Tuesday 13 August 2013

That RAW Recap 12.08.13

As pre-pay-per-view episodes of RAW go this was hit and miss. WWE made good use of the time they had (which obviously includes their standard fifteen minute overrun) to do last minute hype for the bigger matches and storylines going into their third biggest show of the year, but overlooked some minor ones in the process. What we were given was of high quality, so that helps.

The show kicked off with Daniel Bryan making his entrance. Predictably he was met with a booming “Yes!” chant from the crowd. Wade Barrett, his opponent for the evening, didn’t get a chant. He didn’t get a televised entrance either. His slide down the roster continues.
Daniel Bryan, a positive guy
Justin Roberts announced that Brad Maddox would be acting as the guest referee for the match. Yes, Maddox was back in the role that made him famous! The RAW GM came out looking as much like Eric Bischoff as he always does and officiated a pretty good match. Barrett was on offence most of the time with Bryan coming alive at the end. Ultimately Barrett ducked a kick and school boyed ‘The King of Beards’ for a fast count victory. Bryan went to lamp Maddox but the boss ran away. Vintage heelism right there.

Match number two was a battle of the briefcase holders, Damien Sandow v Randy Orton. ‘The Intellectual Saviour’ carried his new suede case with him. I think that’s a nice touch. It gets Sandow’s character over. It also highlights how much of an idiot Orton looks carrying around that bright red monstrosity.
That briefcase looks... kinda tasty. Like it's made of chocolate...
The match was decent but the segment was more about Cody Rhodes’ commentary and getting over his feud with Sandow for SummerSlam. Eventually ‘The Moustachioed One’ left his seat and started fiddling with the briefcase, which Sandow had handcuffed to the ring so it couldn’t be stolen again. Said fiddling distracted Sandow and allowed ‘The Viper’ to nail a match winning RKO.

Rob Van Dam stretching backstage as we were told he’d be participating in a battle royal for a shot at the United States championship. All I could think about was how old Van Dam looks. He aged terribly while away from WWE. That’s the effect TNA has on people.

That was followed by a Shield promo. They said they were ready lead a new generation against the old guard. I’ll tell you what’s old guard: old guard storylines. All that phrase did was make me think of the Millionaire’s Club versus New Blood feud from WCW. Ambrose also referenced the ghost of Andre the Giant. Presumably this was in relation to the fact that Andre was pretty good in battle royals but that wasn’t made clear. Maybe Ambrose just likes talking about ghosts.

The third backstage segment was a video interview with Brock Lesnar. ‘The Pain’ explained that he’s not just Heyman’s muscle in this feud, he actively dislikes CM Punk himself. He said there’s no professional jealousy on his part and listed his accomplishments, the implication being that there’s no professional jealousy because he is so clearly Punk’s superior. He ended by saying “’The Beast’ is ‘The Best’”. I thought it was a very effective scene. Lesnar did a good job.

Next, Josh Mathews asked CM Punk why he took a match right before SummerSlam. In kayfabe terms that was just dreadful. It’s been made clear over the years that General Managers organise matches, wrestlers don’t “take” them. Also, the match Punk was booked in was against Paul heyman, hardly a threat and also the man Punk was feuding with. It made sense. Josh didn’t even ask about the possibility of Lesnar interfering.
Anyway, Punk did the usual spiel and ended by saying “’The Best’ is ‘The Best’”. It was a generic slice of television.

Back at ringside Natalya, Hornswoggle and The Great Khali entered for a mixed tag team match. Yeah, the Natty and Khali pairing is still a thing. Maybe when Tyson Kidd comes back he’ll go heel and feud with Khali for messing with his woman. Or maybe not.

Their opponents were Big E Langston and AJ Lee. They entered to Big E’s music, which was a shame. I’d have loved to have seen E skip out to AJ’s music. It’s probably for the best that they didn’t though: skipping and Big E’s tight ring gear don’t strike me as a good combination. As they entered a talking head of Big E played in which he talked about breaking Dolph Ziggler in half at SummerSlam. WWE should do more of these: they’re simple and effective. It’s tough to mess them up.

