Mike Tedesco’s RAW Thoughts
August 12, 2014
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
After a rather boring episode of RAW last week that broke up a string of two great ones in a row, we’re back on track with this episode. This being the go-home show for SummerSlam, they were of course putting the finishing touches on many of the major issues heading into the show. Almost all were highly successful and left me anxious for Sunday to come as soon as possible, but one definitely left me scratching my head. If you’ve seen the show, you may already know what I’m talking about.
The show kicked off with an appearance from Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. In the month long build for the show, this is only Lesnar’s second appearance before the live crowd proving that less is more. If Lesnar were to become the champion on Sunday, we at least know that he doesn’t have to be on television on a weekly basis in order to be over. Paul Heyman is all we need. Heyman kept Lesnar relevant by talking about how he conquered The Undertaker’s Streak at WrestleMania XXX almost twice a week. When Lesnar came back, he was red-hot. It’ll be fine. The champion doesn’t need to be on television every week. In fact, there are some guys I could stand to see less of. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know. For instance, this episode was the first time we’ve seen Sheamus in two weeks. It was good to see him again. On Smackdown, Big Show randomly returned after being gone for so long. It was good to see him back as well.
Anyway, let me get back to the segment itself. Heyman, of course, crushed the promo. Heyman is just absolutely astonishing on the microphone. He’s just the master at working the crowd into a frenzy while at the same time making them salivate for the day to come when his client faces his opponent. Honestly, the promo he cut a few weeks back when Brock Lesnar came back was more than enough for me. I was already sold on the match and couldn’t wait to see it. Everything else he’s done since then is just icing on the cake.
If the promos he’s done were icing on the cake for me, then the rap he did at the end of the promo was the cherry on top of everything. If you didn’t at least chuckle while watching it, you may need to watch some different programming. That was ridiculous. If you haven’t seen it, go out of your way to do so. I’m sure it’s already on YouTube. Just dominant stuff.
Up next was the return of Corporate Kane. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Corporate Kane did basically nothing in his first run. Not sure what he’ll do in his second run. Triple H wasn’t on the show at all tonight, so maybe they’ll dust off the old commissioner title and grant it to Kane. Kane did book the next match, which was handicap match #1,749 in the past year.
Roman Reigns faced Ryback and Curtis Axel in an ok match. RybAxel quickly got disqualified for sending Reigns into the ring post one too many times, which is a really lame reason for ending a match. It happens sometimes multiple times a night, sometimes multiple times in matches, and it has never ended a match before. This time it ended the match. Reigns then exploded after the match ended and beat the holy hell out of both men. That was very fun to watch, and he looks ready for SummerSlam. I really liked the quick promo he had with Renee Young after it was all said and done. The crowd was super into everything he was doing and said. Reigns played to them well and looks very strong heading into Sunday.
Seth Rollins took on Rob Van Dam in the match we were supposed to see last week in the Beat the Clock Challenge. This wasn’t a bad match at all. Maybe a little time off was beneficial for RVD. Still, RVD hasn’t really done much since his return in early April. For the most part, he’s made me feel bad for him due to the effects of aging, which none of us can escape. It’s not a knock on him. People get older. He has to learn to adapt to his limitations. Like I said, the time off was good for him. He was much sharper than he had been. Rollins worked well with him, and he picked up a nice win heading into SummerSlam.
Rollins was great after the match. He was celebrating his win before becoming suspicious that Dean Ambrose hadn’t attacked him yet. Rollins looked at a giant gift box for Hulk Hogan on stage and deked it a few times to draw him out, but nothing happened. Rollins shrugged it off and – wouldn’t ya know it? – Ambrose popped out of the box and absolutely laid into him. That was hilarious. The crowd was on fire for the quick brawl they had before Rollins escaped through the crowd.
Ambrose then talked about how Rollins would have nowhere to run on Sunday because it’s a Lumberjack Match. Like I said in my quick thoughts from my Smackdown recap, I’m not totally sold on the Lumberjack Match aspect. Can you remember a good Lumberjack Match in WWE? I sure as hell can’t. What could a Lumberjack Match do that a Cage Match or Hell in a Cell couldn’t? I do have faith in these guys, though. They’ve churned out tremendous match after tremendous match since debuting. They’ve held off on the match so long that it’s hopefully going to be good regardless. I just hope the lumberjacks don’t limit what they can accomplish.
