Not only did the WWE step things up with HIAC, they stepped things up with RAW. I don't know if it's McMahon's presence in creative, or if it's the time of year when things start gaining speed. Like Christmas in the US, it's like the WrestleMania season starts earlier and earlier every year. It used to be The Road to WrestleMania started at the Royal Rumble, but then it slid back bit by bit over the years and people started thinking about WrestleMania at Survivor Series. We just had HIAC and we're wondering who might be facing who at Survivor Series, and how that will relate to Royal Rumble, and then to WrestleMania. Heck, we were starting to wonder about WrestleMania and the big matches the day after WrestleMania, thanks to Cena and The Rock setting up their WrestleMania match a year ahead of time. Personally, I think it's great for wrestling that we're so focused on where the feuds and storylines are going that we're more sucked in than ever.
In Ring Segment > B+
Of course RAW had to start with Cena. As much as I hate to admit it, the WWE needs Cena, especially right now with the roster so light with top stars, top faces. As much as Cena draws, he sure get quite the mixed reaction, even after he's been gone for a couple months. I also have to say that strapping Cena was a very smart move. Everyone knows how I feel about ADR, but I will say that his match with Cena at HIAC was really strong. Both of them went out there and left it out there, something I was worried that Cena couldn't do, and something ADR wouldn't do. Then again, as I said before, my favorite ADR match was against Cena the night that Big Show broke the ring for the second time. They had to work creatively, and they sold it.
I have to admit I was shocked when Sandow came out and got in Cena's face. I didn't expect that he'd be to the ring, never mind attacking Cena, but Sandow sold it wonderfully. It was sad to see his chocolate case get trashed the way it did, but it's not like he will be carrying it around any longer. I will say that the vicious side of Sandow works well and rounds out his holier-than-thou character in a great way. Hopefully he will stick to it and expound upon it.
MITB WHC Match > A-
I honestly didn't think Sandow had that in him. I knew he was a really solid wrestler, but as I've said before, he seems to have been resting on his laurels and throwing overly scripted matches. This was the opposite of what we've been seeing from Sandow, and I'm excited. This is the wrestler I knew he could be, and I cannot wait to see more. I'm not thrilled that Sandow won't be carrying around the MITB case for longer. It's strange that both MITB cases have been cashed in so early in the year. Sandow and Orton won their case at MITB on July 14th. Orton cashed his in on August 18th at SummerSlam. Now Sandow cashed in his the night after HIAC. It seems as though every PPV since the MITB has been created, we all sit around and talk about who might be cashing in their cases, and how it will go down. We sit around all year discussing this, and when a case isn't cashed in by WrestleMania, we start getting tweaky about it, even though there's a couple months between WrestleMania and the MITB PPV. That both cases were cashed in so early, even though many fans have been pushing for Sandow to cash in, I now feel this great letdown that we won't have this wonderful question to discuss at every PPV until next summer. In some ways, it feels as though something is missing, and that's going to be a bit of a bummer.
On the other hand, that match between Cena and Sandow was awe inspiring. It was a PPV level match opening RAW. How often do you get a lovely gem like that? Sandow proved that he has the chops to go with the big boys, and it looks like the sky's the limit for Sandow, and I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat watching and waiting to see where he will go from here. I'd love to see him feud with Cena, I think it could be a great thing for Sandow, and really push him to that next level.
Winner – Cena (14:45)
Backstage Segment > B
I thought Ambrose was again a bit stilted here. He struggled on mic at HIAC, and did so again here. The best for me in this segment was Reigns, and he only threw their catchphrase. Reigns is going to be a huge star, following in The Rock's footsteps, and after that little dig from Ambrose, I am wondering how much longer these three will be lasting as a group. For the WWE, having a faction lasting a year is huge!
Ambrose vs Big E > B
Seeing Ambrose working with Big E is a lot of fun. Personally, and while I'm bummed that Axel is hurt, and I wouldn't wish that upon anyone, I think this is a much better feud for Big E. I think Ambrose could help Big E's career much more than Axel could, and I think he will. They've had a few off moments – their mic work at HIAC, and that they bumped into each other and busted each other open at HIAC – but those things happen, even to the best. Nothing against Axel, but Ambrose has more charisma, and is more creative in the ring. Those things will push Big E to expand his mic and ring work. Also, I just think Big E and Ambrose look better working together. I think it's too early for Big E to beat Ambrose for the US Title, but it will happen, and after them feuding and fighting, it will mean a lot more than if he just easily won the US Title at HIAC.
Winner – Big E via DQ (1:40)
6 Man Tag Match > B+
Is Maddox trying to be Teddy Long? Sorry, but his declaration screamed Long! Anyway, this was a tag match that made a lot of sense, and looked really solid. I expect we will be seeing more of these six working together and combining in different ways. I'd have liked to see Big E back in the ring, but it looked as though his cut was swelling already, so it was time for him to step back a bit. These six going forward are going to be a lot of fun, and some serious ring work. Hopefully we will get some mic work from the Usos as well. They're great in the ring, and ooze charisma, but they rarely talk. I think it's time they step things up and talk to us.
