With all the excitement that went down during the RAW Pre-Show, I have brought in Jesse to write about it, as I wasn't watching and didn't feel comfortable writing about it. I think it's a big part of what went down on RAW, and needs to be written about here.
This week, prior to Raw, WWE pulled one of the best and most subliminal moves that could possibly have done. They took someone most of us smarter fans care for, Damien Sandow, and worked us completely. In case you don't have the Network and did not see it, Sandow rushed the Preshow panel and cut what seemed to be a shoot. Midway through, his mic was cut and he resorted to finishing in Josh Mathews' headset. For your benefit, I have transcribed it below:
"You guys can hear me, right? I heard you can actually be on this show and not wear a superhero costume, right? I don't have to dress up in a Halloween costume? (To Jimmy Hart) Well, you've been dressing as a Valentine's Day card for 30 years, but we're in the WWE, we put smiles on everyone's faces, right? Hey, after this little stint, I'll probably end up teaming with Yoshi Tatsu and never get a microphone again, so we're going to make this count! On behalf of myself, on behalf of the WWE Universe, (mic cut) on behalf of everyone that has ever had a rational thought. (Josh says Mr. Sandow, they killed your mic.) My microphone isn't on? I guess I'll just use yours! Why would they kill my microphone? I have no idea! Do you think they are afraid? Someone in the back is afraid? This is a publicly traded company! What am I going to say? Are you afraid Josh? Are you afraid Josh? No, because when you're afraid, accidents happen. (Smiles and walks off)
Now, you can call it desperation setting in, you can call it the best veiled work in a long time, but we undeniably got some of the best work I think we have heard from Sandow in a long time in just this minute long segment. And it was so quick, so fiery, that you couldn't help but be sucked into the work, because it seemed out of character and completely off script. Later in the night, we would learn that it was just a work, as Sandow would sneak a mic into his entrance and get cut off again, but segments like this need to happen more often. If you saw the link Richard posted about a month ago, almost everything is scripted down to a T in the show. Guerrilla promos and spots such as this could very well be what we need. I'm not saying it has to be a thing all of the time, but we fans are tired of the standard formula. That's part of why Bray fits so well now. His "DEP" video can hit at any point in the show and turn things from mediocre into must see TV. That's part of what made The Shield a success initially. Their guerrilla beat downs were something we hadn't seen in a long time. WWE has fashioned this era as The Reality Era. While they just mean that a person such as Daniel Bryan, an everyman can be champion, maybe what we really need is a dose of unscripted "reality" in our shows.
In Ring Segment > A-
The Shield really started RAW with a bang. Ambrose on mic was better than ever. The way he started off all pissy, but then turned it around with that smile when he said, "We got the crap kicked out of us." That many might not have hit the mic with a band the way Bray did, but he's fantastic! I've said over and over that Ambrose is a throwback, and that his reactions and facial expression mixed with his ring skills and charisma, he's destined to be a top champion. Rollins might now have been on mic as much, but the man is also destines for great things. He's bigger than Rey, and better on mic, and Rey as well as many others (Bryan) have proven that you don't have to be 300lbs to be the WWE WHC! I'd love to see Rollins make it there someday, and not as an underdog. Then there's Reigns. He wasn't speaking through much of this, but he said so much! The way he paced, shook, and twitched said so much. I know he still has a long way to go, but he's come so far from where he was when he first started on WWE TV.
Backstage Segment > B
I had to break this off from the ring segment because this fight had me so confused. I couldn't tell who the chauffeur was, and there were so many men in suits running around grabbing at other people, some of which in suits. Further, almost all of them were in black, and it was really hard to follow. I've been a proponent for interesting ring gear for many years, mostly because it's what I was hoping I'd do with my life (thanks Austin!), and while the ring gear The Shield wears is perfect for who they are, it's hard when they're fighting with others in all black, and the guys working backstage were also it suits. Specifically, why was Finlay in a suit? I loved that The Shield attacked Evo backstage, but with that sea of black fabric, it really was incredibly hard to follow.
RVD vs Swagger > C+
RVD has a black eye, and we know it, but Cole telling us that he got the black eye in the ring with Cesaro on RAW is just daft! We all watched RAW last week and we know that he had it from Extreme Rules! Cole is usually great with stats, except when he screws up, then it's big and obvious.
