WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (June 17, 2013) from the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, featuring the fallout show to the Payback pay-per-view (PPV) that went down this past Sunday night at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
And it was fantastic.
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.
- So let's talk about how Alberto Del Rio had a really good explanation for what he did to Dolph Ziggler last night. Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Del Rio while he was dealing with a bum ankle and everyone cheered for it. He lost his title and everyone loved it. Then he did everything for the fans, he tried to be the good guy, and what did that get him? Nothing. So he did things for himself and suddenly, he's world heavyweight champion again. This was a strong promo, calling us all pigs and cowards. The storyline created the distinction in his heel character, not the other way around. I loved this.
- What the hell is CM Punk doing interrupting it? This should be good.
- Oh, okay. Del Rio called himself the best and Punk is out to dispute as much. A challenge for a match? Great. That's fun. Ah, there it is right there. It's the storyline tool to advance the eventual break up of Punk and Paul Heyman, who called Punk his "client" while disputing putting the match together. Punk was great here if only because he put Dolph Ziggler over bigger than anyone else in WWE in a long, long time.
- And there's the break up between Punk and Heyman. And there's Punk specifically referencing Brock Lesnar and holy shit, I can't wait for Punk vs. Lesnar. That's going to be bonkers.
- Here's where I'm confused: Christian was reportedly kept off television for months despite being healthy enough to return due to the fact that creative had nothing for him. Well, of late there have been reports popping up that getting something written for him was a key priority, and this is what we get? Just a surprise return and a quick victory over Wade Barrett? That's the big creative direction? Establish him again, sure, but I expected something more. Wait and see approach in full effect now.
- I took way too much pleasure in Sandow rolling up Sheamus to steal a pin in their handicap match that also included Cody Rhodes, who ended up being a sacrificial lamb. I'm not sure who he pissed off, but he's a straight up jobber at this point. Remember, kids, respect the booker man!
- Triple H wearing a suit and directing Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox is just straight up madness. I can't wrap my head around it. His talking about making a deal with RVD on the phone just made me laugh.
- Daniel Bryan and Kane breaking up is actually kind of shitty and felt bad. Like, legitimately felt crappy to watch and far sadder than I assumed it would. They were a really fun tag team while they were together. The anger management skits remain some of the best pre-tape segments WWE has done in its history of bad comedy. I thought I was ready for these two to split months ago, but it kind of sucks knowing they're done with each other.
- What doesn't suck is hearing Bryan talk about "needing" to win the WWE championship. I got the sense they could have been referencing a Money in the Bank ladder match because Kane said the same thing, and they're breaking up, and that's a good story arc for a match like that.
- That poll was rigged, right? Who the hell would choose No Disqualification over 2 out of 3 Falls? I certainly wouldn't. I've got an iPhone coming soon, though, so I'll get the App and change things. I'll make a difference, folks, this much I promise you.
- I don't know that I like the new company wide storyline emphasis on doctors stopping matches and the health of the performers being placed above all else, not because I think it makes for less compelling television but because of the culture of WWE. Mark Henry's entire career was marked with resentment for the fact that he couldn't keep from getting injured and needed time off. If you're not a big star, you don't get to suffer injuries and get the necessary time away to get better without it killing your heat/push/spot but we're supposed to get behind this new gimmick where doctors are looking out for everyone's best interests? I don't know that I can do that. Unless, of course, Bryan is actually injured, in which case I take it all back and am glad they went about this the way they did. (Editor's note/update: The injury was a work for the story. So yeah, I can't get behind it.)
- Bryan vs. Orton was a good match, though. I wouldn't mind seeing it a few more times.
- What in the fuck is this? Are we seeing a female wrestler getting a standalone promo in the center of the ring? By god, yes we are.
- Oh hell yes, Stephanie McMahon and AJ Lee in the same ring and actually running an angle together. This is phenomenal, although Steph is a monster compared to the dainty Lee. Love Stephanie talking about AJ getting crazy eyes and not realizing she's looking at a McMahon, a family who wrote the book on crazy.
