WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (June 30, 2014) from Hartford, CT, featuring all the fallout from the Money in the Bank pay-per-view (PPV) this past Sunday night in Boston. We had a new champ, Mr. Money in the Bank, a turn or two and more returns than you can shake a stick at.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Sorry for the delay in getting this out to you, Cagesiders. The General had some sudden technical difficulties and I'm an old man who goes to bed when Raw is over, so I just got his emails and texts saying "I'M LIVID AND YOU NEED TO DO REACTIONS" about an hour ago.
So, let's get on with the reacting:
The. Champ. Is. HERE. (And that just might be okay)
When Triple H is your co-main power figure and John Cena is your WWE World Heavyweight Champion, you can be sure that one of the two is opening up Raw by talking at us. Hunter must have won the backstage arm wrestling match, so he and Stephanie McMahon opened the show...followed shortly by Cena, because, c'mon.
And it was a really good segment - that somehow still managed to keep me very nervous about John's title reign.
The Authority begin by stating what they had to state, that they've always included the leader of the Cenation on their list of A+ players, and therefore they're thrilled that he's the champ. They butter him up with a perk - the 2K15 game cover - that he would have probably received anyway, but the power couple's smarmy salesmanship still makes entertaining.
Cena responds by stating what he had to state, thanks, but Daniel Bryan gets the first shot at me when he returns if I'm still champ, and, no, I'm not signing up with your two person power trip. It was the obvious course for both parties, but well done. It also did nothing to quell smark fears about a boring Cena title run - even the Battleground main event they announced sets us up for a "Cena overcomes the odds and does damage to a hot young potential replacement in the process".
But the quality of Hunter and Steph's trolling was just the thing needed to soothe the IWC's nerves. The principal owner probably wins the night, at least in terms of gif-able moments, with her dancing and lip-synching of Cena's entrance theme. But The Game calling John out on his "I'm serious so I'm going to do an accent" promo style was just as delicious. They even tried to keep from becoming too cool as heels, because they're basically playing the parents who are trying too hard to be hip.
This segment had a lot of work to do to get fans like us to calm down about the ending of the PPV. And it worked, for this smark anyway.
It's as if they came out and told all of us to "chill your roll".
Segment grade: B+
Picking up the pieces of our broken shield
Seth Rollins, our new Mr. Money in the Bank, was actually out for a tease in the opening segment - reminding Cena that he's a ready made "Plan B" for The Authority should he decide to make too many problems for them. He then put on a decent match with Rob Van Dam that felt like a step down from some of RVD's recent outings, but understandable for a forty year old who worked a ladder match last night.
The match featured good psychology though, with each man focusing on a body part throughout, and the right outcome, a clean win for the Architect.
And then the gloriousness that is Dean Ambrose appeared on the Titantron. Broadcasting from what looked like the clubhouse that he, Rollins and Roman Reigns used to tape their group promos from in their heel days, he promised to make sure that Seth can never use his pretty gold (not sure how I feel about that color) case to take the title. Not because Ambrose wants the belts himself, necessarily. Just because he never wants Rollins to win anything ever again.
Fast forward to the main event. I almost went to bed on this segment, figuring there was nothing that could top what had come before it and that we would get another Super-Cena ending where he fights off The Authority single-handed like they were The Wyatts or something.
Instead, we get a first-hand look at how the briefcase story will play out for the next little while, as a taped up Ambrose ran in to stop the cash-in Triple H signaled for following Kane's tombstone piledriver on the champ. Then, when The Cerebral Assassin is going to make sure that, tonight's foiled attempt be damned, he'll make sure the next one doesn't fail by having The Demon inflict some more damage on Cena, Reigns returns from chasing Randy Orton off backstage to spear the Big Red Monster into next week and flex in front of Hunter as we fade to black.
THIS was what we needed to allay fears of LOLCENAWINS. This was John Cena performing the role that only he can perform, the larger than life Superstar for whom wins and losses don't matter. It's so important that he was rescued by the two hot young babyfaces and not the other way around.
It will a tough tightrope to walk, especially with regards to Reigns, who is gunning for the title Cena holds and will face him for it as part of the Fatal 4way at the next PPV. But for starters, they did a near-perfect job of using their biggest Star to build for the future.
Segment(s) grade: A
Guess who's back?
That @*$^!%er Chris Jericho. He got us again.