I understand what they're trying to do with Zeb and Rose, but I think it's flopping. They need to pair Rose with someone who has some sort of personality. Zeb has personality, but Swagger is seriously lacking in that dept. Swagger has proven that he's not a talker, and doesn't have enough charisma to carry a middle school talent show, which is why he has Zeb, but I think the interactions between Zeb and Rose are flopping. Maybe it will help that Swagger lost so unceremoniously to RVD, but that hurts RVD as well. I honestly don't know why they brought RVD back if he doesn't have a solid direction and plan. Personally, I'd rather see him working against Cesaro and Heyman, that makes a lot more sense, but they were nowhere to be seen!
Winner – RVD (2:05)
Video > B
I know I'm usually really up on the WWE production crew and the work they do, especially when they put together video packages about specific wrestlers – look at the HOF induction announcement videos – but I thought they really dropped the ball with Paige. I thought they should have used some of her NXT footage to really flesh out the video. I understand why they didn't, but they really needed to with her. Even though she's been booked horribly so far, I still have high hopes for the amazing young Brit.
Paige vs Fox > B+
What a fantastic display by Fox! I'd said before that her match with Paige was one of the best I'd ever seen from her. Fox has really worked hard on her ring work, and it is showing. I commented on moves Fox made the last time they faced off, and that suplex she hit in this match left my jaw bouncing off the floor. Now, I wasn't impressed with her mic work before the match, but at least they gave her a chance to try it. It was the way she went after Paige in the ring, that suplex, and then her spazzing out after it was over. It's been a long time since the front row was a spray Zone, and something I've been missing. How many years has it been since sitting in the front row could mean you're going to be doused in beer, or some other fluid? Even better than flying fluids, Fox was believable! She sold every bit of her angst and frustration in a way that I haven't seen from the Divas on WWE TV (minus Total Divas) and I'm excited to see more! Yes, she quit on the WWE App, but we all know that's storyline.
And then there's Paige. I don't like how they're booking her on WWE TV. TPTB are complaining about the Divas and Paige's run, but they're booking her to be beaten down and then barely hits an offensive and locks on a submission hold to get the win. She's not Hogan, she's not Cena, let the girl show the fans what she can do and they will fall in love with her. I'd been against Paige working against anyone but the top, most technical Divas, but now I'm hoping for a serious feud between her and Fox. Finally a Divas feud and storyline that makes sense and could be interesting!
Winner – Paige (3:55)
Video > B-
Well, looking at this, maybe the WWE production crew was just out to lunch this week. The opening video for RAW was fairly strong, but not up to par for them, and this one just felt flat to me. There's been so much going on with Bryan, Brie, Steph and Kane, yet this didn't show it all to heighten excitement, but did more to show it in a boring way. Time for the WWE production crew to return to their pre-WrestleMania glory.
In Ring Segment > B
The rumors were flying around the newz sited before RAW that Bryan needed neck surgery. It hadn't been posted on WNW, so I texted Richard to see if there was anything behind it. I was sad to hear that it was true. Hopefully Bryan will come out of this cleanly and without any residual issues, and can get back in the ring quickly and painlessly. I'm thrilled that they didn't stomp out and strip Bryan of his WWE WHC at that moment, and let him have that great moment with the fans. This was a great moment for him with the fans, but you could also see the pain of his losing his father, and his worry about what the future holds for him with this surgery.
Video > B
Cena Extreme Rules recap video was a bit better than the rest, but not by much. I think the WWE production crew was asleep at the wheel this week.
Usos & Cena vs The Wyatts > B+
This was a solid match that further showed how great the Usos are, and how strong Harper is. We all know what Cena is worth in the ring, and that Bray is just great, so this match was great on paper, and almost as strong in actuality. Further, I was that much more impressed by Harper. The last thing in the world I'd like to do is smell that shirt he wears, but I think it's the secret to his ring work and his crazy character. That man gets better each week, and I'm loving watching him make ever step along the way. And then there was Bray on mic, who was as fantastic as ever.
Winner – Usos & Cena (9:33)
In Ring Segment > B+
I have to admit that I was worried about a 20 minute Trip segment, but this worked out much better than I expected. Orton starting things was different and it worked. Batista playing the same pacing and seething role as Reigns was kind of annoying. I have to say it was actually more believable than Batista, and this isn't my normal Batista crankiness. I will say that after the fight, Batista taking the mic from Trip and challenging Reigns the way he did worked fantastically.
