I knew AJ was from New Jersey, so I went to see how close it was where she grew up from where RAW was taking place. By what I saw it looked like the cities are side by side, and then AJ confirmed that in her little speech about her humble upbringing to the RAW GM. I have to say that this episode was the perfect place for AJ to deal with the issues around her job as GM. While I'm really bummed about her resignation, I knew, even when they were in the ring, that this wouldn't be the last of it. I'm itching to see what they're going to do with AJ from here on out!
And now I have some serious complaining to do. What the heck was up with the fans in the Izod Center? It's not like they were a bizarre-o crowd, they were a DEAD crowd! I can't remember the last time I heard a crowd that dead – other than in the Impact Zone. Why were they even there if they weren't going to get into the show? That RAW would have been a thousand times better if there'd been any fan reaction. I'm so disgusted with the crowd that was at RAW last night, and I lay a lot of bad certain segments were at their feet. Yes, WWE creative and the performers had a big hand in it, but trying to work in front of a crowd that doesn't react to anything makes it that much harder for the performers to work to their peak potential. I will say that the dead crowd seemed to make Bryan work that much harder in the ring, but he's one of the few who fought against the crowd in any obvious way.
Rey & Sin Cara vs Rhodes Scholars > B+
This was a great way to start RAW. It was refreshing that RAW started with a big match rather than too much talking and forced drama. The match logged down a little bit in the middle with Sin Cara, but that's a normal ebb and flow of a match. I wasn't at all surprised that Sin Cara worked most of the match. Even though it was said that Rey was ready to work, if he is dealing with a 'serious illness', then I'm not sure I believe he was ready to work the ring full out. That he hit his big moves and rounded out the match worked well, but it was obvious that Rey was not at 100% as JR and Cole claimed. I hate to say this, because I'm a HUGE Rey fan, but maybe he is past the time he should be working the ring weekly and be on the road 24/7. Maybe he should only be on Saturday Morning Slam, and only periodically. Possibly he should be helping Sin Cara get over with the young fans and little more. I adore Rey, but the more we've seen of him in the ring recently, the less viable his ring work looks.
And then there's Cody and Sandow. Those two looked fabulous in the ring! They approach each match aggressively, and look as though they were meant to tag together. I wasn't thrilled with either being put into a team that first week, but now I'm totally in love. They are stars and this team is showing both of them to the best of their abilities. I'm really wondering if Team Hell No has a chance at HIAC! Rhodes Scholars work so well together that they're going to give THN a run for their copper. I think it was Cody and Sandow that made this match as great as it was. I don't think anyone else could have carried this match the way they did. The Prime Time Players sure couldn't have done it! Okay, after what we've seen from the Colon cousins recently, they might have handled it, but not with the joie de vivre that Team Rhodes Scholars has. Actually, I think it's finally time Cody steps up to being Rhodes. I have avoided calling him by his sir name because of his father and his brother. I didn't want to make things more confusing, but he's more than earned himself, so from here on out he will be Rhodes, his father Dusty, his brother Dustin, or Goldust – whichever fit the bill.
I loved Kane's 'magic trick' backstage, making Bryan disappear! I was actually laughing out loud as I tried to write what they'd done. The perfect cap to a really solid match.
Winners – Rhodes Scholars (11:14)
McGillicutty vs Kofi > C-
This match was more about Miz on announce than it was about Kofi and McGillicutty in the ring. I can't say that the match was bad, because it wasn't, but it wasn't spectacular. Beyond that, the focus was on Miz at announce, not the match that was going on in the ring. Not only was this match virtually nonexistent, but McGillicutty didn't get a televised ring entrance, and almost nothing was said about him when he was in the ring. I've always been against the McGillicutty name, but at this point they either need to fish or cut bait with McGillicutty. As far as I have seen he's a nothing character, barely enhancement, even though he has a look, ring skills and a serious wrestling pedigree. WWE has really dropped the ball with McGillicutty, and in turn dropped the ball with the new IC Champ with this match. Only because Miz was so great on announce did I not fail this match.
Winner – Kofi (2:26)
Announce Segment > B-
I have to say that I'm impressed that they didn't push the contract signing down our throats from the start of RAW. They waited through two matches – such as the second one was – before even showing us this video clip. What I didn't like about this was that they showed the video to set up Cena, not to set up Punk or Ryback. Yes, Punk came out, but the segment was mostly about Cena.
In Ring Segment > B+
I have to admit that I liked how Cena came out this time. The pointing at his elbow and making faces at the camera really worked. Normally when he comes out and says something to the camera, I can't even hear what he's saying – which is why I don't write it down in the RAW Results – but this was very obvious and worked well.
