23 years later lightening strikes again and it all seemed like a thrown together match. I will fully admit that I didn't know that Mr. Perfect won the IC Title for the first time on April 23, 1990, 23 years ago. Father's Day was the perfect night for Axel to step up and win the IC Title. As soon as he was announced to bring it back to a Triple Threat Match, I knew he would be winning the belt. Of course it didn't hurt that Barrett has had a terrible reign, and Miz just isn't getting over with the fans enough to be strapped at this point – even though I don't agree with Gesus that Miz's fig 4 is that bad.
Even though AJ is a heel right now, and lot of people don't take her seriously in the ring (though you should), I'm impressed. She tweeted that, "I did it my way." I love that she didn't bow to T&A, she stayed true to being the geek she is, and made it to the top by being who she really is – even if she does have to wear a padded bra (her words, not mine). I'm thrilled to see such a different Diva at the top, and I can't wait to see more battles between her and Kaitlyn very soon.
But for me the best past of Payback was the end. I might have been making absurd predictions lately, but for the second month in a row I have come up with a main even prediction that leaves people with their jaws hanging open. Last month was that Cena and Ryback would not end with a clean winner. This month I said that Cena would win the Ambulance Match by putting Ryback in through the top. The reactions in the Live Blog got a bit ugly when certain people realized that I called the end of the main event so exactly. I doubt I'll be doing that again, but it sure was fun Sunday night!
In Ring Segment > B
I'm still feeling like ADR is missing something, somewhere. He just doesn't seem as fully invested in everything he does, or not as invested as he really should be in the WWE. He got the heat, but anyone who abused Ziggler after all he's been through, would get that heat. Again, I have to say that Ricardo helped get ADR the heat. I like that this time around Ricardo is also very obviously heel, not just a wimpy face getting abused by his heel employer. As per usual, I thought Ricardo played it up so much better than ADR did. If it had only been ADR out there with Ricardo, I would have given the segment a C+, the plus being for Ricardo. ADR was running on the heat he got from the match, and while he said all the right things, I didn't feel it. From him it just doesn't feel like enough. He's not believable.
Then Punk came out and brought this segment to life. I have to admit that I'm thrilled he's a face again, but in all honesty, Punk is great no matter what he's doing. There's a reason the fans were on the edges of their sofas waiting to see if Punk would appear at Payback, and while he did have a bit of ring rust, he was what Payback was all about. I'm excited to see what Punk has in store for us going forward, because while we all know what happened at the end of RAW, we don't know how Punk is going to react to it.
Backstage Segment > B+
Punk and Heyman, that's just genius. Their chemistry and timing as a team has been great, I can't wait to see what they're going to do at odds.
Barrett vs Christian > B
I was thrilled to see Christian back. When Jericho tweeted this past weekend that he'd found Christian, I figured we'd be seeing him soon, but not this soon! I wasn't thrilled that Christian was in the ring with Barrett who has been a huge disappointment to me since his return. Christian looked stronger than he should after such a long time from the ring, but I think they were smart in keeping this match short. Christian is another person I'm excited to see what's going to happen with going forward.
Winner – Christian (3:10)
Videos > B
The Wyatt Family videos are all very strong, but they're going to start losing a lot if they don't keep upping the ante with each video, or bring them in. I'll admit that the WWE had plenty of room for them to come up and shine, but with Punk's return, and Christian is back, and RVD is returning, and Brock is around, so they need to do something big with the Wyatt Family, and do it soon before they're lost in the shuffle, because that would be an absolute travesty.
Rhodes Scholars vs Sheamus > D-
What the bloody heck was this all about? In an episode of RAW where almost everything went right, this was a huge wrong. I cannot blame the wrestlers for this, this was all about creative and booking. This was all creative's fault, and I'm disgusted by how they basically threw away Rhodes Scholars by booking them in this match. I don't care that they won, they should have won! There's two of them, and they're a strong team. They were feuding with Team Hell No, then they're booked to look weak in a match against Sheamus? The worst segment of the night, hands down!
