July 31, 2014 by Joey Keogh
After a couple of rough weeks, Raw begins to find its feet again with an explosive, jam-packed episode full of promos, brawls and “Jailbird” chants. More on that later, but first we get a replay of what happened last week between Stephanie Mc Mahon and Brie Bella, as though it was of any interest to anyone. Then it quickly turns to showcase the just-announced Brock Lesnar/John Cena match-up at Summerslam, with even the score turning super-serious, like that one scene in 8 Mile when he’s rapping for his dinner or whatever.
Boos greet Cena as he enters, his head bowed alongside a giant Damien Sandow head in the crowd that bobs comically behind him the whole time he’s speaking. He acknowledges that the collective Universe, more than anything, want to see Lesnar “beat the hell out of me”. This leads to a “Yes” chant as Cena describes his opponent as “the beast in my windshield” – perhaps he means wing mirror? – and admits he’s probably going to “get my ass kicked” at the PPV. It’s the same old promo we’ve seen him do a million times, but thankfully Paul Heyman soon turns up to interrupt and cut a good one.
Lesnar is going to conquer Cena and take the championship. He’s also going to turn him into a victim. Heyman mentions that nobody has even received a text from The Undertaker since what happened at Wrestlemania – how is he supposed to text from the grave? There’s no reception down there! Also he’s busy working in real estate, so there. Lesnar only derives pleasure from making others feel pain, so watch out Cena. Heyman ends his speech with three words – beaten, victimised and conquered – and the crowd go nuts. Cena wants to “talk real”, and by that he means make references to ECW so he can get some cheers in his favour.
He goes on and on about how this is his life, his passion, whatever but it’s all so same-y that when Cesaro turns up, out of the blue, to defend his friend and ex-manager, we’re almost as stunned as Heyman is. “You’re not a wrestler” he tells Cena, “you’re a big, muscled-up, walking billboard” Houston fucking love this, rightly so, and when Cesaro asks whether his shoes are from K-Mart – because you can’t wrestle in runners, yo – they totally lose it. Cena tries to interject but Cesaro plainly tells him not to say anything, before suggesting a match right here, right now (of course) that Heyman gleefully and immediately gets on board with.
John Cena -v- Cesaro
After being accused of not being an actual wrestler, Cena sets out to prove to Cesaro, Heyman and indeed all of us, that he can wrestle, in a surprisingly good opening match – this almost could’ve been the main event and it would’ve been justified, for once. “That’s how you wrestle” Cesaro gloats after a move, leading Cena to deliver a pretty cool huracanrana. He takes the beating for most of the match, but unlike we’ve come to expect from him, he doesn’t turn it all around in the last two minutes with the same three moves. Rather, Cena shows how agile and inventive he can be opposite a more than game opponent, leading to a load of great near falls and spots that make us stop and ask “is this really a Cena match?”. At one point Cesaro counters one of Cena’s moves by climbing up his body and powerbombing him, before administering the all-important Swing, which just looks ridiculously cool. There’s a crazy Suplex over the ropes, before Cena utilises the dull-as-fuck 5-Knuckle Shuffle – the one low point of the match – and then tries to position his opponent in a fireman’s carry but Cesaro swivels around and subsequently nails him with a vicious Swiss Death. Cena wins with an Attitude Adjustment from the top rope, but it doesn’t sting as much as it usually does because first, it looks cooler than it should and there were a million cool spots before it, too.
Winner: John Cena (more actual moves, please)
The Authority are backstage having a pow-wow about how Steph went to jail and embarrassed everyone, but it’s kind of hard to concentrate on what they’re saying because the really distracting Summerslam poster directly behind them – which depicts a pensive Cena and a gurning Lesnar – looks suspiciously like that of a buddy cop movie. Anyway, Steph is complaining about prison, Triple H is planning what to have for dinner, and Orton shows up without any pants on again to give them both shit for robbing him of his title shot at the PPV. Trips is all “don’t blame me dog, blame Roman Reigns, he’s the one you’re really mad at homie” Orton buys this and agrees to “take care” of Reigns later – totally in an Al Pacino way, not Julie Andrews. When he reveals he has a problem with Trips, the audience go “ooooh” like they’re watching a bad sitcom, which is kind of fitting.
Next up, Paige is here to tell us all about her new hair extensions. “AJ is still my best friend” she says, not at all sincerely. The woman herself turns up to call her “Casper” and a “crumpet” again because, as it turns out, she doesn’t believe her either after the screaming and beating last week. Paige interrupts her mid-speech, which is never a good idea with loopy lasses, and is accused of being a two-faced little girl as a result. She counters that AJ is crazy and, well, we all know that it won’t end well for anyone who makes that claim. AJ attacks, Paige yells “Calm down!”, some dude screams “she’s scary!” and AJ holds the belt triumphantly in the ring as Paige backs away repeating “We’re supposed to be friends” as though if she says it enough times it’ll eventually be true.
