Welcome to Raw Is Blogged! Kendra is out this week preparing for GNEW, so I am taking it over. She will be back next week with her regularly scheduled blog. As usual, I will be keeping to her scoring system and breaking it down by the different segments. Let's get to it!
Personally, I hate when Raw opens with a recap video, especially when they are going to just go over it again at least two or three times throughout the night. And to make matters worse, it was a recap of the blatant product integration from last week's show, interspersed with highlights for the Authority's attack on Lesnar. I know this new revenue stream is important to WWE, but they really need to be careful they don't tick off the fans in the process. And if last week's ratings are any indicator, they are teetering VERY close to that line.
Lesnar and Heyman:A
It was quite obvious WWE was worried about ratings after last week with Heyman and Lesnar opening the show this time. And it was a perfect decision, as it made the crowd white hot to start the show! Not that Chicago needs any help! But if they don't already, EVERY worker should be watching Heyman. The Nightmare of Suplex City? That was a perfect description and delivery. And who would have thought 3 words uttered in the heat of the moment in a match would have become such a huge deal? Say what you will about Lesnar otherwise, but he knows how to market himself brilliantly. There really isn't much else to say about these two men. Heyman is very rarely not on point in his diatribes. Lesnar is as big and bad as he claims to be. In the world of WWE, he is as close to a god as you can get right now. For the past year and a half, no one has defeated Lesnar clean. The closest anyone has came to doing it was Cena at Night of Champions 2014, and even that would have been questionable. And that was exactly what WWE needed to do with a part time talent like him. And even taking that away, Heyman plays to the crowd unlike anyone else in WWE history. He has them perfectly situated in the palms of his hands at all times, and when they do something unexpected to him, he can roll with it without missing a beat. And Lesnar's constant indifference as Heyman is spewing his logic just furthers his illusion of being an unstoppable monster.
While this really was just standard announce filler, I have to say that it really irked me that WWE couldn't do any better than they did with the photoshopped pictures of Kane "on vacation". Even my 8 year old son could do better than that! And what was up with JBL this week? He looked like he spent a few too many hours on the beach of his Bermuda beach house this week.
Big Show vs. Intercontinental Champion Ryback: C+
What was up with the production team before this match? Miz's mic had some serious feedback issues coming back from commercial. And it lasted a solid 15 seconds, which was way too long. I have to give credit where it is due though. The interviews Cole does with stars are a fantastic kayfabe device, and it gives workers a more relaxed atmosphere, so we can see more of their true persona. However... All Miz needs is a stick! He is easily one of the most irritating heels in the business today, and that is a good thing! He is clearly doing his job well. Plus, his banter distracted from a plodding mess of a match. Ryback is good, and Show can be too. But having two big guys in a one on one match is absolutely a clusterfluff. The styles just clash and the match suffers for it. Show gets points for doing something different on the return from the break! He had Ryback in a nice leglock submission instead of the standard headlock we almost always see, but otherwise this match was like plodding through a swamp. Sadly, with Miz out there, you knew this wasn't going to end in a clean manner, but at least Miz got his comeuppance for it with the post match beating! And though it dragged out a bit, it was fun to see him take it, which is a sign of a good heel!
Winner: Big Show via DQ
Commercial Break: B
Wait, I'm grading a commercial? YES! Because WWE just showed why Alicia Fox has been getting so much TV time of late. She is going to be in the SyFy show Dominion this week after Smackdown. I just hope her acting is better than her ring work, otherwise she could tank the show out the gate.
Announce Segment and J&J in Chicago: D
Ugh! Really? This has to be a running joke and segment? I really hope this ends soon, because I can feel my life wasting away with each one.
Brie Bella vs. Paige:D-
I am getting sick and tired of how the Divas Division is being treated on the main roster. I truly thought that the division couldn't sink any lower after the depths it has hit over the past few years, but now it has literally turned into the Bella Show, with Paige. With a roster 13 women deep, it shouldn't be the same 4-6 in matches every show. And while the Bellas have improved, when your finisher is a facebuster, no one is taking you seriously. I'm honestly glad Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch aren't being called up at this point. They'd be completely wasted. And can I just say that Brie's pants this week made me want to vomit. They looked painted on, and I am surprised with as much was cut away in them that they didn’t rip clean off and the live crowd get a strip show! But as I alluded to earlier, Alicia Fox showed just how bad her ring work is with just one botch! I swear, she is as bad as Bo Dallas. And the Axe Kick has been her finisher for over 7 years now, yet she still botches it almost everytime!
