It isn't often I can say that I have to take a step back and really analyze a situation, but Monday Night Raw this week has taken things and thrown my normal perception of them out the window. Between the numerous surprises we got and just the above average in ring product, one has to wonder if WWE is looking at what we fans are saying and actually taking them into account. But the really big story coming out of Raw this week was John Cena retaining the World Heavyweight Championship despite a cash in by Damien Sandow. And while I admit I was against Sandow's loss when it happened, after having the last few days to reflect on it I am all for it. Sandow looked much stronger in that single loss than he has in the 2 years since he debuted. If Sandow ended up winning the WHC off of Cena using the methods he displayed, then people wouldn't have taken his reign very seriously, as he would have been just like every other heel that has cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase! But on top of giving Sandow some legitimacy as a main event caliber talent, it made the MITB Case look fallible. Mow why's that important you might ask? Because the MITB had become monotonously predictable. Anyone who held one was assured of winning the Title they were after. Now there is the true mystery on if the carrier will win the title, not just when. Maybe the powers that be chose the wrong person to pull this play on, maybe it was the perfect time. Only time will tell whether the gambit will have worked out. One thing is for sure though, we saw a star born on Raw.
Break it Down!
Opening Segment: 8.75
It is great to see Cena is dedicating himself to Smackdown and to the World Heavyweight Championship. Smackdown's ratings have been flagging of late and we all know the issues of relevancy the WHC has suffered over the past few years. Hopefully Cena can help bring both of them back to their former glory. Speaking of former glory, Cena is getting that swagger he had as the Doctor of Thuganomics back! It seems lie the time off gave him a little bit of inspiration! Zeb's interruption of Cena was quite interesting and it gave Cena a chance to work off of someone he wouldn't have had a chance to otherwise, thanks to the difference in card status. And Cena hit a nail on the head about Swagger's looks! He does look like Biff from Back to the Future! Sandow's theme got an upgrade! I didn't think it was possible, but it sounds even more grandiose. Sandow said what I am sure half of the IWC is thinking about Cena. And while there may be some merits to it, Cena more than earned this reign thanks to his hard work to return ahead of schedule. Of course, this would break down into a brawl that would see the Rhodes Dynasty come out for the save and cause Vickie to come out to make the Teddy Long Special. But even that bit of predictable booking couldn't mar this segment.
Shield Video: 7
This was a decent promo, but considering what we have seen from The Shield in the past, I have to say this felt a little underwhelming. Ambrose has such a commanding mic presence that it is kind of like when we see Ric Flair on the mic. We never know what will come out of his mouth, but we expect it to be great. Sadly, that wasn't the case here. It got the message across, but I didn't feel it like I normally do. And the “Believe in The Shield” Reigns delivered tonight was much more subdued than is his normal. I'm just hoping it was that they had an off night.
The Shield (Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose) vs. The Usos: 8.5
I have to say that I was quite impressed with this match, and more than just with The Shield! The Usos have some fantastic ring skills that they have only been getting to really showcase over the last 3 months and a fantastic chemistry that so few teams have. That was a crazy toss to the outside on Rollins! I winced at that bump! Big E. providing backup for the Usos was a nice touch! Considering the issues Big E. has had in getting a fair US Title match, it is perfectly understandable that he would help out the Usos. Also, thank the Overlords I don't have to worry about seeing Big E.'s grapefruits anymore! He finally found the well fitting singlet! Jay pulled of a fantastic Spinebuster on Rollins. Shades of his uncle, The Rock, there! Almost everything in this match was crisp and great, but there was one small blemish with the hot tag by Jay and Seth Rollins. Rollins and Jay mistimed it and there was a visible point where Rollins was trying to grab Jay's leg and couldn't. However, I have to say that it was quite a shocking win for the Usos! And thanks to the post match fiasco, I think we may have seen a couple of the matches for Raw! Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. The Usos again and Big E. vs. Roman Reigns.
Winners: The Usos (Pin)
Raw Recap: 8.5
HBK and Bryan was an intense segment! HBK going full bore heel is something I didn't realize I missed until I saw it happen again! He has a gravitas that is all his own in that ring, and I think Bryan is a perfect counterpoint for him to work against with his renewed heel nature. Bryan is so over as a face right now that HBK working against him will push that boundary further into the stratosphere.
One has to wonder about the direction of the Wyatt Family with their involvement against Punk and Bryan. Considering Bray's prior promos, we can see the obvious link that they are our “Heroes”, like The Miz and Kofi Kingston before them. But the real speculative item here is the line Bray delivered: The Devil made me do it. There have been many names tossed about on who it may be, from VKM ala the Corporate Ministry days and HHH or Steph hedging their bets to hold their power as The Authority, to Father James Mitchell, AJ Lee, Paul Heyman, Kane, and possibly a reveal of a real Sister Abigail! Personally, I think the greatest credence is with the VKM camp, but one could hope that the obvious solution isn't the road taken!
The Primetime Players vs. The Wyatt Family: 8
WHOA! That entrance was creepy! I'll take them just appearing in the ring like they did tonight after a video over coming out to their theme anyday of the week. It adds to the mystery. And looks like the focus is continuing just as I previously thought. Under emphasize the Devil talk and refocus on Bray taking out our perceived heroes. I love Harper's sounds and his Gator Roll! Both men do quite well in their motions on selling their characters. And Titus is getting a good following! It was a small one, but when Darren was playing the damsel, there was a “We want Titus” chant.
