Wednesday 16 April 2014

That RAW Recap 14.04.14

The opening of the April 14 RAW was not what WWE had planned when the previous week’s episode went off the air. Instead of a promo from Triple H about how he was irked by The Shield and Daniel Bryan (or whatever) we got a tribute to The Ultimate Warrior, who died of a heart attack on Tuesday April 8. The entire roster started the show stood on the stage as Jerry Lawler introduced a video package for the Hall of Famer. It was a touching compilation of rope-shaking and match footage. Afterwards Triple H instigated a Warrior chant, which everyone in the building joined in with.

The tributes would continue throughout the night, taking the form of career highlight videos focusing on specific Warrior matches. The bouts selected for inclusion were his Intercontinental title victory over the Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam ’88, his iconic clash with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI, his SummerSlam 1990 cage match opposite Rick Rude, and an edited version of his final RAW promo. WWE did a good job making Warrior look a star.

The show proper kicked off with Alberto Del Rio taking on Rob Van Dam, one of four first round matches in a tournament to determine the number one contender to Big E’s Intercontinental gold. The match was nothing special. In fact it was pretty sloppy in places. The most notable thing about it was that the announce team mentioned Van Dam’s hybrid style. For whatever reason (quite possibly because I often try and tune them out) I’d never registered that they say this in every RVD match. It’s incredibly lazy, but that won’t stop them saying it next week. Van Dam progressed to the second round after yanking ADR off the top rope and hitting him with a Five Star frog splash.

After a recap reminding us of what went down with Evolution, The Shield, and Daniel Bryan (who was on his honeymoon with Brie Bella and wouldn’t make an appearance) the week before we were shown Triple H shaking hands with Orton and Batista in an office. ‘The Game’ told his boys that he didn’t think The Shield were going to let either of them near the WWE championship and said it was an attitude that reminded him of Evolution (which was probably meant as a compliment). Then he said he doesn’t think anyone can stop them then immediately contradicted himself and said a united Evolution could. Both Batista and Orton told Tripper that he was on his own. ‘The Animal’, you see, just wants to be champ.

I suggested Goldust's robe on a TWP
episode. Maybe they're listeners.
The evening’s second match was Goldust and Cody Rhodes v RybAxel. It was enjoyable, as most things involving Cody Rhodes are. Perhaps surprisingly the heels won clean, Ryback pinning Cody off a Meathook clothesline as Cody went for a Disaster kick. It meant we got to hear RybAxel’s hunting horn heavy theme tune again, so I was all for that win.

In his latest hype video Bo Dallas told us today is a gift, which is why it’s called the present. I can’t wait until he’s on TV with this ridiculousness. There’s a lot of potential in character and I’m hopeful WWE are going to do something worthwhile with him.

Out next was Paige. We were reminded of the circumstances of her debut and title win but there was no victory promo from her. Nor was there any appearance from former champ AJ Lee. I’d expected the latter in order to set up a rematch at Extreme Rules. Presumably she was elsewhere and her reaction to the loss of her title will come next week. The new champion faced Alicia Fox in a non-title match. Fox dominated much of the match. Eventually Paige turned the tables with a kick and applied her scorpion lock for the submission victory.

Hour two opened with WWE tag team champions Jimmy and Jey Uso (whose continued popularity surprised and pleases me) facing Randy Orton and Batista. The story behind it was that the Usos had challenged the Evolution boys after the beating they’d taken around ringside the week before. The Usos started off with a barrage of punches and a pair of dives on to their foes but the match quickly proceeded into a slow pace with Team Ortista keeping things under control.

It didn’t last long. After a few minutes ‘The Viper’ left the ring to give Jimmy a beating around ringside (again) and got attacked by The Shield. Big Dave was left alone in the ring. Rollins and Ambrose sacrificed themselves distracting him to allow Reigns the chance to get into the ring and drop ‘The Animal’ with a Superman punch. That Ambrose and Rollins got taken out is a small thing but a nice touch: it demonstrates that The Shield can and do work together to accomplish their goals (here it was getting their hands on Batista) and that each man works towards the greater good. It’s something we’ve not really ever seen in WWE. For that reason alone it should be supported.

After a break Batsy and Orty were shown walking through a backstage tech area. They came across Triple H and Stephanie, who were just standing around instead of running the show. Trips said he’d told them so and wandered off. The two were left to look sour together and glare after him.

