April 24, 2014 by Joey Keogh
It’s a good time to be a wrestling fan right now. Following an incredible Wrestlemania and an awesome post-PPV Raw, last week’s show managed not to undo all the good that had been done thus far by keeping the action – and madness – intact, and allowing us at least one shock moment to enjoy, with the re-introduction of legendary tag team Evolution. This week it’s more of the same, although it’s arguably a stronger, more consistent show overall, packed with great moments, a few shocks, and only a couple of snooze-worthy additions. We open with a recap of last week’s Evolution/The Shield showdown, during which Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins were beaten to a bloodied, yet still sexy, pulp. There’s also a little flashback to the early days of Evolution (back when they all had HAIR!), before it’s revealed they’ll be facing The Shield in a couple of weeks at Extreme Rules.
This isn’t exactly a surprise, given their triumphant return last week, but it should be a good match and anything that keeps The Shield together is a positive development. Daniel Bryan emerges to rapturous, ear-splitting cheers from the assembled crowd in Baltimore, Maryland as his new bride Brie Bella starts a “Yes” chant from her spot in the ring. I’ve missed Stephanie Mc Mahon’s ridiculously unsuitable ghetto music, so it’s great that she comes out by herself tonight, especially when she’s in such fine form, complimenting the Bella-Bryans on their “crunchy” and “rustic” wedding (Brie wore no shoes, which obviously the woman who dressed as a corporate dominatrix to cheer on her hubby at WM would never do).
JBL takes the opportunity to point out that Bryan is an “over-achiever” which is a nice way of saying “how did this bearded freak get a chick like THAT?” Suddenly, Kane’s music fills the arena and Steph scrambles to warn him off doing anything stupid, with an almost-believable “Not now!” What is he, the Phantom of the fucking Opera? It takes a while for everyone to realise he’s probably not entering the usual way, and sure enough, a girlish scream from Brie reveals he’s been standing stage left for god knows how long, probably fending off advances from over-zealous fans (“Stop touching my butt! I am not a piece of meat!” – it doesn’t just happen to Divas, you know) Kane advances on Bryan anyway, because his only boss is Satan, choke-slams him, delivers a few, fairly vicious, uppercuts and then administers a (purposefully, noticeably gentle) pile-driver.
Brie flees, Steph screams at him to stop, JBL continues waxing lyrical about how lucky Bryan is, and then Kane drags his lifeless body to the steps, where he pile-drives him again. Bryan is loaded onto a stretcher, with a neck brace strapped to him, but before he can be taken to safety, Kane attacks again, throwing him off and the brace aside before demolishing the announce table. JBL manages to keep his hat, for once, but his chair makes a run for it, not wanting to be a victim of this carnage. Kane loads himself and Bryan up onto the announce table and the three commentators watch in horror as he delivers a third pile-driver, causing Steph to call him a “bastard”, which the crowd quickly picks up and starts chanting. Kane strolls off to deafening boos, as Bryan is stretchered away properly, and Steph lifts his belts up in the ring, asking quietly for a warm welcome for the champ. And that, my friends, is how this episode of Raw begins. Holy shit.
