Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton discuss Hell in a Cell
Last week, Shawn Michaels was announced as the special guest referee for the upcoming WWE Championship match between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. Makes sense - a third match between these two needs something special to hype it up, and with the dusty finishes in the previous two, it makes sense for that "something special" to be a special guest referee. HBK works in this role - hates Randy, likes Triple H, likes Bryan. He's conflicted, so you can't predict if he'll call it straight down the line or turn on one of the challengers. It works.
Here's my issue with this opening segment - HBK kind of sucks on the mic. His whole shtick is "goofy legend", and he falls back on it heavily here. He jokes about "your old buddy HB Shizzle" calling the match and generally doesn't add much to the storyline. Nothing's gained besides a few groans when he says to Randy "were you saying something? I wasn't listening!" You'd be as well as adding in a few comedy horns in the background as Shawn winks into the camera. Randy does as well as he can as a heel in his hometown - he gets some heat from the crowd, and there's a nice bit of physicality in the end of the segment when Randy goes for the RKO and HBK for the Sweet Chin Music. There's no lasting impression left though - a bit of a dull segment, all told.
The Miz vs. Randy Orton followed by Wyatt appearance
I'll preface this segment by saying I've started to watch wrestling alongside my flatmate, so the way I've been watching wrestling has changed. If a match is great, then it's really great - we both really get into the match and it's heightened as a result. However, the reverse is also true - a stinker is made worse as we both chat amongst ourselves. It's the living room equivalent of chanting "RANDY SAVAGE" at a live event.
If I'd been watching alone, I'd likely have lumped a B- on this and went on my way. But, it was made worse by boring two people instead of one. Here's a few reasons why:
- The Miz doesn't work as a face. The crowd loved it when the Wyatts threatened beating him down a while back and they loved it when Randy did it here.
- Randy, as hard as he tried, can't get heel heat in his hometown. It's not his fault per se, as he's up against bloody Miz, but it doesn't make for a strong match.
- It ended up with the tired old "shit, music is playing" distraction. To be fair to The Miz, the lights did go off as well, but it's still unoriginal.
The Wyatt Family came out to said distraction, and Bray talked about how Miz's yearning for fame pisses him off. It worked as a promo, and it's miles better than his pseudo-cryptic bullshit about bringing down the machine. The only issue I have with it is a feud between The Miz and Bray Wyatt will mean Bray gets cheered for mauling the ineffectual Miz.
Fandango vs. Santino Marella
Fandango might be least-liked wrestler on the roster right now. I don't mean as in "aw man, he's such a good heel, I really don't like him", I mean in terms of "he's the drizzling shits". I tried to like Fandango, as I really thought he might be able to be effective in a comedy role. But even against Santino, the best comedy wrestler in WWE, he can't do much beyond a few headlocks and some stomps. The only reason he's lasted this long on the main roster is because a) Vince likes him and b) his theme song caught on.
I don't want to give up on him quite just yet. Track down the match he had recently on NXT with Summer Rae against Santino and Emma. It was a great comedy affair mostly due to Santino and Emma and the brilliant NXT crowd, but Fandango wasn't too bad on it. He needs more work though - I think he debuted too soon and was pushed too quickly.
Los Matadores w/ El Torito vs. 3MB w/ Jinder Mahal
*tears hair out*
Hey! Remember that match you've seen three times already, with those guys with the really awful gimmick? You do?! Well here's it again!
Even my mate, who's only been watching for two weeks has said he's bored of this match and these guys. I can't blame him - a gimmick like that means they'll be destined to jobbing on Superstars this time next year. I feel bad for them, as they're not bad wrestlers or anything, but their gimmick is terrible. I can't get behind it, and maybe I'm not meant to. But even the crowd seem pretty dead to it - the only guy enjoying it is JBL!
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon address The Big Show incident
I'll preface this by saying I missed most of Triple H's entrance through laughter by my flatmate going "aw no, here comes Hudson Hilson Hornet" and then going "naw, I meant Hash House Harry... what's the H's stand for again?"
Last week, Big Show knocked out Triple H. It was great, it made sense following his firing and it made up somewhat for the ridiculously awful finish to the Battleground PPV.
This week, Trips and his wife come out and they essentially say "no more Mr. Nice Guy". It's a natural progression for him, going from supposedly-well-meaning-but-really-a-dick to total dictator. Watch the anger in his voice, and later in the show when he shoves the Rhodes Bros. from the ring. It works well. Stephanie and Triple H are the two best heels WWE have right now, and they're using them effectively. The smirk on Triple H's face when Daniel Bryan is laid out by Alberto Del Rio later in this segment is so damn good. He needs to build up plenty of hate towards him again so we can have another moment like the Big Show moment last week.
However - this storyline in general is having negative implications on others, which I'll go into as they come up.
Ryback vs R-Truth (Beat the Clock Challenge)
Y'know, maybe I have something against people with dancing gimmicks. Like Fandango, I really don't see much in R-Truth. His matches have a tendency to bore me, and his gimmick which boils down to "guy who shouts what's up and dances sometimes" is pretty dull. His recent push has done little to change my opinion of him, and he's fed to Ryback within 6 minutes.
