I feel like I've seen this before... Photo credit: WWE.com

WWE RAW Report (July 7, 2014): While The Authority's away, we'll repeat last week's episode

The July 7 episode of RAW led off with a mention that The Authority wasn’t in the building. This was apparently code for “whatever was on the whiteboard last week, do that again.” There was very little progression of any kind in the episode. We saw just about everything from this week’s episode last week or even at Money in the Bank.

That isn’t to say the script came straight out of the photocopier, but at best all the segments seemed like a repackaging. Repackaging in itself isn’t bad as it is hard to keep programs fresh and on a coherent storyline week after week if the players involved are constantly changing.

The issue is progression. That’s what keeps fans watching week to week. That goes for any episodic TV program whether it is Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or Monday Night RAW.

A viewer should never have the answer to the question “what will happen this week?” especially if the show airs live. RAW and the WWE have built their empire and success on the “anything can happen” nature of the show. Even the commercials on the USA Network pushed that fact for this week’s episode based on the surprising returns of The Miz, Chris Jericho, and A.J. Lee last week.

Roman Reigns plays babyface promo bingo.

Here’s the reality of Roman Reigns’ current status in the WWE: as soon as he figures out how to work the mic on his own, he’s going to be a champion. As it’s incredibly clear that the WWE has their course set for a SummerSlam John Cena/Brock Lensar collision, Reigns has time to try to polish his mic skills in front of a live crowd.

He did a fairly good job this week; however, I couldn’t help but laugh at falling into the usual WWE babyface promo tropes. Think of every terrible John Cena promo that causes your eyes to roll or look for the mute button. They always include the following:

  • Say you’re the greatest
  • Play to the crowd for a cheap pop
  • Insult your opponent
  • Throw in a the best PG-appropriate curse word that you can think of

Combine that all with your free space and you’ve hit your babyface bingo.

So how did Reigns do?

  • Said he could kick everybody’s ass
  • Played off the “Cena sucks” chants by saying “Yeah, when he’s in the ring with me, Cena sucks”
  • Called Kane “HHH’s lap dog”
  • Put the exclamation point on the promo by calling Kane “Randy Orton’s bitch”

BINGO!

It’s all good though because we had the return of Fit Finlay!

Just look at Finaly eating that spear like a champ. A ref ate a chokeslam too.

Sometimes senseless wrestling violence against innocent bystanders are the best.

https://twitter.com/FanSidedGIF/status/486302492821446656

This match must be on the whiteboard in permanent marker.

Luke Harper and Erick Rowan faced off against The Usos once again. The match wasn’t bad, but the problem was we had the two have a big title match in Money in the Bank and last week on RAW they faced off in a six man tag tossing Sheamus and Bray Wyatt into the mix.

I struggled to get into this match. To be honest, it looked like I wasn’t the only one. All four wrestlers looked out of it at the start of the match–almost as if they were going through the motions. Even the crowd appeared to be sitting on their hands as evidenced by the “CM Punk” chant–which is now crowd code for “we’re bored as hell”–in the beginning of the match.

However, once The Usos executed the hot tag, the entire complexion of the match shifted radically. The Wyatt Family and Usos got back to their top form, hitting spots left and right, pushing the match to a frantic pace. The crowd fed off of that, transfroming the “CM Punk” chants to “This is awesome!”

Despite the match picking back up, I’m still confused on why the WWE took this route. Wouldn’t it be just as effective to roll out Rybaxel and have Harper and Rowan if the desired result is what amounts to a non-finish? Perhaps do a singles match between the teams?

It looked like the WWE was on the cusp of revitalizing the tag team division and making the titles relevant and interesting again. If the WWE keeps running the same match out there, no matter how good, it lessens the impact of the title defenses on PPV.

It’s clear the Wyatt Family and Usos will meet again for the title, so the WWE couldn’t have the Wyatts lose clean, leading to that weird finish–speaking of…

If your a babyface tag team, “Twin Magic” works in reverse.

Here’s a hilarious dose of WWE logic: The Bella Twins, as heels, constantly swapped spots in the ring to win both singles and tag matches. They actually had a Divas Championship run using Twin Magic to defend it. No referee was ever smart enough to notice this swap…until, and I wish I was making this up, Nikki got a boob job and a referee magically figured it out.