The Authority appear next, after it’s revealed that Roman Reigns and Kane will be fighting later in a match that totally won’t be interrupted by Orton and end in a no contest. Trips is really disappointed in all of us. He’s in dad mode and he’s pissed. Brie is supposed to get an apology later, but first, here’s Chris Jericho, sporting a fabulous waistcoat and singing “Bad Boys” because that’s funny to someone in the writers’ room. Trips is not amused, especially because Jericho goes on to make fun of his nose (in spite of his own, weirdly pointy chin). He calls Steph a “trash bag” which must mean he’s been watching Catfish, before demanding a match with Bray Wyatt. Unfortunately, Seth Rollins wants a go first and hits him from behind with his briefcase like a good little boy.
6-Man Tag Team Match: Rybaxel -v- The Usos -v- The Miz & Dolph Ziggler
Looking at those participants, what are we really expecting from this match-up? Well, Rybaxel get no entrance, Miz’s is dragged out to fuck and Houston only really cheer for Ziggler. The most interesting moments are courtesy of a Ziggler v Ryback spar, which involves an awesome neckbreaker to the big guy, followed by an elbow drop. Otherwise, this is business as usual, with Miz protecting his “money-maker” at all costs and The Usos using the ropes to bounce themselves, and their opponents, into and out of the ring. At one point, one pulls the ropes down so the other has leverage and room to leap out and tackle three guys at once. It’s great, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and the dude who deadpans “Shiny suits, man” as they’re doing so is right on the money because snore. Thankfully, Ziggler continues his streak of clean wins – that’s two he’s had, now – by utilising the Zig Zag to end the match.
Winners: Ziggler & The Usos (how about just Ziggler next time)
R-Truth -v- Bo Dallas
It’s a sad night for the perma-grinning Bo as his streak is finally broken by none other than R-Truth, of all people. But first, he cuts a promo about how it’s okay that he’s undefeated and R always loses. He’ll get there, he just needs to bo-lieve. His victory lap after his first pin is kind of premature, because R rolls him up to win after about thirty seconds. However, in attempting to deal with his first loss, Bo’s face darkens as he admits he can’t “bo-lieve” this has happened, before hitting R with the mic and then proceeding to beat the absolute shit out of him – including clotheslining him several times into a turnbuckle and beating his head against the apron. His smile only returns once R is unconscious, and Bo takes another victory lap to celebrate.
Winner: R-Truth (maybe he shouldn’t have bo-lieved, after all)
Following the shock end of the most ridiculous streak in sports entertainment history, JBL is still reeling, so he barely even reacts when Rusev and Lana turn up to wave their giant Russian flag around and cut a promo about Putin again. Some lad is really mad, especially when George W. Bush is brought into it – he is not the president anymore, y’all. To their credit, The Real Americans get a major pop upon their entrance. But hey, this is Texas after all. “There’s Old Glory” King remarks. “No, that’s Zeb” JBL counters. There’s an argument about which flag is a “real” flag (hint: both), a pop for beer and a “USA” chant as Zeb cuts a great promo working off a “We the people” refrain that feels a bit minister-y. Rusev eventually snaps – Lana must’ve pushed that giant button on his chest – and chucks Swagger into the barricade. There’s lots of flag waving from both sides as Swagger tries for the Patriot Lock, but Rusev rolls out of the way like a big baby.
Damien Sandow -v- Adam Rose
Tonight, Matthew, Sandow is going to be an astronaut which means he has to tip his mic into his helmet. It also means he’s going to say “Houston, we have a problem” and expect a reaction. There’s no intelligent life on earth, he tells us, especially not Rose, who has a cowboy hat now. That lolly he’s sucking on always seems really dangerous – imagine if he died in the ring by choking on it. How lame. He gets a cheap pop for the city before poor Sandow has to wrestle in that suit and lose to the Party Foul. Some woman loves it. Go figure.
Winner: Adam Rose (will this be the new streak?)
Kane -v- Roman Reigns
This isn’t actually a match in the end, but it’s supposed to be. Orton tackles Reigns as he makes his way into the arena, which is funny because at first only his head is visible and he looks like a crazed fan running over to grope him. They brawl in the crowd for a bit before finally making it to the ring, where Reigns delivers a Samoan Drop on Kane, followed by a Superman Punch to Orton. A clothesline by Kane knocks Reigns off balance for a moment, but he soon walks off, leaving Reigns to deal only with Orton – seems like a bit of a waste, but what is Kane really doing these days, anyway? Orton lays waste to Reigns by, among other things, slamming him repeatedly into the steel steps. There are lots of boos as he follows up with a DDT. Orton then turns his attention to the announce table, which he dismantles carefully – he’s not taking any chances after what happened last time. “You lost me my title shot!” he yells to a barely-conscious Reigns as he chucks him into the steps once more. He then sets him up for two brutal RKOs in a row after a slow, intense buildup during which the crowd go absolutely nuts. “One more time!” someone yells, even though the table is utterly demolished. “Get up Roman” a distressed child screams, to no avail. “Never again, boy” Orton promises him, wiping his mouth. “Randy, you stink!” yells another distressed child – or possibly the same one?
