The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw (5/12/14)
With the road to Payback underway, WWE Monday Night Raw was full of surprises, both good and bad, and the continuation of the war of attrition between The Shield and Evolution.
The biggest news out of the broadcast was Daniel Bryan's announcement that he suffered a neck injury that requires surgery. It will cause him to miss time, though how much remains a mystery. He was written out of stories via a brutal attack at the hands of Kane.
The Shield rebounded nicely after last week's beatdown by Evolution, getting the better of Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista on three different occasions and standing tall to close out the show. Their story is the hottest on the show right now and has the fans responding to the Hounds of Justice in a way few could have imagined as late as two months ago.
John Cena, The Usos and The Wyatts tore the house down in a tremendous six-man tag bout, Sheamus and Ryback had a surprisingly good big-man match and Alicia Fox broke out in the best performance of her career.
Overall, Monday's show was a great one, but which individual matches and segments rank as good, great and awesome?
Find out now!
Daniel Bryan Injury Angle
There was nothing good, great or awesome about Daniel Bryan's revelation that he would need to undergo neck surgery to correct an injury, especially given the work he has put in to becoming a top star in WWE and the fact that his eight-month journey culminated in a grand celebration at WrestleMania 30 just over a month ago.
What was good was the fact that WWE did not simply have him walk away and drop the Kane angle in the middle of it. Later in the night, WWE had Kane drag Bryan to the top of the ramp and dispose of him there, leaving him lying in a heap following what looked to be a brutal and vicious assault.
Depending on the severity of the injury and the timetable for his return, it keeps the door open for a suitable conclusion to their program in the near future. Note that Bryan did not relinquish the titles, perhaps indicating that the surgery will not be one requiring significant recovery.
Natalya vs. Nikki Bella
OK, the match between Natalya and Nikki Bella was nothing special in terms of quality. Why it landed in the "good" section of this week's article has more to do with the fact that the Divas have something resembling a storyline now, no matter how stupid or ridiculous said story is.
The Total Divas nonsense has been downplayed significantly since Paige made her debut back on April 7, and thankfully so. Those girls became so overexposed during their feud with AJ over the Divas title—not to mention the countless matches they had with one another dating back months—that it was time to sit them down and let other female talent take the spotlight.
Bringing them back to the forefront in an angle over a painting may not be ideal, but at least they have a reason to be fighting that has nothing to do with Paige or the Divas Championship.
Beating up a largely retired Hall of Famer such as "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan will do nothing to help legitimize Rusev's dominance. Wrestlers on the independents beat Duggan up every weekend.
What will lend credibility to Rusev is dominating former Intercontinental champion Big E in the manner in which he did Monday night, leaving him reeling on the outside of the ring. E is monstrously strong competitor who has proven himself over the last year.
He has great standing with the fans and would make for a great opponent for Rusev at Payback, if that is the direction the company opts to head in with the Bulgarian Brute.
Evolution and Shield Promos
Monday's show started with Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose in the ring. They cut a promo on Evolution, iterated their desire for a match against the group at Payback, then promised to take the fight to Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton.
And they did.
It was a short, simple and effective way to kick off the evening's broadcast and continued to portray the members of The Shield as babyfaces who do exactly what they promise to without blowing smoke or pandering to the crowd.
Later in the night, Evolution hit the ring. Triple H insultingly referred to Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose as "kids" and questioned their desire for a rematch to a match they already won. Randy Orton and a very frustrated Batista chimed in as well before the Hounds of Justice hit the ring and cleared their rivals out.
The show-long storyline involving both factions was extremely well done. To the creative team's credit, it has shown an ability to craft stories that start early in the show and continue throughout the night before wrapping up later in the show.
Rather than approaching shows in a segment-by-segment storytelling style, the writers have taken to writing show-long stories that will ideally keep audiences tuned in until the end of the broadcast. They did it with The Shield on SmackDown on the April 25 show, Daniel Bryan and Kane last week and The Shield and Evolution this week.
