In what was arguably one of the better episodes of Raw this year, the WWE universe witnessed a number of returns Monday night, as well as some solid action that made the night go by quickly. With over a month remaining until the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, WWE did an excellent job of providing us with a handful of storylines to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Here, I will analyze each significant segment presented on the show. I will also provide a combination of aftermath and wishful thinking about what I hope to see in the coming weeks.
Strong opening segment featuring WWE Champion CM Punk, Paul Heyman and Raw general manager AJ. Heyman doing the talking for the first portion of the segment was brilliant and really got over the fact that Heyman is his mouthpiece.
Punk's verbal exchange with AJ was very well done and I'm surprised they actually acknowledged an angle from over two months ago. Heyman's "proposal" to AJ was just pure awesome and gave AJ an extra edge when she slapped him.
Extremely enjoyable way to kick off the show.
Dolph Ziggler def. Kofi Kingston
Fun match between Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston. No matter how many times these two face each other, they're simply incapable of having a bad match together.
Their chemistry is unbelievably phenomenal and made for an entertaining back-and-forth match that also tied into their recent social networking feud, thus giving the bout some meaning. Ziggler needs credible victories, so I'm glad he scored the clean win here over Kingston.
I also hope to see Kingston and Truth part ways soon to focus on their respective singles careers.
Prime Time Players def. Santino Marella and Zack Ryder
Brief match with the Prime Time Players quickly defeating Santino Marella and Zack Ryder. The latter duo isn't a consistent team, so it was fine booking to see them defeated so decisively.
Darren Young and Titus O'Neil continue to come off as aggressive while their pending feud with Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio awaits. Bonus points to WWE for getting Ryder on Raw in his home state of New York as well.
Mick Foley Calls out WWE Champion CM Punk
Fantastic promo between WWE Champion CM Punk and Mick Foley. Punk has been shining as a heel in recent months and Foley only reinforced that.
This was easily the best we've seen Foley perform and utilized since returning to WWE late last year, as his emotion and intensity only further enhanced the segment. Given the history between Punk and Foley (both in reality and in a storyline sense), this promo was undoubtedly the highlight of the night.
Ryback def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz (non-Title)
Decent match between Ryback and Intercontinental Champion The Miz. Seeing how their feud started only a week ago, I thought it was a bit too soon to be having a singles match between the two.
The action was fine for what it was, but there was no real suspense since it was obvious from the beginning who'd emerge victorious. The Miz hasn't won a single non-title match since capturing the Intercontinental Championship, so this loss only hurt him.
I liked Ryback scoring a major victory, but it should've been via count-out or disqualification at this point.
Wade Barrett def. Tyson Kidd
Fine match with Wade Barrett squashing Tyson Kidd. Kidd was allowed to get in some flashy offense against Barrett, so it wasn't a complete squash.
Barrett continues to look more crisp in the ring with each match he competes in, but he should really cut a promo for the Raw audience to really take notice of him.
Michael Cole interviews Jerry Lawler
Classy interview with Jerry Lawler. Michael Cole did an excellent job of handling the questions and coming off as completely sincere.
Although his voice was still a bit raspy, Lawler looked great for a man who just suffered a heart attack two weeks ago. I'm also glad they took the high road and didn't have anyone interrupt Lawler.
Hope to see Lawler back in WWE whenever he's ready to return.
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara def. Alberto Del Rio, David Otunga and Ricardo Rodriguez
Good six-man tag team match with World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara defeating Alberto Del Rio, David Otunga and Ricardo Rodriguez. It was a basic, standard tag team match, so nothing out of the ordinary here.
Mysterio and Cara performed very well as a team and I hope to see them continue to tag up going forward. Del Rio losing yet again is no mystery, but Ricardo did great in his role, especially since he truly is a pretty decent wrestler when he's not playing a ring announcer.
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow Attack Team Hell No
Entertaining segments featuring WWE Tag Team Champions Kane and Daniel Bryan shown throughout the night. Some may not have found them as funny as the anger management segments, but they were still hilarious for this viewer.
As I've said time and time again, they're the most entertaining act in wrestling today, so I have nothing against showcasing them a handful of times throughout the evening. As cheesy as it may sound, I personally enjoy the "Hell No" stable name, as it works for them and is logical.
Having Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow assault the WWE Tag Team champs was also a prime example of smart booking, as it puts them in contention for the straps at some point while also solidifying their stature as a tandem.
Divas Champion Eve and Beth Phoenix def. Layla and Alicia Fox
Typical Divas tag team action with Divas Champion Eve and Beth Phoenix defeating Layla and Alicia Fox within two minutes. The real intrigue came after the match, when Kaitlyn "returned" (to zero reaction might I add) to claim that her attacker at Night of Champions was in fact a blonde.
Obviously, it could have very easily been Eve in a blonde wig, but at least they're finally doing something with Phoenix by incorporating her into the angle.
Brodus Clay vs. Tensai Went to a No Contest; Big Show Returns
Throwaway match with Brodus Clay taking on Tensai. Although it didn't last long, I was somewhat interested in this match before it abruptly ended given the similarities in size between the two giants.
Big Show's return might've fell a little flat, but it was effective. Despite being a "hater" of Big Show's, I actually liked this return for nothing more than the fact that he came off as dominant in knocking out two behemoths.
I'm not sure what WWE has in store for him, but it's nice to see him back.
WWE Champion CM Punk and John Cena Promo
Solid segment to close the show featuring John Cena, WWE Champion CM Punk and Paul Heyman. Punk and Cena also provide strong confrontations, and this was no exception. Cena was determined, focused and in serious mode, which is where he's most effective.
Similar to his previous two appearances earlier in the night, Punk once again shined with his mic work and was extremely effective in making the crowd despise him. Cena striking Punk with a lead pipe seemed a bit strange to me, mostly because Punk didn't even lay a single finger on Cena before he struck him.
Nonetheless, the ending of the show with Ryback staring down Punk after he ambushed Foley was extremely intriguing, to say the least. Sure, it may be too soon for Ryback to contend for the WWE Championship, but let's not jump to conclusions here.
It was certainly unexpected and may be simply foreshadowing a future feud between the feud. Only time will tell.
Overall, an excellent edition of Raw that featured a bit of everything, including solid action, strong promos/segments and suspenseful angles that will keep viewers tuning into Raw in the coming weeks. With Raw now going head-to-head with Monday Night Football, it's important they deliver an enjoyable product that also gives viewers something to look forward to in the weeks ahead, and that was accomplished here.
Personally, I was thoroughly entertained the entire night and have few negatives things to say about the broadcast. I've been enjoying the direction WWE has taken in recent weeks and I hope they keep the string of great Raws going into the fall season.
For my full thoughts on Raw, watch my latest WrestleRant video.