My faith in Jericho has returned. Let me first off say that I honestly have almost always had faith in Jericho as he proves himself in almost everything he does, but the first time I saw him live he really upset me. It was my first live event, a RAW house show in Portland, ME 10/19/03. I was really put out by Jericho very obviously not caring about the fans in attendance. He was tagging with Scotty Steiner against Booker T and Maven. Jericho so obviously didn't care about working that Steiner could be heard reprimanding Jericho to stop acting the way he was and start being professional. Steiner really got pissed at Jericho, and it had nothing to do with booking or storyline. It was rather ugly and soured me on Jericho for quite a long time. I know everyone has good and bad days, but the way Jericho acted seemed so much more than that. That Steiner felt he needed to berate him in front of the fans – though it wasn't a big and loud thing, he could be clearly heard – the way he did, there was obviously something going on. I saw Jericho, again in Portland, a year later, and he was facing Christian, and he did work the match better, but I was still so upset by him that it wasn't enough for me. I was fine watching Jericho on TV after a bit, but I was so upset that he couldn't be bothered to give a flying fig for the 2,000 people in attendance. That hurt me so much as it was the first match at the very first live event I attended.
This past Sunday I attended a local house show in Augusta, Maine and Jericho more the made up for that first match. He was passionate, intense, creative and giving in the ring. Jericho was everything I'd hoped he'd be the first time I saw him, and more. Jericho worked a No DQ Match against Fandango, of course, and he was great. It was nice to see Fandango really wrestle and work the ring with Jericho, and Jericho made Fandango look that much better. The fans were so excited to see Jericho, and I think he got as big of a a reaction as Cena – and we're big Cena fans up here. I don't think most of the fans knew that Fandango was a local boy, as I thought he'd get more pop than he did, but he looked a lot better in the ring than he has on TV – and no, I'm not just saying that because I'm such a fan of his, and my daughter completely adores him. He really did look good in the ring, but it was Jericho who made me happy I went into seeing him again with such an open mind.
There was two other things that really jumped out at me Sunday at the house show. First off, I will fully admit that I wasn't not at all excited about the main event. Tables Match for WWE Championship – Cena vs Ryback. Sam was thrilled to see Cena, and that made me happy, but then I saw the match. Cena worked the crowd hard. He worked it as hard in front of the 2000, if not harder than I've seen him work in front of 15,113 at a PPV! I honestly don't know how Cena does that everyday and travels, and does all the other things he does. I'm in awe. Further, I was really impressed with Ryback. He was intense, creative, and came across much better live than he has on TV. Speaking of coming across better live, Stacy was much more impressed with Sweet T live than on TV. I didn't see much difference, but as a more casual fan, he was quite impressed with Sweet T.
The other thing that completely bowled me over was Windham Rotunda as Bray Wyatt. The first, and last, time I saw him live was as Husky Harris at the 2011 Royal Rumble. When he hit that ring for the Royal Rumble Match he was terribly reckless. As soon as I saw him hitting moves in the ring I told Stacy that he'd be off TV very soon because he was dangerous. I don't know if it was the excitement of the PPV, or what it was, but it was obvious that he should not be in the ring at that point. Right after that Orton punted his head off and he was off WWE TV. As I've said before, Jesse told me about Rotunda playing this Bray Wyatt character and I will admit that I rolled my eyes. Then I saw a video of some of his mic work in NXT as Bray and I was floored, but nothing compared to what I saw live Sunday night. It was more than just the way he worked the Bray Wyatt character on mic, or the way he threw and took moves in the ring, it was as if Rotunda was Bray Wyatt with the very essence of his being. Every little move he made, the way he sat in the corner waiting for Ryder to get to the ring and for the match to start, the way he held his hands between moves, the way he did this strange pose in the corner while Ryder was down on the mat, the way he kissed Ryder on the forehead before hitting his finisher, and the way he bowed to the fans and blew kisses was he left the ringside area. Much of it was slightly slow-motion, but very graceful and methodic. I cannot wait until he's on TV, because what I saw Sunday night was unlike anything I remember seeing since, well, ever. I'm blown away and I can't wait for you to be blown away as well.