One of my favorite parts of this segment was the noise that came out of Trip when Rollins tackled him from behind. If you haven't seen it, make sure you check it out, because Trip sold it masterfully. I loved that The Shield got the upper hand over Evo all night on RAW. That just adds to the storyline and hopefully ends up in the addition to someone new to Evo. I have to say they need some way to make them look more interesting, and will need a third when Batista goes off to make his next movie.
Nattie vs Nikki > B-
While watching Total Divas on Sunday night, we were discussing in the Open Thread Discussion that Nikki and Brie were being nice to Nattie's face, but how were they going to keep her from seeing the show and knowing the truth? I know it's a reality show, and there's little actual reality to it all, but this was just daft! They're acting like all of this just happened, and we all know it was taped months ago because Summer Rae and Fandango were still together at the time.
Then there was the Total Divas outside the ring holding up numbers, what was that supposed to be about? It would have made more sense to have them out there with easels painting the match! I thought Nattie sold her attitude and hurt really well in the match, and they put more into their work than I expected. They actually seemed to be going all at it and getting out some of their ire.
After the match was over, things got even stranger. I thought that Nikki ruffling Nattie's hair as she got out of the ring looked more like endearment than any sort of nastiness, but Nattie didn't take it that way. She also didn't take her loss well, but it was when she got out of the ring that things got really ugly. I don't know why she went after Cameron specifically, and if there's some real issues there. Makes me wonder what the plans for Nattie are going forward. Many of us have been saying this for years, but Nattie deserves better than this. (I have to mention that the grade is so low because of all the drama and numbers crap ringside, but it's so high because of the ring work.)
Winner – Nikki (3:29)
Axel vs Sheamus > B
Why is Sheamus facing a heel? I thought he was making the turn himself, yet he's facing RybAxel here. This makes little sense. Also, the inability to play rock/paper/scissors (never mind lizard/Spock), by RybAxel was just sad! I know they were pushing the hats, and so they needed their quarters in their hats, but it still looked really TNA. On the other hand, I thought Axel looked pretty good in there with Sheamus. Axel seems to be more reactionary in his match, not just going through the motions, which we all know he has down pat. It's that personality and charisma that he's been missing, and it finally seems to be peeking out some. Hopefully he's breaking through and he's perfecting how all of this works.
Winner – Sheamus (3:19)
Ryback vs Sheamus > B
I have to admit that I enjoyed Sheamus' first match more than this second one. On the other hand, it was nice to see how much Sheamus put into this second match even though he was getting gassed and looked rather tired. I also have to comment on the new stunner-type move that Ryback hit when shell shocked didn't work out. It's nice to see him adding moves to his arsenal, and making them look good. I can't say I'm a huge Ryback fan, but he's obviously working hard to get ahead, and it's showing.
Winner – Sheamus (5:47)
In Ring Segment > B+
Steph to the ring, and saying what she said, you knew she was going to strip Bryan of the strap. That Kane dragged Bryan out the way he did, and left him in a heap, was a great way for them to keep the strap on Bryan, but for The Authority to be pissed off and want to take him down. I think this was strong booking.
WNW reader Evon commented on how she hopes that if the most horrible thing happens, and Bryan isn't able to return to the ring, that they will allow Bryan to have an Edge moment, and not go out like this. Evon, I'm all with you on this, and while Bryan hasn't been around as long as Edge has, if the unthinkable happens, I'd be shocked if they didn't let Bryan go out on a good note. But as we know, Bryan will be back and fighting as hard as ever.
Backstage Segment > B
I love Brie, but she really wasn't very believable here. She tried, but she just didn't make it work. Steph, on the other hand, sold wonderfully when she went from upset about Bryan, shocked that Brie yelled at her and pushed her, to totally pissed off. The final look in Steph's eyes told us that she's going to be out for revenge, and what Bryan and Brie have seen so far is nothing! This has a very AE feel, in a good way, and I'm excited!
Ziggler vs Fandango > B+
I actually really enjoyed this match. I think these two could have a solid feud and make it look good. We all know that Ziggler isn't going to be in the main event anytime soon, so why not have him in a solid feud with someone? Ziggler might need a Diva to run with him as well, though I don't think that Summer Rae could get over as a face at this point, even after being dumped by Fandango on Twitter. She's proven herself to be too much of a heel on Total Divas to go anywhere near being a face. At this point, Evil Marie could be a better face than Summer Rae right now.
