This edition of Raw was apparently pre-taped as the crew tours Australia, Asia and South Africa. If you're the type to read the dirt sheets you already knew exactly what was going to happen. You could have probably amazed friends and family if they weren't smartened up, predicting exactly what was going to happen throughout the night.
That might have been fun!
Me? I'm not a big fan of spoilers. I don't want to know what's going to happen—it's still real to me dang it.
The big story Monday night was the Daniel Bryan era entering its second week. Could the newly minted main eventer maintain momentum?
It was hit and miss. In a classic WWE microphone battle, Bryan managed to hold his own against an energized Vince McMahon. He wasn't perfect, but there's still time for him to find his rhythm.
Then, Bryan had a rare misfire in the ring, only getting an average match out of Kane. There wasn't anything wrong with his match. But there wasn't a single moment worth remembering.
Working in the main event is a different beast than the midcard. Bryan has excelled with a comedy character, but as the stakes get higher, he'll need to show different facets of his personality. He's a work in progress as a performer. Monday night, I'd give him a solid "B."
The good news? The crowd seemed solidly behind him. If he can keep the people with him, he'll get the time he needs to adjust to the main event scene.
Of course, unlike last week, Bryan wasn't the only performer on the card. I graded every major interview and match over the course of the entire three hours. Disagree with my judgements? Sorry, they are official and binding. But you can let me hear it in the comments.
Brad Maddox and Vince McMahon come to the ring to run down Daniel Bryan. Instead, Bryan follows them and wins a war of words with McMahon, who admits he doesn't believe Bryan would be a worthy WWE champion.
"We're going to have us some fun tonight."—Vincent K. McMahon, chairman of the board. Wrestling god.
"A troll, quite frankly, is a hideously ugly dwarf. You may be on to something calling Daniel Bryan a troll."—Vince McMahon
"Daniel Bryan, Daniel Bryan, Daniel Bryan."—The crowd.
"Those words came out of the mouth of Brad Maddox. But I think they were dictated by you."—Daniel Bryan to Vince.
"Funny thing about respect, it's a two-way street...you haven't given me an ounce of respect."—Bryan.
"I would ask you to behave yourselves."—Vince to the fans. Get off my lawn!
"John Cena is a master manipulator....he said he chose you because you were the hottest thing going in the WWE today. John Cena is lying to you. He's making you look like a fool."
"John Cena knows what I know. You can't beat John Cena....Ruthless aggression. You don't have it."—Vince.
"John Cena walks around here like he owns the place and is a better man than I am."—Vince. Wait, whose team is he on?
"Let me get on your level to tell you."—Vince squats to address Bryan eye to eye. That was cold.
"Here's the thing I like about the boss...let me get on your level. See you're always honest with me...but in your own words it doesn't matter what you think. It matters what they think."—Bryan getting on tip toes.
"It seems to me they want a new champion at SummerSlam. And his name is Daniel Bryan."—Daniel Bryan.
Vince McMahon squats down to talk to Daniel Bryan "on his level."
Talk about worlds colliding. The epitome of indy wrestling, the Ring of Honor Poster boy, head to head with the creator of sports entertainment Vince McMahon. And you know what? It was amazing! Bryan was comfortable but couldn't quite keep up with Vince, who hit all of his talking points nicely.
But Rome wasn't built in a day. Bryan has developed his character over the past year and is fully capable of being a main event level promo. This was a step into the deep end. In the next few weeks, he'll be ready to swim.
Dean Ambrose pinned Jimmy Uso with a Bulldog Driver after a very competitive match. After the match, an angry Mark Henry ran roughshod and tossed The Shield over the top rope.
"I ain't scared."—Roman Reigns, just seconds before Mark Henry cleaned his clock.
"I didn't miss it last night, but I'm going to sample it again tonight."—Jerry Lawler on Total Divas! Which, by the way, was awesome.
Mark Henry shrugs off an attempt at a double Russian leg sweep by The Shield.
Dueling suicide dives by the Uso twins.
Ambrose counters a flying splash by putting his knees up. Sounds simple but looked brutal.
It's kind of sad to see The Shield drop down the card like this, but it was inevitable. Either they had to be pushed into the main event scene, or they had to drop a few pegs. Options were limited. What they do now is a mystery. It's not really built to be a midcard act.
If they aren't going to feud with the top guys, it's all downhill from here.
Rob Van Dam wins by countout after Summer Rae prevents him from leaping off the ring post onto Fandango. Summer and Fandango walk off, and RVD gets an easy win.
"Rob Van Dam is known for his flexibility. I'll bet he could pull off some of these dance moves."—Michael Cole. Lots of time to fill while they waited for Fandango to make it to the ring.
"I think that Fandango because of his flamboyancy and all the dancing, a lot of the other superstars kind of underestimate Fandango...he has some pretty good moves in the ring as well as on the dance floor."—Jerry Lawler. It's official. I miss JBL.
