Wednesday 4 June 2014

That RAW Recap 02.06.14

As with so many RAWs of recent times the June 2 episode seems destined to be remembered for only a handful of things. Nobody will look back at El Torito wearing an afro wig, the Bo Dallas v Kofi Kingston or Adam Rose v Jack Swagger matches, Rusev’s medal presentation, Damien Sandow pretending to be a basketball player, or the latest match between 3MB and Los Matadores as anything special. Even the story beats for the Goldust and Cody Rhodes split and Alberto Del Rio qualifying for this year’s Money in the Bank match won’t be remembered a  month from now.

This RAW will be looked back on for its opening segment, its closing segment, and a meeting about Daniel Bryan that fell towards the middle. It’s important to emphasise that it was about Bryan and that it didn’t feature him. Bryan was not on the show. He’s still injured and will presumably be absent from television until Money in the Bank. There he will either defend the title against Kane in a stretcher match or be forced to vacate it so a new champion can be crowned in the MITB ladder battle.

The meeting (not that it was billed as that) was between Stephanie McMahon and John Cena. Steph had gone to the ring to run down Daniel Bryan (again) and his recently fired wife-slash-martyr for the Yes Movement Brie. She did that for a couple of minutes before John Cena joined her to stand up for Bryan. He did that by reminding the world of the clean victory Bryan had handed him at SummerSlam and describing him as a great wrestler.

Then Cena revealed his latest problem with The Authority. He believes that Stephanie and Triple H have allowed their dislike of Daniel Bryan to influence their decision making. That was hardly a revelation: the entire point of The Authority, who’ve been around as a heel faction for nine months now, is that they pursue their own interests and ideals under the guise of doing “what’s best for business.” They are corrupt bosses. That’s their gimmick. To have Cena addressing that as some sort of revelation after so long just made him look thick. It also didn’t do D-Bry any favours: it looked as though he wasn’t able to show up and defend himself so Cena had to do it for him. That wasn’t helped by Cena being naturally better at these sorts of confrontational promos than Bryan.

The exchange between Cena and Steph wasn’t bad. It was, in fact, rather good in places. But it gave us nothing we hadn’t seen or heard before. It felt like WWE treading water with a storyline they know will get a reaction instead of trying something new, which is what the absence of a top star should prompt.

Batista' quit. Deal with it.
The opening segment was my personal favourite of the programme. At first it seemed like a standard issue Evolution promo (aside from Batista randomly taking his jacket off as he walked down the aisle). ‘The Game’ talked about the gang’s feud with The Shield not being over and how he never loses, even though he’d been pinned the night before and Evolution had been the losers in both their encounters with ‘The Hounds of Justice’. Basically it was exactly the approach that would have been taken if a third Shield versus Evolution bout had been coming.

But that was the point. The writing team played on their predictability. The swerve came when Batista plucked the microphone from Triple H’s hand, mid-speech, and said he was tired of tangling with The Shield and wanted the one-on-one WWE championship match he’d been promised. H3 said there was a plan in place but Big Dave said he didn’t care. Triple H busted out a pep talk and said Batista would get everything he’d been promised once The Shield were beaten and dissolved.

Batista said he understood. The he quit. With a sarcastic, Royal Family-esque wave that demonstrated why he’s so good at the role he’s been in.

This was WWE’s way of writing ‘The Animal’ off television for a while. It gives them the option of bringing him back as a babyface to face Triple H or Randy Orton but that would be a foolish move. The last six months should have taught WWE that nobody is interested in cheering for Batista. The appeal of watching him is booing him and seeing how badly and unprofessionally he reacts to it. He’ll return at some point, and when he does it will be as a heel. I still think there’s appeal in a Batista v Bryan title match, so if Bryan has the title when Big dave returns that’s an encounter I’d like to see.

Then there was the closing segment. It’s the one that will be remembered the longest because it featured (or seemed to, see two paragraphs down) the dissolution of The Shield. Having been such a prominent part of WWE for the last eighteen months that was always going to be a big deal. Which is a good thing because taken on its own merits the sequence we saw close RAW was a tad underwhelming.

Why, Seth? Why?!
Triple H stood in the aisle with fellow Evolution members Randy Orton and The Sledgehammer. He announced that beating The Shield in an elimination match had been Plan A. Plan B was revealed to be Seth Rollins smashing Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose with a chair. Reigns was targeted first, leaving Deano to do some of his best surprised acting, which was so hammy that I briefly thought he was going to be switching sides too (and let’s face it, he was the one most people thought would be going heel when the Shield split came). Rollins then left the ring and handed the chair to ‘The Viper’ so that he could go in and take a turn walloping the two good guys.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking but I’m not convinced Rollins’s heel turn will be permanent. It was interesting to note that he gave Ambrose many more chair shots than Roman Reigns. That could have been under orders to set up an Ambrose v Rollins singles match, leaving Reigns for Orton. It could have been Rollins being a professional and knowing that Reigns’s back was covered in bruises from the caning he’d taken the night before and not wanting to harm him more than necessary. Or it could have been done with the bruise excuse in mind with a plan to revealing that storyline Seth took it easy on his buddy at a later date. When he reveals himself as a double agent, basically.

It could have had no meaning whatsoever too, of course.

I know the double agent idea is unlikely. It’s probably just wishful thinking on my part but I’d like it to turn out that The Shield were in on the turn the whole time as part of a “trick” on Triple H. The thing there is that it wouldn’t actually get them anything.

I wasn’t ready for The Shield to be split yet. They had things they could still do together and I wanted them to hit their two year mark as a group, for no other reason than two years is a good amount of time for a multi-man act to stay together in WWE. The group had a special kind of energy to it and could have gone further together. In fact I remain convinced that Reigns could have captured the WWE championship sometime in the next year without the group being split.

The split feels like a slightly desperate attempt to inject some freshness into the top of the card. That’s something that’s needed because top face Daniel Bryan is injured and little thought has been given to helping other young acts flourish over the last three months. But it’s a short term solution. No new names have been made with the move, and that’s ultimately what’s needed. Instead what WWE have done is break up their most popular group in years and destroy their second most popular act while their most popular is injured.

It was a setup all along!
It’s too early to say turning Rollins was a wrong decision. There are things that could be done to make it interesting, such as having Rollins reveal he’s been a “Triple H guy” for years. There’s a shot of Triple H raising Rollins’s hand the night he won the NXT championship that could be thrown up on the Titantron as proof of that. Plus Rollins versus Ambrose, Rollins versus Reigns, and the tag matches we could get all stand a high chance of being very good. So I’ll reserve judgement. But it’ll take a lot to make me wish The Shield weren’t still together.

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