The match was a mess, as you’d probably expect with Khali involved. Strangely the worst botch of the match didn’t involve him, it involved Natalya. She won the match via tapout after applying the Sharpshooter but released it too early (it’s possible the referee was at fault there). She then applied it again and got a clear submission from AJ.

After the match Langston dropped Khali with a clothesline and lightly tossed Hornswoggle from the ring. Khali then dropped him with a chop to the head. That was a huge missed opportunity. Khali hasn’t done anything of note for years. He’s expendable. Langston is being built up as a future star. The better ending to the segment would have been to have Langston hit Khali with the Big Ending. It would have gotten of his chief selling point (his strength) and made him look unstoppable going into SummerSlam.

Hour two kicked off with Mr McMahon in the ring. He called out Brad Maddox to ask him why he’d refereed the opening match. The mad ox’s answer was that he thought people would appreciate a fair and unbiased referee who wasn’t scared to make the tough decisions. What these tough decisions were was not revealed. I don’t think they ever will be.

Brad said he’d done his best and asked for a second chance. After a bit of teasing Vince went to announce that Brad would act as the guest referee in the WWE championship match at SummerSlam (because this is all part of Vince’s sinister plan to stop a man he doesn’t like winning a title, a thoroughly original storyline). That didn’t happen because Triple H’s music started playing, robbing Vince of the ability to speak into a microphone. And because he didn’t say it it’s not official. That’s how things works in WWE.

Triple H took around three minutes to walk to the ring and announce he’d be the special guest ref himself. He then Pedigreed Bradley and Vince huffed backstage. The entire segment existed for that one addition to the SumerSlam title match and to further the Triple H and Vince rivalry.
C'mon Hunter, be a star
The show continued with a short Kane v Titus O’Neil match. ‘The Big Red Machine’ went over with a choke slam and then the Wyatt Family entered the arena. When they brought the lights back up (by blowing out a lamp…) Kane had retreated to the top of the stage. He activated his pyro and… well, that about it. Bray laughed and they cut to a break.

I was a little disappointed by this. Bray Wyatt has proven incredibly popular since debuting and has a match with Kane at SummerSlam. Surely they deserved a little more time and-or something more substantial than bettering one another with lighting effects.

Backstage Brie Bella and Natalya bickered over who was the biggest Diva in WWE. Nikki Bella, Eva Marie, and the mighty Funkadactyls rocked up to back Brie and Natty respectively. I don’t know what the fuss was about: it’s obvious that AJ’s the biggest female star in WWE. The segment was painfully bad. It convinced me to go off Natalya a little. She was really wooden here and wasn’t much better during the mixed tag.

After Alberto Del Rio defeated Kofi Kingston with the cross armbreaker a video was shown looking at Christian’s early life and WWE career. It was well-produced. That’s standard for WWE with something like this though. Backstage Renee Young asked Christian about his WHC shot at Summerlam. ‘The Man of the Peeps’ said he’s going to beat ADR and prove that what he’s been saying is true: all he’s needed is one… more… match.

Del Rio appeared and said something in Spanish. Cole informed us he’d said something to the effect of “After SummerSlam, no more matches for you.” What a tedious feud they’ve had.

The show took a turn for the better when Zeb Colter and the Real Americans marched down to the ring. Colter cut one of his standard promos while Cesaro wore a yellow cape. The Usos then proceeded to beat the team after rolling up Jack Swagger. It was a filler segment.

Next was Miz TV, featuring Daniel Bryan and John Cena.

Bryan got another strong round of “Yes!” chants while Cena got pretty heavily booed. Bryan said he was pleased that Triple H was the special guest referee because someone had stood up to Vince and he and Cena would be able to have the match they wanted.

Before Cena could speak he was booed. When he did speak it was to tell Miz that this was the best Miz TV ever and that the segment’s usual a train wreck. I’d agree with that. On the subject of Triple H Cena said ‘The Game’ understands the importance of the championship and that he’ll call the match fairly. I agree. I think Triple H will be fair and impartial, which goes against the point of having a guest referee, surely?

The good stuff started when Miz asked how the friendly rivalry Bryan and Cena had been having turned sour the week before. ‘The Awesome One’ wanted to know the real issues between the two.

