WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Dec. 30, 2013) from the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia, featuring the final show of the year. And, well, the promotion made sure to go out with a bang.
Click here for full results and the live blog from the show if you missed it. Let's get right to reactions. Remember, these were written as the show moved along with real time reactions to everything that occurred hour-by-hour.
- You could argue that every wrestler on Earth works better as a heel if only because, well, it's far easier for human beings to be awful and entertaining than it is for them to be good and entertaining but I feel like this rings especially true for CM Punk. I just don't like when he's in the ring pandering to the crowd with the cheap heat spot shouting out the city and all that nonsense.
- I love Dean Ambrose throwing his U.S. title over the barricade before hopping it, mostly because he just left it there and went for the ring leaving Seth Rollins to nearly drill himself on the head with it when he did his somersault over the same barricade. Also love Rollins picking the belt up and looking at Ambrose like 'what the hell, dude?'
- And now here we go with WWE rolling with the unreality era and mixing kayfabe with what's being reported in pro wrestling news outlets everywhere. Punk references Roman Reigns being the future, Seth Rollins steps up and says he's the best. This after Dean Ambrose is brushed aside, by Punk himself. I mean, it makes sense. With a trio like this, and as dominant as they've been, I like the idea of having the so-called "Best in the World" attempt to knock them off one-by-one until he can find who among them is the best of the three. That's easy storytelling mixed with great matches, or pro wrestling at its best.
- From the "Love the little things" department: Punk getting knocked to the outside and Ambrose sitting Indian style in front of him while talking trash.
- Outstanding match. Rollins has now had two outstanding matches against John Cena and Punk, the two top ful time stars in the industry right now. As far as pure in-ring ability goes, he's the best of The Shield.
- Brad Maddox is still deliciously awesome, but I don't understand the need for his position. At all.
- Really, really strong hype video for Randy Orton, even if it's all nonsense. The WWE Production team could make a group of people watching paint dry an incredibly interesting event.
- Dear god, Curtis Axel is getting inset promo time? Whose idea was this? Is Triple H really this stubborn? Wait, don't answer that. The one thing this man has going for him is the fact that he can work strong matches. To that end, his bout with Dolph Ziggler, of all people, was underwhelming.
- Jerry Lawler on commentary: "No one wants to be a failure at the last thing they ever do and this is the last match these two men (Dolph Ziggler and Curtis Axel) will ever have in 2013." That's verbatim, and a real thing this man said during the broadcast. It might be time to wonder if WWE commentary is at its lowest point in history, and that includes Michael Cole's heel run.
- Here's the thing about the Intercontinental championship: why would anyone want to be in possession of it? With the WWE world heavyweight title, the reasons are obvious. And because that belt exists, and is so much more prestigious, there has to be some alternative reason wrestlers want to be Intercontinental champion. It's been a long time since anyone made mention of a compelling reason for wanting the belt. It's often something silly like "because I'm the best", but that sort of generatic talking point only works for the top title. We need a new narrative for the mid-card title, perhaps alluding to it being the working man's belt only held by workhorses who go to war night in and night out to prove their mettle. And once they do, they move up to the final rung of the ladder. Or maybe just someone asserting that the competition is more fierce and that's what they're looking for in a title. Then, make that the case. Until that happens, the belt won't ever mean what everyone seems to want it to, no matter who is holding it.
- Thought Fandango vs. Big E. Langston was actually a pretty good match that was given far more time than I assumed it would be -- which is probably stupid of me considering the split crew for the evening -- but the way Fandango has been booked lately took something away from the match.
- I like to think Langston only takes the straps down during matches because it creates more impact for the Big Ending. It makes me feel better about the whole thing.
- Is it bad that the thing I liked the most about Booker T was his theme music? And that I enjoy when he comes back if only because it means we get to here said theme music? Eh, whatever.
- Bad News Barrett is still a bust, and a potentially good idea being executed all wrong, but it was pretty fucking cool watching him come up from the floor with his podium and gavel to deliver bad news to Booker T and the rest of his partygoers. And, well, it's hard to argue with the points he makes. So there's some hope of something.
- Remember when I said WWE would put LeSean McCoy and LeBron James on TV after the former had a replica world title with him on NBC Sunday night and the latter saw it and requested one of his own? Yeah, of course it happened. I have no feelings on it worth mentioning.
