I had a difficult wrestling decision to make this spring. I discussed it with the likes of Gesus, Jesse and Alex with various reactions from all of them. TNA's Slammiversary is on June 2nd in Boston – about a 5 hour drive, and I'd be driving home at night so Stacy could get to work the next day as the Maine Legislature is still in session and there's no way he could miss work. The same day in Augusta, Maine – about 20 minutes away – is a WWE house show. Now, there would be no question as I've been to a number of WWE shows in the past couple years, but my nine year old daughter Sam was the one who saw the sign that the WWE was coming to town and she really wanted to go. Gesus asked me if I've ever seen Hogan live, as that would be the deciding vote. At first I said I hadn't, but then I remembered when I saw Hogan live (check out last week's BZ for that story), even though it wasn't a wrestling event. Alex thought I should go to Slammiversary, but he doesn't have kids yet. Jesse thought I ended up making the right decision to take Sam to the WWE show, though he's been lamenting with me as each match is added to the Slammiversary card. So I will be taking Sam to see her favorites – Bryan, Fandango, Kane, and Cena, in that order. What do you think? Did I make the right decision to go to the WWE house show over the TNA PPV?
I'm sitting here watching Storage Wars and one of the main players, Barry, found a kilt in a storage locker. Well, when finding out about the kilt someone came out playing the bagpipes. Barry says, "Holy Hulk Hogan, it's Rowdy Roddy Piper!" Piper came out and explained about kilts, the history, showing what a work of art a kilt can be, and how it can be used as a blanket, so when going into battle they didn't need to carry bedding. I knew much of that from my medieval events and the poorly worn kilts at many of them. I have to admit that I enjoy antiques and reality shows, and Sam loves Storage Wars, so I watch it quite often, but I was shocked when Piper came out. It's a newer episode of the show, and Piper looks fantastic! He's filled out much of the weight he lost when he was ill, and looks even better than the last time we saw him on RAW.
Video > A
The WWE always does a great job with their videos about the US Military, and the holidays honoring them.
Video > C
Typical opening video for RAW, but nothing special.
In Ring Segment > B
While I'd love to be obnoxious and just slap this segment down, I can't. I can't just rip it apart because the fans in attendance were having a wonderful time with it, and the Superstars worked really well with the fans. Cena stepped out of his patter to comment on the Bret Hart chants, and won over some fans with his comments. Then Ryback stepped away from his normal beat – the one that he seems to talk along that works so well for him – for the fans to 'What?' him. Further, Ryback didn't miss a beat (pun intended) when the fans started throwing SCSA's famous one word reaction at him after being greeted with the Goldberg chant.
So while I can't say this was the best opening segment, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I'll admit that I'm worried about the 3 Stages of Hell match at Payback, but they did a solid job of grinding the name of this PPV into our heads. I will admit that I didn't write the name of the PPV each time these guys said it, but they had to say it at least a dozen times between them, if not more. Smart, smart move by the WWE. Though I have to say that I was annoyed with the WWE changing history again by saying that neither Cena nor Ryback could answer the count of ten at Extreme Rules when we all watched and know that isn't true.
I'm not sure how I feel about the way Axel is being pushed at the top wrestlers so early. Then again, it's more than time Axel gets the push he's more than earned. I hope he doesn't hit the top hard and burn out quickly, even after all the great things everyone's been saying about him.
Slam of the Week > C
I have to admit that I wouldn't have thought of putting Big E and ADR in a feud, but with Ziggler out, Big E was the obvious choice to step up. Even though Big E and ADR are very different in the ring, I think their work has been interesting to watch.
ADR vs Big E > B-
I've been enjoying ADR and Big E in the ring together more than I have expected, but I would still prefer to see Big E in the ring with someone other than ADR, as I'm not a big fan of his. I do find it interesting that two out of their three matches had dirty endings. Makes me wonder where they're going with Big E after this. Are they already setting up issues between Big E and his friends? Will Ziggler side with AJ when he returns? I think it's too soon, but maybe it was just the very start of the issues.