#1 Contenders Tournament for the Intercontinental Championship: Round 2: Semi Final Match: Bad News Barrett -v- Sheamus
FINALLY, the most obvious match-up in history can take place, as the English thug takes on the Irish hooligan (I can say these things, I am from one of those places). These two have been shit-talking each other on Twitter all week, which has been really fun to watch and shows even more so that they need to feud, damn it! It’s just so obvious, they’re similar builds, they work well together, and it’s Ireland v Britain – imagine all of the racist crap the commentators could spew! Anyway, BNB enters and the crowd are impressively hot for him, which is awesome, because it’s taken forever for him to get over. He opens by telling everyone he has some bad news that “isn’t quite as bad as Daniel Bryan’s” (amazing). Basically, the luck of the Irish has run out and Sheamo is about to get his butt kicked. Well, we can only hope. Barrett gets booed out of it at first, but somehow his arrogance has everyone on side, even though his opponent obviously gets the bigger cheer. JBL mentions the England-Ireland rivalry, because he wants them to feud too so he can brag even more about his knowledge of the brawls in Temple Bar on a Saturday night. The action takes off immediately, as is to be expected from these two, with both consistently hitting their spots effortlessly throughout. A cross-body to the outside from the top rope has Sheamo thinking he’s won it already, leading him to celebrate with a big “Fella!” with those in the front row, but Barrett is hungry for it, and even though Cesaro seems like a given for the IC Championship match at ER, it’d be cool to see Barrett given a shot at it, either. He tries for the Bodhrán – which Cole still can’t pronounce – but Barrett easily counters it and catches him in a headlock. As we return from commercials, Sheamo is going for the Bodhrán again, hitting it this time, before administering the Irish Curse, out of which Barrett kicks. Backstage, Big E is stroking his belt again, which may mean he’s been standing there in his ring gear since last week, but either way he won’t be getting a match tonight, bless him. Barrett goes for the bull-hammer, but misses, then tries to aim from the top rope, at which point Sheamo catches him and delivers the White Noise, out of which he kicks again. King mentions that Sheamo seems “befuddled” by how elusive a win is this time around, showing he has no idea what any words mean whatsoever. The two trade swings in the middle of the ring for a bit, while stuck on their knees, until Sheamo takes aim and Barrett flips out of the ring, escaping his grasp, and managing to finally deliver the bull-hammer from outsideto win.
Winner: Bad News Barrett (not bad news at all, except maybe for Sheamo)
Evolution are here tonight, doing… something, but they’re not going to tell us what just yet, because that would ruin all the fun. We’re treated to another awesomely bad Bolieve promo, which again showcases that amazing “eggs can’t fly” line. This guy annoys the hell out of me, but that means he’s doing a good job, so hopefully he’s used properly when he finally makes his debut. If nothing else, he looks like Bray Wyatt’s good twin, which is highly amusing.
Hey, do you remember back in 2011 when Zack Ryder was actually relevant and none other than Hugh Jackman appeared on Raw alongside him, sporting a spiffy headband and then proceeding to beat the shit out of Dolph Ziggler? It was a simpler time, a time when Ryder was someone and Ziggles was taking hits from Hollywood stars. Well, prepare yourself, because it’s going to happen again next week!
On the App tonight, you can choose who John Cena is going to go up against in the Main Event – will it be Erick Rowan, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper or Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt? The suspense is killing me, already. I mean, Cena is feuding with Bray, and he’s only available in one of these combinations, so surely that one will win, not to mention the fact everyone hates Cena and probably wants to see him get beaten by three men at once. “Throw him to the wolves. Or, the Wyatts” Cole opines like a moron whose mic should be turned off immediately, along with “beffudled” King’s.
Thankfully, he’s cut off mid non-thought, as Bray turns up to deliver another awe-inspiring sermon alongside an ominously, barely-lit Harper and Rowan, who look more intimidating than ever before. “They’ve left the power in your hands. Those fools!” Bray sneers, demanding that the WWE Universe choose the most painful outcome for Cena tonight, which, judging by the crowd’s bloodthirsty roars of approval, they more than likely will. He ends the promo with another creepy singsong, which will no doubt freak Cena out, wherever he is currently (engaged in a rap battle against Macklemore about who of the two is more gangsta, perhaps?)
