Although this week's Monday Night Raw wasn't as good as those in previous weeks, it still managed to further feuds and progress a number of story-lines with the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view occurring later this month. Despite John Cena's absence, the Superstars of Raw and SmackDown once again provided a mildly enjoyable three hours featuring solid action and strong promos.
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.
Entertaining opening segment to kick off the show. WWE Champion CM Punk once again delivered great mic work, as did Dolph Ziggler, even though his involvement here seemed a bit out of place.
However, I'm glad they actually acknowledged the angle where it was said that AJ would be fired if she laid her hands on anyone (insert juvenile sex joke here), so putting her on probation was logical. Kane and Bryan were entertaining as always here, and the ending moments were both funny and mildly confusing at the same time.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara def. Primo and Epico (w/Rosa Mendes) (WWE Tag Team Championship Tournament)
Fun match with Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara defeating Primo and Epico to advance in the WWE Tag Team title tournament. Both teams have great chemistry, and as I always say, Mysterio and Cara are the perfect fit.
Their unique matching attire this week was cool, and further helps establish them as a tandem. Having Prime Time Players come out and observe was a nice touch given the fact the two teams are currently feuding.
Spreading the tournament matches throughout all of of this week's WWE programming is also good booking.
United States Champion Antonio Cesaro def. Brodus Clay (non-title)
Impressive outing from United States Champion Antonio Cesaro defeating Brodus Clay. This match was all about Cesaro and rightfully so.
He has amazing potential, and it's great to see him score a big victory (literally). The finish was very cool, but I'm surprised they had Clay lose so decisively while also cutting a portion of his entrance.
Nonetheless, this brings back more prestige to the U.S. title, and I hope to see Cesaro continue the strong momentum going forward.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Zack Ryder (non-title)
Good match between Intercontinental Champion The Miz and Zack Ryder. Seeing how I've been anxiously awaiting a rematch between these two since the night after WrestleMania 28, I throughly enjoyed it while it lasted.
Granted, it didn't last long, but it was a nice win for Miz, who desperately needs victories after losing so many non-title matches. I'd love to see Ryder in contention for the title at some point, as that could make for a fun feud.
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and Big Show debate
Horrendous debate between World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and Big Show. What was the true point of this segment?
Sheamus's humor here was worse than that of John Cena's and did nothing to further his feud with Show. As challenger, Show should be making Sheamus look vulnerable as champ going into Hell in a Cell, especially given his sheer size.
They still have time to rebuild this rivalry, but as of now, I'm not intrigued whatsoever.
Ryback def. Tensai
Disappointing match between Ryback and Tensai. They had a fine match on last week's SmackDown; sadly, they couldn't recreate it on Raw.
It mostly consisted of strikes, and the botched finisher came off really bad. However, everyone botches from time to time, and it could've easily been a mutual problem between Ryback and Tensai.
Nonetheless, Jim Ross and Michael Cole did a nice job of covering up the botch by saying Tensai blocked it and that Ryback was using more weapons in his arsenal.
Divas Champion Eve def. Beth Phoenix (non-title)
Fine match, with Divas Champion Eve defeating Beth Phoenix. Both Divas are tremendously talented, so it was a shame to see their match end so quickly.
However, that should come as no surprise in today's age. They seemingly had a feud running as of last week, so it's strange to see it blown off within a week.
Santino Marella def. Heath Slater by disqualification
Throwaway match between Heath Slater and Santino Marella. It was mostly comedic filler, but it wasn't until after the match that the Encore made their impact.
Brutally attacking Santino helped them get heat, and giving them some mic time helped establish them as well. The group may consist of only three jobbers, but it has potential if utilized correctly.
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus def. Damien Sandow (w/Cody Rhodes) (non-title)
Solid match between World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and Damien Sandow. This was easily Sandow's best WWE match to date, and Sheamus helped him look strong in defeat.
The two work well together, and they had the match of the night by a long shot. Although I didn't like the finish of Sheamus scoring yet another victory while delivering a Brogue Kick to both Sandow and Rhodes at the same time, Sandow's first pinfall loss came at the hands of the World Champion, so I guess that makes him look somewhat credible.
WWE Champion CM Punk interrupts Jim Ross Appreciation Night
Strong segment featuring Jim Ross and WWE Champion CM Punk. Of course, Ross has a track record of being humiliated in his hometown every time WWE visits; I could've sworn they were taking that route yet again, but I'm very glad I was wrong.
This was the best we've seen Ross on the mic in a long time (not counting commentary), and Punk once again was excellent in his heel role. Punk interrupting Ross in his hometown called for a desperate attempt to garner heel heat, but it was still done effectively.
To top it all off, Ryback's interference at the end was also fantastic in helping tease an eventual feud between him and Punk. Extremely effective segment all the way around and the highlight of the show by far.
Alberto Del Rio def. Kofi Kingston (w/R-Truth)
Decent match between Alberto Del Rio and Kofi Kingston. We've seen it numerous times before, so it didn't feel fresh, but at least it was a good way to follow up Del Rio's attack on Randy Orton by scoring a clean victory.
I really hope Kingston breaks away from Truth in the near future, as Truth at ringside is just becoming a distraction (to Kofi and to the viewers) these days. If nothing else, Ricardo Rodriguez was hilarious on commentary alongside Ross and Cole.
WWE Tag Team Champions Kane and Daniel Bryan def. WWE Champion CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler (w/Paul Heyman and Vickie Guerrero) (non-title)
Great main event match with WWE Tag Team Champions Kane and Daniel Bryan defeating WWE Champion CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. The match itself was very well-wrestled given the four workers involved, but it felt like it had zero significance.
Featuring the tag champs in the main event was a breath of fresh air, but having Kane pin Punk seemed odd to this viewer, since they attempted to build Punk up throughout the night.
Overall, a decent show that had its shining moments, but wasn't as good as weeks past. My enjoyability of the show seemed to decrease by mid-show, but the final hour was strong enough to reignite my interest.
The biggest flaw of this week's edition was that it felt rushed, which was evident by the opening segment running long. The absence of John Cena didn't seem to have much of an impact at all, but it's an interesting experiment if they opt to not feature him on the show as often going forward.
Not a lot of build was done for Hell in a Cell, which is fine, since they still have plenty of time before the event. That being said, they still have plenty of time to hype the pay-per-view while also maintaining the awesome angles they have going at the moment.
For my full thoughts on Raw, watch my latest WrestleRant video.