Interesting note: Wyatt's shirt said wrath with an anarchist's A written on it. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but with that there, I can't say that Bray is working with an authority figure.
Winners: The Wyatt Family (Pin)
Kane Recap: 9
That was a quite unexpected development with Kane! And while some will criticize it as yet another flip-flop of his character status, as he seems to flip between face and heel as much as Mr. Anderson does in TNA, the promo and subsequent removal of the mask has me wondering how Kane will be involved in The Authority's storyline. Needless to say, it is these little questions and surprises that will keep me tuning in!
Miz TV: 7.75
There are some heavy bags under Miz's eyes of late. I know he does a ton of media appearances and the like, but the man looks exhausted. So HBK has been touted all night as the guest and he isn't going to appear? Talk about a let down! I know the live crowd had to be disappointed. I like Orton's Viper sideplates. They really look good, and I like the little bits of customization that each champion is able to bring the belt. Ouch! Orton said what many of us are thinking about The Miz. Ever since WM 27, he has fallen into obscurity and irrelevancy. And Orton revealed that HHH banned Big Show before the announce team showed us the video! But all of that is moot, as Orton proved Miz's irrelevance in WWE. Between the minute and a half squash by Kane on Monday and getting laid out yet again by Orton tonight, Miz might as well be Zack Ryder now.
Shop Promo: 9
Ziggler nailed it here! It is a real shame he is seemingly in WWE's doghouse right now, as the guy can flat out entertain. I really like that they are letting the talents pitch the merchandise in these little segments, as it gives the fans a chance to see them without being in a match or a promo. Plus, it showcases the items that you may not have known you wanted! I want some Bleacher Creatures now!
Natalya and the Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee, Tamina, and Alicia Fox: 7.25
Wow, other than her looks, how is Alicia still employed in WWE? I know that she is a great goodwill ambassador for WWE, but dear Overlords she is bad in the ring. And mind you, this was a step up from her normal ring work! Tamina wasn't too bad tonight. No visible botches is a good start for her considering the last few weeks. And I have to say how impressed I am with how the Bellas have turned their work around! If I had to give an example 6 months ago of who I thought I'd say was the most improved person in WWE on their body of work, I'd never have thought I'd say the Bella Twins! And I am really proud to see that Natalya just got a win over AJ! Finally, it looks like she will get a chance at the Divas Title! I said it 5 weeks ago when AJ first faced off against Brie for the Divas Title that AJ would have to work through all of the other divas on the cast of Total Divas before she would face Natalya one on one and lose the title. Well, it looks like we may finally be seeing it!
Winners: Natalya and the Bella Twins (Sub)
Raw Rebound: 5
Over the course of the night, through various other recaps, we have seen 90% of what was shown in this recap. Although I will re-empathize one thing I said in the Raw Watch Party this past Monday night: That had to be the single sloppiest KO Punch I have ever seen Big Show deliver.
WWE.com Recap: 8
I like these kayfabe videos that WWE has been producing for The Authority's storyline. And it is giving HHH even more credence as an executive with the way they are delivering them as of late. Plus, given that not everyone accesses WWE.com, it is nice that they play them on Smackdown so the casual fan can keep up with them. And Cole showing his journalistic chops has me wanting to dig up some of his news correspondent days! But really, do I need to say more than this meme?
John Cena and The Rhodes Dynasty vs. The Real Americans and Damien Sandow: 9.5
First off, I have to have Sandow's new shirt! “I think therefore I am.” is one of my favorite sayings, plus the way it continues the message on the back with “greater than you” fits perfectly into Sandow's arrogance! The match had a slow start thanks to the early commercial, but it quickly picked up steam! We got a Hurricanrana and a Spear by Cena, a beautiful Springboard Dropkick and Moonsault by Cody, 24 swings by Cesaro along with that European Uppercut on Cena and the Gutwrench counter from the AA, some far above his average work by Swagger, a fantastic amount of damseling by Goldust while still looking incredible, and Sandow showing that ruthless, main event level talent we knew was there but WWE wasn't letting us see! What a match!
As a side note, Cole looks absolute bored at the 1:42 mark of the show! Considering it was before the last break, it could be said that it was fatigue from calling an entire show, but it was a horrid thing for the production crew to show the fans.
Winners: John Cena and The Rhodes Dynasty (Pin)
Overall Wrestling Grade: 8.25
Overall Segment Grade: 8
Overall Show Grade: 8.5
Well, I didn't even realize until I was going over the grades that we only had 4 matches and that they were all tag matches! Considering the length and quality of all of the matches, the Divas included for once, I could let the lack of a singles match on the show slip by. Add that to the fact that we had good segments and a flow that Smackdown has seemed to lack of late, and we had one of the best Smackdowns since Wrestlemania! One small note I would like to pose is the conspicuous absence of the former WHC Alberto Del Rio. Maybe WWE realized he doesn't draw like they thought he did?
I want to close this week with a request to my readers. I know that you are out there and while I have to help rebuild things due to my own inconsistency issues over the last couple of months, I want to see you guys comment more here. If you frequent the Raw and Impact Watch Parties, you know that I love engaging with you in debates on your posititons. But I can't do that here if I don't see you! Feel free to leave a comment on here, and if you have any suggestions for different things you'd like to see here in the Breakdown, tell me!