If you’re a babyface tag team like the Usos, this form of referee stupidity costs you matches as they can’t tell who the legal man is in the ring and will just count the pin for any Uso on the mat. Come to think of it, why hasn’t this been a problem in the past?

I’m not sure if this is hilarious or sad.

HHH reaction is similar to how a lot of fans are feeling today. Also, he's working the hell out of you. Photo credit: WWE.com

“Dammit guys, we leave you alone for one episode…” Photo credit: WWE.com

Dean Ambrose is right, HHH is “daddy”.

So mommy and daddy are away for the night and Rollins comes in with his shiny golden briefcase toy. Now that the parents aren’t there to keep order, Randy Orton makes airs his distrust of Seth Rollins and Uncle Kane just wants to murder everybody.

Mommy, daddy, please come back soon. The kids are fighting.

The announce team is terrible at their jobs part 1,102.

Before the match starts, the ring announcer does his job and announces to the crowd that The Authority, in absentia, has demanded that this match be contested with each competitor having one hand tied behind their back.

Good job, ring announcer.

Nikki, the babyface, begrudgingly allows the referee to tie a hand behind her back so the match can get underway.

Good job, babyface.

Alicia Fox, the heel, does everything she can to make the referee’s life hell and refuses to get a hand tied behind her back. Eventually, she breaks free and delivers a beating to Nikki.

Good job, heel.

The announce team then wonders if The Authority was behind it all.

You had one job, announce team. One job. You failed. Miserably.

I enjoyed a RVD match!

How to get me interested in an RVD match: run him out against an invincible, undefeated super-athlete as a sacrifice. I never wanted to see Rusev crush someone so bad since he debuted on RAW.

How to make me truly enjoy a RVD match: use him to progress a new talent’s character.

Brandon Stroud over at With Spandex made a good point in one of his Best and Worst of RAW columns in regards to building an undefeated monster. He used Goldberg as an example of doing it right. You have him crush jobbers, allow him to work his way up the roster, have him win a mid-card title and then have him go for the big belt. On the other end, he used the example of Ryback who went from crushing jobbers straight into a title match with John Cena, the top-tier god of the WWE.

I completely agree with Stroud’s take here. Further, since Rusev is a heel, and still a relative unknown, he needs to get wins against credible names. Thus far, his biggest win has been against Big E who is a new talent and still fairly unknown himself.

With Rusev on a collision course with Jack Swagger at Battleground, he desperately needed a credible win against a known star. Otherwise, the “unstoppable” heat is non-existent when he faces off against Swagger as fans would rightly think that Rusev hasn’t beaten anybody.

RVD is perfect for this kind of role. He’s a huge name, but is someone that Rusev should credibly beat. Rusev is both shoot and kayfabe younger (unless your Jerry Lawler and you think RVD’s a “young man”), stronger, and probably even faster than RVD these days.

RVD gave Rusev a good run for his money. It wasn’t a squash match, but RVD never really had full control of Rusev either. Rusev manages to get the convincing win and all of a sudden he looks like a credible competitor for Swagger.

While most of RAW was a terrible re-hash of the previous week’s programs, this was one that got a good, and much needed push. Well, expect…

Rusev got some solid progression, but Swagger and Zeb apparently didn't want to cross the Canadian border. Photo credit: WWE.com

Rusev got some solid progression, but Swagger and Zeb apparently didn’t want to cross the Canadian border. Photo credit: WWE.com

Shouldn’t we hear more from Swagger and/or Zeb?

Zeb Colter was relegated to a picture-in-picture promo. It’s clear that he, on behalf of Jack Swagger, wants a match with Rusev at Battleground. Beyond that though, he really didn’t have a whole lot to add with the limited amount of time he was given.

As I said last week, I’m a bit concerned that the WWE will fail to gracefully transition Zeb and Swagger from crazy, far right-wing racist parody heels to the super-patriotic babyfaces. In wrestling, motivations and worldviews can change overnight, but you at least get to hear the “why” from them when such a big transition occurs.

The babyface turn has clearly happened, the crowd last week was definitely into it, and I think it has a lot of potential going forward. The key will be the promo that Zeb (and possibly Swagger) delivers to explain their new motivations.

