Daniel Bryan and Stephanie McMahon stand in the ring on RAW and live the WWE Heavyweight Championship in limbo. Photo Credit: WWE.com

WWE RAW report: Punting until Payback


Welcome to the first installment of the WWE RAW report.

This isn’t another rehashing of RAW results, as we already have those readily available. Rather, this is more of an editorial look at the show and progressions of current stories and characters on a weekly basis. Think of it as a kick-start to a larger discussion of the direction of the WWE.

Comments and suggestions are certainly welcome as I’m sure I will be tweaking this as time goes on.

With all that said, let’s jump right into the go-home show before Payback and get to it.

The Authority

The Authority kicks off RAW. Photo Credit: WWE.com

The Authority are my favorite kind of jerks.

The opening promo had somewhat of a rough start. Both Stephanie and HHH were trying to squeeze way too much into one segment going from Daniel Bryan’s decision with the belts, HHH cutting a promo on The Shield, and then focusing in on Brad Maddox.

Even when Maddox came out, it seemed as if the scattered nature of the segment would continue as they brought Kane out to teach Brad “a lesson” for allowing Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns at ringside last week.

The Authority’s solution to Brad “allowing” The Shield to influence him via a beating? Another beating from their favorite demon, Kane. Because nothing says “we’re going to teach you to never give into a beating ever again” like a chokeslam and tombstone piledriver.

But then Stephanie fired a near unconscious Maddox saved the segment.

The Authority are at their best when they are throwing their power around in the most ridiculous of ways. Ordering a beating from Kane is one thing, but firing them immediately after it? That’s ice cold and glorious.

Sheamus shakes the hand of an unconscious Ceasro. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Sheamus shakes the hand of an unconscious Ceasro. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Let’s talk about the mid-card titles.

First off, let me file a disclaimer that I’m incredibly excited to watch Sheamus and Cesaro face off from a wrestling perspective. These are two of the best workers that the WWE has and the will both beat the ever living hell out of each other in the process. From that point of view, I’m over the moon.

But the stories for the United States and Intercontinental Title feuds? Not so much.

The Cesaro/RVD match, and all the shenanigans that surrounded it, summed up the entire mess perfectly. If you showed this match to someone that has no prior knowledge of who these wrestlers are, I’m not sure you’d be able to figure out the face/heel dynamic of either match.

Sure, Bad News Barrett came out and got some cheap heat by insulting the crowd, but during the match, all he did was stand up and look at RVD and all of a sudden he’s eating his boot. I suppose you could claim RVD was getting some form of justifiable revenge on Barrett for taking an elbow to the head last week, but it still came off as such a heel move. All of a sudden, Barrett trying to get directly involved in the match later on looks completely justified.

Instead of RVD taking the high road, it appears that he is banking on the “you should know I’m RVD and I’m the good guy” line of thought. To me, that doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense. Add on to the fact that I’m not exactly a huge RVD fan anyways (blame my witnessing of his terrible tenure in TNA Wrestling), I’m not buying what the WWE is selling here.

The same goes for Sheamus and Cesaro. Both men have just taken turns beating the hell out of each other every week and each did it on this episode of RAW. Again, you could say Cesaro “started it” with the initial handshake refusal, but again, if you hadn’t seen it, even the announce team pointing it out doesn’t help build the dynamic between the two. What you are left with are two angry, violent guys and if you aren’t someone like me that is perfectly cool with the two going at it, your interest in this story is likely nil.

It just all seems so half-baked. The mid-card titles deserve so much better than this.

On this episode of Total Divas, we try to have a RAW match. Photo Credit: WWE.com

On this episode of Total Divas, we try to have a RAW match. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Total Divas is the bane of the divas division.

I’m a realist when it comes to women and wrestling. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and trying to sell the idea of good women’s wrestling can be quite the uphill battle for those folks.

Stories “inspired” by Total Divas is not the answer into making these interesting.

First, there is a completely illogical timeline going on. The show is clearly filmed months prior, yet somehow all the divas involved are either time travelling or have the worst memories ever and the show magically reminds of them of why they are now either best friends or mortal enemies.

