Previously on Raw
The Champ is Here! Or he was, until HHH brought Scott Armstrong and footage of his normal cadence to the ring. A conspiracy within a conspiracy (conspiraception?) was too much for the Chief Operating Officer's sense of propriety. The COO sent a million marks to the dictionary by announcing he was holding the WWE Championship in abeyance. He would later send Armstrong to the unemployment line, while Randy Orton sent Daniel Bryan to the mat with a RKO.
Stephanie McMahon was in full Billionaire B**** mode (and I don't mean beast) as she scolded Orton about not being vicious enough and then presented Dusty Rhodes with an impossible choice for a parent. When the American Dream failed to make a choice, Steph had her enslaved Giant knock him out cold.
Dolph Ziggler got a clean win over Dean Ambrose, the announcement making it clear that he was still United States champion adding fuel to the "work or shoot" debate about Ziggler's purported backstage heat. The Usos won a Triple Threat Elimination match over The Real Americans and Tons of Funk to begin the resumption of their feud with The Shield.
The competition to see who can look more embarrassing continued between the Divas division and the World Heavyweight Championship scene. Well, that's not fair - Alberto Del Rio, Rob Van Dam and Damien Sandow are more aimless than embarrassing, so the women win that one easily.
The Viper found his inner sadist and damaged The Miz's thorax right in front of Ma and Pa Mizanin. That wasn't nearly as disturbing as new Paul Heyman guy Ryback playing kissy-face with his wheelchair-bound associate whom he'd rescued from CM Punk at Night of Champions.
Bryan managed to fight off Roman Reigns, his Shield-mates and Orton in the main event, but looked like he would be put down like Rhodes and The Awesome One had earlier in the evening. But the law-abiding portion of the roster had seen enough, and stormed to the rescue. He didn't have a championship title, but he had men like Dolph, RVD, Justin Gabriel, Zack Ryder, the Usos and Primetime Players get his back.
Live from Rosemont, IL! Is Chicagoland close enough to draw a certain Second City Saint onto our television screens? That's what they say...so what will Punk have to say to his homies? And more importantly, what will he have to say to Heyman and Associates?
The Game tried to run a little game on the guys who stood up to his strong-arm tactics last Friday night on Smackdown. The wrestlers seemed to buy it, but Michael Cole - of all people - seemed wise to the fact that the competition might not have been as fair as Trips made it out to be. Have the masses been placated, or is another uprising on the way?
AJ's quest to take out the entire cast of Total Divas continues, and the build to RVD's newly booked World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) match will too.
And the Viper is listening to the voices in his head a little more. The Goat has been on a roll, but if his rival is really going to be dipping back in to his sadistic bad of tricks - that can't be a good thing for the Yes Man.
Expect to pop for:
The Good Guys. I don't know about you, but I haven't unironically rooted for babyfaces like this since the 80s (I know, I'm old).
Much of the credit goes to Daniel Bryan, who is not only a favorite of fans across the board, but someone who crowds have connected with in a way not seen since, well, since they were giving Hell Yeahs to another guy who was battling the Corporation. But Stone Cold Steve Austin was an anti-hero face, and while DB has his occasional anger issues, he's more a combination of the underdog guy and the fighting spirit guy.
Props to HHH, Steph and crew as well. It always helps to have straight-up villains to go up against. And the Best for Business Bureau are straight-up villains for the 21st century. We revile them because they are like the bosses and principals and exes we've all struggled against - always quick to tell us that the break-up or detention or layoff is for our own good, or to have a semi-plausible justification for every selfish underhanded thing they do. Moustache twirling and funny insults will always get some cheers. No one is ever going to cheer for the person who holds you down and then makes you feel like a crazy person for claiming they're holding you down.
The third piece of the puzzle is that our heroes are generally acting like heroes. Not in the Dudley Do-Right sense, but as characters on an actual heroic journey. The men who had swallowed all they possibly could last week and finally said "no more", consequences be damned. Those are characters we can relate to and cheer for - not ones that call women whores and drop fake poop on people.
If they keep doing what they're doing, the pops for any number of guys - Bryan, Cody Rhodes, Dolph, Show - could be epic. And for the first time in a long time, you won't have to wink at your buddies or explain to your kids why you're excited. The reasons will be plain to see and easy to understand.
The heat is on:
Zeb Colter. Have I had him here before? Probably, since I've been bored by his schtick since it debuted, but I'm tired of bagging on the Divas.
With the devolution of The Real Americans into complete and total jobbers (pinned by Santino...really?), the inadvertent getting over of "We The People" as something that fans sarcastically enjoy chanting and having the only thing impressive about the stable be something that was already impressive before it was shoe-horned into the stable (Antonio Cesaro's in ring prowess)...maybe it's time to admit that this gimmick is not working for anybody.
Dutch Mantell can talk, and I love that there are multiple managers in WWE for this first time in a decade or more. So if it takes reworking the gimmick, or sending the veteran down to work with some developmental talent before bringing him back in a new package...but let's stop pretending that this has been a successful return, or anything that we really want to remember from the ouevre of Dirty Dutch.
Punk in his hometown and babyfaces rising - should be a good night on the road to Battleground. Last week's show is a tough act to follow though, is Raw up to the task?
CSS will be here before, during and after for news and analysis. Start the convo below, join tonight's live blog and see you here tomorrow, too!