Leaving Zeb and Swagger off of RAW just seems like a glaring hole in this program, especially considering Rusev saw some noticeable progression. My only theory is that the WWE felt that the gimmick wouldn’t play well in front of a Canadian crowd and are waiting for the next RAW in the U.S. Beyond that, the omission really doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Here’s the match of the night and an example of how wrestling alone can tell a story.

Dean Ambrose facing off against Randy Orton was so much more than just the best match of the night. The match continued to build the unhinged nature of Ambrose through his actions in the ring.

It’s been well established that Dean loves a fight and that he will throw rational thought and caution to the wind just to put a beating on someone. As we see in the above video, Dean throws multiple chairs into the ring because he doesn’t care about winning the match, but causing Orton pain. He also performs the classic spot of punching a guy ten times in the head while prone on the turnbuckle, only Dean doesn’t wait for the crowd to count along, rapid fires his punches like he’s E. Honda delivering a Hundred Hand Slap.

This week though, we saw a different wrinkle in his style: a sort of dirty brawling to get under his opponent’s skin. What the video doesn’t show is the beginning of the match in which Ambrose rubs his forearms across Orton’s face and rubbing his face into the mat.

It’s the little things that can make such a big difference. I’ve always been a fan of Dean and his crazy ways, but he keeps better and better every week.

Here’s a match we’ve seen a million times and the commentary made it so much worse.

From the “permanent marker on the whiteboard” file, here’s Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio yet again. They always put on a good match, but when the majority of RAW already feels so repetitive, this is simply beyond annoying.

Further driving me up the wall was Fandango on color commentary. If you put a guy that is a kayfabe self-adsorbed jerk that talks about himself in the third person, the announce team really needs to be able to balance it with commentary of the match going on in front of them.

Fandango isn’t going to add anything to the picture because he doesn’t give a damn about the two people in the ring. He’s only going to talk about himself. But no, the announce team focuses more on the love triangle program and even when Fandango completely dismisses all of their questions, they keep repeating them. The whole team spent more time asking questions about people that weren’t even there while the match took place.

To top it all off, you had the wacky finish. Ziggler lost because Fandango’s music hits and he danced. How does this only affect Ziggler? Why does he care that Fandango is dancing? Why isn’t Del Rio also memorized by the sexy hip movements?

None of it made sense, but I guess it builds a “Fandango interfered with Ziggler’s match” angle.

Just to make sure I completely hated this segment, Fandango’s music hits again and he starts dancing. At first, I was laughing because he appeared to be dancing for no one else but JBL which was completely out of left field. Instead of rolling with it, JBL demanded a commercial break because homophobia set in.

Yes, JBL was uncomfortable watching a straight man who has two women fighting for his love dancing close to his announcing position.

/sighs dejectedly

You can be so much better than this, WWE, but be a star, right?

How are Goldust and Stardust not being pushed to the moon?

This promo is just incredible. There are so many amazing things that happened. Let’s break it down:

  • Stardust blows gold star confetti into the air.
  • He isn’t just talking to a wig, but finding out its astrological sign.
  • Uses a Rhodes pun.
  • He has to use a “human” term. Our mortal tongue is clearly beneath him.
  • Goldust enters and looks absolutely terrified when he looks at his wig.
  • Goldust uses another Rhodes pun.
  • He mentions that “they don’t need Rhodes”, so please tell me things are about to get weird(er).
  • Goldust accidentally spits in his brother’s face and Cody barely budges.
  • Stardust gives his version of the “Time is a flat circle” monologue from True Detective.
  • Goldust gives his trademark snap and Stardust follows with a hiss and I’ve just completely died from joy.

This is absolute art.

This segment is the opposite of what we just saw.

We haven’t had enough Fandango yet, so here we go again. This time we add in the women as Layla, and rightfully so is a little concerned that her man is got a bit jealous at Dolph so he screwed with his match to get back at him.

Fandango promises that he only has eyes for Layla while he stares at Summer Rae in the doorway. Summer then tries to act alluring, but manages to make me laugh in the process and wonder if she’s toying with him or still being incredibly stupid and trying to win back the man that dumped her on Twitter and immediately got with another woman.

I’m hoping the former is the payoff here because otherwise Summer will basically be reduced to the dumbest of all dumb blonde bimbo stereotypes.

The Montreal Screwjob was a work!

It’s true! Bret Hart Damien Sandowhart said so himself!

