I just finished watching all of the 1999 WCW PPVs, and I know that's coloring a lot of what the WWE has been showing us lately. It had seemed as though a lot of the creativity of characters had been gone for so long, but with guys like Bray Wyatt, The Shield, and even Sandow, things seem to be picking up again, but the creative segments had been rare. This episode of RAW brought us three creative segments that brought back that feel of the AE, without the raunchiness of it all. They proved that it's possible to be wonderfully creative within the PG guidelines. This is what I've been begging for these past couple years, and it finally feels as though WWE creative has found a happy medium between PG and creative, the boring characters with two names and wonderfully rounded characters who are full of life and excitement! I'm not saying that RAW was all fantastic, but those three segments made this episode of RAW feel so much better than we've seen in a long time, even through the Road to WrestleMania!
As has been the norm, Matt Kunka has again joined me this week in the RIB. It seems as though he's been welcomed by most, and I have to say that personally, he's helped me a lot, and made those segments and wrestlers who I would say the same thing about week after week are getting looked at by a different set of eyes. What do you think of our pairing? Is there anything else you'd like to see from us?
In Ring Segment > A+
This opening Bray Wyatt promo was one of the highest points on Raw in a long time. I dare say it was bigger and more memorable than the YES Movement being in the ring on Raw. It was creepy, effective and proves that Bray Wyatt really is the master of psychology. The Cena/Wyatt match at Extreme Rules is going to be the match that steals the show, in my opinion.
Um, wow! Richard reported that he received a tweet from Ladue Foundation, that their choir would be on RAW. So I knew there would be a choir on RAW, but what they did on RAW left me with my jaw in my lap. After that first DEP! when the child started to sing, I was in awe. During the Live Raw Results, I actually cut and pasted chunks of the song from last week's Live Results, because I just couldn't take the time out from enjoying the segment. The first child singing has such a lovely voice, but it was the way the entire choir sang, and how they worked with Bray that made the segment so eerie. Further, Cena in the ring, the look of shock, holding his face, having all those kids around the ring, looking in, singing, wearing those sheep masks – fantastic! I think Cena actually being in the cage, surrounded the way he was, added so much more than if he'd just been in the ring. I know it's because of his match wit Bray at Extreme Rules, but it added a whole other element of symbolism to the whole segment. Whoever came up with this segment deserves a HUGE bonus!
Tag Team Championship Match > B+
This whole match proved one thing to me: Ryback is ready. He was pushed to the moon while he was still super green and it showed, he fell to the bottom and was forgotten about. Now that he’s been placed with Curtis Axel, they have both been able to show their in-ring abilities and have really grown both as a tag team and as individual competitors. I dare say that I would be a fan of Rybaxel winning the Tag Team Titles from The Usos. Usos are one of my favorite tag teams and they have the kind of chemistry that puts them up there with Edge & Christian and The Hardy Boyz.
The Usos ended up winning this match, but not before Rybaxel proved their worth as a legitimate tag team and a threat to the titles. It’s a shame that The Brotherhood aren’t in the title picture right now, but after their recent weeks of great ring work, I’m okay with Rybaxel headlining with Usos.
Winners – Usos (10:58)
Backstage Segment > B
Heyman was solid, but this just didn't feel like his best work. He explained himself and was honest to Cesaro, but the whole thing felt overly staged. I know it's all staged, but this felt like there wasn't enough thought put into it, but they needed to stage this to make everyone understand why Cesaro was staying with Heyman.
Sheamus vs O'Neil > D-
While I can understand what the WWE is trying to do with O'Neil, I think it failed miserably here. If they want O'Neil to be vicious, and a bit of a non-thinking loose cannon, they need to spend more time on it. Now, I will fully admit that I didn't see MainEvent or Smackdown last week (look for my article about meeting AJ Styles on WWENews.net tomorrow), so I don't know what has been built for O'Neil, but this was an epic fail for a go home to any PPV. This does leave them an opening to throw a match between these two into the PPV, but last minute matches at PPVs are usually also a mess.
Personally, as I've said a number of time, they need to turn Sheamus heel. He's boring and going nowhere. With everything that went down with Flair on RAW, it's time for Evolution to be adjusted, and Sheamus – being a Triple H Guy – needs to be brought into the group. Further, Sheamus needs to take the US Title off Ambrose. That would be great for all involved, including the strap. Ambrose has broken the WWE US Championship reign, so it's time for him to actually do something with it, and pass it on to try to return it to some of its former glory, so why not do it as part of Evo?
Winner – Sheamus (0:36)
In Ring Segment > A-
This is the second segment I alluded to in my opening remarks. Sandow worked it, and because of all he put into it – as silly as it was – he made it that much more fantastic. If Sandow hadn't put so much of himself, and so much energy into the segment, it would have flopped. This proves to me that Sandow can do almost anything, and while he has great comedic timing, he needs so much more. I know I mentioned Sheamus for Evo, but if not, Sandow looks amazing in a suit, and he can sell the whole better-than-you feel.