I also have to say that Cena tried really hard to get the fans hyped up in this segment, but they were dead. There was very little heat for Cena coming out to the ring. He did get a little reaction with the "Feed me more!" chants, but not even a quarter as much as he did last week during the contract signing.
I did like the way he talked up Ryback, because Ryback won't do it for himself. For me a character who does talk works very well if the Superstar behind the character can make it work, and Ryback does. Okay, he says three words, sometimes substituting the last word with someone's name, but it really works for him. And of course Cena will champion for Ryback with this storyline.
Heyman deserves some huge props in my book. Heyman is not a wrestler, and doesn't look like he's in wonderful physical condition, but he comes out each week carrying Punk's belt high over his head. Recently in an interview Punk said that normal belts weigh about 12lbs, but that the spinner belt weighs 27lbs. I can't say that carrying the belt around is a biggie, even for Heyman, but he walks around holding it high over his head. Holding anything over your head for any length of time isn't easy, but Heyman holding that belt high for as long as he does can't be comfortable.
Punk was also solid in this segment. Between ripping on the NY Giants in such a creative way, then acting as though he was going to get in the ring when he found out Cena was medically cleared. Of course he wasn't, that's how heels play it! But more than that, this segment could have been so much better. Both Cena and Punk put so much into it, but got nothing back from the fans, so much of it fell flat.
Cesaro vs Gabriel > C
I made a big deal last week about how we saw so many terribly short matches on RAW. Actually, the past couple weeks we've seen the three hours filled with a number of two and three minute matches, some even under two minutes. It's been bugging me how the WWE can't give us more solid matches that last, at least, more than five minutes and really entertain the fans. Kofi facing McGillicutty was another one of that type of matches, and while this match looks like it was more what I've been hoping for, it wasn't. Yes, the wrestling was entertaining, and there were some interesting high spots. Gabriel's 450 is almost always jaw dropping, and there were a couple other moves that were great, like Gabriel flying out onto Cesaro, but beyond that this match was as bad as the two and three minute matches.
It didn't help that Cesaro spent the first two minutes of this match removing his jacket and talking on the mic in a variety of languages, but when they actually got into the ring, too much of their work looked sloppy. I know Cesaro is a phenomenal wrestler, and his work is much better than this. From what I've seen of Gabriel – which hasn't been a lot lately – he's been quite solid in the ring, but this match didn't show it. I think the absolutely worst moment of this match was when Gabriel was up top and Cesaro hit the top rope to make him fall. Gabriel threw out his legs in such an overly dramatic way that it looked comical. Yes, he was crotched, but the way he went about it turned the match into more of a mess than anything. I was quite disappointed with the sloppiness of this match – not that it was horrible, but worse than I'd expect from these two – and that move on top of all the wasted time outside the ring by Cesaro, I was really disgusted with it. I have said that I'd like to see more of Gabriel on RAW, and that I think he would be good to feud with Cesaro, but if they continue to have matches like this, I'm going to be very quickly changing my mind and hoping both of them back to Superstars for a bit. Hopefully it was an off night, a one time thing for them, but I'm willing to admit that I'll be going into further matches between them quite wary.
Winner – Gabriel (4:37)
Backstage Segment > B
AJ really sold her distress without saying a word when she climbed out of that limo. She's so great at selling feelings without even opening her mouth.
In Ring Segment > B+
This is one of those things that really annoys me about the WWE and creative. AJ loses her job for fraternization with a Superstar, but Vickie has been in 'relationships' with a number of Superstars when she was GM of RAW and SD. Dating, then married to Edge, and fooling around with Big Show. And then there's her 'relationship' with Ziggler. And then the way VKM announced Vickie as the Managing Supervisor of RAW. What the heck is that supposed to mean? From how she handled things, she's in very much a GM role. There's more fishy going on there than just the rumor about AJ's fraternization.
I thought AJ was wonderful on mic, especially the 'some people like crazy chicks!' comment. She was sweet, endearing, and really opened herself up as a 'hometown girl'. All that being said, they were basically in AJ's hometown (closer than Cena is when the WWE is in Boston), so of course she had to lose in some way. It's almost obligatory for the 'hometown hero' to get the worst of it when they go home. I thought she handled it all wonderfully, from resigning, to Heyman's abuse, and Vickie's disgusting allegations.