Los Matadores & El Turito -v- 3MB & Hornswoggle
It’s not clear whether Turito or Swoggle are actually involved in this match, but given the fact they went up against each other at Smackdown last week – in what WWE hilariously referred to as the match of the century on their Facebook page – it makes sense that the action mainly revolves around them. The great Heath Slater is boasting some snazzy new pants, but he isn’t involved in this, possibly because he’s injured/doesn’t want to go to the trouble of undoing his ponytail. Either way, it’s great to see 3MB in a match on Raw, even a joke one such as this. Drew Mc Intyre slaps Swoggle to get things started, even though they’re on the same team, and then Swoggle sizes up (sorry) Turito in the middle of the ring. The two slap each other, before Turito proves just how fast he is and how high he can jump with a series of flips and somersaults that make Swoggle look like a bloated old fat dude, which he kind of is (bad choice of pants, save those only for the Adonis that is Heath Slater). Drew lifts Turito up by his leg and disposes of him so he can get a piece of the action, but this leads to the little bull (or grown man in a child’s cheap Halloween costume) catching Slater right in the crotch, before turning around to tackle Mc Intyre in much the same way – that’s right, this match is so silly, it’s mostly comprised of crotch shots. Los Matadores, who also have new outfits for some reason, finally enter the ring and the three of them sort-of triple team Mc Intyre, which is followed up by Turito pinning him easily to win it for them. Is this 3MB’s biggest embarrassment yet? Only time will tell.
Winners: Los Matadores & El Turito (no more matches for them for a bit, yeah? They’ve had their fill. Make way for the real stars, like Rusev or Ryback)
Although it’s understandable that, after a great, brutal match like Sheamo and Barrett’s, a palate cleanser is in order, but considering that later on in the show we’re going to be subjected to another Rusev squash match and two mostly uninteresting Divas matches, surely these two minutes could’ve been given to Bray for more pontificating, or to show Cena cowering on the toilet backstage? Anyway, arriving in a limo at this very moment in time are Evolution, who are all wearing their Sunday best, which means they won’t be kicking ass tonight, sadly. The camera pans over the crowd as half boos, half cheers greet them (a few women lose their shit at the sight of Orton, of course) and a couple of dudes in the front row, dressed as The Shield, because duh, seize their opportunity to flex their non-existent muscles as if to say “Pick me, WWE! Look at what I’ve got! Nobody else has this, especially not, like, any of the Divas, who are all easily bigger than us!”
Evolution enter the ring and Triple H takes control of the mic, in spite of the fact he sounds like he’s just done a 20-date tour with Slayer, doing backup growls for Tom Araya. Orton soon takes over, perhaps sensing his boss is in need of some Strepsils, which would usually make me roll my eyes, but anyone is better than Batista. Then, there’s a weird promo, scored by a nu-metal song, followed by Batista doing his bit, as a “Boo-tista” sign is revealed right behind his head. He does the whole “Deal with it” thing that makes everyone want to stab him repeatedly before The Shield’s entrance music signals their arrival and the three old dudes scarper like total pussies. Ambrose takes the mic first, of course, describing Orton as a “cream puff” (to which he nods in agreement) and asking the snottily rhetorical question, “do we look humbled to you?” as Trips claimed the beat-down last week did just that.
Rollins takes over, pointing out that they had help from about ten jobbers, and are pussies. The camera pans over Evolution, with Trips looking pensive, Orton pouting, and Batista looking as though he’s planning his next shit tattoo – maybe a flock of birds this time? Or an infinity symbol tramp stamp? He doesn’t want anyone to think he’s a slut, because he’s quite deep and that’s why he needs it on his lower back, so only the people he chooses can see it. While this segment is happening, I couldn’t help but wonder if, in ten years time, The Shield are going to reunite and be bald and annoying, but for the moment, they’re young and full of fire, in particular Rollins, who gets to deliver a rather good line; “You put a nail in your own coffin [last week] and at Extreme Rules, we’re gonna be the hammer that drives it home” Reigns has always been the weak link on the mic, because he’s so softly spoken.
And, even though Rollins is like an overexcited scene kid at his first show, and Ambrose acts as though he’s trying to eat his own tongue, the two of them can deliver a killer line, while Reigns is usually left to be pretend gangsta, like tonight with the stupidly simple “we gon’ beat yo asses” Maybe he’s reminiscing about when LL Cool J was on, though he sounds about 1% as excited. He does call them cream puffs again, though, before dropping the mic as the three of them advance, resulting in all the jobbers from last week emerging and gathering behind Evolution on the stage. In spite of his sore throat, Trips manages to deliver one more line before we cut to yet another Adam Rose promo. How much is this guy going to suck when he finally makes it on to Raw? He’s already stinking up the joint on NXT, and he has about as much charisma as a cantaloupe. It’s interesting to see Bo, who does annoying well, juxtaposed against Rose, who just plain sucks at it. Anyway, in case you were wondering, Legends House is the number one most watched show on the Network, which Cole reckons is “like Netflix, but better” Seriously, mic off. Now. Before he does any more damage.
