Monday Night RAW has been a staple of the wrestling scene for over twenty years now, so it's definitely a pro wrestling institution. That's why I'm going to be reviewing it instead of any other wrestling shows out there. I'm not going to list my favourite wrestlers and I'll try my best not to show bias (there are some wrestlers I really don't like) but react to this in terms of how much I enjoyed it. Bias will undoubtedly show through regardless! So, without further ado, let's finally start with this segment-by-segment Raw Review!
CM Punk promo
RAW opens with a promo from Chicago's favourite son, CM Punk. A CM Punk promo is never a bad thing - he's nearly always passionate in his delivery and knows how to work a crowd like putty in his hands. It's also a welcome change from the usual Triple H "I am the C.O.O., LISTEN TO ME PEONS!" openings we've been having as of late.
The issue here though is what Punk is saying. He's talking about getting a hold of Paul Heyman and beating him for his inevitable betrayal back at Money in the Bank. It made sense for him to continue on this line of thought after SummerSlam as he barely touched him during his veritable war with Brock Lesnar. But, after Night of Champions it's almost as if Punk's been struck by a case of sudden amnesia. He got a hold of Paul Heyman and beat him to within an inch of his life with a kendo stick. The way Punk talks it's like he wants to brutally murder Paul Heyman then salt the earth he would be buried in. I understand he's wanting revenge on Ryback for making it go down in the record books that Paul Heyman pinned CM Punk but jesus... He still wants Heyman?
Nevertheless, it wasn't a bad promo (even if it did include an appearance from Mr. Awkward himself Brad Maddox) and it lead nicely into a cracking match.
CM Punk vs Big E Langston
This was a great short opening match-up to warm up the crowd, and it makes sense in storyline too. Punk needs to prove that he can beat a big man in the ring considering he came up short against Lesnar, so out comes the woefully underutilised Big E Langston. Langston is a deadly cocktail of speed and power and he crushes Punk in the opening section of this match-up with some huge splashes and clotheslines. When he puts Punk in the half crab in the picture above, it looks like he could legitimately snap Punk in twain if he wanted to.
My only gripe is that it wasn't a longer showing from the pair, but it showed everything that it needed to: Big E got to dominate, Punk got his win and this happened.
Look at it! Big E sells that like he's just been hit by a hammer to the skull and as if he's actually been knocked out. Great stuff.
Fandango vs Kofi Kingston
Oh yippee. Both Kofi Kingston and Fandango are regularly used as "the guys you put out there to kill ten minutes" and this is no exception. A by the numbers match that is mostly just one big rest hold - the only high point is a sick armbar Kofi pulls off midway through the match. Other than that it's as you'd expect - Kofi gets beat down, hits Trouble in Paradise and it's done. When Summer Rae is getting chants and two supposedly "popular" guys are being ignored, surely that means it's time to find them something to do besides have by-the-numbers matches with each other or the half dozen other guys like them in the locker room?
My interest was recaptured though when our favourite cultists shuffled down the ramp.
I would have totally included this in its own segment if anything of worth actually happened. Usually when Bray Wyatt and his Family turn up, someone gets beat down and Wyatt cuts a creepy promo. Here, his promo essentially could be translated from Hick Cultist to English as "I was a troubled man, now my purpose is to beat up wrestlers". Surely you'd follow that with him and his boys rushing the ring and eviscerating Kofi? But no - one cut to commercial later and the Wyatts were gone, leaving nothing but the faint stench of disappointment behind.
Randy Orton threatens Daniel Bryan
So this is great. For the second week running, Orton creeps over the Bella Twins, in particular Brie Bella who as you may or may not know (you will by the end of RAW, more on that later...) is Daniel Bryan's fiancee. Before Orton's heel turn he was dull and uninspired, but since his turn he's been one of the best parts of RAW, especially in recent weeks since he went full-on psycho mode.
His interactions with the Bellas have been no exception. He either creepily flirts with Brie whilst emasculating Daniel Bryan or this week makes brilliant threats which he makes sure the Bellas understand. This is a direct quote: "If you don't reschedule your wedding to before Sunday, before Battleground, then there's a good chance your little fiance, Daniel Bryan, won't make it down the aisle. Because he won't be able to walk." I love how Orton needs to reiterate everything, making sure we all understand why Sunday, who Brie's fiance is and why he won't make it down the aisle. It's reminiscent of that scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World where Todd talks about how Scott will be dust by Monday, because that's when the cleaning lady comes, and she dusts. Great stuff from a menacing yet unintentionally hilarious Orton.
Paul Heyman Interview
You'll get to know this about me in the weeks to come if you choose to read again - Renee Young is like a ray of wrestling sunshine that comes into my life every week. She's the best backstage interviewer the WWE has had in a long long time and the fact she's dabbling in announcing over on NXT warms my heart.
Anyway, enough gushing. This is again more treading of old ground that further suggests the Punk/Heyman feud might be growing stale. Heyman continues his shtick of saying how Punk has fallen from grace and how he Paul Heyman was the real best in the world. It's a promo we've heard many times before now. What raises this segment in my eyes from just being purely average to above average is Renee talking about how Ryback and Curtis Axel are hiding nearby behind boxes. Wrestling is just so wonderfully ridiculous sometimes.