Winners – Rhodes Scholars (3:29)
Videos > B
I cannot say how happy I am that RVD is back with the WWE. I was very unhappy with how he was treated in TNA, and glad he didn't go back there. In TNA RVD went from being the golden boy to not being worth anyone's time and it was horrible to see. There's been some questions about why RVD has been announced, but won't be with the WWE for a month, well I know he has some dates to fulfill before he can start. I know that RVD will be with Big Time Wrestling Friday June 21st in Everett, MA, and Saturday June 22nd in Webster, MA. I'm really bummed that I'm not going to be able to make it down to either of these events, but if you are able to go, please let me know.
Backstage Segment > B
I'm liking how they're growing this storyline with Trip taking control backstage. It's a smart move going into summer, and I think Vickie is handling herself very well early on.
Backstage Segment > B+
Kane and Bryan manage to bring the fans in and hold them tight in all these segments. I've said from the start that these short segment work the best for these two, and even though the segment are no longer comedic the way they were, the chemistry is still there, and they make it all work so beautifully. I specifically loved how Bryan said it was written all over Kane's face, and the way they used Bryan's initials, and stepped away from being perfectly PG without actually saying a word. That was really strong writing on top of the fantastic delivery from these two men.
Orton vs Bryan > A
While I never like seeing anyone hurt, I was quite impressed with how everything was handled here. First off, Bryan and Orton looked great in the ring together, and that they were avoiding each others big moves is something we don't see enough of. I was a bit shocked when the doctor got in the middle of things, but didn't stop the match. I was also a bit shocked that we didn't see the ref throw the X, but I guess with the ref right there, it wasn't needed. Personally, I'd rather see the doctor involved the way he was in this match, than have the ref have to throw up the X to get help to the ring.
I was confused about the doctor being on screen, then allowing the match to continue, but then when he stopped the match I was wondering if it was a work or not. Bryan is good, but he looked really wrong as he sat there beside the barricade, but it was Orton who sealed the deal for me. Orton has been rather harsh when dealing with Bryan, and it has looked like he's in the process of turning heel, but then he went over and extended his hand to Bryan and pulled him up into a hug. That's when I knew that things were not going as planned. That's a side of Orton we rarely see, even when he's full on face. Then the way they both left ringside seemed off. Jesse and I were talking through this and agreed that when Orton broke kayfabe that the ending of the match had chanced because of the doctor not wanting Bryan to continue. I did like how they continued the storyline later in the show talking about how Bryan get in Trip's face about the match being stopped. It was a very in-character way to continue the storyline, even without putting them on screen. Even though it was just a stinger, I'm glad the doctor was so on top of Bryan and his health. I think they handled it really well for Bryan, and on screen for the fans. It's nice to know the wrestlers are really being taken care of out there, no matter what happens.
Winner – Orton (15:01)
In Ring Segment > B+
I loved the banter between Steph and AJ! The two of them were fantastic together, and it's something I never expected to see. Seeing Steph go up one side of AJ and down the other for things her character would have done back in the day was kind of funny, and great that AJ called her on it. I've stated for years how sexy Steph is, and we all know what a sexy little thing AJ is, but watching Steph rail on AJ like that looked like a mother ripping on her tween daughter. We all know how petite AJ is, especially around the guys, but in the ring with Steph dressed so professionally really brought a mother/daughter feel to things, even though the ages are all wrong. I enjoyed how Steph exerted her role as boss over both AJ and Kaitlyn, actually over all the Divas. It had a bit of younger Steph in there, but also much more maturity than we've ever seen from her, and showing that she is her father's daughter.
I thought Big E got lost in the mix there, but did a great job of carrying AJ out when she got in trouble. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Kaitlyn's wardrobe malfunction. We've all dealt with it, okay, most of us have dealt with it, but few of us on worldwide TV. I have to admit that while most of us haven't had our boobs fall out with so many people watching it, she handled it more gracefully than most, no matter when it happens.
Ambrose vs Kane > C
After all the great matches we've seen from these guys, this was a huge letdown. I know that it was to continue the storyline, and they did it for a reason, but it was so expected and left me rolling my eyes. This was the second issue I had with RAW, and it had nothing to do with the work from the wrestlers.
