WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (May 26, 2014) from Knoxville, Tennessee, featuring the go home show to the Payback pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for this coming Sunday night at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. Thankfully, the crowd at that event will enthusiastically respond to the action in the ring, unlike the Debbie downers that filled the Thompson-Boling Arena last night.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events:
Really liked the contract signing segment not because of its overall execution but because of all the little things The Shield and Evolution got right while going through it. The contract signing in pro wrestling has potential at its best and is creative laziness at worst but it worked here because of three things.
1. Someone set up all the furniture in the ring just so Roman Reigns could throw it out
Eric Bischoff's motto, and the way he made WCW successful, was to always remember that if he couldn't be better than WWE, at least he could be different. It's almost impossible to be "better" in contract signing segments because all booking roads lead to "this still sucks" but you can be different.
They accomplished this by starting the segment with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins talking while Reigns methodically went about clearing out the ring. Fuck this chair. Fuck that chair. Fuck this table. Fuck the guy with the pencil for booking this segment. Let's just fight.
As a side note here, did anyone else like Rollins standing in the middle of the ring flipping through pages of the contract on a clipboard wearing a tactical vest like he's making sure everything is on the up and up?
2. Roman Reigns "shh'ed" Triple H
I've been alerted it may have been a production issue with his mic and he was actually trying to say "just shut up" or something along those lines but it only caught the "sh". If true, that would make this a rare instance where a botch greatly enhanced a moment.
Triple H just talks and talks and talks and talks and we hate it and we just want someone to tell him to shut his trap. Reigns did so in the most condescending, emasculating way possible. Think of the feeling you get when you're talking and someone looks at you with disdain and says "shh".
You're like a child getting reprimanded by your parent. There is no situation where that's not embarrassing because there is no good reaction to it, no quick, witty comeback to regain the footing you lost by such a simple dismissive sound.
It's not even a word. Like he couldn't even be bothered to form a word to tell Triple H to shut the hell up already.
The worst part?
3. Batista's sell of the Superman Punch
It's so good. Skip to 1:37 of the video above and marvel at the skill on display here. There's a fine line between going too far and not going far enough and Batista navigates that tight rope with all the grace of the greatest we've seen.
It's time to feel really sad he's leaving soon.
Segment grade: B
Some retreat, no surrender
When Daniel Bryan was running away from Kane alongside his wife, Brie Bella, he didn't look like much of a hero. I mean, sure, he wanted to protect her but he went about it the cowardly away.
You don't drive her away from the monster, you give her the keys and let her drive away while you kill the monster so it can't chase her anymore.
Either way, that story sucked.
This one is much better.
Without even realizing it, WWE finely crafted a nice little moral dilemma for our world heavyweight champion. He scratched and he clawed and he sacrificed everything to achieve his dream of winning the belts he so lovingly carries around. He earned support from the fan base at large and it was through that support, at least in part, that he could crawl that extra inch. Giving up the title(s) now would be a slap in the face to all those who stood by him on that journey.
So now Stephanie McMahon forces his hand. Now she puts him in an impossible position with an equally impossible decision facing him.
He can give the belt(s) back or his wife will be fired.
Here's why this works: Brie committed a fireable offense. Stephanie McMahon wasn't wrong when she laid out the facts as they were. She did, in fact, put her hands on her boss. What makes Stephanie such a diabolical heel is she could simply strip Bryan of his title(s) and move on without a fuss. But she won't. That would make him a martyr, and she can't have that.
She wants to make him do it.
So here he is staring at a decision so many married couples have faced all around the world: His dream or hers?
To make it that much juicer, they cannot be sure Stephanie will stand by her word.
Damn Stephanie for forcing him into this position.
Segment grade: B-
YOU WILL WATCH THIS
You knew WWE would run a Jerry Lawler segment in Knoxville, Tennessee, and for as uncomfortable as it may be to have Lawler in the ring doing anything after his heart attack of two years ago, this was well put together.
Lawler is an easy target because at this point he's a helpless old man who everyone loves. For the purposes of this story, he's also the guy who has, in fact, pushed John Cena down the throats of every fan who has watched Monday Night Raw over the past eight years or so.