The last great part of the night wasn't really anything to do with any WWE Superstars. Johnny Fabulous was in the front row watching the whole show. I've seen him at a variety of events, mostly BTW events, but he's a big name up here in the northeast, specifically north of Boston. He's also been seen on RAW, usually in Boston, with his son John Cena. Yes, Johnny Fabulous is John Cena Sr's alter ego, though he was actually there to support his son. During the main event Ryback grabbed a mic to talk smack, and in it called Fabulous a jackass. It added another dimension to the match, and was great watching him watch his son wrestle, as well as yelling smack back at Ryback. After the show was over there was a long line and Fabulous was just that, fabulous with the fans. He was signing Cena shirts and taking pictures with the fans. He was gracious and delightful, not at all the jackass heel I've seen him be through the years. It's obvious where Cena learned to be a nice guy, and I hope I'll get to talk to Johnny Fabulous again quite soon.
Video > C
I honestly don't know why I keep grading these opening videos, they almost always garner the same grade. From here on out, unless it's so wonderful I need to say something about it, or so horrible that I cannot keep my mouth shut, I'm not going to bother with it. It's a waste of your time, and mine.
In Ring Segment > A-
Steph is back! I was giddy, completely marking out, when Steph came out to the ring. I have to say that she looked great, but those black suits do nothing to show off her fantastic figure. I know why she wears them, and she does look great in them, and they're better than some of the trashy outfits she's worn to the ring, but I'd still like to see her wear some color sometimes.
When Steph said she wasn't going to allow Trip to compete, I was thrilled because it meant a big storyline is starting. Further, when she said 'this is not about you,' 'try not to be so selfish,' and 'I love him more than you do,' I saw what could be a great heel turn for Steph. She's been face for so long that this heel turn could be a lot of fun. I do like that we're seeing more of the family as the family is, that they're not kayfabing the fans about relationships. I love that she's calling him by his first name on TV. We all know he's Paul Levesque, it was the name on the door to his 'office' so why not let his wife call him by his real name. It make sense at this point in his career and the evolution of the company. That both Steph and McMahon said Axel is beneath Trip is quite interesting. Even better was that The Shield came out before the commercial break, and they cut away. Three minutes of wondering if The Shield was going to attack McMahon and Steph. Leaving us with a cliffhanger, and the fact that they didn't draw this segment out made this a stellar way to start the show. Some might give me crap for getting all over Hogan for starting a show, but giving Steph and McMahon such a great grade, but when was the last time we saw the two of them? We don't see them a couple times during each RAW or Smackdown, we haven't seen Steph in about a year, McMahon has been on more recently, but nothing to the extent that he used to be on TV. I thought this was a breath of fresh air, and a great direction to take this storyline.
The Shield vs Team Hell No & Orton > A-
As I say each week, how many more great things can I say about The Shield and Team Hell No in the ring? Further, how many more great things can I say about Bryan in the ring? These men are so great that they made Orton look exciting and creative! I know, I'm being hard on Orton, but he really needs a creative facelift. But back to Bryan, I'm continually floored at how great Bryan is in the ring. He is the best wrestler on the WWE roster, and he shows that each and every time he's in the ring. Bryan took what we used to watch him do in ROH and amped it up to a level that I didn't think possible. We always talk about what a workhorse Kane is, but it's obvious that Bryan is exactly like his partner in that way. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the man, and I hope I am able to meet him someday so that I can thank him for all he's given us as fans.
Winner – The Shield (17:09)
Backstage Segment > A
Bryan had proven over and over in the ring that he is the best in the WWE, but he's stepped up his mic work as well. I know I've said before that I didn't know Bryan had this in him, but that was when this storyline with Kane, things have grown and changed so much since then. I didn't know The American Dragon could play these characters the way he has been, and I'm floored by how well he's doing. Each week he takes his character to the next level, and at this point I'm not sure how far he can go with it, but I know we will all be impressed watching him do it.
