WWE RAW Reaction and Review – September 23rd, 2013

Make sure to check out last night’s RAW Rundown for complete coverage of everything that happened on WWE’s flagship show.  Also, hear what Brian and Steve thought on the latest Between the Ropes podcast!

Goldust AttackLast night’s show opening was solid. I think the “every superstar on stage” gimmick is starting to run its course, but at least the result was a little different (that being the 11-on-3 handicap match). I seriously question the locker room’s ambitions, since they made Rob Van Dam their spokesperson – furthermore, they’re all buying into Triple H’s spill a little too easily. On the other hand, I really enjoyed seeing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon ham it up a little. Selling Daniel Bryan as the selfish one, not the COO, is a great way to make Hunter the type of villian fans love to hate. [Read more...]

WWE RAW Reaction and Review – September 9th, 2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened, be sure to visit last night’s RAW Rundown. Also, check out the latest Between the Ropes podcast for thoughts from Brian and Steve!

raw christian daniel bryanShow opening last night was great wrestling television. Edge came out and gave the fans what they wanted. He put over Daniel Bryan, criticized Randy Orton, and gave Triple H even more heat. This is how you leverage a legend to create new stars. Plus, Edge was smart to bring up all the stars that Triple H has been wrong on in the past – I bet “smart marks” were eating that up. It’s also worth noting that Randy Orton and Triple H look fantastic side-by-side. They’re the kind of power-heel-duo that the WWE has been without for too long. [Read more...]

WWE SMACKDOWN Reaction and Review – August 30th, 2013

The opening from Friday night’s show was fantastic. MizTV is often a complete waste of time, but I’m glad the creative team leveraged an establish segment to further an ongoing storyline. The Miz, Big Show, and Dolph Ziggler being together as a unified front made a lot of sense; likewise, it gave Triple H another way to continue building his corrupt boss heel-persona. I’m also happy when the opening establishes a theme for the night. [Read more...]

‘WWE Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – July 29th, 2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened on Monday Night Raw, be sure to check out last night’s WWE Raw Rundown.

daniel bryan 2Internet fans finally got what they wanted, with Daniel Bryan confronting Vince McMahon to kick-off the show. Smart decision by creative here. With Vince openly confronting Bryan about his chances to win, viewers have an even bigger reason to pull for Daniel Bryan. This segment sold Bryan both as a legitimate title contender, and as a main-event superstar. And while I thought the “anti-Cena” rherotic was a bit weird coming from the boss, it leaves me curious about where this storyline is heading. My prediction? An Orton-McMahon alliance is in the wings.

Ryback didn’t look nearly as impressive as Bryan, though. His match with Cena was fun. The problem is, he’s lost countless times now, and his character seems utterly directionless. Is he still a main-event guy? Is his heel personal even relevant anymore? Seeing him put a random backstage citizen through a table just felt forced, and inspired nothing in me but a strong desire to change the channel.

Mark Henry and The Usos lost their match against The Shield, but they ended up as the last group standing… again. I feel like they’ve gotten their “babyface revenge” at this point.

CM Punk, however, still hasn’t gotten his hands on Paul Heyman. These two didn’t cut a promo against each other last night, and they honestly didn’t need to. What’s needed to be said has already been said. Heyman sneaking away by any means necessary only makes the fans hate him more, and things should pick up considerably once Lesnar returns. This was filler, but that doesn’t make it bad by default.

Also falling into the “more of the same” category was the Wyatt Family’s attack on Kane. It was a necessary evil, having to re-introduce Kane to these guys after a few weeks off, and vice-versa. I’m looking for WWE to bring something fresh to the table in the coming weeks.

Christian’s winning streak continues to be one of my favorite things on WWE television right now. He’s already defeated a few low-to-mid profile acts, but cemented his return with a strong victory over Alberto Del Rio in a very competitive match. These two had great chemistry on Raw, and I’m hoping they end up locking horns at SummerSlam. It’s nice to see Christian finally treated as the true veteran he is.

Overall show wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I like a little more intrigue from my WWE TV (and a little less “Total Divas” filler). And while the show tried to live by its strong in-ring action, it died by the number of non-finishes throughout the night. It was a paint-by-numbers kind of evening.

What did you think of last night’s show?  Sound off in the comments below, or let me know on Twitter @therealwiseman. Also, be sure to follow @BetweenTheRopes while you’re at it!

‘Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – 7/22/2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened on Monday Night Raw, be sure to check out last night’s WWE Raw Rundown.

Bryan Maddox Cena contract signingThe contract signing between John Cena and Daniel Bryan was a good way to start the show. I liked how it picked up immediately where Raw left off last week, and it seemed to have a specific purpose in promoting the WWE Title picture. The contract signing made sense (instead of just an announcement for a contract signing later in the night), because it felt like a logical part of the story.