- What the hell, Kaitlyn and the rest of the Divas are out on the ramp and they're actually giving them time for this. It's actually really good stuff, too. Crowd can't seem to get behind it, mostly because WWE hasn't given them a reason to in years, but this is outstanding.
- Yes, there was a Kaitlyn nipple slip. It's no longer newsworthy because it happens so damn often. No, I'm not posting the picture.
- I really don't see the point in Kane vs. Dean Ambrose here. I just don't. Another dumb finish and I'm ready for this shit to be over.
- I could do with Vince McMahon randomly showing up and putting talent like The Shield over more often instead of shitting on guys they're trying to turn into stars, like Curtis Axel.
- Antonio Cesaro hooking up with Zeb Colter? Yeah, I can get down with that if only because it no doubt means he's going to get more TV time and because Vince loves the concept behind the Colter character, Cesaro might actually start winning clean on Raw on a weekly basis. This is a good thing not because I care about his win loss record but because he's an awesome wrestler who puts on entertaining matches. Hell, we're even getting a William Regal sighting out of this. Hell yes.
- The "Don't Tread On Me" flag is awesome. Laying it over the top of fallen opponents is even better.
- Oh, we're still on that storyline where John Cena is trying to convince us he had a horrible 2012? Whatever. Super standard promo from the super standard Superman. Yawn.
- Oh my god, no. Mark Henry is coming out and he's wearing a suit and has his wrestling boots with him. No. I don't want this. Please don't be retiring. Oh god, he's crying. "The World's Strongest Man is crying." I can't do this. He's out here saying Cena, who hasn't left yet, is doing an awesome job. Those look like real tears. The crowd is chanting a thank you to him. Henry puts Cena over even bigger, saying he'll be the greatest WWE champion of all time at the rate he's going. Oh shit, Cena gives him the WWE championship and he holds it up, the one title he never got the chance to win in his career. He holds it up while Cena claps and the crowd is right there with them. This is amazing. Henry gives the belt back and says "this is something you gotta earn, but thank you." This is so wild. He's getting mad at himself for being too emotional. "To my little girl who cries when I leave home ... *more tears* ... baby, I'm coming home." I'm actually losing it here.
- OH MY FUCKING GOD, IT WAS A SWERVE! CENA WENT TO HUG HIM AND HENRY HIT HIM WITH THE WORLD'S STRONGEST SLAM! GREATEST SEGMENT EVER! HE STOPPED AT THE RAMP AND SCREAMED 'THAT'S WHAT I DO!' MARK HENRY FOREVER.
- Seriously, Henry deserves an award and an immediate raise for that performance. I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker, I bought that totally and completely. The line at the end about his daughter crying when he leaves and now he's coming home? Then the World's Strongest Slam? Are you fucking kidding me? This was phenomenal.
- Drew McIntyre sold the Codebreaker better than anyone I've seen in a long, long time.
- The Sin Cara lighting? We're really still doing that? And whatever happened to Triple H vs. Curtis Axel? Were we not supposed to get some storyline advancement on that tonight? Instead we get Axel beating up Sin Cara with The Miz on commentary to keep their feud going. Great. So thrilling.
- I'm a fan of the McMahon family, but I'm not a fan of the segments featuring any of them talking to the authority figure on the show and telling them how they should or should not be running it or asking for booking ideas. I don't want to be behind that kind of curtain because you're not really behind the curtain.
- When I realized how much time they were giving Del Rio vs. Punk in the main event, my first thought was Brock Lesnar was in the building and he was going to be coming out to put the hurting on Punk to cost him the match and set up their feud. Sure enough, they booked it to set that up perfectly. Absolutely loved the way the segment was handled too. Lesnar teases talking but instead of doing so, just F-5's the shit out of Punk and goes home. That's wonderful.
- Last bullet point: I hope Dolph Ziggler has as much fire for every match going forward as he showed attacking Del Rio last night. That was fierce and lends a legitimacy he's sorely lacking in his offense.
After last night's show, which was really, really good, I didn't expect much from Raw. But they went above and beyond, breaking out the big guns with a few nice returns, an awesome match or two, and a couple great angles.
I'm a happy WWE fan right now.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts in the comments section below. How did you like Raw last night?