The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 4/21/14
The April 21 episode of Monday Night Raw is in the books, and Extreme Rules is beginning to take shape.
The Shield and Evolution once again confronted each other as the major six-man tag match between the two trios on May 4 rapidly approaches. The Hounds of Justice were cut off, prevented from brawling with their attackers from last week, building anticipation and heat for their special live bout.
The Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender's Tournament continued Monday night, as Bad News Barrett took on Sheamus and Cesaro met Rob Van Dam. Barrett scored an impressive, clean victory over Sheamus, while Van Dam scored a controversial count-out victory over Cesaro thanks to interference from Jack Swagger.
Paige picked up another impressive win, knocking off Aksana for the second consecutive time, while Alexander Rusev continued to dominate the competition, destroying Sin Cara to the approval of Lana. RybAxel staked their claim to a tag title shot by attacking the Usos.
With so many stories unfolding, all with the potential to have a spot on the Extreme Rules live special in a few weeks, Raw proved to be an action-packed, eventful episode.
Here now is the best of the best from this week's show.
The Shield is Turned Back
Everything between The Shield and Evolution was bordering on "Awesome"—until the Hounds of Justice left the ring to fight Evolution only to be stopped in their tracks when several heels joined the COO, Batista and Randy Orton on the stage.
The Shield had just spent minutes talking themselves up, including some stellar promo work from Seth Rollins, and Reigns stated that they would take the fight to Evolution. Instead of following through and risking a potential beatdown, they stopped like typical outsmarted babyfaces and watched as the villains stood tall some 100 feet ahead of them.
Reigns, Rollins and Dean Ambrose may have saved themselves from a second consecutive beating, but they also failed to back up their own words. They looked like guys who talked a big game but failed to back it up when faced with a bit of adversity. After last week's show, they needed a strong showing tonight to continue their momentum, but unfortunately that did not happen.
Hopefully fans get to see The Shield beat some people up come Friday night on SmackDown.
RybAxel Stake Their Claim
Ryback delivered an outstanding line while on commentary Monday night. He said, "While everyone is running around getting married, we're training hard to get better and win the WWE Tag Team Championships," referencing a video package on Jimmy Usos' marriage to Naomi on Sunday night's episode of Total Divas.
Ryback regularly delivers quality lines like those when given the opportunity, but his promo work typically goes underrated.
After the Usos' victory over Cody Rhodes and Goldust, Ryback and Curtis Axel hit the ring and assaulted the Usos, setting in motion events that should lead to a tag title match between the teams at Extreme Rules on May 4.
Ryback and Axel have taken their lumps, endured a long losing streak and have been presented as jobber for most of the first half of 2014. That the company has rehabbed them to the point that they are legitimate contenders for the tag titles is a testament to what a few solid wins and an effective angle like the one seen Monday night can do for an act.
Paige vs. Aksana
The Divas champion scored another impressive win Monday night. Paige defeated Aksana in a match that saw the Lithuanian's second very good television match in as many shows, another indicator that the two Divas have very solid in-ring chemistry and could deliver a series of entertaining matches if given the opportunity.
If Monday's match was any indication, though, the creative team will have to put some focus back on Paige and give fans a story to invest themselves in—or else the Norwich native will become just another Diva on the roster. Given her potential to lead the division into the future, that would be a major misstep.
Rhodes Brothers' Dissension
For the first time since October of last year, Cody Rhodes and Goldust showed dissension that could very well lead to a long-awaited rivalry in the near future.
Since dropping the tag titles back in January to the New Age Outlaws, the so-called "brotherhood" has lost all momentum and has been rendered largely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. A split could inject some momentum into their act and lead to some very good matches between Cody and his brother.
Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro
The first half of the match between Van Dam and Cesaro on Monday night was very disjointed, as if the competitors were not on the same page. It was sloppy and appeared to be headed towards disaster. Then a perfectly timed commercial break aired and saved the entire match.
Back from break, they were much crisper, and the action was better paced and more coherent. Cesaro continued to look excellent, and there was more effort from Van Dam than fans have seen in years, including his stint late in 2013.
Of course, once they got back on track, the finish nearly ruined the match again, as Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter approached ringside.
Speaking of whom...