Let me also praise John Cena for his effective mic work. I’m one of Cena’s most vocal critics, but think he did wonders in putting over Bryan as a legitimate contender in this opening segment. He cut out the “funnyman” garbage for once, and his intensity took this feud up a notch. While we can all agree here on the internet that Daniel Bryan deserves a WWE Championship match, hearing it straight from the biggest star in the company means a lot to the casual fan.

Speaking of, Daniel Bryan is on fire. Is there anybody else in all of professional wrestling that’s hotter right now? He had an instant classic with Antonio Cesaro AFTER already being in the ring with Swagger for 10 minutes already. And the fans can’t seem to get enough of him.

The CM Punk segment just went a little too long last night. I thought Punk cut another incredible, believable promo, and climaxing with his challenge to Brock Lesnar was a perfect way to end it. Unfortunately, WWE delivered Paul Heyman “live via satellite,” and while Heyman is good, his part took all the wind out of what Punk had just accomplished. Less is more in this case. Let Paul Heyman trot out next week and accept the challenge, and blab on about his new best friend. But it wasn’t needed last night. Also, I hate that he kept talking to “Brock Lesnar” who happened to be just right off the screen. Nobody’s buying that.

That “Total Divas” stuff was terrible. Grumble, grumble, grumble….

Brad Maddox continues to fill out his role as new GM of Raw in a surprising fashion. I really like him as the mouthpiece for Vince, and he plays the “caught between the bosses” role better than Vickie (mostly because Vickie was a veteran, and Maddox can act like he has a lot to prove). I also appreciate that they’re using Vince’s classic disdain for the “small guys” as fodder for this storyline, because it gives Vince a real purpose for being around.

The overall show, on the other hand, felt like it had too much padding last night. I’ve argued on numerous occasions that three hours is too much for a weekly wrestling event. I think a longer Raw has its place – just look to last week’s packed show as evidence. But last night would have been much better served as a two hour event, highlighting specific feuds, while giving other storylines time to rest. Maybe WWE should only make every Monday Night Raw after a Pay-Per-View a three hour special? That way, the creative team gets a little more time to play around, and it serves as a good kick-start towards the next major event.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments below!  Or follow me on Twitter @therealwiseman

‘Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – 7/8/2013

Be sure to check out the Raw Rundown for complete coverage of last night’s show!

henry tops cenaMark Henry and John Cena faced off last night, in a take-it or leave-it segment. This feud kicked off hot a few weeks ago with Henry’s faux retirement speech. Unfortunately, things died off for the last two weeks, and this segment only managed to muster up a little more momentum heading towards Sunday. The face-off at the end gave Cena fans a reason to worry. But, it also reminded the rest of us that Henry’s chances at Money in the Bank are slim indeed.

Rob Van Dam was featured prominently on last nights show through a series of classic ladder match clips. This was a smart move by WWE. It reminded fans why they should care about Rob Van Dam returning to the company after so many years, and also highlighted his chances at winning the match this coming Sunday. For those of you that don’t like RVD, this probably didn’t do much to change your mind. But it should at least help sell a few more Pay Per Views to the casual fans.

The Wyatt Family finally debuted, and ended up deliver a Shield-esque beatdown. I’m not saying their overall persona reminded me of The Shield, or that just because they’re both three-man groups they act the same. But WWE creative has to give these guys more than just “we attack random people.” The videos hype last night climaxed in an eerie way. Let’s hope that trend continues, and these three men (especially Bray Wyatt) are treated like something special. These guys definitely have the potential to become the “creepy presence” of the next decade, and fill the void left by The Undertaker and Kane. Speaking of which, do I smell a possible SummerSlam feud?

Vickie Guerrero, love her or hate her, delivers in segments like last night’s job performance evaluation. I question her replacement (Brad Maddox? Really? Isn’t he a wrestler?), but considering he’s probably a spot-filler, I can handle it. What left me most disappointed was the McMahon family feud (again!). Just when it seemed like Vince and Triple H were taking their disagreements to a more personal level, they simply deferred to Stephanie, who settled things with the biggest non-commitment anybody could ask for. This constant bickering is leaving me indifferent. Come on, WWE, let’s kick things up a notch.

The overall show was solid. While not every match was entertaining, and not every segment lived up to the lofty expectations in place, I felt consistently entertained for three hours. A few standout matches including Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus (these guys could have stolen the show last year at Wrestlemania), without a lot of filler, made this seem like a well-booked show. This was the first night in a while where advertised segments, such as the Wyatt Family and Vickie Guerrero, kept me from changing the channel. And while I still think the WWE product (obviousy) has room for growth, it feels like creative is finally taking the charge of putting together a full three-hour show more seriously. Hopefully this is indicative of a good SummerSlam build… but only time will tell.

‘Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – 7/1/2013

Be sure to check out the Raw Rundown for complete coverage of last night’s show.

