WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Oct. 20, 2014) from Kansas City, Missouri featuring the go home show to the upcoming Hell in a Cell pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for this Sunday night in Dallas. That includes Mick Foley making his return to spice up a feud that had lost its luster.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
They get the character but they don't really get the character
Dean Ambrose is crazy.
That's what they want you to think because that's what they think you enjoy about Dean Ambrose. They're not entirely wrong; after all, his reaction to adversity is, to be gentle, unique. If you stab a normal person in the back, they might yell at you, cry, eat some ice cream, and get over it. Ambrose, meanwhile, might hide in the trunk of a car he doesn't own and/or pop out of a Christmas present that isn't his to get revenge on you.
It's part of his charm.
It is, however, vital to the story that it always be made clear that at the heart of it all, his motivation for every "crazy" thing he does, is the very fact that he was stabbed in the back. He doesn't just do things because he's not actually crazy in the same way a person suffering from depression isn't crazy but rather dealing with a condition.
Seth Rollins is the condition.
This is where they fell flat with the doll angle last night. I actually love the idea, the execution just left a lot to be desired and, again, exposed the fact that while WWE gets it, they don't really get it.
Ambrose talking shit to this doll and ripping it apart limb from limb is great. Playing it for comedy is great too, but they went too far in that direction without swinging the pendulum hard enough back to the other side. On the same show they outright acknowledged Ambrose is The Joker and he quoted Heath Ledger's character from The Dark Knight, they failed to deliver the backstory to give the insanity meaning; to give it purpose.
Again, it was just "Ambrose is crazy."
The Joker is always smiling, but that isn't because he's happy. And for as awesome as Michael Caine's "some men just want to watch the world burn" line was upon delivery, it wasn't The Joker's actual motivation. He wanted to expose Batman by putting him in impossible situations that would force him to make a choice that would, in turn, expose the human condition. There's depth there. It's not just some crazy idiot with face paint and a catchphrase.
Now imagine how much more powerful that segment last night would have been had Ambrose played the comedy for a bit before abruptly dropping it for a minute, looking at the doll with painful longing, and said something along the lines of "I loved you ... why did you do this?"
There's a depth here WWE has seemingly forgotten, and while I won't go so far as blaming John Cena for it, that detour took away so much of the feeling behind this. It needed something big to bring it back and instead of a deeper, darker turn from Ambrose, we got a crazy guy playing with a doll and Rollins all but calling him an idiot for it.
As far as all that goes...
Segment grade: C
But then this happened:
Mrs. Foley's baby boy showed up RIGHT HERE to save the day
Right when Rollins and Ambrose were starting to just make threats at each other's faces, that familiar car crash hit the speakers and a certain hardcore legend came sauntering down to the ring to remind us both of his existence as a force in the pro wrestling world and the fact that he's still one of the best promos in pro wrestling history when he's got material to work with.
Foley is WWE's go to guy when they want to get over how insanely dangerous it is to work a Hell in a Cell match and while that would normally be entirely unwelcome -- imagine if he had come out and done this for the John Cena vs. Randy Orton snoozer -- it was the exact prescription this dying feud needed to come back to life at the exact moment it needed it to.
His goal, of course, was to bring back the fire that once existed but had been extinguished by that detour through Cenation and all its fanning. And he did just that, digging deep to evince the excitement we all once felt for this formerly epic feud reaching its conclusion inside Hell in a Cell.
He hit all the points he needed to, he got his cheap pops, he promoted the WWE Network in an inoffensive manner that made sense for his character, and perhaps the best part, he took the crowd chanting for the Kansas City Royals all night -- something that totally overran the Cena-Orton promo earlier in the night and resulted in the two doing more to promote the World Series than their match this Sunday -- and found a way to turn that into even better promotion for Rollins vs. Ambrose.
And all felt right in the world again.
Segment grade: A
- The main event was a tag team 3-on-2 Street Fight and they worked the match like it was a straight tag. Whatever shot this match had of being even moderately entertaining went to hell when they were focused more on hot tags than telling an even somewhat logical story.
- To touch on the promo between Orton and Cena mentioned previously, it was bad. Because Randy went for the cheap heat by going after the Royals, the fans in Kansas City completely overran him with chants for them. Cena, being who he is, attempted to turn that in his favor. That was probably the right play for the situation but by the time all was said and done, as mentioned, it ended up doing more to promote the World Series than it did to promote the match these two are getting ready to have this weekend.
- What's more, it now appears Orton vs. Cena is a number one contender match, which would be the epitome of ridiculous WWE booking, even with the Rollins turnabout later and the obvious implication that he's pulling the strings in all this. These two are only squaring off because they're losers on the outside of the Ambrose-Rollins feud and yet the winner gets a title match with Brock Lesnar? You would think Orton hitting the RKO on Paul Heyman was planting a seed for later, and his continued babyface turn tease would play into that, but this makes zero sense on a number of levels. It goes back to the problem WWE has had for all these years, which is an outright refusal to push new stars. How amazing they unironically brought up how all three of the folks involved here were tops in 2002 and still tops in 2014. Longevity is grand in most situations; here it simply exposed WWE's inability to make anyone else into a major star.
- There was a super hot angle on this show that had nothing to do with the main event scene and it was Rusev kicking an American soldier in the face. After he tore it up in an awesome match with Big E -- these two always knock it out of the park -- WWE had Big Show play a prank on Rusev and dropped the American flag behind him instead of the Russian flag. Rusev, seeing his chance to get revenge on Show for denigrating the Russian flag weeks ago, went for it. A soldier rushes the ring, seemingly to assault Rusev, and is stopped by security before the Bulgarian brute kicks him in the face and runs off. How great is this? What's most amazing, is Big Show then comes out seething, claiming Rusev REALLY crossed the line now by disrespecting a soldier, something he claims you just never do. You know, even though the soldier rushed the ring -- something even Michael Cole was made to say you should never, ever do, for any reason whatsoever -- and attempted to assault Rusev for even hinting on messing with the American flag, which was only there because of Big Show, and his biggest reason for wanting to do anything to the flag was because Big Show had already done it to the Russian flag. This is ALL totally Big Show's fault, and somehow he's the babyface we should be cheering. He's a massive idiot and we should all hope Rusev annihilates him at Hell in a Cell before going back to having dope matches with other hosses who can actually bump for him.
- Maybe the best thing that has happened in the Miz-Damien Mizdow relationship came last night when, in a brilliant wrinkle, we got Mizdow picking up a win for his team in a six-man tag match and Miz, on commentary for this, completely losing his mind like he was the one who won the match. This was so beautifully done I'm almost ashamed I had never seen this idea anywhere else. Let it be noted here that WWE creative came up with a brilliant wrinkle for two of our favorite characters and none of us came up with it first. Well done. This also totally opens the door to it happening again and again and that being the thing that Mizdow gets sick of Miz for and creates a feud for the two of them.
- Let it be noted here that the Intercontinental, US, and Divas champions all lost their matches on this show.
- Let it also be noted that Summer Rae is criminally underused and I'll go ahead and be the one to say I wouldn't mind her and Brie Bella getting the chance to go 12 minutes on a PPV at some point down the line. Hopefully before then WWE decides it needs to do a better job of explaining "BRIE MODE", considering her shouting it during matches can be confusing to anyone who has watched Total Divas and knows that to mean "Brie is hammered drunk and acting a fool".
I enjoyed this show quite a bit, all things considered. There were issues, sure, but there was also a lot of set up for the future here, with plenty of interesting possibilities for when things really get interesting in the new year.
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?