It is an effective and refreshing way to present a show. Whether they can keep it up and convince the audience to stay and watch is the big question.
Sheamus vs. Ryback
The most surprising match on this week's show was the battle between United States champion Sheamus and Ryback.
Moments after the Celtic Warrior forced a tapout from Curtis Axel, who he had locked in the Cloverleaf submission hold, Ryback attacked from behind and a match between them ensued.
Sheamus and Ryback exchanged power moves and had a very solid wrestling match before the U.S. champion delivered the high-impact Brogue Kick for the win.
It is unlikely that Ryback will remain in the title hunt, but he and Sheamus showed great chemistry with one another and hopefully impressed management enough to give them a reason to book them against each other in the future.
Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon
Amid all of the horror movie booking involving Kane and Daniel Bryan is the tension between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon, which continued to rear its head Monday night during Raw.
As Bryan was loaded into an ambulance, Stephanie continued to disingenuously ask about the welfare of her WWE World Heavyweight champion. Brie, the concerned wife, was infuriated that her husband was once again the victim of a vile and ruthless assault at the hands of the Big Red Monster.
No longer able to keep herself composed, she shoved Stephanie and demanded that she stay away. Having been physically confronted by Brie, the principal owner of WWE looked far from pleased.
If done correctly, there is a great opportunity for a heated match between Brie and Stephanie. The boss has not appeared in a wrestling ring, as a competitor, in over a decade, but like her father, she typically performs well when the spotlight is on her.
Brie, on the other hand, is a fine wrestler who has gotten significantly better over the last year. If the crowd's reaction to Brie shoving Stephanie was any indication, the interest is there. Since Bryan is injured, it may be the best course to take as far as booking Payback is concerned.
The Shield Dominates
The Shield dominated Monday night Raw, leaving Evolution reeling and chasing off the majority of the midcard villains with steel chairs before flattening Ryback, the trio's favorite punching bag, with a triple powerbomb.
The chairs were key to the success of the show-closing segment. If Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose had cleared all of their attackers out of the ring on their own, without the assist of the weapons, the group could have easily alienated a portion of the fanbase that openly criticizes John Cena when he does something similar.
That they used chairs and did not actually beat up most of the villains, who opted to run rather than face the wrath of the Hounds of Justice, leaves them with their dignity and The Shield unaffected by fan backlash.
Thus far, the creative team has done a great job of booking the members of The Shield as if they are on the level of Evolution. As a result, fans perceive them that way.
Amazing how that works.
John Cena and The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family
The WWE's six-man tag team formula once again resulted in a great match, the best on Monday's broadcast, as John Cena, The Usos and The Wyatt Family made up for their disappointing effort on SmackDown with a much hotter and energetic bout on Raw.
Cena scored the win, giving him one up on Wyatt, who responded by cutting a promo in which he challenged the leader of the Cenation to a Last Man Standing match at Payback. Cena will likely accept, perhaps as soon as Friday's SmackDown.
Monday's match was a suitable way to progress the feud without overexposing it and potentially burning the fans out. It also sets up a match between The Usos, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan for the Tag titles if that is the direction WWE hopes to head in.
Alicia Fox Flips
Those who read "The Good, the Great and the Awesome" on a regular basis know of this writer's appreciation of the lovely Alicia Fox, so needless to say, the increased exposure in recent weeks has been greatly enjoyed.
That she broke out Monday night, becoming one of the most buzzed-about stars on the show thanks to development of her character and a career-best performance, only enhanced the excitement surrounding her.
Fox has been nothing short of great over the last month. She has shown increased aggression in her matches and, more importantly, has exhibited more character and personality in her matches than she has in the past. Given the opportunity to compete on Raw and SmackDown, she has upped her game significantly and deserves a pay-per-view title match.
Fans bought more and more into Fox's performance, and by the end of the bout, they had become invested in the match. She and Paige have great chemistry with one another and have potential to do some great work together if given the chance.