MITB ParticipantsMoney in the Bank All-Stars was highlighted in a very effective way last night. The show’s opening managed to get a bunch of stars in the ring together at the same time, for a very specific purpose, without feeling over-booked.I also thought each wrestler did a great job of selling why they were going to win the match. And while the “I just happened to be right behind the curtain when you happened to say this specific thing to make me come out here” bit was overplayed, it served as a great catalyst for getting everybody in the ring. Plus, the visual of seeing all six competitors in front of the ladder, under the briefcase, definitely sold a few more Pay-Per-Views. Good stuff.

I’m also really starting to dig the “All-Stars” idea. WWE has tried to promote the Royal Rumble as its own “All Star” game for a few years now, but the concept there just doesn’t work (what other sport has an All-Star game with bottom-tiered players involved?). This, on the other hand, actually makes a lot of sense. I’d even like to see the company take it a step further, and pick 14 All-Stars who have matches together to qualify for Money in the Bank.

The McMahons, on the other hand, were not handled well last night. It just felt like the EXACT SAME THING that happened last week – they all come in and give Vickie their opinion, and she’s stuck in the middle, unsure of what to do. Knowing that this is all going somewhere with Vickie’s Job Evaluation next week makes me feel a little better. I’m just not feeling the “hurry up and wait” storyline deliver of these past two Raw episodes.

The audience also played a huge role last night, just not in the crazy/unpredictable ‘night after Wrestlemania’ way. Instead, they sat on their hands and as little emotion as possible. And I’m not blaming them at all. Almost every match seemed to drag on, and without the audience to liven things up, the show felt like a total snoozefest. I blame a lot of this on WWE booking decisions – creative simply isn’t giving viewers enough reasons to be invested in the product. Last Friday’s Smackdown was great – purposeful segments, fun matches, and a brisk pace. This was the exact opposite of that.

The divas reality show is going to probably suck. Like the segment on Raw. And I hate the Bellas. Enough said.

Champion vs. Champion was great, though. They hyped it throughout the night, Vince McMahon himself even put it over as a big deal, and the show effectively used history to spotlight both World Championships. My only complaint is that I wish WWE would have advertised this earlier, and treated this like a “themed show” coming in. But that’s just me being petty. I think WWE was wise to make this feel like a big deal, and I’m glad John Cena and Del Rio delivered with an exciting match. The World Heavyweight Championship earned a little more respect last night. Kudos, WWE.

‘Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – 6/24/2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened last night, check out the WWE Raw Rundown.

image2993Things got off to a hot start last night, with the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton stuff. Although cancelling the match and postponing it until later in the night felt like a cheap way to squeeze every last drop out of this feud, it made a lot of sense to have this rivalry headline the show. Especially if, and I’m just guess here, this was their final match.

Bryan winning here made sense, as he needed a way to re-legitimize himself as a singles wrestler. I’m just curious what’s in store next for Orton. Their mutual-respect handshake at the end makes it seem like they’re putting the brakes on a Orton heel-turn. Then again, this could just be setting the WWE Universe up for a swerve.

Speaking of set-ups, I think it’s pretty obvious here that Punk is being “set-up” by Paul Heyman. Their interactions last night carried a lot of weight and emotion, which was good. But it’s also the exact type of thing that will be replayed over and over once Heyman finally turns on Punk. Overall, this seems to be a great way to extend the feud between now and Summerslam without using up all of Brock Lesnar’s appearance dates.

The Shield has officially dropped to lower mid-card duty (don’t say we didn’t warn you). Hopefully their feud with The Usos will be quick and painless. This is the major consequence of no long term build with The Usos – that is, nobody gives a crap about their storyline.

Money in the Bank participants were announced last night, albeit rather informally. I can’t help but imagine this would have carried so much more weight had they let the wrestlers come out to the ring and jabber back-and-forth about who was going to win. I’m also confused about whether or not this is the only Money in the Bank match this year. If so, this is a stacked match, and should be very entertaining. If not, I think the company would have been wise to limit the participants here by spotlighting a few key performers (imagine how great a four-way Punk vs. Bryan vs. Orton vs. RVD MITB match would be), and then save the “all hands on deck” match for the World Heavyweight Championship MITB.

The McMahons were featured again, just not quite as heavily. It seems like creative wanted to put them back on TV, but now has no idea where to go with this storyline. At least Vickie seems to be shining in her role as “pawn” in the game of WWE Corporate chess.

Overall show was definitely lacking. About halfway through, the momentum completely died. Mark Henry’s segment fell flat (they should’ve just stuck with Cena’s promo, and kept Henry off TV another week), CM Punk had a lackluster match with Darren Young, and the spark from last week seemed to have evaporated. We’re officially back in the summer hangover – let’s just hope things pick back up again BEFORE MITB.

‘Monday Night Raw’ Review – 6/10/2013

hhhaxelRaw 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.