Winner – Ziggler (4:50)
In Ring Segment > B
You know a character or storyline isn't working when they have to bring in the legends to help get someone, or something over. When Hacksaw came out, I wasn't sure where they were going with this segment, but then Lana came out and it was clear. I have to say that Lana really showed off her assets on the stage before she started talking. I somehow missed her assets before, and wow! I saw some Emma photobombing pics on Twitter, and Lana was in a one piece bathing suit. That bathing suit showed nothing compared to the red suit she wore on RAW!
Lana came across as a gem working against Hacksaw, but Rusev didn't fare as well. If they're going to keep Hacksaw with Big E and continue this as a feud, it might work, but otherwise I don't see Rusev getting very far with this character.
Cody vs Sandow > B
How do you pick between two wrestlers on a losing streak? I guess you have to go with the one who didn't start the show with a worked shoot. I'm thrilled to see that they're doing something with Sandow above having him playing Magneto. Now, I love Sandow's ability to poke fun at himself while being totally pissy about it. He's a lot of fun, and a great wrestler with wonderful charisma, he deserves this push, my only worry is that this shoot thing could be a bit CM Punk if done wrong. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Sandow, but also being wary of the booking.
Then there's Cody. He's been flailing a bit, and doesn't really have a direction. They've teased issues between Cody and Goldust, but they didn't really go there full bore. He's not really going anywhere, and that's a bad thing for such a talented wrestler. The same needs to be said about Goldust, but they're at such different points in their careers, that it's Cody who I'm most worried about.
Winner – Cody (4:52)
Video > B-
Still, not the best recap video. It wasn't a horrible video for all that Bryan went through on RAW, but it wasn't the best we've seen from the production dept either.
DEP! > A-
What can I say that hasn't already been said about Bray on mic? Each week I approach this segment with dread! On Monday nights because he's one of the hardest people to take dictation from, because he's so unpredictable. When it's Heyman, I can think out where he's going before he goes there, with Bray, I always end up at least five minutes behind the actual show. I just cannot suss out his train of thought, so I'm always trying to catch up with where he's going. That is a horrible thing for me on Monday night writing, but a great thing for the fans, and Bray's career. Then there's Tuesdays when I have to come up with something else to say about Bray that hasn't already been said! What haven't I said about Bray at this point? The man is a genius in this character, and this character is genius because of the man portraying him. Movies are made and broken by the actors, and Windham has made this movie more than anyone could have dreamed, and he's luck he had the chance after the bad script and character he was given the last time around.
Batista vs Reigns > A-
We all knew this was going to turn into a brawl. It's just the way things happen in storylines like this, and the way these six guys work the best. I said earlier that I'm so happy that The Shield was able to go over at every turn in this episode of RAW, it gives Evo something to fight back from. That The Shield is ahead and still want to have a rematch at Payback shows that Evo have a lot more up their sleeves, and a lot more for us fans.
As with The Shield's attack earlier on Trip, I love how Ambrose and Rollins basically flew out of nowhere onto Orton and Trip, and then how Rollins came off announce to save Reigns from the pedigree. These six men are working together so beautifully, without a real weak link, but I worry that whoever is brought in to replace Batista won't be as strong. That Batista is still working live shows makes me wonder when he's planning on going to work his next movie, and why Sheamus is still face. Maybe they're leading up to a great swerve. Fingers crossed.
No Contest (4:18)
Last week's episode of RAW was so piss poor that I was kind of worried with the direction they were going. Post-WrestleMania is always one of the hardest times of the year to be a wrestling, and especially a WWE fan, but this episode shows me that they're not just dropping the ball for the next couple months when it's time to start building for SummerSlam again. The stronger the WWE is year round, the better off the company, the wrestlers and the fans will be, and this episode of RAW showed a lot of spunk! That they started off with the 'incident' with Sandow during the Pre-Show was fantastic and will bring a lot of watchers in for next week. And then following it up with Fox's fit, Bryan's news and beat down, Bray being amazing, and the fighting between The Shield and Evo. This was a strong week for RAW, and I'm excited to see what they're going to have for next week.
Queen of WNW