The Usos -v- Rhodes Brothers
For some reason, Rybaxel are watching this match with the commentators, which means we get lots of “jokes” from Ryback throughout, that only he laughs at in that “heh heh heh” way he does that does not go with his strangely soft speaking voice – remember when he had to actually work on the mic and he could only do these breathy bits that came off like Nigella Lawson when she’d try to be sexy while cooking pasta? There’s some footage of Jimmy’s (I think?) wedding in Hawaii, which was shown on Total Divas, and which 3MB attended alongside about ten other people, before the match starts with Jey up against Goldust. The two spar for a bit, and hit a few spots, but it’s all terribly samey and uninteresting. Cody makes things slightly more exciting by flipping out of the ring and landing effortlessly on his feet. Goldust takes a hit from the top ropes, as Ryback reveals he’s 32(!?) and the commentators find this more interesting than the match itself (understandably so, because wow). Cody grabs an Uso’s foot, and spins him backwards, thereby getting Goldust kicked in the face, which allows the Uso (whichever one it is) to take advantage and pin him to win.
Winners: The Usos (they’ve proven themselves at this stage, but it’s still fun to guess who’s who as they fly about)
Cody runs off in a piss, and his brother follows him like a scorned lover, even though really he should be mad because it was him who got kicked in the face. Rybaxel, desperate not to lose their moment in the limelight, take the opportunity to attack The Usos in the ring, because apparently it doesn’t matter how many matches these two win, they’re still not above getting beaten up by two lumpy jobbers. The weird mash-up of their two entrance themes is then played as they celebrate in the ring. Thankfully, a rather funny clip from Slam City follows, which features Mark Henry and some penguins.
Divas Match: Emma -v- Layla
At first, this seemed like another mixed tag because Emma entered with Santino Marella and Layla entered with Fandango, but sadly it’s just a Divas match. “Can’t wait to be ashamed of what I say during this match” King says ominously before the ladies have even got started. Fandango tackles Marella from behind as it kicks off, which Layla takes advantage of immediately. Why isn’t she feuding with Summer Rae though? She stole her man! Fandango blows kisses from ringside, as Emma tries, and fails, to land that classic Divas move, the dropkick. There’s a pretty okay clothesline that is disregarded, even by the cameramen, in favour of Santino’s cobra attacking Fandango outside the ring. However, as much as I despise that stupid gimmick, when Emma whipped out her pink lady cobra, to use on Layla and ultimately win the match, it was kind of the breakout moment. Sad but true. The tussle between the two snakes which followed, on the other hand, was uncomfortably un-funny.
Winner: Emma (and her pink lady cobra, which is most definitely not a euphemism)
Backstage, Renee is trying to have a chat with Cena, but because it’s him, the crowd are booing over her insightful, real journo questions (she is a real journalism, after all). There’s the usual struggle of simultaneous chants for and against Cena, as he admits he’s sick of hearing the same song over and over again – is he referring to when the crowd sings “John Cena sucks” along with his entrance theme or has he just been spitting sick rhymes with Macklemore for too long?
