WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (July 22, 2013) from the Frank Erwin Events Center in Austin, Texas, featuring all the latest build up to the SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) on Aug. 18 in Los Angeles, California.
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.
- Good god, I love Brad Madd-ox. He's awkward in all the best ways, like John Laurinaitis used to be but without the terrible voice.
- John Cena is sly like Hulk Hogan, isn't he? The crowd, in the midst of a "YES" chant, is cut off by Madd-ox and Cena stops him to say "hang on, this is Raw, let the people speak." Almost immediately, the chant dies because no one wants to go along now that Cena put his stamp of approval on it, therefore putting a screeching halt to the chants that benefit Bryan. I know I'm looking way too far into it, but Hogan has admitted to doing things like this and Cena is a modern day Hogan. Okay, I'll admit that it's more my own dislike for Cena trying to cut in like that and act like he's the one who decides when it is and isn't okay to chant. Or maybe I'm just so terribly tired of Cena, this is my slow descent into insanity.
- Bryan looks like he's having so much fun. And why wouldn't he be? The audience loves him. Oh god, now Cena is championing Bryan? He's stepping to Madd-ox, calling his bosses "dumbass" and saying size doesn't matter. He just name dropped Eddie Guerrero, even, and essentially tells us Bryan deserves the shot because he's super talented. I don't disagree with what he's saying, but I don't like him telling Bryan he's "proud of him". Always felt that was condescending, no matter who it is saying it and who it is having it said to them.
- This just feels wrong, doesn't it? Cena can say all the right things, but he's the living embodiment of what Madd-ox's "dumbass bosses" want in a champion, in a wrestler, in a company flagbearer. He's literally where he is because he has every quality Bryan doesn't that the powers that be look for, even when he's nowhere near Bryan's class as far as "talent," as he stated. Cena only deserves his spot, in many ways, because the decision makers think he does. And Bryan doesn't because they don't think he does. That's the system, the one that has made Cena the star he is and Bryan the underdog he has always been. Cena displays a stunning lack of self awareness by pretending to champion what Bryan represents because he's never, ever had to deal with that kind of adversity. And using names like Shawn Michaels and the late Eddie just feels dirty and wrong because, again, Cena has no idea what they had to do to get to where they ultimately ended up, as two of the best ever.
- Still, solid segment that focused the story on Bryan getting screwed around by those in power. It's interesting that Madd-ox was playing the role of guy trying to screw him, because that means he's trying to impress Vince McMahon instead of Triple H and Stephanie. Madd-ox wants job security, especially after SmackDown. I like that.
- Sheamus deserves a great deal of credit for working such a long match on such a nasty looking leg. I also love the psychology of the match and the eventual finish. It sets up for a program between the two and while that would undoubtedly be a terrible idea (mostly because I just don't enjoy either character and see too many flaws in both), I'm not sure there are any other options available right now.
- Booker T and Teddy Long are back on Raw for an interview with Renee Young, I guess to explain their continued presence on WWE television. Booker was shocked when he was removed from power and Teddy is pissed because Booker was shocked. Wait, Booker is threatening to throw Teddy out on his ass personally because Long made clear the abuse he took while he was in power and Book was recovering from surgery? I don't get it. I also don't care. Not even a little.
- New favorite Raw moment: Titus O'Neil carrying Christian on his shoulder from the outside up the steps and throwing him into the ring. That said, the announcers spent the entire match telling us he "has all the tools" before he did the job in his first Raw match in weeks, maybe longer. If he "has all the tools" that means someone is failing somewhere. I should note that I agree, mostly. Titus is great and it's disappointing that more people don't think as much.
- Ryback is a bully again. Interviewers are twerps. Thug life.
- That smile. Mark Henry is a man. A real man's man, a proud man who gave his best and came up short in a big match but maintains the pride he has within himself. That smile. He's a badass, enough to call out the three most viscious hounds in the yard and SMILE when they answer that call. I love Mark Henry. I also love Seth Rollins selling for Mark Henry. Roman Reigns, too.
- THAT DAMN NUMBERS GAME.
- The Henry face experiment is working just fine so far. He got the crowd behind him, he worked them into a frenzy during the brawl, and The Usos worked as perfect enhancement players to assist in the process. It turns out The Shield are perfect for their feud, too, because they sell so damn well for him, it has that much more impact.
- Dolph Ziggler is far too giving in the ring. Remember when CM Punk gave Darren Young an insanely good match on Raw a while back? He can do that because he's established as a top star and there isn't anything that's going to take that away from him. But when you're Ziggler and you're trying to get to that point, you can't spend four minutes of a five minute match selling for a jobber like Young before winning on a Zig Zag. Winning only means so much. How you win oftentimes makes all the difference. There is a way to make a smaller wrestler look dominant without it coming by way of brute force, like a Ryback would do.