Ok, up to this point of the show, all of the matches and promos for the final build to SummerSlam have been great. This is where the program veered off the tracks a bit.
Stephanie McMahon came out to the ring because she had a confession for Brie Bella. However, it wasn’t a confession from her. It was a confession from Daniel Bryan’s physical therapist. Though it was heavily insinuated that Stephanie coaxed this girl into making up a story that she had an affair with Bryan to get Brie Bella all fired up, it was still quite unnecessary. Their feud was already fine on its own without this ridiculousness. Fast forward to later in the night after Brie slapped the girl and beat up Stephanie, Brie gets arrested. Did that really need to happen? Couldn’t they just have left it to a promo backstage or something? The feud was the closer of RAW two weeks in a row. It was over and ready to go for Sunday. This cheapened it a bit in my eyes. Of course, this is just my opinion. I must say, the comparisons to Claire Lynch and the physical therapist are incredible. I got a good chuckle out of that when some people started making comparisons to that. Oh TNA.
Up next was Jack Swagger taking on Cesaro. Even though he’s being given TV time and longer matches every week, I can’t help but wonder what in the world happened here. The angle when he joined up with Paul Heyman the night after WrestleMania XXX was awesome. Since then, he’s done pretty much nothing. They’ve totally cooled off on him, and I can’t imagine why. Still, the positive is that he is being featured. Perhaps there just isn’t a spot for him to be featured, much like what Sheamus is going through, and they’re just biding their time?
Anyway, the match against Swagger was very, very good. I’m not sure if WWE really expected this thing with Swagger against Rusev to take off like it did. Swagger has become a halfway decent babyface. After making Cesaro tap to the Patriot Lock, Colter cut a quick promo, but it was the same one he’d been cutting for weeks. Rusev’s music hit, and he came out to the stage to stare them down. I haven’t really made it a secret that I’ve really enjoyed this feud. Nothing like xenophobia to get the blood pumping. I’m very much looking forward to their match at SummerSlam.
I just realized that it looks like SummerSlam is the show to dust off the older stipulation matches. We’ve got a Lumberjack Match and a Flag Match. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a Flag Match.
The sit-down interview segment with Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho was really well done. I think it made the conflict between the two a little clearer. Wyatt isn’t happy that Jericho claims to be a savior, which Wyatt thinks is a blasphemy. Wyatt came off sounding like a monster, which was perfect. Jericho’s comments were short, sweet, and to the point. Jericho is always on point with a serious promo when he needs to be. Jericho can have fun like he did two weeks ago when he did some nostalgia with the Stephanie McMahon “trash bag ho” thing, and then he can tone it down and get serious. That’s been a knock on John Cena for years that he never seems to take any threat seriously. Luckily, that would not be the case later on.
AJ Lee had a match against Eva Marie in which she lost following a distraction from Paige. I’m sure many on the Internet exploded with rage, but I didn’t really mind. The loss doesn’t affect AJ because she beat the snot out of Eva Marie after. The victory was tainted anyway. If anything, the distraction from Paige that caused AJ to lose to Eva Marie was done to embarrass AJ on purpose to put more drama on the issue between the two.
The only thing that made my head hurt a little bit was how utterly clueless Eva Marie when it comes to basic selling. Eva pins her and blows a kiss to the crowd before leaving the ring looking none the worse for wear. Paige cuts a promo on AJ (which was quite good, by the way), and then when the camera cuts back to Eva at ringside, she’s on the floor holding her neck. No one touched her. Did Justin Roberts turn heel off camera and clobber her? What the hell happened? Its things like this that make me scratch my head and wonder why they put her out there on live television. It’s one thing to troll the fans. They’ve done it for years – who cares? It’s another thing when it makes your own product look bad. Yes, the business is exposed. Everyone knows it’s an act, but Eva needs to know how to act. It’s like Medieval Times hiring a knight that doesn’t know how to ride a horse or joust. It doesn’t look good.
John Cena was out next, and he wasn’t smiling or saying corny things to the camera on the way down to the ring. It was all business as he made his way to ringside and got in the ring. I like that a lot. Cena is going into a huge fight on Sunday and there is no room for goofing around. Cena then cut a very passionate promo about having to become a beast that he isn’t proud of to beat Brock Lesnar on Sunday. Cena made reference to the fact that people want him to turn heel, and he said that was basically going to happen (but not really happen) on Sunday, so you should order the WWE Network to see it. It’s amazing the amount of times they were able to get talent to sneak in a reference to the price of the Network in the promos. Even Dean Ambrose did it. Cena challenged Lesnar to come down and fight then, but Lesnar didn’t show. This was another good promo from Cena who has been spot on for this entire build to SummerSlam.