Winners – The Shield (5:35)
In Ring Segment > A-
The work between Bryan and HBK was awesome! HBK is always strong on mic, and he worked the fans as well as Bryan wonderfully. Bryan, never saying a word, told such a story. The segment flowed quite well, I was very impressed with how they both exuded such emotion. As pissed as Bryan was, I really didn't expect him to put his hands on HBK. We all know we won't be seeing HBK working another match, but it's great to see him hit Sweet Chin Music now and then, and take a bump or a hold when the need arises. While he did oversell it a bit after Bryan let go, but that's HBK for you, and to be expected. Hopefully this won't be the last we see between Bryan and HBK, but I know we won't see them facing off in the ring.
Backstage Segment > A-
The devil made me do it. Windham is a performer that I never thought we'd see. He's completely obliterated Husky Harris and is Bray Wyatt. Few fall into a character the way Windham has, and the one that comes to mind is Taker. Mark Calaway is The Undertaker, there's no question about that, and Windham is Bray Wyatt. I'm not saying that Bray is to the level of Taker, just that he completely becomes his character.
The attack on Bryan was solid, until the end. That anvil case came nowhere near Bryan's head, and it looked like it. It was just one of those things that didn't work. The rest of the attack was great, and sometimes things like that just don't work out. After the passion that was shown in this segment, I can absolutely overlook that one issue.
Los Matadores vs 3MB > D+
To me this felt very 1980s, and not in a good way. I understand the WWE trying to put a comical segment in each episode, but this one fell flat for me. I'm just not enjoying the way Los Matadores are working with 3MB. I think it's time they try something else, because I don't want to see anyone getting caught in a net like that again.
Winners – Los Matadores (3:40)
Tamina & AJ vs Bellas > B-
It's obvious that Brie has been working with Bryan, all you have to do is look at some of the moves she's been hitting in the ring. Even though Nikki has been out due to injury, her work has also stepped up recently. I can't say that Tamina is as strong as I expect her to be, but she will get there. There was some sloppy work in this match, but nothing compared to the later Divas match on RAW. If the Divas keep working the way they are, continue to improve, then the WWE might have a Divas Division worth watching before too long. Maybe the Divas matches won't be the time to run to the loo during PPVs? Fingers crossed.
Winner – Tamina & AJ (3:30)
Kane vs Miz > B
Working a movie set seems to be a good thing for Mr. Jacobs, because he came back looking slimmer and fitter than we've seen him in a long time. At this point everyone knows that I think Glenn Jacobs is one of the sexiest men in wrestling, but I was floored at how great he looked on RAW. Like Goldust, Kane sometimes look a bit paunchy in his unitard, but not right now!
All that girliness aside, I think it was rather rough that Miz was destroyed so quickly. I know he's Miz and he's had his ups and downs, but he's been WWE Champ and Kane trashed him in barely over a minute without breaking a sweat! Then again, he is Kane, and he is one half of the Brothers of Destruction. I also have to comment on Kane's big boot and how far off it was. Miz's hands were way out in front of him, and nowhere near his face when he caught Kane's foot. I'm going to chalk it up to ring rust and move on.
Winner – Kane (1:13)
In Ring Segment > A-
I am so confused with what Kane said and did. Why is he suddenly kowtowing to Steph? Is he completely unmasked, or does Steph have control of his mask, so she has control of him? Will she give him his mask when she has him do some work for him? So many questions, and the segment was executed so wonderfully, and coming off a lackluster return at HIAC it was fantastic to see. So excited to see what's going to happen next with Kane!
Backstage Segment > B
The Prime Time Players were not as strong as R-Truth was last week selling for ShopZone, but the comment O'Neil made about the slipper smelling like Backlund had Stacy and I on the floor laughing. I actually had to stop the DVR for us to go back and watch that moment again. I'm not a Backlund fan, but he was hysterical at HIAC with Prime Time Players. I cannot believe I'm saying this, but I think more little segments of Backlund with Prime Time Players could be fun.
Video > D-
If my lawyer was that horrible of a speaker, read aloud that badly, I'd be looking for a new lawyer! I only have used our family lawyer for minor things (he's married to my high school geometry teacher, and has worked with our family for years, we overlook that he shows up for court wearing Birkenstocks – it's Maine!), but he's always been wonderfully professional, other than his shoes. Jim is a great lawyer, but I have to admit that we use him for smaller legal issues, and as much as I love him, there's no way I'd go to him over something huge like Big Show's "lawsuit" against the WWE. I know they're using Otunga because he's on the roster, and a lawyer, and blah-blah-blah, but he's so bland. I wonder if we're losing big parts of him because he's following his lines so closely, because I've seen him elsewhere, on the red carpet with Jennifer, little clips of video with their son, he's he's animated and charismatic. He appears to be one of those Richard was talking about last week. He's so worried about getting his lines right that he's not giving any of himself to the fans. He's not emoting, he's not giving us anything to care about, he' just vomiting out his lines, nothing more.