Winner – Kane via DQ (1:34)
Backstage Segment > B+
Ambrose made this segment for me. Yes, McMahon and Vickie were both really strong, but it was Ambrose's facial expressions that made this so much more than the sum of its parts.
Stage Segment > B
While I thought they were stretching a bit to pair Cesaro with Zeb, we all saw it coming, and it was executed beautifully. I understand that they're playing characters, but I found it a bit odd when Cesaro was reciting the Pledge with Zeb after the match.
Cesaro vs Regal > B+
Finally we see Cesaro able to show his strength in the ring and look good doing it. And I was so excited to see Regal in the ring! I don't know why they decided to have Cesaro face Regal, other than he's not from the USA, but there's so many others who would have fit that bill. It doesn't bother me in the least as I loves me some Regal, even if he is losing. Seeing Cesaro hit the neutralizer again, and while I'm not sure about the flag thing, it's an interesting touch.
Winner – Cesaro (2:44)
In Ring Segment > B
Cena was Cena on mic. What's there to be said about him? He gets the fans riled up – love him or hate him. I do like that he's embracing the haters as well as those who stand behind him at every turn. It's nice to see that he's not letting the haters get him down, though the work he does outside the ring has to remind him of those who really do love him.
In Ring Segment > A+
When the rumors were flying that Henry might be retiring, I informed my younger daughter Sam that it looked as though I was going to have to stop abusing Henry. She was really bummed by this. Sam has this little girl's pipe dream that Henry is going to get so mad at what I write that he's going to show up here to talk to me about all these mean things I've been saying about it. I guess it wasn't a good thing that we took Cousin Larry – Fandango's original trainer – out to lunch before a wrestling show where he tagged with Tony Atlas and Rikishi. Then she got to meet Kevin Nash who she was in awe of because Scott Hall is her favorite wrestler, and she got to meet Rikishi, and Tony Atlas. Then, most recently, she got to meet John Cena Sr., so she thinks I have more of an in with the wrestlers than I actually do. So I'm quite the hero in some ways, but that Henry might be retiring and won't be getting mad at me, made her rather sad.
Well, I hate to break it to her, but I won't be saying anything bad about Henry here. Early on I was quite impressed with that suit jacket. I wasn't sure of it at first glance, but Henry's complexion is so dark that the color was beautiful against his skin. He has enough personality to wear items like that jacket, and I'm glad he did wear it for this segment. After seeing that jacket, I want to climb into his closet. Because of his size he has to have a lot of items specially made, as I'm sure that jacket was, and if that jacket is any indicator of his style, his closet has to be just amazing!
Now to the really important part of this segment, Henry's work. I had a heck of a time writing this segment last night because I went back and forth between believing Henry, and saying that there's no way he's retiring. I actually stopped the DVR at one point because I was choking up. Henry sold every little moment of that segment. I got a bit of an inkling when he said to the fans that he wasn't Mae Young. He was a bit too flip there and had me wondering, but honestly, that's just me looking for problems. Henry hit all the perfect things, all the things that would make you believe he was seriously retiring – his beautiful wife, his son who's obsessed with wrestling, his little daughter who cries each time he leaves. He hit all the right moments, and sold the emotion. His voice caught, you could hear the tears in his voice, see the tears streaming from his eyes. Honestly, the last time we saw true emotion like that was when Edge retired, and that's what I felt from Henry. He couldn't have hit that any harder, and I'm thrilled that I got to watch it live, and write it as it happened.
The way he worked off Cena was fantastic. I did wonder why he was keeping Cena right there through this, that was another thing that made me wonder if Henry was playing us. Cena handled the seriousness of it all very well too, but this was all about Henry. I do have to say that it's convenient that Henry's finisher starts off with a hug. Okay, that was Stacy's comment when it happened, and I couldn't help but laugh. Stacy was sure through the whole thing that Henry was retiring, and I when I went back and forth about it, Stacy told me that Henry was absolutely retiring and wouldn't believe me until the end.
Now, don't think that because Henry got an A+ for this segment that I'm going to be at all easy on him going forward, but I will say that he's more than won me over again. I was a huge fan for many years, and for the first time in a very long time, it feels as though Henry is fully invested in the WWE. I hope it's not just because he's going after the WWE Championship, but sometimes we have to take what we can, where we can, and Henry sure gave it to us all in this segment!
