WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (July 28, 2014) from Houston, Texas, featuring all the latest build to the upcoming SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for next month in Los Angeles. John Cena returned, Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella stayed hot, and much more!
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
We have to start accepting now that Stephanie McMahon isn't just the best performer on the WWE roster at this very moment but the work she's done over the past however many months she's been back on TV is some of the best of anyone over the past however many years you feel like going back.
Maybe even dating back to her father at his peak.
We have to accept it because she displays a range no one else can touch. Here she was out early in the evening to stand there and accentuate Triple H cutting a promo on the crowd for being dicks for cheering her getting arrested. Here she was traumatized, looking up to the ceiling with tears in her eyes because she can't bear to make eye contact with anyone in the crowd. She's just so ashamed; so embarrassed; so humbled.
Here she was continuing this act later on, still devastated by her experience but willing to accept it and take responsibility for it. Not only that, she wanted to make it up to the Bella family, going so far as offering Nikki a raise, Brie her job back, and a Divas championship match -- or, hell, ANY match -- at SummerSlam, one of the biggest events of the year.
Here she was allowing Brie to walk all over her, and playing the damsel in distress oh so well. Too well. She begged, and she pleaded, and she bargained, and she did everything short of kissing feet before finally relenting and accepting her fate.
Her lack of sincerity became clear when she revealed the ruse with yet another hard slap. It was all a con. Like the evil mastermind she is, the vindictive, manipulative, bitch Brie pegged her as, she was simply working an angle.
How quickly she transitioned from crying mother, ashamed at how her poor children must view her, to vengeful monster out for blood.
"I'm going to make you my bitch."
We're all your bitch, Stephanie. Every last one of us, every time you perform for us.
I should say that the ensuing segment grade is dragged down by the fact that while Brie Bella has improved, her delivery is awful. She's got the same problem Roman Reigns used to have where she puts unnecessary emphasis on words, or emphasizes words in all the wrong places. It creates a disconnect between how you should feel and how you actually feel. It's a problem of awareness. Stephanie's words just click. Brie's are awkward so as to feel misplaced, which leads to focusing on that instead of the story at hand.
This also wasn't nearly as good as the arrest angle last week, but it was still fun and hey, it closed the show. That's a win.
Segment grade: B-
I can't see from here ... but I can smell your fear
We didn't get Jokin' John Cena.
What we got was "determined but afraid" John Cena.
And it was glorious.
You know what was interesting about it? The way Cena did his usual run through of the who, what, when, where, and why -- which is fine, promos need that -- but this was about acceptance. He was forced to come to terms with not just the fact that he actually has to have a match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam but that even if he wins he's going to get the shit beaten out of him. And while he already fully grasps the polarizing nature of his character, he was also forced to come to terms with the fact that most of the WWE fans are really, really, really, really going to enjoy watching Lesnar beat the hell out of him.
What we got was Cena talking himself into the match, which made it that much more effective when he referenced beating Lesnar back in 2012.
"Hey, I've done it before, I can do it again.
Then Paul Heyman came out and accentuated Cena's own words while adding so much weight to them you could almost see Cena deflating while listening to them. Look at him during the segment; he can't stand still while Heyman graphically illustrates Brock's goal not just to beat Cena and take his title(s) but to victimize him in the process.
There is a very important distinction there and Heyman perfectly illustrates it by once again giving us the credentials Brock carries that we were always so annoyed he wouldn't let us forget over the past four months: This man conquered Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. He nearly killed a man who is already dead. He showed no remorse for this. He celebrated it. He used it to catapult him to this very moment so he could strategically place himself in this very position.
This very position being one beating away from winning the WWE world heavyweight championship.
And John Cena is the guy who will be on the receiving end of it.
But not only did we get all this, we got a surprise appearance from Cesaro and the very best promo of his short WWE career.
"Look at you... you're not a wrestler, you're a big muscled up walking billboard. ... Where did you get those shoes at, K-Mart? You can't wrestle in those sneakers. Oh that's right; you just can't wrestle. How about I prove that to you in a match right now?"
There was a point when Cena climbed out of the ring and Cesaro told him "Stay right there. Stay right there." Awesome. Then he got back in the ring and grabbed a microphone, to which Cesaro responded, "Don't say anything."
