The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 4/28/14
Creepy, sheep mask-wearing children. The Devil's Favorite Demon crawling from the depths of hell to retrieve a Bella Twin. Hornswoggle and El Torito.
Magneto and Wolverine.
Monday night's Raw was interesting, to say the least, and it set the stage for what should be a very entertaining Extreme Rules this Sunday from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The Shield and Evolution clashed for the last time before their huge main event, with each team gaining the upper hand on the other. Ultimately, the Hounds of Justice stood tall, something that may or may not play into their favor come this weekend's event.
Kane continued to torment Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, all the while the devious Stephanie McMahon lurked in the background. Is she controlling the Big Red Monster, and if so, what role will she play in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Extreme Rules?
Bray Wyatt introduced a whole new level of creepy into his feud with John Cena, producing one of the greatest segments in Raw history to kick off the show. Cena was clearly rattled, something he typically is not. How he deals with the constant mental adversity being dealt to him by the Reaper of Souls come the Steel Cage war with Wyatt on Sunday night should be interesting to see.
Bad News Barrett, Rob Van Dam, Cesaro, Jack Swagger and Sheamus were all in action as WWE took the final steps toward its most extreme pay-per-view of the year.
Here now is the very best from Monday night's show.
Drag Her to Hell
Kane's attempts to drag Brie Bella under the ring during her match against Paige for the Divas Championship were cool, but the fact that audiences had seen it before severely hurt the effectiveness of the segment.
That Brie was stupid enough to return to the ring after escaping danger only further devalued the segment.
Still, it was an effective use of both the Devil's Favorite Demon and the wife of the current WWE world heavyweight champion heading into Extreme Rules. It introduced a new element to what could be a very good match between Kane and Daniel Bryan.
More importantly, it added heat to a program that desperately needed it. That was its greatest contribution to the night's festivities.
The Usos vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel
One of the best matches of the night was the WWE Tag Team Championship match between The Usos and RybAxel, which kicked off the night's in-ring festivities.
Ryback and Curtis Axel continue to develop as a team, and their work Monday night proved it. They did an excellent job of isolating Jimmy Uso and wearing him down with solid tag team wrestling before falling prey to a rejuvenated, though injured, Jey Uso.
The injury to Jey, real or fake, added to the match and forced the teams to tell a different story than one might have expected. Drama and doubt crept into the minds of the fans, as questions abounded regarding the health of the tag team champion.
Luckily for the Usos and their fans, Jey gutted through the ankle/lower-leg injury to help his brother retain their titles. It was a valiant effort from the Usos and a shining moment for RybAxel, who have become a very solid heel tag team over the last few months.
The Shield and Evolution Wage War
The show-closing segment and match made for some great final hype for this Sunday's Extreme Rules, where The Shield and Evolution will compete in a six-man tag match.
Ric Flair's involvement was largely unnecessary. As great as he once was, he looked and sounded awful Monday night and added nothing to the show. His endorsement of The Shield was met with near silence by the audience, and it had no effect on the remainder of the night's festivities.
The Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton match was nothing special, but given that they only had so much time to compete, it should not be surprising.
The meat of the entire ordeal was in the post-match confrontation. Triple H, Orton and Batista beat Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins down for several minutes, to the point that it appeared as though Raw would go off the air with Evolution standing tall. Then, Rollins flew through the air and caught Batista with a flying knee.
From there, The Shield mustered a massive comeback and cleared the ring of their opponents this Sunday night.
Typically, this would indicate that The Shield is doing the job this weekend, but with Ambrose scheduled for a three-on-one handicap match for his United States Championship, there is still plenty of time for the Shield to be weakened leading into the pay-per-view.
Bad News Runs Wild
Bad News Barrett has been as good as he has ever been since returning to the ring on April 7, and he capped off a strong run Monday night by defeating Rob Van Dam and earning an opportunity to compete for Big E's Intercontinental Championship.
Barrett's pre-match promo, in which he talked about Van Dam being a thing of the past, was excellent, and his ring work was incredibly strong. The interference from Cesaro and Swagger and the general overbooked nature of the bout kept it from placing in the "Awesome" section of this week's article, but Barrett still left a major impression and is one of the many bright spots in the current WWE product.
Whether he can win the Intercontinental Championship and continue his acclaimed return to the ring at Extreme Rules is uncertain, but given the fact that he was on Raw and the champion was not, his chances have to be strong.
Stephanie McMahon: Wrestling's Best Heel
Over the last month, there has not been a hotter heel on WWE programming than Stephanie McMahon. She is so disingenuous and conniving, and it has gotten her over to a level that some of the top heels in the business only wish they could achieve.
She has been stellar on the microphone, and her delivery is spectacular. The way she addressed Bryan and Brie on Monday night was Stephanie at her sleazy, villainous best and the fact that everyone knew she was full of it only enhanced the performance. She can hold the audience in the palm of her hand and elicit a reaction the same way her father did during the Attitude Era.
It is disappointing that she is a woman, then, because no performer is strong enough to go up against her on the Divas roster, robbing fans of a potential big-money match.
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
The opening segment of this week's Raw was creepy and at times uncomfortable to watch yet pure brilliance from the creative team.
John Cena is fueled by the response he gets from his fans, many of whom are children. What better way for Bray Wyatt to continue playing mind games with him than using children in his master plan? The singing children who made their way to ringside before cameras shot them with the masks on and surrounding the ring was unsettling but, at the same time, a stunning visual.
It clearly rattled Cena, who had cut what could best be described as a heel promo just moments earlier.
The layered storytelling being told by Cena, Wyatt and the creative team is so far and away better than anything fans are used to from pro wrestling, and it shows in the reaction the audience is giving it.
Monday night's segment was one of those that, 10 years from now, people will be referring to as one of the best moments in Raw history.
And rightfully so.
Magneto Invades Raw
WWE tries to get cute when celebrities are around in an attempt to prove the "entertainment" portion of its name. Unfortunately, it oftentimes tries too hard, and the entire segment fails in epic fashion as a result.
On Monday night, however, WWE produced a truly funny in-ring comedy bit featuring Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow and special guest Hugh Jackman, who was in town to promote X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Sandow interrupting Ziggler and Jackman while dressed like Magneto was brilliant. Even better was the conviction with which Sandow played his role. He looked like a complete idiot, and Ziggler and Jackman treated him as such, but he did not care. He was serious, never cracked and turned in one of the best comedic performances in WWE in quite some time.
Kudos to Jackman, who is always fun and now has two successful appearances on WWE Raw under his belt. He has proved to be up for anything and does not mind poking fun at himself when necessary. He is a team player and one of the best celebrity guests WWE has ever had on its flagship show.