Heath Slater defeated Dolph Ziggler by count-out due to him attacking The Miz, so Slater is on a bit of a mini roll. I really do get a kick out of that guy. The Miz was pretty funny on commentary during this match. He stood on the table the entire time (not sure if he was paying tribute to Robing Williams who did that in Dead Poets Society) and accidentally pulled his microphone cable out at one point. It was all in good fun. It was a quick match to build up to their IC Title match at SummerSlam, which I still suspect may become a pre-show match since they have yet to announce one.
Randy Orton faced Sheamus in a tune-up match ordered by The Authority. This was my favorite match of the night. These two always match up extremely well. One of the best matches I’ve recapped on Smackdown was a No Disqualification Match between these two from 2011. It was absolutely incredible. This was another great offering from them. Both guys like to go at it hard, and they always give a quality match. Say what you want about Orton, but he’s been around for twelve plus years, and he still gives it his all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a random Smackdown or a Main Event match or a main event on RAW, he’ll give you the same effort. He never phones in a physical performance (as long as you don’t count that Big Show match from Survivor Series). Sheamus doesn’t either. This was a really good match. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
The Hulk Hogan Birthday Celebration closed the show. They opened the segment with “Mean” Gene Okerlund and Jimmy Hart introducing Hogan. Hogan got a great reception. I’m one of those people who don’t care what he’s done in the past. When Hogan is on WWE television, it does my heart good. The video package they put together was fantastic. It sure does make me feel old, though. Hogan was quite choked up after they aired that. Hogan then started talking about his birthday gifts and somehow, someway shoehorned in a reference to the WWE Network being $9.99 a month. It was actually quite impressive the way he went about it.
They then brought back some legends. Ric Flair looked great as he came to the ring. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff was out next wearing one of his signature robes, but the dude looked like a Civil War reenactor. It was… special. I’m all for facial hair, but you need to find the style that suits your face best. After much trial and error, the beard I sport is favorable to 4 out of 5 women. It’s like Jay says in The 40 Year Old Virgin, “This isn’t an accident. This is premeditated, partner.” Orndorff needs to meditate a bit more on his whiskers. They just don’t match up well. On the plus side, his entrance music is absolutely fantastic. I didn’t remember him ever having entrance music.
Roddy Piper looked great as he came out to the ring. Then Scott Hall and Kevin Nash came out to nWo music in the trademark black and white shirts. I was really glad to see Hall here. Obviously there have been rumors running rampant over the past month or so about him falling off the wagon, no showing dates he was booked for, and going missing a few times. It was great to hear Hall get on the microphone and get Hogan to tear off the red and yellow to display the black and white.
Brock Lesnar then made his way to the ring, and the segment really picked up from here. The crowd was buzzing as he went nose to nose with some of the legends, including Piper, Flair, and Hogan. It was really neat to see. John Cena then charged down to the ring, which caused Lesnar to back off. I absolutely loved the approach they took to the Lesnar/Cena match: absolutely no touching and a less is more approach when it comes to the promos. We’ve seen highlights of their encounters in the past. We don’t need to see anything else before Sunday. The crowd was rocking as the show went off the air.
This was probably one of the better go-home shows to a PPV they’ve done in quite some time. I absolutely cannot wait for Sunday to come so I can watch SummerSlam. There isn’t a match on the card that I’m not looking forward to seeing. It may be the best all around build to a SummerSlam in years. Not only is the main event well built (it was last year as well), but also the undercard matches are extremely well built. There are multiple matches that you could consider co-main events, including a match featuring Divas (though I’m not sure you can categorize Stephanie McMahon as part of the Divas division). Well done, WWE.
Bump of the Night: Orton giving Sheamus a back suplex on the commentary table!
Match of the Night: Randy Orton vs. Sheamus ** 1/2
Final Rating: *** 3/4
Check out my recap of this week’s RAW here. Be sure to check out my Smackdown recap this Friday!
On Sunday, please take a look at my WWE SummerSlam PPV predictions column. I’m anticipating a fantastic show. Also check out all the great coverage all day Sunday right here on Wrestleview.com.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy SummerSlam!
Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE RAW and Smackdown for Wrestleview.com.