WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (July 14, 2014) from Richmond, Virginia, featuring the go home show to the upcoming Battleground pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for this coming Sunday night in Tampa, Florida. It was quite the show, to say the least.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events:
Get to the damn point
WWE is telling four stories in its main event scene right now and they're actually doing a pretty damn good job of tying it all together so it makes sense.
1. John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
These two have always been on a collision course because you can only have one alpha and omega, a throne Cena has occupied for just under a decade and one Reigns is gunning for now that The Shield is no longer a unit. Triple H, the devious evil overlord, just sped up the process when he saw an opening he could take advantage of to help get the WWE world heavyweight title under The Authority's control.
2. Mistrust among The Authority's minions
Thankfully, attention has been paid to ensuring Randy Orton, Kane, and Seth Rollins aren't complete idiots who blindly trust each other. They all know the score and they're all looking out for their own best interest while maintaining the illusion of working together for the best interest of The Authority, who are, for their part, doing their best to keep the plane on course despite heavy turbulence. But even they know the plane could nosedive at any minute because they can't actually control THEDEMONKANE, Randy Orton is still an insecure psycho, and Seth Rollins is a wild card. Contingency plans are being put in place.
3. Plan WRECK YOUR SHIT
It should be noted that said contingency plans are not necessarily the preferred option but The Authority has shown it will do what is necessary. That's why the master strategist, the one behind the one in 21 and 1, Paul Heyman, slid right into the picture so seamlessly. He saw an opening, so he made his move. If Triple H is the King, meticulously ordering his troops around to achieve his goal, Brock Lesnar will be the Queen who can make any move he wants. A strong chess player can defeat you without ever using the Queen but the rooks and the knights and the bishops fail, it's time to wreck shit. That's Lesnar, except he's got a representative with a slick tongue.
4. What about Ambrose?
The fact that Rollins is Plan B and he has a gnat like Dean Ambrose following him around at every turn isn't lost on The Authority, not to mention all the infighting and distrust surrounding Rollins, Orton, and Kane. That's why Lesnar is coming. There was a show of strength early on, with all three dastardly heels taking Ambrose out of the picture to kick off Raw but he was so very Joker in all but stealing from the interrogation scene while telling his attackers they have nothing to do with all their strength. He is possessed, an unbreakable force they can't find a way to get rid of. He's doubly dangerous because he's one of Reigns' old allies.
There have been times when the execution of all this has left a bit to be desired -- that brutally bad Kane run in on Reigns deserves all the criticism it's getting today -- but the stories are strong and WWE doesn't appear to be hot shotting in the way we're used to.
Plus, just watch that above promo when Reigns tells Cena to get to the point and Cena responds with shock and awe. Realize that Roman was both allowed to be the guy strong enough to say it and have Cena not only respond that way but proceed to respect his wish and do as he was told.
Oh, and BROCK LESNAR RETURNS SOON, HIDE YOUR COUCHES, HIDE YOUR TITLES, HE'S TAKING ERRYBODY OUT UP IN HERE.
Segment(s) grade: B
What did the five fingers say to the face?
I'll get this out of the way first, because it's necessary: It sure would have been nice had WWE booked Zeb Colter to attack Lana and Rusev verbally with anything other than sexism, if only because he's on the babyface side here. It did not, however, take away from what was ultimately a surprisingly amazing segment that had a ton of heat.
Lana's facial expressions were glorious all throughout this segment. While she's screaming at the crowd for being stupid asshole Americans, they're bombing her with boos and she has no clue how to tolerate it. She's used to giving orders and having them followed. Failure to do so results in near system shut down, and dudes getting slapped in the face.
Colter, sexism aside, was also great here cutting a promo somewhat close to what he should have started with. "We may not all agree with our leader, but damn it we'll fight for the country he represents." That's perfect.
Swagger did good standing there and not injuring anyone.
Rusev again may have stolen the segment, this time by grabbing the microphone and, like a total badass, telling Colter "THIS IS WAR" before throwing the mic down.
I even liked Michael Cole, who was standing off to the side in the ring and the only time he did anything of note was to react like he was scared shitless when Rusev made that proclamation and threw the mic down.