Watching Sandow troll Bret as Bret has to be the funniest thing that I’ve watched Sandow do since his cosplay gimmick started. Eating Bret’s fist and a Brouge Kick from Sheamus in his match later was well worth the digs he got in.

Meanwhile on the WWE App…

Usually not much happens of note on the app, especially from the terrible announce team; however, Michael Cole mentioned that Sheamus’ new goal is to hold both the United States and Intercontinental Titles at the same time.

Can this happen?

I’d be all for unifying those belts. Having multiple mid-card belts doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, especially when the WWE doesn’t really do a whole lot to put each title over as it is.

Unifying the belts would help give the mid-card a lot more direction and make the belt a “must defend” every PPV. Right now, having both belts active has made each one seem rather worthless.

When it comes to titles, less is more. Unify them, please.

This one's for you, Johnny Russo. Photo credit: WWE.com

This one’s for you, Johnny Russo. Photo credit: WWE.com

Russo is sending Miz fan mail.

The Miz, at least on the mic, seems to be back in top form. Cutting Renee off to read fan mail, a symbol of the self-importance that he’s trumpeting, was unbelievably hilarious.

When he announced the letter was signed by Johnny Russo, I lost it. I’m all for subtle jabs at Vince Russo for the sake of humor.

In the ring, though, Miz still appears to still have a bit of work to do, but I’m going to withhold judgement on that until I see him in the ring with someone else besides Chris Jericho who is working out a bit of ring-rust himself. Despite getting their legs back from under them, the two put on a serviceable match, so you really can’t ask for more than that from two guys that just got back in the ring.

Where’s your savior now?

As I’ve stated in the past, I’m a total sucker for wrestlers referencing past events that are more than a few weeks old. The WWE has set up an elaborate universe with its own canon that seems to get ignored so many times.

So when Bray confronts Jericho and asks him how he plans to “Save Us”, a reference to his 2007 return promo of Save_Us.222, I’m going to mark out.

It was such a delicious dig too because Jericho really didn’t save anyone upon his return. He claimed that he’d save the WWE Universe from Orton and his reign as WWE Champion, but failed to do so. In fact, Jericho only claimed IC and World Heavyweight Title reigns upon his return, both vastly inferior belts.

Further, his first World Heavyweight Title after his return only came in a Championship Scramble match at Unforgiven 2008 in which Jericho was a surprise replacement for CM Punk, the defending champion, who basically got off-screen-injured earlier in the night. And how did Jericho secure that victory? By sneaking in a last second pin before the clock expired and Batista, the only other wrestler still moving in that match, wasn’t even looking.

Some “savior” indeed.

So when Bray says he is going to hold every word that Jericho says against him, he means it. He’s putting him to task for his failures seven years ago. He never saved the WWE from anything and Bray will prove that Jericho can’t even save himself when Bray’s comes after him.

Oh, and all those Jericholics he was supposed to save? They all hold up their cell phones to light up the arena when Bray appears and sing along with him. They are his.

The only real downside to this segment is that after such a great promo, there was no resolution or real tease before RAW cut to commercial. Jericho just kind of stared down the Wyatt family and that was it. There wasn’t even anything on the WWE app.

Talk about your awkward dismounts.

The divas division is beyond confusing now.

When A.J. Lee returned to the WWE last week, I took it as a sign that the divas division would have some new life. After all, it was just Paige beating everyone and she had no real big name rival to create intrigue.

So A.J. winning the belt last week, and Paige’s resulting breakdown, all seemed to point to a Paige heel turn and a solid rivalry with Lee. So this week, naturally, the two formed a tag team after magically making up and defeated Naomi and Cameron. Yes, they faced off against a divas tag team that just last week appeared to be broken up.

A.J. and Paige easily defeat the Funkadactyls. Cameron was more concerned about putting makeup on than tagging her partner and forced herself into the match via an illegal tag. The referee clearly has no idea what the tag rope is on the ring for and, since we are in bizarro world right now, Michael Cole actually does his job and correctly takes the referee to task for failing at knowing the basic rules of wrestling.

The end result is that Cameron is pinned. She blames the loss on Naomi for heel reasons and the two have yet another fight while new BFFs A.J. and Paige celebrate their victory.

So after everything is said and done, we get the Cameron heel turn that already happened last week (and really, earlier than that) and I can only assume Paige is now teasing the obvious heel turn for a later time? It all makes so little sense. I’m honestly at the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if Paige and A.J. become best friends for months because the WWE at times doesn’t seem to have an actual plan for divas programs that they stick to.