Then there's Ziggler and Jackman. Those two guys felt natural, and really seemed to be enjoying themselves, as well as ad libbing a bit. Jackman truly seems to enjoy the WWE, therefore his appearances work so well, but pairing him with Ziggler who is now face was brilliant. Okay, they had a bit of the cool guys picking on the geek feel, but not enough to bother me. In reality, Ziggler and Jackman had such a relaxed cameraderie that the segment felt comfortable and a lot of fun. The WWE needs to do a lot more segments with high creative storylines that draw the fans in. I can't say this was as great as the opening segment, and it did run really long, but it was such fun!
Cesaro vs Swagger > C+
This is quite a terrible match. Cesaro and Swagger are both fantastic top notch athletes, but this match is just…no. I feel like Cesaro’s flame and push have already been extinguished. There is just no substance to this feud. Sure, I can understand them fighting after breaking up The Real Americans. What is Paul Heyman doing for Cesaro? Nothing. He’s just getting heel heat for Lesnar beating Undertaker at Mania and Cesaro happens to be on camera when Heyman gets booed. I can’t wait for this feud to be blown off at Extreme Rules. Cesaro could be a main event guy if he learned to talk on the mic.
Winner – Cesaro (3:11)
Backstage Segment > B
It was great to see Cena so ruffled that he wouldn't even talk to Renee. Yes, he apologized later, but still. It's fun to see Cena ruffled. He's not heel, and not as edgy as he needs to be, but this storyline is showing some different sides of him, and it's fun. He really needs to get over being goody-goody Cena. I know the littles love him, and his work with Make-A-Wish is incredibly important, I've said over and over how important it is to me as well, and why it's so important, but Cena needs to change his character enough to make him interesting, and not so corny and annoying that I want to duck under my desk and stop writing the results every time he comes on the screen!
Cody vs ADR > B
I will not be complaining about ADR here. Honestly, I didn't notice any issues with ADR's work, but I have to admit that I was focused on the relationship between Cody and Goldust. After Cody hit his brother last week, it's obvious that they're going somewhere with this. Obviously they can't turn Goldust heel, because he's as over as ever, and his ring work is as great as ever. I know Goldust said on Twitter that he didn't want to feud with his brother, but that was either a swerve of what's coming, or he feels that way, but creative feels different. I think Goldust has helped Cody grow so much by working with him, and he will continue to help Cody by working against him, and isn't that one of the best things Goldust can do for his little brother?
Winner – ADR (3:38)
Rusev vs Woods > D
I’m so sick of Rusev’s promo. It has fallen flat because you have this big, brute of a man…fighting guys a third of his size. If we are supposed to take Rusev seriously, he needs to start fighting guys who can beat him and have good feuds that way. That being said, I’m high on Xavier Woods and hope that he shines at the PPV on Sunday. Sadly, I feel that the 2-1 handicap match is going to be a snore fest/bathroom break (much like this match on Raw).
Winner – Rusev (0:41)
World Wish Day > A+
I've said over and over how much Make-A-Wish means to me and my family personally, and I love the work Cena, and other Superstars do with the foundation. Further, I love that Cena has dedicated himself to the foundation, and gives so much of himself for the children. I have often wondered if he might not want children because of all the suffering he's seen, or if it's because he knows he wouldn't be home enough, but either way, he gives so much to children who really need him. I have to admit that whenever Cena is terribly boring and corny, I have to remind myself of the work he does with Make-A-Wish. There has to be some sort of happy medium between Cena who's character is boring and corny, and hasn't grown much in ten years, and a Superstar that all the kids love and adore, but obviously that hasn't been found, and I worry that Cena is too comfortable where he is right now that he doesn't want to try new things for fear of it hurting this side of his life. All that being said, John Cena, the man, if a wonderful person for all he does with Make-A-Wish, and he's stepped above and beyond where so many others have stepped, and for that, he continues to impress me.
Backstage Segment > C-
Seriously, RVD is horrible on the mic and week after week he gets to embarrass his legacy with his mic skills. Fortunately, Zeb is awesome on the mic and saved this segment from being a complete failure. Zeb trying to form an alliance with RVD is great and I feel necessary to help keep Jack Swagger over. Swagger without Cesaro is going to fall to the lower card, if he’s lucky. Having someone like RVD can help. We’ll see how this plays out in the triple threat at Extreme Rules.
3MB vs Los Matadores > B
It was so nice to see Slater in the ring! Slater proved himself when he worked week after week with legendary wrestlers, then he was delegated to being the jobber to be beaten. I could be wrong, but the last win I could see for Slater was July 14, 2013 when he beat Khali. As I said, I could be wrong, but that's what I found. It's time that Slater starts getting recognized for who he is, and I'm hoping that the feud between El Torito and Hornswoggle will help that along.