The Real Americans Explode...Again
After Van Dam defeated Cesaro by count-out, the Swiss Superstar turned his attention to Swagger and Colter. He attempted to swing the latter but settled for the former. It was the end of a segment that continued to build towards a Cesaro-Swagger match that most assumed would take place at Extreme Rules. Instead, it will air this Friday night on SmackDown.
It is rare to see WWE Creative spend so much time focusing on a midcard feud. With Cesaro clearly winning favor with management on a weekly basis thanks to his in-ring performances, however, it is clear to see why they would choose to highlight this program. Besides, both men are extremely talented workers and capable of stealing whatever show they are part of if properly motivated.
While it will be interesting to see who plays the role of heel in the match, Friday night should provide fans with a great wrestling bout—if it is not meant to set up a more prestigious Extreme Rules match come May 4.
John Cena vs. The Wyatt Family
The match may not have been anything special, but what was done within the bout was outstanding.
The spot in which Bray danced with Cena's motionless body was one of the best moments of any match this year. The post-match beatdown was outstanding, and Wyatt holding Cena in his arms while singing "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands," despite what appeared to be a painful and nasty thumb injury, was equal parts creepy and phenomenal.
The steel cage match between Cena and Wyatt at Extreme Rules has the potential to be the best of the night. It also has potential to satisfy those who found it difficult to get into the match they fought last month at WrestleMania.
Sheamus vs. Bad News Barrett
The Celtic Warrior and the former leader of Nexus have wrestled several times in the past and have continually showed great chemistry. This week was no different, as they met in the semifinals of the Intercontinental Championship tournament.
It was a rugged, tough, hard-hitting match that saw Barrett do what few have done: pin Sheamus clean in the center of the ring to advance to the finals.
Barrett has been on a roll since returning to the ring the night after WrestleMania. He has scored wins over three former World Heavyweight champions in Rey Mysterio, Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler in convincing fashion.
With every victory, the fan reaction toward him becomes louder and more impressive. If played correctly, Barrett could finally earn that sustained push that has eluded him throughout his WWE career.
A great match tonight, and an outstanding way to kick off the in-ring portion of the evening's broadcast.
The circumstances surrounding the injury angle shot to kick off this week's show, with Daniel Bryan being temporarily written off the show to head home and be with his family following the sudden and unexpected passing of his father, are truly tragic. We here at Bleacher Report would like to take this time to wish him and his family our deepest condolences.
The angle did do a great job of spotlighting Kane heading into his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Extreme Rules, though. The Big Red Monster destroyed Bryan with several Tombstones and was uncontrollable as he attacked his former tag team partner.
After the blunder that was Corporate Kane and the poor booking he endured in that persona, he desperately needed to be portrayed as a destructive force if anyone wanted to buy him as a threat to Bryan and the title.
It accomplished what it needed to, and suddenly Kane looks like a legitimate contender to the top prize in wrestling again.
Bray Wyatt Promo
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Bray Wyatt cut an awesome promo on Monday night.
This week, he discussed what he believes to be the mirage of free will, then turned the attention to the fact that WWE gave the fans the power to decide John Cena's fate. He said, "What a wonderful night for change, indeed! Tonight, they left the power in your hands! Those fools!"
It was a great line and foreshadowed the fan vote, which chose all three members of the Wyatt Family to compete against Cena in a 3-on-1 Handicap Match.
Just stellar work from the undisputed best talker in the business right now.
Sometimes a performer passes what some call "the eye test," in that one can know instantly that the man or woman in question will be a star.
While Alexander Rusev has tremendous potential to be the current roster's answer to Umaga thanks to his unique combination of size, speed and agility, it is his "social ambassador" Lana who has impressed the most to this point.
She shows great confidence in her mic work, carries herself with a presence that few with so little experience have and is always aware of the camera. She looks like a star, carries herself like a star and could be a substantial star for the company in the future.
Do not be surprised if five years from now she is playing a major role on WWE television, while Rusev is the midcard comedy partner of Santino Marella. Though that would be a major indictment against WWE's crack creative staff, given the talent and ability he possesses.
One of the principle owners of WWE, Stephanie McMahon was outstanding Monday night.
Everything from her completely disingenuous congratulations to Bryan and Brie Bella on their wedding to the way she may or may not have been disgusted by Kane's actions was spot-on and proved why she is without a doubt the best heel on television today.