In this case, Summer Rae is apparently now hated by all the divas because of Total Divas reasons and Eva Marie, the diva every other diva apparently hated last season, is now Nikki Bella’s BFF. On top of that, Summer Rae’s Total Divas story collides with the tired old “jealous ex-girlfriend” angle with Fandango and Layla.

Mix all of this together and you have the most confusing possible story ever and the WWE somehow allows Eva Marie, objectively the worst wrestler on the roster, to get a victory because Summer’s former squeeze has his tongue down Layla’s throat and that’s a critical distraction that a skilled wrestler can’t overcome.

I understand Total Divas isn’t going away because it’s getting ratings, but I could do without the exercise of mixing the two worlds together in such a terrible fashion.

The Rhodes Brothers. Photo Credit: WWE.com

The Rhodes Brothers. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Can we give Cody Rhodes a mic more often?

In what was a rather terrible first hour, Cody Rhodes was the highlight.

Sometimes, you don’t need much more than one wrestler confronting another, going off on them, and picking a fight to create a good, simple, and quick story for a match later on. Cody did this perfectly and got me incredibly excited for a match that wasn’t even remotely close to being on my radar for the evening.

Bonus for Cody calling Batista a “skinny jean sellout”.

Double bonus for HHH telling Batista is was ok because he “has big legs”.

Gold.

Vince Russo thinks this segment was terrible.

If that’s what Vince Russo, one of the most criticized creative wrestling writers ever, thinks about your segment, you probably did something wrong. If JBL says “there is nothing funny about this” and you aren’t sure if he’s serious or in character, you probably did something wrong.

I’m all for El Torito and Hornswoggle continuing their beef because the “Wee-L-C” match at Extreme Rules was legitimately awesome and fun. Those two can go and don’t really get a chance to and I’m 100% behind both of them getting another PPV payday.

However, I’m not sure why anyone in WWE creative thought this was an effective way to do so. If I am to suspend my disbelief and buy into El Torito being a real bull, isn’t tearing off a body part something more incredibly painful than an ice pack on a rear can handle? If I’m supposed to pretend this is all a big joke, then it’s completely reducing the Payback match between El Torito and Hornswaggle as the same.

Either way, the mark was completely missed here. I can only hope Sunday’s match will justify this segment ever seeing the light of day.

Yes, Bray, you are a god.

As usual, Bray delivered a fantastic promo and I absolutely loved that he turned his attention to the announce team this week. Beyond the enjoyment of seeing JBL getting knocked out and removed for a few segments on RAW, Bray was absolutely dead on during his questioning of Lawler.

It’s the announce team’s job to spread the “lies” that Bray referred to and it gets back to my earlier point about the mid-card quagmire. Cena’s actions are good because the announce team continues to say they are. We know Cena is all about hustle, loyalty, and respect because we’ve been programmed to believe so. It’s why a Cena sneak attack is justice, but a Wyatt family sneak attack is so vile.

It provides another layer to a story that desperately needs it. Pre-Extreme Rules, WWE more or less wrote themselves into a corner. The feud with Cena was making less and less sense as time went on and it was all building to a typical “Cena wins because he’s Cena” ending that would’ve seriously killed Bray’s character progression. The WWE pulled a solid swerve in that regard during the cage match if only to try and reboot the story and allow Bray to have a victory.

Since then, though, it really hasn’t been clear as to what either Bray or Cena’s motivations have been other than they need to face off because there is unfinished business or something.

Bray’s motivation is clear now. Cena is the representation of lies that he wants to demolish and while taking him out is the ultimate goal, Bray is no longer afraid to start causing some collateral damage.

In a way, that has also made Cena’s motivations a whole lot clearer as well. While his promo was more of the same ‘ol John Cena, Bray’s actions have made it clear that Cena needs to fight and put Bray away for the sake of others around him.

This is no longer about his legacy or giving into some dark side that he’ll never succumb to, but now “the innocent” are in danger and that’s more than enough reason for Cena to put Bray down in a last man standing match.

Speaking of Cena’s promo:

Please stop allowing Russo to make sense. Between this and Eva Marie winning a match, I believe the apocalypse is upon us.