Winner: No contest
Fandango -v- Diego
Following that intense bloodbath, we get a little comedy match which sees Fandango stuck opposite the ladies he’s spurned, who apparently enjoy tormenting him. They emerge with the bull and the one matador who isn’t dead and everyone dances happily for a while. Diego wins with something or other, as Fandango is distracted by the bull. He then gets very upset afterwards because they all rub his loss(es) in his face.
Winner: Diego (er, okay)
Backstage, Steph visits the storage closet marked “Divas” with a sparkly, little girl’s Barbie sticker and asks Nikki – who knows what side of herself to show to the camera – about Brie and this apology later. Nikki says something about eating crap because Cena writes all her lines now. Elsewhere, Stardust and Goldust are scribbling their plans on a blackboard, all of which involve saying another mass. They want the cosmic key but apparently someone else has it.
Divas Match: Lots of Total Divas but not Eva Marie thankfully
AJ and Paige have a great angle right now, but even they didn’t get a match tonight so why are we subjected to these five minutes of rubbish? Everyone is dressed like they’re going to the lamest Hen Party ever. There are no real moves. The punches look about as rough as being hit by a tiny infant. The end comes when Cameron taps out of a pin that JBL admits he doesn’t recognise – and can we blame him?
Winner: Naomi? Her teammates? What kind of match is this anyway?
Chris Jericho -v- Seth Rollins
Before this match kicks off, it’s revealed that Jericho will be facing Bray Wyatt at Summerslam. What a surprise! Even though he was assaulted in his “private” locker room last week, Jericho is still in good spirits tonight. Rollins chooses to twirl all the way onto the ramp, like an even more flamboyant Dave Gahan. He’s cornered immediately, but flees and is thrown into the barricade as punishment. The commentators joke throughout about how they have no table on which to place their Gatorade and highly-highlighted scripts. There’s an impressive Suplex by Jericho, followed up with an ensigury. Rollins steadily gains momentum until he dominates, but a stunning back body-drop from the top rope by his opponent, followed up by a cross-body lock, results in a near fall that almost ends it for him. There’s another cool ensigury by Jericho but, just as things start to pick up again, the lights go off, Rollins disappears and the Wyatts interrupt the proceedings to start a brawl of their own. It’s all a bit predictable, right down to how it ends – with the three of them standing over Jericho’s exhausted body, Bray poised as though in prayer – but it’s fun, and it makes sense within the context of their feud. One kid is booing like crazy, the rest of us are shrugging in unison.
Winner: No contest (surprise, surprise)
Weirdly enough, although it’s entirely fitting for this episode, Raw ends tonight not with a match, but with none other than Steph cutting an awesome promo with Brie, during which she pretends to be “humbled” and sad and sorry. She details how her kids aren’t taking this well, offers Brie’s sister Nikki a pay raise, gives Brie her job back and even agrees to a match at Summerslam – the suggestion of it being a Total Divas-themed event is met with intense booing, though.
However, when Brie suggests Steph take her on at the PPV, the mood changes as the boss backtracks, claiming she couldn’t possibly face her, that she’s hung up her ring gear to be a mother and her boobs might pop if she wrestles again. She’s tearful as she finally agrees, forced into a corner with threats, and approaches Brie sadly before delivering an awe-inspiring slap that sends her flying off the apron to the floor. “I’m gonna make you my bitch” she tells her, echoing a cheap pop Brie got earlier from using the “b” word as though she’s a little girl who’s only just learned it. A load of dudes in suits appear to break it up, including Finlay, Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble, who some lad cheers for, in fairness to him. Trips eventually turns up too, to drag his wife away kicking and screaming. It shouldn’t work, because nobody cares about a Brie/Steph match-up, but it does. Steph sells it like a champ and it’s probably the biggest surprise of the night, all things considered.
Overall, not a bad episode of Raw – the focus was on the buildup to Summerslam, which makes total sense, and even though most of the matches were kind of pointless, there was a lot of fun to be had this episode. The whole Steph/Bellas angle seemed like it was DOA last week, only to come storming back with a great heel promo by Steph, who was so on point, her match at the PPV almost seems like an exciting prospect as a result.
Dean Ambrose didn’t feature at all, which sucked, and Cena was relegated to jerking the curtain but his match with Cesaro was arguably the best of the night, as he sought to showcase that he can wrestle, when he’s bothered. They still don’t know what to do with Ziggler, but at least he’s on TV. The whole Reigns/Kane/Rollins/Orton/Jericho/Wyatt clusterfuck was fun, albeit slightly predictable, but it was cool to see Orton giving his all for once, especially against someone who’s so well-liked. He’s at his best when he’s just a dick, after all.
As usual, only time will tell whether the momentum is effectively carried throughout this short period, in the lead up to the PPV, but judging by this episode alone, there is significant potential here.
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