The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw (5/19/14)
The May 19 episode of Monday Night Raw continued WWE's trek toward Payback.
Bray Wyatt gave audiences a further glimpse into his past and his psyche as he furthered his mental and physical assaults on John Cena. Despite the leader of the Cenation recruiting The Usos to serve as backup, the Wyatt Family stood tall to close out the show.
The Shield and Evolution took turns trying to one-up the other, but it was the Hounds of Justice who cleared Batista, Triple H and Randy Orton from the ring, proving their dominance as a group once again.
Stephanie McMahon addressed the WWE World Heavyweight Championship situation in light of Daniel Bryan's neck surgery. She did not officially strip him of the gold but, instead, ordered that he present the WWE and World Heavyweight titles to her next Monday night on Raw.
Alicia Fox, Cesaro and Rob Van Dam set themselves up for title matches at Payback, and the Exotic Express rolled into the O2 Arena in London for its biggest party yet.
Want to know what the best of the best was from Monday's Raw?
Find out now.
Beat the Clock Challenge
The Beat the Clock Challenge is one of those special gimmicks that WWE turns to when it is looking for a cheap, not-so-creative way to determine a No. 1 contender.
Monday night, Big E, Ryback, Rob Van Dam, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler and Mark Henry competed in matches to decide who would challenge Bad News Barrett at Payback for the Intercontinental Championship.
Big E and Ryback's match was slow and plodding but not necessarily bad. Dolph Ziggler's match with Mark Henry was fairly bad but told a solid, understandable story.
Which brings us to RVD vs. Del Rio, which was an uncharacteristically bad match between above-average workers.
If all three matches were lackluster, why does the the Beat the Clock Challenge land in the "good" section of this week's article?
Because the company took a gimmick it typically reserves for main event feuds and used it to help lend legitimacy to the Intercontinental Championship, which it appears as though WWE is trying to rehabilitate.
Bad News Barrett's attack of Rob Van Dam later in the evening's broadcast helped add heat to their upcoming match, and his promo sent the British fans home happy.
The Exotic Express
Adam Rose earned his greatest fan response Monday night, as the fans in London were overwhelmingly in favor of the character.
The segment that followed Rose's introduction was fairly bad, with Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter relying too heavily on the same tired immigration talk that they have been for years.
Regardless of the overall quality of the segment, Rose finally looked like a star thanks to his treatment by the fans. He was received like a big deal, something that will hopefully dictate to audiences how they should respond to him going forward.
The long-term future of the character may depend on it.
Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Both the United States champion and what looks to be his top contender are capable of matches better than what they had Monday during Raw.
It was somewhat disjointed but picked up significantly by its end. The interference from Paul Heyman helped his newest client to victory while Sheamus, humble in defeat, offered his hand to the winner. Cesaro refused it, setting up a match between The King of Swing and the Celtic Warrior, perhaps as soon as Payback.
With stars the caliber of Sheamus and Cesaro, the U.S. title has been elevated in importance, not unlike the company is attempting to do with the Intercontinental Championship.
The State of the WWE Championship
Stephanie McMahon continued to prove herself as one of the top heels in WWE Monday night as she took to the ring to discuss the WWE World Heavyweight Championship situation and Daniel Bryan's recent neck surgery.
She disingenuously spoke about Bryan and his recovery before turning her attention to his title. The way she toyed with the audience—by first airing the Bad News Barrett video, then teasing that she would make him the new champion—was great. Her response to the cheers of the audience by calling them predictable was even better.
From the moment she stepped through the curtain all the way to her exit, Stephanie held the crowd in the palm of her hand.
There are a lot of fans who completely dismiss anything the McMahons or Triple H do because they are the authority behind the scenes or they did not push someone the fans wanted pushed. They oftentimes receive far too much criticism when they are in the wrong and never enough praise when they accomplish something great.
Stephanie has been one of, if not the best heel on WWE television this year, and she showed why Monday night.
The War Wages On
Seth Rollins and Batista squared off for the second time in a match that was good, at best. What was great was everything surrounding the match. From Triple H revealing that he and Randy Orton would be filling the roles of guest ring announcer and guest timekeeper, respectively, to Rollins calling out Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns to serve as guest commentators, the entire ordeal was quite entertaining.
That entertainment only increased when Ambrose got behind a microphone and stole the show. He talked about Reign's mom hitting harder than Batista and was generally incredible at the job he was given to do.
The post-match brawl felt recycled from weeks past, but it put over the intensity and the hatred between the two groups as they prepare for their match on June 1 at Payback.
Alicia Bounces Back
After two consecutive breakdowns last week, Alicia Fox bounced back nicely Monday night, showing great aggression as she pummeled Paige and picked up a major non-title victory.
The win sets her up for a title match against the 21-year-old Brit at Payback and continues a rivalry that has been surprisingly entertaining and intense. Through as little as five televised matches, Paige and Alicia have had very solid bouts, which indicates they could do much more—and deliver even better performances—in a match with more time and attention.
John Cena vs. Luke Harper
The main event of Monday's broadcast was a highly competitive match between Cena and Harper that saw both wrestlers break out headscissors and Harper take it a step further with a suicide dive through the ropes and onto his opponent.
Cena looked to be on his way to picking up another win over the Wyatt Family when Bray and Erick Rowan hit the ring. Wyatt leveled each of the Usos with Sister Abigail and did the same to Cena. He then took him up the ramp, executed another Sister Abigail and sang over his fallen body as Harper counted to 10.
While the three-on-one beatdowns by the Wyatt Family may be getting stale, Monday's version did just enough to keep this trend from falling into said staleness.
Most importantly, it went one step further toward portraying Cena as someone in danger of being overwhelmed by the freight train of momentum that is Bray Wyatt.
Bray Wyatt's Opening Promo
It was only a few weeks ago that I claimed that Bray Wyatt had cut his finest promo to date. That claim was deemed irrelevant thanks to another jaw-dropping promo from the Eater of Worlds Monday night.
He delved deeper into his past and recalled a discussion he had with his grade school teacher. She referred to Wyatt as "evil," to which he agreed. Did that discussion really happen? Was it real or simply another way for Wyatt to capture the attention of his audience, not unlike The Joker was prone to doing in The Dark Knight?
Either way, the underlying theme is true: He was looked down upon, treated like garbage and now he has the chance to rub it back in the faces of his detractors.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Get this man an Emmy right freaking now!