Raw got off to a great start, but seemed to stall about halfway through. Luckily, a strong main event, plus a couple of big announcements, helped prevent the entire show from being a bust. Let’s take a look.
Opening Segment w/ Daniel Bryan: This guy is all over WWE programming these days. He cut an excellent promo about always being called “the little guy” and claimed to not be the weak link. To prove it, he promised to beat Randy Orton. This was a great way to capitalize on the (only?) advertised match.
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton ends in count-out: An intense brawl that spilled out into ringside, before the referee finally called the match. Together with Bryan’s promo (above), this was a hot to start RAW. The out-of-control opening felt like shades of the ‘Attitude Era.’
Christian and Sheamus def. Team Rhodes Scholars: Fun match. Team Rhodes Scholars made effective use of tags, which they should do better since they’re the legitimate team here (reading too much into it, I know), and the crowd was hot for Shamus. Rhodes tagged himself in, and Sheamus capitalized. Is this the beginning of the end for my favorite WWE tag-team?
Chris Jericho def. Alberto Del Rio by DQ: Rodriguez started his introduction in a really bad southern drawl – funny. These guys matched up well again. They both carry a strong in-ring presence that’s been seasoned well outside of the WWE style. If you missed this match and you need a wrestling fix, check it out. Ricardo Rodriguez interfered giving Jericho the win.
Afterwards, Ziggler attacked Del Rio. Then, after a brief stare down, Ziggler surprise-attacked Jericho as well. Setting up a future Ziggler-Jericho feud, possibly for Summerslam?
John Cena addresses Mark Henry: Cena did a great job of putting over the importance of the WWE Championship (and as a by-product he further buried the World Heavyweight Championship). This is exactly what this feud should be about. Cena was also smart to shelf the “funnyman Cena” for one night and bring a more serious presence to the ring. Solid promo.
Paul Heyman/CM Punk Segment: Glad that Heyman gave a reason for waiting until RAW to discuss these issues. Also, CM Punk was smart to give the full backstory between himself and Heyman for the fans in the audience who didn’t know it (and if you didn’t, it’s all covered in the fantastic ‘Best in the World’ CM Punk documentary).
Punk delivered a great promo here, towing the line between his heel cockiness/intensity and his newfound face role. His begging and pleading with Heyman, to tell the truth about if he sent out Lesnar, was an instant classic. Heyman rambled on a bit here, but delivered on the important points – that is, they’re friends, and this is a rivalry between Punk and Lesnar. Heyman and Punk’s reconciliation at the end did a good job of leaving the door open for whatever comes next.
MITB Participants: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Christian, Kane, and Rob Van Dam – Great lineup here. Should be a good match.
Vickie Guerrero: She did a great job of bouncing between the McMahons as one of their pawns, while trying to assert her own independence. Plus, the fans still hate her – the boos during the WWE 2K14 cover segment had to be the loudest of the night.
Kaitlyn def. Aksana, and AJ came out to further humiliate Kaitlyn: Match barely started before AJ’s music hit, and the match ended quickly thereafter. AJ came out in a muscle suit to poke fun at Kaitlyn. Then, AJ and Big E re-created the “secret admirer” moment, which felt like bullying 101. This whole segment reeked of trying too hard. Mehhh.
WWE 2k12 Cover Reveal Segment: Too much going on here. King was pushing the WWE 2k14 cover (which is fine, I understand business partnerships), but then Vickie had to use this same segment for some reason to announce the possible match stipulations for Daniel v. Bryan. Also, the comedy game covers by Vickie and Brad Maddox just fell flat.
Ryback vs. The Great Khali: The Great Khali pretty much controlled the match (ugh, I should never have to type that sentence), before Ryback got in a cheap kick and shell-shocked Khali. The match was pointless. And while I guess it was good to see Ryback again, this made him look weak.
The Usos def. Tons of Funk and 3MB to become Number One Contenders for the Tag-Team Championship: Just for the record, the rules of a triple-threat tag-team match have always seemed unnecessarily confusing. This match lasted about 2.5 seconds, and most of that was spent in chaos. Also, does anybody really care? I’ve seen The Usos a total of about three times in the last year.
CM Punk def. Darren Young: Good way to get a young guy with a load of potential some great learning experience. Unfortunately, the Punk-Heyman promo right before took all the energy out of the crowd. Plus, Punk looked distracted (guess he checked the Blackhawks score immediately beforehand). The whole thing felt awkward, mis-timed, and void of chemistry.
When Prime Time Players double-teamed Punk, Curtis Axel came out to help him out. This probably would have had a much bigger impact if the match had been better.
Ryback v. Jericho announced for Money in the Bank PPV: This match has had ZERO build-up, and just seems like a thrown-together placeholder. I like Jericho, but why should I care?
Mark Henry segment: He bragged about his “Academy Award” performance last week. He then rambled on about how he tricked everybody, and how he’s coming home with the WWE Championship. It might just have been fatigue setting in, but it felt like a weak promo.
CM Punk had an off night. Signs of the apocalypse.
Orton hit Bryan in the head with an unprotected chair shot. Pretty sure he’ll be fined for that.