Out at ringside Paul Heyman walked out to brag about Brock Lesnar ending The Streak. He had photos cued up to remind us how everything played out at ‘Mania and said that nobody had believed him when he said The Streak would end. By his logic we should now believe everything he says and announced that Cesaro was going to be the next major star in WWE. They should play up Heyman being some sort of pro wrestling oracle. That’s a character development that could really go places.

Check out the walk on Cesaro.
‘The King of Swing’ came out to no music but was wearing his lovely, shiny ring jacket. He was there to wrestle Mark Henry in an IC tournament match. After plastering ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ with uppercuts and avoiding a World’s Strongest Slam Cesaro won the match with a Neutralizer. His win got a split reaction. I think that was as much because of the lack of a Big Swing as anything else.

Another Triple H and Stephanie segment occurred backstage. This one saw Brad Maddox dispatched to tell The Shield they had a six man tag match in the main event. The identities of their opponents were not disclosed. This was Maddox’s only contribution to the show. Sooner or later a new role is going to be needed for him. The GM spot has become obsolete (again).

Back in the arena Lana talked up Alexander Rusev in both Russian and English. After posing and talking to himself in the ring ‘The Super Athlete’ defeated Xavier Woods in a squash match with The Accolade (or the Steiner Recliner for those of us who enjoy referencing Scott Steiner). After the match R-Truth attacked Rusev. That didn’t end well for Truth. Worth noting was that Lana was shown to call Rusev off of Truth for a moment. I’m sure that was done to demonstrate that she’s the one in charge, not Rusev.

After some merciless Network plugging the third tournament took place, this one pitting Sheamus against Jack Swagger. Those who enjoy hoss fights were well served by this match. The match was a little slow for my tastes, although I did appreciate the two men not going light on one another. Sheamus won with a surprise Brogue kick after gritting his way through an ankle lock. He did a good job of selling the effects of the hold after the match.

An Adam Rose promo followed that. It was the same one that was on the week before. A new one would air later in the night, this one showing Rose winning a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos and then telling his bunny (a fully grown man in a bunny suit) not to be a lemon but a Rosebud. I love me some Adam Rose. He’s a marvellous gimmick.

A break was followed by Damien Sandow telling everyone that he was the most deserving man in WWE. Big Show waddled out but that didn’t stop ‘The Intellectual Saviour’ talking: he shouted that he wouldn’t be silenced and told people to sit back down and listen to what he had to say. It’s material like that that sets the Sandow character apart and makes it work. Sandow continued talking once Show arrived, claiming people should be begging to touch him as he walks to the ring. He said he deserves “it”, failing to specify what “it” is, because he’s earned “it”. He prodded Show in the chest and got a WMD punch for his trouble.

Presumably the segment existed to set something up for Sandow. I’ve no idea what it could be. He looked pretty pathetic here. Not only did he crumple to Show (that was to be expected frankly) but he was instructed to cut a promo that wasn’t really about anything. All we know is that Sandow feels he’s earned respect. We don’t really know he suddenly feels the need to address it on TV. Perceived lack of respect can’t be the reason: that’s something he’s been putting up with for months.

Hour two kicked off with a Bray Wyatt speech. He talked about The Man and said John Cena’s made a career out of lying to people. Cena is, according to Wyatt, not a man but a beast. Wyatt promised all the kids that he wouldn’t let Cena lie to them anymore and confided that he had Cena where he wants him, up against the ropes, and all he needs to do is give him one final push. My immediate thought was that Cena’s had enough pushing.

Bray Wyatt, 'Eater of Worlds'... and lights.
Wyatt invited Cena to come to the ring. He did, natch. The first thing he did was make a remark about pushes. So there we go: I sometimes have the same train of thought as John Cena. Cena said the monster Wyatt talks about doesn’t exist and then cracked jokes at the expense of the Family. This led to one of WWE’s favourite tropes: obviously doctored photographs. We were shown Abigail Wyatt on Myspace (Wyatt’s face on a woman’s shoulders), Mama Wyatt (Luke Harper in a dress, found via Tinder) and a Wyatt baby (Erick Roan’s head on a swaddled baby’s body). It wasn’t funny but Michael Cole dutifully mugged along anyway.

Wyatt said Cena always falls back on his jokes, so then Cena did his serious voice. He said Bray relies on Harper and Rowan and challenged him to give them a rest and face him in a cage match at Extreme Rules. Wyatt liked that and accepted the challenge. Then he sang. He has a majestic voice.