In Ring Segment > B+
Punk was short, sweet, and to the point. He said what needed to be said, and did so in such a lovely way. He didn't over play it, but worked to the fans quite well. Hopefully his next feud will be against someone who can talk back, and it looks as though that might be happening!
Street Fight > B+
This match was quite strange to watch. At certain moments they were working really stiff, but in others they were very obviously being delicate. Ryback driving Punk back first into the post looked really soft, but then the spinebuster on Punk looked overly stiff. It was confusing to watch them fight hard, then Ryback gingerly climb onto the table so Punk could drive him through it. The whole thing was a farce.
But then things picked up! I'm so excited at the thought of Bryan and Punk working together against The Wyatt Family. This could be a blast, and I'm expecting a lot from it. This will be great for Bryan and Punk, but it will also be great for Rowan, Harper, and especially Bray. I see big things for all of them, but have to wonder who will be the third working with Bryan and Punk? Miz? I sure hope not!
Winner – Punk (4:26)
The Real Americans vs Cody Rhodes & Goldust > B+
I guess Cody and Goldust can't win every match they're in, but why did they have to lose to the likes of Swagger! I have no trouble with Cesaro, but Swagger is still really high on my shit list, and I have little use for the man. When Zeb can't even do anything to get the man over, there's an issue. Zeb is great, and fantastic to watch, but there's little connection to Swagger there. I also hope to see Cesaro break off and possibly turn face. I think it would be the best for him right now as he's been showing more quirky charisma lately.
I was a bit shocked that Cesaro didn't hit his giant swing on anyone in this match. If he's going to get to 100 for WrestleMania, he needs to be hitting it each week. Maybe he'll do it on Smackdown? Either way, I expect Cody and Goldust to continue on this fantastic push and continue to impress us all.
Winners – The Real Americans (12:12)
Stage Segment > D
Other than the "What?" reactions to the last couple sentences ADR threw out, that crowd was DEAD! Yes, they were relaxing from the excitement of the Rhodes brothers in the ring, but this was more than that. I'm not an ADR fan, we know that, but I will admit that I was shocked at how little the fans in Orlando cared about him. He didn't even get X-Pac heat!
Summer Rae vs Nattie > D-
I love Nattie, and she's one of the strongest wrestlers in the Divas Division, but she keeps getting stuck dealing with the greenest wrestlers on the roster. I feel horrible for Nattie. She deserves better than being in matches like this, having to carry a sloppy mess like Summer Rae. I know everyone starts somewhere, and Nattie was just as bad when she started out, but that she had a leg up because of the family she was born into, but I wonder why the WWE put Summer Rae in two matches, two nights in a row, looking so horrid. I should be thrilled that there was two Divas matches on RAW, but honestly, this was a huge waste of time. That they gave this match almost two minutes longer than the Divas Tag Match is also a travesty. As I said before, the Bellas are not fantastic, but they're working on it in a HUGE way. Even Tamina who is struggling in the ring is leaps and bounds ahead of Summer Rae. Summer Rae has been with the WWE a year and half longer than Eva Marie, and looks just as bad. I actually commented to Jesse during this match that Summer Rae (who has been compared to Michelle McCool because of her looks) actually makes McCool look like Lita in the ring. Not that McCool was bad, she just was no Lita, but compared to Summer Rae...
Winner – Nattie (5:17)
In Ring Segment > B+
As much as Big Show's appearance saved this segment, his appearance was also expected and becoming a reliable ending to RAW. That's not a good thing. This episode of RAW was one of the best the WWE has given us, but the ending fell flat. I love seeing Big Show show such emotion, and him running around in street clothes is always interesting to me as a designer, but that's not enough to carry the end of RAW. I will give Big Show props for how he worked against Orton, it looked great and flowed well, and the same can be said for how he worked against Trip. Actually, Trip sold the segment well, as did Steph, but it's still the same old thing. I gave this segment the grade I did for the work they executed so well, but that's the last time they will get a solid grade for the same run in by Big Show.
The WWE really stepped things up with big chunks of HIAC, and the majority of RAW. Hopefully things have turned around since that horrible Battleground PPV, and things look so much better going into Survivor Series. I'm excited with the direction the WWE is going right now, and hope that things continue to get better with the roster, the storylines, and most importantly, with the ring work.
I want to mention that the RAW Open Thread Parties have been taking off in a huge way. If you haven't checked them out, they're not just for premiums members, everyone's invited to join us. Just recently we broke 1000 comments, and last night there were 1111 comments posted. So get in there and talk with other WNW readers, as well as WNW writer Jesse, and WWENews.net writers Justin Mayo, Gesus, and Ed. Never a dull moment, and always something interesting to talk about.
Queen of WNW