Backstage Segment > B+
It's hard to not comment on their chemistry, but of course they have chemistry, McMahon's her father, Trip's her husband, they're a very close family, but the way they sell that chemistry for TV is a whole thing beyond who they are as a family. I don't know who wears the pants in their marriage, but I'm willing to bet that when they get into a really big argument, it's huge. They're all very strong willed people, and what we see on TV is all that taken to a whole new level, but I'm sure they've had a couple of fights that were impressive. About this segment, like the opening segment, they did a great job of keeping it short and to the point. And while I know it's scripted, I love the way Steph stepped between her husband and seemed to side with him against her father. So many little nuances to this storyline already, I know it's going to be a lot of fun. It's also nice to see Trip working with a wrestler coming up and starting his push, rather than continuing on with Brock, someone who doesn't need Trip's time and energy to get over with the fans.
Usos vs Prime Time Players > C+
I like how the Usos were wearing face paint, and how Cole talked about it being a rebirth for them. With Team Hell No heading out of the Tag Division, pushing the Usos ahead makes a lot of sense. I have to say that O'Neil looked a bit rough in the ring in this match, but he looked stronger when I saw him live. I know everyone has good and bad days, so I've stepped back from really abusing O'Neil, but I will say that he hasn't seemed very consistent in the ring. I'm not sure what they plan on doing with the Usos, or the Prime Time Players, but it's good that they're getting TV time, and maybe it will lead to a solid storyline at some point.
I just want to mention that C is average, and this match was not really much more than average. It wasn't a bad match, but it sure wasn't much more than average.
Winners – Usos (4:47)
Video > A
Last night I missed this when my TV went on the fritz, and I feel horrible about that. The Special Olympics is a great thing, and I'm thrilled that the WWE is getting involved.
ADR vs Big E > B
I'm liking Big E more and more each week. As with Bray Wyatt, I need to spend some serious time watching NXT to see more of him. I've heard the Big E has mostly played a face, I can see why I have such trouble seeing Big E as a heel. The strange voices he's used each time he's been on mic, I'm thinking that he's going to be a lot of fun as a face. I've enjoyed watching Big E work with ADR because his size and ring style makes ADR have to work the match differently from when he works with other guys about his size. I actually find ADR interesting in the ring when he's forced to be more creative and not fall into a routine, as he had been with Ziggler and Swagger. Oh, I have to mention that Sam has decided that Big E stands for Big Epidermis. I can't say she's wrong on her reasoning.
Winner – ADR (4:52)
WWE Rewind > B
I am loving these segments between Sheamus and Sandow on Smackdown! These two have great chemistry, and these segments are perfectly suited to them. I can't wait to see what they're going to do this week, and I think this could be a great feud for both of them. It's pushing Sandow ahead, and making Sheamus change up his character and make him a bit less or the boring good guy role he's fallen into lately.
Sheamus vs Rhodes > B-
I loved Sandow's DX moment pushing JBL's wife's book on announce. Further, Sandow on announce was actually more interesting than this match. Well, much of it was more interesting, I really enjoyed the way that Rhodes and Sheamus worked over the corner from the aprons. It's something we haven't seen lately, and I think it worked well for them. That the fans were very quiet, only really chanting for 'Cody' mustache' and not much else, should show the WWE that they really need to do something to shake up Sheamus' character. Sheamus is over with the fans, they love him, but his matches haven't been getting the reactions they should be getting for the effort he's putting out. It's only for white noise and the brogue kick do the fans really get excited. Other than wanting to see what will happen between Sheamus and Sandow, I'd love to see Sheamus turn heel. I know, it's not something I admit very often, but it really do think it's past time for Sheamus to turn heel, or at least change up his character in some big way. Sheamus needs to be more than the cliched good guy with a great accent.
Winner – Sheamus (5:21)
Backstage Segment > B
Again Steph referred to her husband by his actual first name. I'm wondering if this is how they're going to push him into the role of being boss, or just them actually being open and honest about who they are. I admit that I miss the days that they skirted around the issue, especially DX in the ring and Trip talking about the stud who got Steph pregnant. Anyway, I thought this segment further pushed the storyline, but continued to do it in a very smart way, keeping it short and to the point. I'll admit that Trip saying he didn't want his kids to see him beating up their grandfather hit me as quite funny after how many years of Trip beating up McMahon?