Even better was when AJ went all crazy chick and attacked Vickie. While it looked as though Vickie was getting her top ripped up, it was AJ who lost a couple buttons off her top. She did a good job of tucking everything back in before turning to camera and skipping away, but it was AJ at the top of the ramp that I found most interesting. She stopped holding her top together – not that it was gaping open – then turned to look over her shoulder, biting her bottom lip in a very overtly sexy and seductive way before sauntering backstage. That was a very different side of AJ in that tiny moment. Gone was gamer geek sexy and there was a very vampy sexy. I thought she hit that moment perfectly and while a lot of people might have overlooked it, I saw it as foreshadowing of things to come with her 'fraternization' allegations.
Miz vs Ryback > B
As much as I've complained about these too short matches, I think Ryback's matches work so well because they're short. I don't want to compare him to Goldberg because too many people are doing that, but like Goldberg, his matches work so well because he destroys his opponents so quickly to prove his strength. Unlike Goldberg, Ryback can roll with the punches and does more than three moves of doom. He knows how to work the ring and make it look realistic, something I always thought Goldberg failed miserably at. (I know someone's going to greatly disagree with me on that point, so please, show me where Goldberg worked the ring creatively, and I will take back that statement. I'm talking actual link to where I can see a match.
It was Miz who shone in this match for me. The way he approached the ring was golden. He sold his worry about getting in the ring with Ryback beautifully. It was also nice to see Miz get his entrance televised after his earlier entrance was during a commercial. And Miz losing this match, even to the likes of Ryback, coming off Kofi winning his match, even against an enhancement wrestler, sets up for a stronger and more interesting match at HIAC for them.
Winner – Ryback (2:32)
BA Star > A
I normally gloss over these videos, but it was very cool to see Clay in street clothes talking to the children in Hartford. I'm used to seeing Steph, Eve, Layla, Otunga, and even Santino at these events, but Clay was a surprise that makes so much sense. Anyone who hasn't read Clay's interview that Richard posted this week, please go back and read it. He is so eloquent, and opens himself up to the fans. It was a wonderful read that left a huge smile on my face. I'm actually smiling now as I think about Clay and that interview.
Backstage Segment > B-
Kaitlyn came off a bit stiff here. I know she couldn't be the silly goober that works so well for her because of the seriousness of this segment, but because of that I had troubles getting much emotion from her because of it. Eve's facial expressions were great, and the look on her face when she realized she was trapped was priceless! The brawl between them was also great. Nothing makes a backstage brawl better than flying finger foods. Last night I hadn't realized that Layla pulled Kaitlyn back and only attacked Eve when physically pushed. I'd have thought she'd jump right in.
I noticed that someone commented that a ref touched Layla between the legs when breaking up this fight, so I had to go back and watch that segment. While some might think the ref did seem to touch Layla in an inappropriate manner when breaking up the fight, but I saw that he reached a hand back to touch her body in the abdominal area to hold her back, but his hand was below her belt-line. I don't think it was at all inappropriate, just not the best hand placement.
Backstage Segment > B+
The use of the Brawling Buddy in this segment was hysterical! Between Sheamus making his BB talk, telling him to stay out of the sun, and Big Show sending the BB flying, he was utilized to his greatest potential. Not only did they advertize the BB well, they put together a great little promo that worked really well for all involved. Whoever came up with this idea should get a bonus for how this segment went over.
Bryan vs Ziggler > A-
It seemed like the quieter the crowd got, the harder hitting Bryan got. He really worked it hard out there. I've been watching wrestling for over 20-something years, and I'm pretty in-sensitized to ring work, but I cringed at least twice during this match. Stacy was shocked at my reaction, but those two moves looked rather rough. The first being when Ziggler was doing a split leg jump over Bryan and ended up face first on the mat. Ziggler didn't get any protection before his face hit the mat. The second cringe was for Bryan being suplexed from the ring. We see it being teased so many times, but like Flair executing a move off the corner after he climbs, the suplex over the top and out rarely happens. I thought Bryan landed pretty well, but the back bend he took just before his landing was sick!
Actually, it seemed as though the more hard hitting Bryan got in the ring, the sloppier the moves and holds became. Unlike Cesaro and Gabriel who couldn't seem to get through three minutes in the ring without making it look messy, Bryan seemed to be reacting to the lack of reaction from the fans and changing the match as they worked through it. Bryan seemed frustrated, and Ziggler was the one stuck in the ring with him as he fought harder and harder.
I can't say this was the most perfectly executed match I've seen from Bryan or Ziggler, but I will say it was dang entertaining. Even before Kane came out to the ring, I was watching them rapt, waiting to see what Bryan would try next. I truly feel that some of the sloppiness was Ziggler not quite knowing what Bryan was doing next, but through it all I was entertained.