Backstage Segment > B
Henry was still really on here, and sold it well. I'm interested in seeing where he's going to take this.
Jericho vs Slater > C+
If anyone should have been in a Handicap Match, it should have been 3MB against Jericho, as that's what it turned into anyway, and it worked for what it was. Was annoyed to see Jericho in the ring with Slater after facing the likes of Punk the night before, absolutely! While Jericho made the match work, the booking of the segment was terribly daft. Here's the WWE doing so many great things on RAW, then they throw this creative mess into the mix. What were they thinking? I know Jericho wants to help Superstars work their way up, but it would take months and months of work after all the crap they've handed to 3MB.
Winner – Jericho (2:19)
Backstage Segment > B
Heyman really is an evil genius. I'm so glad Punk brought Heyman back to the WWE. And I'm ecstatic that the WWE paired him with Joe Hennig.
1-800-FELLA? I gave it a B because it was a change of pace, funny, and I'm on a high from how great RAW is, but I'm not going to be so easy on the next one.
Sin Cara vs Axel > B-
Okay, on Smackdown when these two faced off, they didn't use the golden lights, but on RAW they did. I wonder why that is. But I have a bigger question, why do they keep putting Axel in the ring with Sin Cara? I really don't understand it. Yes, Sin Cara is someone for Axel to squash, and Sin Cara gets off a few moves to make the match more interesting, but there's no storyline there, and I think Axel is in need of an actual feud at this point. Yes, there's that question about him and Trip, but Axel needs someone to feud with on a regular basis, and someone more prestigious than Senor Snake Bit.
Winner – Axel (2:43)
Backstage Segment > B+
Personally, I'm loving the antics of the McMahon family. They're not beating each other up, or doing anything terribly nasty to each other, but they sure have Vickie tied up in a knot. McMahon wanted a solid storyline for the summer, something to keep the fans engaged. I find it engaging, and I think most fans who have followed the trials and tribulations of the McMahon family, especially Steph and Trip through The McMahon-Helmsley Era, will thoroughly enjoy this storyline. It's also a great way to show how Steph and Trip are slowly taking over for McMahon.
Backstage Segment > A-
This segment was a delightful swerve. Heyman being all lovey-dovey with Punk before he went to the ring made Heyman look needy. Little did we know...
Punk vs ADR > B+
This was a really solid match. They both worked really hard in the ring, and advanced their characters quite well in the ring, but I did have one little issue with the match. I know it's ADR's thing to soften up his opponent's left arm for his finisher, but I am so bored with him spending every match doing exactly the same thing, and in a not very interesting way. It also doesn't help that he's right back to not giving his all in the ring, the way he didn't give it on mic starting the show. I've been saying this for a very long time, but it's obvious, because the WWE was daft enough to strap him, ADR needs a finisher! Having a submission finisher is great, more wrestlers need to have one, but ADR needs a finishing move as well. That he doesn't have one makes him look quite ineffectual, and rather lame in my book. Luckily Punk was in this match to pick up the pieces.
Winner – Punk via Count Out (9:35)
In Ring Segment > A-
As soon as Brock's music hit, I knew what was going to happen. He did a great job teasing that he was going to say something to Punk, but this is Brock and he's barely said more than a paragraph on WWE TV in 2013! Punk wanted to feud with Brock, and now he has it. I wonder if that's what they used to get Punk back. The one issue I have with this segment is that Punk looked as though he was having troubles keeping the giggles in when he was face down on the mat. He nose was all smooshed on the mat, but he was giddy.
I was really impressed with this episode of RAW. It was quite possibly the best RAW we've seen in a couple years. The past couple weeks have had some of the best wrestling, this episode had some of the best storylines and vignettes – the best being Henry's – now all they have to do is bring it all together and the WWE might be a force to be reckoned with again. I'm really believing in what the WWE has been giving us, and after this episode of RAW, I'm wondering what they're going to give us next. I'm giddy at the mere thought next Monday night!