Backstage Segment > A-
Ryback came off better here, but Bryan carried the segment. It didn't help that Bryan said Ryback took out Kofi on Friday's Smackdown, then Ryback said Kofi had surgery on Thursday because of Ryback putting him through the tables. Oops! And honestly, I didn't need to hear about Ryback's puke, but I'm sure all the little boys watching loved it.
Backstage Segment > B+
Earlier McMahon was agreeing that Axel wasn't worth Trip's time, but here he told Axel that he thought he had potential, is hungry, aggressive, and he likes that. McMahon playing both sides against the middle? But even better is the chemistry between McMahon and Heyman. Heyman tries to kowtow to McMahon in one breath, then gets mouthy in the next breath. It's Heyman showing his passive aggressive side, and he does such a great job of it.
Fandango vs Khali > D
Why? Just, why? I will say one positive thing before I move on. I noticed that Fandango ran into each of Khali's clotheslines in this match. Khali didn't even have to move, just turn around and put his arm out. When Khali doesn't have to move around the ring as much, he doesn't look as bad because we don't see his limp as much. Yes, I'm saying it's great that one wrestler is working it well so the other doesn't have to move as much, but when you're talking about Khali, every little thing that makes him look better is good. The interaction between Miz and Fandango, then Barrett's elbow and Miz are what brought this up from failure for me.
Miz vs Barrett > C+
Everyone has talked smack about Miz's fig 4 since he was first handed the move by Flair, but I'm one of the few who hasn't trashed it. I can't say it's been good, but I think Miz has progressed with the hold. He absolutely should have had the move down pat before Flair passed the torch, but I got the feeling that it wasn't something that had been in the plans for a long time, if at all before it actually happened. I will fully admit that Miz has struggled with the hold, but the way he brought Barrett down into the hold in this match was just lovely. It was more intricate and creative than we've seen from him. He still struggled a bit getting the hold on, but he impressed me with the new way of bringing his opponent down for the hold.
Winner – Miz (3:22)
Video > C
I will say I like how they recapped all three segments and only hit the high points, rather than recapping each segment separately throughout RAW. It was a bit longer than I'd have liked, but they hit the high points, and that's really the important thing.
In Ring Segment > A-
Contract signings are either really good, or really bad, but usually end in a fight. I found this signing quite enjoyable from start to finish. Heyman is really trying to be something bigger than his character is, yet he really is a wrestling genius. He is a fantastic talker, and showing a whole new generation why he's so fantastic. Further, Heyman seems to be able to work against anyone, but people he's worked with for years bring out something extra in him, and Jericho does just that. I have to say the same for Jericho. That man can talk like few on the roster, and is doing a great job of coming back and working with the roster, paying it forward. I know I say that as he worked the mic against Heyman, and going into a match with Punk, but the WWE needed Punk to draw in Chicago, so putting him back in the ring with Jericho at Payback makes complete sense. Punk can come back as a heel, in his hometown, and work against someone guaranteed to give the fans a five star match. Brilliant booking.
I missed Jericho winking at King after he said how great he looked. It's the little extras from Jericho, and he's the best in the world at what he does. Further, I can say that wholeheartedly for the first time in a decade, and it feels great.
Bellas & AJ vs Dactyls & Kaitlyn > D-
I have been hard on the Bellas since their return. Unlike so many other people I've mentioned looking so much better live, the Bellas looked as bad, or worse, live in the ring against the Dactyls. In fact Naomi was the Diva of the night in how she worked that ring, even taking Young down with head scissors and making it look terrific.
I know they're pushing the Divas, especially the Bellas, because of the show on E! this summer, but it doesn't mean I have to like them, or their ring work. I missed hen Kaitlyn threw one Bella into the other on the apron, but the first Bella absolutely didn't sell any of that move. While I loath to say that they're only back because of who they're dating, I have trouble finding any other reasons for them to be back in the WWE. Yes, I know that they're attractive, but that's not enough for me.