Winner: Brie Bella
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus: A-
Before this match begins, I have to say that this first hour of Raw has been paced quite oddly. Ryback's and Reigns' matches were both advertised on WWE's social media prior to the show, yet they both also took place early. Maybe it's WWE's way to try to keep fans on their toes? But either way, I'm glad because both matches didn't really appeal to me on paper or feel like main event level contests.
As for the match itself and the combatants, I want to formally state that Sheamus' new music and intro since his return are absolutely perfect. It feels like he is getting ready to go to war, like he literally stepped out of the WWE Immortals video game. In an era where so many guys blend together, Sheamus found a way to stand out. I get the story behind this match, because of MITB, but I find it funny that WWE's two most recent "It Boys" (Bonus points if you get the dated reference!) are in a mini feud as Reigns is getting ready to take on Wyatt. Both of them have had severe protection over the years, and both of them were slated to be the next big thing. Honestly, I can see Reigns possibly taking a similar path in a few years and he be stuck in midcard purgatory until he does something drastic to change it. Normally I am against guys with similar styles facing off against each other, like with Big Show and Ryback earlier, but Reigns and Sheamus actually made this work well. They took the time to tell a bit of a brawling story through the match, and from even before the bell, you felt like they had a disdain for each other. That's quality selling folks! Of course, Chicago being a finicky crowd like they are, had to chant for Voldemort halfway through the bout. But I have to give it to Sheamus, who would normally be perturbed by it, for just rolling with the crowd. Of course, this match couldn't end clean or without an appearance from Wyatt, and I like that he turned into a real mind game here by having a doppelganger. It adds more layers to the mystery underscoring him, and gives us something different than a promo.
Winner: Sheamus via Countout
Orton's Return: B+
First thing's first, congratulations are in order for the newly engaged Viper! And I have to say, it was nice to see him return here to pick up his feud with Sheamus. Yes, it is something we fans have seen countless times over the past 5 years, but when they both are not phoning things in, they can put on some high quality work. And the look on Sheamus' face when Orton's music hit was priceless! Of course, the brawl was fantastic, and the RKO was even sweeter! I'm honestly looking forward to this match in STL at Battleground!
Authority Backstage: B
This is what I sorely miss from Triple H! The Cerebral Assassin, the cold, calculating man that ruled the Raw roster for over a decade.I like that Rollins is helping bring it more out of him without it resulting in a 20 minute promo to open the show every week. Triple H always works best in smaller doses. And add in the fact that Steph has been off TV for a bit again too, and I am starting to love how they are scaling back the Authority without fully eliminating them. If they can keep this up, then I wouldn't be too opposed to them staying around.
In Ring Segment: A-
First things first... WOW! Lana's Twitter picture is absolutely stunning! Without the harsh makeup she employed for her character with Rusev and with her hair down, she is simply the single most beautiful woman in WWE right now. Rusev, in real life, is a very lucky man.
Wait, did he call Summer a submissive? That isn't exactly PG! But I have to give it to Rusev. He is getting better and better at cutting promos, even if he did flub a line here. He has a conviction behind his words that you can tell he is truly invested in his character. And while they thankfully kept Summer's lines short and sweet, I do feel she is a good Diva to have in this feud. she has just the sort of annoying, vapid character you'd expect to egg on a feud like this. And if anyone can help sell this feud on promos alone, it is Dolph. He is one of the better talkers in the WWE right now, and while I really hope this doesn't drag out too long, it could be a good way to keep Rusev over. Uh oh! Heels off means it's go time, but WWE swerved us with Rusev showing he is healed up and ready to go back in the ring! It looks like we have another match to look forward to at Battleground! And Rusev taking the crutch and jamming it into Ziggler's throat was absolutely vicious and brilliant writing by Creative. It makes it feel even more personal than if Rusev had just beat him down. My one complaint is that Summer should have had more camera awareness than she did, because she nearly flashed all of Lana's goodies to the entire world.
Bo Dallas vs. Dean Ambrose: C
I swear, every time I see Bo on my TV screen, I want to break it. He has a great persona for what he is doing, but his ring work is absolute CRAP! I've seen better work from complete newbies to the business. At least we had Ambrose here to save this match. And the Chi-town crowd to keep the home audience entertained! The "Please Bo Leave" chant was absolutely priceless! And Ambrose showed Bo how to properly execute a Bulldog! At least this was fairly short, so I won't grade this too harshly.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
King Barrett vs. R-Truth: C-
Ok, I found this whole thing fully about a month ago, but now it is starting to drag on a bit too much. Truth is great in a comedy role, and they are clearly using this to keep Barrett at least slightly relevant, but at this point it is becoming pathetic. Barrett has succumbed to the KotR curse and his stock has fallen immensely. And it is pretty sad, because if it wasn't for Barrett's glass body, he has the tools to be a top star. But at least Barrett finally picked up a win, even if it was fairly ugly. Maybe this will be a turn around point for him?