So, what's next? This has been an okay RAW so far, all told so what have we ne-
Oh... oh no.
Los Matadores vs 3MB
So, Los Matadoes debuted last night after weeks of promos, and lo and behold, they're a so-called comedy team. Comedy in wrestling can work when used sparingly - Santino Marella is great at it, and I can take 3MB in small doses. This though... jesus, was this dumb. So you have two bullfighters from Spain (they're actually from Puerto Rico IRL, but we'll gloss over that) called Fernando and Diego (the announcers couldn't get the names right) accompanied by a midget dressed a bull, who's also a luchador. There is so much wrong with that sentence I don't know where to begin.
Maybe this isn't for me, maybe someone will find it funny, but on the whole it just came off as stupid and the in-ring action was slow and sloppy to boot. Just please, please stay away from The Real Americans. They are better than this and the only way it won't kill me to see Los Matadores in the ring with them is if Antonio Cesaro uppercuts them into remembering they have some dignity.
Rhodes Family Showdown
THANK YOU BASED DUSTY.
After...whatever that was, we're treated to the Rhodes Family facing off with The Authority, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. This is straight-up the best storyline WWE is running right now, and here's why:
- Triple H and Stephanie are fantastic heels, condescending yet imposing at the same time. You want to hate them and they want you to hate them too, so they'll play to that.
- Cody Rhodes is a future star, and this is the storyline that'll cement his position in the main event.
- Dusty Rhodes is one of the all-time greats on the microphone, and every time he holds it in his hand you're captivated. Also, him squaring up to Triple H whilst also blocking out Steph? GENIUS.
- All of the Rhodes family have been shamefully underused by the McMahons, who coincidentally they're now feuding with. There's a legitimacy to this feud and it makes us, the viewer, invested.
- The Shield are involved.
The end result is a little predictable, granted, as The Shield rush the ring and put the boot into the Rhodes family. But the end result is that we have a great match booked for Battleground this Sunday and it could result in a Cody and Dustin (I vote for the Rhodes Warriors for their teamname) tag team championship reign.
Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth
And good feelings gone. Remember how earlier on I talked about Kofi Kingston and Fandango being two guys with nothing to do? R-Truth is another one of those guys, and Curtis Axel would be too if he didn't have Paul Heyman there to smirk and clutch the Intercontinental Title whilst Axel wrestles. Don't get me wrong, it's not a particularly bad match, but it's one that isn't needed.
It also contains pretty much the worst wrestling trope ever, the "guy's music starts playing, in-ring competitor is distracted as he gawks away at the stage allowing other guy to sneak a win" trope. I'm sure there's a catchier name for it. Anyway, it's almost as if Curtis Axel and the countless others before him who've been distracted go into hibernation and forget that they're in a match. It's dumb, overused and unbelievable.
Brie Bella vs. Alicia Fox
I'll admit - I groaned when I saw that these two were going to have a match together. But they surprised me with what they pulled off. Brie Bella, who is normally pretty awful, pulled out some great maneuvers like the Fireman's Carry takedown you can see in the picture above, and Alicia Fox, who is normally just alright, used her leg strength to dominate Brie. It was a surprisingly decent match from one that I expected to be awful.
I would have given this a B- if it weren't for the ridiculously bad commentary. Commentary during women's matches is notorious for being off-topic, demeaning and condescending. Here, JBL noticed a half-way decent match going on in the ring and berates Michael Cole for not doing what he's paid to do and calling the match. Cole goes in a huff and tells JBL to call the match. He tries, but he's not the play-by-play guy so he fails. All the while Jerry Lawler's pulling out ridiculously backwards comments about the women in the ring. It's distracting and disrespectful to the female roster. Poor show.
Big Show Interview
LOOK AT IT. JUST LOOK AT IT.
Okay, some context needed. So Big Show, understandably pissed off from being manipulated by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon for weeks and weeks is reaching his breaking point. He decides part way through his interview he's going to find Triple H and punch a hole in his face, and whilst deciding this seems to tread the fine line between utter rage and pure insanity. It looks like he legitimately wants to murder Triple H and he's going to do it with nothing but the Hammer of the Gods, his fist.
The pay-off happens later in the show, but I'm as well as discussing it now as it's linked to this. He marches to the General Manager's office and strangles Brad Maddox in an attempt to find the whereabouts of Triple H. This is A Good Thing, as Brad Maddox is generally a bit shit. The fuzz turns up and it looks like old Thunderfist himself is going to jail. But he's saved from this fate by Stephanie McMahon, who in front of the police officers and the millions watching around the world continues on her quest of belittling the World's Largest Athlete. Sure, it's all a little convoluted, but Rage Show is something I want to see more of and Steph in bitch mode is always a treat to watch.
Alberto del Rio vs. Zack Ryder
Zack Ryder's face = my face upon seeing this match.