- Love the idea of adding some juice to a lame match like Damien Sandow vs. Great Khali by having Sandow claim he would quit if he lost because he's been messed around far too much for the past six months. And that's true, more or less. Remember when he was rolling with Cody Rhodes as one half of the Rhodes Scholars and the thought was he would be the big breakout star of the two? Fast forward to now and Cody is doing outstanding work with his brother, living the dream, and Sandow is threatening to quit the company. My oh my how things can change in a hurry.
- Anyway, the match sucked. I did enjoy Sandow bothering to increase his energy for the match, you know because he's supposed to be fighting for everything, but it couldn't save it. After watching UFC 168 this past Saturday night and seeing what happened to Anderson Silva, I'm even more uncomfortable watching Great Khali. I always get the feeling we're going to see something similar and it's highly uncomfortable. On a side note, the folks at @WWEStats tweeted last night that Great Khali didn't win a single match on Raw this past year. Sounds about right.
- I wonder if Brodus Clay knows how ironic it is for him to call himself a "main event playa" while he's in the middle of a program with R-Truth and the recently debuted Xavier Woods and getting handled the whole way.
- So what are the chances that Triple H decided he would announce Brock Lesnar's big return to suck some of the heat up? I mean, I had to ask, right? I did enjoy the bit where Triple H wanted to shake his hand and Lesnar would only do so after looking at Paul Heyman and getting told it was okay to do so. I still like that Brock is a vicious dog that Heyman always has trouble holding onto the leash for. I hope that never ends.
- Holy hell, was Lesnar's return a great segment, Triple H making sure he was involved in some way aside. Proclaiming himself the number one contender because he says so and who the hell wants to stop him? Love it. Mark Henry coming down thinking he's tough enough to actually stop it? Love it. HOSS FIGHT? Love it. Lesnar spearing Henry through the barricade and hitting the F-5 on the floor outside? Love it. Lesnar's murder death skill scream? Love it. Heyman stopping Lesnar after he decided enough was enough and proclaiming "well, someone had to be made an example of" like it was always going to happen but he was kind of, sort of sorry anyway because of how brutal it was? LOVE IT.
- Seriously, if you don't like Brock Lesnar and what he brings to the table, I don't understand you and don't want to.
- If nothing else, Total Divas had led to far more tag team matches involving the ladies on the roster. I don't know if that's a good thing, though.
- In the case of last night's match, it really wasn't.
- Daniel Bryan running the gauntlet to main event Raw? Yes, please!
- Michael Cole's method for exciting commentary during big spots in matches: 1) Speak loudly. 2) Speak quickly. 3) Repeat yourself 500 times. 4) Occasionally change it up while still speaking loudly and quickly. HARPER GOT CAUGHT. HARPER GOT CAUGHT. HARPER GOT CAUGHT. BRYAN CAUGHT HARPER. BRYAN CAUGHT HARPER. HARPER GOT CAUGHT BY BRYAN WHO CAUGHT HARPER. YES LOCK. YES LOCK. BRYAN. HARPER. CAUGHT.
- Was actually underwhelmed with Bryan's matches against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, but that's to be expected after they've worked together enough. Really, I was just looking forward to the showdown with Bray and that turned out to be a troll job, because of course that's what WWE would do to us. Then, the best thing. Bryan admitted to what he should have seen all along, that the machine would never let him win, and asked to join the Wyatt Family. Bray hit him with Sister Abigail as some sort of initiation and that was that.
- But wait. The final segment here was brilliant beyond measure. Bryan walked behind Bray like a zombie whose soul had been taken from him. At first, Harper and Rowan held him up but slowly allowed him to walk under his own power. He stuck with his decision, continuing up the ramp with Wyatt leading him. Once he reached the top, however, he stopped, head down looking thoughtful. He turned to the crowd and looked on at them with wonder, as though he couldn't quite believe what he was doing. The crowd responded by chanting his name, willing him to continue his fight against the machine that has held him down for so long. It energized him, as he breathed faster and heavier, slowly but surely regaining his power and determination to fight. But, just as quickly as it came, it was gone. He realized how those same chants had betrayed him so often, how they never really got him anywhere, and how standing up to the machine was always a losing battle. He was left with no choice. With a heavy sigh, the last bit of life left his beaten body and he continued on into the darkness with his new leader, Bray, and all his promises of love and unconditional acceptance. There ain't no heroes here.
This was an awesome show. A slow spot here and there but the Punk vs. Shield dynamic, Brock Lesnar's return, and that ending segment made this one of the best shows of the entire year.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you feel about it?