WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (July 6, 2015) from Chicago, Illinois with all the latest build to the upcoming Battleground pay-per-view (PPV) later this month in St. Louis. That included Brock Lesnar destroying a car -- and nearly injuring a fan in the process -- and yet another "Match of the Year" candidate from John Cena.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Raw is war
John Cena is the "Wrestler of the Year" in 2015.
I will fight you over this. (I won't actually fight you. Let's love each other instead.)
Part of what makes NXT work so much better than WWE is the stories they tell are basic but they get the details right. There isn't as much time to dilly-dally around, what with one hour of TV each week as opposed to three (five including SmackDown).
That's why Cena's US title open challenge has consistently been the best thing about WWE television from the moment it was introduced.
Sorry, Big Kev, you were wrong when you said we're tired of Cena pulling the same act every week. Because that same act is tearing the house down with a wide enough variety of opponents that you can't avoid giving him the lion's share of the credit for it.
He's the established name, the top star, the titleholder, and the guy who has an unreal chemistry with everyone not named Randy Orton. That's not to sell Cesaro short; indeed, the Swiss Superman is hands down my favorite Cena foe. He's a mirror of the man without all the vibrant colors and silly catchphrases. He is the all business, straight wrestling version of Cena.
They're perfect for each other. In an alternate universe, I wouldn't mind them running roughshod as a tag team.
These two were so good all throughout this match -- yet another contender for "Match of the Year" -- that I had totally forgotten that Kevin Owens was lurking somewhere in the shadows, poised to interfere at any time. After all, Cesaro telling him to piss off and taking his place before the match wasn't going to fly in the end, was it?
It did, actually, but only because Owens, while aggressive and an outstanding asshole, is a calculated killer. For weeks, he's allowed Cesaro to put in all this work wearing Cena down, taking him to the brink time and time again. I like to think he's softening Cena up for their match at Battleground.
That's what made the failed run-in after the match so much better. Cena is slowing down, sure, but he's not out of energy just yet. Only one week of TV left before the big title match.
There's no way we'll get yet another incredible PPV main event level match, right?
Who do you love?
So let's just try to get this straight.
Rusev breaks on the scene with Lana as his master and crushes all of his opposition. He is a monster who listens to her and only her. In fact, he wins each of his matches only after she orders him to.
He, quite literally, takes all his diretion from her.
Finally, he runs into an opponent he cannot defeat, John Cena, and it causes some dissension with Lana, who may or may not have played a part in his slide. At some point, fans started rallying behind Lana, further enraging the already unstable Rusev.
It's at this point Lana breaks free of the relationship and their history is retconned in favor of Rusev being a controlling, manipulative boyfriend who abused Lana throughout the relationship. Her leaving was a representation of the fact that she is a strong woman seeking to stand up for herself as a role model to women everywhere.
She then randomly gets together with Dolph Ziggler, simply showing up on Raw one night and kissing him without so much as a word. This establishes a bond between the two, one that began, as Dolph himself admitted to, as Lana simply looking to use him against Rusev but developed into an actual relationship. Throughout this process, the Bulgarian Brute would attempt to win back the affections of his former flame but become abusive when his advances were rebuffed.
At some point, Summer Rae entered the picture by flirting with Rusev and started appearing alongside him. She seems to be infatuated with him while he enjoys the fact that she's submissive to him.
At every turn, Lana and Ziggler have rubbed their relationship in Rusev's face, all while he has continued running her down with Summer by his side to enable him.
Now, after watching the above video and reading the recap of the story they've given us to this point, who are you cheering for?
And that's the problem here. Everyone involved in this scenario looks bad and it's impossible to get behind anyone based solely on the story presented. Lana is strong for leaving Rusev -- that's ignoring the retconning, of course -- but looks like she's stooping to his level at every turn. Ziggler comes off so sleazy and way too much like he's taking advantage of a vulnerable woman on the rebound. Rusev is just a dick who lashes out when he doesn't get what he wants. Summer Rae just showed up and started picking fights.
To my eyes, Rusev comes away the winner not because fans want to cheer what he represents but because he's so clearly the best performer of the four it's become a show of appreciation for his work. That's bad booking and even worse writing.
Still, that tease of a physical confrontation between Lana and Summer Rae was electric and Rusev is finally healthy again. A Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler match in earnest is a hot prospect and a mixed tag at SummerSlam sounds like a ton of fun.
A lot of this really sucks but it could be worse and the payoff match should at least be good.
All the best to all the rest
BROCK SMASH: If it seems like I'm not devoting enough space to Brock Lesnar this week that's because I don't really see much to add to what he brought to the table. It speaks for itself this week, folks. That man is terrifying in every way. He gets paid millions of dollars a year to look tough, throw some people around, destroy cars that cost $55,000, throw parts of that car into the crowd, move like a cat while possessing the power of a mack truck, and generally be a force of nature who cannot be stopped. Brock Lesnar was born to terrorize WWE and Seth Rollins was born to run from him.
Big Show vs. Ryback: I could go the rest of my life without watching another Show-Ryback match but my god, Miz's heel work is saving this entire program. Shout out to whoever had the idea to give him a mic during this match to build to the Shell Shock because seriously, this dude needs to eat a million finishers. I hate his guts in the best way possible.
Brie Bella vs. Paige: They weren't given much time but I greatly enjoyed Brie's work in this match. She was so much smoother than she's been of late. They had their timing down and bothered to work the story into the match, like Brie grabbing her head and screaming "where are your friends" before looking for the running knee. Sadly, no Charlotte or Sasha Banks here but they're on the right track with the story they're telling.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus: I understand that pro wrestling is a very limited form of storytelling and because of that we're always going to have to put up with stupid count out finishes like this to help advance a story about "mind games." But how much does it really matter that Bray Wyatt cost Reigns this match when they've booked so many matches like this that the matches themselves don't matter anymore? The snake is eating its tail. What sucks is Reigns vs. Sheamus is usually a pretty good time before they get to adding angles to it.
Randy Orton returns: If it wasn't enough that Reigns lost due to "mind games" and they no sold it by not showing him again, Orton showed up right after to come out and RKO Sheamus. So, really, to hell with the entire last 20 minutes or so of this program, I guess.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bo Dallas: This happened. Dean went over. It didn't take long. Fans in Chicago got to see a favorite wrestle and win a match in person. So that's cool for them.
R-Truth vs. King Barrett: This also happened. Barrett went over and is a heel because he says "BOOOOOOM" in a really lame, annoying way. Are there people who exist who care about this at this point? Were there ever?
The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons: The Prime Time Players were on commentary for this and it's now clear Titus O'Neil should immediately replace Jimmy Uso on SmackDown. The match was fun but the Dragons have too much potential to be doing jobs like this at a time when top teams like The Usos and the Brass Ring Club are out.
You can thank Brock Lesnar and the main event for this grade.
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?