Winners – Dactyls & Kaitlyn (4:31)
Backstage Segment > A-
Kane gave Bryan huge props in this segment, and it's very obviously the truth. I don't know what their relationship is when the camera is off, but I am sure Kane was speaking from the heart there. Bryan really is the the man and should be at the top.
Video > A
I don't think I have ever stated in the RAW Results for the readers to go watch the video because I honestly couldn't do it justice with my explanation. I am sorry for that, but these Wyatt Family videos are so far beyond anything we've ever seen from the WWE. They're not something that's easily explained in a short paragraph while I'm trying to keep up with the show. The production value and creativity behind these videos is so far beyond what we've seen from WWE promo videos in the past.
Bryan vs Ryback > A-
That he's not the WWE Champ, or in the main event for the WWE Title is a travesty. Further, that Ryback is in the main event over Bryan is that much worse than a travesty. I know that pushes ebb and flow, but Bryan is on fire, especially right now, shows just how much better he is than most of the rest of the roster. Ryback does have his pros, and Bryan has his cons, but Bryan is so consistently fantabulous at all he does that it's like a kick in the head to the fans watching Bryan in awe each week.
Richard posted on Facebook about Bryan during this match and I had to wait until the show was over before I could respond, and by then there was over 30 comments about Bryan – most of them agreeing with Richard. As of this writing there's 111 likes for Richard saying, "There is absolutely no reason Daniel Bryan isn't a top guy in WWE. Are you watching this? Look at what he's getting out of Ryback. It's unbelievable. This is his SECOND match of the night. Best worker on the roster and it's not even close. Very, very talented."
Ryback looked really great in this match, despite the 'Goldberg' chants from the fans, and I have no problem saying that the reason Ryback looked so great was because of Bryan. Yes, I said Ryback looked great at the live show this weekend, but this was a whole other level of great. At the live show Ryback looked great working with Cena with weapons involved. On RAW Ryback looked great working with Bryan without weapons. To me that's a whole other level of greatness.
Winner- Bray via DQ (15:11)
No DQ Match > B-
I will fully admit that I thought Cena being counted out was a cop out. Yes, I know that No DQ Matches don't necessarily mean that there's no count out, but most of the time the ref ignores counting because there's just so much going on. I know a couple of refs tweaked out on Twitter about fans getting on them about this match, and even my title for RAW Results last night was about the No DQ / Count Out thing. Legitimately it was a clean ending, but I think it was too convenient. When so many fans, even one who's been writing about wrestling for over a decade, questions the ending, then something feels off. And that's all I'm going to say about that!
Compared to other certain other matches on this episode, this just wasn't as good. I hate to say this because Cena really does put so much into everything he does, but his overselling in this match hurt things a lot for me. Further, seeing Super Cena go into the exact same routine leading to the 5 knuckle shuffle, while in the middle of a match that he could really change things up, really brought me back to his lack of creativity in the ring. The chairs were flying, but he had to go back to what was safe and reliable. Axel, on the other hand (not that we know what his regular moves might be) swung a computer at Cena's head to get free of the STF! The man has the genetics, the grooming, the talent, finally the right people behind him, and a genius by his side – his future is golden, and I can't wait to sit back and watch what he can do.
Winner – Axel via Count Out (16:33)
I am completely floored by Bryan. He stole the show for me, and for so many. RAW had been running at about 47 minutes of wrestling each week. Last week there was 67:22, but this week there was 70:40, and 32:20 of it were matches that Bryan was in. Looking at that last number, I've decided that my newest dream match is Bryan vs Ambrose in an Ironman Match. I told Jesse this and he countered with a Fatal 4 Way Ironman Match – Punk vs Bryan vs Ambrose vs Rollins, with Jericho as Special Guest Ref. Or, if he ever returns to the WWE, Angle vs Bryan! Actually, I've been itching to see Bryan feud with Punk as well. There's so much I want to see from this man, but the best is seeing him work each week on TV. He makes my night whenever I see him – in the ring, or on mic.