The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 5/26/14
Writing "The Good, the Great and the Awesome" is so much easier to do when World Wrestling Entertainment produces a great episode of Raw, SmackDown or NXT.
Monday night, Raw featured a few solid segments that highlighted the three biggest stories in the company and did a great job of shining a light on the feud between Sheamus and Cesaro over the United States Championship.
But with a pay-per-view upcoming this weekend and a desperation to attract more subscriptions to the WWE Network setting in, the company needed a great show to convince fans to go out of their way to order Payback.
It failed to do that, relying too heavily on comedy segments involving El Torito and feuds born out of Total Divas rather than building an undercard for Sunday's event and maximizing the quality of the angles for its marquee feuds leading into the show.
Still, there were several segments that stood out, as well as little things that helped save the show from falling into the category of "worst Raw of the year."
Just how good, great or awesome were they?
Find out now.
The Shield-Evolution Contract Signing
Time was clearly an issue Monday night, as The Shield and Evolution made their way to the ring for their contract signing.
The entire segment felt rushed and haphazardly thrown together, but the introduction of the sledgehammer by Triple H added a new wrinkle to the tired Shield-Evolution brawls that have dominated television since Extreme Rules.
Evolution was in need of a strong showing to even appear to be on The Shield's level after the Hounds of Justice have dominated nearly the entire rivalry. It provided one, and now, there are legitimate questions as to who will leave Chicago victorious.
As much as that aspect of the segment may have worked, the contract signing was still a tired booking crutch that the creative team leans on far too often.
"Besides, who are we kidding with all of this nonsense out here?" Seth Rollins said, indicating that even the characters know where the segment is heading.
Perhaps it is time for the company to put the contract signing back into mothballs and give it time to freshen up before using it again.
Alicia Breaks Down Again
A storyline in which a wrestler takes losses seriously?
John Cena could learn a thing or two from Alicia Fox, who not only takes losses seriously but mentally breaks down following them.
Monday night's loss to Emma triggered something in Alicia that caused her to snap. She attacked the Australian, delivering a big backbreaker and dumping her to the arena floor like a piece of garbage.
She tormented and physically assaulted ringside personnel (ATOMIC WEDGIE!) before dousing herself in soda to end the segment.
It remains to be seen exactly where the company is going with the character, but Alicia—one of the most underrated performers in the Divas division for the last two years—is making the most of her screen time and has become far more interesting than young breakout star Paige, who she will meet for the Divas title at Payback.
The United States Championship Build
Sheamus vs. Cesaro for the United States Championship this Sunday at Payback is one of those matches that has the potential to steal the show right out from underneath the rest of the card.
Monday night, the company did a solid job of building to that contest.
Sheamus got the upper hand early, planting Cesaro with the Brogue Kick. Later in the night, Cesaro took advantage of a woozy Celtic Warrior, who was suffering from some sort of head injury following a match with Alberto Del Rio, and left him lying on the ground ahead of their championship clash.
Cesaro is a former US champion and the fact that he is still competing for that title may rub some the wrong way.
Instead of focusing on the title, however, fans should look at the fact that he is being given the opportunity to work with a former WWE and World Heavyweight champion and one of WWE's top babyfaces.
Final Hype for Last Man Standing
Bray Wyatt's performance this week was outstanding, but his promo felt more like a "Greatest Hits" version of his mic work than the more original stuff he delivered last Monday.
The involvement of Jerry Lawler as the sympathetic "damsel in distress," if you will, made sense given that the show emanated from Memphis and Lawler is one of the voices of WWE charged with promoting John Cena and his ideals.
The beatdown on JBL was a nice, unexpected twist.
Cena coming to Lawler's aid was a no-brainer and the company's resident superhero did a fine job of delivering a powerful speech that denounced Wyatt's words and methods, hyping up their match this Sunday.
A cut-and-paste segment that has been done a million times before can still work with the right performers.
The was the case Monday night.
Just Say No
There was one segment on the entire three-hour broadcast of Raw Monday night that made fans want to purchase Payback to see what would happen next.
That segment was the one involving Daniel Bryan, Stephanie McMahon and the state of the WWE Championship.
Bryan teased that he would, in fact, hand over the titles as his neck was more injured than originally believed. Then he refused, citing everything he and the fans had to go through to get the championship.
Handing them over to Stephanie would mean that it was for naught and the Authority had ultimately won.
Stephanie, always the cunning and manipulative boss, had a backup plan. She aired footage of Brie Bella shoving her two weeks ago, then threatened to fire Bella if Bryan does not show up at Payback to relinquish the championship.
That ultimatum gives fans a reason to want to buy Sunday's show and see what Bryan does. Being the moral, upstanding good guy, it is likely that he will drop the title and preserve the employment of his beautiful wife.
At the same time, Kane will likely be lurking around Chicago's Allstate Arena, ready to strike at any moment.
Who is to say that Stephanie will not fire Brie anyway? After all, the McMahon family has never been the most admirable or honest clan around. It has regularly gone back on its word and provided tremendous heartache for those who oppose it.
What better way to establish Stephanie as the top heel in the company, something she has been doing a fine job of on her own, than to have her not so subtly persuade Bryan to hand over the titles and then fire Brie anyway?
Will we get a Brie vs. Stephanie match at some point in the near future while Bryan heals up from his recent surgery?
There are plenty of questions surrounding the story, which has become one of the better ones in the company thanks in no small part to the deviousness of McMahon and the overall likability of Bryan.
The End of the Show
No, not the contract signing between The Shield and Evolution but rather the actual end of the show. Never before has this writer been so happy to see the beginning of Chrisley Knows Best than he was Monday night.
"And the hits just keep coming," Michael Cole said as Damien Sandow, under the guise of Davy Crockett, stepped out onto the stage.
When the voice of the company—the man who gets paid to shill the product and tout its greatness—openly indicates that WWE is having an off night, you know it is bad.
Hopefully, SmackDown, the more wrestling-oriented show, rebounds nicely this Friday night. If not, WWE could be looking at a disastrous buyrate for Payback, a show that actually looks quite good on paper.