Match seven was Emma and Santino v Layla and Faaaaaan… daaaaaan… goooooo. Yeah, Summer Rae’s out and Layla’s in. The storyline reason is that Fandango grew bored of Summer and wanted a new “dance partner” (to this end we got an amusing video in which Fandango told Summer Rae “It’s not me, it’s you”). The actual reason is that Summer Rae is expected to become more significant now she’s made it to Total Divas so the decision’s been made to split her off from the mid-card dancer. Layla’s replaced her because she had nothing else to do, but it works out well because she has a dance background. Summer did not. Everyone benefits from the change really.

As all of the recent mixed tag matches between this lot have been this was nothing but basic filler. These matches are designed more to drive forward stories than anything else. Layla won after pulling Emma off the top rope. Yeah, that’s a finish now.

Backstage Stephanie gave Kane a telling off. Once he’d had enough of Steph’s yammering Kane stood up and started doing his heavy breathing routine, just as the camera angle changed to reveal that his old mask (and wig) were sitting on a table inside a glass cabinet. If that being there wasn’t weird enough (and it was) Kane reverently took hold of the mask and promised Steph that he would destroy Daniel Bryan.

The final tournament match of the evening was Dolph Ziggler v Bad News Barrett.  Bad News was surprisingly popular. I hadn’t expected that, attributing the cheers he got the week before to the large number of British fans at the event. I suppose people can sense how much Barrett enjoys playing the character and that makes them appreciate him more. The match itself was the best of the night. ‘The Show Off’ survived Barrett’s old Wasteland finisher. In turn Barrett was able to kick out of a top rope X Factor. Bad News next escaped from a Fameasser. Seconds later Ziggler slipped out of Barrett’s wild sidewalk slam. Barrett’s first Bullhammer attempt was ducked, Ziggler sneaking in a roll-up that should have gotten a better reaction as a potential finish than it did. Barrett kicked out and connected with his second Bullhammer attempt for the win.

After the match Bad News proclaimed himself the next Intercontinental champion and did the Scotty Riggs overhand claps again. Now seems a good time to discuss the title tourney. As enjoyable as Bad News has been in his last two RAW appearances I don’t think he’s getting to the final. He will face Sheamus in the second round while RVD faces Cesaro. The matches seem designed to give Sheamus and Cesaro opponents that can have great matches with them, and it’s them that I expect to go to the final. Van Dam is an enhancer at this point while BNB can fall to a former world champion without looking week, especially when he’s had two enjoyable wins leading up to it.

I could be wrong but it seems like ‘The Swiss Superman’ is the clear favourite to win the tournament. I can’t imagine anybody facing Big E for the IC gold. Given the selection I don’t want to either. Big E showed back at Elimination Chamber that he can have a good power match if he gets the time to do so. And that was with Jack Swagger. He should be able to accomplish far more with Cesaro.

Before the main event a Kane promo aired. ‘The Big Red Machine’ was shown wearing his mask and walking through various fiery locales. It was put together very quickly, considering the mask had only been put back on less than an hour before. It’s like it’s all scripted or something…

The main event saw The Shield take on Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger and Fandango… along with 3MB, Titus O’Neil, RybAxel, Alexander Rusev, and Bad News Barrett. Instead of taking the obvious beatdown direction the eleven men actually tagged in and out in a handicap match against Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns. Rollins was isolated, with all the heels tagging in for twenty second stints to hit him with some basic move or other. Reigns eventually got bored and went round to his foes’ corner to spear Ryback. That prompted a ringside brawl which featured dives from Ambrose and Rollins and then spilled into the ring, where the heels got the advantage on ‘The Hounds’.

It's another Triple H faction reunion!
Then Evolution’s music hit and Triple H, Batista and Orton walked out and dismissed the mid-carders. They gave Rollins a kicking and then hit Reigns with an RKO and a Batista bomb. Rollins got the same. Meanwhile Ambrose was finished off with the Batista bomb-RKO combo that was debuted at WrestleMania. Triple H encouraged Reigns to try and fight back to his feet then had him pulled up so he could give him a Pedigree. Evolution then spent the last minute of the show posing.

This was another good episode of RAW. There were no great matches, but there were good ones in Bad News Barrett v Ziggler and RybAxel v the Rhodes bros. The purpose of the show was not to give us a plethora of excellent matches, it was to get things moving for Extreme Rules. Cena versus Wyatt in a cage match is a good tone setter for the card. It looks as though a six man tag match between Evolution and The Shield and a WWE championship defence from Daniel Bryan against Kane will also be added. The title match should be fun enough but D-Bry will need a more credible opponent for Payback. The six man, on the other hand, should be a great addition to the card, and a worthwhile “special show” (they’re not pay-per-views anymore, ‘member?) main event.

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