This is really an exchange that you should go out of your way to watch. Bryan said that Cena is in wrestling for the fame and the glory, not for the wrestling. He acknowledged the T-shirt he was wearing was a parody of Cena’s, and then called Cena a parody of a wrestler. He said he wants to beat Cena for the title so that people know there’s nobody better than him (which prompted a mixed reaction, surprinsgly).

Cena then gave an impassioned speech about how he does what he does for the same reasons as Bryan, that being to please the fans. Cena said WWE is all about fans attending events to cheer for their favourite WWE superstar. Wearing a T-shirt sends a message about the sort of person you are, and Cena wasn’t the one wearing a parody shirt.
Friends or foes?
Cena defended himself by saying he works hard for the fans and has been showing up to work for twelve years, earning his way to the top (and it’s worth pointing out here that length of service equating to a high spot on the card is part of what put WCW out of business). Cena said he’s proud of his accomplishments and that Bryan should be proud of his. The champ said he’d wrestled all around the world just as Bryan has and encouraged Bryan to just think of him as a parody because that’s what every big name he’s ever beaten has done.

As Cena rattled some of those names off Bryan interrupted him to ask if Cena believed those men were better than him. Cena said they were and that he’ll continue to think that unless Bryan can beat him and earn his respect at SummerSlam.

Bryan said this is just another SummerSlam for Cena but for him it’s the biggest match of his career. He brought up a custom he learned in Japan where wrestlers would slap one another in the face as hard as they could before the match to fire one another up. Bryan said he’d love to be able to do that to Cena but he can’t, because Cena’s not a wrestler. Cena slapped Bryan but Bryan refused to slap him back.

Triple H then came out to stop tempers from flaring further. He was followed by Randy Orton, who loitered at the top of the ramp and held his briefcase up. It was a slightly anticlimactic finish to an incredibly good segment.

This was the best thing on the show. It should have gone on last instead of the Punk v Heyman “match”. Bryan is a hotter star than Cena, Punk or Lesnar, and the feud seems to have people more interested than the tale of Punk and Heyman’s friendship souring. I suspect the reason it didn’t close the show is that it wasn’t as explosive as the brawl between Punk and Lesnar. That’s understandable, but not necessarily right.

Everything that came between that and the main event was filler. R-Truth and Fandango had a strange dance off that ‘The Suntan Superman’ seemed to win by throwing Fandango out of the ring. Paul Heyman was shown taping his fists while sitting with Curtis Axel. And there was a battle royal to determine who challenge US champion Dean Ambrose for the gold on the SummerSlam pre-show. Rob Van Dam won that by last eliminating Mark Henry. The Shield then ran to the ring only to be scared off by RVD, Henners and the returning Big Show.

The headline match wasn’t a match. It was another angle in the Lesnar v Punk saga. Heyman, Punk and Lesnar have all done solid work in this feud but there’s been little in the way of variety. It’s been a series of run-ins and mildly insider promos.

Heyman admitted that the match was a trap and always had been. ‘The Beast’ was brought down to ringside and Heyman explained that Punk could either be the foolish hero, coming out to give the people what they wanted to see, or the smart coward, staying in the back to remain safe until SummerSlam. Being a babyface Punk went to the ring. But instead of walking down the aisle he came in through the crowd and lamped Lesnar with a camera. “It was Punk who set the trap,” warbled Michael Cole. That will be added to his list of uninspiring commentary moments.
Is this what we'll see at SummerSlam?

Punk smacked Lesnar a few more times with the camera and then used a chair. He tried getting hold of Heyman but the agent ran to the back. Curtis Axel came out to eat a GTS and then Punk posed at the top of the ramp as Lesnar lolled about down at ringside.

See what I mean about the Cena and Bryan segment being better?

As Punk v Lesnar and Bryan v Cena are the matches that will encourage people to tune in to SummerSlam it makes sense that they were prioritised here. I do think that other feuds on the card could have been given a little more time though. Bray Wyatt and Kane could have done a little more together, and neither Dolph Ziggler or Christian appeared in the arena at all. What WWE did do was done very well, it just feels like they didn’t do quite enough.
Don't forget you can still vote on whether or not Daniel Bryan is going to beat John Cena at SummerSlam. Just take a look in the top right hand corner of this page. Boom!

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