Bray Wyatt sees him as the enemy because he pushed Cena's message for so long. That makes him a liability to the cause, so he must be handled.
Relevant side note: Michael Cole was close to perfect here. His concern wasn't over the top, but it may have been underplayed. "Oh my god. No, no, no, no, no. Don't do this. Please don't do this, Bray". Still, credit where it's due.
Cena has bounced back and forth between playing the bully and the straight forward good guy with values and a strong moral compass.
He was on the right side here.
"Abraham Lincoln once said 'if you want to test a man's character you give him power'. Well, you've had a taste of that power and it's made you sick, Bray. It's made you sick. You look at what you just tried to do. Because an innocent man doesn't think the same way that you do you try to eliminate him?"
Bray's reaction: "He's not so innocent, John."
Just as strongly as Cena believes what he says, Wyatt actually thinks Lawler is not innocent and must be dealt with. Look at his reaction when Cena tells him taking out Lawler "isn't a necessary evil, it's just plain evil". Look at the trance he goes into.
I'm also sad they rushed right into this feud. Cena should have been the last stop. Wyatt should have been infecting the entire roster with his message for a number of years, feasting on mid-carders and meandering wrestlers with no place to call home. And when he was close to finally taking over, Cena could swoop in to be the hero who restores the natural order.
Either way, this was a strong segment to build to the Last Man Standing match this weekend.
Segment grade: B+
All the best to all the rest:
- Good on WWE for honoring Memorial Day the way they did (and do).
- I like to think the reason referees or sercurity personnel never come out to put a halt to Alicia Fox's post-match insanity is because no one in the back can convince them to do it. Would you want to? One guy got slapped around, then given a wedgie. I loved it. The forceful kissing isn't okay, though, and should stop immediately. She can get over with her craziness just fine without going to those lengths.
- More Emma sans Santino, please.
- Eva Marie managed to make a smack across the face look awkward. She successfully complete a roll up, however, so it wasn't a total wash for her last night.
- This Fandango break up and feud with Layla is giving Summer Rae a chance to showcase her range. If we did WWE power rankings, she would be shooting up the ranks.
- Drew McIntyre pointing at El Torito while thrusting his groin is terribly uncomfortable to watch. Why do it? What is he trying to get across? That he wants to sexually assualt the little person dressed like a bull? Everything about the 3MB-Los Matadores feud is stupid and it's hiding Heath Slater when he should be in plain view doing jobs like he's good at.
- I'm glad Rusev crushed Zack Ryder if only because Ryder immediately took to Twitter to say, "Sorry America". Great tweet.
- Did WWE creative once again forget that Cody Rhodes and Goldust were headed toward a break up? Shit or get off the pot, please.
- I love any pro wrestling character who is painfully unaware of who they actually are. Bo Dallas works because, like his brother, his commitment is otherworldly. There are situations that exist where relentless positivity is actually a detriment. I want WWE to place Bo into those situations and let him turn it up to 11. Bo is the guy George Carlin was thinking of when he said "more than happy" sounds like a medical condition.
- Really starting to dislike the booking for Cesaro. They push him as one of the strongest guys on the roster, he's routinely showcased performing startling feats of strength, and he's stealing his wins? It's booking like this that makes you think lesser of a guy without ever realizing you're thinking lesser of the guy. Consider this: Would you buy him as credible opposite, say, Brock Lesnar right now? No. He has to steal victories against the Rob Van Dam's of the world. That's unfortunate, especially if that Lesnar match that was rumored ever comes to fruition.
- So happy WWE went ahead with pushing Damien Sandow: Character Actor. Davy Crockett wasn't his best work but he's set the bar high and hey, it's okay to hit singles sometimes. They don't all have to be home runs.
- At one point in the Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio rehash, Del Rio kicked Sheamus in the head and a fan in the first few rows reacted by standing up, grabbing his face in disbelief, and never sitting back down until the conclusion of the match. We should all strive to be like this fan when at a pro wrestling show. Allow yourself to get swept up in the action, Cagesiders. It's kind of the point.
That last point is relevant because this show felt lesser than it actually was because the crowd in Knoxville sat on its hands for most of the evening. It wasn't nearly as bad as they made out.
Overall grade: B
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?