Props to the opening of the match being a Benny Hill style run around, that got a kick out of me.
The Real Americans vs. Tons of Funk
The recent push behind The Real Americans really is a push for Antonio Cesaro, and that makes me a happy man. Week on week, the selling point of a Real Americans match has been "Antonio Cesaro is strong", and that's entertaining. Here, after some dull offence from Brodus Clay, we get to see Cesaro Neutralize Brodus Clay then swing Tensai around like a rag doll. It's entertaining, and it gets the whole crowd chanting "We the People" along with The Real Americans.
But hold on. Doesn't that mean the crowd are supporting a team managed by a guy who yells about illegals and is generally racist? If you've got a spare five minutes, read JBL's idea of what it means to be a true heel linked here. His general idea is that you cannot pander to the crowd at all if you want to be hated. Cesaro hyping up the crowd for a big swing and then giving them a catchphrase to get behind is an issue. It means that Cesaro and Swagger, heels, are being treated as faces. Either turn them and have them coming out to Hulk Hogan's theme song or have them tease their signature moves only to disappoint and anger the crowd by not performing them.
Tamina Snuka vs. Brie Bella
There's a lot wrong with this match, but I'll try to be brief. Having Tamina in the role as AJ Lee's heavy works really well. It gives Tamina something to do, and makes AJ appear more cowardly by having her there, thus helping diminish the cheers AJ's been receiving as of late. Brie Bella's also been improving in-ring.
But having both of them in a match that dragged on by five minutes or so? Bad move. Tamina's flaws in-ring were highlighted, Brie's not good enough at selling offence to get the crowd invested in her comeback, and AJ ended up drawing all the attention because she's the most talented one out there. What's worse is the reason this match happened - it's pervading into the Daniel Bryan storyline. That's something I feared would happen in my last RAW Review, and it's coming true. Bryan needs no more reasons to hate Triple H and Stephanie, and the women's division shouldn't be reduced to more than a plot point for the main storyline right now. It should have feuds of its own.
Curtis Axel vs. CM Punk (Beat the Clock Challenge)
I totally neglected to mention why there's a Beat the Clock challenge ongoing on RAW right now. The reason is to choose a stipulation for the Punk/Ryback match at Hell in a Cell.
There's only so much Punk can do against Axel to make a compelling match. Axel is competent enough, but he's average. His moves have no emotion behind them, and he did little to sell the storyline they were trying to push in this match which was that Heyman was wanting Axel to run around like R-Truth did against Ryback, but Axel wanted to beat Punk and prove he was good enough to be a Paul Heyman guy. Spoilers: he wasn't.
There were some neat touches in this segment to elevate it above average such as Punk missing out the Randy Savage pose to save time, and the fury of Paul Heyman once Axel lost.
Daniel Bryan vs. Alberto del Rio
This was a great match between two guys with plenty to prove. ADR needs to show his champion's prowess with Cena approaching rapidly and Bryan needs to gain momentum going into Hell in a Cell. Each guy shows this in their wrestling - their kicks are stiff, they both break out their power moves, and there's plenty of near falls. A match which should have been just okay was elevated to brilliant by good wrestling. It's proof in the pudding that when WWE lets its wrestlers go out there and just wrestle, the crowd responds well. I should be giving this segment a solid A and be moving onto the next, but I can't, because of its finish.
Randy Orton appears on the screen, and slinks into the doctor's office. Brie Bella begins screaming, and Daniel Bryan runs off to save her. You can almost hear the crowd deflate instantly when Orton pops up to draw Bryan out. The crowd were invested in the match, as was I, and disappointment was rife when that happened. Bringing in Brie Bella to this storyline will only serve it badly, and this was the first instance of that. A bad omen for what's to come.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The Shield for the Tag Team Championship
Any disappointment I felt at the previous segment didn't have time to linger, as this beautiful match came along to cheer me up. I've stated many times that the Rhodes dynasty's ongoing saga with The Shield has been the best thing in WWE for some time. This proved it, once and for all.
Goldust delivered the performance of his career in this match. He was fighting with passion and ferocity, and his moves had a real, raw impact to them. It took Roman Reigns spearing him through the bloody barricade, as seen above, to take him out of the match. Cody Rhodes continued to shine as a future main eventer by coming in off the hot tag and cleaning house like a true superstar. Let's not forget The Shield - Seth Rollins mocking Goldust was great, Dean Ambrose interfered at the right times to draw heat and Roman Reigns was in pure monster mode.
Everything seemed to come together perfectly, just as it did at Battleground. I was invested in every near fall, and I didn't even mind Big Show coming down to interfere as it made sense - it's the folly of Triple H to make the match a no disqualification match (or as my flatmate called it: UNCHAINED RULES) coming to bite him in the ass in the form of a seven foot giant.
Final Verdict: B
This RAW, by all means, was pretty bad. Besides The Real Americans and CM Punk, the undercard was abysmal, and the Bryan/Del Rio bout was besmirched by a bad ending. But I can't give a truly bad rating to a RAW that ended with this: