FEATURE: David Stephens reviews 7/1 WWE RAW

David Stephens reviews WWE RAW for 7/1/13

Dave’s RAW Thoughts
July 2, 2013
By: David Stephens of Wrestleview.com

It seemed to be the night of new T-shirts on RAW this week. Bryan kicked off the show with his new ‘Respect the Beard’ gear. Others including Mark Henry were sporting new paraphernalia tonight as well. I suppose it is a logical progression, as the kiddies need to get their new clothing for the summer. Plus with Summerslam around the corner, holy crap it is already July, it’s time to bulk up the merchandise options for the second largest PPV of the year.

However, Summerslam is not the pressing matter of the moment. The next PPV for the company is one of the most influential PPVs of the year. Since its inception the Money in the Bank match has paved the way for rising stars and changed the landscape of the WWE. I don’t need to go down the litany of success stories because Michael Cole does a sufficient job of drilling them into our brains on a weekly basis. As Money in the Bank gained its own PPV instead of being featured at Wrestlemania the PPV has grown a life of its own. For a generation of wrestling fans the encounter between CM Punk and John Cena at the Money in the Bank PPV in 2011 will long live as one of the quintessential encounters of our wrestling experience. It is a hallmark encounter that was swooned by the passion of the fans. It will stick in our minds in the same way that Brock Lesnar v. Goldberg at Wrestlemania XX or John Cena v. Rob Van Dam at One Night Stand in 2006 remains seared into our conscience. On a few special nights in the history of the WWE the fans took a match to an entirely new level. Or, as in the case of Goldberg v. Lesnar, the fans ensure that their voices will be heard. Though if you have the WrestleMania XX DVD you will quickly realize that the WWE was not so amused with the fan reaction and edited the match. I’m getting sidetracked though, where was I?

Ah yes, the upcoming Money in the Bank PPV. The winner of each of the ladder matches has a near-guaranteed chance of winning a World Championship. The only person to not successfully cash in was John Cena, and that was arguably only because he announced in advance that he would be challenging for the Title. Giving the ‘Best in the World’, CM Punk, a week in advance to prepare proved to be a silly mistake. The question that will quickly arise is about who deserves to win the briefcase. Many of today’s top stars have walked out with the case in hand. Will an established main eventer grab the case or will an up and comer begin his rise?

Speculation will run rampant over the next several weeks but in the meantime let us return to the RAW at hand.

The start of RAW was a prototypical opening for an upcoming match with several participants. All of the wrestlers involved made their way to the ring one by one and ran down the competitors and made their argument. I will toss out some kudos that finally a segment in this vein did not end in an all out brawl. CM Punk may have been involved in that decision as he is often on the record bemoaning the standard storytelling techniques. I’m still debating who will walk out with the case but there is one thing that I am sure of – Christian will not win. Sorry, I like the guy, but it is not in the cards for this match.

Of course I also said that the Usos would not receive a push and look at where we are now. Though I will contend that if I had been aware that the one of the Usos was dating one of the Funkadactyls I would have amended that decree with Total Divas approaching. The common perception is that women are the ones that sometimes sleep their way to the top, but in this case it is the Uso benefitting from sexual relations. As to whether it was calculated or coincidence the jury is still out.

Speaking of the Usos they were solid in their six-man encounter teamed with Christian against The Shield. I have yet to see their encounter from Friday but it is a bit surprising that The Shield lost in action against those three when they couldn’t beat the likes of Cena, Ryback, Orton etc.

Good outings from the Usos this week on RAW and Darren Young last week cement a philosophy that I have long held regarding the lower tier wrestlers in the company. With a few exceptions even the worst of the worst on the roster are still talented and dedicated wrestlers. The recent success of those trashed by so-called critics just a few years back illustrates that point. Curtis Axel, Ryback and the emerging Bray Wyatt come to mind. More than evidence of a fickle audience, it also shows that it is all in the gimmick. Any fans of the musical ‘Gypsy’ will understand.

Ziggler defeated Jinder Mahal without much fanfare. AJ and Langston did not accompany the number one contender to the ring. Could there be dissention within the ranks?

The ever-unfolding drama between the McMahons and Team Brickie continued this week. Vickie Guerrero will undergo a performance evaluation on RAW next week. If similar angles in the past are any indication this could readily spell the end of Vickie as the interim GM of RAW. Vince likes to twist the screws a bit as we have seen with the involvement of John Laurinaitis or Mike Adamle so if I had to wager a guess I would say that Vickie would be demoted. Brad Maddox is the likely heir to the position for no reason other than the fact that Vince likes to screw with us. Personally, I’ll enjoy seeing even more of smug smiles and awkward glances.

Bryan played the role of special guest referee as was expected. His dedication to give Kane a victory provided a few guffaws. The quick count produced a nice comedy bit as Kane was furious but Bryan kept brushing him off ad saying that he won so it didn’t matter. Orton pulled out a swift RKO to drop the bearded star. There are so many stars on the cusp of Title runs that it is hard to pick who will have it next. Whether or not Bryan actually captures the Title in the next year is up in the air, but what is certain is that his challenges and matches will by a beauty to watch.

Fandango made his return, which about five audience members seemed to care about, as they were the only ones still convinced that Fandango’ing is anything more than a one night story. More importantly Summer Rae was back on our television sets. Sheamus was in control for most of the match, which resulted in Fandango running away like a coward. Fandango’s little dance dodges are nice touches but he sometimes loses site of his fluidity in the midst of a match. I would like to see him master staying in character for an entire match because when he does they are much more entertaining.

Ryback somehow lost a match against the Miz. Why creative would have Ryback essentially give up to someone like the Miz is baffling. There was little mention of it for the rest of the show so I was genuinely wondering whether it was intentional or not. The fact that it kept me intrigued lends it some credence for success but I am still baffled.

Speaking of The Miz, I caught the Wife Swap episode with Ric Flair and Roddy Piper. As a wrestling fan it provides a unique perspective into their private lives. Flair remains a show boating high spender while Roddy has taken refuge in a mountain home. It wasn’t as good as the Gary Busey/Ted Haggert episode, but it was fun to watch.

Mark Henry delivered another strong promo. His match against Cena is not getting that much screen time, which is surprising for a John Cena feud. Perhaps even creative is suffering a bit of Cena fatigue. Though the more likely answer is that they are trying to keep it low key for the moment so as to not over saturate Cena at a time when he is not as needed.

Punk and Axel were an amusing team to watch. Punk’s facial expressions and arguments with Heyman as he stood on the apron were charming. Punk is a master at staying in character and it is evident that most of his actions are character driven. It is these little touches that make a monumental difference in storytelling.

Someone on creative was drunk this week and accidentally put Alicia Fox in a match. I hope that CM Punk introduces him to the 12 steps because that creative member needs to sober up and never make such an error again in the future.

Cesaro continues to look solid and it was even nice to see Jack Swagger make his return. Zeb Colter has moved into a bizarre area as of late. His promos against Del Rio were strong because they evoked a heel reaction from the crowd. At the moment the crowd is not exactly sure what to make of his promos. There is nothing that he said on RAW that was not accurate as he walked to the ring. In most cases the idea that the truth hurts would work, but in this instance the audience reacted more along the lines of –‘yea we know it is all happened, we’ve lost our country and the government is spying on us so let’s get back to watching wrestling and not all be depressed by the collapse of our civilization”.

RAW once again ended with a strong match. Both Alberto Del Rio and John Cena were caught up I the moment and delivered an entertaining bout. It was a shame, though expected, that the match would have a screwy ending. I could not help but join in with JBL’s dismay that a good match was about to be ruined by interference. But, as I will often concede, the storytelling of the angle worked better with that finish.

I would also point out that Vince’s statement that Vickie should not have given away such a match on free television is perfectly valid. Indeed that very condemnation has been targeted as one of the many elements that helped bring down WCW. Still, Vince has done it himself on countless occasions so I suppose that this is an example of when the WWE hopes the audience suffers a bit of mass amnesia? The good news is that most of us can’t focus for longer than a 140-character reply or a 10 second Vine video – so it probably worked.

I have my tickets for Money in the Bank and am looking forward to the PPV. In the meantime the summer storylines will continue to unfold. As a recapper who has to write about the product every single week regardless of the quality of the programming I have come to a realization. It is a lot easier to focus and write about the WWE when I actually care and am invested in most of the storylines. I’m not saying that this is the best the WWE has been in recent memory because such a statement is so subjective and ambiguous, but I will say that I have been more entertained over the past few months than I personally have been in quite some time. After five years of recapping I have learned that it is a rarity to find myself enjoying over 80% of the storylines. Keep it flowing WWE, this could be a summer to remember.

David Stephens

Follow me on Twitter! @TheDaveStephens