Rusev palces Zack Ryder in the Accolade. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Rusev palces Zack Ryder in the Accolade. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Happy Memorial Day! Watch Zack Ryder get destroyed by a Bulgarian that is now totally Russian.

I’ll be honest, I was once amused by Ryder’s antics, but now when I see him on TV, I’m hoping it’s for a squash match which this most definitely was.

On the other hand, I am a huge fan of Lana and her cheap Putin heat. Her character creeps more and more into Rocky IV territory every week and it’s amazing. However, slightly confusing is the gymnastics that the WWE is trying to pull to have the Putin mentions make any kind of sense for a Bulgarian wrestler.

First, Lana announced he “moved” to Russia. This week, she basically called him Russia’s own super athlete because I guess moving into Russia for a month allows you to call dibs.

That small nit aside, this segment completely worked for me. Ryder got squashed and Big E came running out again, but this week actually delivered a beating to Rusev. I’m completely on board for a Rusev/Big E showdown. Not only do you see two super-huge guys trying to kill each other, but this gives Big E some much needed TV time after a very forgettable IC Title reign.

Big E is great and hasn’t gotten nearly the exposure he deserves. The more time in front of the camera’s he gets, the better.

Dave Batista, surprisingly not gassed anymore. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Dave Batista, surprisingly not gassed anymore. Photo Credit: WWE.com

So, I might just be coming around on Batista.

Initially, I hated Batista’s return. He was out of shape and thrust into Wrestlemania’s main event to promote a movie.

Now that he’s not gassed after walking down the ramp, he’s started to turn in some solid efforts and his match with Orton and the Rhodes brothers was another good example. Granted, Orton did most of the heavy lifting in this match, but Batista’s performance was just fine.

As far as the match went, the RKO counter to Cody’s Disaster Kick was a thing of beauty. The second RKO was a gratuitous heel move. The additional surprise stipulation that the match all of a sudden became a no holds barred elimination match was a beautiful middle finger delivered by HHH in response to Cody’s comments earlier in the night.

It was simple and it worked. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been a Shield run-in to save Goldust from the beating he received, but that’s getting greedy.

BOlieve!

If you’ve watched NXT, you are likely very familiar with how Bo’s character works. The majority of the RAW crowd though, does not and it was very clear that they had no clue how to react to Bo.

I’m hoping the WWE gives time for Bo’s character to catch on because his delivery of it was absolutely on point. If given the time, the character will grow on people and it will get the appropriate heat it deserves.

So in the meantime, keep putting him in the ring and giving him the mic every week. The rest will take care of itself.

Next week on RAW Payback, Daniel Bryan’s big decision!

I was completely into this segment. Bryan delivered a great promo and managed to turn what should have been a selfish decision of keeping the titles into a line in the sand that everyone could get behind.

Sure, he should give up the titles, it makes sense; however, Stephanie and The Authority put him into this situation. Handing over the belts is surrender in that case and The Authority wins and that’s not what he fought to hard to overcome. So if the titles need to be vacated, The Authority will have to strip them and remain the bad guy.

Unfortunately, Stephanie decided to bring Brie Bella into the situation which has been the kiss of death to enjoying Bryan’s story post-Wrestlemania. Sure enough, it hit again by using her as an excuse to punt the title decision into Payback which is simply awful.

This is what you do to hype a RAW, not a PPV. Even worse, the WWE just looks like they are spinning their wheels at this point and that’s not what you should be doing in a go-home episode. This decision certainly likely will not help secure any more buy rates for the show or convince people to subscribe to the WWE Network.

In all honesty, the WWE is really in a tough spot and the options available aren’t exactly great, especially when the bigger names are involved in the Evolution/Shield match or now holding mid-card titles. I’m not sure what the best solution is, but continued inaction isn’t helping.

Now this is how you build interest for a the Divas Championship match.

Alicia Fox has just hit another level. With no real heel in the division since the departure of A.J. Lee, the WWE had a huge hole for a top diva heel to serve as Paige’s rival. With the majority of the divas are tied up in Total Divas nonsense, Alicia has taken this role and just run with it.