Winners – 3MB (3:18)
In Ring Segment – Stephanie McMahon's 'Apology' > B+
Of course Stephanie gave a see-through apology to Bryan for the attack last week from Kane. I think it’s stupid to have that. Kane’s attack was perfect to write Bryan off TV to go to his father’s funeral. Playing on that the way Steph did just wasn’t that great. Giving Brie a Divas Title match was just setting up for disaster. However, Stephanie has these vindictive and evil eyes. If I were her kids, I’d be scared as hell if she yelled at me. It’s nice to see her on TV, though.
Backstage Segments > A
I love the way they showed Kane's mask backstage in the glass case. When they first showed it, they were making a statement. When they showed it again, you knew they were up to something, but when they showed it empty, you knew Kane was going to do something very bad. It was a short and quiet way of leading up to something big, without saying a word. Brilliant!
Divas Championship Match > A
This is the third segment I spoke about at the opening. It's been a long time since Kane came up through the ring in such and intimidating and menacing way. This was old school Kane, and it worked beautifully! Kane was great, as he always is, but Brie also sold the way we haven't seen Divas selling since Lita worked opposite Kane! It's about time, and I cannot wait to see what they do next.
The other great part of this was the actual ring work between Paige and Brie. A couple years ago I honestly would have laughed at you if you had told me I'd be excited over the Bellas in the ring, but I'd been hoping for either of them to get into the ring with Paige since she came to the main roster. The ring work between Brie and Paige left me wanting more, and isn't that what you should want to say about every pairing of wrestlers?
Backstage Segment > B+
Brie calls Steph a bitch! Bryan sold well, as did Steph, but it was Brie snapping, right in Steph's face and calling her a bitch that was so jarringly great, but also showed a huge change in Brie's character. She's not going to be sitting back and waiting to see what might happen, she's going to step up and fight with her husband.
Backstage Segment > F
In an all-around decent Raw, this segment is one of the ones that should get whoever wrote it fired. Bray Wyatt, his choir and John Cena put on a GREAT, GREAT, GREAT promo to kick off Raw. Cena sold it with facial expressions that didn’t seem forced or fake. Then this segment comes along and Super Cena is at it again. It’s so annoying because, yeah, we get it, you don’t give up and you aren’t afraid on the mic. Way to sell Wyatt’s gimmick. Totally disgusted with this promo and it derailed some of the momentum that Wyatt had from the opening segment.
Bad News Barrett > F
I have to fail this segment on one specific thing – when Barrett was standing up there, behind the podium, he looked naked. The last thing I need is to see Barrett naked. Even if it just looks like he's naked, that's too much for me.
RVD vs Barrett > A
I’ve been waiting and hoping for this match for a few weeks now. Both RVD and BNB have been favorites of mine. Seeing them focused in this Intercontinental Championship tournament has been great. I feel bad for Big E because there is no way he can win at the PPV. Otherwise, this whole tournament has been pointless.
BNB has been on the receiving end of some amazing crowd reactions over the past few weeks. Riding that wave, it’s added a certain level of flare to his work. RVD has been kind of sluggish and slow lately; which is fine given he’s not young anymore. BNB and RVD put on a great match here with BNB coming on top. He will go on to face Big E on Sunday and I couldn’t be rooting for anyone louder!
Winner – Barrett (11:24)
Backstage Segment > A
The Shield has been on a roll of dominance lately. Every episode of SmackDown, they have been prominently featured and just leaving a path of destruction. This promo here is giving all three members a chance to talk and all of them killed it. At this point, there is no strongest or weakest Shield member. This solidarity is so awesome going in to the PPV on Sunday. From this promo alone, if you’re not old on the Shield/Evolution match…you’re crazy.
Orton vs Reigns > B+
I have to say that I knew this match was going to devolved to a mess, so I wasn't at all phased when it happened. This is what I expected to happen between these teams on this go home to Extreme Rules. What I wasn't expecting was Flair to back The Shield! He came out trying to be the same styling and profiling Flair, and I have to admit it's a bit sad to watch compared to what Flair used to be. Honestly, I think this is where the WWE Network is hurting their daily shows. Flair was larger than life, but now he's a mere shadow of himself, and it's sad to see him trying to be what he once was. I will say I loved the way he handled Evo with all the love, but then backed The Shield and quickly left the ring while Trip, Batista and Orton tried to figure out what just happened. It was a lovely humorous moment before the beatings began.
All in all, this was a solid way to go home to Extreme Rules, and ending the show in a beat-down that went back and forth. This segment has me so much more excited for Extreme Rules, and the future of both Evo and The Shield.
No Contest (4:44)
I can't say this was the best go home to Extreme Rules, but there were certain high points that I'm still all smiles about. Finally it looks as though creative has figured out how to be creative in this PG Era, and hopefully it continues. I start each day watching the WWE Network, and end each night the same way. In doing so I'm seeing some of the best of years past, and it's making my expectations higher for what I'm seeing each week, and this episode of RAW finally gave me some of the moments we used to see on a regular basis that are now so rare. Hopefully they will happen more and more as creative figures out how to build excitement again.
Queen of WNW
KB & Matt Kunka