Apologies again for any Cagesiders who had the Jericho returned spoiled by our fanshot. But in a way, it almost made it better - at least for me. When heel Miz returned (which is a good thing that's lost in what followed), it seemed that WWE had worked the dirt screens again with a false leak. So when the countdown music interrupted Mizanin, I actually meta-marked out. It was a different yet surprisingly equivalent surprise as the Royal Rumble return last year.
Y2J got to say a few words before we learned what he was back for, or as is his modus operandi these days, who he was back to put over. And it's a man with whom he has some history, at least on NXT, and that Geno, myself and hundreds of fans were saying needed some rebuilding coming out of Money in the Bank.
Talk of a Bray Wyatt face turn will go on the back burner for however long Jericho is back. And it will probably only be a few days before some fans start complaining that "all he does is put people over so wins over Jericho don't mean anything any more". But for however long it lasts, we'll get amazing promos, strong matches and end up with an Eater of Worlds who'll be able to say he took out the first Undisputed champ in WWE history.
And I'm almost looking forward to the Luke Harper vs. Y2J side-matches as much as the main events.
This one was kept completely under wraps. I know my jaw dropped when I heard "Light it Up" come in over Paige's already heel-tinged "I've proven myself" promo.
No Diva in recent history, or quite possible ever, gets the reaction that AJ Lee does. She's as comfortable with a microphone in her hand as Cena or her husband. Getting her back, and giving her back her title, was the right call, even if it did come across as hastily booked - and at the end of a typically mediocre AJ match.
It's quite possible that this is exactly what Paige needs, too. Whether it's the fault of the booking or her own youth, she didn't flourish in the championship spotlight. The speech that Lee disrupted and her obviously not having an answer for how to handle the deafening "CM Punk" chants that broke up her retort showed that she has some growing to do. And Creative had no idea how to book her Anti-Diva character as a babyface.
I'm hoping that the performances and crowd reactions from last night weren't a one-time deal. There is money to be made in AJ Lee as a fan favorite, and I've always felt that Paige's aggressiveness lends itself to playing rudo.
Now if only every other storyline for women didn't involve jealousy over men or fame...
Segment(s) grade: A-
But not least:
- Put me in the camp of "not going to overthink the Swagger face turn", but I understand folks who are puzzled by it. If they're going to go with broad strokes and not connect the dots, I'd rather they do it with their cartoon-ish, patriotic stuff than with the main angles. Doesn't mean it's not lazy storytelling, though.
- It makes sense to align The Usos with Sheamus, and not just because it's fun to say Sheam-Oos. They're all good workers that get a pop from live crowds, but that don't leave a lasting impression. Quick, tell me something about their match last night? Didn't think so.
- They finished a match on the app. And then showed it to us anyway. I think Vince is consulting the underpants gnomes for business ideas again. Anyway, I could watch Cesaro throw babyface midcarders around like a sack of potatoes for days, but I sure would like for him to get some direction. Could he be the one to break the curse of the Intercontinental title and actually make it a viable stepping stone to the top again?
- Speaking of the IC belt...why didn't The Authority give Bad News Barrett the option of either turning it over due to injury or letting Alicia Fox fired? Isn't that the precedent they set with Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella? Vacate or your significant other gets it?
- Selling alcoholic beverages is weird, and an iffy proposition, on your PG show. Using two kid-friendly, comedy babyfaces to do it is just sleazy. Was Joe Camel not available to play a Rosebud in the Twisted Tea segment?
- So, is Damien Sandow a face now? Hopefully, his drawing the wrath of Steph for his wonderful Mr. McMahon impersonation is the start of an actual program for the Rich Little of WWE, and a payoff to his "pipe bomb" from a while back about the powers-that-be trying to silence him.
- You know what would help Stardust get over? A match against anyone other than Rybaxel. And that's not a knock on Ryback and Curtis Axel, either. But we've seen that match more than Orton vs. Cena at this point.
- Dolph finally stole someone's girlfriend. Hope he enjoys it, because getting sucked into the Fandango love triangle means his main event aspirations are back on hold.
It had moments of WWE crap, but for the most part, this was almost like fan service for the internet wrestling community. The skill with which they continue to build Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins is impressive - and makes you wonder why they can't display that ability with other up-and-comers.
Regardless, though. A really good show we'll be talking about for a while to come.
Overall grade: A-
Give us your (delayed - sorry again) reactions below!
All photos via www.wwe.com