WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Nov. 3, 2014) from Buffalo, New York featuring all the latest build to the Survivor Series pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for later this month in St. Louis. That includes the return of Vince McMahon, who gave a much needed injection of inspiration.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
IF WE BURN, YOU BURN, WE ALL BURN TOGETHER
This show was all about STAKES, from the fact that Vince McMahon returned to raise them down to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon busting hump to figure out how to meet them.
It worked so, so well.
There was a lot to unpack here, starting with Vince making his return. We know the business implications of why he was back and why he announced what he did -- that if Team Authority lost against Team Cena at Survivor Series, they would lose their power as The Authority -- but the storyline reason for as much remains unclear. We got a not so subtle tease of a pending power struggle, an angle that was rumored to be in consideration for this past year's WrestleMania. In its original incarnation, that would have seen Triple H, representing the heel Authority, taking on a returning Stone Cold Steve Austin, representing a babyface Vince attempting to overthrow them.
Hey, didn't they tease Triple H vs. The Rock really hard recently? Hmmm...
Either way, Vince was brilliant because he's Vince and arguably the greatest character in WWE history, but Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were the stars of this show. In the ring, while Vince was dropping this bombshell, Trips played it cool, like he was totally unaffected by the potentially career altering news he just had thrown at him, like it was all part of the plan and he was still in control. Stephanie, meanwhile, reacted with obvious surprise and a slight hint of betrayal.
The rest of the show was about their quest to figure out what the hell they were going to do about a match that suddenly had so much more meaning. There's no longer any need to push the "can John Cena overcome the odds" angle. Now, it's all about The Authority maintaining power.
This couldn't come at a worse time either, considering Randy Orton, emotionally unstable to begin with, is in the midst of a meltdown thanks to the near complete lack of support he's been given since Seth Rollins was handed the silver spoon that had been planted firmly in "The Viper's" cheek. His insecurity was always going to give way to the rage bubbling underneath the surface, and there was always going to be a great call back to the anger issues that plagued him throughout his career, both on screen and off.
Having already RKO'ed Rollins on Raw last week, The Authority were left to pick up the pieces in an attempt to salvage a cohesive unit they would need to run smoothly because, again, Survivor Series is now quite literally about their survival as the ruling force in WWE.
They made many plays throughout the evening, attempting to navigate the minefield in front of them. They included:
The aforementioned attempted taming of Orton: Triple H was the vocal proponent of his inclusion on the team because he "is the strongest" while Stephanie was hesitant.
An attempted wooing of Dolph Ziggler: This was a brilliant segment that saw Triple H attempt to dissuade Dolph from joining Cena's team that included his asking questions that felt like they were rooted in reality, like who would get the blame if Team Cena lost and who would get the credit if Team Cena won. He was offered anything he wanted to turn Cena down and Ziggler, who has fast become a meaningful mid-card babyface thanks to his positioning here, stayed true to his morals and told them to pound sand.
Another attempt to tame Orton: After Orton cost Seth Rollins the Intercontinental championship in an impromptu match with Ziggler after the aforementioned attempted wooing, he demanded a singles match later in the evening. Triple H responded with one of his finest promos, passionately explaining to his underling that even if he gets his revenge on Rollins, if they can't band together and win at Survivor Series, they're all going to burn. Again, STAKES. This matters. Orton is granted a match with Rollins to get their aggression out and settle up once they're done. As a man with three brothers, this spoke to me, seeing as that's oftentimes exactly how it works. We're pissed, we fight, we're good shortly after.
Sending out feelers to Mark Henry: The Authority were scouting him as he was wiping the mat with Big Show because THAT'S WHAT HE DO and Kane was sent to gauge possible interest in teaming up. Triple H was fearful that Henry may not be able to stay focused, which was a lowlight considering everything else he was doing on this show with Rollins and Orton at each other's throats and doing everything other than staying focused.
Making a play for Rusev: Zack Ryder was popping off at the mouth on Twitter about joining Team Cena, apparently, so The Authority fed him to Rusev before asking about joining the team, making mention of the US title match they were letting happen later in the show. Lana said they would get back to her and it's worth noting that Rusev won the title later in the evening.
The final attempt to tame Orton: After all that, it was main event time, where Orton would finally get the chance to square up with Rollins so they could come together as a unit after taking their anger out on each other. They had a fantastic match that saw Rollins score a surprise backslide pinfall victory, a genius finish to send Orton right back to the tipping point and ensure he wouldn't play ball.
