WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (May 11, 2015) from Cincinnati, Ohio with the go home show to the upcoming Payback pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for this Sunday night in Baltimore. It was an emotional evening thanks to a beloved star relinquishing his gold.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
The Authority is back, kind of
Stephanie McMahon did not return with Triple H, so the night started off on a bad foot right away. Then, it got worse, in a hurry.
Triple H's promo -- "Daddy's home" -- only reinforced that Seth Rollins and Kane have been acting like annoying little children who need to be disciplined, yes? Which means for the past month or so of television, we've been watching two grown men bicker like kiddos and they not only know this, but are actively booking it thinking it's something any fan anywhere will enjoy.
The point of pro wrestling is to build conflict with compelling characters and then find a resolution. That resolution is a match. Putting Kane and Rollins at odds to build to a match makes sense, but building to it by bickering and having "Daddy" come home to let them square off in the middle of the living room to finally settle it is the opposite of creating compelling characters we want to see find that resolution.
Then, they didn't resolve anything.
Triple H returned to handle business and all he did was book Rollins in the same damn match he's been working, against Orton, for however long it's been now. Too long. And Kane against Roman Reigns, a match we've seen enough of to last all our lifetimes. And J&J Security against Dean Ambrose because cruiserweight division.
The Authority may = ratings but they do not = actual meaningful storyline progression. I'm not one to complain too much about spending 20 minutes on talking in the opening segment for a three hour program, but when that 20 goes by and they didn't do much more than book the card, it's frustrating as all get out.
We may be forced to face the fact that the Daniel Bryan we've known and loved for so long now is gone and he's never coming back.
Really, the writing has been on the wall and maybe we just wanted to ignore it. His neck wasn't holding up as far back as 2013, when a match with Randy Orton had to be stopped because his arm went completely numb and WWE executives were worried about his safety. It was already bad, and it only got worse as he continued on, our "YES" chants helping him along.
And they did too.
Bryan may not be ambitious, but he's human, a fact we've loved him for but we're all too sad for on this day. He never felt like he deserved our love and adoration, even if he was busting his ass every night to get it. And it felt good to give it to him because, through it all, you could really tell that it meant something to him. It means something to all of them, sure, but this was different.
They didn't believe in him, and sometimes even he didn't believe in him. But we always did. We never had a doubt, not even once.
Until the injuries.
Now we're just as uncertain as he is, and all we have left is the shared experience created by the connection he established with us through all the hard work that came before the injuries. That can't be taken away, no matter what happens from here.
It felt sad to watch him walk away, but if it's best for his health and well being, we should ultimately be happy to see him go. It hurts, yes, but he's already given so much, and we've already taken so much of it.
There comes a time for all of us to go home. If this is the end, let's just hope he finds comfort there.
All the best to all the rest
Dean Ambrose vs. The Cruiserweight Division: One thing I can't be upset about in that opening segment was the fact that Ambrose, who doesn't really belong much in the main event scene at the moment, was booked to reflect that by taking on J&J Security in what was, put simply, dumb fun. The hometown guy got his stuff in and won a handicap match to a big pop. Easy peasy, entertaining enough for what it was.
King Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler: I love the King of the Ring tournament. I do not love that winning the tournament means changing a gimmick. Bad News Barrett was fun, if, admittedly enough, somewhat stale. King Barrett is annoying in the worst way possible. The "King" gimmick is played out, and has no real upside. It's a mid-card act, so I suppose it fits that it's been placed on a mid-card player known for taking losses. Using him to push the Ziggler vs. Sheamus "no, seriously, ass and kissing, let's make this happen" feud feels so small time to me. Really, when stepping back, the mid-card feels so silly with Daniel Bryan and the Intercontinental title missing. But more on that later.
Erick Rowan vs. Fandango: Poor Johnny Curtis. Rowan and Luke Harper back together is probably the right call for their respective careers in the short term but it absolutely underscores that the former doesn't have much of a future without the latter, right?
John Cena vs. Neville: The US title open challenge has been the best part of Monday Night Raw from the moment Cena started it, there's no doubt about that. He's done a lot to help put each of his opponent's over before they ultimately do the job for him. It's done wonders for all involved, including the US title. That said, I was worried when Neville showed up because while Cena would surely make him look like a million bucks -- and he did -- it would still mean another loss in a big match, which would be the third of Neville's young career on the main roster. It wouldn't be anything close to a burial but it would help establish a problematic pattern. Then, much to my surprise, they protected Neville and his finish by having Rusev interfere and get a ton of heat for it. This was, once again, super well done. Kudos to WWE for continually getting it right with the US title open challenge.
Kane vs. Roman Reigns: Considering how little I wanted to see this match, that they booked it the way they did, with the two simply brawling for a while before Reigns took Kane out, was a welcome surprise that saved the segment.
Brie Bella vs. Tamina Snuka: Really, really appreciated that Nikki and Brie watched their back ever so subtly during their entrance. Little touches like that make a story meaningful, like last week's surprise attack from Naomi and Tamina actually meant something and had an actual effect on how the Bellas react within the story. The ensuing match wasn't very good, but they can't all be winners.
AxelMania vs. Macho Mandow: Curtis Axel's Hulk Hogan impression is good because it's bad. I'm not sure if that's the idea with Damien Sandow's Macho Man but that's never been the case with his character work before. It's just ... it's really, really bad. The mannerisms are there but the impression is terrible and it just doesn't fit with what Axel had been doing. Having The Ascension come out and dump on them for trying to get over using legends of the past was a hilarious bit, though. Almost made all this stupidity worth it.
Cesaro vs. Big E: This came right after Bryan's heartbreaking revelation, so it was up against it. It wasn't a bad match but nothing we haven't seen before and with what had just gone down, there was simply no way to get into it.
Feed me (no) more: I'm having a really hard time listening to Bray Wyatt cut these promos when he's never really backed them up with anything of substance. I get that heels can get away with that sometimes, but he's hardly felt like a heel for much of his run and it just feels so hollow. That's a problem too because it kills any meaning to Ryback scoring a victory against him (if that happens). It's long been the issue with Wyatt and it doesn't look like that's going away anytime soon. Unless he runs through Ryback and actually establishes himself. Then we can revisit all this.
Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton: This wasn't a match so much as it was a "let's set up the pay-per-view with an intriguing closing angle." That angle, not shockingly, was centered on Kane deciding if his job would be worth assisting Rollins as he was getting pummeled by Orton, Ambrose, and Reigns. The idea, then, is that if he doesn't help at Payback on Sunday, he'll be fired and his babyface turn will be complete. This is actually the second consecutive PPV that the main event focus has been on the decision Kane makes that night. Really, it's amazing that so much of the focus of all of this has been Kane, of all the wrestlers involved, but at least they had Ambrose hit Reigns with Dirty Deeds to add another layer.
As far as go home shows go, this wasn't all that impressive but it certainly wasn't bad.
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?