I may have been disappointed with some elements of last week's Raw, but I was more excited for this episode than I have been for a TV wrestling show in as long as I can remember, so they must be doing something right. The opening video package reminded me why.
Sadly, the big show opened, instead, with the Big Show, who continued to address his situation with Sheamus. Continuing to acknowledge the fact that CM Punk and Team Hell No are the biggest (and perhaps only) things the WWE has going for it at the moment, he called out Daniel Bryan due to his quick title loss all the way back at last year's TLC.
It's tenuous, but it just about makes sense.
The match itself was entertaining while it lasted—Daniel Bryan can have a good match with just about anyone—but showed how much Bryan's relatively been depushed, compared with his recent WWE title contention days. Kane's defence of Bryan after the match was quite sweet.
CM Punk came to the ring to announce his chosen opponent for Hell in a Cell. His stalling meant Vince McMahon interrupted and said he'd be choosing instead at the contract signing later. Really, it means the segment was irrelevant, but I wasn't all that bothered—Punk as a heel could read the telephone directory out and be entertaining.
A Prime Time Players match was such complete filler that I can't think of anything much to say about it.
Ryback went over David Otunga after Dolph Ziggler fled their handicap match. Complete filler again.
Antonio Cesaro defeated Justin Gabriel in a match that broke the filler monotony slightly, just because Justin Gabriel briefly looked like he might be in with a shot.
Kane defeated Matt Striker, which wasn't very entertaining, save for Michael Cole saying "You shouldn't call AJ the c word." He meant crazy, of course, but I was briefly startled while I worked it out.
Kofi Kingston appeared on Miz TV. The Miz played it absolutely perfectly and saved what could have been another tedious segment. He may have been playing the heel, but everything he said about Kofi was still completely true, and it was hugely effective in building heat between the two.
I've heard it said that the best heels really just tell the truth (Damien Sandow anyone?), and this was a perfect example.
Wade Barrett vs. Sheamus was an interesting, if not technically great, bout with a predictably inconclusive end. It's pretty clear that Wade Barrett's next in line for the World Heavyweight Championship after Hell in a Cell, and I'm looking forward to that much more than the Big Show's match.
I've always been cynical of JR's supposed value as an all-time great on commentary, but it's true that he does have a gift for making a dull match seem better, and such was the case for Eve Torres vs. Layla.
Because Rey Mysterio was ill, the Rhodes Scholars had a match with Primo and Epico. The latter team—who, let's not forget, were recently tag team champions—had a strong showing, which was helpful considering how they were recently both squashed together by Ryback.
Kofi Kingston's defeat of the Miz was a surprise—not just because of their relative statuses, but because with them having a title match on Wednesday, I was convinced there would be a disqualification (most likely Miz walking out).
Considering how successful the CM Punk/McMahon/Cena/Ryback storyline has been (to me at least), it was a little disappointing that the closing segment was over so quickly. But I'm hyped, so it did its job.
Ever since SummerSlam, I've thought Raw has been hugely improved. This Raw was more like the pre-SummerSlam three-hour Raws, albeit not quite as bad.
Really, it's down to the amount of irrelevant filler, and there was a lot of it this week. CM Punk and Team Hell No are still the things really keeping the shows going, but the former was used less than previous weeks and the latter wasn't used nearly as effectively as they have been.