Sure enough, despite Triple H repeatedly attempting to reassure him that all was well, Orton snapped and got RKO happy. He valiantly fought off The Authority for as long as possible before it became clear that a decision had to be made and while Triple H didn't want to do it, he had to do it.
He whispered to Stephanie and she gave the order to finish Orton off, done to ensure that he wouldn't be around to join forces with Cena to fight against them.
They weren't happy but they did what they had to do because, again, STAKES. This matters.
Orton came out of this a clear cut babyface the fans are in love with (if he shows up at Survivor Series, and he's not expected to, St. Louis, his hometown, mind you, will go apeshit), Ziggler is elevated because he's opposing The Authority and fighting his ass off against long odds he can't overcome (for now), Rollins is a monster heel who always seems to get the better end of everything and it's infuriating, and, again, the upcoming match at Survivor Series feels like it really matters.
Triple H gave his best performance in years on this show. You could say the same for Stephanie. Vince was back.
Good lord, this was awesome.
Other stuff that happened
Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro: I was initially upset that Ambrose shook Vince McMahon's hand on his way out, sharing a laugh together, but Twitter turned me around after voicing as much. Of course Ambrose likes Vince; as our friend Scott Christ mentioned to us, he's the original rebel. Plus, Vince was a big fan of The Shield when he came across them before, so you could always run with the idea that Vince and Ambrose are old buddies and that's just a wonderful thought, isn't it? Regarding the actual match that happened here, it was a clear time filler but very good for what it was.
Bray Wyatt shows up in a rocking chair: Midway through that Ambrose-Cesaro match, WWE cut to commercial with that Wyatt clip and when they came back he was on the stage rocking in his chair. That's all he did. After the match ended, it went dark, he disappeared, and Ambrose laughed. That was literally all that happened. I'm just going to tell myself over and over to "give it time" because so far this "feud" is awful.
The Miz vs. Jimmy Uso: This was a fun match, mostly because WWE bothered to book Jey Uso to hang out on the outside and do the same thing Damien Mizdow was doing. It played really well, though Michael Cole uproariously proclaiming it "HILARIOUS" damn near ruined the gag. The finish was strong too, considering Miz continues winning thanks to a stunt double that should have been figured out ages ago and wasn't. So, they're full blown Hollywood. It's phenomenal.
Sheamus vs. Tyson Kidd: This was a baffling match, both because it wasn't as good as it could have been considering who was involved and because they beat Sheamus to advance the Kidd-Natalya divorce angle despite the fact that Total Divas is off the air until January of next year.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins: Touched on this earlier but Ziggler has never worked as well as he has since he's been positioned as a clear number two to Cena but in a way that he looks like a legitimate threat The Authority is worried about. They've been beating him, yeah, but he's made it hard on them every time and the fans are getting behind him in a way they haven't for a long time. Great match, weird finish that didn't play well on TV with Orton running in to RKO Rollins and Ziggler just disappearing with no announcement of retaining his Intercontinental title.
Luke Harper has lots of eyes, Erick Rowan is a creep: They aired a promo for Harper and it appears he'll be something close to what he was before, except on his own and being the badass big man wrestler he is. Rowan, meanwhile, is rolling around creeping on Renee Young and continuing a run of backstage comedy segments. It's clear they have no idea what to do with this guy.
Titus O'Neil vs. Ryback: Not a great match, and somewhat surprising that Titus was given so much offense, but good to continue establishing THE BIG GUY as the beast he was before. He should be a shoo-in for Team Cena.
Big Show vs. Mark Henry: Had a hard time caring much about this considering the announcers are still clueless about what the real issue between the two of them is, even though they both laid it out in separate interviews throughout the night. Plus, if Show is out for blood and wanting to knock Henry out of his life like he claimed, why is he working body punches? These two have had strong matches in the past; this wasn't one of them.
Nikki Bella vs. Emma: A nothing match won by Nikki with AJ Lee on commentary just to set up Nikki ordering Brie to slap AJ and get punched in the head for it. Not much here.
Xavier Woods has a new gimmick: It's a new day, folks, but is it really a new day?
Los Matadores vs. Gold & Stardust: You saw this if you watched SmackDown last week, although Miz and Mizdow were ringside for commentary. Los Matadores won yet again, their second victory in as many matches against the tag team champions. Not long after this, WWE announced Gold & Stardust will defend their titles against The Usos in a steel cage match on SmackDown. Almost broke my neck with how hard I was shaking my head at this.
The show long angle with The Authority did well to cover up for the bit of bad that was littered throughout the show. There was some great wrestling all throughout, however, and the booking was strong.
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?
All photos via WWE.com.