After a short hiatus, the Good, the Great and the Awesome returns with a look at the July 8 edition of Monday Night Raw.
After weeks of promo videos, build and hype, the Wyatt Family made its debut Monday night. Which WWE Superstar did they target first? More importantly, did the much-hyped debut meet the heightened expectations of fans?
With only six days until the annual Money in the Bank pay-per-view, what would "the World's Strongest Man" Mark Henry have in store for John Cena as they prepare for their WWE title clash this Sunday? Would it be enough to sell a match that has lost some steam after Henry's phenomenal performance a few weeks back?
Six of the seven men involved in the Money in the Bank All-Stars match did battle in a series of singles bouts. Who would leave Baltimore with momentum on their side?
All of these questions would be answered as well as a few others. Would Vickie Guerrero manage to remain the figurehead of the Monday night program? What interaction would AJ Lee and Kaitlyn have just a few days before their pay-per-view rematch? And would either Dolph Ziggler or Alberto Del Rio be able to get fans to buy into their personal feud despite poor execution by the creative team?
This is the good, great and awesome from this week's Raw.
Vickie's Job Evaluation
Poor Vickie Guerrero.
More times than not, it seemed as though there was some sick initiative to come up with new ways to humiliate the woman on television in new and, at least to some, entertaining ways. All the while, she remained one of the most consistent over performers on the roster, serving in an authority figure role for the better part of six years.
On Monday's Raw, she underwent a job evaluation and as one should have expected, was removed from her position as interim general manager of Raw. The decision to replace her may very well have been a good idea. After all, the same person can only play the same role for so long until they become stale or boring.
Vickie was phenomenal in the meltdown that followed her firing, flopping around the ring and screaming at the top of her lungs. Equally as great was Brad Maddox, whose facial expression that accompanied the announcement that he would replace Vickie was priceless.
Like the McMahon family's recent exposure on television or not, the segment accomplished three things. It furthered the McMahon dissension that will undoubtedly be blown off at one of the big WWE pay-per-views between now and next year's WrestleMania. It also essentially wrote off Vickie Guerrero from television for the meantime and introduced Maddox as the new authority figure in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Anytime a single segment can accomplish that much without seeming contrived, it is a major success.
John Cena and Mark Henry face-off
Just days away from their WWE title match at Money in the Bank, John Cena and Mark Henry faced off one last time.
What started as a promo segment devolved into a physical altercation that saw Henry leave Cena lying after a failed Attitude Adjustment attempt and the World's Strongest Slam. Henry would stand over the fallen Cena with the WWE Championship held high over his head in a preview of what may very well happen this coming Sunday.
It was a solid, old school wrestling segment that put heat on Henry, made Cena look vulnerable and went a long way in selling the main event of the upcoming pay-per-view. Check, check and check.
Dolph Ziggler: ring announcer
During Alberto Del Rio's match against Sin Cara Monday night, Dolph Ziggler made his way to ringside and attempted to distract his Money in the Bank opponent by mocking Ricardo Rodriguez's personal ring introduction of the World Heavyweight champion. This, of course, drew Del Rio's ire, and a brawl between he and Ziggler broke out at ringside.
Ziggler and Del Rio continued to show great intensity in their latest brawl and really helped to get over Dolph's vendetta against the current titleholder, even if the fans have not quite thrown all of their proverbial chips behind WWE's resident Show Off.
The match Sunday night, potentially a show-stealer, could go a very long way in determining the success Ziggler will have as a babyface. Luckily for him, Philadelphia is a hardcore wrestling town that appreciates good workers. Ziggler is definitely that and will likely have the fans behind him as a result.
Kaitlyn spears AJ...again
At Payback in June, Kaitlyn and AJ delivered one of the finest Divas title matches in recent history. Helped by an actual storyline, fans had no problem staying interested in the clash of WWE's most visible Divas and as a result, the performers were able to feed off of that reaction and deliver an outstanding match.
The story has continued, and Sunday night at Money in the Bank, the two former friends will look to once again deliver on the big stage that is WWE pay-per-view. Monday, they finished up preparations for their match with a tag bout that lasted only a few short moments before Kaitlyn's animosity for her former BFF spilled to the outside of the ring.
From there, the former champion would deliver a thunderous Spear that left AJ unconscious and sent a message that the NXT Season 3 winner would not be denied come Sunday night.
If the Philly crowd lives up to its reputation, Kaitlyn and AJ will have no problem feeding off of a vocal audience. Whether they can meet the expectations that following their great first match remains to be seen.
The Goat Face Rises
Daniel Bryan continued his meteoric rise up the rankings in WWE on Monday night, defeating Sheamus in a great match to open the show, then announcing himself as the Superstar to beat at Sunday's pay-per-view.
Immediately following CM Punk's big win over Randy Orton in the night's main event, Bryan rushed to the ring, attacking Punk before introducing a ladder into the fold. He did not discriminate, attacking both men with the weapon before setting it up, climbing it and retrieving the Money in the Bank briefcase.
The segment established Bryan as a legitimate threat to win the match this Sunday, if not the outright favorite.
There has been no Superstar hotter over the last three months than Daniel Bryan. A Money in the Bank ladder match win would cap off what has been an unbelievable summer for the most talented technician on the roster and would put him a step closer to achieving the ultimate prize in the sport: the WWE Championship.
Money in the Bank Preview Matches
Every year, the Raw prior to Money in the Bank typically features a series of singles matches involving the six (or eight) Superstars involved in the following Sunday's ladder matches. This year was no different. Unlike years past, however, this year's bouts had a freshness to them that went a long way in making Monday's broadcast a better show overall.
The night kicked off with an absolutely stellar match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. They have exhibited tremendous chemistry with one another over the last three years and continued to do so with an exciting, high quality affair to kick off Monday's show.
Christian and Kane were the second duo to take to the ring. Despite not being of the quality of the night's other two Money in the Bank previews, the match gave both men something to do and played a much bigger role in the long-term, something we will get to in a moment.
The night's main event featured Randy Orton taking on CM Punk. The last time the two Superstars had any real interaction with one another was in 2011, when they had an underrated rivalry that lead to matches at WrestleMania 27 and the following month's Extreme Rules.
Locking horns for the first time in a while, Punk and Orton did not disappoint, delivering a quality match that saw each man counter and escape the other's finishing maneuvers before "the Best in the World" finally slipped out of the RKO, delivered a kick to the face and was able to put Orton down with the Go To Sleep.
The three matches went a long way in selling the All-Stars ladder match and produced two high quality bouts.
For months, fans have been treated to video packages hyping the arrival of the Wyatt Family. As the weeks passed, a noticeable excitement built and built and by the time Monday's Raw hit the USA Network airwaves from Baltimore, Maryland, the anticipation was at a fever pitch.
Throughout the evening, video packages featured cameramen trying to get close to the Wyatt Family, to investigate what they were doing. The videos were creepy, uncomfortable and completely different from anything seen on WWE television in recent memory. They were cool and only added to the anticipation of the fans who had waited two month to see the trio arrive on Raw.
Following the Kane-Christian match, the lights went out, the final video aired and moments later, the Wyatt Family arrived. The light of a lantern illuminating his face, Bray Wyatt led Erick Rowan and Luke Harper to the ring, the melodious tune of "Live in Fear' announcing their entrance.
Harper and Rowan entered the ring when the lights came back on and delivered a two-on-one beat down of Kane, leaving him unconscious.
"Down with the machine," Wyatt stated as he posed over the fallen former World champion.
The Wyatt Family made a hellish first impression. With Money in the Bank now five days away, one has to wonder what impact Wyatt and his "family" will have at the annual July pay-per-view.