This was the best possible segment for a go home show leading to a match because holy hell, aren't you exicted for Rusev vs. Swagger now? I'm actually excited for a Jack Swagger match.
Well done, everyone.
Segment grade: A
Go home Ric, you're drunk
During this segment, the following tweet appeared in our mentions:
Hey @cagesideseats, I hope your guy has his pen ready after this Flair segment. WHAT A PERVE.— Things Cole Says (@ThingsColeSays) July 15, 2014
You know what? I couldn't even feel outraged here. I saw a lot of reaction to this that looked a whole lot like what was sent in that tweet. People thinking Flair's a creepy old man, and it was creepy because he was doing his tired routine to Renee Young, a beloved female announcer/interviewer/commentator who shouldn't be subjected to this nonsense.
Maybe I got sucked into the charm but I wasn't even mad at him.
Maybe I'm part of the problem this time because I couldn't help but feel like Flair has become the weird old perverted uncle you have who you try to keep your distance from but he's still family. He's still going to show up and act stupid and make a few people uncomfortable but it's cool because he never gets too crazy. I mean, there was that one time he went too far but he's on a short leash so he mostly keeps his behavior in check since then.
There's something charming about that.
There's also something really sad and pathetic about it too, so if you watched this, hated it, and decided you never want to see this legend who looks like anything but ever again I won't blame you.
Plus, I can't figure out why he was even there. To pop a rating, yeah, but as a fan that doesn't concern me. As a fan, it felt like a waste of time.
Segment grade: D+
But not least:
- Chris Jericho cut a next level promo. Engaging, funny, put himself over as a big deal while also putting his opponent over as the most dangerous guy in WWE. Coupled with Bray Wyatt's explanation for targeting Jericho, and this feud is on the upswing. We'll just ignore the stupidity in Jericho backing up the ramp and right into Wyatt's awaiting arms before one of the worst Sister Abigail spots in recent memory.
- I'm so happy WWE went ahead with turning The Miz heel and actually commiting to it. I don't need any help hating this man but he's one of those guys you appreciate for how much you hate him and WWE always should have been helping us do just that. He is the opposite of Ricky Steamboat, never to be accepted as a babyface again. The whole "my face is so precious we're going to put it on the Titantron for the duration of this match" bit was perfect. Same for calling it his "moneymaker" over and over. I already hate it so much, and I love that.
- I thought I liked where they were going with Summer Rae and Layla and then they went and wrote them last night. If you're a female, I guess the grand prize always has to be a man. "Dolph Ziggler beat Fandango? Let's hook up with him now!" As opposed to "we don't need a man to be successful and achieve our goals, let's go do just that and forget about these zeros."
- We need more of wrestlers not waiting for guys to get through their entrances, rushing them, and using that element of surprise to viciously beat the shit out of them. So good on The Wyatt Family for doing that to The Usos.
- They've actually done a fairly good job of making Nikki freaking Bella a sympathetic babyface, haven't they? Part of that is Stephanie McMahon being so deliciously evil but at some point I found myself actually rooting for Nikki to finally get hers in all this.
- Loved and hated the Adam Rose/Damien Sandow segment. Hated it because we wasted a week on a new Sandow character being a Sonic employee and loved it because Rose is now a cheap product placement guy. Keep him there.
- Stardust needs a story.
- I'm thoroughly enjoying this insincere back-and-forth between AJ Lee and Paige. It's far more interesting than what we're used to getting, right? Paige even felt like an actual wrestling character while she was sitting in on commentary, going beyond that whole "I'm no rookie fluke" nonsense. She's established now, and she's working with the best. Also, kudos to whoever had her sit next to JBL instead of Jerry Lawler.
- 15 and BO! The open challenge gimmick is perfect, and if they have to use Great Khali, this was the right way to do it. "Hey there, big buddy..." Too good. Then the chop ... "OOOOOWWWWWW!" The best around.
This was a weird show with a lot of good things going for it but a lot of filler. There were two matches I wasn't inspired enough to even write about here. Three hours is just too long.
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?