WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (May 19, 2014) from London, England, featuring a show that promised an answer for the state of the WWE world heavyweight championship without really giving us one -- and that wasn't a bad thing -- while also continuing the set up for the upcoming Payback pay-per-view (PPV) early next month in Chicago.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events:
Trolling for intrigue
Let's get it out of the way now: Stephanie McMahon is quite possibly the best performer currently working in WWE. She has perfected her character, probably because it appears to be a natural extension of who she actually is and when she's got the camera pointed at her, she turns it up to 11.
That is the recipe for success, after all, or at least that's what Stone Cold said once.
Maybe it's because she's a mother and her job in that role is to convince her children that everything is going to be okay, even if a situation dictates that it's not. That was what she was calling on last night while telling us how Daniel Bryan was valiant for trying his little heart out but coming up just short.
But he did come up short and she was very clearly basking in the sweet victory of as much while playing the concerned boss is only looking out for everyone's best interest.
She was trolling, and it was masterful.
What's more, Stephanie was the perfect heel here. She could have simply stripped Bryan of the title and let him keep his dignity by allowing him time to recover so he can come back to fight to regain it, something he already said he's totally willing to do. But no, she wants him to show up, bum neck and all, to hand the title over himself in what she would undoubtedly play up as an admission that he couldn't handle being champion and The Authority was right all along. His giving the belt(s) back and disappearing to rehab would give them all the ammo they need to bury him while he's gone by, as he put it, spreading their propaganda.
Beyond that, WWE played their hand perfectly here by hyping a decision on the WWE world heavyweight title then teasing that Bryan would be stripped of it without actually doing so and setting up a segment for next week where we can't be entirely sure what will happen.
Segment grade: A
This is how you do it
Here on the site, I engaged in a debate with one of you dear Cagesiders in the comments section recently regarding how strong Alicia Fox can possibly be as a heel when she never wins. Her recent run of success has been in character only; she's lost every match since her big turn as the wild, whining vixen with a penchant for assaulting innocent bystanders.
My argument was simple: She's a heel -- they're born to lose, you know -- and her character is dependent on those losses. Otherwise, why would she snap and start robbing people on the commentary team?
This is where I admit I was wrong.
She won her match with Divas Champion Paige last night and STILL went batshit insane after, this time, apparently, out of manic enthusiasm for her victory. It wasn't even just that she won, it was how she won: She absolutely dominated this match, kicking out of the Paige Turner that brought an end to AJ Lee's record title reign, kicking Paige in the skull, boasting about it to the crowd, then dragging Paige out to the center by her hair and pinning her.
Clean, just like that, 1-2-3.
Now she's established as a credible threat who also happens to be off her rocker, making her that much more dangerous. She's unpredictable, this one, as evidenced by the ensuing freak out wherein she came close to sexually molesting the referee, stole Jerry Lawler's crown whilst proclaiming herself THE QUEEN, tightrope walked the barricade, stole a child's soda, took a drink, then poured it down her face.
I couldn't begin to imagine what she's going to do next and that's why this works. I have a reason to care because I know she can win and I can't wait to see just what the hell she's going to do next.
Segment grade: B+
That man is wearing a cheeseburger
It's unfortunate that WWE had to cut the video you see above so it didn't include the opening half of Adam Rose's big "recovery" segment last night because, well, it was quite possibly the worst writing you'll see for a babyface character in history.
The idea here, apparently, is for Rose to create some form of connection between the audience, you and I, and his so-called Rosebuds, that group of misfits he's "partying" with all the time.
The way they went about doing so boggles the mind.
Rose regurgitated his catchphrase in a new and totally uninteresting way before showing off one his Rosebuds wearing a cheeseburger. Yes, a cheeseburger. The grand idea? For Rose to make a joke that he has sesame seeds on his buns but it's okay because they also have a nurse as part of the crew and she'll be sure to take a look at him.
If you're wondering why on Earth you should care about this, you're not alone.
The crowd at the O2 was so blown away with boredom, they decided their best course of action at this point was to entertain themselves by chanting his theme song. Sadly, that only serves to make it appear as though Rose got over when, in fact, this entire segment was stupid and he'll die yet another death when he's in front of a crowd that actually gets WWE shows more than once or twice a year.
There is some praise to be handed out here, however, if only because the general idea, in theory, wasn't bad. Adam has a deep connection to his fun-loving Rosebuds, we're supposed to feel the same, so we'll back him when he takes care of any dastardly heel -- like Jack Swagger -- who dares try to bully them.
The problem, again, is they skipped the step where we find a reason to care about them. Sorry, but that man wearing a cheeseburger with sesame seeds on his buns didn't do the trick.
Segment grade: D+
All the best to all the rest:
- Can everyone go ahead and stop pretending like Batista isn't doing some of the best work of his career? Not only is he one of the only actual heels on the roster right now who embraces his role and has perfected the "too old for this shit" character, but his work in the ring has steadily improved. Perhaps fans were too hard on him over the past couple months when he was knocking the rust off after four years away.
- Credit goes to Seth Rollins too, of course, who has shown he can have good matches with just about anybody. Maybe he's not the next Shawn Michaels like I want to believe he is and can be, but we know he'll always have a job because he can work with anyone and make them look good without sacrificing his own standing.
- Someone start the petition for Dean Ambrose to replace Jerry Lawler on commentary full time so I can sign it immediately. Thanks!
- There isn't much bad to say about John Cena's involvement on last night's show, but I can't be the only one who is simply tired of seeing him doing the same thing over and over, and working the same match over and over with a new guy substituted in. Luke Harper is a phenomenal talent and he maximized his minutes, as Jim Ross would say (particularly when he threw John Cena's shoe into the crowd because fuck John Cena's shoe), but aren't we over this by now?
- Bray Wyatt did cut one hell of a promo to start the show, however. Clearly establishing himself as evil was always necessary and taking the duality angle was a nice touch because that's the character. He wants you to embrace him because all the good that Cena represents cannot exist without him.
- The "Beat the Clock" challenge is a tried and true gimmick but it felt uninspired this time around. Maybe it was the match-ups -- Big E vs. Ryback was fine, Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam has been done to death, and Dolph Ziggler vs. Mark Henry was an odd pairing to say the least -- but the execution wasn't there. Perhaps the issue is one of perception. There was never a feeling of a new threat emerging but rather a fresh meal to feed to rising star Bad News Barrett. To that end, the right choice was made.
- Beyond excited for the possibilities in the Summer Rae-Layla-Fandango love triangle, though my partner Sean brought up a good point when asking who I'm supposed to cheer for. Still, there's a very real human element to this, even if it does feel a lot like two women fighting over a man who is a whole lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak. That just opens the door for the turn later when the ladies realize they're fighting over a vain, pompous ass and the best play is to dump him and move forward as friends. Getting there should be fun.
- Rusev did not, in fact, commit a hate crime last night and that's nice. Again, though, repetitiveness is becoming an issue that cannot be overlooked. Lana's legs can only distract me for so long before I realize she's saying the same thing over and over and I still don't care that she thinks Vladimir Putin is a great man. Also, I'm not the type to hate a guy I can't understand, so trying to get heat on Rusev by having him speak a language I cannot translate does nothing for me.
- Give me Sheamus vs. Cesaro at Payback, then give them 20 minutes to open the show.
This wasn't a bad show, but it wasn't a particularly good one, though that's likely in part to an issue that will always affect professional wrestling in 2014: repetitiveness.
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 like it, if you liked it at all?