when he’s acting crazy.
Triple H Update: I like how they explained Triple H’s injury last week came from the Sledgehammer to the jaw at Extreme Rules. It really helped sell the intensity of that match. By announcing him for next weeks show, they give us incentive to tune in.
Fandango def. Wade Barrett w/ The Miz as special guest referee: Fine for what it was. Basically, The Miz attacks everybody, and comes out looking like the babyface should. The next logical step in this three-man rivalry.
Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel w/ Paul Heyman: Finally something truly interesting happened on one of these “WWE Talk Show” segments. Probably the highlight of last night’s show. Love that Jericho addressed the CM Punk issue directly, and how it felt unexpected. Paul Heyman did such a great job defending Punk while still acting clueless, and Jericho goading him into a match seemed very believable. Also, reminding everybody that Payback takes place in Punk’s hometown only makes sense. Putting Jericho – Punk on the card will definitely sell some PPVs, and ensure a packed house. Most importantly, this segment is a reminder of how talented speakers can effectively sell a match.
Wade Barrett’s New Music: Maybe it just feels refreshing, but I really dig it.
More title matches: I like this “more title matches, but fewer title changes” concept. It keeps the card interesting without devaluing the championships themselves. It’s also given us some very good matches in the past few weeks.
Show Opening w/John Cena: So. Many. Boos. This is exactly what I expected from Cena – more comedy to bury Ryback (yes, we get it, he acts like a caveman), and then an unexpected change to the stipulation of the match. Apparently it’s impossible for the man to come out and legitimately act like he’s still banged up from Extreme Rules, or like he even takes his opponent seriously.
And now, Cena wants this to be a “Three Stages of Hell” match, with stage one being a lumberjack match, stage two being a tables match, and stage three the expected ambulance match. I have so many issues with this. First off, this rivalry hasn’t built up to a “Three Stages of Hell” match, so it feels like adding a gimmick for gimmick’s sake. Plus, lumberjack matches and table matches just feel so boring and inconclusive. So what’s the point here, WWE? The ambulance match gimmick makes sense, and that’s obviously why you saved it for the last fall. What’s the deal with all the fluff? It just seems overbooked.
Tensai, Brodus Clay, and The Great Khali def. 3MB: Match ended in a giant brawl with Slater getting buried. Does this serve a real point? There’s no storyline here, just generic mid-card filler. Superstars like Antonio Cesaro are preempted because of this?
The Bellas def. Natalya and Kaitlyn: This was dumb and a waste of time. Didn’t do much to further the division or any storyline, other than making fun of Natalya.
Curtis Axel – Bret Hart backstage segment: Bret Hart tells Axel to get rid of Heyman. Axel says Heyman is the only one who paid him any attention. While I’m always happy to see Hart, it is what it is.
Randy Orton and Sheamus def. Team Rhodes Scholars: Are these guys a tag-team again, or what? While I love ‘Rhodes Scholars,’ the crowd is mostly dead. Still happy to see these guys get spotlighted with two former world champions. However, the match had a much slower pace, and the ending was never in doubt. Too much time here for what feels like filler. Sheamus brogue kick pins Sandow, and the burial of Sandow and Rhodes continues (can we not get these guys in a real storyline?).
Axel def. John Cena via count-out: Axel looks like such a big deal with Paul Heyman, and being in the ring with John Cena. His intensity is infectious. However, the slow match with “generic Cena wrestling” was dull. I’m glad Axel got the upper-hand against Cena for much of the match, but the crowd wasn’t impressed, as evidenced by the “booring” chants.
When the ambulance drove in, I thought this segment held promise. But Cena losing by count-out (to go attack Ryback in the ambulance?) really made him look dumb. Also, a second flukey win by Axel really isn’t building him up much. I don’t know how to feel about this, exactly.
The brawl between Ryback and Cena was okay, but it honestly didn’t accomplish much. I was glad to see Ryback get the upper hand, which at least sells him as credible competition to Cena’s title (more than Cena did earlier in the night), but still felt total indifference to this segment. We’ve seen them brawl, we’ve seen them argue. I’m bored by this feud.
WWE Fan Voting: Feels too inconsequential to matter anymore.
Three Hours of Raw: Cut out the filler, this could’ve been two strong hours. Instead, by 9:30, I was checking Facebook, flipping the channel, everything. The Heyman-Jericho segment saved hour 3, but otherwise, everything after “The Shield” felt like a snoozefest. I think it’s simply too much on a weekly basis.
Stupid backstage segment involving cake and Hornswaggle. I wish I was making this stuff up.
Natalya’s Birthday: The Great Khali sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. I pray nobody ever has a birthday around Khali again.
Shawn Michael’s Beard: This is what retirement does to you, folks.