I'm glad that Kane had very little interference in this match. I enjoyed watching Ziggler and Bryan, and if Kane had been more into the match it could have ruined the chemistry between the wrestlers fighting it out. All that being said, I do think that Kane needed to cause Bryan to lose. It pushes they're issues that much further, and helped put Ziggler over, something he really needs before he cashes in the MITB – whenever that might be.
I do want to mention that I commented on the "This is awesome!" chant during this match in the RAW Results, but did not know what was going on with the local indy wrestler being thrown out of the stands. I didn't hear the chant for that wrestler, but the fans were quiet during much of the show and it seemed as though there was only on group of guys (20-30) who were chanting anything that got caught by the mics and made it through my TV. Personally, I thought Bryan and Ziggler deserved the chants, so I'm sticking with it being for them and not for the indy wrestler being thrown out.
Winner – Ziggler (14:01)
NewlyTag Match > B+
I thought Striker was hysterical in this segment! He came off better than he has in a very long time. I'm not a Striker fan, but he won me over in this segment. Even better was him getting the upper hand after the abuse he's taken at the hands of THN, but we all know that they will get their hands on Striker again and it won't be pretty.
I was worried about this segment when it was announced after Bryan's match. I said last week that THN works so well because they've been kept to a number of small segments, usually backstage, recently, and those little moments have shown off the best of Bryan and Kane's comic stylings. Also, they haven't been jammed down our throats in big segments since the big hug-fest.
But for me, this segment was all about Bryan and Kane introducing themselves. Bryan was good, but Kane's obligatory long walks on the beach, rainbows and puppies, then the way he reacted to Striker when he believed Kane was just hysterical. It worked so wonderfully.
I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect from Team Rhodes Scholars, but Sandow won me over with his wordy arrogance! Even funnier was Rhodes' "What he said" in agreement. Sandow's "You're welcome!" always leaves me with a smile. He's such a breath of fresh air compared to the normal egotistical wrestlers who usually talk about being bigger and tougher than their opponents. His eloquence and verbose arrogance is so different from much of what we see these days.
In the end Bryan's over-the-top excitement over winning the match sealed off the segment for me. My worries of this segment being too long and dragged out were for naught. This segment was kept wonderfully short while still showing both teams in their best light leading into HIAC. I think this was a solid go home for the four of them.
Kane vs Big Show > B
I think this match would have been so much better if the fans had been into it. Bryan tried really hard to get the fans going by slapping his hands on the apron, yet there was virtually nothing from the fans.
Winner – Big Show (5:31)
Backstage Segment > B+
Much earlier in the show I said to Stacy that Cena would be rushing to AJ's aid and championing for her the way he has been for Ryback. I knew he'd be getting involved in some way, and try to help AJ, though I will admit that I'd forgotten about Cena's innuendo filled segment in the ring where he'd asked AJ out on a date. He was very clear about it being a date, and the comments about In N Out Burger were not 100% PG. I guess this is more of the WWE's taking the real life of wrestlers and making them into storylines? Now that Cena's divorce is final the WWE thinks they can play off possible affairs? Maybe something interesting for Cena? With AJ involved, things could get fun!
Video > B+
Miz's Tout about Egypt was cool, but JR talking about wanting to ride a camel left me grinning. All I can see if JR in his toga from WrestleMania IX, riding a camel. I almost fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard.
Backstage Segment > B
The way VKM handled Cena here really makes me wonder if Vickie is holding something over VKM's head. I know that VKM doesn't like the be cornered, or his decisions to be questioned, but he really seemed evasive to Cena here. Makes me think there's a lot more going on here than we're being shown at this point. So while it wasn't a wonderfully executed segment, it leaves me with a lot questions, so the grade went up for that reason.
ADR vs Ryder > D
The best part of this match, for me, was when ADR came out to the ring and JR said, "Goodnight everyone, that's all we have time for! Just kidding!" ADR hit his same tired moves and ended the match with his cross arm breaker. I understand having a finisher, but he needs more than just a submission hold. Even the best submission wrestlers have a finishing move that isn't a hold. ADR just disgusts me! And then there's Ryder who didn't get a televised entrance and was less than enhancement talent, he was someone for ADR to make tap out over and over because Orton isn't back yet. I'm so over ADR. It's time for he and Ricardo to swap roles and really have some wrestling matches. Honestly, I'd be fine if ADR found some personality – sick of his one note character – and actually worked the ring in a creative way, rather than the same moves leading to the same ending, every time. I'm over it.