"Shh. It's Faaaaandaaaaango."—Fandango. You know, that doesn't work as a catchphrase once everyone is pronouncing it correctly. Right?
Leg scissors takedown by Rob Van Dam. I've always loved that move.
RVD shimmies his hips as the ref counts to 10 for the win.
Van Dam was hitting all his big spots, but the match was cut off prematurely when Fandango walked out. They never quite got on the same page. Camera cuts to the lethargic crowd during his intro make it clear Fandango Mania is all but over.
Kaitlyn pins AJ Lee after a spear. The win puts her back in the hunt for the Divas title.
"She's going to spear me. She always spears me. Every time I get speared a baby cries."—AJ Lee.
"We did see Big E kiss AJ, albeit on the forehead to calm her down."—Michael Cole, relationship psychologist.
"She doesn't have to go on a vacation. She's constantly on an ego trip."—Jerry Lawler. The old ones are still good ones.
"I heard she gets a lot of texts from Carlos Danger."—Lawler, keeping up with the news it seems.
"Hey, congratulations on your loss."—Dolph Ziggler.
"I want a match with E right now."—Ziggler. Because no one demanded it!
Huge counter knee from AJ Lee rocks Kaitlyn.
AJ's epic temper tantrum after the loss.
AJ Lee is, surprisingly, really close to being a pretty good worker. Really close. She's developed a solid offensive base and sells decently too. She just hasn't quite figured out how to put it all together, and that makes her matches feel a little disjointed.
It will come. Six months ago I would have called you crazy for claiming Lee might turn into a decent wrestler. But she's worked hard and is figuring it out.
Dolph Ziggler beat "Big E" Langston when AJ Lee attacked him. The interference caused Langston to be disqualified. After the match, Ziggler snuck up on Langston and hit him with the Zig Zag to add insult to injury.
"It's my time. It's my time."—Big E to Dolph.
"She hasn't gotten over the fact Dloph dumped her."—Michael Cole on Lee.
"She's pulling his hair out."—Jerry Lawler. Yes. Yes she was.
Langston catches Ziggler in midair and then belly-to-belly suplexes Ziggler right out of his boots.
Ziggler with the "Dolph." AKA a picture-perfect dropkick.
AJ snaps and cost Langston the match. Shades of the kind of decision-making that cause her and Ziggler to part ways.
Just when business was picking up it was all over. Ever get excited for something and have it end just like that? Well, it's disappointing. Trust me.
I would have liked to see that one get two segments, the classic workrate spot. But I guess this is WWE's idea of a "slow build." When the time comes, I think these two guys have the makings of a really good 15-minute match. Ziggler is perfect as a "Shawn Michaels the Lesser" type, and Big E can be a poor man's Vader. I'd watch that match every single week.
Christian pinned Del Rio after countering the cross armbreaker.
"I don't think I would pick someone who had just defeated me."—Jerry Lawler, talking sense about who Del Rio will pick to be his challenger. Isn't the correct answer Gillberg?
"He's stretching Christian's mouth out of shape."—Lawler.
"Smiling, but he can't beat him."—Lawler on Del Rio.
Unbelievable. Well, it's not unbelievable."—Lawler. Well, was it believable or what?
Del Rio's brutal dropkick that smashed Christian's injured arm into the steel ring steps.
Tornado DDT by Christian.
Del Rio with a series of head-butts.
I think King and Michael Cole kind of gave away the finish by asking, over and over again, what would happen if Christian won? Would Del Rio pick him on Friday to challenge for the title? Would he? Would he?
Try a little subtlety next time fellows. That telegraphed what should have been an awfully surprising upset for Christian. It's the little things that turn an "A" match into a "B+."
Cody Rhodes pinned Barrett with the Cross Rhodes. After the match, Damien Sandow came out to insult Rhodes.
"He's enlisted men to troll the Gulf of Mexico."—Michael Cole on Sandow's search for the Money in the Bank briefcase.
"That's why they call them high risk maneuvers."—Jerry Lawler. Oh, so that's why!
"One more kick and Wade Barrett's teeth will be like the Ten Commandments. All broken."—Lawler. Oh, Lawler. I love it.
"Cody, damn you. Damn you for throwing my briefcase in, of all places, the Gulf of Mexico."—Damien Sandow.
"I come from a family of scholars and you come from a family of clowns. Maybe I should send you back to the circus. Then again, carny folk are beneath my constitution. You're welcome."—Sandow.
Rhodes with a moonsault off the top.
Sandow comes out and destroys the Rhodes family with the power of words.
The match was nothing special. Barrett was obviously jobbing when he didn't even get an entrance. Only jobbers don't get a ring walk. That's just science.
On the other hand, I'm really enjoying the Rhodes vs. Sandow feud. Sandow is trying to tweak his gimmick just a smidgen, which is smart. Comedy acts don't stick on top. He should dial down the funny and amp up the mean. A good balance will take him a long way.