Winner: King Barrett
Announce Segment: B
I have to give WWE credit for once. They made sure there wasn't any plot holes for us to pick on by being sure Lana had her shoes off when she stepped into the ambulance. Far too often WWE ignores little things like that and it makes the suspension of disbelief that much harder to achieve.
Rollins and The Beast: A and F
UGH!!! J&J absolutely ruined that Cadillac! That looks about what a lot of the hicks around where I live would do if they got one, so I guess it fits perfectly with Noble's gimmick. But I'd love to have one, and that kind of mistreatment just is wrong! But enough about Noble's style choices, let's talk about the fact that Rollins is consistently delivering the best promos week in and out of anyone on the full time roster. He oozes that heel charisma that makes you want to root for whomever he is facing. I swear he could be against X-Pac, and X-Pac would actually get a face reaction! And while this was shorter than Rollins' normal promos, I have to give them props for using the ax handles for weapons. It is something that isn't used very often in WWE, and considering that Brock would take fire axes to the car in just a few short minutes, it was very appropriate.
But now that we are on the subject of Lesnar and the car... I have to take a stance I don't exactly like to. Normally I like Lesnar. He is an attraction and places eyes that aren't normally on the product simply thanks to his marketing and outside name recognition. But in the space of two weeks, he has not only put a WWE worker in the hospital, but he has YET AGAIN caused the live crowd to be in his crossfire. As we showed earlier here on WNW, when Lesnar slung the car door, the plastic quarter panel separated from the rest of the door and struck a fan at ringside. Yes, the fan was ultimately ok and got some free loot from WWE for it, but this is yet another case of Lesnar's recklousness potentially bringing a lawsuit on WWE's doorstep. And what makes it EVEN WORSE is that it happened in the same city as the last time, which was when he threw the monitor into the crowd on March 3, 2014. It's like WWE just can't seem to learn from history! At least Lesnar properly protected Mercury, and he landed correctly. The first grade is for Rollins and the concept of the segment, the second is for Brock's reckless attitude.
Lucha Dragons vs. New Day: B+
I have to say that it absolutely astounds me how much heat the New Day is able to garner! Normally, tag teams have an extremely difficult time pulling any sort of reaction from a crowd, but especially heat. And the New Day seem to have found a formula that works perfectly! Granted, it helps they have a chant that is easy for the crowd to get into, but the fact that it is as loud as it is every week... That shows WWE and VKM occasionally know what they are doing. I don't envy Kendra having to write the results whenever the Lucha Dragons are in the ring. They are high flyers that I don't think have had a single bad match on the main roster so far. And they seem to be able to work well with everyone! Kalisto especially. He flies around the ring like gravity just ignores him! One thing I actually like about Xavier Woods being on the outside of the ring is that it harkens back to the way the Primetime Players started with AW as their manager. He's a loudmouth, and I promise he could garner nuclear heat if he was given a live mic! But finally, someone called JBL out for not talking about what is pertinent at hand in a match! Titus ripped into him for bringing up the Cadillac in the middle of this excellent match, and still kept it entertaining. He and Young have some true talent, and I think it is more than fitting they are finally holding the tag titles. And Titus' play-by-play was excellent!!! Of course, since New Day are the #1 contenders, they picked up the win. But the match was very competitive, and quite entertaining.
Winners: New Day
WWE2K16 Cover Reveal: A+
While I don't like the fact they used the same video as Dot Com for the reveal on Raw, I love the fact Stone Cold is on the cover for 2K16! Who else would be fitting for this year? Brock Lesnar? Roman Reigns? PLEASE! Austin 3:16 was needed because so many fans associate the number 16 with SCSA. It is a great marketing technique, and WWE is sure to be capitalizing on it. I just hope the game does more than improve the visuals. A lot of features and customization options were pulled last year, and WWE needs to be sure they get back in, unless they want the fans to stop buying the games.