Winner – ADR (2:45)
Backstage Segment > B
Vickie is so great at being so horrible! Not only has she taken out AJ, but she left Cena feeling like crap for costing AJ her job. There's going to be so much building from all this. I can't wait to see the baddest of the bad going up against such a goody-goody!
Backstage Segment > B+
Oh, do I see a feud between Ziggler and Cena starting up? I know Cena will have to keep going after Punk in some way, but I'd love to see Cena and AJ taking on Ziggler and Vickie – both inside the ring, and outside the ring. There's so much creative could do with the four of them, I just hope they don't drop the ball for something they think would be more interesting. The fans love AJ, and love to hat Vickie. The fans are annoyed with Cena being so goody-goody, and really want to see Ziggler working his way up the ladder to the top. I think this could work out wonderfully for all four involved.
Video > B+
I really enjoyed this video about Ryback. It was creatively put together to show the best of Ryback. The WWE production crew hit their mark beautifully with this one.
Backstage Segment > C+
What is it with Punk backstage with Heyman? Last week wasn't as bad, but they're right back to the bottom of the barrel with this one. These two men should be jaw dropping together, and they can be in the ring, but when they're alone backstage Punk seems to fall apart! I don't understand this, but much of Punk's personality seems to disappear in these segments. Maybe they want him to seem as though he's not as strong alone with Heyman as he appears in front of the fans, but it's just coming across as weak and boring. For me Heyman carried this segment.
Largest Lumberjack Match in RAW's History! > B+
Of course I went to see if this really was the largest Lumberjack Match in RAW's history, but the web is swamped with info about this match, about lumberjack competitions, the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks, and Paul Bunyan – so I wasn't able to find out if this really was RAW's largest lumberjack match ever. Though I do think it's one of VKM's sneaky little ways for a lot more wrestlers getting show bonuses after the meetings of the past couple months about the mid-card guys being unhappy with how things have been going down on RAW. This isn't the first lumberjack match we've seen this month, nor the first Sheamus' has been in this month. Though I'll admit I was left with a number of questions from watching this match.
First off, when Sheamus was first thrown from the ring, the heels stepped back and gave Sheamus space to get back into the ring on his own. I thought this was because pretty much everyone hates Punk right now, but it was only the first time Sheamus was tossed out that this happened. The subsequent times Sheamus was tossed out, he was beaten down. Then there's the fact that Punk wasn't attacked his first time out of the ring, and that made no sense to me.
I was shocked to see how tired Sheamus seemed to get early in this match. The past couple weeks he's worked hard in the ring with Barrett in longer matches, and I said I could see them in an Iron Man Match, but this match showed the absolute opposite of Sheamus. He looked like he was struggling through much of the match, and didn't at all appear strong or like a Champ.
Big Show was an interesting addition to this match. Not only in costing Sheamus the match and foreshadowing a possible outcome at HIAC, but his interaction with announce made the verbal side of this match more interesting. Between sitting on the edge of the announce table and almost knocking it over, to slamming his hand down on the table and getting in Cole's face over his 45 second comment.
Actually, a number of other lumberjacks stick out in my head. I found it intriguing that Ricardo was a lumberjack, out there in his suit and tie. Drew was out there with the rest of 3MB, but was wearing a big black cowboy hat that might make JR jealous. And Mahal wasn't wearing his turban, something that struck me as odd. I was thrilled to see Regal as a lumberjack, but then Richard's posting about Regal becoming a scout for the WWE has dashed my hopes of seeing him back on RAW.
My favorite part of this match was after Punk had beaten Sheamus and the bell had rung. The way that the rest of the wrestlers cleared the way for Ryback, and wouldn't let Punk leave until Ryback was done with him was wonderful. The cat and mouse between the two that ended RAW was a fun little go home to HIAC.
Winner – Punk (18:11)
I can't say this is the best go home to a PPV, but it also wasn't the worst. Honestly, I forgot that it was the go home until I was halfway through writing this. In my opinion, that's a very bad thing. Yes, I'm looking forward to HIAC, but not as much as I'm looking forward to see what everyone has to say in their predictions for HIAC.
I do have some questions about what's going on with AJ and that whole mess. Will Cena keeps his squeaky clean personal through this so parents will still want their kids looking up to him? Will AJ stay her same gamer geek crazy chick, or will she turn more a vampy femme fatale? Will Vickie and AJ end up being Co-GMs on RAW? Is Vickie blackmailing VKM in some way?
There's a lot going on, enough to fill up HIAC and three hours of RAW, hopefully they'll fill them with excitement and not short boring matches that mean virtually nothing other than a show bonus for enhancement talent.