#1 Contenders Tournament for the Intercontinental Championship: Round 2: Semi Final Match: Cesaro -v- Rob Van Dam
The outcome of this match seems preordained and, given RVD’s sleepy performance last week against Alberto Del Rio, it also feels like a bit of a disservice to Cesaro, but anyway, it starts off well, with the best heel manager ever, Paul Heyman, kicking things off by reminding everyone, once again, that his client beat the streak. He’s cut off by RVD’s entrance, and Cesaro then quickly gains dominance with a backbreaker, out of which his opponent kicks. For once, RVD seems kind of awake, managing to hit his spots alongside his far superior opponent, who is much lighter on his feet, not to mention a more accomplished athlete. RVD would usually look old and tired in comparison, but tonight he’s flipping around like his life depends on it, managing to deliver a pretty impressive Suplex, which Cesaro kicks out of easily. Funnily enough, RVD is technically a Paul Heyman guy, because he started his career on ECW, but tonight he couldn’t be further from it than if he were the goddamn Undertaker. Cesaro stands on his head for a bit, after locking him into the corner, delivering uppercuts and kicks until he grabs him in a headlock. Heyman shouts orders from ringside, not that Cesaro needs any help, as RVD delivers the Rolling Thunder, but Cesaro kicks out again, leading to a power-bomb. Both are hitting their spots so well tonight, it’s impossible to tell who’s dominant, but just as Cesaro goes for the swing, which should win it for him, his ex-team-mates Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter turn up to ruin his chances. RVD seizes the opportunity to launch himself out to tackle Cesaro, who catches him easily with a mid-air uppercut, but ultimately loses due to a count-out.
Winner: Rob Van Dam (really, though?)
Swagger attacks Cesaro once the bell has rung, but he disposes of him easily, turning his attention to his ex-manager whom he grabs by the beard, preparing for the swing. Sadly, Swagger saves Colter, and ends up being swung himself as a result, which isn’t nearly as funny. Next, the commentators assure us that Bryan is stable, but not that he more than likely made a hasty exit because his father had died. We follow it up with a Total Divas promo, starring someone I don’t recognise, who has to look after Natalya’s cat. So if you were still unsure of whether you should be watching that reality show instead of something which requires more brainpower like The Valleys, well, that should settle it for you.
Poor Renee tries to conduct another post-match interview, even though Sheamo proved last time that it’s a dumb idea because the wrestler in question usually can’t speak enough immediately afterwards. In this case, RVD is pretty okay and, furthermore, he reminds everyone that he’s a better speaker than his looks would suggest – much like poor ol’ Lesnar, who never gets a look in. He’s talking about having a clear “conscious” which must mean he hasn’t smoked much today, because a “conscience” is a totally different thing and doesn’t relate to being really, really stoned as he so often is. Cesaro and Heyman show up to interrupt and RVD warns the manager’s newest charge to stay away from him, if he knows what’s good for him.
Divas Match: Paige -v- Aksana
Since Aksana’s entrance music hasn’t been played in a long time, I’d totally forgotten that it sounds like sleazy piano bar jazz. Nobody cheers for her, but they’re hot for Paige once again, with one enthusiastic fan even boasting some dreadful fan art of her, which seems to capture the poor girl in the middle of giving birth. Anyway, this is a standard Divas match, so there’s lots of hair pulling, screaming, and attempts at spots that go nowhere. Paige ends it all with a Scorpion again. Hopefully AJ comes back soon, or she’ll just be beating a different nobody with a botched boob job every week (Aksana’s, in particular, look as though they’re trying to escape her chest).
Winner: Paige (give her an actual opponent next time, maybe?)
Alexander Rusev -v- Sin Cara
Rusev continues his run of squash matches, with one against the man pretending to be Sin Cara, who doesn’t even get an entrance because he’s such a goddamn faker (he is better at selling though, even when he messes up). Lana is so much more interesting, she now has her own music. Also Rusev doesn’t wear shoes, because I guess he’s going for a sumo wrestler angle. The crowd are so bored with this match they chant for JBL throughout, and even though there are a couple of decent spots from Sin Cara, it’s hard to care because we all know how this is going to end – with Lana yelling “Rusev, crush” and him finishing it all off with the Accolade. Remember when Ryback was sold in much the same way? That was boring as fuck too, but now that I think about it, even he could be used against Rusev and it might actually make him look good. Maybe.
Winner: Alexander Rusev (snore snore snore)
Before the Main Event starring JOHN CENA, we’re treated to another ridiculous Bolieve promo, this one choosing to showcase that oft-repeated quote from someone a bit clever with words but not really: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” Indeed.
