The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 6/23/14
The buzz surrounding the WWE product was nowhere near as strong as one would expect just six days out from Money in the Bank. The company was in need of a great show to put an exclamation point on the build to the event.
That's just what happened.
The attention paid to this Sunday's show made for a much more focused episode of Raw. Everything outside of the Stephanie McMahon vs. Vickie Guerrero, Bo Dallas vs. Titus O'Neil and Big E vs. Damien Sandow matches had significant impact on Sunday's show, with the latter potentially setting up another undercard bout for the event.
The seven competitors in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match were highlighted in the night's Handicap match main event, and seven other Superstars found out that they would meet for the chance to leave Boston with a guaranteed title opportunity.
The Usos and the Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan split victories, ensuring that both teams have some momentum behind them heading into this weekend's big WWE Tag Team Championship bout. Meanwhile, the tension between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins boiled over.
The action was plentiful, including a great Intercontinental Championship bout between Dolph Ziggler and Bad News Barrett. Overall, the storylines were stronger than most weeks.
With so much riding on Monday's show, the company delivered.
Now, relive the very best of the June 23 episode with this week's The Good, the Great and the Awesome.
The Usos and the Wyatt Family Split Wins
This Sunday night at Money in the Bank, The Usos will defend their WWE Tag Team Championships against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family in a match that most expect the heels to win. On Monday night, some doubt was cast on the outcome when the teams split wins in singles matches.
Harper downed Jimmy Uso, but Rowan dropped his match to Jey.
The beatdown by the heels after the bell, if WWE's booking patterns are to be believed, indicates that the twin brothers may be leaving Boston with their titles intact.
On Monday night, WWE left fans guessing as to what will happen come Sunday when the teams take to the ring for the top prize in tag wrestling. Anytime the WWE can successfully achieve that through somewhat basic booking means, it must be considered a success.
The Rusev and Lana Promo
One had to figure that WWE Creative would not miss an opportunity to write an anti-USA promo for Rusev and Lana to cut from Washington, D.C. Having it take place in front of the Capitol building was a nice touch.
Lana said nothing that she has not already said before, and Rusev's brief contribution was meaningless, but the effectiveness of the overall promo was undeniable.
Divas Championship Build
Naomi's victory over Alicia Fox put her in Divas Championship contention, and by the end of the night, it was announced that her title shot will come Sunday night at Money in the Bank. More importantly, her win set up the demise of the Funkadactyls, who appear to be headed toward Splitsville thanks to Cameron's insatiable ego.
The former Tough Enough competitor was obnoxious, yapping and annoying on commentary but made it very easy to despise her, which was the intended outcome of the segment. It should be interesting to see if she turns on Naomi in hopes of chasing her own title aspirations, or if they save the actual turn for next Monday's show.
Paige continued to be the most misused performer on the roster.
A standout star of NXT thanks to her AntiDiva persona, she has become just another generic female performer on the main roster. She wrestles typical babyface formula rather than unleashing the aggression and intensity that she did in her matches down at Full Sail University.
While Paige is young—thus giving WWE Creative plenty of time to develop her into the breakout star she should be—one has to wonder how patient the WWE Universe will be in the meantime.
Still, the company deserves credit for offering up Divas-centered stories that do not revolve around the reality show. How the WWE handles Paige, however, could determine the long-term health of the division.
Bo Dallas vs. Titus O'Neil
"Silly me, Mr. Butterfingers."
With that one line, Bo Dallas elevated his entire brief appearance on Raw from irrelevant to one of the bright spots of the first hour.
Dallas puts his all into his character, and as a result, he has won over the audience. "Bolieving" is rapidly becoming a "thing," and if WWE is not careful, it may actually stumble upon a star with breakout potential.
It's funny how someone who throws himself into his character, regardless of the absurdity of said character, can make it work. Dallas has done that and will reap the rewards as a result.
Rob Van Dam vs. Seth Rollins and Ambrose Attacks
Had the match between Rob Van Dam and Seth Rollins been given more time to unfold, it may very well have ended up in the "Awesome" section of this week's article. Instead, it merely served as a preview for Sunday's Money in the Bank contract match and the background for another in a line of strong assaults from the Lunatic Fringe, Dean Ambrose.
Ambrose was great as he pounded away at Rollins, who desperately needed the referees to shield him from his former partner's onslaught.
Ambrose ran across the announce table, something he has become accustomed to doing as of late, and pounced on Rollins before grabbing a microphone and vowing to create havoc at Money in the Bank if he was not added to the traditional contract match.
It was a strong segment that got over Ambrose's unpredictable personality and hinted that Rollins may be more afraid of his former teammate than he puts on.