The fit she threw after her loss was epic, complete with stealing the ring bell, attempting to make Lawler deaf with it, giving wediges to random WWE staff, and Stone Cold Steve Austin’ing two Diet Cokes. As if all that wasn’t enough, she started engaging the fans into this escapade and it was magic.

As an added bonus, we finally got to see Emma detached from Santino which is another terrible angle that needs to be put to rest. Emma is simply too good a wrestler to be saddled with that kind of glass ceiling.

More of this please and less of the Total Divas headache.

Adam Rose faces off against Damien Sandow (as Davy Crockett). Photo Credit: WWE.com

Adam Rose faces off against Damien Sandow (as Davy Crockett). Photo Credit: WWE.com

Davy Crockett, surprisingly not a part of the Exotic Express.

I’m not sure if Sandow’s new bit of cosplaying a current city’s historical/fictional character has a long lifespan, but I must admit I’m liking it thus far. Last week on Main Event, Sandow dressed as Sherlock Holmes and now he came out to a Tennessee crowd as Davy Crockett.

To be honest, anything that gets Sandow on my TV more often, I’m all for.

To add to the insanity, Adam Rose faced off against Sandow/Crockett. While the match was rather abruptly interrupted, it was finally a chance for Rose to show his rather quirky in-ring style and also show that he can deliver a beating, even on a larger athlete like Swagger. This was desperately needed for Rose, who has done little more than parade around the ring and annoy Zeb Colter. Now, Rose has some kind of legitimacy as a wrestler and not just a guy body-surfing around the ring.

Rose’s character is incredibly fun and I love his antics along with those of the Exotic Express. Without displaying actual wrestling, he becomes nothing more than his ring entrance and people either tune out or wait for his music to hit again.

I’m hoping Rose gets a full match on RAW soon and not an incredibly shortened one like this, otherwise his character is going to completely stall.

Cesaro Neutralizes Sheamus in retaliation for his attack earlier in the night. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Cesaro Neutralizes Sheamus in retaliation for his attack earlier in the night. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Mid-card title mess: Part II

Like I said back on page one, the mid-card title stories are just make no sense.

The match between Del Rio and Sheamus was decent enough, but then Heyman comes out, activates troll mode, and distracts Sheamus so Cesaro can deliver a beating. Again, I’m not sure where these two stand from a face/heel standpoint. I’m fine with gray areas in that sense, especially with these two, but I still think it alienates a fan that is new or trying to catch up to the story.

Oh well, I’m just going to enjoy their match this Sunday and try not to think about it too much.

Roman Reigns spices up the usual PPV contract signing. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Roman Reigns spices up the usual PPV contract signing. Photo Credit: WWE.com

Roman Reigns: interior decorator.

WWE PPV contract signings might be the most predictable and boring tropes that they do. The two parties sit across from each other, talk some trash, and inevitably beat the hell out of each other.

This time though, The Shield comes in early, commandeers the mic, and while Rollins and Ambrose talk, Reigns is just in the background tossing chairs out of the ring. Neither Rollins or Ambrose even acknowledge what he is doing until he has damn near every chair thrown out of the ring and it’s just hilarious. Through both words and action they make fun of the entire ordeal and finally made a contract signing fresh for a change.

Quick question though: is this match now suddenly a match to the death? There was so much talk of this being “the last time” both factions would face off and HHH insinuated that The Shield wouldn’t ever stand in a WWE ring again. I mean, I understand the “I’m going to beat you so bad, I’m ending your career” is a thing, but this wasn’t even mentioned or even threatened until last night from what I remember. I’m not necessarily complaining, but it seemed like an additional layer to the over-the-top hilarity that was going down.

Either way, if this match is anything like Extreme Rules, it’s going to be worth the price of admission alone, even with the WWE World Championship in limbo.

Tags: Adam Rose Alexander Rusev Alicia Fox Bo Dallas Brad Maddox Bray Wyatt Brie Bella Cesaro Cody Rhodes Damien Sandow Daniel Bryan Dave Batista Dean Ambrose El Torito Emma Eva Marie Goldust HHH Hornswoggle John Cena Kane Nikki Bella Randy Orton Rob Van Dam Roman Reigns Seth Rollins Sheamus Stephanie McMahon The Shield Vince Russo WWE WWE Raw Zack Ryder