Raw opened up strong last night, delivering on Triple H’s promise from last week to start the show off by fighting Curtis Axel. Vince’s interference here by flexing his “Chairman of the Board” role here was great, Triple H restarting the match as a 60-minute Iron Man match was hilarious, and the segment went on exactly as long as it needed to. It peaked my interest as a viewer. Plus, I like the way Curtis Axel was highlighted here in a secondary role. He looks major league being in a segment with both Vince and Triple H.
Unfortunately, the rest of the show failed to deliver on this set-up. While I initially gave the storyline a “good” last night, a few things didn’t settle well with me. First, why was Stephanie McMahon playing peace-keeper the rest of the night, whenever she was the one last week denying Triple H the right to wrestle? Secondly, the last segment of the night, with the “group hug” between the three, seemed to be played more for laughs than anything else. It was entertaining, but did little to raise the stakes between Vince and Triple H. I expected more.
Chris Jericho cut a fantastic promo on CM Punk. If you listened closely, though, you probably realized this was a face vs. face build, with all the talk of respect, etc. Then the CM Punk chants broke out. For anybody doubting Punk’s return as a good guy, revisit this segment from last night. Either way, these two should put on an epic contest this Sunday.
The Team Hell No/Randy Orton Situation took an interesting turn last night. Booking Bryan and Orton in a match together this Sunday creates high-drama between the two. I’m just glad WWE actually took the time to give us a reason why these guys should be challenging for the respective championships.
Fandango was probably the biggest loser coming out of Raw. Putting Axel in his place on Sunday was a great booking decision in my eyes, and I think he’s the odds-on favorite to walk away with the win. It was also an unexpected surprise. However, I suspect that this was originally the plan intended for Fandango, and wonder what his storyline will be once he returns.
The Divas Division was promoted effectively last night. I anticipated this segment, with Kaitlyn’s admirer revealing himself, would suck. When Big E came out, my greatest fears were realized. However, seeing him (literally) drop Kaitlyn in the middle of the ring made me gasp in surprise, and when AJ came out, everything finally clicked.
These two ladies are doing all they can to make the fans care about women’s wrestling in WWE again. AJ’s promo on Kaitlyn was entertaining, energetic, and showed a sign of life that’s been missing in the Diva’s Division for years. I’m actually looking forward to seeing these two fight.
The Ryback-Cena confrontation was hyped all night, and I think it delivered in a way these two haven’t before. Ryback seemed confident on the mic, and John Cena brought back his serious voice. I know the lumberjacks were strictly there to sell the stipulation on Sunday, but I liked how they were effectively booked to keep either man from looking dominant when these two finally got their hands on each other. Having everybody in the ring was a great visual to end the show on, and should stick with potential PPV buyers throughout the week. I always say that less is more with Cena, and last night was proof.
The overall show was lighter on wrestling this week, but heavier on story. Considering that WWE had only announced 3 matches for the PPV this Sunday, the company needed to start promoting something if it expected the fans to care. Luckily, the show proved very entertaining from top to bottom. While some feuds show obvious signs of being rushed (I’m looking at you, Kane-Ambrose), others culminated in exciting ways. Plus, the show had a number of surprises to keep viewers intrigued.
It wasn’t the greatest Raw of all time, and wrestling-only fans were probably disappointed (at least Bryan & Rollins put on a great show), but WWE gave viewers a reason to care about the product again. If you missed last night, make sure you catch the highlights.