John Cena -v- The Wyatt Family
King gets to reveal the results of the poll, which is…all the Wyatts at once! Yippee! Cena looks confused as he enters the ring, which he shouldn’t be, because he’s almost guaranteed to win with the Attitude Adjustment, even if he does have to suffer a bit of a beating first. He’s even wearing his Superman underpants! He knows! All three swamp men attack him at once, even before the bell has rung. When the match starts proper, Harper is first to take him on, cornering him before delivering a power-bomb into the turnbuckle. He tags Bray in, who yells a bit, before dancing with Cena’s already tired body, and then delivering another power-bomb and tagging Harper back in. Cena attempts to gain dominance, but Harper is too quick for him, amid competing Cena chants from the crowd. Finally, the Superman manages a Suplex on Harper, before Rowan tags in and pins him, with Cena kicking out almost immediately. Bray is tagged in again, takes a run towards Cena as though he’s going to kick him, but then doesn’t. Rowan gets back in, Cena pins him, but Harper breaks it up. Rowan quickly gains dominance again, dragging Cena into the barricade and then onto the steps, causing some nearby children to weep into their sweatbands. As we return from commercials, Cena is outside the ring being counted out, and the Wyatts are inside, looking gleeful. Cena manages to get back in, only to dive off the top rope, as Harper easily counters and then tags Bray in again. Bray takes time out of the match to sing, before tagging Rowan in once more, who immediately grabs Cena in a headlock. JBL mentions Deliverance, which is a bit too on the nose, but whatever. Bray gets tagged in again, and he does his backwards spider thing, but Cena manages his first major move of offence of the night with a clothesline that sends him crashing into the mat. He starts to build some momentum as he dispenses with Rowan, and delivers the Five-Knuckle Shuffle on Bray, before going for the pin, which Harper breaks up. Suddenly, the bell is rung as though this is considered a move for DQ, and the crowd’s confusion is almost audible. It’s not immediately clear why this has happened, but Harper and Rowan destroy Cena anyway, so at least we got what we paid for – even more so as Bray administers the Sister Abigail before dragging Cena’s head into his lap and singing to him, making his eyes roll back in his head like he’s about to have a lobotomy.
Winner: DQ (not sure why, though)
Quite an odd ending to the show, but at least it wasn’t Cena winning, because seriously, one of these times is going to be the last and the fans are just going to rush the ring and destroy him themselves (well, half of them are, while the others continue to sadly chant “Let’s go Cena” as he’s being murdered in front of their eyes).
This was a solid week, all things considered, with the #1 Contenders Tournament being a particular highlight, especially in the long-anticipated (by me, at least) Barrett v Sheamo match-up. Although it’s quite shocking that Cesaro isn’t advancing to the final, hopefully that means Barrett will get a shot at the IC title at ER, while he gets a match opposite, maybe, his ex-team-mate Swagger, or even someone totally random who needs a little bit of a push, like Ziggles or Sandow, both of whom are being unfairly shoved to the side these past few weeks.
Triple H suggested, a little while ago, that we were entering a new time, known as the Reality Era, and that things were going to change for the better. It’s unclear whether the first part is really true, but there’s definitely been a noticeable shift in the quality of WWE’s output since WM, with a focus on longer, more intense and interesting matches, better promos, and some genuinely shocking storyline twists and turns.
At first The Authority seemed like the biggest waste of time, but Trips and Steph have really come into their own as heels, and the anti-Daniel Bryan angle, though painfully frustrating at times, is genius because it keeps our hopes up, dashes them, and then brings them right back up again. It’s the centrepiece for the whole show, the anchor, and in much the same way the Cena v Wyatt feud has gained some serious heat, it can be milked to within an inch of its life without ever becoming boring.
Every week, I wonder where they’re going to go next, I worry that it’s all going to fall apart, and with Extreme Rules right around the corner, I can only hope that the momentum from WM will continue to be carried forward, and that there are some surprises in store for us. There’s one more Raw to go before then, though, so either way, it’s going to become clear very soon.