In Ring Segment: A
I don't care how many times I hear the singing of the crowd to Cena's music or the divided crowd, it will never get old. Cena is the most polarizing figure in wrestling history, and the fact the crowd gets behind him in such a way is a testament to the impact the man has made on the business. I love that they gave us a highlight reel from Owens/Balor in Japan for those of us unable to watch or who haven't bought the Network yet. Just from the highlight video, it looks like it was an instant classic and match of the year candidate. I have to give Cena credit for rolling with a crowd that was predominantly hostile crowd. Yes, he went as Jericho called it, Poopy Cena, but even there, he was good. He didn't go too cheesy with it. But when Owens' music hit and he seemed to be the one challenging for the US Title, I marked completely out! Owens said what was on the minds of a lot of us smart fans. Cena says the same things every week. That they worst part of Raw is his promos. Owens' shot from the hip in a penultimate heel fashion, and thanks to it being a Chicago crowd, he was immediately the face! But then we got Cesaro's music and the show just got even better!!! Last week, Cesaro more than proved he deserved to hang with the main event guys. And his promo, while it sputtered a little in the middle, was overall leaps and bounds better than almost every other one he has ever done. Honestly, I hoped that we would have had a triple threat match, which would have been a fantastic change of pace, but I have absolutely no objections to Cesaro against Cena again!
United States Championship Match:
John Cena © vs. Cesaro: A+++
WOW! Are we sure this was Monday Night Raw and not a PPV? This was clearly one of the best matches that we have had on Raw this year, if not the past couple of years. Michael Cole said it best: Cena has restored the prestige to U.S. Championship with this reign. But for this match, if you didn't see it, none of my words will do it justice. It is a must see match, an instant classic. From the start, they told a story with the match. Cesaro feeling the need to prove himself and take the title from Cena; Cena needing to hold on to it against the odds he stacked for himself. And the pacing of the match was simply divine! Unlike most matches that start in a low gear and suddenly ramp up at the end, Cena and Cesaro took their time and progressed it naturally and fluidly, like floating down a river.Cesaro more than impressed early on with his squat during his Delayed Suplex, and Cena busted out his beautiful dropkick and an Electric Chair Drop. Then after each commercial, they kept turning it up further and further! But I have to give the shock of the night to Cesaro pulling out a perfect Crossface, and Cole even publically calling it that! I think it is the first true one we've seen since HBK's feud with The Undertaker. Yes, I know Bryan's Yes Lock is technically one too, but this was a proper Crippler Crossface! Even the couple botches that happened during the match, such as Cena being caught talking to a camera guy to watch out and the Springboard Stunner (I wish he'd stop doing it, it rarely looks right!) couldn't marr the quality of this contest. Incredible moves such as Cesaro's Spinning Springboard European Uppercut, the Cenacanrana, and Cena countering the swing into a DDT kept every fan completely engrossed. Once the overrun began, there was absolutely no denying they were both in fifth gear, and it was a thrill ride from that point on. Between the Triple Gutwrench Suplexes, the Sharpshooter to Crossface transfer, to the amazing Tigerplex counter from the STF, and the apron suplex, Cesaro put EVERYTHING out there. And with every move each man gave and took, this match become more and more legendary. If Cesaro doesn't get a push after this, VKM has no idea what a star is anymore. And it goes to show that what Cena needs isn't just a quality opponent, but TIME to show what he can do. This match was over 30 minutes long, and I was engaged every second of it, as was most of the readers in the Open Thread Party. It may need to be quality over quantity most of the time, but this shows the quantity can be a good thing too.
As an aside from the match, I think it is time we start dispelling the "5 Moves of Doom" myth from Cena as well. This match more than showcased his moveset, and I went the extra mile to list what he used in this match alone, as follows: Irish Whip, Side Slam, Dropkick, Electric Chair Drop, Attitude Adjustment, Shoulder Block, Five Knuckle Shuffle, Drop Toe Hold, STF, DDT, Clothesline, Huricanrana, Spinning Facebuster, Flying Crossbody, Super Fameasser, Tornado DDT, Powerbomb, Super AA. So for those of you counting at home, that's 18. Even taking out the standard and high risk variations of moves, that's still 13. 2.5 times what people claim he has. :)
Winner: John Cena
Post Match Segment: A
Of course, right after Cena wins, Owens has to come in for the attack. But for once, Cena seemed to be ready for it and countered a Pop Up Powerbomb with an AA. It's a bit of a change of pace from what we have been getting the last few weeks in this feud. I'm not big on the no-sell of the AA by Owens, but in the scheme of things, they can claim Cena was fatigued and Owens was fresh, so there wasn't as much power behind it.
Overall Wrestling Grade:B
Overall Segment Grade:B-
Overall Show Grade: A-
It's amazing just how much a good match or segment can bring up how a show feels in retrospect. That main event was leaps and bounds over anything we have had in months. And both Lesnar segments, other than the issue with the door, were great WWE TV. Overall, It was a great show and makes me have faith that WWE can turn the product around if they just apply themselves a bit more. Feel free to give your thoughts about the show below, and Kendra will be back to give you her thoughts next week!