Be sure to check out the Raw Rundown for complete coverage of last night’s show!
Brad Maddox kicked things off on Raw, and what an impressive way to promote his first official night as General Manager. I was worried creative was going to make him look like the weak authority figure. Instead, they put him in the ring with John Cena, Randy Orton, and Fandango. Triple H and Stephanie even put over his “pick your own opponent for SummerSlam” as a good idea. Maddox has a lot of charisma, and I hope he continues to be used effectively.
Two surprise attacks last night also made things interesting. Seeing The Shield tear apart a beast like Mark Henry was fun and unexpected. Does this mean Henry is turning face? If so, he seems like the perfect foe for this powerhouse trio. For some reason, their segment didn’t feel like “just another Shield attack” for once. If they do beat the big man, this could be their shot at redemption. Likewise, The Wyatt Family surprised us with their attack on a returning R-Truth. Bray Wyatt cut an amazing promo here. Something about eater of worlds, the creator being a liar, etc. This character is something different and refreshing, and his lackeys are simply terrifying. Plus, his challenge to Kane should make for some interesting fodder between now and SummerSlam.
We all know CM Punk and Paul Heyman are really, really good. But sometimes the WWE product can skew our expectations. Let me say this: that segment last night was one of the best I’ve ever seen in professional wrestling. Not only did Punk and Heyman put together some of the most effective mic work that WWE’s seen in months (years?), Brock Lesnar was to perfection as the muscle. This feud feels personal only because of the way Heyman and Punk sold it. I have so much more I want to say about this, so maybe I’ll put together a full column on it at some point down the road. For now, just know that this was a must-see moment.
I was worried that Rob Van Dam would be lost in the shuffle last night. With so much else going on, there was no way WWE had time to really promote his homecoming, right? Wrong. Instead of putting together an artificial promo, or hotshotting a feud, they simply put him in the ring with another veteran and let him work. The message is clear – why should people care about RVD? Because he’s an exciting wrestler. His ring work is unique. The “you-still-got-it” chants were completely wrong, because RVD never lost it. This was an incredible, Pay-Per-View worthy match. Check it out.
John Cena finally picked Daniel Bryan as his SummerSlam opponent, and internet marks everywhere let out a collective sigh. This was expected, but it was the right call. John Cena always does better when he has a skilled mat technician to work with (just look at his epic feud with Punk), so these two should tear down the house at SummerSlam. Question: Does this mean Daniel Bryan has finally arrived?
Overall show was one of the best episodes of Monday Night Raw I’ve seen in months, maybe years. The crowd was hot, the show felt fresh, and everything delivered. I said on Facebook that this felt like a “post-Wrestlemania Raw,” but I was wrong. It was better.