Daniel Bryan countered a chokeslam with a small package to win the match. After the bout, a furious Kane chokeslams him anyway. The Wyatt family then interrupted Kane's customary "setting the ring afire" spot and beat the big man down.
"A victory by Kane would make him the No. 1 contender following SummerSlam."—Michael Cole. Raising the stakes.
"Every time you step into that cage you need a win."—Jerry Lawler.
"It's big though. I tell you that."—That's what she said. I mean Michael Cole.
"Anything can happen in the WWE."—The King with a less-than-ringing endorsement of Bryan's chances.
"I think Daniel needs to convince himself that he's as good as the other superstars."—The King getting deep.
"I heard you like to call yourself the devil's favorite demon. But you sir are no demon. And the devil? Nah man. Kane, I'd like to let you in on a little secret man. You ought to be careful who you say those things in front of. Because you never know who might be listening."—Bray Wyatt.
Daniel Bryan pulls Kane out of the ring with his legs and then delivers a running knee off the apron.
Kane counters a Bryan kick only to be subsequently countered by Bryan.
Bray Wyatt being creepy.
I was about to pencil in an "A" out of reflex. It's a Daniel Bryan match, right? It's got to be an "A." That's the law of the Internet. And, though I have many faults, I'm no law breaker.
But for once, I'm living on the wild side. And that match? That was no A-level match. And I'm going to abandon the ship of smarks to call it like it is. If I'm not here next week, you'll know why.
Brie rolled up Natalya after Nikki distracted her by making duck noises. I am being serious.
"In every good story there's always an ugly duckling."—Brie Bella to Natalya.
"If Natalya doesn't make it on Total Divas! there's always Duck Dynasty."—The King getting a good dig in.
"Ask her. Ask her, ref."—Brie Bella. Has Brie been watching Chris Jericho tapes?
"Quack, Quack Nattie. Quack, Quack."—Nikki Bella.
"What the duck?"—Lawler. Wow.
Brie gets the upper hand and makes the "L for loser" sign at Natalya. That's a good Clueless callback.
Nikki Bella distracts Natalya with a kazoo. Straight out of kindergarten!
I really enjoyed Total Divas! and hope the girls get a chance to further develop their characters. Right now, the Divas are kind of living stereotypes. We know they are supposed to be good or evil, but wedon't really know why in many cases.
Hopefully, the reality show propels the writing staff on Raw to add the depth that separates the top players from the archetypes that fill up the bottom of the card. If so, the Bellas have a ton of potential, and this could be the start of big things for them.
Truth was disqualified when CM Punk runs in to attack Axel.
"I find it very ironic that my client's opponent tonight is named R Truth. Because our truth is that I, Paul Heyman, am the most exclusive manager in sports entertainment history."—Paul Heyman.
"Being a Paul Heyman guy means that you are amongst the elite circle of top tier talent in history. A fact perfectly personified by Curtis Axel."—Heyman.
"My father won the Intercontinental championship right here in Texas. But, despite that. Despite that, he went on to become Mr. Perfect. But as for me? I'm already more perfect than perfect."—Curtis Axel.
"I wish I could buy this guy for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth."—Jerry Lawler. Line of the night.
"CM Punk! CM Punk!"—The crowd, just before Punks runs in. How did they know?
Paul Heyman running for his life from Punk.
This was less a wrestling match and more an elaborate set piece to further the Punk vs. Heyman feud. Me? I like wrestling matches. I like great promos. I like feuds. But I don't like them to mingle together like peanut butter and jelly. That never works.
Cena AA's Ryback through a table. And that's how you win a table match.
"I want somebody like you. But 20 years younger. Twenty-three years younger."—Vince McMahon to Triple H. Yow.
"I want to give Daniel Bryan a corporate makeover."—Stephanie McMahon. Okay, that promises to be a funny skit.
"You win the match when you put your opponent through a table."—Michael Cole. Noted.
"Powerbomb time." —Ryback. Kind of telegraphing things for your opponent there big guy.
"Somebody tell Ryback this is a table match."—Cole as Ryback bring the steel steps into the ring. How about you tell him? He isn't quite stable.
"Is there any strategy to this match?"—Cole.
"Try not to go through a table."—Lawler. See, that's the Cole and Lawler we all know and love! Right, guys? Right?
"Yes! Yes! Yes!"—The crowd as Bryan confronts Cena in the ring.
Ryback runs into the ring post, table first.
John Cena throws a table from the ring to the floor, narrowly missing Ryback.
Ryback nails Cena with the steel steps.
Later, he breaks a table with the steps instead of walking around it. Well, okay. That's just wasting good tables.
It wasn't long ago Ryback was challenging for the world title himself. Now he's doing jobs on consecutive editions of Raw. That's how fast things change in the wacky world of the WWE.
A table match is bound to be full of teases. There isn't really any other way to do it. There's one way to win the match, and it becomes a battle to fool the audience into thinking "this time he's going through the table."
I didn't really feel that way about a single tease until the end. None of them felt like the finish. That kept this good match from being great.