Just make up your minds and go with something already.

Cesaro burns the crowd harder than even Heyman could've hoped. Photo credit: WWE.com

Cesaro burns the crowd harder than even Heyman could’ve hoped. Photo credit: WWE.com

There’s no heat like French-Canadian heat.

Cesaro’s troll game isn’t just strong, it’s multilingual. I don’t think anyone could have more thoroughly insulted a crowd than he managed to and that’s saying something considering Paul Heyman is standing right next to him.

Cesaro did a such a good job, the crowd started firing back insults that I couldn’t understand in Quebecois French because Cesaro insulted their language. That’s some next level brilliance by everyone involved from Cesaro to the fans in attendance.

Is it time to be worried about Cesaro again?

Before Cesaro joined the Real Americans, he came into RAW and just started destroying everyone. Then, out of nowhere, he couldn’t buy a win and ended up in a strange mid-card limbo.

He found a repackaged surge with the Real Americans and won over fans with his Cesaro Swing. The WWE seemed to notice and pushed Cesaro hard during Wrestlemania by having him win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The WWE doubled-down and attached him to Paul Heyman and it looked like the sky was going to be the limit for Cesaro.

Heyman, however, has done a better job putting over his client, Brock Lesnar, than the guy standing next to him and Cesaro is now on a losing streak to Kofi freakin’ Kingston of all people.

I thought Cesaro’s inclusion in the Intercontinental Championship battle royal match was a huge blinking sign that the WWE would try to catch the same lightning in a bottle that they found months ago at ‘Mania, but now I’m not sure anymore.

Is Cesaro back in someone’s doghouse again or are we all just getting worked until his eventual win? I want to hope for the later, but based on Cesaro’s history, I’m terrified the reality lies in the former.

Bo Dallas v. Torito was the dream match I never knew I wanted.

I’m beginning to run out of words to accurately describe the joy I feel watching Bo Dallas work. The last thing that I thought I wanted going into this episode of RAW was for Bo to face off against Torito, but here we are and I absolutely loved it.

Bo started off being his usual condescending self, but when Torito started to get the better of him, Bo snapped into a rage and won easily. And what does Bo immediately after? Reverts to his old self, takes a victory lap and runs the hell over Torito without even stopping, flinching, or even looking down to acknowledge his existence.

I couldn’t even type that last sentence without the mental image of Bo running over Torito causing me to crack up.

Is there any way we could put Stardust and Bo Dallas into a rivalry? I think I could die happy.

Did you like the ending to last week’s RAW? Good, here it is again, just without HHH.

When the majority of your show looks like a gigantic repeat from the week before, running practically the same finish to your main event as last week sticks out like a sore thumb. A Cena match ended in a no contest, all four people in the Battleground main event run in, Rollins attempts to cash in his title shot, Ambrose ruins that plan, and Roman Reigns cleans house as the exclamation point on the whole thing.

The only difference was that HHH wasn’t there, so instead of a HHH/Reigns stare-down, we got an awkward repeated hand raising between Reigns and Cena.

Probably the most frustrating thing about this ending is that, I actually enjoy watching Ambrose ruin Seth’s cash in attempts and think it would be hilarious if Ambrose managed to screw with Rollins so much that the title shot expires before Rollins actually cashes the thing in. Watching Reigns destroy everything that moves is a total joy as well. However, when RAW looks like a repeat from last week, it completely kills my enjoyment of a segment like this.

Here’s hoping that the WWE erases their whiteboard next week and gives us a fresh episode of RAW next Monday.

Tags: A.J. Lee Alberto Del Rio Alicia Fox Bo Dallas Bray Wyatt Bret Hart Cameron Cesaro Chris Jericho Damien Sandow Dean Ambrose Dolph Ziggler Erick Rowan Fandango Fit Finlay Goldust HHH Jack Swagger JBL Jerry 'The King' Lawler John Cena Kane Layla Luke Harper Naomi Nikki Bella Paige Paul Heyman Randy Orton Rob Van Dam Roman Reigns Rusev Seth Rollins Sheamus Stardust Summer Rae The Authority The Miz The Usos The Wyatt Family WWE Raw Zeb Colter

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