Winner – ADR (4:17)
Backstage Segment > A-
Since Team Hell No got together we've been wondering what was going to split them up, and the seeds have been planted. So many of us want to see Bryan turn heel and get back in the main event, but I notice that Bryan is wonderfully over with the fans, so it's going to take a lot to turn him. Kane playing the soft and squishy is really adorable. That Kane is so willing to play all soft and squishy for Bryan to turn heel shows a lot about the work horse behind the mask. Adding Bret into this segment was fantastic, and the way Bryan worked off him was so inspired. Then, when Bryan said, "And you're just Kane," it was obvious that they are really going to rip these two apart hard, and it's working like a charm.
US Title Match > B+
I'm going to talk so much about the next match, and that's because I was just so inspired to write about it, but I don't want that to take away from the work in this match. I think that Ambrose has been bringing out the best in Kofi, and making Kofi look that much better in the ring. And I think Kofi has been doing the same for Ambrose, but I'm not sure how much further this feud can go. While Team Hell No and The Shield have worked off and on since The Shield came up to the WWE, Kofi working against Ambrose doesn't have the same flavor, I just can't sink my teeth into it the way I can when it comes to Team Hell No's work with The Shield. I adore Kofi, but I think Ambrose needs to move on an feud with someone else over his US Title. In saying all that you'd think this wasn't a good match, but it really was. It just wasn't to the level that Ambrose can and should be working. He's proven that in the ring with Bryan, and I want to see more of that.
Winner – Ambrose (8:45)
Tag Team Championship Match > A-
I wrote the play-by-play for this match last night, but when I just wrote in the length of the match, I was shocked. I didn't remember that their match was this long. For me if I match feels this much shorter than it actually was, I know it was fantastic. Okay, I knew this match was fantastic last night as I stopped a couple times in awe of what I was seeing, forgetting that I was supposed to be writing, but I didn't realize that this match was almost twenty minutes long. If asked about it, I'd have said ten minutes, maybe twelve, not almost twenty. I have been talking each week about how wonderful The Shield is as a tag team, and there's only so much I can continue to say about them, but I will say that watching Rollins and Reigns is almost as inspired as watching them with Ambrose, and I didn't think it would be that way. I've said what a huge fan I am of Rollins, and how Reigns has really stepped up to prove that he might not have the time under his belt, but he was born to be a WWE Superstar. While that bit of zaniness is missing without Ambrose in the match, there's not enough missing that they're not still jaw dropping stupendous as the pair. These men keep proving themselves, and are lucky enough to be proving themselves against two of the best – in different ways – in the WWE. Few are lucky enough to be tossed in the deep end when being called up by the WWE, and these guys are running with it to prove that they deserve to be there.
Further, Team Hell No has a great team work off from as their team splinters. Sometimes creative, booking and talent comes together to be so much more than the sum of their parts, and Team Hell No working with The Shield is so much more than I thought possible. This will be one of those feuds and group of matches that we will be talking about for years to come.
Winners – Rollins & Reigns (18:43)
Video > C
Already recapping the opening segment of RAW? Too soon for my taste, though I know it's how they're keep it in the front of our minds and setting up for Payback.
WWE Rewind & Announce Segment > C
This video reminded me of how well Triple H sold his injuries last week in the main event on RAW. There's a reason Trip was Champ so many times, and that was a lovely little reminder. I just hope they do some serious work with the head injury angle, not just let it drift away. It would be tremendous to see Trip work with Axel at SummerSlam, and possibly put him over going forward. Jericho has been big about helping the younger guys (yes, I know Axel is in his 30's and not really a younger guy, I mean someone coming up through the company who hasn't received a big push, saying younger is just a way that I group these Superstars together), and I think it's about time Trip does the same.