- We're being treated to Miz TV with the cast of Total Diva's as guests. Oh dear god. This was a terrible segment all the way around, a complete waste of time and space and energy and every other possible thing it could have been a waste of. The only redeeming quality was Eva Marie slapping Jerry Lawler for looking at her cross, or like the pervert he's always been. That should happen far more often. Put that old perv in his place, ladies.
- This show is dragging ass in the worst way possible.
- Here's Triple H to take a big fat gigantic shit on Madd-ox and all his decisions. He's doing the same thing Cena was, putting Bryan over as the future of the business and saying he's full of shit for thinking otherwise. The only reason he didn't put a stop to the nonsense earlier was that he's confident Bryan is going to go out and prove everyone wrong anyway. We're slowly slipping into "overkill" and big name guys putting Bryan over. It's not going against "The Man" when "The Man" is telling us how great he is and will be in the future. Where's Vince to knock him back down a peg?
- Oh, instead it's Stephanie saying she's got a plan and Madd-ox needs to get on board with it. Yeah, okay.
- Fandango's honeymoon appears to be over and we're now fully on board with the Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow program. I'm not sure what it says, though, when Sandow's interactions with Michael Cole on commentary were more entertaining than the match in the ring and the finish to said match.
- Time for the CM Punk promo the show has been promoting so heavily. He feels like he's been in a car accident after the beatdown at the hands of Brock Lesnar but he's still standing. He got up every time. "He can beat me down, but he cannot keep me down." I like how he brought up the fact that Lesnar being a former UFC heavyweight champion might be the most impressive accomplishment of his life and the live crowd, the few who seemed to give a shit, booed that. But despite all that, and his many other career accolades and list of victims, Punk is not afraid of him. Beyond that, he owns the ring he stands in and he's been better than anyone else he's stepped in the ring with. Not the strongest promo from a subject matter standpoint, but the delivery was good and it makes sense for what they're trying to do. The Best vs. The Beast is the angle they're taking on the match.
- Cue Paul Heyman on video, "live via satellite." Punk calling out that it's probably bullshit was great but Heyman shitting on Punk for operating like he's fighting for the people -- "those aren't people, they aren't animals ... they're Texans" -- was even better. It wasn't the best interaction between the two of them, but it was good.
- What's this? Wade Barrett did something mildly entertaining? Rob Van Dam doing his ridiculous "RVD" schtick and Barrett grabs him up, shouts to the crowd "who? who?" and then tells them to shut up while he proceeds to whoop Van Dam's ass. That's a guy I can get behind. Naturally, he did the job to a guy who can have entertaining matches but isn't a compelling character. I don't really care about either of these two anyway.
- We the people.
- The psychology they used for Bryan's first match, a victory over Jack Swagger, was exactly what they should do with him. Swagger is much bigger, far more physical, a great athlete and all that jargon, so let him throw the smaller Bryan around only to fall to the Yes! Lock in the end anyway. That's what this scrappy bearded fellow does, you guys, he overcomes whatever challenge you throw in front of him and he gets the support of everyone around him along the way. He's that good, and this is how he'll prove it to you. Oh, you want to put another obstacle in front of him in the form of Antonio Cesaro, another physical, super strong wrestler who throws opponents around? Great. Bryan will prove you wrong and pin him on a roll up. Whatever it takes.
- Oh shit, it's Ryback. How can Bryan get himself out of this one? How can he prove that he's capable of beating the biggest, the strongest guys on the roster? Well, he can have an outstanding match with him, he can take him to the edge, he can come so close to defeating him, so close to putting him away with the Yes! Lock that Ryback felt it necessary to get himself disqualified by putting Bryan through a table.
- That's the optimistic viewpoint on that finish. Really, it sucks that WWE felt the need to do that. Why are they protecting Ryback at this point? Why must this awful booking of Ryback's character continue, just when they were kind of giving him some depth and treating him like a legitimate character? Why at the expense of Bryan? Just to allow Cena to get out there and save him to set up the tables match next week? This sucked. I would have rather Bryan won clean and they cut away with the same thing they cut away with anyway, which was Bryan in the ring standing tall after the grueling gauntlet he was put through. Is it really going to make Ryback look any worse than he already has? The best thing for Ryback at this point is probably to have him get torn all the way down so they can build him back up again later, something we as a people absolutely love to do to people. Bryan is on his way to the big time, why fuck that up even a little bit with that style of protective booking? Hated the finish to this, and felt like it fucked up the payoff of the previous two matches and about 40 minutes of TV time.
- And, yes, Cena is still Superman, out to help the little guy.
Not a terrible episode of Raw but it dragged and too many matches felt unnecessary, like Christian vs. Titus O'Neil. Also, Bray Wyatt's lack of presence on the show was bothersome. Also, where the hell was Big Show? Wasn't he supposed to be back for this one?
A thoroughly mediocre evening. But 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?