Later in the night, Rollins convinced Triple H to add Ambrose to Sunday's match so that he could "keep an eye on him at all times" and "control him."
How well that works out for the former Ring of Honor star remains to be seen.
The Money in the Bank Contract Match Lineup
With so many top stars involved in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Money in the Bank, many wondered who would be left to compete for the most prestigious briefcase on Earth. That question was answered Monday night when Triple H informed Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Bad News Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, and Rob Van Dam that they would join Seth Rollins (and later, Dean Ambrose) in the match for a guaranteed title opportunity.
None of those men should come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Money in the Bank matches. They are all veterans of the match type, and three of them have captured the briefcase and gone on to win the WWE or world heavyweight titles.
While the outcome seems fairly predictable, expect all seven Superstars to leave it all out in the ring in an attempt to outshine the more hyped main event. Kingston, in particular, is good for one breathtaking spot, while Ziggler will go out of his way to make his six opponents look outstanding by bumping all over the ring.
With Swagger, Kingston and Ziggler all hoping to impress officials enough to warrant another push, expect them to do everything in their power to ensure fans are talking about the contract match as much, if not more, than the title bout come late Sunday night.
The Main Event
As a match, the 3-on-4 Handicap match involving the seven Superstars in this Sunday's Money in the Bank WWE World Heavyweight Championship match was nothing special. It was almost a mirror image of the SmackDown main event from this past Friday with Sheamus scoring the win instead of Roman Reigns.
What made it great is the fact that it was incredibly effective at hyping the pay-per-view main event. Reigns and Sheamus both looked incredibly strong, while Del Rio and Cesaro, two guys lost in the shuffle, earned some shine.
Most of all, it continued Reigns' meteoric rise up the card. If the crowd's reaction is any indication, it is working. Whether WWE can retain the momentum it has built for the second-generation star will depend on his performance and booking at Money in the Bank.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Bad News Barrett
On the heels of a nontitle victory over Bad News Barrett this past Friday night on SmackDown, Dolph Ziggler received a championship opportunity Monday night. The company's resident Show Off did exactly what he does best: steal the show.
With a hot Washington crowd behind them, champion and challenger rose above all of the pay-per-view hype to deliver the best match of the night.
Ziggler, a great scrappy underdog, fought off Barrett's hard-hitting offense and nearly scored a big victory. Unfortunately for him, Barrett capitalized on an opening and caught a jumping Ziggler with the Bullhammer for the win.
The loss does nothing to hurt Ziggler at this point. Despite the lackluster win-loss record he has amassed over the last year, he remains over because of his willingness to go above-and-beyond to deliver a show-stealing performance each and every time he steps inside the squared circle.
Barrett, to his credit, appears more motivated and determined to prove his worth than ever before. He has wrestled some outstanding matches against a variety of different opponents and styles and is more over than at any point in his career.
With that said, both have to be considered dark horses to leave Boston with the Money in the Bank briefcase—Barrett, for the reasons listed above, and Ziggler as a makeup for the disappointment that was his first real shot at running with the World Heavyweight Championship.
Other Superstars are currently the subjects of more hype and spotlight, but on Monday night, Ziggler and Barrett made the WWE Universe sit up and take notice.
Vickie Guerrero's Farewell
There are many criticisms to be made of Stephanie McMahon—some fair and some not—but she gave Vickie Guerrero a fitting sendoff Monday night.
Were her statements about Eddie Guerrero's death and the company taking pity on Vickie out of line? Perhaps, but one has to imagine Vickie knew about and approved them long before the two women took to the ring for the night's opening segment.
Did Vickie still end up somewhat humiliated thanks to her trip into the pool of what one can only assume was chocolate pudding? Absolutely.
But at the end of the night, Vickie got one over on Stephanie, and that is something few have managed to do. After being berated for weeks by the boss' daughter, Vickie did what every fan has wanted to do since the rise of The Authority last fall: humble the Billion Dollar Princess.
Not Big Show, not Daniel Bryan, not Brie Bella...none of those performers was able to do what Vickie did Monday night, and it helped send her off with a bang.
John Bradshaw Layfield, on commentary, was especially kind to Vickie. "So long, Vickie. It's been a great ride. You're going out in style," he said, wishing a fond farewell to the wife of his late friend.
Regardless of one's opinions on the Vickie Guerrero character over the last decade, it is hard to argue the impact she has had on WWE programming. An unlikely star, she rose to prominence as the SmackDown general manager and achieved a level of success as a heel that some of the most talented men and women in WWE history only wish they had.
For someone who once appeared so intimidated by the audience, she wound up having great command of the crowd and becoming one of the most memorable authority figures in professional wrestling.
Perhaps one day, she will even join her husband in the WWE Hall of Fame, an honor that would be well-deserved.