Then they had to stall because Cena's mic wasn't working and they had to get him a new one so Heyman started yapping until Cena could get on the mic and tell him to "shut up, Paul". Then he followed with, "Cesaro, it is going to be my honor for this jacked up walking billboard who can't wrestle to wrestle circles around you and beat you in the middle of this ring right now."
This felt like a main event segment and it was followed by what felt like a main event match, even if it was a little sloppy and their timing was off.
All that fear of Cena returning and undoing everything they accomplished to set this up last week was totally unfounded. He was perfect here.
Segment grade: A+
But not least:
- Last night was "explanation time" for the Randy Orton-Roman Reigns pairing and we got it when Triple H revealed the plan didn't change just because Reigns showed up at the right time and brawled with Orton long enough to allow Lesnar to come into the picture but because Triple H was quick on his feet in realizing that Reigns will continue to be a thorn in their side until he's dealt with. No, they don't want to kill him, just have Orton beat him in a match because that's how he'll then stop being a thorn. It's a good enough explanation. And, hey, at least they spared us a Reigns vs. Kane match that nearly broke out. Instead we got a really awkward beatdown that featured Orton with the great plan of kicking Reigns in his protective chest plate to his screaming in Reigns ear "CAN YOU HEAR ME? OF COURSE YOU CAN'T!"
- This Paige-AJ Lee angle is still at least somewhat confusing because we can't be sure why Paige is working the angle she's working. My best guess would be inadequacy. Perhaps she feels as though she cannot defeat AJ if they're on equal footing so she must gain a psychological advantage by making Lee believe the two are friends when, of course, they're not, and she can exploit that at the opportune moment. AJ isn't biting, however, so Paige have more work to do or she'll just have to be better when the match comes.
- The Miz running away from a Dolph Ziggler punch to protect the moneymaker during the six-man tag match last night was a best thing. Said six-man did further expose the lack of depth in the tag team division at the moment, however, and poor Ryback has become just another guy.
- Hey, maybe the "cosmic key" GoldStar are referring to is the tag team belts and they'll show up to challenge for them soon enough? I'm reaching, sure, but it's that bad right now. Ascension, make sure your phones are fully charged, please.
- THE STREAK IS OVER. I AM UNABLE TO EVEN.
- Here's the thing about Bo Dallas and his streak: It's bullshit. It was always bullshit and his losing it to R-Truth absolutely shouldn't be a big deal, mostly because it led to us getting a more fully fleshed out heel when he obliterated Truth for beating him right after. That's far more interesting than dragging this out much longer because, let's face it, there are only so many opponents for him to beat before something has to give. So, fine, I get all that. I just wasn't prepared for it and my spending so much time talking with all you lovely Cagesiders had me yearning for something special once he surpassed Undertaker's mark. In hindsight, that never really made any sense and I probably would have been disappointed no matter what they did. This is one of those times where we can't punish WWE for not doing what we wanted them to do and look at it objectively, or at least try, and realize that not only was it probably the right thing, it was a s-trong angle.
- It really sucks that Summer Rae and Layla are now characters who believe that the only way to get revenge against a man who wronged them is to cozy up to any man who is going against the man who wronged them.
- It also sucks that people are buying into Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger as the babyface team because they're still 100-percent awful in every way other than "hey, we'll take on the asshole Russians". That promo from Colter last night was bothersome because he took values loosely associated with America and assigned them to everyone who identifies as American. That's fine if you're looking for a large portion of the audience to dislike you but they wanted support. You can attach an "-ist" to damn near any word and that's kind of sort of what Colter was being last night, even if he wasn't intending to. Heels should be the ones preaching your values to you, not babyfaces.
- Damien Sandow's run of consecutive weeks doing something entertaining has reached a number I did not think it possibly could.
- Can we even call what The Funkadactyls are doing an "explosion"? That implies a great disturbance. They're more like flies at a picnic.
- Sure did appreciate that Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins match. Sure didn't appreciate that lack of storyline progression in the Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt feud or the complete disappearance of Dean Ambrose, who was off doing promotional work for WWE. Which, really, sounds like the most ridiculous thing in history, right? They just released a shirt for this man that reads "UNSTABLE" in psycho print across the front and he's out doing appearances for the company that result in his missing Raw?
This show started ridiculously strong, faded fast, picked up briefly, then faded again, before finishing strong.
Overall grade: C-
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?