Just...get on with it... (image:wwe.com)
Raw opened with the news that CM Punk and Jerry Lawler got into a brawl backstage earlier. Backstage brawls always look silly to me, because the fakeness of the punches (and that's all we get, certainly with PG) stand out.
This meant Michael Cole commentated alone to begin with, and it's hard to see how Lawler could credibly commentate a Punk match for some time after how personal things got between them. A little into the show The Miz came onto commentary, and he was better than Lawler has been for years, possibly even ever. His highlight was arguing with Layla, improving a boring Divas match exponentially.
Sheamus came out to the ring to talk about Alberto Del Rio. Helping to cement my love for Punk's character as it is now, he interrupted almost immediately. He also received a strong chant, meaning his hometown loves him too. They even booed Sheamus.
Ruining the atmosphere, AJ came out to make the inevitable champion versus champion match, as well as a match between the two No. 1 contenders. I thought to myself I'd be a fool to expect any clean results, but then the WWE has been a little less predictable lately. Sadly, AJ proceeded to skip around the ring, so that's one blight on a pretty good opening.
Keeping the interest and pace going, a Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler rematch immediately followed. If anything shows how good Ziggler is, it's that he even makes rest holds interesting. Ziggler stole the pin by holding onto the tights, which logically or not has always seemed like the most minor cheat to me.
I was very much in the minority in not particularly enjoying last week's anger management sketches. Did I enjoy this week's instalments any more? Well, it was all very silly and a bit obvious, but Kane's "I am?" got a smile out of me. It's light, inoffensive stuff and it's doing something new. So I give it a thumbs up.
The promised CM Punk vs. Sheamus bout looked to have come earlier than I'd have expected, at the start of the second hour. But then CM Punk still had his street clothes on and insisted he wouldn't be wrestling. As a way of turning his hometown against him it was pretty clever, but I was quite looking forward to the match.
Instead we were treated to a short Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger match followed by a bit of a brawl with Del Rio. It's like Groundhog Day watching WWE sometimes. Seeing Del Rio crouched over and worrying for poor Ricardo Rodriguez made him seem quite a sympathetic character. He's still a heel, isn't he?
Ryback defeated Jinder Mahal again, but the real news was that he got the Chicago crowd to chant "feed me more" instead of "Goldberg." He's come a long way. Except, he hasn't really, not at all. He's still fighting the same lower midcarders and going nowhere.
The WWE Twitterers voted for Kane and Daniel Bryan to hug, in by far the best Raw active poll yet. The segment went on for over five minutes of them just standing there, which killed it a bit, but the commentary and crowd reaction kept it alive, just about. A satisfactory end to a very silly, but—yes I admit—entertaining angle.
We got Santino Marella's United States Championship rematch and redefeat this week rather than at Night of Champions, and quickly too. I hope this means we get a new opponent for Antonio Cesaro at the pay-per-view, rather than Santino again.
John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio closed the show. I enjoyed their matches this time last year (moreso than most, it seemed), so I was happy to get this match. My head told me there'd be no clean finish, but it's a brave new WWE Universe since Randy Orton tapped out a fortnight ago. What we did get may not have been a clean finish, but it was the best Raw main event for a very long time.
Michael Cole asked at one point, "What on earth does John Cena have in mind here?" when a blind man could see what he was doing in rearranging the steps and table, being as it also happened in their Last Man Standing match last year. (This was actually the second Cole silly of the show, having earlier said Ricardo Rodriguez, "...literally took a bullet," whereas he in fact meant "metaphorically").
Raw was really good, its strengths more than making up for its flaws. A high-quality show with a top drawer final match. As a sidenote, I've heard Vince McMahon insists on CM Punk always just having trunks and t-shirt, and never street clothes as he doesn't look like CM Punk with them. So in hindsight, Punk's wearing jeans was a giveaway that something would be going on.