I really don't mind Del Rio - but he's been embroiled in boring feud after boring feud since he won the title back in June. That's a long time to be dull. He's a great heel wrestler, but with no legitimately interesting stories so I can't get invested in him. Add to this cocktail Zack Ryder who jobbing out again on what seems to be going through a series of diminishing pushes every six months or so and you have a nice and dull affair for all to enjoy. Whilst it was nice to see Zack get some offense in, it served no purpose. He won't be winning titles. Have ADR go out there and break Ryder in two with a chair or throw him through a table and say "I can be hardcore!" and you've furthered the storyline he has with Rob Van Dam right now. See, it's not hard to make a match interesting WWE!
Speaking of RVD, further points are lost for putting him in front of a microphone in a segment I'm linking with this (it is ADR and RVD's feud after all) and sucking horribly. He's not good on the mic - isn't that why he was paired with Ricardo Rodriguez? So why's he not acting as RVD's mouthpiece? Overall - not great.
Props to Jerry Lawler for the title, in his contracted one good joke of the month.
Hoo boy. Where to begin with this...?
So, since he was saved by Ryback, Paul Heyman has acted smitten with the guy. He's made "flowers smell sweeter" for the ECW founder. This leads to Paul saying he wants to "propose" to Ryback. It's pretty obvious that this is going to lead to Paul asking Ryback to be one of his clients, to be a Paul Heyman Guy. And lo and behold, that's what happens. It's the whole "we're insinuating we're gay lol" thing I'm a bit uneasy about.
On the one hand, it's pretty easy heat for the pair, especially in the somewhat less progressive Deep South, where this is broadcasting from. Take a look at JBL's face here to pretty much summarise the reaction of Southern wrestling fans to this.
On the other hand, it's a little hypocritical for WWE to call themselves "part of a progressive era" and yet be relying on "these two are maybe gay lol", especially after the praise the heaped on Darren Young for coming out a while back. All in all, I wasn't sure how to take it, and it made me a bit uneasy.
Oh, and then CM Punk came out and battered Curtis Axel into tiny shards of mediocrity with a kendo stick, so that was good.
Dolph Ziggler and the Usos vs. The Shield
As nearly always these days, The Shield are involved in the best match of the night. Every single one of these guys are talented, if perhaps a little underused in regards to the babyface team.
There isn't a whole lot to say here - Rollins and Ziggler sold every move they took like a car crash, The Usos were energetic, Ambrose intense and Reigns (who is quickly becoming the best part of The Shield) brutal. If you're not convinced in Reigns, then just look at this spear.
Doesn't hurt that it's Ziggler who took the spear either. A solid match with little wrong with it. Believe in The Shield (to put on a great match).
Antonio Cesaro vs. Santino Marella
This was a decent enough match. I'm trying not to show any bias here as to the fact that the ridiculously talented and better-than-this Antonio Cesaro is wrestling Santino Marella (known for his use of a snake sock puppet he pulls from his singlet...) and to look at this as it is.
Santino is harmless enough when paired with the right guy. Fighting an established talent he can lose but still elicit a smile or two from fans as he's charming in his comedy shtick. He can elevate a match with a lower card talent with his pretty good wrestling skills. Here's my issue with this - Antonio Cesaro shouldn't be losing to Santino. He shouldn't! Santino is wandering around with The Great Khali and fucking Hornswoggle and Cesaro is losing to him. This is a man who wrestled in the best match of the year (vs. Sami Zayn, 2 out of 3 falls, find it, trust me) and he's losing to Santino. Why?!
Nonetheless, it brought another chance for Cesaro to use the Giant Swing, which is great and all, but I hope it doesn't become his defining thing.
Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton face-off
Remember when Daniel Bryan didn't have to resort to being sarcastic in his promos, and instead was an impassioned and believable babyface? Yeah, me too, and I miss it.
Daniel Bryan's latest promo recipe has been "OH. You said that. Did you hear that loving fans? He said that about me! Great job guy, no really, great job saying the thing!" It's annoying, and it needs to change. Bryan is the plucky underdog and he should rely on that. Talk about how Orton was raised to be a champion from birth - born into a wrestling family, hand-picked by Triple H to join a stable designed to make him a star, getting his own stable later on to legitimise him further - there's plenty there to riff on. Relying on snark won't do.
Still, it was another dosage of psycho brutal Randy, and that's a good thing. He's at his best just beating the shit out of people and we got to see him RKO Bryan through the freakin' announce table. You might be wondering, who is he staring at in the picture above?
Oh just BRIE BELLA OH NO. Here's why I'm uneasy - working Bryan's fiancee into the storyline made sense and allowed Randy to be menacing, but only when removed slightly from the main action. Bringing Brie to ringside could take this storyline down a dark route, and I don't mean as in "Breaking Bad is a dark TV show", I mean as in "JESUS THIS IS SHITE". You can't help but feel that the only reason she's here is because of E! reality show Total Divas. And that's a worrying thing indeed.
All in all, a solid RAW with only a few high spots (Rhodes family, The Shield) to elevate it above average.
RAW Review: B-