Barrett vs Fandango w/ Special Guest Ref – Miz > C+
They sure stacked the deck when asking for the fans to vote for this one. Of course the fans watched to see Miz as the ref, not on mic! I can't say that this wasn't entertaining, because it was, but there wasn't enough of anything here to give it any substance. It was fun for the kids, and I'm sure Sam will love it, but I wasn't overly impressed with the segment as a whole. This match was what the weaker part of the Attitude Era brought us. Someone being ref and playing dirty, but in a funny way, and then a crotch shot and more humor from the fake ref. We always talk about how great the AE was, and forget the bad parts, and that's human nature, but this was a huge part of why the AE also sucked in its own way.
Winner – Fandango (1:46)
Backstage Segment > B+
Okay, every month or so I have a girly moment, and you guys are usually really cool when I have these moments. Here's your warning, it's about to spill over. HBK is so bloody hot with a beard! I've always thought HBK was kind of sexy in a strange and somewhat dorky way, but that beard has made him into something really rugged and sexy in a way we've never seen him before. Retirement is treating HBK right, and the little glimpses we've been getting of his since have been great, but he had me drooling here.
Beyond all the girly stuff, I enjoyed the dynamics between HBK and Cena. Cena works really well with the legendary wrestlers, and I think it's because he has the same work ethic as most of them. Of course they're booked to work with him because he's the #1 guy, but it feels genuine also.
3MB vs Tons of Funk & Khali > D+
This match was just horrible! I feel bad for everyone involved in this match, except maybe Khali who didn't notice anything different. It just seemed as though this was the worst of the worst from these guys. The best part was Khali singing to Natalya.
Winners – Tons of Funk & Khali (3:05)
Video > A
Another Memorial Day video, this one narrated by Cena. I was actually surprised that the first one wasn't led by Cena.
Highlight Reel > A
First off, I have to apologize for how behind I got during this segment on the RAW Results. Stacy left the house and I got kittened. Due to a comedy of errors we ended up having a litter of kittens, and normally Stacy keeps them under control while I'm working, but he had to head out and Dot cuddled in. It was a bit difficult to type with her grabbing my hand for attention, and if I put her down she'd be right back up. So all the blame goes to Dot.
Okay, onto the serious matter of Jericho and Heyman. This segment was just extrordinary. The chemistry between these two has been cultivated through so many years, and add in what great talkers they are and it's a recipe for a show stealing segment. From Heyman reminding Jericho that he had a big hand in Jericho's career to Jericho not taking any crap from Heyman, it was all just wonderful. Jericho has been stepping up and working with the younger wrestlers, so I was a bit surprised that he was going after Punk again, but who better for Punk to step back in the ring with. It makes me wonder if Punk is going to be remaining heel. Usually returning wrestlers are face, but with Heyman as his manager, he has to be heel.
Heyman babbling about his favorite suit and respect was great, but topped by Jericho's blahs. Heyman is a wrestling genius, and because of that he was great at being led around by his nose by Jericho. The two of them cut phrases so eloquently that I was just floored by the whole segment. Not only were these two great, but the fans were right there with them, and loved it all. Younger wrestlers learning to work the mic should be watching this footage to learn from.
Bellas vs Kaitlyn & Natalya > D-
The only redeeming moments in this match were Kaitlyn's spear and Natalya's sharp shooter. The Bellas can't keep up with one of those women, never mind both of them. I don't understand why they keep putting the Bellas in the ring. I know they want to push the new reality show, but the Bellas in the ring just are not believable.
Winner – Bellas (3:41)
Backstage Segment > B+
I loved that they threw Bret at Axel. Their banter was fantastic, and absolutely believable, and I didn't even think about the fact that Bret has probably known Axel since he was in diapers. That we all know so much more about the industry, and read all the positive things that have been written and said about Axel recently should cloud what Axel says, but I easily suspended my disbelief in this segment. To me that shows that Axel is everything we've been reading about him and more.
Video > A
I am behind on my NXT, but have recently started on Hulu Plus and catching up on all the NXT that I have missed. I haven't yet reached The Wyatt Family and the big change made with Husky Harris, but Jesse sent me a few clips here and there -all mic work – and I've been very impressed. It just shows how much a name and a character can be so right, or so wrong for a specific worker. This seems to be a grand fit for Wyatt, and I'm excited to see what they're going to do with him on RAW.
Team Rhodes Scholars vs Sheamus & Orton > B
Another long match on RAW. It seems as though the WWE has been booking more long matches on RAW lately. I'm enjoying the longer matches – especially when they involve THN or The Shield – but I also very much enjoy seeing Rhodes Scholars in the ring. I have to say that it wasn't the way I would have booked it. I think Rhodes Scholars really needed to go over here going forward. The two of them have lost so many matches – singles and together – that they needed a bit of a push going forward. If Sandow is going to feud with Sheamus, as it appeared on SD, then he needs a win or two to really make the feud look viable. Further, if they're going to continue with Orton tagging with Sheamus, then I guess Rhodes would be feuding with Orton. This could be good for all four involved, if they allow Rhodes Scholars to get a couple wins in so they look like more than a team to point at and laugh at. Besides, they are better than they've been booked! With some personality injections – not that Sandow needs them – these four could be a lot of fun, but only if they really let them get wild and crazy with it. Why not let them go all out? It is the spring/summer slump, and McMahon changes WWE history on a weekly basis, so no one will remember anything daft by Night of Champions.
Winners – Sheamus & Orton (15:53)
Video > A
That National Guard video was great. I met Beth at a National Guard event not long before she was released. What a lovely woman, I was very impressed with the event.
Cena vs Axel > B+
I completely missed the whole brawl in the stands. When I'm writing the RAW Results I am very focused on making sure I get at least 85% of the moves written, and in the correct order, as well as trying to get the chants, some of the announce comments, and the overall vibe of the match transcribed. Because I'm still working on my typing skills, I watch a lot of the show over the top of my netbook, and listen closely to the announcers for the moves – Joey Styles was great for giving a verbal play-by-play, and I miss him for that – but I will admit that when things like the camera comes in close, or the fans are watching something other than the match, I often times miss things going on outside the ring. Last night I completely missed that the fans were watching something other than the match, and didn't know about it until Richard reported on it today on WNW. When re-watching RAW I could see what he meant when he said the camera came in tight on the match. The fans were not at all interested in the fight in the ring. I'm not sure what that says about Cena, or our mob mentality.
Axel did a lovely job in the ring with Cena. He's received some quite negative chants when with Heyman, but when he's in the ring – and even on mic – Axel holds his own. His ring work is crisp, strong and creative. We've seen so little of him that each move is new and exciting, but that perfect-plex he hit lived up to its name, and what his father used to hit in the ring. I'm very impressed with Axel in the ring and I'm itching to see him work a full match. I will admit that winning two weeks in a row in the main event against huge names like Triple H and Cena will only help push him forward, I just hope it isn't too quick and he burns out fast. He has the breeding to be a top guy, and the support of so many big names backstage that I'm hoping things work out for him. Shedding the horrid name was a great step in the right direction.
Interesting to note that three guys from the first season of NXT, those with the worst names, were involved in this episode of RAW, all with much better names. Actually, most of the original Nexus was on RAW this week. Cena, Bryan, Barrett, and Slater are all regulars. Ryback, Axel, and Wyatt were on with new names. Young and Gabriel were on Superstars taped before RAW aired (O'Neil was season 2). That leaves Punk, Ryan, Otunga and Tarver, and Tarver is no longer with the WWE. Not bad results from the first two seasons of NXT, and Nexus as a faction.
I have to say that it seems as though there was more wrestling on this episode of RAW. Not just more matches, but some longer matches. It felt as though the recap videos were shorter, the vignettes and promos more meaningful, and many of the matches of a very high quality. Really looking at this episode of RAW, it was quite strong. I'd say quite strong for any other time of the year, for the spring it was tremendous! Normally RAW had been giving us 45-50 minutes of wrestling, but this week we had a whole 67:22 of wrestling. Jesse checked his numbers twice, and as I always say, I can be off a few seconds here and there, but I'm not far enough off to add twenty minutes to the time. I have to say that I'm really impressed, and those two clunker matches can't bring me down.